When you are a home school facilitator or teacher, you get to grade your children at the end of the year. It’s huge power. I gave my kids all A’s; actually A+’s, except for Math, which was not their favorite, so they MADE me decrease their standard grade a bit to an A, just to achieve balance. The kids were embarrassed with their teacher’s high grading, when they handed in their portfolios to the public school superintendent for review and especially when they applied to college. They were also “First in their Class.” This was a not difficult status to achieve. I found both of these amusing.
I thought grading was a joke- in public school and especially in home schooling. I’ve heard of home school mothers sitting at soccer practice with a stack of tests and papers, working the red pencil, executing cross outs and X’s. Sticking “Good Job” stickers and stars on the top and placing a grade on the page. And, lamenting how much work home schooling is to their comrades. I never gave a test, never graded a single paper, never required them to “hand in” anything to me for review. They were required to write, however, about every single experience and the first year Sierra calculated that I led them on 125 field trips. Writing was important to this facilitator. Learning to think, put their feelings into words, and communicate- extremely important skills to have in life, I believed.
While growing up, both children were also required to edit my magazine articles. Work for food. They HAD to. As a result, they learned how to self- edit themselves from editing my work, and became legitimate writers themselves. Something they both could do for work and make money at it, if they so desire.
Handing in the required year-end portfolio to the area school superintendent makes some homeschoolers writhe in fear. My children saw it as a celebration. The school district saw it as a celebration. Most children stay with their portfolio when in the review session, never let it out of their sight, and take it along when they leave their appointment. Our school district called us up ahead of time and pleaded with us to allow it to stay for a week or more so everyone could take as long as they wanted perusing it, for it was “sooo interesting.” They viewed it as a travel log, a monstrous year-long scrapbook, and a way for even them to learn about the world, for we always traveled to so many interesting places, both abroad and domestic, in a single school year.
When I learned from another homeschooling teacher, that her children only went to ONE SINGLE field trip during their homeschooling year- to an indoor climbing wall, (compared to our 125) I was startled to see the vast difference in our schooling styles. They were following a strict regimented religious curriculum which left little wiggle room for “frivolous” things like field trips. Experiential learning was everything in my home schooling facilitator’s mind. Nothing could make learning stick better.
My over-achiever daughter, Sierra, however, was not convinced she was learning. They did take the required PSSA & SAT tests and scored very high. I was personally not fearful that I was “wrecking” them. In a homeschooler’s junior year of high school, they are allowed to attend college classes. They are permitted to double dip and get credit for the subject as a high schooler and use the credit towards acquiring their bachelor’s degree in college. Both children took two college classes their junior year- Sierra- Human Geography and Math at Penn State and Bryce- English I and Drawing I at Lehigh Carbon Community College. “THIS would be the true test of your mind,” I told her. “Is our children learning” will be answered by someone higher ranking and smarter than their mother. When both children got not only straight A’s, but A+’s in their classes, and the college professors saw the excellence in them and marveled at their young age in comparison to their classmates, this home school facilitator beamed. I had been right on the mark!
Since both children were in the Honors program at Temple University, which is heavily writing oriented, they did not suffer when it came to writing papers. Both children aced writing assignments no matter what the subject, simply because they knew how to articulate, had a gorgeous way with words, as well as having a wide, impressive vocabulary. The skill aided Sierra in writing grants as an undergrad, winning her four different independent study grants akin to graduate level work. Sierra graduated summa cum laude from Temple University Honors and her brother, a junior at Temple/Tyler School of Art, Honors, is shaping up to be competitive.
There are many times in parenting, where you go with your gut when it comes to direction and guidance. There are even more opportunities for making decisions as a home school facilitator. It can be a big responsibility, for you are dealing with your child’s education here, which will affect them the rest of their lives. Where the masses may have questioned me, “Is your children learning?” where some wondered why I never gave a single test “just to see where they stood and if they truly knew their material,” I never had any doubt in my teaching method. Daniel Pink, in his ground-breaking book, A Whole New Mind, said, “Experience is the most important part of living, and the exchange of ideas and human contact is all life really is.” I always believed this in my heart and decided right from the start, that I would use this idea to guide them through their education. It just takes years until it all comes out in the wash.