How MY Home Schoolers Measure Up

how_my_homeschoolers_measure_upWhew! I could breathe a sigh of relief. Looking over that clever diagram of how home schoolers are measuring up, I could tell we were doing fairly well and I felt encouraged by how successful home schoolers are doing as a whole. Then, a thought occurred to me… This isn’t why I chose to home school. What matters is how my home schoolers measure up. Not to someone else, not to a diagram, and not to a standardized test. Rather, how they measure up to their own capabilities.

I can see how this diagram, and others like it, come in handy. There are people who need to see the numbers before they will believe that home schooling truly is and can be a success. Others need encouragement, seeing the evidence of their hard work. I could see myself using diagrams like this, presenting it to those who might have questions or doubt the outcome of learning at home.

I need to issue a cautionary note though, more to myself than anyone else. My advice is this: ” Self… this is not the measure of your child!” There, I said it. The minute I start spending more time focusing on whether or not we meet someone else’s standards for my family, rather than on what they need, that is when I lose my way. This isn’t a competition between them and anyone else; they are to achieve at their own pace and in their own 2-homeschooling-by-the-numbersway.

May we also point out that while the stats and information are helpful and interesting, this tool should not be used as a means to bash our public school friends over the head. Homeschooling is a calling. While we have chosen not to put our children in public school for various reasons, we understand and respect not every family has the ability to make this choice; nor the desire to do so. Let us not use this information as weapon, but a means of communicating the value in what we do.

Diagrams can be helpful and fun. However, they are not a guide for living. I will not panic if my child is a little below the “standard” and I am not going to get puffed up with pride if my child “excels”. I am going to accept my children for what they are, helping them to become the best they can be. After all, the measure of my child’s success is not going to be found on any chart. But in a life well lived.

“But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.”
~Galatians 6:4

Your Turn!: What do you use to help measure your children’s achievements?

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An Easy A

When it comes to report card time, filling out paperwork is as simple as can be. (Our PSP requires report cards, not the state; just to clarify this point.) In the grades column, I hit the caps lock button and keep my finger on the letter “A”; I run straight down the page and stop when I get to the end.

To some, this might seem ridiculous. All “A’s”; really? But don’t get the wrong idea, my kids never get an easy “A”! It is our method which affords our children the grades they earn.

Easy AAs homeschoolers, there is very little (if any) work my children accomplish that doesn’t meet my eye. We are together almost non-stop; twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. (Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.)

Because of this, I know exactly how they are progressing and which areas need immediate work. A large part of their success is also due to our mastery method of learning. They earn the “A” because they do not move forward until an “A” can be achieved. Anything less than an “A” would be impossible.

So how do we know when our children have mastered an area of study? Easy; they have mastered an area when they, in turn, can teach it to someone else. The lesson becomes second nature to them and they could work blindfolded, if need be.

Our children’s grades are not calculated based on testing alone. Apart from assigned lessons, they are also expected to meet individual standards of achievement, participation, and show good conduct.

As you can see… there is nothing easy about their “A”!

What’s funny, is that our kids have no idea they are being graded; not really. The only thing they understand is that they should do all their work to the best of their ability and give life their all. That’s it! If I happen to mention, off-hand, what “grade” they earned, it means very little to them. The only thing that concerns them is doing better next time; if it is possible.

Sometimes I wonder what other people might think when they look at our kids’ paperwork. “Sure, Cris, your kids got straight “A’s” all through their schooling. Right!” However, I think “the proof is in the pudding”. The kids’ level of achievement and their attitudes toward learning speak for themselves.

It will be interesting to see how they do when they begin to take college courses come high school. When someone else is grading them and setting the standards, will they be shocked (either way) to find out how they are doing? I would like to think they will rise to the occasion and exceed even their own expectations.

If you file report cards; by what standard do you give an “A”?

Core Issues

I am sure most of us have heard about Common Core by this point in the year. Either our friends are conversing over it, the news is reporting on it, or we have seen a multitude of posts proclaiming Common Core to be harmful.

How many of us actually know what it is though? Do we truly know what is at the heart of Common Core or are we simply taking in the “hype” and arguments being presented by other people?

I think it’s high time I researched this topic for myself and made my own choices about where I stand.

Common Core

My guy is so awesome; he helped me create this quick little illustration.

My initial concern is that my children will be expected to know information that I am not teaching. Has something drastic happened to the textbooks of which I am not aware? Aaaa! My second concern is whether or not those choices I make in curriculum will affect their testing of the SAT/ACT, should they decide to attend college.

This one decision could affect the rest of their lives.

Let me be clear, I have no problem with standards. I think guidelines are important and help us know when we are making progress. I also have no problem with updating how we learn things.

My uncertainty really stems from ignorance. I am hearing shouts from several different directions. Teachers – “Common Core is awesome!” Home schoolers – “Common Core is horrible; avoid it at all costs!”

But, what in fact IS Common Core? Is it a new method, a new set of standards, or something completely different?

When it comes to research, there are many techniques I might use. I could go buy a book, but I prefer to not spend money if I can. I could listen to a few debates (which I have), but those are filled with a lot of opinions and very little documented fact. I could read some news reports (both educational and mainstream). Or… I could do the simple thing; go straight to HSLDA!!

I really appreciate HSLDA for a multitude of reasons. They are efficient, they know their stuff, and they are always on top of things. It should come as no surprise that something like Common Core has caught their eye and information is already at our fingertips.

There is so much to be learned HERE, I could spend days reading and I probably will. To make a proper decision, I want to be fully educated before forming an opinion.

So far, I am finding several inconsistencies in the Common Core standards. How can one prepare students for college while not making literacy and proficiency also a goal? Hmmm… It is also interesting to note that several states who have already adopted this program are beginning to back out.

I am still a long way away from coming to the “core” of The Common though. I suppose what I am ultimately looking for is a list. Tell me exactly what you want these students to know. I can weed through the ballyhoo later; just give me the meat first.

I would have preferred to do this research during the summer, but it has only recently become available. So, it looks like I am going to be glued to my computer on what little downtime I have each night. I want to learn about this before the year gets too crazy so that I may take the appropriate actions, should any be needed.

I want to know for myself what Common Core is all about, and then we can make some choices for ourselves. And… (as one my childhood TV shows used to preach to us) “Knowing is Half the Battle!”

Have you researched Common Core for yourself? Does Common Core concern you?

Give it Your Best

JAG Writing

My son, when he was much smaller, practicing his penmanship in an old schoolhouse.

I have noticed a recent trend developing within our small world of homeschooling. The necessity to rush through our day and “finish” can sometimes be our motivating factor, instead of taking the time to give it our best.

When my children finish their spelling practice or their language arts lesson in a matter of minutes, I seriously have to wonder if they have absorbed anything at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, one of the blessings of homeschooling is that we have a very flexible routine and no time constraints. However, I also don’t want to be so focused on getting to the end of our lessons, that we miss the point entirely… the love of learning.

Since both my husband and I have noticed this trend, we are taking measures to ensure its quick demise.

If their work isn’t neat, due to rushing through, they are asked to please erase their work and do it neatly. If they finish a lesson very quickly, we review it together, making sure that they are truly understanding the material. If they get the work done, but the method could use some improvement, we work out the kinks.

Our purpose in forcing our children to slow down, isn’t to raise perfectionists (although that could be a danger, if the wrong methods are applied), but rather to teach them the art of a job well done.

We want our children to learn that all we do, should be done to the best of our ability. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right!

Even something as simple as spelling, should be done with our utmost effort. There is no area of our lives that this discipline shouldn’t apply.

The danger here could be that set a standard for my children and tell them what their best is. However, that isn’t the point. My children need to be shown what can be done and then allowed to do their best.

Their best isn’t going to be what I can do. Their best might not even be what their siblings can do. No, their best is just that, their best.

When their best is done, no judgement is passed and no lecture follows. They did all they could; their best. No one can ask more than that.

However, I will add… While they did give their best, that doesn’t mean I will not continue to have them practice until their best gets better.

(I should also mention that there is a danger in teaching children that doing their best always brings reward. There is something wrong with giving a child a trophy for 10th place. Yes, do your best, but if you want an award, keep working until you earn it! More on that another day…)

Even I, as an adult, have much room for improvement in many areas. I want my children to learn to not only do their best, but push themselves to do better.

Their best needs to be self-motivated and continual. Through daily practice and goal setting, we are teaching our children to never stop growing and learning.

Our children still feel the occasional desire to rush through practice work or a chore, but they are getting better. They are coming to realize that rushing through does not pay off. (Mom is only going to make you do it over.)

With time, I hope our children will learn that all things worth doing, should be done to the best of their ability. Perhaps this will also teach them to carefully choose what to be involved in and how much work will go into their decisions.

If you’re going to do it, give it your best. (Col. 3:23)

Do your children rush through their lessons? How do you prevent work that is poorly done, due to hurrying?