Saturday, October 8, 2011

Testing, testing…

I am a homeschooler.  One of the first reasons we decided to homeschool (among many) was to offer a superior education to our children.  Not only was I confident I could do this, I knew that by the very act of homeschooling I could do it with less effort than the effort expended by both teachers and students in an institution setting.

I still believe this, as a cold and emotionless fact.  Being able to tailor to personality, strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, circadian rhythms and individual interests makes learning so much easier, so it happens with less effort.  Being able to school to a limited number to children whom you’ve known intimately from birth makes the number of hours needed to deliver lessons fewer—often significantly so.  Homeschooling simply offers elements in education that public schools cannot by their very nature. 

I am not condemning public schools.  Nor am I dooming the students in public schools.  I know full well that there are schools, teachers and students who will exceed homeschooled students in every possible category—it just takes more effort!

I say all this to convey that quality education is important to me.  I want my children to be advanced.  I want them to be high achievers.  I want to be sure that they are properly equipped to move from my home and into whatever field the Lord leads.  This is important.  A haunting thought that plagues me (and other homeschoolers, I know) is that I will fail my kids in this area.  ‘What if I miss something?’

Now I have this other side of me.  This is the side that whispers, ‘What is advanced?’ ‘What is a superior?’  When I allow this side more voice I have to admit that I use common, but subjective, terms when describing my academic goals for my kids.  Who decides how to measure any of this?  If you hop over to our virtual neighbors, the public school system, and the only thing clear is that no one seems to really know.  We know tests don’t tell the whole story, we know teaching to the tests is counter-productive, we know training kids to perform rather than learn squashes natural curiosity and creativity… We also know that curiosity and creativity aren’t easily measured and so become less relevant when trying to evaluate what makes a quality education or how well a child is advancing academically.  Numbers are so much easier to use when quantifying values.  But reducing learning to numbers is reducing learning to nothing. 

I am reminded of Wesley’s line in The Princess Bride, “Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.” 

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