Every year at my children’s physicals, the same question inevitably pops up:
How are their grades?
Now, we’ve used the same pediatrician for almost 18 years, and she knows we homeschool, but it’s the same conversation each year. I usually just respond that their grades are fine (because I honestly don’t feel like having an hour long discussion about the futility of grades), while my kids look on in puzzlement because they know darn well there are no report cards handed out in this house.
Through the years, I’ve come to realize that even people who have an aversion to school-type learning in their homeschools still feel the need to give tests and grades to their kids. I’m going to admit, I used to. Our report card days lasted all about one semester until I grew tired of them. Our test days lasted much longer, although for most of this journey, our tests have been confined to spelling and math tests.
This has been our first year without giving any sorts of tests (other than the periodic state-mandated standardized tests), and what a freeing feeling it has been. It took me quite a while to get to this point. In fact, this was the last schoolish element I sloughed off, and I’m not looking back.
Tests just aren’t necessary. Grades just aren’t necessary. Here are the:
3 Reasons I Stopped Giving Grades and Tests
1. They’re not an accurate gauge of true learning.
I guess I can sort of understand why schools utilize the testing and grading system because they’ve got to keep track of hundreds of students each year, but why do we homeschoolers do it?
Tests are great at measuring what kids are able to memorize, but they have no way of guaranteeing that a child will still remember the same information three months from now. Since most grades are based on test scores, if a child scores well on tests that they’ve crammed for, they get good grades.
Not so fast. Sure, those grades probably do look nice on display on the refrigerator or Dad’s desk at work, but it’s all too easy to get a false sense of security from those grades. Because, you see, those scores don’t guarantee that your child has a complete understanding of everything you think they do. It’s much easier to memorize for a test, only to forget everything later, than it is to have a true understanding of the material.
Grades and tests look good on paper, and they’re great for self-esteem, but that’s about as far their usefulness goes.
2. They add unnecessary stress.
Children learn best when relaxed and content. It’s a fact of life. Even we adults can understand how much easier it is to “get” something when we’re actually able to concentrate on that one thing without worrying about something else.
The standardized test culture has completely ruined our public education system. School students are subjected to months of incessant, boring test prep and weeks of test taking, all while being reminded again and again by teachers how “important” this is.
That doesn’t have to be so in our homeschools. Kids who learn at home may not be hounded by these test monstrosities, but I think one can fairly assume that a good portion of homeschooling parents do place undue significance on other sorts of tests and the grades that quickly follow.
Tests are not the only way to assess learning. Grades are not the only way to document achievement. You’ve already taken a step outside the box once you started homeschooling. Take it a step further and be creative. Learning can and should be enjoyable. Find a way to make it happen.
3. I have no need to categorize my kids.
Let’s be honest here. I think most of us realize that the whole business of grading and testing is to make it easier for schools to categorize their students.
We don’t need to do that.
At home, our kids have the freedom and support to learn things at their own pace, whether it’s considered to be “on-grade level” or not. We don’t need to group our kids according to what their perceived potential is. Children aren’t cookie cutter images of one another. Let’s not treat them that way.
Employing the use of tests and grades in your homeschool is something that remains entirely up to you. My hope is that this post has at least opened your eyes to the fact that, if that system isn’t working for you, there is another way. A less stressful and- dare I say it- a more natural way.
Just think about it. What have you got to lose?