As homeschool parents, we can decide whether or not grades are a part of our homeschool experience. What do we grade, WHY do we grade, and when do we start the grading process? Join us as we revisit one of our most popular episodes to weigh the pros and cons, discuss options for your family’s experience, and hear what veteran homeschoolers’ experiences are.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:05.404
Welcome to The Demme Learning Show. Our mission here is to help families stay in the learning journey wherever it takes them. This bonus episode was previously recorded as a webinar and was not created with the audio listener in mind. We hope you will find value in today’s episode.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:23.997
Welcome, everyone. Thank you all for joining us today. It is our great pleasure to welcome you all to this roundtable talking about grading discussions. I have to tell you guys, this is something that creates more anxiety in a homeschool family than probably anything else beyond the decision to start the process of homeschooling. We are Demme Learning. We offer these roundtables on a weekly basis to families because we believe there is virtue in having support in the journey. And today, I am pleased to be welcoming two of my colleagues, Jody Scott and Lisa Chimento. And I’m going to let them introduce themselves by way of introduction. Personally, my name is Gretchen Roe. My husband and I homeschooled six children, 21 years. Five of them are now college graduates and they don’t live with us. So my husband says we were a success. And then the caboose in our train, he is a junior in high school. He says to me– the other day, he said, “Mom, when are you going to quit referring to me as the caboose?” And I said, “My friend, you will always be the caboose because there’s nobody coming behind you.” But we have had the privilege of educating them. I have served as a placement specialist at Demme Learning for the last seven years. And then in December, I assumed the role of community relations coordinator. So it’s my pleasure to welcome you to this conversation today.
Jody Scott: 00:02:02.667
I am Jody Scott, and I have six children as well. And I have a caboose that is a sophomore in high school. We’ve been homeschooling for 24 years. And for the past two years, I have been working as a customer service representative for Demme Learning.
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:22.905
Awesome. Jody, thank you so much for being here. I think collectively, we’ve got about 75 years of homeschooling experience. And that doesn’t mean that we know that much more. It just means that we’ve been at it longer. So Lisa, can you tell us about you?
Lisa Chimento: 00:02:40.188
I sure will. My name is Lisa Chimento. And I have been a customer success consultant for almost a year now. Before then, I was a customer service representative like Jodie. And before then, I worked at the Homeschool Convention since about 2008. And it’s a pleasure to meet people at the booth and talk with everybody. I homeschooled my own children for 25 years, four children and they are all grown now and out of our home, which is not making me entirely happy but I’m glad for them. And it was a joy. We used Math-U-See for 24 of those years. And what a great program. Can’t recommend it highly enough. But it is my joy to be here as well and to be able to speak with each of you.
Gretchen Roe: 00:03:30.508
And I think one of the things that all three of us would say is our journey is not yours. Everyone’s journey is different. Some of those days are really long, but the years do pass very quickly. So hopefully we’re going to provide you with some information today that helps improve that journey. One of the things I think that is really important, and I’m going to get this one out of the way, is we’re going to talk about grading in all contexts in all of Demme Learning’s content, which would be not only Math-U-See but Spelling You See and Analytical Grammar, and now WriteShop. And with regard to WriteShop grading, because it is our newest product, we will send you a blog post to talk about how to do that. I think that’s the most effective way. It’s written by the founder of WriteShop, Kim Kautzer, and I think that’s going to give you terrific information. With Analytical Grammar, that is a skills-based curriculum, and if you absolutely have to assign grades, I would assign grades for however the student gets– however many things the student gets correct instead of what the student gets wrong. You are seeking to develop a process.
Gretchen Roe: 00:04:53.753
And the thing that I always want to say to parents is, very soon after Analytical Grammar became a part of the Demme Learning family – and I have to tell you I was one of the biggest fans because I was an AG mom myself – I had a parent call and say that she had a student who was arguing with her about where to put a prepositional phrase. And in the course of the conversation, I said, “How old is he?” and she said, “13.” And I said, “Okay, before we argue about whether he’s right or wrong, or you’re right or wrong, or the answer key is right or wrong, let’s step back just a hot minute and recognize that you have a student who, one, recognizes a prepositional phrase, and two, is willing to argue about it. You can’t get any better than that.” And so that is my short exegesis on Analytical Grammar. The last thing I’m going to talk about is grading in Spelling You See, and I know that there are those of us who were the born type-A achievers who really want to assign grades, and I’m going to encourage you not to do that. That, again, is a cultivated skills-based program, and those skills develop over time.
Gretchen Roe: 00:06:07.545
And Dr. Karen Holinga, who developed Spelling You See, was very deliberative in saying she didn’t want grades associated with the program because she wanted to only encourage children toward what they do well and ask them to do more of it. So we’ve covered three out of four. Now we’re going to talk about the meat of the matter because here’s where the rubber really meets the road. So I think I’m going to begin with Lisa, and we had this question from several people, and it’s, how do you assess for mastery in math? How do I know what to grade if I don’t know what mastery looks like? So I’ll turn that over to you.
Lisa Chimento: 00:06:55.078
Yeah, that’s a great question. So one of the things that’s great about Math-U-See is the four-step approach, and if you haven’t taken a look at your instruction manual in a while, please do so. In the front, there is a very helpful “How to Use” section, and it explains that four-step approach. But one of those steps is the teach back, and I think a lot of moms miss this and they miss the value in it. That teach back gives you great information about what your child is understanding so far. We do have the benefit of being in a tutorial setting already, so it’s not like you’ve got a classroom with 30 kids. You’ve got one child sitting in front of you, so you already are pretty well aware of how they’re doing on a daily basis. But that teach back goes a little deeper because the student’s ability to verbalize and demonstrate even with the manipulatives what they understand is hugely beneficial to the student as well. They are having to think harder. They are having to integrate that information more deeply into their brain and then to be able to spit it back out to you, huge skill, not just for math, for everything in life. But it also gives you the benefit of helping them– helping you to see what they’re understanding, how they’re understanding it, and how they can communicate it back to you. So if you haven’t been using the teach-back so far, use it now. Because if they don’t understand it then you’re going to be able to tell right away, “Okay, we need to spend a little more time here before we move on. Something’s missing.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:08:34.126
Absolutely. Thank you, Lisa. I appreciate that. And if you have questions about the teach-back you’re going to hear me say this several times today. Everyone who is a CSR or a placement specialist at Demme Learning has either homeschooled their children, been homeschooled, or worked alongside homeschoolers for more than 25 years. And so we are here to help you be successful. So if something comes out of the recording today that you have further questions about we would encourage you to reach out to us. Jody, I want to ask you– now, I should say as an aside, you guys, Jody’s a ringer. We have put her here because Jody also evaluates homeschoolers. So not only does she have her own homeschool experience, but she has the experience of working with families trying to get those portfolios together in Pennsylvania which are so critical to proving that you have met the mark. And so Jody, I’d like you to talk a little bit about why grades in high school would be so important as part of a portfolio assessment.
Jody Scott: 00:09:44.007
Sure. I’d be happy to talk about that. I always tell parents that you want to keep options open. And in high school, it’s very important for students to end up with a transcript because you want to be able to send that off to schools or other programs. Everyone asks for that high school transcript. And what’s on the high school transcript but grades? And that’s not something you want to go back and have to look back at portfolios and reproduce. That would be a disaster. So you need to begin thinking about this in middle school. Practice it in middle school. Decide. Start making decisions about how you’re going to grade, what your rubrics will look like. Practice it, tweak it so you’re ready in high school then to begin that. There are lots of transcript services online you can find. And if you don’t want to– if you’re not comfortable creating your own you can go to academicrecords.net or a number of others. You can Google transcript services. And they’re relatively inexpensive. They will do the figuring for you if you want to have things weighted. But it’s very important that you walk– that you equip your student and you set them up to be able to take their next step to launch into adulthood. And they need that transcript. It’s vital.
Gretchen Roe: 00:11:22.365
Lisa, you elaborated a little bit on knowing what your state requires. Can you address that in more depth?
Lisa Chimento: 00:11:32.308
Yeah. Homeschoolers across the country have different rules they have to work by. The different states have their own education laws and their own homeschooling laws. So if you haven’t already, I would recommend going to Homeschool Legal Defense’s website, hslda.com or dot org, I think both. And they will let you go state by state and look at what the homeschool requirements are, whether or not you have to send in a letter of intent before you begin and what it has to include, and at the end, whether or not you can– you have to have your children take standardized tests or if they have a teacher evaluation like what Jody does. But then there are some states that have great many more requirements. I happen to know that New York State is one of those. You have to hand in quarterly reports. And you have to go and speak with a representative from the schools on a regular basis. And you have to show portfolio. And you probably have to show grades. So there are some folks who will need to do grading even if they didn’t want to. And so it’s important to know how to go ahead and assess those grades.
Lisa Chimento: 00:12:47.579
One other thing that I want to mention to sort of tag on to what I said earlier about looking for mastery. There are two levels of Math-U-See that you need to pay particular attention to. And those are alpha and gamma because in those two levels, in addition to the concepts that are taught, we’re also dealing with facts. And it is very important that your students have their facts memorized. In alpha, we’re talking about single digit addition and subtraction. In gamma, we’re talking about multiplication facts. And you cannot rely on the pages in a workbook to let you know whether or not your students know their facts because if they are counting for their facts, they will still arrive at a correct answer. But what we want to make sure is that they’re not counting for their facts. And if they are, then you need to go back and work with the build right same method to help them get beyond counting. And be mindful as well that in gamma with the multiplication facts, skip counting is counting. It’s not fact mastery. And that will come back to bite them later on, probably in Delta when they’re doing division. So you want to make sure to get those facts memorized in addition to understanding the concepts as they go along.
Gretchen Roe: 00:14:05.215
I think one of the most valuable questions I was taught, and not until I became a Math-U-See mom, did I understand this question, is when you ask a student a fact and they hesitate, they close their eyes, they look up, or they do something, and they give you an answer, we as parents are like, “Yeah, you gave me an answer. That’s awesome.” The follow-on question is, “How did you get that answer?” Because that is critical in knowing that. And particularly now, because we have more and more families who have children coming out of an academic environment where mom and dad did not begin the academic process, so you don’t necessarily know. And if a student is taught to always say, “Well, 13 is 6 plus 6 is 12, and then I add 1,” that is a strategy. But that’s not 6 plus 7 is 13, not the same thing. And what you want is that fluidity of fact recall. We have a great question, and I want to elaborate on this in more than one context. But can we talk about grading based on what a student gets correct, not what a student gets incorrect. And I would like both of you to talk a little bit about that. Lisa, how about you begin?
Lisa Chimento: 00:15:29.418
Yes, absolutely. One of the things to remember is that we are working towards learning. There’s progress going on here. We’re not going to be expecting a child to have something immediately. And so we want to make sure that you are taking the opportunity to recognize what they’re getting right, and as they’re making that progress, pay attention to that, celebrate it, point it out to that student. There is also value in and helping them to identify what they’ve gotten wrong themselves and to correct those errors themselves. Don’t penalize a child, particularly when you’re in the learning stages of each lesson. Before you get to the test, when you’re in those early lesson practice pages and systematic review pages but especially those first three ABC pages, don’t even bother grading. This is a learning time. They’re not expected to have it yet. And there’s huge value in the errors because it gives them an opportunity for deeper understanding. So go through, celebrate what they’ve gotten right. But then, let’s go and let’s find out what we still don’t have yet. And let’s see if you can find the error yourself and correct it. And if I can say so– here’s my little plug, my little nag for make sure they’re showing their work because if they’re not showing their work [laughter], then they won’t be able to find their own errors and correct them themselves. That’s my one point. Jody, why don’t you go ahead and fill in what I’m missing?
Jody Scott: 00:17:11.469
I will piggyback onto what you said. I believe that our words create an atmosphere. And I think the culture– the atmosphere we want to create in our home is a celebratory one. We want to have a culture of celebration in our home. And I love to celebrate what they got right, what– how they grew. But I also want to be careful the words that I use. I don’t want to miss and ignore the things that they got wrong. But I like to call them learning opportunities, so, “Hey, let’s celebrate the five you got right,” and, “Oh, you also have five learning opportunities. Let’s check those out.” And I think the words we use can help them to see what it really is because all it is is feedback. It is just feedback and that’s what I call it. I don’t call them grades. I’ll say, “I’ll put your feedback in the corner.” So the feedback is, “Plus five and plus five and highlight five,” meaning I highlighted the ones that are learning opportunities. So we have five to celebrate and five learning opportunities and I don’t– it still accomplishes what we want to accomplish. We want to go and look at what we got wrong, figure out where the gaps in learning are so that we can help them learn. It’s all about learning. And so we don’t need to use more negative words that are basically used out there in society, so I just– I’m big on the words– word choices.
Gretchen Roe: 00:19:07.218
I like the fact that you are framing it in the affirmative. And I wonder if both of you could talk– I know both of you have boys. All of us are moms of boys. Boys are the worst. They just want to do it all in their head and put the answer on the paper. Would you both talk about the virtue of teaching a student to show their work?
Lisa Chimento: 00:19:30.259
Oh, yeah. I’m [laughter] jumping on this one–
Jody Scott: 00:19:31.479
Jody’s laughing at me. [laughter]
Lisa Chimento: 00:19:36.115
I’m jumping on this one because I talk with algebra one and pre-algebra students almost every day. And it is a classic thing that boys don’t want to show their work. It’s great that they are bright and they can do a lot of mental math. But it is absolutely critical that they show their work as they get into those higher levels particularly. And it’s a good idea to try to start this habit as early as possible because if you don’t start until pre-algebra or algebra one. It is a little more difficult to get into that groove. But there are lots of reasons. First of all, they are taking, at those levels, all of the elementary concepts that they have learned all those years. And now they’re having to apply them into these multi-step problems. There’s a lot of content to deal with. And there are a lot of steps. It’s so easy to miss something, to drop a negative sign. And when you don’t show your work and keep your work neat and show it step-by-step, it’s easy to miss stuff and make unnecessary errors that get frustrating after a while. The other reason is, and this goes to the idea of grading, that it is valuable to be able to grade a student on a test, even according to the steps that they’ve done. Because if there are five steps in that problem and they got four steps correct – but they got the last step wrong, and so then the final answer is wrong – it would be wrong to just mark the whole thing wrong. Give them credit, partial credit, for the steps that they got correct.
Lisa Chimento: 00:21:06.521
And especially for a child who is highly motivated by grades but has been reluctant to show their work, this is how you really get them to show their work and say, “Well, you got the answer wrong. But I have no idea if you got any of the steps correct. So I can’t give you partial credit. If only you had shown your work.” And I’ll tell you what, I had one of those. And that was the motivation he needed to really get him in that habit of showing the work. And it’s worthwhile to be able to give that partial credit. It happens in college. And if they are going on to higher level education and they are taking math in school, they will be required to show their work. Because if they get a correct answer and show no work, it is highly likely that professor will mark it wrong and assume that they cheated. It’s just way too easy to cheat with online services now. So you want to make sure that they’re showing all their work. Get into the habit as early as possible. And let them know that it’s a valuable skill for them to learn.
Gretchen Roe: 00:22:11.354
I know Jody has something to say about this because in our planning session for this, she had some really good wisdom. But I want to say as an aside, the way in which I taught my three boys to show your work is when they wouldn’t show their work in the school day, then they got to repeat what was wrong outside of the school day on their own time, which is motivating because who wants to be doing school when you could be doing something else? And I recognize that sounds a little bit punitive, but if that’s what it takes to get your student to recognize that there is value. And I should also say the reason we say boys are particularly difficult at this is because boys are very bottom line. They’re black and white. They want the end game. And they don’t want to go through the process. And teaching them to go through the process is valuable. I’ll give you one example. My 16-year-old was working through a pre-calculus honors problem last night that by the time he was done, it was four front and back notebook pages of work. There’s no way that kid could have done that in his head. And so I say that to incentivize you, as parents, to recognize there comes a point in time where you just can’t hold it in your head anymore. Jody?
Jody Scott: 00:23:38.068
The only thing I have to add, besides what was wonderfully covered by Gretchen and Lisa, is that sometimes, I think, they don’t want to show all their work because they’re having trouble really writing it on the page and fitting it on the page. And so I think that we need to– when they start pushing back, that’s a nice way to put it, isn’t it? When they start pushing back a little bit about that requirement, I think we need to find out why. Because it might be as simple as getting them a separate notebook, maybe even getting a graphing paper notebook because that helps to keep columns lined up so that they have plenty of space to show their work. Sometimes for some kids, it is not enough space and they have trouble, without lines, keeping things organized. And then the paper starts looking very crowded, very disorganized to them. It’s overwhelming to see all that handwriting. So I think it does help sometimes to provide a special notebook just for working out their problems. My son will work out his problems in a notebook and then I allow him to just transfer the answer to the paper. It’s a cleaner look for him and all the writing isn’t there to kind of kind of bombard his brain. So I think we have to be sensitive to some of those things.
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:24.810
I think it’s also important to recognize all of us have these Math-U-See books behind us. And you would have to be an engineer to fit some of those multi-step problems like in multiplication and division onto the page where we give you the blank space. One of the things that I often do when I consult with parents with learning differences is there’s nothing more discouraging than working through a problem and you’ve copied it wrong. So as a parent, before your student starts to work it out on a separate sheet of paper, check to make sure that they have copied that correctly. If you can just take that 10 seconds, it makes all the difference in the world, and it precludes discouragement. Here’s something else you can do. Take the lines of the paper and turn them sideways, and you have automatic columns. And that makes a tremendous amount of difference. Jody and Lisa, I would like you guys to talk about lesson tests specifically and grading those. And Jody, I know that when you work with families to create portfolios, I know that sometimes those lesson tests make a difference for you. So can both of you I know you will have different things to say about that, so.
Jody Scott: 00:26:42.940
Sure. I’ll go ahead and start. I think that when they do need a grade, I encourage them to take the test as the grade to not use the lessons as a grade because that’s where they’re learning. That’s where they have those learning opportunities. And they don’t need that extra stress or pressure of it being a grade during that phase of the learning. But by test time, they should be at the mastery point. So that’s a great time to then you’ve set them up for success. Hopefully, you don’t give that to them. The idea is you don’t administer the test until they have shown that mastery, and then you administer the test. And then hopefully you’re able to move on from there, so.
Gretchen Roe: 00:27:47.487
And Jody, do you also use that same rubric of, “Here’s your opportunities. Here’s the ones you got right. Here’s the opportunities to do it again,” or does that change a little bit?
Jody Scott: 00:28:00.010
I do but when it is for a grade. If they want to correct for partial credit, to raise their grade a little bit, I will allow that. Maybe they didn’t do well, and I know we have to go back and do some extra learning on that. But I definitely want to give them a real-world scenario in that you don’t just get unlimited retakes. There are times you don’t. You don’t even get the chance to fix things sometimes, like in college. So when I do allow them to do that, it’s just for partial credit, to allow them to raise their score a little bit. But once again, we all homeschool. That’s our decision, individually, as homeschool moms. We get to decide how we’re doing that. And you have to decide what’s best for your family, and each student, and not necessarily try to imitate someone else’s homeschool program, but take your children’s individual educational journey into consideration.
Gretchen Roe: 00:29:33.511
Can you talk about, as well, the fallacy of good enough? We had talked about that, too. “Well, okay, you got an 80%. That’s good enough.”
Lisa Chimento: 00:29:47.587
Yeah. Absolutely. One of the things we need to be careful of when we are testing, and then at the end of a lesson in Math-U-See, and getting ready to think about moving on to the next lesson, I will hear a lot of parents say to me, “Oh, my son got an 80 or got an 85, so we said, ‘That’s the score we want to see at least, and then we can go on to the next lesson.'” The problem with that is that math naturally builds sequentially on itself in a very cumulative manner, and Math-U-See follows that natural sequence of math in its lessons. So think of it in terms of building a building. If you’re constructing a building and you have started laying the foundation and you got 85% of it laid, and then you say, “Okay, that’s good enough. I think I’ll get started on the first floor, ” and, “I’m about 80, 90% done with the first floor. I think I’ll get going on second, third, and fourth.” The weight of that structure is going to bring it down if the underlying and undergirding supports aren’t fully done. And math is like that. So if a student has got an 85 on a test, what would be more valuable to you is to take a look at that test and find out what was the 15% that didn’t make it? Were they careless errors? I mean, that happens.
Lisa Chimento: 00:31:12.376
That’s no big deal. It just glitched a little bit and made a mistake. Or, like what Gretchen was talking about, maybe they did their work on scrap paper and in copying it back onto the test made an error. That’s understandable and it has nothing to do with mastery. What we’re looking for is, did that child understand the concept that was taught there? Is there a lack of understanding that needs to be filled in? Is there a gap that has to be filled in there? And if so, it is so worthwhile taking the time to go back and review that area and make sure that it’s good and solid before progressing. In addition– well, and I use that word addition, but if we’re talking about facts, make sure the facts are known and don’t rely just on the test answers, but what know check with that child, as we talked about before, and making sure that there isn’t counting going on. Because if you’re progressing, progressing, progressing, you’re going to hear for the first lesson in Beta, “Well, if they’ve got all their facts memorized. We’re ready to move on with Beta.” And I’ve talked with more than one parent who’s called me and gone, “Huh, we’ve already finished all of Alpha and they’re still counting for their facts.”
Lisa Chimento: 00:32:25.387
Don’t be caught in that place where now you’re having to go back and deal with a lot of them. Do them along the way and get those facts memorized as you go. So you want to make sure that you’re not just taking a percentage and letting that guide you into whether or not mastery has been achieved and we’re ready to move into the next lesson. Make sure you’re evaluating what the errors were and whether or not they’re significant enough to spend a little more time in that lesson.
Gretchen Roe: 00:32:53.247
I think it’s also important to recognize that when you see those errors, that is a wonderful crucible for you as the parent to go, “Oh, am I seeing the same kind of error across three tests? Is there something that’s missing here?” Because the test is going to pull information from preceding concepts. So if there’s something that you’re seeing that’s getting consistently wrong, this gives you the ability to correct course. And that becomes a valuable enterprise. So don’t leave it at just a satisfactory score. Can we talk now a little bit about standardized testing? And I know, Jodie, you have a wonderful point of view on why standardized testing should occur and what its benefits are. So thank you for sharing.
Jody Scott: 00:33:48.406
I am an advocate for a standardized test. And I’ll give a few reasons for that. One, when you do it with regularity, not just third, fifth, and eighth grade, but with regularity every year and the same test every year, whether it’s Iowa, California, whatever it is, then you really get some feedback. I never showed my kids, but you get some feedback for yourself. Okay, you can look at last year’s, look at this year’s. And for me, it’s an opportunity to train them in this skill of test-taking. I recognize that sometimes we didn’t study X, Y, or Z that might be on the test. I don’t care. That’s fine with me. The scores really don’t matter to me. I want them to learn the skill of test taking. And I can see sometimes based on their score, I can ask them different questions. But I think my kids loved test week. They loved it. They loved it. They loved it because we did no other school. It was like, “Yes, this is like fun week.” I mean, you would have thought it was field day or something, because they had no other school at all. We would just do testing in the morning. And then we were free, free, free. There was usually ice cream. I let the good times roll that week.
Jody Scott: 00:35:26.185
So they had a mindset about tests. They were not scared of tests. They saw them as a positive thing. And we talked about strategy. I talked about how they can ask very tricky questions. And they learned how to eliminate answers. And so it was a whole new skill for them, even learning to fill in the bubble correctly. That’s so simple, but it’s so important. And they knew I didn’t care. They knew I didn’t care about the test scores. I never brought them up. We never talked about them. And kids have looked now as adults. They’ve said, can we see those? They’re curious. But we didn’t talk about the test scores. I didn’t care about the test scores, but it was a skill to develop. And with consistency, it also took away the fear. I didn’t want fear in my child’s heart over something like tests. And I did not want the SAT to be their first testing experience.
Gretchen Roe: 00:36:39.625
Lisa Chimento: 00:36:42.085
Oh, gosh. That is so good, Jody. I love it. Yeah, we didn’t do as many tests. And mostly because for the first good chunk of our homeschooling life, we were doing unit studies. And nothing that we were doing was on those tests, and nothing that was on those tests were what we were studying. And I just thought, I’m just going to set them up for failure if I make them take these things. But when they got to around fourth or sixth grade was when we started to fall more in line with doing some of the things that were on there. Math-U-See still wasn’t in sequence with what the schools were teaching. So I just prepared them ahead of time. And I said, listen, this is just something that I have to do. And test-taking is a good skill to learn. So let’s just go in there and do the best you can. It’s no big deal. The score doesn’t mean anything to me. And then, when the test week was over, we just had a party to celebrate, and it had nothing to do with a score. It had everything to do with the fact that they had worked so hard. So that was a big piece of it, was seeing the effort and their willingness to do it with a good attitude.
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:51.249
I think it’s important, too, for us to say here that some of you have children who are coming into high school experiences. And if you have a student who is a different learner, who is a struggling learner, we tend as parents to protect that student. But that student might have college aspirations. And so we still live in a society where there’s an expectation to take either an ACT or an SAT. And over the last eight years as being someone who consults often with families of children who learn differently, I’ve had this conversation dozens of times where parents have said to me, well, I’ll just get my student accommodations. That is not an easy thing to do. Just to get time accommodations is up to a three-year process with the college board. And you don’t always get what you think you’re going to get. So to throw a student into the deep end of the pool as a sophomore in high school who’s never seen a standardized test, fill in the bubble, those kinds of things, is kind of a disadvantageous way to do that. Now, if you have a student who just is an absolutely abjectly miserable test taker and they want a college experience, maybe the route to college is through your community college. That having been said, they will probably have some sort of placement criteria at the community college.
Gretchen Roe: 00:39:20.129
So I think we disadvantage our kids when we want to protect them from the hard things. My husband and I have always taken the point of view that you do the hard things at home. So when you’re out in the world, and the world is hard, you’re not gobsmacked by what is occurring. So I would like you to be able to think about that and how can I set my student up for success. We have a beloved colleague named Sue Wachter who asks that question in every conversation she has with a family. How are we going to set your student up for success? And I think if we as parents thought of that proactively, that might make a tremendous difference for us long term I want to turn my attention now. Latanya has asked us a couple of questions, and you guys have answered them marvelously. And anybody else who is with us, please feel free to post in the Q&A or the chat any questions that you would have. I want to make sure that I say that. But we did have some great questions in our registrations. So I wonder if either one of you would be able to talk about assessments. How can we as parents know when testing is a good experience for our student? In other words, how can we assess that testing will be a successful experience and when we maybe want to hold off on that? What are the buying signs we need to look for from our students? I’ll let you guys think about how to answer that.
Lisa Chimento: 00:40:58.957
I’m not exactly sure if I’m understanding.
Gretchen Roe: 00:41:02.980
And Lisa, this actually loops back to talking about that teachback and knowing that your student is ready for that test.
Lisa Chimento: 00:41:13.557
Okay. Thank you. That helps. So you’ve got pages in the workbook. That’s number one. And you’re going to want to look for consistent proficiency. Gretchen mentioned something earlier, and I just want to hit on it again. Even in the workbook pages, if you’re not grading them, that’s fine. But what you do want to be looking for is to see if there is a consistent pattern to any errors that are happening. Same kinds of errors. And if it’s in a multi-step problem, are they always happening in the same step of those kinds of problems? And if so, that’s where you’re going to have to address. So this really speaks more to giving number grades than it does to really looking for opportunities to build that student’s understanding of the material more deeply. The tests will be valuable. And in terms of a grade, I just want to say this because we kind of haven’t said it. A lot of people have called me and said, “How do I grade the tests?” It can be done as simply as, “Okay, you have 20 questions on the test, then create a fraction, how many they got correct out of 20. Do the division. I mean, if you don’t want to do it yourself, do it in a calculator, and then assign that grade to that test.” And in terms of grades, that’s what I would grade, it’s just the tests, if you have to. In the younger grades, I did not grade my children because I just felt like every day was a test. Every single day that they’re doing math, they’re giving me opportunities to see how they’re doing.
Lisa Chimento: 00:42:52.455
But you do need to be paying attention to more than just the answers in the workbook page, especially if you are not in the room when they’re working. And that’s another point that I want to make. There is huge value in having a student work some of those problems out loud to you and in front of you. It does a couple of things. First of all, it slows them down. And that’s always a good thing when they’re working math, especially if they’re that type of child that just want to get it done and get it over with and get out of here. Because errors can get made that way and they’re not paying as much attention. But when they have to do it out loud and do the problem in front of you, it slows them down. It forces them to do every step out if they’re speaking it out loud and they have to show you out loud as well. But here’s the other thing that happens. When they do it out loud, they’re hearing themselves. And very often they catch their own mistakes. And so there’s tremendous value in having them work some of those problems in front of you out loud, even if it’s an older student and they tend to do most of their work independently. They get so much out of working, especially especially those multi-step problems, one step at a time, verbally out loud to you and showing you the work as they go along the way. You get so much feedback from that because now you’re seeing what they’re able to do. And that’s tremendously informative for you as a parent.
Gretchen Roe: 00:44:24.002
Jody, I want you to tell this story about the desire for grades. And it’s just, I think this is so important. It really is valuable. There’s a parent here who needs to hear this story. So tell that story, please.
Jody Scott: 00:44:40.662
I think I know which one you’re talking about. [laughter] My sweet little Josiah. I think he may have been in second grade. But I had not– I did not use grades in those younger years. And he was my oldest. I was still nursing. I was not thinking about grades. I was just thinking about nap time. So he insists– one day he woke up. He must have, I think he must have been at church the night before and heard someone talking about grades because he got it because they hadn’t even heard the word grade from me. So he got it in his head. He wanted a grade on something and he wanted it today. [laughter] He said, “I want a grade.” I said, “What do you mean you want a grade?” He said, “I want a grade. Everyone gets grades. I want a grade on something.” I said, “Okay, just pick something you want to grade on.” I just let him choose because I didn’t care. And he chose spelling of all things. So he said, “Spelling,” which we don’t advocate grading. And so I said, “Okay.” So I mean, he wasn’t ready for a test, anything, but he insisted, “No, no, no. Today was the day I want a test.” So I think I gave him 10 words.
Jody Scott: 00:46:00.753
And he looked at it and he said, “What? Oh, I got five right.” He goes, “What grade is this? I want to know what grade I get.” I said, “It’s an F.” He’s like, “An F.” Shocked. It was just the funniest thing. It was the funniest thing. We laid aside grades for a while. But he just, for some reason, wanted a grade, but he actually thought– I think he was thinking he got an A. I don’t know. But I loved that he felt good about the five that he got right. He felt good. So I hesitated to tell him it was an F, but that’s my story.
Gretchen Roe: 00:46:39.303
Part of the reason I wanted Jodie to tell you that story is because it all has to do with how you as a parent frame the grade experience. And I think she gives the most fantastic example of how to frame grades in the affirmative. Now, I’m going to tell you a different story. I had a daughter who was in a co-op in high school. And in that co-op, the work was very easy. And she, for want of a better description, phoned it in. And at the end of the year, the co-op instructor said, I recommend that she get an A in the class. And as the mom, knowing that she had last minute lucyed every assignment, and she’d kind of phoned those assignments in, I said, “I’m not giving you an A. I’m giving you a B.” And now, mind you, she’s in high school. She was a sophomore in high school. And she’s like, “That affects my transcript. You need to give me an A.” I’m like, “No, no, no, because work is both effort and skill, and you didn’t put in the effort that equates with an A.” And that was a very hard conversation. And I knew we were going to have this conversation today. So I actually talked with her about that. Now she’s 27.
Gretchen Roe: 00:48:02.270
And I said, how did you feel about that? And she said, “Well, at the time, I thought you were really unfair. It was just ridiculous. And I was very annoyed with you.” And I said, “And now looking back 11 years later, how do you feel about that?” And she said, “I missed the value of the lesson. The lesson was the effort is worth the energy.” And that’s what I want to tell you all, is in teaching your students, let them learn that the effort is worth the energy. She got into college. She went to college. She’s a college graduate now, so we’re good. But I’ll tell you, that was a hard conversation to have because it didn’t feel like she was delivering on our expectations of her ability to perform. By the same token, if you have a student who is absolutely giving it their all, and their grade does not reflect that, you as the parent have the ability to help balance that scale. Because if you’ve got a student who’s really putting it out there and the grades don’t reflect that, you have to figure out how to create an encouraging environment so that student is not discouraged.
Gretchen Roe: 00:49:17.120
The reason we homeschool is because we don’t want what the school provides for our children in that capacity. We’re coming up to the last 10 minutes here, ladies. So I want to make sure that we close today with some encouraging words. And I know that you guys have been through lots of things with your kids. In the perspective of wisdom is someone else’s hindsight. I would like each of you to share what you would like parents to take away from this webinar today. Jody, I’ll start with you.
Jody Scott: 00:49:55.172
I actually wrote down what you just said. The effort is worth the energy. And I know you were talking about it in regards to students, but I’ll say to the moms, the effort is worth the energy. I know you are tired and the days are long, but the effort, I know there’s tremendous effort on your part, tremendous sacrifice, things you’re laying down. You would probably rather be watching something on Hallmark or reading a book or maybe even actually cooking a meal or like something, something luxurious like taking a shower. But the effort is worth the energy, and it’s going to take more time to do what you’re doing and to do it well and to be there with them, to know when they’re ready, to be very involved in their schooling, but it is worth it. It is worth it. You are sowing seeds and you will reap a harvest.
Gretchen Roe: 00:50:59.920
Lisa Chimento: 00:51:00.883
Beautifully said. Thank you, Jody. As we said a little earlier on, in some states, you will be required to do more grading. And so you just don’t have any choice about that. There’s another reason why you may provide more grades than you’d like to. And that is if you have a student who’s highly motivated by grades, it happens. Particularly if you have kids that have been in school for a time and now you’re homeschooling, they’re used to those grades. And that kind of jazzes them and gets them going. In those circumstances, I would say make sure that you set expectations clearly ahead of time. It’s very disheartening to a student who puts in a tremendous amount of effort and maybe does not do as well on today’s test for whatever reason. Maybe they didn’t fully understand the material; maybe they’re just having a bad day; maybe they didn’t get very much rest last night or whatever. And then they score badly. Things can be different. you’re not in school. You are the school and you get to set the parameters and effort is hugely important. Our child’s attitude and their character development and how willing they are to take responsibility for their own education and to put in that time and work hard, it needs to be recognized and it needs to be valued by us.
Lisa Chimento: 00:52:27.343
And you have the opportunity to do that and let it be reflected in their grades and let that stand for the schools that you have to report to as well. So I would say just make sure that you set those expectations ahead of time. Rubrics is one way to do them, but just verbally to the student. If you’re giving them something to do and say, “This is what would qualify for an A. You would have to do this and this and this. If you want a B, this is what you have to do to qualify.” And let them know ahead of time so that there’s no guessing and that there’s not all of this time and work and then ending up with a bad grade anyway. So that’s what I would like to say. But beyond that, this is the time to learn. And because you are in a tutorial setting, let the learning be valued that way and the process be valued and the time that all of you are putting into it, your kids and you. And let there be– find the places and find the times where you can extract joy and find that gold in the day. Even if you’ve had a really rough day and we all have those rough days, at the end of the day, sit around together and go, “Where was the goal today? What can we extract from this so that we can redeem this day?” And celebrate that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:53:50.021
I think I would like to say to you, particularly in families where there is more than one student, there is always that more academically adept student. And it is up to you to guard those grades for each one of those children so that there is not inherent competition. Sibling competition just comes with birth order. It happens. But for you as a parent to be able to recognize that the grade conversation and the score conversation is between you and the student, not their siblings, that is a huge game-changer. And I don’t know why. When I sit at the feet of the father, I’m going to ask him why you’ve always got the younger kid who’s got more going on in some families. With these large families, there’s always some kid who’s really got it going on and invariably their youngest or younger. And our goal as parents should be to help each one of our children become the best that they can possibly be.
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:01.056
This is Gretchen Roe for The Demme Learning Show. Thanks for joining us. You can access the show notes and watch a recording at demmelearning.com/show or go on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate, review, follow, or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you really enjoyed it.
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This blog post is more than well worth your time to read—whether you use WriteShop or another writing program, you will find tremendously helpful ways to offer affirmative feedback to your student in the writing process.
These words were said in the episode, but they bear repeating:
“The effort is worth the energy. You are sowing seeds and you will reap a harvest.”
Is My Student Behind in Math?
HSLDA for information on your state’s reporting standards.
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