On Wednesday morning I took Joey in for his annual checkup at the pediatrician's office. Kinda scary that this was his final pre-teen checkup (he turned 12 this year), but apparently according to the pediatrician Joey has technically stepped into the realm of adolescence and therefore there was a new form to fill out. A form for kids 12 years old and up that, from all appearances, is a sort of assessment of the mental and emotional state of the patient.
I had to work hard to not laugh right out loud when the receptionist spoke to Joey and told him she had something for him to fill out, considering that he has down syndrome and can't read let alone give written answers. ;) So, we sat down and went over it together. As expected, most of the questions didn't apply to Joey mainly because intelligence-wise they just didn't relate to him. But I came across one question that made me stop and think. The question was if he's happy with his grades. The problem is, we don't give grades.
I have never given my kids "grades" or graded their work. Plus I'm not sure how to assign grades. Personally, I've never liked grades. I've always felt that if a student knows the concept, does a good job on the work and shows they are learning from it, then why are grades necessary? Some would argue so the child will have something to show for their efforts or that they need the reinforcement from seeing how well they've done by a letter grade or that kids need the incentive to work to achieve the next level and other arguments. But, again, I just don't see the need for them for our children. I have taught the boys in the manner that they get their assignment, complete their work then bring the work for me to look over and mark for corrections. If it needs correcting, we go back over what the mistake is, how the mistake was made and how to fix it. If they've done the assignment with no corrections, I let them know how proud I am of them for their hard work and they then run off to dad to show him what they've done. Of course our kids are still young enough that it's enough for them to keep working harder by receiving praise and encouragement from their parents.
So I thought long and hard about it and talked with Josh about it. Should we be giving grades? Should the kids be expecting to see an "A" or "B" or whatnot on their papers? Is it enough that we work on their mistakes and then on to the next assignment/subject/etc? Is it fine that we give them praise and encouragement to keep up the good work? Then I remember back to my own school days and how I used to stress over what my report card would say and whether or not my parents would be pleased or disappointed. I have to ask myself what is the point of giving grades and what purpose would it serve with our kids. Plus, out in the real world, no one is giving out grades. Your work is more or less critiqued as you go and as more often than not you are lucky to get anything more than a "keep doing what you're doing". The more I ponder, the more I just don't see how giving out grades would benefit our kids.
I think we'll stick with what we're doing.