Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What goes around and around and around?

Educational Philosophies

I read an article this weekend entitled "The End of Grade Levels."

It is about a school in Colorado where students will be grouped into multi-age levels based on what they already know and will move up when they master the material at that level.

Some "experts" are saying that this makes sense and many districts are hesitant. One expert from New York was quoted as saying, "It's very hard to get people to believe in something new."


Have they never read Little House on the Prairie? Have they never studied early American History? I almost laughed out loud--NEW! Why this is not new at all.

When a new little pioneer kid walked into the school for the first time he was not asked how old he was, but what reader [as in McGuffy] he was in. If you were 7 or 9, it really did not matter, if you were in the first reader, that is the group you studies with. When you mastered the first reader, you moved on to the 2nd reader. This explains why sometimes there was a 16 year old teacher and 16 year old pupils.

How about Understood Betsy? Published in 1917 it is the wonderful story of a little girl who is transformed by love and understanding. There is a wonderful chapter called "What Grade is Betsy" where Elizabeth Ann [Betsy before she really became herself] says, "I don't know what I am at all. If I'm in second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and 3rd grade spelling, what grade am I?"

The teacher laughed, "You aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in? And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication table?"

Later as Betsy is thinking this over, she ponders this thought, "She had always thought she was there to pass from one grade to another, and she was ever so startled to get a glimpse of the fact that she was there to learn how to read and write and cipher and generally use her mind so she could take care of herself when she came to be grown up."

Ahh, new indeed. This, like just about every other educational philosopy is not new--it is old and is being recycled for the 21st century.

Imagine that--starting where the child is and having him progress in his learning?? It is something homeschoolers have know and practiced for years. It is kind of nice to see the "Professional educators" finally catching on.

And, if you haven't read "Understood Betsy," by Dorothy Candfield Fisher, I think you would enjoy it-it starts a little slow, but is a very rewarding read and if you have a child to read it to, so much the better.

Take care,

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