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Strategic Grading for Strange Schooling

Many families have wrestled with the question of whether or not to homeschool their children. For a variety of reasons, some families choose to utilize the home as the primary education environment, and that’s OK. The struggle to direct time, resources and energy in this direction is worth the cost for these families.

For others, their path may be investing the same time, resources and energy in other ways for the strategic education of their children, and that’s OK. Situations are different. Families are different. Children are different. It’s worth the cost for these families in their situation as well.

In this uncertain time of quarantine and social distancing, all families now find themselves having to adjust to unforeseen circumstances and new educational challenges. Families who had prayerfully dedicated themselves and their children to a certain strategy now find themselves forced (for understandable reasons) to extend themselves in new ways for the sake of their children.

Schools are having to adjust. Teachers are having to adjust. Everything that seemed concrete is now somewhat fluid.

But what if there is great opportunity here for our students and families amidst the shifting norms?

As parents are now principals, and couches become classrooms, what if we took an opportunity to re-examine the way we look at another academic fixture: Grades? After all, grades are the way we mark levels of achievement—recognizing congruence, or incongruence, with desired outcomes.

While school systems are designed to equip and educate our children in alignment with several distinct outcomes, our homes are likely designed with even broader strata of desired marks, outcomes and trajectories.

In this season, when our homes become our schools, why not institute our own grades based on the desired outcomes of our homes, not just the desired outcomes from our schools? Here are four ideas about how to integrate strategic grading in a time of strange schooling.

Academics

Of course grading starts with academics. Our schools are tremendous partners in this effort. Students are graded on whether or not their work is correct and if it is adequately checked. Academic accountability is a must.

Integrity

Your work may be done, but is it done in the right way? Did you compromise or cheat your way through any part of the process? Did you finish what you said you would do? These are not just questions of academics but questions of integrity. There are many ways to get a right answer, but not many ways to become a person of right integrity. It’s easy to get an “A” answer in an “F” manner.

Respect

Schooling may have been done, but how did it go? Did the student respect their teacher? Did they respect their subject (whether they liked it or not)? Did they respect the tools they were given in order to succeed? Grading respect shows regard for the people who invest in our students and the tools God has given them to accomplish their goals.

Character

If something was hard, did the student accept the challenge? Did they have a good attitude and persevere? A big part of education is learning how to navigate difficulty. I will never use those theorems I grappled with in 9th grade geometry (sorry, Mrs. White), but I learned much about myself in those instances when I was tempted to turn to the back of the book just to finish my homework. I’d rather have an initially wrong answer from someone who tried hard than a right one from someone who cheated.

Obviously, our schools value each of these principles and seek to ingrain them in various ways into our children. I thank God for the teachers and administrators who stand on the front lines each day of our educational future.

But since we are all adjusting to a new normal, why not adjust to a new grading scale at home as our students pursue their education. I know there were many classes growing up that I got an “A” or “B” on the report card, but deserved a “C” or “D” in the way I did. Had I been striving for an “A” in Integrity as much as I was in Academics, I may have done things differently.

We measure what we value. We use grades as metrics. Use these ideas in your home or don’t. That’s completely fine, and you’re still a good parent. Take these ideas and supplement them with others, or brainstorm with your kids about what metrics you both would like to be measured on in order to achieve the goals you have. Reward along the spectrum of grades, not just in one area. This allows flexibility in capacity for both the parent and the student and offers new ways parents can be encouragers to their kids.

Times that stretch us allow us to think outside of the paradigms that shaped us. Paradigms, when shifted, afford us new perspectives. What might your rewards, your metrics and your achievements look like in a time of new perspective for your child’s growth?

Consider:

Academics

  • My work is checked.
  • My work is correct.

Integrity

  • My work is finished.
  • My work is done the right way.
  • I didn’t cheat.

Respect

  • I respected my teacher.
  • I respected my subject.
  • I respected my tools.

Character

  • I accepted the challenge.
  • I had a good attitude.
  • I persevered.

Author: Ryan Smith

Ryan is associate pastor at Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He is the author of Not That God.

View more articles by Ryan Smith.

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