Why We Homeschool

May 20, 2008   7:30 pm

Our family had been toying with homeschooling for a while, and our move last year to an area where schools are either abysmal or exorbitantly expensive pushed us over the edge. Up to that point, we were able to send our children to classical Christian schools like Emerald Mountain Christian School and Cornerstone Christian Academy, where they were taught strong academics from a biblical worldview. These schools viewed their education as a ministry and involved parents in their children’s education, which enabled them to keep their tuition rates affordable. Not that a school like that doesn’t exist here, but we haven’t found it, and I imagine if it did, their waiting list would be a mile long.

Exhibit A is something I remember hearing about a while back, and I thought I had blogged about it then. However, I can’t find that post, so I guess I didn’t. How many of you remember turning in your paper or test, and getting it back looking like the teacher’s pen leaked all over it? I got a few of those, and I didn’t like it. So, what I did was apply myself to make sure it didn’t happen again. I much preferred the number 100 written at the top and circled - that was all the red I wanted to see on a paper or test.

But now, teachers are using purple pens to grade, not because they’re all Prince fans, but for the sole reason that red is too harsh. Too harsh? Check this out - the third paragraph in the story.

"I never use red to grade papers because it stands out like, ‘Oh, here’s what you did wrong.’ " said Melanie Irvine, a third-grade teacher at Pacific Rim Elementary in Carlsbad. “Purple is a more approachable color.”

Approachable? When I was in school, we had a different kind of approachability. You could approach the teacher’s desk and respectfully ask her for help. However, once you turned something in, it got graded, a process by which the teach goes through and marks portions that do not meet the standards. Isn’t the point of grading a paper to show what you did wrong? But, I guess esteem is more important that education these days. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just not care about kid’s feelings, but if a kid’s not getting the material, they need to buckle down and work until they do, a process historically inspired by getting a bloodied-up paper back.

Besides, how is that preparing them for setbacks in higher grades? A third-grade report on frogs is a lot easier than an eleventh-grade report on the circulatory system. If they’re not made to get it right in third grade, what happens when they’re juniors? And jump past school - I have yet to hear of a company giving it employees a “purple slip.” (Of course, who knows what we’ll have when this generation gets to be in charge…)

Exhibit B is the genesis for this post. In several school systems across the fruited plain, they now have a minimum score of 50 on their grading scale. Another hand-picked paragraph to illustrate the idiocy of this…

“It’s a classic mathematical dilemma: that the students have a six times greater chance of getting an F,” says Douglas Reeves, founder of The Leadership and Learning Center, a Colorado-based educational think tank who has written on the topic. “The statistical tweak of saying the F is now 50 instead of zero is a tiny part of how we can have better grading practices to encourage student performance.”

Six times greater chance of getting an F? When did grades get equated with the spinning of a roulette wheel? And this is just a “statistical tweak”? Incredulous doesn’t even begin to express how I feel about this. Isn’t the point of testing in school to ensure that the students have absorbed a minimum level of the material they were presented? If there are 100 questions, and you miss 16, you get an 84. If you miss 27, you get a 73. If you miss 62, you get a 38. It’s simple math. However, is it? Once this is in there, how long is it until someone says “Well, if the minimum is 50, why don’t we just do our percentages based on that?” Then, if you miss 16, you get a 92; if you miss 27, you get an 87; and, if you miss 62, you get a 69. Hey, a D! That’s even more esteem-boosting than a 50-point minimum F!

I realize that the 10-point splits for grades has been standard for a while, with an 11-point range for A and a 59-point range for F. However, the school I attended through 9th grade had the following scale:

  • A - 100-94
  • B - 93-87
  • C - 86-80
  • D - 79-75
  • F - 74-0

Straight-A’s was something I always worked toward, and most of the time, I succeeded. I wasn’t the coolest person in school, or the most athletic, and depending on how one measures success, I haven’t been the most successful since then. However, in learning how to do what it took to make the grade, I gained an understanding of how to meet the expectations that had been set for me. I’m sure some of that is my personality - to this day, if I get a 98% on a 50-question test, my first thought is “What did I miss?”

Good grades are something that should be earned, not given, and they’re worth hard work to get them. That is what teachers should be teaching, instead of worrying about Johnny or Kathy’s self-esteem. I remember crying over grades I got that weren’t as high as I thought they should have been. That’s part of the process - we can’t eliminate everything bad about childhood. (Don’t even get me wound up about dodge-ball or sports with no scorekeeping…)

It’s not generous to give someone a grade they did not earn - it does a disservice to the student, the teacher, and any other teachers that may have that student in the future. Failing a class or a grade doesn’t mean you’re no good - that’s why there are provisions for retaking classes and years. I failed Calculus I the first two times I took it - but on the third try, I got a C. My professor didn’t give me the C, I earned the C. If my professor had given me a D on the first class, I would have moved on to Calculus II, and been completely lost. If that trend had continued through graduation, my employer would not have gotten what he thought he was getting.

So, my kids are homeschooled. There are expectations placed on them, and consequences if they don’t meet them. And you know what? For the most part, they meet them; if they don’t, we work on it until they do. They love it - they tell people they go to the best school ever! :) And, hey, I can’t help it if I’m in love with their teacher…

Categorized   Academic Accountability     Social Issues    

Tagged    calculus     christian school     f     grades     grading     hard work     homeschooling     purple     scores     self-esteem