Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting to the nut of the issue

My 13 year old daughter, Ace, asked me today while we were in the car: "Mom, what is the point of cheating? I mean, lets say you pass something by cheating, you will just have to do the next course, which will be harder. If you don't know the material, how will you manage, other than to cheat more?"

I think this gets to the nut of the homeschooling issue for us. My kids are taking subjects to master the knowledge. G-school students (and most private school students) are taking the subjects to mark time, and gain grades. Testing is paramount importance to schools. Schools are judged by how well students do on tests; teachers are judged by how well students perform on tests; students are judged on how well they perform on tests. Without good grades on tests, students can't join the sports teams, be in band or other extra-curriculars. Many kids get monetary rewards from parents, relatives, and even from the schools themselves for getting A's or B's on the report card.

With all this pressure to perform, and the relative ease of cheating, is it any wonder that it is so rampant in the institutional school system?

I thought Ace's question was very relevant. If a person cheats their way through elementary, junior and high school, and then into college, how is this really benefiting them in the long run? They haven't gained ownership or mastery of the course material. So what's the point, then?

In our homeschool, we don't use "grades" as such to mark progress. Either the kid knows it, and can move on, or doesn't, in which case, we go back, review the trouble spots, and learn the material. When well-intentioned people ask me how I can be sure my kids are really learning without grades, I really want to know, how can you be sure that their kids are really learning if all you have to go by is a letter on a piece of paper.


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