Finally…it’s the end of the year! How did I do?
The end of the academic school year comes with mixed emotions: relief, elation, excitement, bittersweetness, or perhaps a twinge of sadness if it’s the year my last child graduates.
I label it “good” if my children make reasonable or exceptional academic progress. Perhaps one child overcame that math hang-up. I finished all but one textbook 6 weeks before the end of the school year. The kids aced final exams. My struggling reader improved 2 years in 10 months. Or, my ninth grader wrote a 15-page, MLA-style research paper. Pretty subjective and non-specific ways to assess my effectiveness as an educator.
As a homeschool parent, I often measure the quality of my school-year performance by my students’ success. Thankfully, no one is watching over my shoulders. No one is “grading” me on my performance like many of my public school counterparts.
Some of my friends in public school have lost their jobs, been demoted, or lost salary increases because their students’ performance on end-of-course or high-stakes tests didn’t show enough progress. Or, the in-class observations by administrative personnel following standardized rubrics didn’t score high enough. I’ve seen it happen.
Whew! Glad I’m not under that kind of scrutiny. What if my students have a bad day on test day or I’m dealing with a family emergency the day the assessor is in my classroom? Unbelievable. Thankfully, most homeschool educators don’t bear such external pressures.
However, many of us self-inflict vaguely defined, personal assessments on our performance as home educators based almost exclusively on student achievement.
I believe that’s not the appropriate scale for a home educator to self-assess. So, what would be? Perhaps a rubric.
Rubrics are being used increasingly in academic courses, mostly college level. They list specific criteria for assigning a grade to a course, paper, or project. For example, criteria for a low or average grade might be “provided little to no basic information about the book” while the criteria for a high or superior grade might be “went over and above basic information, integrated data from multiple, non-required texts or sources, and presented a thoughtful, well-worded conclusion.”
Rubrics typically identify multiple categories for assessment. As Christian home educators, I suggest Galatians 5:22-23, the Fruit of the Spirit, as the basis for our rubric. It’s familiar. They’re favorite memory verses, often sung by our children. I remember mine breathlessly repeating, or singing, the 9 qualities, ending with “self-contro-o-o-ol!”
A Fruit of the Spirit Home Educator Assessment Rubric could look something like this.
LOVE: How well did I offer unconditional acceptance of my child when he was struggling? Did I treat her with agape love, respect, and understanding? Was I the listening-ear friend when he was troubled, sad, angry? Did I exude a love for learning, even math, especially algebra, when it really confuses me?
JOY: Was I exuberant daily in our learning, especially when I didn’t feel like it? Did I demonstrate that joy comes from the Lord, and true joy, the joy of the Lord, is my strength? Did I model joy in and through praise when the dishwasher overflowed or our new puppy chewed on my favorite dictionary? Or, did I model joy on the day the dogwood bloomed or the first, fresh snow?
PEACE: Did my body language and countenance reflect an inner peace that comes only from the Lord in the face of difficult lessons for my child or when my children had conflicts? Were my words the words of a peacemaker who listened attentively and carefully? Did I hold my tongue when my mind raged piercing accusations at my child who missed all the math problems for the third day in a row?
PATIENCE: Did I wait, calm and content, as my child painfully wrote the one required sentence? Did I tap my foot or sigh for a child to complete a task? Did I remember my child has slow processing speed in everything and waited; did I stick with her until she finished? Did I interrupt her before she had completed a task, by asking, “Haven’t you finished yet?” One child once remarked, “No, I’m thinking.” Was I guilty of saying, “Stop that! And get to work”?
KINDNESS: Do I have compassion for my little and big ones when the experiment fails? Or they don’t make the cut on the swimming team? How did I help them over the humps life doles out? Was I sympathetic to their every concern even if it seemed trivial to me?
GOODNESS: Did I convey to each child his innate worth and stature before God and to me? Was I a proponent that all God’s creation, including every child—even when they’re being stinky, disruptive, or obstinate (the list could go on forever!)—is good because He made them? Does that show in my words and deeds throughout every school day?
FAITHFULNESS: Do I stay the course no matter where the winds and tides take us or if they leave us “dead in the water”? Am I always present and engaged while teaching and learning with my children? Am I steady in my belief in my children’s abilities? Do they know I will never leave or forsake them? That I’m in their corner? Do I communicate the One who demonstrates that even more than I ever could?
GENTLENESS: Are my voice and words soft and soothing? Does my manner encourage my children to trust me knowing I will not be harsh with them? Even when their behavior and attitude may goad me to be curt, abrupt, and speak cutting words, did this Fruit of the Spirit override my soulish self so that I remained reserved and measured in my words and actions?
SELF-CONTROL: Did I allow the Lord control over every school day or did I try to exert self into my teaching and learning? Was I able to restrain negative or non-productive impulses (my ADD!), emotions, and desires that were counterproductive to a meaningful day of exceptional learning or personal development?
Galatians 5:23 concludes that “against such things there is no law.” Nor could any rubric assess us as anything less than highly effective home educators when we define its criteria based on God’s Fruit of the Spirit.
Consider conducting a self-assessment of the past school year based on The Fruit of the Spirit rubric. No one else will see it. Furthermore, determine to incorporate this rubric into your planning for next year. I’m planning to, and I expect next year to be even better than this one.
Educational psychologist Dr. Brenda Murphy lives out her mission to Serve All In Love by sharing her deep knowledge of the art and science of teaching through professional development, personal consultation, and mentorship. She encourages all teachers, parents, and students to experience new possibilities through her belief that they each possess undiscovered gifts and talents. Find out more about Dr. Brenda and how she helps parents like you at www.sailawaylearning.com.