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Thursday, February 26, 2009

To Grade Or Not To Grade: That Is the Question

I used to be a firm believer in not issuing grades and not “testing” my children. Sure, I drilled them regularly but I never gave them written or oral tests because I wanted their education to be full of encouragement and mastery. I believed that receiving a “C” or or an “80%” on a test would cause them to no longer want to try. I believed every aspect had to be positive. The problem was that I perceived a less than average grade as negative. I had no idea that what I was doing was causing them to be discouraged and they weren’t mastering everything the way that I had hoped.

While all of this was going on I had been reading some books on reality discipline and how a bit of failure and a child actually suffering through some of the consequences of his actions is good for them. I pondered over my own childhood and tried to recall what events actually encouraged me to do better and which did not. I was amazed by what I recalled. It was then that I knew I had been parenting incorrectly and the grading aspect was just one of many.

As a child, I can recall spending lots of time with my grandparents. My grandpa was a Master Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps and he knew the benefits of reality discipline though I don’t believe it had a name then. I remember crying and throwing a fit one day because my little sister was allowed to stay home from school and I wasn’t. I threw a fit so badly that I would not eat and I was very rude and disrespectful to my grandma. The following day I recall that my sister felt better and I remember grandma helping her get ready for school. When we were done we all headed to the car. I noticed my grandma didn’t have her purse and that she was sitting at the table. I asked her if she was coming and she said to me, “No, Amy. I’m staying here with you. I can’t leave you here by yourself.”

“But I’m going to school.” I replied to her.

She told me very matter of factly that no, I was not going to go to school. I thought that she couldn’t possibly be serious so I headed out to the car. My grandpa stopped me and and sent me back inside. He told me that I was getting what I wanted and that I would soon realize that it isn’t good to always get what you want.

I remember being somewhat excited that I got to stay home. I went back to my room and cleaned up. I read a book. I watched some TV. I had lunch with grandma. It seemed to be going great until the afternoon came. My friends came knocking on the door to ask me to come play and I vividly remember my grandpa sending them home after telling them I could not play because I had not gone to school that day. I also didn’t get a snowball like my sister did when she was on her way home from school. Yeah, that evening was rough but the next day was even worse.

I asked my grandma for a note so I could get an excused absence from class so she wrote out the note, stuck it in an envelope and handed it to me. I got to school and gave it to my teacher. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me. I glanced down to read the note and I was immediately sickened by what it said:

“Please do not excuse Amy from class on yesterday. She decided she did not want to attend classes and she should suffer whatever consequences are necessary.”
I almost broke down right there. I knew it was test day. I knew that that note meant that I would not be given an extra day to get a study guide together to study for that test. I knew that I would fail the test and I did. I had been a straight A student up until that point. Then I received not one but four “F”s in one day.

Can I tell you that I never asked to stay home again? Can I tell you that I tried harder? Can I tell you that I now know how much my grandparents loved me?

I don’t recall my parents ever disciplining me. The let me do what I want and I did. I can remember my mom saying things like, “I don’t care if you kill somebody. You can come to me and I’ll still love you and I’ll still hide you. ” I knew I could do what I wanted while I was with them and that I wouldn’t suffer any consequences. Everything was all “love not war” with them. It was all about “peace at all costs.” The problem is that it didn’t prepare me for the real world.
I’ve come to realize that an “F” can be a positive thing. Discipline, as in reality discipline, is a positive thing. They’ll try harder and they’ll know that although I will expect them to do better that I will still love them no matter what. I now believe that grades are a good thing and the best reassurance that their parents will encourage them throughout their entire life.

And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, “My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Hebrews 12:5-8

This article was writen by Amy Bayliss is. In addition to being the co-owner of Heart of the Matter, she writes for Internet Cafe Devotions. Be sure to visit her blog, In Pursuit of Proverbs 31 and her family’s homeschool blog: Integrity Academy.

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