Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How do they pass?

Someone with a young child asked this question today. If you're homeschooling, especially unschooling, how do your kids 'pass'? Here's the response I wrote:

Imagine that there was a standardized provincial daycare program, more or less compulsory, that the government started, and it laid everything out for enrolled children and their caregivers from birth. Specially trained daycare staff would take primary responsibility for toddler and preschool milestones and they'd have government-devised plans to help them organize this. They'd put children into groups by age so that they could work on the same tasks with them at the same stage. Start solid food and age 6.5 months. At 10 months, begin one-on-one play using names of body parts in speech and sign. At 19 months introduce the potty. At 21 months, taper back morning nap. And so on. Each year of the child's life would have a whole set of learning and developmental expectations. At the end of each year, the daycare staff could provide parents with a report on how closely the child had developed and learned according to those expectations. Assuming they'd lined up pretty well, they'd "pass" their year. Otherwise, remedial interventions would be begun.

Now think again about what happens in a typical home with highly involved parents. For example, in your own home, with your own child. There's no sense that your son has "passed" his first year of life. While you've probably had in mind what typical growth and development is like, you haven't felt the need to formally evaluate your son against benchmarks, create reports or transcripts, or to label him as being "in Grade Negative 5" or whatever. From the perspective of someone who isn't involved in a (thankfully hypothetical) Universal Governmental Child-Rearing Program, the idea of doing all that seems ridiculous. Babies and toddlers grow and learn. Their parents support them and provide the resources and stimulation they need to thrive. That's all there is to it.

So let's move on up to age 7, or 12, without imposing any of the conventions of Universal Government Institutional Schooling on our child. We've got a child who is growing and learning, with parents supporting him and providing the resources and stimulation he needs to thrive -- educationally and otherwise. That's all there is to it. There's absolutely no need to utilize the trappings of schooling ... like grade levels, the idea of "being in a grade", and evaluations, and 'passing' and transcripts and reports. Obviously you can do all that if you want, and some homeschooling families do so, but you'll find that many discard most or all of that stuff and enjoy the flexibility that opens up to them.

7 comments:

  1. Parents of infants do that now. I have seen many of them kind of compete with each other regarding what their child can do and not do. The child's "percentiles" are a big one. How long you breastfed is another, how old your child was when potty trained is another.
    Also, daycares write things like that out on paper, but don't practice them in reality, because they can't. I worked in childcare for a while, now have my dd in one whenever dh's and my schedules collide. The infant "lesson plans" are up not for regulation purpouses but for picky parents like the ones I mentioned above. They want to know that you are "doing something" with their child (caring for them is not enough, apparently). But lise I said, with infants, it's all a show. Babies have their own schedules.

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  2. I enjoy your sense of humour Miranda. Now I am trying to imagine the government caregiver telling the parent of the 6.5 month old, "Sorry Parent, but your child has received an F in solid food introduction, he kept spitting out the mushed peas, he will have to do it over again next year."
    ;-)
    We passed through your town on the weekend and enjoyed it very much, it is such a beautiful place you live. I was sad not to be able to find your Grub garden, was hoping I might have the luck to run into you.

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  3. You have put it nicely!

    I actually had a conversation with a long-term educator this weekend. A family friend who has taught for 35+ years and now works at the District level. We were discussing my middle son, whom is very bright: tests well on the Gifted Assessment and the National Testing Assessments...yet got poor grades in school this last semester. Why? Because he hates the busy work of school, the unessential required classes: he simply wouldn't do the work if it was pointless to him. And when we had a conference to remove him from a Spanish class in which his learning style and the teacher's teaching style clashed--the school refused: of course he gave up and simply did not attend class after a couple more weeks of a "failing grade" in a language class of his 1st/primary language.

    Now this child reads the newspaper daily, watches the global and national news nightly, starts and engages many people in political discussions, reads vacariously, works alongside his father running a family owned restaurant to the point that he runs it alone when his dad goes out of the country at a week at a time. Helps his stepfather with various construction projects around the house and on job sites.

    My educator friend says, "Yes, but he needs to jump through the hoops." My response is why? Of course he does if he wants the diploma...and he does. But philosophically--why do our children need to jump through hoops that are irrelavent and pointless to get a piece of paper that nobody asks for. I have yet to have one employer or University Admissions Office ask for my highschool diploma or transcripts **shrug** And what does that paper really say about use? That we met somebody else's standards and requirements???

    Your point is very valid, Miranda...and it is a shame that more people cannot see the pointlessness of "grading." I understand those that want it--as does my son...but for things that matter, as an assessment that they can use for growth not simply because someone feels that a certain area/topic needs to be assessed.

    I have rambled LOL

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  4. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/alice_miles/article2343869.ece

    Read paragraphs 6 and 7 especially and weep for those babies. It's real and happening here. Crazy.

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  5. I just found your blog today and am really enjoying it. What a wonderful life you and your family are sharing!!!

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  6. I love this POV. It seems everyone is caught up in where there kids are, not whether or not they are actually getting something out of life. I was never one who took much track of milestones (they were always ahead of their peers in almost every regard, but I never bragged it up to people. That was not meant to be a brag, BTW ;)). In the grand scheme of things, when they're 50, it doesn't matter when they potty trained or when they learned to read or whatever. I would rather my children be ready to face the world prepared, full of the things that will take them far that fill them with joy!

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  7. What a great analogy. And what happens when a certain percentage of the infants fail to reach the goals set for a specific age? Do we get lack of Adequate Daily Progress on the No Infant Left Behind law? Heh. heh.

    We did the school at home thing when we first took N. out of school. It was more to appease my anxiety than to actually help him learn. As you said, we, like many homeschooling families, ultimately discarded almost all of "that stuff" and now enjoy the flexibility that opened to us.
    Reading your blog was inspiration. Your kids are happy, healthy, and learning. Without being tested for AYP.

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