Measuring Progress: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Getting Started (Part 8)

Once beginning home educators develop a workable household division of labour, establish a working schedule and a work place as well as find a suitable curriculum, the big question becomes: where and how will you lead the children, as their most influential leaders?

We addressed that question in an earlier version of this series and came to the conclusion that the best place to lead them was to the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God who ultimately has, not only the authority, but a clear vision of the future we can only see dimly.

But this leads to yet another question which is: how will you know that you are accomplishing the task and how well are you doing it? This is usually where questions on testing and standards come in.

Anybody who has given testing some serious thought will realize that it is one of life’s guarantees. Hardly a day goes by that we are not tested in some way.

Testing, as in determining if the children have understood the concept, is fine, but one must remember that this also is a school based practice. Consider that in a classroom there are a large number of students and usually but one teacher. Even a super teacher can only do a superficial assessment of any individual student’s accomplishments.

That is why there are tests designed to give the teacher an idea of how well the information presented has been understood. The problem is, even if a student can repeat a concept, it does not mean he or she understands it and knows how to apply it in real life.

Also to be considered is the question of whether a good mark indicates a good understanding or simply good memorization and/or test writing skills.

My personal experience in the classroom has shown that when the identical test is given a few days later, there is usually a reduction in grades. Clearly, good memorizers can easily become good forgetters. So, in my opinion, test marks are not a really good indicator of competency or proficiency.

A student learning at home is not in a classroom and does not have to share the attention of the teacher with a couple dozen other students.

Likewise, the “teacher” in a home education does not have to spread her efforts among a classroom full of students.

Therefore, testing is not necessary in a home education as the parent can directly observe whether the child has mastered the concept or not.

Of even greater concern for most parents still overcoming their school based thinking is the whole question of meeting standards. Are the children where they are supposed to be? Are they ahead or behind; better or worse than the average? This issue becomes a non-issue when a simple question is asked: ahead or behind or better or worse than what?

Neither governments, schools, nor teachers can clearly define or demonstrate what standards are for education, aside from expecting everyone to do the same thing at the same time.

Standards are a myth! When considering that over seven billion people are living on earth today and that no two are the same, each having unique fingerprints, how can one even suggest that there is a standard?

Chasing after an average is also futile, as that is entirely dependent on the group being “averaged”! Your children are unique, meaning their “average” and the “standard” to which they are educated is entirely dependent on who they are, where they are, how they learn and what they are capable of.

A much better goal than reaching undefined “standards” or some evasive “average” is what comes naturally for parents. Set high, yet reasonable expectations for your children. Not perfection, of course, but an expectation that things will be done well and on time.

Not only is that more realistic than “standards” or “averages,” but it is something that fits the individual uniqueness of each child. Better yet, don’t compare your child to others at all, as there is no one like him or her, remember?

Remembering that since the government’s claim to having authority in education is self-proclaimed and not God-given, government has to treat students as products of their system. In that light, standards make sense, but only when viewed through the lens of conformity. God’s created diversity insists on us all being different.

Incidentally, the only way anybody can make a difference in this world is if they are different. Let’s celebrate the differences and never mind averages or standards. Also consider that if we are all the same, we are much easier to control, which may be the ambition of government, but certainly not of God.

There is no pass, no fail, no behind, no ahead, no above, or below in home education. Only progress in due time. Encouraging students to be the best that they can is all that is required of us by God. Certainly, that is sufficient.

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