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.

What About Standards and Accreditation? Fears and Concerns Series (Part 8)

One of the most common fears and concerns at the secondary stage of learning is meeting high school standards and accreditation.

Standards are very difficult to define. Even a certificated teacher can’t actually define what a standard is other than as a process.

The dictionary definition of a standard is “a required or agreed upon level of quality or attainment,” or “an idea or thing used as a measure or norm or model in a comparative evaluation.”

Confusing? The question is, what are we comparing? People? Really?

The modern world has over seven billion people and it is estimated that more than 100 billion people have walked this earth since its creation.

When considering that no two people have ever been the same or shared the same fingerprint for that matter, the idea that we can standardize humans is preposterous. Yet most people assume that standards for education not only exist, but can actually be reached even when they cannot be clearly defined.

If standards for people cannot exist or be properly defined, how then can they be measured or universally applied? The advancing of standards in education is one of the biggest lies told by the industry. Forcing students into doing the same thing at the same time at each level of a predetermined schedule is not to maintain a standard, but to make sure they all end up the same.

Let me tell you what standards are. The only place that I can really apply this dictionary definition of a standard is in a factory. All the products coming off the assembly line had better be the same. You do it for quality control, which is designed to prevent problems.

When we apply the dictionary definitions of standards to school, we realize that there are a number of similarities between it and industry. We want to make sure that all the products coming off the assembly line are the same, for quality control, to prevent problems. Yet no two teachers will be able to consistently deliver or meet these supposed standards.

There are your standards. They are more a measure of how everyone should be. Not how to think, but what to think. Not celebrating God’s created diversity and freedom, but the secular alternative of standardizing all to a bondage of conformity. If everyone is the same, it is much easier to control them.

Now on to accreditation.

Accreditation is the action or process of officially recognizing a person as having a particular status or being qualified to perform a certain activity, or official certification that a school or course has met standards as set by an external regulator.

This dictionary definition is more complicated stuff that is based on a faulty notion that people can be standardized! What this translates into, is that there are ways and means to make sure that people are properly trained to accomplish a particular task and to do it well.

It is a good thing to have expectations of people and standards for positions. The problem is that we get this all mixed up and start expecting the standardization of people, rather than of skills.

Accreditation is best understood when looking at certification. A person who is licensed or certified to do a particular job is accredited by an agency as having met certain expectations and requirements to properly and safely conduct themselves in that position.

Once again, this is not to standardize the person, but the level of skill needed to do the job. We would expect nurses to have some level of training, as we would the welder, the lawyer or any other position. To have a standard expectation of excellence is fine.

However, when put into perspective, seeking accreditation is to seek approval from man. This also is okay if we can keep this standard to positions, not people. When seeking accreditation in a high school program, we seek man’s approval of what God has created and that does not make sense. Man’s school program and God’s directives do not have the same objective!

High school accreditation is more a matter of standardizing the student than to assure he or she has met an agreed upon level. The proper collection of credits towards a high school diploma may indicate that the student spent a minimum 12 years to get it, but does it guarantee that anything was learned?

Are they all literate? No! Are they all numerate? No! Are they truly ready for post-secondary level positions? Maybe. Depends. Remember that in order for everyone to be able to get their diplomas, the level of expectation must continually be reduced. Where is fifty percent good enough in life outside of the “standard” expectation of the education industry?

God has created children to be different. Man insists on making them all the same. While it is good to expect excellence of the students, it is unreasonable to expect them to all reach the same level and to accomplish the same things.

The goal of home education should be educational progress with high and reasonable expectations while allowing students the freedom to be who God has created them to be. We should be seeking God’s approval rather than man’s accreditation in our secondary level education.

God makes no mistakes, and our faith in His abilities will eliminate the fear of not meeting standards and the need for human accreditation in education.

Who Says… There Is A Standard?

Part of the series Who says…
Written by Léo Gaumont, published on 2015-01-12.

Can a standard expectation be applied to a hundred billion unique individuals?

Building on a foundation that God is, that He created the universe and that He ultimately is responsible for our children’s being, should provide ample substance upon which to build our faith. This lengthy series will identify the secular thinking that has eroded that faith.

Bible Reference: Rom. 12:2

How many times have we heard a distraught mother say “am I doing enough?” or “my child(ren) are behind” or “I am not sure they are where they are supposed to be”. Even more disturbing is that we have heard fathers ask these very questions of their wives in their sincere desire to make sure the children are best prepared for their future. These are questions and concerns that unduly pressure moms to perform, but to what end and how will this be measured? By comparing ourselves and the children to the standard, of course!

We are constantly reminded that there is a standard of expected achievement. Educators strive to attain to these standards, but the funny thing is, I have yet to meet a teacher who can define or describe this standard. A standard is defined as “a level of quality or attainment” or as “an idea or thing used as a measure, norm or model in comparative evaluations”. These definitions are somewhat easy to understand when applied to industry, such as comparing computers or cars, where “standards” can be applied to thousands of units of similar inanimate items, but they lose their application when we attempt to make them fit human beings. The reason? There is no standard human being!

Consider this. The world has over seven billion people and no two are alike. We may even venture to guess that in the history of the world, there may have been over a hundred billion people born and each one had a unique fingerprint. How can we apply a standard of any kind to this? Is it possible for all to be able to attain the same level of proficiency in English, math or music? Can everybody attain a certain expected level of understanding of politics, religion or philosophy? Can everybody fix their own broken items? Where is the standard here? There is none! How can there be? Who came up with this idea?

Standards can only be applied to people if we believe that all people are the same and they are obviously not. If we believe that people are all accidental products of nature and as such are all similarly empty containers we can assume they that need to be programmed towards a standard. If that is the case, is a standard a measure of how well a child is doing with a program or how well the program is doing at standardizing the child?

Who says that there is such a thing as a human standard? Those who would have us all behave, believe and become what is expected of unquestioning clones. Stay away from these standards and take your measure of achievement from the Bible. From this perspective, all children are indeed where they are supposed to be.