One of my big gripes about the public school system is the way they teach to the middle and move on at a quick pace. With 18-30 kids in a room, a public school teacher cannot logistically teach a concept until every member of the class has mastered it. If they did, the top of the class would be held back. The bottom of the class might suffer under pressure.
In my homeschool, because I can move at my child’s pace, I have time to strive for mastery instead of plowing through to finish the curriculum before an end-of-the-year test. I can slow down when necessary to reteach a concept that my kids are struggling with. I don’t have the same time constraints I had in the classroom.
Striving for mastery is good in theory, but what does it look like in practice?
Striving for Mastery In Homeschool
We go back over concepts when necessary. Often times, after a history lesson, I have Emma narrate to me what she’s learned or write a short summary on notebooking pages. I can glean from that conversation or her narration how much she comprehended. In grammar, I give a short oral quiz before each lesson. It’s pretty easy to determine how much she has retained from previous lessons. When necessary, we go back over her lessons to make sure she’s ‘got it’ before we move on.
I require 85% before moving on. For all graded work – quizzes, tests, and daily math assignments – I require a score of 85% to move on. Emma is required to correct anything with a score below that. I figure if she can’t get an 85, one of two things has happened. One, she totally didn’t pay attention to the task at hand and must redo a job half-done. Or, two, she didn’t understand what she was doing, and we need to go over the lesson again.
Requiring her to “only” score an 85 allows for rough days, making simple mathematical errors, or just being an imperfect kid.
I strive for mastery – not perfection. I don’t expect her to have a perfect score on everything. That requirement of perfection puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on a kid. But, I don’t believe that mastery equals perfection. And, I don’t expect her to master everything before we move on. While I do want her to know the difference between intransitive and transitive verbs, I don’t expect her to memorize the entire list of prepositions. She doesn’t have to memorize all of the formulas for geometry, but I do expect her to know her times tables.
It’s my job and my privilege to circle back around and reteach when necessary instead of plowing ahead with a lost child. It’s my job to teach her tricks and hacks to recall the important stuff (My Very Educated Mother…). It’s also my job to teach her where to go to learn what she doesn’t know – Google, library, dictionary, etc.
What’s your academic goal for your kids? How do you strive for mastery in your homeschool?
This post is part of my ABC’s of Homeschooling series! To read the entire series, visit my ABCs of Homeschooling page. I’ll add to this page each day as the posts go live.