Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Get an A: Create It!

Just when you think you've got it all figured out, everything turns on its head and you have to start figuring again...

Background on Our System
Unschooling homelearners in our area have two legal options: Register as homeschoolers under section 12 and receive no support or funding, or register as distance learners, get $600 per child allotment to use towards registered courses and/or supplies, receive the support of a program or advisor/teacher, and submit regular reports and grades to the ministry. We have so far gone with the latter option, because it's nice to use that extra money for the kids' activities, and also I like the accountability of being at least a little bit tied to the system. (Did I say that?!) I guess it's true. I dream of cutting loose onto section 12, but I'm afraid I'll mess up and not even notice it's happening...

So, anyway... about that grading. After grade 4 we have to start grading our children 3 times/year, in consultation with our teacher. And the grades have to have something to do with provincial learning outcomes (PLO's)! Truly! As you can imagine that leads to quite the creative workaround for us unschooling types, when trying to figure out how our big mish-mash of activities fits into the PLO's!

So... I painfully dig through the PLO listing, and make sure my kids are capable of most of the outcomes, and all of the suggested comments the teacher provides. I try not to involve my kids in this, unless they're interested, because I don't want them to start feeling competitive or inadequate. Then I show them the list of outcomes I've written in their reports and ask them if they think they deserve an A for each topic, or something lower.

In order to get an A, they need to do the following:
  • Be proficient in the suggested learning outcomes for their grade.
  • Get inspired and engaged about something that relates to each subject matter.
  • Have a little something to show for at least some of their efforts.

Something to Show
And that's where we're at right now. We're trying to get "something to show" on paper for their files at the school they're registered with... and it turned out we had one single whole day free before the end-of-term deadline, in which to accomplish this. We had big plans for this day: spend all day inside, reading about Haida Gwaii (because we're going there this summer!!!) and creating a giant map of it, with some kind of written work, as well. We had our supplies ready, and a bunch of resources, too. Markus had plans for work on the house. I had plans to organize part of the house. It was going to be a productive day.

And then it snowed!
Cancel all plans. There are priorities in life. And when snow is as rare as it is here, snow is one of them.

Rhiannon baked us some muffins (yet another exciting and delicious new recipe recorded only in her mind!), and then we went out to play! We had a minor panic when Markus lost his glasses during a snowball fight and we spent about 1/2 an hour sifting snow to find them. Then we decided to start work on a big igloo. We built, rolled, shoveled, packed and scraped all day (though I packed it in earlier than everybody else did), and ended up with an awesome two-room snow-block igloo.

And then we took our quiche down and ate dinner inside the cosy little second room. You can see Markus, here, peeking out from inside that second room, but this is a posed photo because there's just no room to take a photo in there.

While sitting just snugly with our empty bowls in there, not really wanting to go in, but having nothing else to do anymore, either, we agreed that this kind of an amazing day could not be had simply by spending money or going someplace exotic. It's really more about a state of mind: an appreciation of the presence of those we love and a willingness to drop everything and adventure.

But -- Those Grades!!!
What am I going to do with no paperwork done and two exhausted unschoolers frolicking gleefully in the snow, so pleased that we've all dropped our responsibilities!! I decided that Rhiannon could write down her recipe (so I can use it too!) and that would do for at least part of her file, and Tali could (with a bit of convincing, I admit) solve an argument we were having about the rate of increase of snowball size by simply measuring it and recording the data. He did!

There. Most of the day spent playing in the snow, written work done for files in just about an hour or so of that awesome day, and a late night piece of pie to finish. Last year's peaches from our own tree, and 8 rosy cheeks around the table.

That was an awesome day. Totally worth an A.

It's true that life is full of situations where we just have to accept somebody else's requirements. But a little creativity about fulfilling such requirements, and some effort made to fulfill them in a way that is both inspiring and engaging is both worth the A grade and worth the effort and time spent. We strive for opportunities to create A's in our lives. The A is the measure of fulfillment of our own expectations of ourselves, and of our spirit's fulfillment.

This is how I want to live. This is why we unschool.

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