Do your kids only have to be good at what they are good at? Or do they feel lacking? Is this OK?

I read an interesting post this evening. It was the first time in ages I’ve had time to read anyone else’s blog unfortunately. I like to read other blogs as much as possible, especially homeschooling blogs, as often as possible. I enjoy it and I think it makes me a better blogger and this includes commenting on other blogs. The quality of what I read keeps me on my toes! There are some fantastic homeschooling blogs out there! And I shouldn’t think I’ve found even a tiny percent of them because I’m only looking at ‘WordPress’ at the moment. There’s such rich food for thought there I haven’t needed to go elsewhere yet, although I am always open to being told about other blogs and am very happy to follow them too.

The post I read this evening is about ‘old chestnut’ of an issue – the debate about grading in schools. However, I thought it was very succinctly put by ‘Fish Tank Mom’ and there’s a VERY funny cartoon on this post of hers, “I have friends and family that are so proud of their children in school and the success and grades they have achieved.  I am happy for them that they are happy with the feedback from school that little Jonny is so bright and achieving at his level but it makes me wonder.  Is he better than or is he a better fit than little Billy next door with a C average?  (My emphasis) If Billy is bright and amazing with gifts beyond memorizing facts and passing tests will he know his brilliance after those 12 some years in a system that calls him an average student?  Will he get fed up and give up – resort to being average in life?  Will he drop out and then consider himself a “drop out”?  Or will he know his brilliance?  Will he have parents that look beyond the grades and the norm and notice his gifts?  If they do this for him will they be loud enough to snuff out the voices that said he was average or rather a failure?  Who is really succeeding in this?  Who is really failing?  Why are our children so deeply immersed in this system that has such a narrow view on what it means to live a good life?”

I have an acquaintance on Facebook, who is the mother of a little girl who used to be in Edward’s class at his ‘old-old’ bilingual school. She recently posted a picture of her 6 or 7 year old daughter’s report card and crowed and I mean, crowed, about the fact that her daughter got all ‘A’s. This post was followed by reams of comments from her friends lauding her parenting skills, “What a wonderful parent you are. You must be very proud.” I seriously don’t remember any comments about how hard her daughter must have worked to get these ‘A’s, let alone any more reflective comments like, “I hope she had a lot of fun this year too”, or “I hope you’re allowing her to be a little girl too and enjoy all the other things this wonderful life has to offer”  or “What on earth is a school doing grading a 6/7 year old and what on earth are you doing caring so much about it?” And she does care about it. A previous post had said how proud she was that her daughter could write so much and so clearly. This same mother also regularly posts about all the homework and projects she’s doing with her daughter. It doesn’t sound like they have much time for fun or friends.

I’m not having a particular dig at this mother because probably 99% of the other mothers feel the same. Why do people see education as a race? Why do people think doing things early results in future success? What does writing volumes and legibly at 6/7 years old have to do with success as an adult, any way you define success? Do people not think about what those kids have missed out on by being made to write volumes and legibly at such a young age? Do they not worry about how much they may be putting kids off writing? Do they not think about the fact that perhaps it would be more important to instil a love of learning in kids at this age so that they will want to teach themselves a whole lot of things? That perhaps if they learn to love learning they will want to read, write and do maths, just for the joy of it, not to try and get ‘A’s to please their parents? What about all the more interesting things the kids could be learning instead of doing writing (and reading and maths) drills? Why do people think it’s OK to grade kids? Why do otherwise perfectly reasonable people think that if their kids are complying successfully with somebody else’s idea of what it is to be well-educated that this is the definition of success?  Why are people so thoughtless about their kids’ education? Why are they so brainwashed to buy into ‘the system’?

‘Fish Tank Mum’ says, “My children are not graded because I home school them and I have the choice to turn my back on this tradition.  They are stars for being alive and I know that the success they will have in this life will be motivated by joy and genuine interest.  They just are not average, not excellent, not A, B, C, or D but just people with interests, passions and a multitude of different aptitudes.  Will they be limited by this not knowing how they measure up?  Some think so indeed.  Will they never work hard if not for the motivation of a carrot – in this case a high mark? Some think not.  I am not afraid for them and I know they have a gift far beyond anything tangible.  They have the gift of confidence to forge their own path – create their own life and a life of passion for what interests them.  They have no sense of lack for not being what they are not – they only have to be good at what they are good at.  What would that have been like for you?”

I absolutely love this. As I said, I think ‘Fish Tank Mum’ hits the nail on the head, “They have no sense of lack for not being what they are not – they only have to be good at what they are good at.” What would that have been like for me? Big sigh. If only. But it WILL be like that for my kids and I so dearly hope it can be like that for your kids too.

As the wonderful John Holt says, “No human right, except the right to life itself, is more fundamental than this. A person’s freedom of learning is part of his freedom of thought, even more basic than his freedom of speech. If we take from someone his right to decide what he will be curious about, we destroy his freedom of thought. We say, in effect, you must think not about what interests and concerns you, but about what interests and concerns us.”  Such as having neat and voluminous handwriting. Including those things we think deserve an ‘A’ and not a ‘D’. Is this right? Is this OK?

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IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLINGMIDDLEEAST, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!

Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster  – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you! 

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About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is pjmontford@hotmail.com. I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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8 Responses to Do your kids only have to be good at what they are good at? Or do they feel lacking? Is this OK?

  1. I agree! My children are taught to achieve their utmost, without a grade attached. Not for their own glory or honor, but to bring glory and honor to their God. That His work might be achieved through all they do. My only rule (in terms of achievement) is whether or not they did their best for God. If they did… job well done! If not, then I encourage them to keep striving until they do.

  2. Marie says:

    Well – thank you so much for visiting my blog and liking/quoting my writing. That is so encouraging from the perspective of my writing experience. I also loved reading your thoughts on the subject and especially love the Holt quote. Alfie Kohn has also written extensively on the subject and I think it is very cool that he works within the system for that change. I think this is so hard for people to get their heads around but once you do its hard to go back. Good luck with your homeschooling journey….still 3 months? My oldest is 11 and I have been homeschooling all the way along but I have changed my style and my confidence has waxed and wained over the years. My heart was always unschooling but I was so afraid! As they get older the proof is in the pudding whatever the pudding may be – not really excellence but genuine specific interests emerging!

    I have not been reading much lately either. I think because its summer we are all enjoying that a little bit!

    Again thank you for your interest in my writing!

    • Hi Marie, I meant to post a link on your blog but didn’t get a chance last night so I’m delighted you found it, with a pingback I guess. Yes, I love your writing! Keep it up! We started homeschooling in February, so it’s still very early days and I always love suggestions/advice and hearing other people’s stories. They are so inspiring, even the seemingly ordinary have nuggets of gold for me. And then of course there’s the heart with which people write, it’s so supportive! Keep commenting please!!

      • Marie says:

        Hi again – I did get a pingback. Congratulations on your choice to homeschool – it really is a great journey! I will keep in touch and try to keep up on my comments and reading. I tend to read on my iphone at night while the kids are settling in for sleep and tehn I comment in my head but never get to my lap top to get it out;) Four kids keeps me on my toes!! Good luck and we shall connect soon!

      • I totally understand! Lovely to hear from you!

  3. Yes I am always commenting in my head too! Love this post, it is really encouraging. (I have shared it on facebook.) I am two and a half years into my journey home educating my four children and I am loving it. I hope they will grow up to love learning and know that I am proud of them as much, or more, for their own interesting thoughts and ideas on a wide variety of subjects as for their academic achievements. And for all their practical skills as well. I love academic subjects and so far my children seem to as well, but there is a lot more to life than that. I am really enjoying reading about your journey. Thank you for sharing it!

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