Thursday, July 29, 2010

Failing the Struggling Learner?

This morning, I caught the tail end of a news story about a school (in New Jersey?) that will no longer give Ds to their students.  They can get an A, B, C, or F.  Below 70% is a failing grade.  The principal said he was tired of giving students passing grades for doing almost nothing.  I (for the most part) say, "Good for him!"

There's no doubt that our public school system is failing our children.  There's no doubt that "academic education" is far from their first priority.  You can find many articles and e-books at that show the history of the school system and its main goal to win the hearts and minds of our children in order to produce "good citizens" that don't question the government.  Our very own Declaration of Independence tells us that we must hold our government accountable!

That being said, I myself grew up in public school since the middle of my 1st grade year, and I did all right, as will many kids in public school today.  My parents worked hard to keep on top of what was going on and help us navigate that tricky road that wants to veer off (that's putting it mildly!) the True Path.  I was blessed to be one of those students that always did very well with little effort.  I mean, I worked hard on my papers and homework, but rarely did I truly struggle to understand my lessons.  And I thank God for enabling me to do so, but I understand that most do not have the same experience I did.  Many will struggle to achieve Cs and will work as hard as they possibly can for a B.

Enter yet another advantage to homeschooling!  

I can take as much time as my children need to fully understand their subjects.  I don't have to assign a C or D letter grade at Christmas break because I'm forced to move on to the next lesson.  I can decide that even a C is unacceptable and keep working to find new ways to help my student 'get it.'  I can wait for that little light bulb to come on!  Even better, I can choose to give no grades at all!  (Our state makes that possibility very easy- I realize others are forced to require more.)

I can help my struggling learner in a way that a school teacher can not, even if they wanted to, because I have great advantages.  I have TIME!  I have a LOVE for my child that wants to see them succeed, one that even the most loving of teachers don't possess.  I have FREEDOM to choose when to push and when to back off and pursue something else for a while.

Many school teachers are wonderful!  They truly have a desire to see their students do well, but they don't have the advantages that I do.  They are bound to a system.  They are pressured by requirements and standards that set up struggling children to fail.  They are obligated to 20-30 students (more in jr. high and high school) and cannot possibly meet the needs of each one!  Their hands are tied- and those are the good teachers!  We won't even discuss the teachers that are there for a paycheck (or worse), and wish they could get it without the kids!

I realize that I am just at the beginning of our homeschool journey, and there's a possibility that I am being a bit naive, but I'm just guessing that out of my six children, one is bound to not easily excel at academics, and I'm okay with that.  I know it will be a struggle.  I know that there will probably be tears and frustration, but I can take peace in that I know that I will not let that child get lost in the struggle.  I will not give up on him.  He won't have to worry about his teacher (mom!) failing him.

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