Homeschooling: What Happens When Your Child
Is Freed of the Degrading Grading Experience?
By Linda Dobson
OK, it’s bad enough that school’s myopic attention to the intellect creates damaging imbalance. But insult is added to injury when they place an extraneous value on your child’s work; a value which routinely considers only the end instead of the means; a value increasingly questioned within and without the education bureaucracy. It all begins when she is assigned a slot, like all the children her age, in a grade level. Whose bright idea was this, anyway?
A number of educators, impressed with the graded schools they had seen in Germany, had been proposing adoption of the technique in this country … With public school attendance mushrooming, the graded school was an important advance. It gave schoolmen a means of sorting and classifying the hordes of children pouring into the schools, along with a way of subdividing the knowledge to be taught.
~ Charles Silberman in Crisis in the Classroom
As the business of school really started booming in the mid-1800s, these schoolmen felt a need to sort and classify children. Their needs also dictated a subdivision of knowledge. They did this to fix their problems, not the kids’. I doubt they gave much thought to the legacy of learning-interference they set in motion at the same time. And since age grading soon wouldn’t be enough, the children’s performance would need to be judged and graded as well.
The evidence strongly suggests that tighter standards, additional testing, tougher grading, or more incentives will do more harm than good.
~ Alfie Kohn in Punished by Rewards
Grade levels and grading, obviously, have much to do with running an institution and nothing to do with true education. Since you as a homeschooling parent won’t deal with “hordes” of children and the associated problems of managing them, there’s absolutely no reason to impose these contraindicated practices on your own children.
So, what happens when you free your homeschooling child of the degrading grading experience?
Here are just some of the benefits your child experiences when unshackled from the degrading grading experience.
What Happens When You Free Your Child of the Degrading Grading Experience via Homeschooling?
1. Freedom from stress – Researchers report symptoms of stress increasing even among kindergarten children. Working for grades under constant surveillance creates stress, and stress blocks clear thinking. Without clear thinking, good grades move that much farther out of reach. It’s a vicious cycle, one that can be broken when you remove the source of stress – working for a grade – and replace it with the knowledge that learning is natural and rewarding.
Homeschooling families everywhere find that without the constant threat of “failure,” there’s actually a lot more room for success!
2. Increased self-esteem – In school, mistakes are devastating events resulting in anything from an “F” on a report card to abusive teasing from peers to the shame of public exposure. Your child need not fear these negative results when attempts at something new result in mistakes. In the warmer, more open homeschooling environment, she is naturally more inclined to experiment, which stretches and strengthens her abilities. Sure, she’ll still make mistakes, but they are positive experiences, opportunities to learn. Your child knows she can try again and again, if necessary. Self-esteem grows right along with your child.
3. Freedom from competition – No one has critically analyzed the harmful effects of competition in America’s culture as thoroughly as Alfie Kohn in No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Please read this book for a clear picture of what competition in general, and school competition in particular, can do to your child.
Your child can eliminate competitive conditioning from his life and instead experience the fine art of cooperation and its rewards. It is not human nature to be competitive (as many “uncivilized” societies illustrate), despite our conditioning to the contrary. Life’s most rewarding work practices, whether your child becomes a store clerk or an astronaut, involve cooperating with fellow workers (young and old). Letting your homeschooling youngsters skip one year, two years, or thirteen years of competition with classmates for grades and teacher attention puts them on track toward cooperation.
4. Freedom from burn-out – Early, formal learning attempted before a child is physiologically ready is a prescription for disaster. Researchers have linked our haste to train kids academically to vision and hearing problems, as well as socioemotional problems. Our accepted education practices, as well as socioemotional problems. Our accepted education practices greatly interfere with the brain’s natural development, creating many of the learning problems schools then turn around and “fix” for us.
But early, institutionalized schooling also leads to a child burnt-out on learning, on Self, and on the greater community that fails him.
Read some of Dr. Raymond Moore’s work for easy access to a universe of research contraindicating our accepted practices, particularly important as our nation daily moves dangerously closer to making those practices even worse. And if the findings of many researchers don’t convince you of the reality of burn-out, perhaps what you already know in your heart will.
Mother Nature doesn’t consult the school calendar as your child grows. Nature would no more force your child to be exactly three and a half feet tall by five years of ag than urge all oak trees to rise to the same height. And if every lilac bush isn’t obligated to bloom by April 30th, it’s ludicrous to demand every child reads by grade one, eighth month.
As your child’s most important, natural homeschooling teacher, you are not compelled to force your child’s blossoming. You possess the gift of time. Your child grows in understanding at his own pace following nature’s schedule, not the school’s. Learning is not a strain on as-yet-underdeveloped minds and bodies. Remember, when allowed, “Brains – and the organisms attached to them – tend to gravitate to the types of stimulation that they need at different stages of development.”
Your homeschooling child won’t suffer “burn out” because learning is a drag. On the contrary. Learning becomes his experience of life. Learning and life are one and the same, an experience too enjoyable to be a source of pain or displeasures or stress.
Your heart knows nature’s way. So does your child. And, thank goodness, nature’s way is not to evaluate, but to elevate.