Education: Are We Slaves to “the Test”?

Credit: cartoonwork.com

 

“Instead of duplicating the only method we knew regarding how to “do school”, we backed up and began to ask ourselves the simple question:“What is education”? In order to begin building, we must know what we’re building in the first place. A storage shed and a cathedral are going to have very different-looking blueprints.Most parents fail to realize that the structure the state is trying to design is in the shape of a TEST.Tests are the gage schools use to determine their success. And while a test can be an important tool for assessing progress, it should not be the end-all for determining the method. In other words, if we teach solely for the purpose of achieving a desired test score, we have missed the entire purpose of education.” From Think Outside the Classroom

Several discussions about education this week caused me to revisit what I believe are fundamental flaws in the way most of us think. And our thinking about education is so deeply entrenched that the topic causes heated controversy and reaction to anything that challenges our opinions.

I would love to challenge some of your thoughts without evoking that reaction.

Standardized testing has long been the accepted measure of academic achievement. I do believe those test can be a good tool and can reveal a certain level of achievement–sometimes.

But I also think we are the victims of fear which can drive us to bow to the tests at the expense of a more “real” and thorough education. When I taught school, even at a Christian school, we were required to write our lesson plans based entirely on which standardized concepts (including the number of the test section) we were covering.

“The first thing to consider, obviously, is what you want to teach. This should be developed based upon your state (or school) standards….Having your lesson plan correctly aligned with state standards helps to prove its worthiness and necessity. It also helps in assuring that your students are being taught what your state requires.” Lesson Plan Page

We must step back and ask, “Are we responsible for ‘teaching what the state requires’?”

Even in states that do not require standardized testing, we homeschoolers acknowledge it as the standard and live in fear that our children won’t measure up.

I’ll surely be misunderstood, so let me clarify that I am NOT opposed to testing or standardized measures to help guide us as we educate our children. (And I also know that many occupations require that testing.)

I AM opposed to teaching in fear of the state, as a Christian parent who has been given authority over my children as well as specifics for the important things they are to be learning…

“Teach them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and mind…”

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…”

“Him [Jesus] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

And let’s remember to what extent He commanded our efforts…”bind them around your necks, write them on the doorposts of your home…when you rise up, when you lie down, when you sit in your house, when you walk along the way…”

It is a deliberate “saturation” of teaching our children to know the Lord.

“But, we must teach them things besides loving the Lord.”

And to that I would say absolutely. But not apart from it. To recognize God as the Creator in which we “live and move and have our being”, to recognize that He is the Author and Finisher, the One for Whom we were created, should drastically change the way we think about education.

It is not that we throw away the academics, it’s that they become secondary to our pursuit of the Word of God. Yes, I said it. They become our servant, not our slave.  And here’s how it works:  if our children become saturated by the principles of Scripture, taught to “search out wisdom”, learn to love the precepts of God in the deliberate, intense way Scripture commands, then academics will be held and studied in the right light.

Diligence will be the force that bolsters their studies. Thoroughness will be the inspiration that carries them through. Awe and wonder will be the spark that ignites their desire to learn more.  And a sense of responsibility and good stewardship will be the energy that propels them when things are hard.

At best, I would say that we often have our educational paradigm upside down. We do not serve man, but God. Let’s be consistent in all things, including the education of our children, if that is true of us.

 

Think Outside the Classroom

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Are you a homeschooling mother who worries that you aren’t “doing enough”? Are you thinking of homeschooling but feel afraid that you aren’t qualified? If so, read more…

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32 Responses to “Education: Are We Slaves to “the Test”?”

  1. Jill Farris says:

    Kelly,

    I’m sure you WILL get reactions to this post;) but that’s all right! Until each family grapples with these questions about education they will be ensnared by those who call themselves the experts.

    I find it interesting that many of us who have moved away from what the schools do often end up with young adults who are pursued by universities because of their academic excellence! Yes, one of the best kept secrets in higher “academia” is that home schooled children are in demand because these students enter college as self-motivated learners ( although whether or not we want to send our children to universities is another important question to consider).

    The year that we had a baby and moved three times we also were unable to get any “real” academics done. We read aloud for hours each day and we had one computer that the children rarely used. At the end of the year we tested the kids and they scored off the charts in every area…even math! (?)

    When I tell that story most parents act like I am making it up or I didn’t read the tests correctly.

    Not only does the current system and methodology of education not work, it takes away any inquisitiveness and motivation for learning so that children within the system LOSE knowledge!

    Jill Farris
    http://www.generationalwomanhood.wordpress.com
    http://www.jillcampbellfarris.com

  2. These are great thoughts Kelly. I especially love the “next-to-the-last” paragraph. I do think, however, that we have a pattern of “rendering unto Ceasar” when Christ told Peter to pay taxes. Taxes were not instituted by God and neither did God tell the government to be involved in education. But God does tell us to live at peace and “obey those who have the rule over you.”, “to honor the king and all those in authority.” So I do think we should honor God by honoring the authority …even while working within the law to provide more freedom for parents to choose to homeschool and to choose how they implement education. I want to go read your post about Charlotte Mason. I’m leaning toward re-structuring my school days to reflect this “gentle art of learning.”

  3. I love this post and heartily agree. If my children are not doing their work “heartily as unto the Lord”, then they might as well sit still and do nothing. Academics without godliness equals a person who is puffed up with knowledge. Our goal is not to have the smartest children in the world, but to train up a godly seed who will impact their world for Christ.
    Do they need to read and write with excellence? You better believe it! I just refuse to pursue academics at the expense of godliness.

  4. Karyn says:

    Yes, Yes, Yes!! Thanks so much Kelly for the encouragement!

  5. kim m says:

    awesome post …

  6. My husband and I made a deliberate decision not to test our children, and every year that passes we have been increasingly pleased with that decision. Our main reasons were 1) standardized tests don’t measure our priorities 2) we don’t feel the need to compare our children to those educated in government institutions 3) we save the time and expense 4) we avoid the stress of treaching to the test and how to take the test 5) it is not required in our state.

    Thanks for bringing up this thought-provoking topic. I realize I need to write an in-depth explanation to my own readers. ; )

  7. Amelia B. says:

    Kelly- thank you for your constant thoughts on education! I’m a young single woman thinking about how God may lead me to educate my family in the future, if I am so blessed, and I really appreciate your reflections!

    I particularly appreciated the post from long ago comparing the Greek model of education to the Hebrew… that revolutionized my thinking! Thank you for your Biblical perspective!

    Sincerely,
    Amelia

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Our state doesn’t require any testing and we have never done any testing as part of our homeschool, except when our oldest took the SAT. She did fine, got into college, and has done well in her classes. (If she hadn’t desired to go to college, we would have skipped the SAT as well.) I am so glad that we were not forced to do testing, as I don’t see it as a significant measure of anything… except perhaps how well one takes tests and how one was feeling on that particular day.

    I also have been concerned about the rampant fear in the Christian homeschooling community. It shouldn’t be this way. We have no need to fear, but time and again, when I’m around a group of Christian homeschoolers, this is what comes across. Why are we so, so concerned about what others think of us? My short answer is that many homeschoolers have chosen this route not because they wanted specifically to homeschool, but because they didn’t want to put their children in government schools. Without a strong positive basis for homeschooling, it becomes just one more thing to be fearful of.

    • Ginger says:

      What fear are you referring to? Do you mean fear of testing, fear of measuring up, fear of CPS showing up? Just trying to clarify. 🙂

  9. My oldest daughter will be a senior next year, and we have never done any standardized testing. I must admit that every once in a while, the “what ifs” pop into my head and I start to worry that I am not doing enough. Then I am reminded that I am to help mold these children into who the Lord has created them to be, not who the state wants them to be.

    Just this week I was reminded that the Lord will open the doors to the learning our children need if we lean on Him. My 14 year old son had a difficult time learning to read. He still struggles with grammar and spelling. We use a grammar curriculum, but he really just puts along and it hasn’t seemed like he has gotten much out of it (it’s just not “fun” for him). Last week he asked me if he could start a blog. I set one up for him and got him going. He wrote his first post and I was amazed at his writing (of course the grammar and spelling were awful). However, because he wanted his blog to be top notch, he sought my help in correcting his mistakes. He actually listened when I explained the difference between there and their. The light was going off in his mind because he now had a reason to learn.

    All that to say thank for this post and the encouragement that even us homeschool veterans need!

  10. Sarah L. says:

    Kelly,
    Thank You for writing about homeschooling. You are one of the main encouragers I had to help make the decision to homeschool. I am nervous as this will be our first year but I am SO looking forward to a more relaxed structure to my day, and getting to be around my kids all of the time, and to help mold them into who GOD made them to be.
    Thanks again,
    Sarah

  11. Ginger says:

    Ugh! Standardized tests are for public schools to keep getting funding, they have absolutely nothing to do with knowledge. I was a pro at memorizing facts and spitting them back out on a test. But did I learn those facts? No.
    Why in the world would I want to gear my kids’ schooling towards what the govt says is important to learn? On judgment day, I’m not going to stand before the Almighty Government and give an account for what I taught my children. I’m going to stand before a holy God. And He’s only concerned with their hearts. I teach my children to read in order that they be able to read the most important of books, Word of God. I teach them history so they can see the hand of God in all of time and bring glory to His name. I teach them math, so they can wonder at God’s sense of order and organization. I teach them God’s law, so they can look into His perfect law and see that they are sinners in need of a Savior.

  12. lea says:

    dear kelly,

    it makes me so happy to see that there are homeschool
    moms out there passing the baton to their little soldiers.
    we (i always say ‘we’, because my husband’s support and
    encouragement was essential) homeschooled our five
    until 5th grade. my only regret is that we didn’t keep
    them home longer.

    now that they are 19-27, they tease me a LOT, but many
    have said they will do the same thing with their children.

    when we did send them to school, each was a leader in
    his/her class, even though their natures are dissimilar.
    they just had an inner confidence and sense of who
    they belonged to . . . Jesus.

    many blessings on your schooling and the raising of
    your precious ones. some day, you will look back and
    smile. right now you can smile at the future.

    love,
    lea

  13. Ronnie says:

    My neighbors, a Christian family, homeschooled their 6 kids. Standardized testing revealed that the two oldest were below grade level. With pregnancy, laundry, cooking, etc, the mom just couldn’t devote the time necessary to education. Since they tested below grade level, the state required them to send the children to public school. I do think the state has a role to protect kids who aren’t getting an adequate education

    • This comment reeks of socialism…being Canadian, I know thing or two about that. The ‘state’ or government has no role in the family – for any reason. Perhaps this mom you mention could have used more help during a busy time in her life (pregnancy and young children), but that is where churches and fellow Christians should be stepping up to the plate.

      Should parents be failing in any area of parenting, they hold the responsibility to improve on an individual basis or face the consequences of their actions (short term and long term). This is not a place for the government to set laws that affect/interfere all families when only a minority is missing the mark.

      I could write another dozen paragraphs on the damage that socialism causes…but I pretty sure Kelly does a good job answering these statements without my taking over her blog!

      • Word Warrior says:

        Thank you, Kim…I somehow missed Ronnie’s comment but you answered perfectly. I’ve heard SO many give this sentiment…”The state must make sure the family…” Since you brought it up ;-), I would actually LOVE to publish a guest post from you on the ills of Socialism. It means something totally different coming from someone who is living it (well, we all are really, but you know what I mean). If you’re game, email me!

        • Stephanie says:

          So, if your child scores below what the government thinks is on target they have to go back to public school. Hmm, does that mean if the public school children are scoring below grade level they should be sent home for their education?

      • Lori says:

        Kim from Canada! Great to see you here again! I second the request for a guest post! 🙂

    • Word Warrior says:

      Ronnie,

      Let’s unpack your presumptions…

      “With pregnancy, laundry, cooking, etc, the mom just couldn’t devote the time necessary to education.”

      Really? So you were present in this home and you determined that the mom didn’t have enough time? Or are you assuming, since she has 6 children, she can’t *possibly* educate them too?

      One thing we hardly consider since we’re conditioned to think that children are “standard”, education is in the shape of a box, and our job is to produce “assembly line products” is that children ARE very different, learn at very different paces and levels. It infuriates me to see someone think that every child should be learning X by the same age. I’ve had early readers and late readers. All of whom read well at some point. But if my 8 year-old who was a late reader was in public school, he would have been labeled, shoved in a “special” classroom and stigmatized for life. He’s a great reader now, very smart and has no learning issues. We aren’t raising cookie-cutter children and that is one of the biggest problems the system must reckon with.

      You also submit the government has a “role in protecting” children as it relates to education. This is unconstitutional. If the government is allowed to measure “abuse” with a standardized test (which is essentially what you are saying), there is no end to the “protection” and therefore authority given to the government that displaces parental rights. Where does it end? When we submit to such thinking, we are setting ourselves up for tyranny.

      • Ronnie says:

        Actually, I was just telling you what the mother told me. She didn’t have time to educate her kids properly.

        I think homeschooling is wonderful, and in an ideal world, everyone would do so. But there are some who can’t, or don’t, or choose not to. I am wondering what we do about those?

        Even you, Kelly, have said that your kids get very little advanced science or math. And that they educate themselves in the older grades by reading a lot What about a child who wants or needs more? I don’t know any mom of many who addresses this problemw well. I’m being honest here–I believe addressing the problem is the first step to solving it.

        I also believe that those who are unhappy with the USA should leave. Instead of just complaining how they don’t like things. Personally, I love the US! Scripture does tell us to obey our authorities, including government. No offense, but often your posts here do not refect that obedience.

        I mean this truly in the sense of addressing this problem in a Christian community.

        • Lori says:

          “I also believe that those who are unhappy with the USA should leave. Instead of just complaining how they don’t like things.” Wait – so you prefer exile to exercising freedom of speech, even if it’s just freedom of speech?

          When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. -Thomas Jefferson
          The first step in a resistance is publication of a problem.

          “Scripture does tell us to obey our authorities, including government.”
          Sometimes. Not always. Besides, we live in a republic, so we can change the laws of the governing authorities. So, complaining can lead to the change of unjust laws, and often does. And it can certainly lead to worse law proposals not being passed into law.

          “I mean this truly in the sense of addressing this problem in a Christian community.”
          That’s why we address problems also, about public school, about gov’t overstepping its boundaries, etc. To address problems. Some people do not feel empowered or knowledgeable enough to do anything – yet. But they will. In the meantime I’m glad that they are willing to look headlong at problems and not just stick their heads in the sand.

        • Word Warrior says:

          Ronnie,

          I think your questions are sincere, and I am glad you are asking. But there are still many misconceptions, common, but misconceptions no less, in your thinking.

          Regarding the ability to teach higher subjects…this is easy for any homeschool parent once you understand that there are a myriad of ways to obtain knowledge. Any difficult course or advanced subject can be taught through tutors, video correspondence, co op classes or self-study. Actually, homeschooling afford much greater flexibility and opportunities for those wanting “something more”. The options are almost endless for homeschooling moms; the crux of this discussion, though, is not *how* to teach a child, it’s that the parents should be able to define and teach their children according to what they deem necessary, not the state. When education was left to the parents the literacy rate was at its highest, children were, in general, far more intelligent and certainly more self-sufficient. What is good for one child may be completely different from what another child needs. The idea that we need the government to monitor everything we do so that “no child is left behind” is unbiblical and unconstitutional. Because in order to do that, we have to surrender the definitions of “need” to the state. We are only to render unto Ceasear what is his; our children are not. Yes, some parents will do a bad job. That’s just part of life. We cannot, and should not, regulate every area of living. Such attempts have in the past, and will again, only lead to tyranny. A deeper study into the dominion mandate as it relates to government and our biblical obligation would help you understand where I’m coming from.

  14. Natasha says:

    I think we should be going above and beyond the public school standard tests. Public schools have really low academic standards. Children are capable of so much more. Good Post.

  15. Ronnie says:

    “Yes, some parents will do a bad job. That’s just part of life.”

    I’m afraid, Kelly, that that’s a very unChristlike attitude.

    A child gets sick and her parents can’t afford care. Should we help, or is it “just part of life”?

    A tornado blows away your home. Is it “just part of life”? If so, perhaps you should return the tens of thousands of dollars you have received.

    We are commanded by Scripture to help one another and have a servant’s heart. I care about the children who do not receive a good education, even if others are determined to let them lose out so they can pretend to be autonomous.

    Should a child receive no education just because you don’t want yours to take a standardized test?

    I am not afraid of the government–they can test my kids all they want, if it will protect other children.

    By the way, the founding fathers had no concept of socialism, since it did not exist at the time. So it cannot be unconstitutional.

    • Lori says:

      Hello Ronnie,
      Your response give us a good example of a common logical fallacy, the false dichotomy. It is furthermore a common false dichotomy when this subject comes up, that of gov’t regulated education vs. no education. “Should a child receive no education just because you don’t want yours to take a standardized test?” According to you, your friend’s children didn’ have “no education,” they just tested below grade level (which is also very common in public schooled children in the US).

      “I care about the children who do not receive a good education”
      So does Kelly! That’s why she writes so much on homeschooling, because she cares. Their mothers need encouragement. The homeschool communities need encouragement. We share ideas to improve education. We share resources. We share.

      “By the way, the founding fathers had no concept of socialism, since it did not exist at the time. So it cannot be unconstitutional.”
      Yes, it can. “Unconstitutional” just means outside the parameters of the constitutionaly enumerated powers. That’s it.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Ronnie,

      I think this conversation has become futile because either you truly aren’t *hearing* me, or you’re part of that group that enjoys distorting my intentions to make me look evil.

      You say, “I’m afraid, Kelly, that that’s a very unChristlike attitude.” This is silly. I’m not talking about parents who want to do a good job and can’t (sickness, tornadoes, etc.)…I’m simply saying that the government’s tendency is to “rescue” children from their parents if they deem them to be doing a bad job. My statement presupposes the socialists response: “If you leave education up to the parents, what about the ones who do a bad job?”

      Same thing with every area. There just WILL be parents/people/children who aren’t as motivated as others. We can’t employ a faulty solution trying to be a safety net for every ill caused by irresponsible citizens.

      So, respond to what I’m really saying instead of distorting it, or I’ll delete future comments.

    • Word Warrior says:

      “Ronnie”,

      This is the comment that tells me you’re not interested in hearing me but distorting me.

      “If so, perhaps you should return the tens of thousands of dollars you have received”

      The only ones who have had a problem with our receiving help in our crisis is the hate group. And since your IP address locates you in AZ, very close to a commenter formerly harassing me known as “Janine” or “J”, I’m assuming you are that commenter (and part of the hate group who likes to disguise her hatred of Christians by throwing in remarks like “that isn’t very Christian of you” in odd places) and therefore will not discuss this with you any further.

  16. Katy says:

    I am a bit late in the game. But my thoughts on testing is, do what you want. However, standardized tests are there to provide tax funded schools with a guage to see if they are doing a good enough job to get more money. I don’t need them in my home to know if I am doing a good job. I can immediately determine if my children have mastered a subject. If not, I help them then and there. If so, we move on to other subjects.

    And to take a child away from parents because they are below grade level cracks me up for many reasons. The biggest reason is I wonder how many parents now have kids at home that they need to home educate because these same busy bodies went into the public schools and pull kids out that were below grade level. In my old public school district, a lot of parents would have been responsible for their kids if that was the case. Our “award winning” and “top” school district was pitiful in actually teaching children basic knowledge (though they had a great football team and sports program – eyeroll inserted here).

  17. Kim says:

    We have oversight of a state testing program for homeschoolers. Would you allow us to post your article on our site? We would be glad to give you credit and include your blog address. Feel free to email me directly (the email that was required). I don’t have a way to email you with more specifics. Thanks!

  18. Hey! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My blog discusses a lot of the same subjects as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you’re interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Terrific blog by the way!

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