I will take a summer’s break from the Weekly Homeschool Wrap-up meme as we abruptly ended our homeschool year on last week. I use the word ‘abruptly’ because my non-spontaneous nature had planned last week to test, with this week as our last school week. When the other parent in charge of testing materials didn’t receive her materials on time, we had to quickly adjust ourselves to have a “normal” school week on last week and to test on this week. I feel bad for the kids as we usually try to do something, even if it’s just lunch out, for them when the school year ends. Because we have to wake up two hours earlier than they’re accustomed to, this week has been in some ways grueling for them—and for me. Friday is our areas minority homeschooler year-end picnic, and we’re having the in-laws over on Saturday for an early Memorial Day celebration, so it will be Sunday before we spend time with just the five of us. I’ll have to think of something special just to say, “nice work, guys.”
My thoughts haven’t changed regarding standardized testing from this post of over two years ago. I still see semi-anxious students and seriously anxious parents. Yet, my thoughts as I prayed over the community of students and parents gathered this morning were that we spend all year long for excellence—in their spirit, in their character, in their academics, and otherwise. The tests will say something about them. Yet, here’s what God says about them:
They are the head and not the tail. They are above and never beneath. They are lenders and not borrowers. They are blessed in their going in and blessed in their coming out. (Deuteronomy 28: 6, 12-13)
They will do greater works than Jesus Christ. (John 14:12)
God’s work in them is marvelous. (Psalm 139: 14)
Furthermore, eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man all the things that God has prepared for them because they love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Our task is to trust. God has already walked their steps, and He knows them down to the hairs on their heads. We simply have to help them to position themselves for usefulness.
At any rate, I did have an interesting conversation with a couple of parents about the nature of the tests. It occurs to me that these tests are a source of angst and frustration in many communities. Some think that they are culturally biased. You know what? I agree with them. But it’s not a racial/ ethnic bias. There are a number of biases, expressed in the following examples:
1) A grammar test in which the student must read the following and then determine the incorrect portion:
I wanted to read a book
tonight, but these here stars
are simply beautiful.
Most of us could immediately pick up that ‘these here stars’ is the line with the incorrect grammar, but where I come from, I’ve heard many say this and more as if it was standard English.
2) A science question asking a student which temperature (with a choice of three numbers) indicated that a child has a fever.
For a child like my small one, who has never been sick enough to run a serious temperature, praise God, she struggled with the right answer.
3) Questions that ask a student to distinguish a certain leaf, or the root of a plant (like a carrot) versus the plant itself, or how to identify an insect versus a spider.
You must spend time with nature to learn some things in a way that promotes retention.
What is this bias, then? It’s a bias against children who aren’t exposed to rich language and eloquent speech. It’s a bias against children who don’t get out much, and so may not understand a map or gather a sense of direction from just hanging around the neighborhood. It’s a bias against children who’ve never felt dirt in their hands, or who’ve not allowed a ladybug or “roly poly” to crawl over their fingers. It’s a bias against a child who’s never looked up at night and wondered about heavenly bodies and the miracle of the sun and the alignment of the planets.
Amidst all the odds stacked against you (or maybe a lack thereof if you’re fortunate), there are constants that ensure success; how you accomplish them is a matter of personal choice and learning preferences. However, nothing replaces discovery, which is the essence of science. Nothing replaces discipline, though a child may hate the logic and analytical skills taught via math drills. Finally, nothing replaces discussion, which allows us to utilize language. And the beauty of language is that we can use it to tell our children about a great God who lovingly crafted a world that’s worth their curiosity. The test then becomes just another opportunity to capture a particular level of curiosity. God bless you.