Next week the boys will go to their umbrella school (the school where we report our grades and attendance) to take part in the standardized testing. They are familiar with the process, especially the older boys who have been through it many times. The boys attended this school until we began home school two years ago, so they know the drill.
For the most part they are not intimidated by the testing. We have talked about the need for the testing, but also that we are not defined by these tests. Last year I wrote a bit more about testing, and as I read through the post again this morning I thought it was worth sharing again:
The boys are testing this week. Testing to see not only what they know, but how well they have been taught. Those in the schools…well, the teachers are being tested as well. I know in some areas these tests bring stress and anxiety and frustration; there is pressure to do well.
I told the boys not to worry and to have fun. I told them I’m not worried a bit…I know they are bright and I know they are learning, and I know this year will be a bit different since we began homeschool. We are using a different curriculum, and I know that will show, especially in math.
They are relaxed and they are not worried about the results, although they know I expect them to do their best.
Yesterday I saw a video and it has been on my mind since. See, I know there are loads of opinions on education, and I know that not one way is necessarily the correct way for everyone. We’ve chosen homeschool for this season, and we have done so for a number of reasons. I am excited about this venture, and I am hopeful. I truly think this is the best option for us, and I think there are some opportunities in the homeschool arena that simply can’t happen in the classroom. Opportunities to pause the syllabus and explore.
That is a touchy issue because some people feel judged just by my saying that…my choice for our family can frustrate others who have not made the same choice. Some think that I am making a statement about public education or private education…and I am, to some degree. Still, because I have found our niche and am celebrating that does not mean that another’s choice is worse. I have friends who have children flourishing in public school and friends with children flourishing in private school.
Here is the real thrust of my thinking, though, and here is where this video comes into the discussion.
My kids, all boys at this point for the discussion of education, get bored easily. They are not avid readers or avid ‘learners’ and there are many days in the classroom or at home where they just want to get through the material so they can get on to something fun.
That bothers me.
I love to learn, and I love education. I know I didn’t always…but I have found that I love learning about people and about places…I love reading and I love learning new things.
I want them to catch that. I want them to see learning as something vital and alive and filled with wonder and imagination and truth…and not drudgery. It can be drudgery in the classroom, in the home, wherever. The same education can be exciting and grab our attention…in the home or in the classroom.
I am not completely sure how this will play out, but I know that something is stirring in me about how I approach teaching the children. There are still facts they have to learn, and sometimes those facts are drudgery. There will, however, be things that will grab their attention and spark something…and those things need to be given the room to grow and the space to breathe.
When something makes them sit up and makes their eyes sparkle and makes them talk excitedly, I need to pay attention. I need to be listening for that moment, and I need to breathe life into that spark.
That doesn’t happen in testing. That doesn’t happen in drudgery. That requires attention and the flexibility to give room to that interest. The hope is that as that interest sparks learning, the enjoyment of learning will spread to the other subjects.
There has to be room for imagination and for experiments.
And for failure.
And for play.
Space to find out that actually, I don’t care at all about this subject.
Testing doesn’t make that room. I am not saying that testing is meaningless; we do need to know that our kids are learning the necessities. I am saying that our kids are so much more than the testing reveals. I love this video because the young man is obviously bright and intelligent and creative and passionate. He is not saying education is meaningless…he is saying to pay attention to that spark and not just learn because you have to learn a set of facts.
Give room for that love of learning without suffocating it with facts that become drudgery.
I am not good at this yet…I still make it drudgery sometimes. I can remember my teachers who were able to grab my attention and I can remember when the realization began to take hold that learning is really amazing. This is an amazing world filled with some pretty incredibly stories and people and facts and wonders…that is what I want to convey.
Here is the real kicker…I can lose sight of that wonder just as easily in the home school setting as the teacher can in the classroom. I need this reminder as we near testing.
Check out this video, and thanks to my friend Tina Hunter for posting it, and then watch the one after as well. I want my boys to think like this…I want them to think and to challenge and to explore, not just to prepare for tests.
Update: I have to add something, as I’ve been thinking about this through the day. I have to add that I have so much respect for my friends who are teachers…who are able to create an atmosphere of creativity and individuality in the classroom. Those teachers who make our children feel special, who truly care about the children they teach…those are some special teachers! I know that there are many who have made an impact on my kids…and on our family as a result. There are many teachers who are simply tired, and many who are restricted and find themselves in a difficult position to try and create a unique environment. So, I wanted to add that I know there are not simple answers to how we inspire our children…and whether we homeschool or have kids in school, we have to continue the learning throughout our family life.