- How do I grade?
- How do I know they are on track?
- How do I teach what I do not know?
- How do I have patience?
- How will they go to college?
These are fairly typical questions and I should have been able to answer them with ease and confidence but I sensed judgment and it shook me a bit. After all these years, I thought I was beyond being shaken up by questions, especially when asked respectfully. To be fair, the questioner has a very traditional outlook on education and has two children younger than mine, who already know which Ivy League schools they wish to attend.
So how did I respond?
|First school visit! Lilah hung out with her grandmother while Grace took a tour.|
|Outside the International Center of Photography, New York, NY|
|Steinway Flagship store is across the street from the International Center of Photography|
Grades - we don't grade. I have gone back and forth over
the years about grading but I wrote a post a few days ago that sums up my thinking on grades. It took Grace a year and a half to make it thought algebra and she carried an A average. She took the end of the chapter tests and she did well. If she were in school she would have received an F or an Incomplete because she would not have had the opportunity to switch curriculum and find something that better suited her learning style. Perhaps she would have connected with the teacher and the text and passed with an A but if she did not, it would have meant summer school for her. Instead she learned at her own pace and did well. I told my friend that if the girls decide to attend a school that requires grades and GPAs I will consult Lee Binz on doing this correctly and effectively. As of now, this is not the case and I don't give it much thought.
Tracking - It is almost impossible to explain that you just know. I know that Lilah would test advanced in language arts. I know that Grace would be on level. I know that both would be behind in math. I also know that tests do not track things like the science of photography, marine biology, drawing, musical ability and fluency, and foreign language. So they may not test well in comparison to their peers but they excel in areas that their peers do not have time to indulge.
Teaching - This year the girls have outside classes in ASL, Photography, History, Language Arts, Drawing, Guitar, Pottery, Cello, Music Theory, Piano. I could go on and on about all the classes they have taken at Yale, at Soundwaters, with Gail Carson Levine, at The Peabody Museum, with professional archaeologists, and the experiences they have had like traveling the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama, visiting the site of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, and visiting the historical sites on the east coast of Florida and Georgia. This blog is filled with how we have approached "teaching" but how do you convey that in a quick conversation? How do you convince someone that some of the best teachers are not teaching in a classroom but inspiring you to reach for more than you ever thought was possible in the world outside of school?
How do I have patience? Some days I don't. Other days I seek God.
College - Simple. Meet the requirements. Most homeschoolers do. I explained that Grace was philosophically opposed to standardized tests (a common sentiment among unschoolers) and that she wants to be judged on her capabilities in the field she has chosen rather than on a test score. However, if she chooses a school that requires testing, she will have to test. To get around standardized testing, she can attend the one year immersion program at International Center of Photography in Manhattan, which we visited last week. This is a professional program interested in developing the photographer and his/her vision. They are not interested in test scores. They are interesting in who you are as a photographer.
She can also attend community college for 2 years earning an associate degree in either music or fine arts with a concentration in photography or both. We have two schools that are commutable (another one of her requirements) that have both these programs and they are excellent schools. There is a stigma surrounding community college. I see it in the reactions of those who are preparing their children for the Ivy's. The competitive mama in me wants to say, my child is just as smart as your child, maybe smarter because she can get herself from point a to point b with no debt, staying true to herself, following her chosen career (she has one), and doing so with the support and guidance of those who love her and want to see her succeed. But I don't. I tuck this away in my mama's heart and know that "kids" at Yale were given the option of not taking a test because the Tuesday night election was so traumatic to them that they may not be prepared. Yale. Yeah, that's preparation for real life. I can't imagine what Greg would say to his employees if they told him they were not prepared for a meeting because of the emotional implications of a presidential election outcome.
I do not give the same value to the tiered college system. I do not place value in if you get into your reach schools. I do not think it is wise to incur school debt. I do not think it is advisable for teens to be taught by adults who have a dangerous world view.
So where does that leave my two high school daughters? In a pretty good place, I think. They are free to collaborate on the design of their education. They are free to explore areas of interest. They are able to take risks knowing that if they fail it will not affect the rest of their educational journey. In fact, we encourage failure sometimes. I do not subscribe to the everyone gets a trophy view of education/life. I know Grace will do well because she already is. She is already working as a photographer, just not a paid one. She has photographed town events. She has been asked to work with a local non profit photographing students. She has been asked back to photograph families at church during the baby dedication ceremony. She has won awards. She has joined clubs. She is a photographer. Now she must become the best photographer she can be.
Lilah is 14. Once upon a time she thought she would be a baker. Last week she mentioned writing a book. Both are possible for her. Fine arts is also an area she should explore. Her art teacher told me that she is very talented (something we already knew but still loved to hear). Right now education is about exploration. She likes French after a rocky start. She is reading books she never thought she would read. She loves history and has an interest in the political process. She will find her way and Greg and I will support her and help her take advantage of every opportunity available to her.
I wish I could go back to yesterday and answer these questions without feeling defensive. We are blessed to be able to freely homeschool in a state which has no legal requirements. While some do not understand that because they have never stepped away from the confines of mass education, it is vital that we homeschoolers can defend how we educate and how we know it is working. Homeschooling has doubled in recent years. It has come under scrutiny, just read HSLDA's website. I am grateful that President Elect Trump is a huge proponent not only of homeschooling, but school choice in general because the previous administration was not. Homeschooling is hard. There are days I do not like it. There are times I wish my house was bigger so we could all just escape one another. Thankfully those days are few and far between. Homeschooling has been a huge blessing for my family and one I never take for granted or fail to appreciate.