Graduating Failure

Posted by Annie on Jun 26, 2011 in Education, Seasonal |

Earlier this month Diane Flynn Keith penned an article  titled: Rites of Passage, in which she says in part:

Graduation FailureIt’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.

Outliers (book)

Image via Wikipedia

“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.

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