Monday, 28 April 2008

Thinking about school, grades, report cards and learning in general

The whole experience which brought us to homeschooling Jill this year has been an interesting adventure. One thing about learning that makes schooling quite difficult is that learning isn't always sequential and constant and predictable. I suppose that's one of the problems with grades. I read a blog this morning that really got me thinking about grades and such.

I developed a strong opinion about homework and grades when Jill was in Grade 3. Her teacher that year had some health challenges that caused her to miss school often and sometimes for long periods of time. I think because of that she would plan some things for subs to carry out that were quite straight forward....namely lots of worksheets and booklets. Trouble was they didn't always get finished and as a result we were presented with long lists of homework that we suddenly became responsible for. After realizing the low educational value of most of the items on the list I didn't make Jill do it. The whole experience was interesting. It was interesting to talk to other parent's who were enduring evenings of tears and fighting over homework. It was interesting to have them call me to find out if Jill had hoards of homework and if we were making her stay home from the sleepover. It was interesting to see Jill's concern that she'd get a bad mark on her report card. Sure enough, she did. She got a lower mark for completing assignments on her last report card of the year. But what did the lower grade really tell us? It certainly didn't mean she was an irresponsible student or lazy or not clever enough for her grade. So really, what was the value of the grade? In my mind, not much.

All this brings me back to the idea of how important it is for parents not to blindly hand over their children to schools while they tell themselves that the teachers will take care of educating their child. To me part of educating is learning to prioritize, to be engaged in learning (mostly accomplished by focusing on what you're really interested in) and to spend time in introspection and self-evaluation. Really, the moments spent doing that are of much more value than a report card that a teacher produces 3 or 4 times a year.

All this has got me to thinking that I need to be tracking progress and measuring results...but I'm not just sure what to track or measure just yet. I think I'll start two pages in my notebook though. One will say: Jill. The other will say: Peirce. I'll do some thinking about what I might write on those pages.

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