Saturday, January 20, 2018

Grade Levels/Norms - do they really matter? or Why Homeschooling Rocks & Understood Betsy!

I talk about the book Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher quite often with regard to "grade levels" and homeschool (or even public school) parents freaking out because their child is ahead/behind/average/advanced/etc. When Elizabeth/Betsy goes from the city school to the country school, her school experience changes. When I read this book to my oldest child, I had that final epiphany (and I had been researching homeschooling since she was 2) - THIS is what homeschooling is all about! We aren't trying to recreate school grades at home. We don't have hundreds of students in our homeschools. We typically have WAY smaller classrooms (I know there are some of you who have lots more than the 4 I have, lol). We have the freedom to NOT worry about all that silliness that is required by tax dollar use accountability and management of the education of huge numbers of children!! The book Understood Betsy can be found in your library or read for free online (you can even get a version for your Kindle reader).

The whole book is good (for boys and girls both), but Chapter 5 is what I am referring to:

"Betsy sighed, took out her third-grade reader, and went with the other two up to the battered old bench near the teacher's desk. She knew all about reading lessons and she hated them, although she loved to read. But reading lessons...! You sat with your book open at some reading that you could do with your eyes shut, it was so easy, and you waited and waited and waited while your classmates slowly stumbled along, reading aloud a sentence or two apiece, until your turn came to stand up and read your sentence or two, which by that time sounded just like nonsense because you'd read it over and over so many times to yourself before your chance came. And often you didn't even have a chance to do that, because the teacher didn't have time to get around to you at all, and you closed your book and put it back in your desk without having opened your mouth. Reading was one thing Elizabeth Ann had learned to do very well indeed, but she had learned it all by herself at home from much reading to herself. Aunt Frances had kept her well supplied with children's books from the nearest public library. She often read three a week—very different, that, from a sentence or two once or twice a week."

.....{I am skipping parts - you can read the whole chapter online!}....

"Well," said the teacher, "there's no sense in your reading along in the third reader. After this you'll recite out of the seventh reader with Frank and Harry and Stashie."

Elizabeth Ann could not believe her ears. To be "jumped" four grades in that casual way! It wasn't possible! She at once thought, however, of something that would prevent it entirely, and while Ellen was reading her page in a slow, careful little voice, Elizabeth Ann was feeling miserably that she must explain to the teacher why she couldn't read with the seventh-grade children. Oh, how she wished she could! When they stood up to go back to their seats she hesitated, hung her head, and looked very unhappy. "Did you want to say something to me?" asked the teacher, pausing with a bit of chalk in her hand.

The little girl went up to her desk and said, what she knew it was her duty to confess: "I can't be allowed to read in the seventh reader. I don't write a bit well, and I never get the mental number-work right. I couldn't do ANYthing with seventh-grade arithmetic!"

The teacher looked a little blank and said: "I didn't say anything about your number-work! I don't know anything about it! You haven't recited yet."

......{I am skipping parts - you can read the whole chapter online!}....

However, just then her class in arithmetic was called, so that she had no more time to be puzzled. She came forward with Ralph and Ellen again, very low in her mind. She hated arithmetic with all her might, and she really didn't understand a thing about it! By long experience she had learned to read her teachers' faces very accurately, and she guessed by their expression whether the answer she gave was the right one. And that was the only way she could tell. You never heard of any other child who did that, did you?

......{I am skipping parts again - but really, read the whole chapter online!}....

After the lesson the teacher said, smiling, "Well, Betsy, you were right about your arithmetic. I guess you'd better recite with Eliza for a while. She's doing second-grade work. I shouldn't be surprised if, after a good review with her, you'd be able to go on with the third-grade work."

Elizabeth Ann fell back on the bench with her mouth open. She felt really dizzy. What crazy things the teacher said! She felt as though she was being pulled limb from limb.

"What's the matter?" asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered fact.

"Why—why," said Elizabeth Ann, "I don't know what I am at all. If I'm second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?"

The teacher laughed at the turn of her phrase. "you aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in! And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication table?

Tina Hollenbeck of The Homeschool Resource Roadmap made this wonderful picture after one of the many discussions on this topic and my talking about the book. It sums it all up perfectly!

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