Friday, January 18, 2013

Are Awards and Accolades Necessary for Education?

In our homeschool this week…

We’re still enjoying the slowness, sweaters, and snuggles of the season. Christmas comes down this weekend, and we’re getting back at it in full force on Monday. I must admit I’m looking forward to the routine.

We’re also tweaking our schedule, a sort-of mid-year progress report. There’s something about returning after a break that makes me want to evaluate our progress and improve our efficiency. It works best for us to have large chunks of time scheduled with multiple activities to be completed in that time. For example, each child has a certain amount of subjects and chores to be completed in between 9:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. This way, when a child is done with one subject or chore, they are free to move on to the next.


Questions/thoughts I have…

Are awards and accolades necessary for education? Or are they a source of sinful pride?
One thing my husband and I gave up when we decided to homeschool was the built-in reward program of the school system, both public and private. I’ll admit that this has been on my mind more than once and was a cause for pause in our decision. Who doesn’t want the stack of ribbons or shelf of trophies to prove the worth and value of their child…and their parenting?

But is that important? Or are there other advantages that far exceed our children earning certificates and ribbons?

When I was in the middle grades of our public school system, I was in the “gifted” program. This supposedly meant that I was “advanced” and would respond to more difficult curriculum, particularly in the areas of English and math. I also began winning writing competitions as well as placing in music competitions.
I also began to notice a little feeling deep inside as I would walk down the hallway to the “gifted” classroom. I wanted to be challenged academically and valued, but were my accolades causing pride to grow in my heart?

Certainly, there are many benefits to the programs that schools offer. Many children excel under specialized tutelage. And there is something to be said for being pushed to do your very best, especially under a deadline. But I wonder how much pride is wrapped up in that as well. I’m certainly proud of my children’s grades and accomplishments, as any parent should be. But when I consider the response from an interested bystander when I say my child is homeschooled as opposed to the response I could get if I say my child is first chair in the school orchestra, then I know I’m too concerned with the opinions of others.

“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

So, what’s my bottom line? My child’s learning, his faith and commitment to doing the Lord’s will, and our family relationships mean more to success in life than a stack of ribbons.

All that is moot, truly, when you consider the many opportunities that homeschoolers have to earn those rewards anyway! Bible bees, spelling bees, geography bees, writing competitions, music competitions, homeschool group competitions, science competitions…. Well, you get the point. You can be as active and involved as you choose. But I know that I need to be careful that I’m doing it for the good of my child and not to bolster my own pride.


I’m reading…

Lori Hatcher’s Joy in the Journey, a devotional full of encouragement for homeschooling moms.


A photo to share…


“I love bugs in the house,” said no mom ever! J








What do you think? How do awards factor in to education? How was your week?




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21 comments:

  1. Cool bug pic :-)

    Here in Holland we have no special awards and accolades for the school. Course a 'diploma' for arithmetic (children aged 8 or 9). And for tie (good english word?) of the shoe laces the Dutch childs got 'a diploma' too for kids aged 4, 5.

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    1. It's a fine English word -- tying shoe laces earns an award. It certainly does feel like an accomplishment to the child who's learned it, and to the parent who doesn't have to tie the shoe laces anymore! Thanks for sharing. I love reading your comments about life in the Netherlands.

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  2. I agree...bugs in the house are disturbing! Please consider adding your post to its a Wrap. I am back up and running and I always enjoy your stories.

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    1. Thanks, Savannah, for visiting, for your link-up, and for your kind words. Have a great weekend!

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  3. oops...I guess you already did. Thanks!

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  4. I'm so glad I stopped by today! This is an issue I have wrestled with long. We have a unique homeschooling situation: I homeschool my son four days a week and he attends a gifted program at the public school once a week. While he loves it and thrives academically from it, it is a challenge to remind him that Jesus is the treasure and source of all wisdom and knowledge. Pride is an issue for him. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts here, it's something we all need to think about. Blessings! www.toshowthemjesus.com

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    1. It sounds like you have a great situation, Christina, as long as the program continues to meet his academic needs. And you're doing a great job staying in touch with him spiritually. Thanks for stating it so well - that Jesus is the source of all wisdom and knowledge!

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  5. Yes, thank you for your thoughts on awards here!! I think I was negatively affected (both ways--pride with awards and discouragement with failure) by awards in school.... I would be interested in your thoughts on other types of "rewards"--like computer game time earned for "buckling down and getting school done".... Is that the same thing?

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    1. There can be so many good things that come from awards, including the opportunity to learn to lose gracefully. I'm not saying we should do away with them completely, just that we need to be careful of how they shape our attitudes about ourselves and others. The type of reward you mention I think I would call an incentive. When we potty-train our children, we offer incentives for them, both praise and a bit of candy. Sometimes a bit of incentive is all that is needed to spur a child on. I, personally, would hesitate to offer a reward every single day for getting school done. "The reward of a thing well done is to have done it." (Ralph Waldo Emerson) At some point a child has to learn that he should get his work done just because he needs to get his work done. I know that's a somewhat shallow answer. This reply space just doesn't really allow for much. But thanks for your comment and your question, Christa!

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    2. Good point about awards vs. incentives!! It occurs to me that awards can be more about "comparing with others" and incentives are just with the one child....

      Also good point about learning to lose gracefully!!

      We try hard to use external incentives only when extra motivation is needed. :) I agree that "intrinsic motivation" is a good goal. (Though God did provide incentives--such as eating strawberries for the work of having taken care of the strawberry plants. :) )

      Maybe a good verse to apply would be James 1:5; in other words, asking God for wisdom on when/how often to give awards and incentives....?

      And excellent point that the more important aspect is how these things shape our attitudes about ourselves and others!!!!

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    3. Now I'm hungry for strawberries! :)

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  6. I agree that incentives are good. I use incentives with my daughter in homeschooling, in places where she struggles like getting work done in a timely manner or doing her best work. We live in an incentive based society - I am very happy for the incentive (paycheck) that I get every two weeks from my employer - Rewards can be an incentive, but you are right, we should not let them define who we are. But my daughter went to a small private school for the first 6 years of her school career. She's never done well in school either academically or athletically, so award day was always something of a letdown. Until one year, the secretary of the school got special permission to award my daughter with the "school ambassador" award because she was always so welcoming to anyone who was in the school. This had a huge impact on my daughter and made her realize that everyone has different gifts.

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    1. What a wonderful gift to be recognized! Some just have that knack of being warm and inviting. They are wonderful to be around. Thanks for sharing your story, Holly.

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  7. We don't do awards or accolades, but we do grades. Grades are necessary in life, but all the junk on display, not really. Excellent verse!

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  8. Thanks for posting. A refreshing perspective and one I needed. Also, I'm interested in how you govern the chunks of time for each child? We have a difficult time staying focused and I am looking for help. I've been having her use a timer, working 30 minutes then taking a 5-10 minute break, and it is working but I'd love other input. Thanks again! Have a blessed week!

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    1. I've wondered about blogging about our schedule, but it still seems so ragged that I'm not sure I really have anything to offer. I've read a lot of blogs of people who do it far better than we do! :) My children stay fairly focused, mostly because they don't want to be doing school at 5:00 in the evening. They know that their day isn't over until the work is done. Sometimes we will have other motivators such as a movie, a game, baking cookies, or an outing. Then they race to get everything done, but they also understand that the work must be done well. Hope that helps, and thanks for commenting!

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  9. This was a great post. I totally agree!! How I miss those homeschooling days!!
    First month that no one is homeschooling in over 25 years or so (lost track, LOL)

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    1. Oh Judith, you make me sad! Maybe grandchildren?

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  10. Thanks for linking up to Its a Wrap. Your posts are so genuine.

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