Let’s assume we are working on a research project. We keep a notebook of what we have covered and learned thus far. Suddenly we come across something that stumps us. We are perplexed. It is something we remember seeing and is most likely in our notebook. We flip back and yes! There it is, dated and outlined. We are able to review it and move forward.
Now let’s change that scenario to school. The child keeps a math notebook. Terms and symbols such as greater than, less than, times tables and angle definitions are listed, dated, and illustrated. Suddenly the student comes across something that they are perplexed by, perhaps it is a long division problem. The answer just does not seem right. Could it be that they made a mistake about how many times 12 goes into 72? They could flip back to that nicely illustrated table of the 12s multiplication facts. Could they? Sure. Except they would get a zero for cheating. I forgot to mention this is a quiz. No looking back at previous learning is allowed. This student could use the information presented in the word problem and could even pinpoint her error in calculation. The simple math fact alluded her. You and I could grab a calculator. We could flip back in our study notebook. But alas, the student, the child, cannot.
We encountered this today in a Life of Fred Bridge (assessment). Grace was asked to convert 777” into feet and express the answer in both feet and inches. This was not a very complicated problem. Another bridge required her to divide a circle into seven equal sectors. This problem involved long division, the use of a protractor and addition. But on this simple problem Grace was stumped by a 12s fact. She knew it looked wrong and she was distraught about an incorrect answer. I told her to flip back through her notebook to the table she made and find the fact to complete the problem correctly. “But that is CHEATING!” she told me. No, I told her. Cheating is dishonest. Cheating is taking someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. Flipping back through your own work is called life.
I am working on a research project of my own. It requires looking back over a year’s worth of work. I never once consider that “cheating”. Granted, my project is not a quiz or a test, but either is the Life of Fred book. Because we have been schooled, we see the bridge as a quiz, rather than just a checkpoint to see if we have a solid understanding of what we need to know to move forward. Clearly Grace has the concept internalized. Not having quick recall of one fact should not prevent her from moving forward. Not having access to the information she generated is ludicrous.
I am constantly dismayed at the thinking I have to undo in order for homeschooling to be successful. It takes so much time and patience. Plus there is always the fear that all this will be for naught should she go back to school where a quiz is a quiz and looking back is cheating.