Grading, or The Great Homeschool Experiment: Week 2

Ready for more reflections? Week 2 is done and I’ve made some administrative changes!

I entered this experiment thinking I didn’t need grades. How inhumane to grade a kindergartener! This period is just about learning to love learning! There’s no possible way to put that on a graded scale!

Turns out it is possible to grade that. It also would appear that I am obsessive and like to track my students’ progress very diligently. Who woulda thunk?

My husband laughed when he saw what I was doing.

“Yeah, you’re doing more than I do for my students.”

“Is that bad? Is this too much?”

“No, I did It my first year teaching too. Now not so much.”

So there’s hope that I’ll become less crazy as time wears on. But for now, I’m embracing the insanity.

My system really was created to give them stickers at the end of the day. I don’t know about your children, but mine are easily bought. All they require to feel the day was a success is many many stickers.

I started in week 1 with no record of their progress, doling out one sticker per good day.

This was not effective. The student who was whiny that day and received no stickers ended up coming to school the next day feeling slighted and angry, already determined that she would not be getting a sticker. By the end of the week, I had graduated writing down the subjects they did well on a post-it note and doling out one sticker per good subject. This worked for them, but gave me no record of where they were improving or needed improvement. And it left me with haphazard post-it notes flying around my school room.

By the middle of week 2, I arrived on our new grading system. Ta-da!

I write a small report on how they did in each subject and then give it a grade from poor to excellent.

As a side note, “Calendar” is a catch all for our morning desk time, which includes praying, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, reciting and singing Bible memory verses, and talking about the date and seasons. It just seemed silly to grade them on each of those things individually. “Morning Meeting,” however, which is comprised of Bible reading, History, poetry, and their read-aloud story, is graded differently. Bible and History have questions attached that generate discussion, so I thought it better to count them each as separate subjects.

The rewards come in tiers. A “good” job earns you a plain little star or heart sticker, an “excellent” job earns you a fun sticker, and an overall good day earns you the much coveted Frozen 2 stickers. A “poor” job doesn’t receive you any reward. The assessment isn’t based on skill alone, but attitude while completing the task. For example, Ella thrives in math and, not only does she do well, she does it with gusto. I want her enthusiasm to be rewarded as well as her skill, to encourage a love for learning. Lily’s best subject is handwriting, not only because her letters carry a surprising neatness for a four year old, but because she always sits down at the table with the happiest of hearts and an eagerness to write. Both struggle with reading. But there are days when I consider even their struggles a successful lesson because they went in with a good attitude.

The last update of the system will be put in place next week. Right now, their sticker “charts” look like this:

I felt like this method has not been allowing them to see any sort of pattern to their work or where they need improvement. So I’ve made this:

Hopefully this will help them see what they are doing better.

At the end of the day, the only way they wouldn’t pass kindergarten is if they end the year not being able to read. Nobody’s going to want the extremely detailed minutia of how they behaved each day. But I want it. I want to see every second where they’re thriving, where they need improvements, and how I can better teach them to be excellent students and help shape them into fully formed human beings. When it comes down to it, education isn’t about evaluation. I want them to learn and love learning, and a thirst for knowledge isn’t something that can be graded.

That’s all for week two! The homeschool experiment continues! Thank you, my fearless readers, for keeping up with me as I traverse my first year of teaching!


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