When Failing is a Good Thing

failure2We have taken a new direction in our education, and it is more demanding with many more assessments and evaluations (read: quizzes and tests) than what our kids had been accustomed to. To them, it can seem tedious…but it helps me to ensure they know what they are doing before coming to that realization on a big exam.

I’ve often told our kids that failures can be a stumbling block or a stepping stone…the choice is ours. Today, one of the kids had an assessment on a math lesson and failed badly. We were about to see how that plays out in real life.

In going over the answers, I saw that at least half of the errors were simple things like not paying attention to the wording or the symbols in equations. This was not an official quiz, so I cleared all the work, had my student come by me, and we went through the assessment, question by question. We reviewed concepts. We looked up definitions. We worked things out on the Boogie Board. We even borrowed the brains of Sal Khan for one particular question. The result? When the assessment was retaken, the result was well above average. But that is not the best thing.

I didn’t look for perfection. I looked for education. Real learning. Not just the “I think I have an idea, and so I will color in this bubble” facsimile of going-through-the-motions education.

Coming out of this experience, I know my student has a solid grasp on where the weaknesses were in understanding and comprehension. Exactly. My finger is right on that pulse. When we were done with our session, we both knew the material (I’d forgotten all about “multiplicative inverses”…so, thanks Sal!) solidly. That’s important. It’s supremely key if we are going to call what we are doing e-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n. In the words of a family friend, “Do you understand what you know about that?” 

Getting A’s is all well and good, but if the grade is achieved by skillful guessing, or merely a rudimentary understanding (the “I’ll learn this for a test, but I plan to let it vaporize post haste!” kind), then we need to look more closely at how we are educating and less at the alphabet. Quizzes, tests, and exams are not the end. They can be used as a means to achieve learning, if we choose to grade smarter instead of harder. Grading, if you choose to do it, should be a used as a barometer. It should tell you if the synapses are connecting. It should never be interpreted as a reflection of who your child is. Let’s all remember that.


My Grading Epiphany


Perfect Grade and Sticker on HomeworkDear Homeschool Mom,
Please read this post, especially if you have not been a fan of regular grading in your homeschool. Keep an open mind?
If you’ve followed our homeschool path recently, you know we switched to Monarch online by Alpha Omega Publications. We are nearly a month into it now. I think we’ve finally found our homeschooling “sweet spot”! 

What I Didn’t Expect

The Monarch program gives the kids assessments after every lesson Their comprehension is tested every day, to make sure they are engaged. They have regular quizzes and tests as well. You decide what your grading scale will be, as well as whether a particular assignment will be “open page” or “open book” or not. If there is a question in an assessment that you feel is redundant, unclear, or unnecessary, you can alter it in the teacher settings.
I honestly didn’t know how the kids would feel about all the grading. For myself, being more regular in “formal” evaluations has not only given me a more accurate, visual idea of how they are doing (and where we need to spend more time), but I really didn’t realize how much it would help them to thrive by actually seeing their grades. It has given them a more positive outlook toward schooling, and it shows:

What I Learned

I wasn’t much of a formal grader up until now. The kids did the papers and lessons, and I checked them. The kids would get a verbal assessment, but not much on paper to actually see for themselves. I would step up their work where I saw they needed more practice, according to what I observed each day. The grades went on our transcripts, but the kids rarely saw anything in the way of a letter grade or percentage on a regular basis. With this program, they have evaluations after every lesson, and they get immediate feedback. They know exactly where they stand. And surprisingly, they love it!
This program has also helped my husband to see the progress the kids are making. It is his hard-earned money which purchases our materials, so it is good for him to see he’s getting some bang for his buck. 🙂 Because he’s not involved necessarily in a hands-on way with our schooling (he’s my moral support!), this gives him validation for what is happening educationally in our home. I like that a lot. 
I understand those who prefer not to grade, for whatever reason…but this was sort of an epiphany for me and our kids. They don’t have a classroom of kids to “compete” with (you know what I mean, I hope), and I’ve never really done stickers/rewards for school work…so this gives them a way to compete with themselves (which is the best type of competition IMO when it comes to education). 

If You Want to Look Into Monarch

Monarch automatically grades about 85% of student work. The remaining items are in the form of projects and written assignments the teacher needs to grade, and then enter by hand. I’ve found this program to be challenging for our kids, as well as thorough. The program keeps your records for you, and will print reports as well. Our 10th grader, who has some reading disability, can follow along as the text is read to him. You can choose the “voice” you listen to, and text is highlighted a sentence at a time, and within that each word is highlighted as it is read. That has been a very helpful feature for us, and it aids in his comprehension level. It has allowed him to do his work completely independently, which has been a huge boost for his confidence.
So, I guess this is not only a bit of a promo for Monarch (which you can get for 10% off here…and you can try free for 30 days here), but also for tangible grading for your students. I never thought I’d say that. But here I am.
For the Love of Learning,