A crime against learning

This is so very important. Please read and absorb.

The truth—for this parent and so many others—is this: Her child has sacrificed her natural curiosity and love of learning at the altar of achievement, and it’s our fault. Marianna’s parents, her teachers, society at large—we are all implicated in this crime against learning. From her first day of school, we pointed her toward that altar and trained her to measure her progress by means of points, scores, and awards. We taught Marianna that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to come home proudly bearing As, championship trophies, and college acceptances, and we inadvertently taught her that we don’t really care how she obtains them. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfect record. Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.

Grades do not matter nearly as much as your child's character, soul, imagination, curiosity, and love of learning. By pushing kids to focus on nothing but achievements and awards we are creating a generation of highly-credentialed zombies with no inner lives to speak of and even less imagination, to say nothing of grit, determination and resilience. Or, you know, basic competence.

My homeschooled children almost literally never take any tests. I assess their competences by looking at the curriculum and determining whether they've mastered those skills or not. Every now and then I make them do exercises and tests of the kind they have in school, just so they are able to deal with this kind of format and language. But they're almost never "tested", except The Youngest, who's keen to get grades on her work. I usually get The Eldest to grade her work and give her As and smiley faces. It makes the little one happy and the older one is thrilled to be grading. Win: MOM! But otherwise my kids don't have grades or awards, except for my praise.

I encourage them to be curious, to look things up by themselves, and - most importantly - to stick to things even when they find it difficult. Because, as a wise friend of mine puts it, character comes before curriculum. It sure comes before credentials.

Why proximity to death makes you feel alive

Learning to take things in stride