I was reading over at Ronnie's blog Zombie Princess her newest post about *must learn* lists. I gave a quick reply, then thought of a longer one, and when I found it was becoming longer than a facebook status update, decided to move it over here.
Yesterday, Gary, Andy and I had a conversation about driver's ed next year (really, we're already at that point?!) as well as Andy's desire to do some volunteer work. I told Andy both of those were very likely to require writing. I casually offered that I'd be happy to help him with that whenever he felt ready, knowing that his handwriting can be hard for even him to read at times. He just as casually said he'd remember that. I was feeling a little sad that maybe we're at a point where Andy might be concerned about being judged for what he's learned. I was also just a little concerned about how I could help him through the upcoming times.
Then today, somehow the boys and I wandered into a conversation about what grade they'd be in. They've recently made some friends who go to school, so it's become a topic. Whenever it comes up, I tell them what grade they're in on paper for homeschool registration purposes, but it seems they forget every time. It must not be terribly important to them. It only really comes up when I sign Dan up for soccer or baseball. Now that Andy's considering volunteer opportunities, I'm seeing that some of them tie eligibility to a child's grade-level, designating programs for sophomores, for example. Apparently, as they get older it's becoming more an issue.
I answered Andy's technically in the 8th grade, and Dan in 3rd.
Andy asked me if I thought he'd be able to do 8th grade work. Of course, Dan followed up with the same about 3rd grade work. I said I really don't know. Andy asked about what kind of math they do in 8th grade, and I answered "algebra". I told him I'm sure he could learn to do it, when he needs to.
I said that in my experience when people ask the "what grade would you be in?" it's often followed by asking you to show that you know some bit of school learning appropriate to your grade level, so I could understand them wanting to know what grade level work is.
Then I explained it like this -- the school systems decides what things they think all people should learn by the time they're 18, before they head off to college or trade school, or whatever their next expected thing is. Since the public schools are intended to provide 13 years of schooling, the *must learn* material is divided into 13 segments, with the expectation that every child can and will learn all the same things, at the same time, and answer the tests in the same way. They expect that children will do this despite the fact that we all have different interests and plans, and learn in a variety of ways.
At which time, Andy looked as if his head might explode. Kinda like Cartman in last week's South Park. (yeah, like that!)
And I was reminded that setting up 'must learns', and further, putting them on a schedule, is not a very sensible way to help people move from where we are to where we want to be in our lives.