Friday, July 11, 2008

Grades

So I am sitting here at Panera dutifully trying to come up with grades for my high schoolers. The public high school will, of course, expect grades on my kids' transcripts, not just a list of books read or texts used. Drat grades!

Because of so many days taken off for wallpaper stripping, painting, packing and moving, my two high schoolers are still finishing up school. (Bantam13, with a bit less to do, just finished his reading list last week.) Part of me would have loved to grant grace in the circumstances and not make them finish every last book and chapter of the text book...but another part of me knows that I would be depriving them of a valuable lesson about time management: They are now experiencing the consequences of their own choices about how they spent their time while I was busy with the move and not able to keep such a watchful eye on them.

Overall, I was most disappointed with myself over the last year. I was not the teacher I could have been; I was so distracted by selling the house and moving that I was barely able to keep track of what they were doing, let alone help them with difficult material or enrich their learning with teacher input. Knowing what kind of a year we were facing, I had chosen curriculum that could stand alone and I do feel like they learned a lot without me this year, but more teacher involvement would have been so much more preferable. Another of my big disappointments was that after the first few months, we never had time for writing assignments since we were always in catch-up mode.

When we were in the middle of all the uncertainty about when and whether or house would sell, I had moments of wondering what God was doing. Couldn't He see what a distraction all this was? Wouldn't He rather I invest time in my children than in a house?

I still wish I could have done things differently last year, but I'm forced to accept the year as it ended up. It's entirely possible that the lessons God wanted our kids to learn weren't about academics! I know they learned a lot about taking responsibility for their own schedule and assignments, since Mom was too busy to tell them what they should be doing every minute. I know they learned lessons in faith and prayer from the whole selling/moving process. I know they learned history and vocabulary and saw good writing modeled in the "living books" assigned by the Sonlight curriculum, and they "met" children and adults in those books who were examples of honesty, courage, creativity, compassion, resourcefulness and other good character qualities.

They also learned how to strip wallpaper and what a difference de-cluttering makes! They learned a few painting strokes, Blondechick15 painted her own room, and we all learned how to clean up the whole house quickly and keep it that way (for a few hours, at least). They were in three musicals, including Charlotte's Web in which Blondechick starred, and three 10-week drama or dance classes. Three of them took voice lessons, and Blondechick learned a lot from babysitting for her voice teacher. Bantam17 got a refreshing year off from public school, which brought him closer to his siblings once again and gave him more time for his own pursuits, and I depended on his muscle and maturity for help with the move, the house and younger siblings.

So how do you put a grade on all that? How do you show those lessons on a transcript?

How do you assign grades to history and literature, where basically all they did was read books?

If their teacher had been on the job, they'd have written about each book and we'd have discussed each one. That was the plan. It is a shame that my first year of teaching high school was such a distracted one!

Lord, I thank you that education is more than what can be graded. I thank you for the life lessons my children learned this year, even if they can't easily be recorded on a transcript. I thank you for drawing us all closer together this past year, which couldn't have happened if we hadn't homeschooled through this difficult year.

And I thank you in advance for helping me give my highschoolers grades that are fair and reflective of what they've accomplished this year. Amen.

12 comments:

elaine@bloginmyeye said...

I love these posts that show how your brain works. I know with the Lord's help you'll find your way through to a letter. God bless you in your new farther away abode.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Elaine--

Aw, thanks--you encourage me!

--Jeanne

Linds said...

They will have learnt a great deal more than even you realise, Jeanne. Everything works out for a reason. I am sure they will have done really well. Don't beat yourself up!

Andrea said...

jeanne,
will you email me flourishingmother@hotmail.com
I want to ask you about the curriculum you used.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to let yourself off the hook. Honestly, I have three children who are in two of the top ten universities in the country, another two in high school, as well as two in middle school and twin preschoolers. We have participated in the public school system, had hybrid years where they were technically homeschooled while taking an assortment of classes, and participating in various programs within the public school, and this year our two middle schoolers will be homeschooled. Grades are just numbers and letters...nothing more. One of the wisest public educators I know once told me....grades are only snapshots of a what demonstrated ability in a very limited context, for one moment in time. They no more reflect the whole of what a child has or has not mastered, than a formal portrait reflects the way a child appeared in the classroom each morning. She was right.Remember that in a public school classroom, it is standard procedure to give the child the benefit of the doubt when grading if you saw sincere effort on a chlld's part. Also remember that in a school classroom, it is typical to award 20% of total grade based upon "responsibility points"...is the child dependable, and organized. It is also fairly typical to grant extra points to a student who goes above and beyond...who asks the questions..and whom you find hunting for an extra bit of information based upon a question that rose from his/her reading. The question that was asked over dinner....prompted by class reading....that would be extra credit in a classroom. Finally, when making up your child's transcript...be creative. Scraping wallpaper, painting, learning the art of minimalism...all is covered in the class "Applied Domestic Arts" and yes Ma'am that does earn a grade on the permanent transcript.

Anonymous said...

One more thought...as a former college professor...I can tell you that in post high school studies the difference between an A and a D is most often organization. I have seen very bright students fail, due to lack of organization. Everything I have read leaves me with the impression, that your children are learning to be self-reliant, thoughtful and organized. Perhaps you should give yourself an A as well.

eirik said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
At A Hen's Pace said...

Anonymous--

Thanks so much for your perspective--I really appreciate hearing from someone just a little further down the path!

When I saw a class that the high school offers called "Infant Lab" (in which they get hands-on experience taking care of preschoolers), I certainly did add that one to my daughter's transcript--she's had YEARS of experience there! I'm also giving her .5 PE credit for all the dancing she's had with musical theater, and a .5 credit for Musical Theater 101. I wasn't sure how many electives I should account for in one year, but those seemed like no-brainers!

Thanks again for your thoughts--

Jeanne

Annie said...

Jeanne,
I wish I could bottle up a decanter of Grace to send you, that you could pour it over your head as you think about this past year. But I can't, so I will pray that God sends you the decanter and breaks it over your feet like nard. Blessings,
Annie

At A Hen's Pace said...

Annie--

Thanks so much for your prayers and that beautiful metaphor....

I am soaking it in!

~Jeanne

At A Hen's Pace said...

Oh, for the curious and for the record, I deleted my own comment, above, when I accidentally posted it under another family member's name!

Crunchy Christian Mom said...

Wow! What a year you had! Personally, I think you deserve an A for surviving it and not giving up on homeschooling altogether! And look at all they did and learned without doing things the "usual way"! Life IS learning!! :)