Earlier this month Diane Flynn Keith penned an article titled: Rites of Passage, in which she says in part:
It’s hard to escape the school calendar and its associated events. I am always surprised when homeschoolers follow the traditional school year, and even more miffed when they engage in the ritual of graduation (for each and every grade level) in June. We have shunned school, so why do we embrace this very schoolish tradition?
The idea that kids are automatically ready to advance to the next grade (or head out into the big, wide world) because the calendar says “June” is bizarre. Not once in my homeschool experience did the Graduation Fairy thump me or my kids over the head with her wand and proclaim they were ready to move on to the next “grade.” The kids simply moved on to a new or more challenging area of interest when they were ready. It didn’t matter if it was June, December, or March.
The school calender is unfair to many children, namely the younger students. I know as a child I found myself struggling to grasp some concepts, while at the same time I was bored to tears with the annual months-long review of material we had covered the prior year.
I still have to laugh about finding myself in a remedial reading course, reading wasn’t my problem — I was the 2nd youngest child in my grade throughout my school years and I had to work very hard at times to keep up with my older peers. Yet, while in the 6th grade, I was tested at reading on a 12th grade level.
Malcolm Gladwell points out the problem in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.
“It’s just like sports,” Dhuey said. “We do ability grouping early on in childhood. We have advanced reading groups and advanced math groups. So, early on, if we look at young kids, in kindergarten and first grade, the teachers are confusing maturity with ability. And they put the older kids in the advanced stream, where they learn better skills; and the next year, because they are in the higher groups, they do even better; and the next year, the same things happens, and they do even better again.
The only country we don’t see this going on is Denmark. They have a national policy where they have no ability grouping until the age of ten.” Denmark waits to make selection decisions.
Gladwell, Malcolm (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success (pp. 28). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
Many public school children find themselves held-back in their early school years due to the recommendation of a teacher, but what does this do to a child? It stays with them their entire lives. Instead of school building their self-esteem and creating a self-confident individual, it begins a pattern of failure.
We’ve all talked to children in our area.
An adult asks the child, “So, what grade are you in?”
The child responds, “I was supposed to be in 4th but I’m in 3rd grade.”
The student will repeat this over and over again during his school years, so that it becomes a part of who he or she is. Each time the statement is made, it cements the feelings of failure inside. We aren’t grading eggs here. Why do schools bother assigning grades in the early years?
The older children in school classrooms have a distinct advantage over the younger students, not because they are necessarily smarter but because they are more mature. It creates an unfair disadvantage for the younger children in a classroom that only continues to grow throughout their academic lives.
I can understand why Diane would be concerned about following the traditional school model. If parents recognize that children aren’t being given a fair shake in schools across the country, why would they follow their flawed model of instruction? We never assigned a grade to our son and I never understood why a homeschooling parent would pigeon-hole their child into a meaningless grading system.
While reading the Outliers: The Story of Success, it occured to me that Liberty’s Kids would be a perfect tool for parents, who battle the summer vacation learning stagnation that takes place each summer in homes across the country.
I’ll bet your kids are planted in front of the television right now, soaking up the latest drivel streaming from the boob tube. It’s easy, requires almost no effort and provides little mental stimulation. Learning doesn’t have to be boring or difficult, in fact, it should be entertaining, easy to understand and engaging.
Most libraries have a pretty good selection of movies that can borrowed and if you watch for sales on Amazon, you can find educational DVD’s such as these for a song. When I find an item that I’d like to purchase on Amazon and the price is higher than I want to pay (or priced more than I can afford), I add it to my cart and save it for later. Each time I log in, I can check the items, Amazon let’s me know when the price has dropped or the item is finally in stock. I’ve found terrific bargains this way.
Check out this list of Revolutionary War DVD’s. Keep history alive and make it real for your kids. Summer should not only be fun, but educational. It will give your kids the boost they need to compete in our new global economy. Encourage the kids to explore what life was like during the Revolutionary War. It could change their perspective on the life they live today.
The Best of the Revolutionary War for Kids:
- Liberty’s Kids: Complete Series – 40 full episodes – [ages 7-13] Far more than a simple chronicle of the battles and major events of the American Revolution, Liberty’s Kids tells the story of the cultural, scientific, political, and social forces that helped shape America’s fight for independence from the perspective of two young teens from very different backgrounds. [DVD]
- American Colonies/ American Revolution – [ages 8-13] A theatrical American history production with period and original songs, humor and puppetry, and free online activities and music/video clips. Corresponds to American history educational standards. [VHS]
- Johnny Tremain – [ages 8-13] Looking for a way to make the American Revolution come alive for your child? Based on Esther Forbes’s book of the same name, Johnny Tremain takes place in Boston from July 1773 through April 1775, and tells the story of a young apprentice silversmith drawn into a fight for human rights. [DVD]
- John Adams (HBO Miniseries) – [ages 10+] Adams, second president of the United States, is portrayed as a skilled orator and principled attorney whose preference for justice over anti-English passions earns enemies. The first thing one notices about John Adams‘ dramatizations of congress’ proceedings, and the fervent pro-independence violence in the streets of Boston and elsewhere, is that America’s roots don’t look pretty or idealized here. [DVD]
- The History Channel Presents Washington the Warrior – [ages 10+] The military career of George Washington is the well-chosen focus of this History Channel documentary, which will probably surprise the casual history buff. Learn the fascinating story of Washington’s youthful ride into the Ohio territory to deliver a message to the French, a defining moment (and one that made Washington a celebrity after his diary of the journey was published). [DVD]
- The Founding of America Megaset – [ages 10+] The story begins with Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Boston, whose protests against British taxation led to the Boston Tea Party. Moving on to the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, the brilliant delegates from the South, particularly George Washington and Thomas Jefferson appear on the scene, and the story is told of how an improbable cohesion between the colonies began. [DVD]
Learn more about Liberty’s Kids and watch the show online for free.