Saturday, October 16, 2010

Adventures in Homeschooling: Accountability

Every other night, I look over and grade my children’s homework.  It is required that for every mistake made, the concept must be retaught and the problem resolved.  We discuss areas of weaknesses as well as strengths.  This method allows my children to be accountable for their own work. 
The first time I graded my son’s math work, he missed quite a few problems.  He did not show any of his work, so I could not see what was going on in the “black box”.  I explained to him that he needed to redo the problems, but we needed to see where the problem occurred in the solving process.  He slumped in his chair and protested, “But my teacher never made me redo the problems before.”
I told him that he was accountable for his work and he needed to accept responsibility for his learning.  Rather than looking at the mistake as a failure, to view it as an opportunity to grow.  He refused to do this and continued to recount how his teachers never did this to him.  We went back and forth.  Our argument spanned his educational career back to the first grade! I reminded him that whenever I saw his graded papers, he needed to fix the mistakes.  It was the principal of understanding and mastering the material. 
None of this came to my surprise because I was not new to the public school system.  When I was a teacher, I always gave my students the opportunity to redo their work.  Many balked because throughout their schooling, not many teachers made them accountable for their work.  Accountability is a buzzword that is transparent in the public school systems.  Many schools “say” that they are accountable, but many don’t “show” the actual proof. 
Due to the severe deficiency in my son’s accountability practices, I explained to him that he needed to own his work.  Mediocrity is not going to be enough for the career choice he has chosen for himself.  I also explained to him that he is no longer in the public school system, but he is homeschooled.
Still he went on, “I don’t understand.  I made straight A’s without having to correct my work.”
I laughed on the inside because it reminded me of the teachers’ lounge for the past ten years.  I overheard many teachers talk about how it was easier to give the student a passing grade rather than cause a scene.  Since I got tired of hearing such stories and confessions, I stopped visiting the lounge.  And the times I did have to go there, the confessions were still the same. 
A few minutes later, he realized that he could not “just get by” as he had done in the past.  He realized he was in a different arena and needed to change his thinking. 
Since that conversation, he takes greater pride in doing his work by showing how he arrived at the answer. His study habits have changed  because he no longer glances over the material to complete the problems.  Instead, he tries to master and apply the material to his own life.   In addition, he has applied taking accountability in other areas in his life – not that he needed to, but because he is truly an awesome child.    
It is my hope that more teachers highly stress the importance of accountability rather than trying to rush through the curriculum and teach to the state mandated exams.  When one is accountable in one area, then it spreads to other areas.