I sealed the plain brown envelope with some hesitancy today. That envelope held some pretty important papers…standardized tests for my oldest boys. Now, I should explain that we are not required by the state of Arkansas to do standardized testing. On the contrary, they wisely realized that by requiring the testing of homeschoolers, they were wasting taxpayer money on something that didn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of state education. However, I’ve always said that I would test my kids regularly just for a few reasons: A) To make sure that I know where they are in respect to other kids, B) To make sure that they have exposure to test-taking situations, and C) In the event that we do put them back in school, it will be added documentation for where they should be placed.
But, I made that decision five years ago, when we pulled our oldest child out of public school. A lot has changed since then. My philosophy of education is vastly different than it was. I don’t want a standardized test to define my children’s knowledge or worse, to label them one way or another (genius, average joe, or dumb as a rock). After all, my children are anything but “standard”. They are each so unique and different…how could any of them be tested up against the other?
So I didn’t test them last year. It was James’s first year of homeschooling, and I wanted to give him a year of rest, and Isaac had tested the year before so it wasn’t going to hurt anything for him to skip a year. Then this year rolled around, and I really wanted to see where they stood academically. So we decided to go for it and test them, but as I sealed that envelope today and sent it off in the mail, I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach again. It’s that inner dialogue that we all fight in one way or another that says, “What if this just proves that everything you are doing has been worthless?”
Of course, I know that voice….and it’s not the voice of my Father. So I reminded myself that God leads our every step, and then I realized all the things that these pieces of paper would NOT tell me. Here’s my list:
- That paper will NOT tell me how far we’ve come with James. .. All the hard days, hard discussions, and tears that have paved the way for healing…there’s no test that can tell me the result of that.
- It does NOT account for all the times that we stopped instruction to do some serious heart work this year.
- It won’t tell me that James is testing WITHOUT medication for the first time.
- It won’t tell me that Isaac, who was a struggling math student until last year, did every problem in his head (and nailed it!).
- That paper will NOT provide a complete synopsis of the skills, talents and gifts that God has given each of my children.
- That paper will NOT tell me the hours that we’ve spent together reading and discussing great literature together as a family.
- It will NOT tell me everything that my kids know about our three-year study of American History from the days of the Native Americans to the present.
- That paper will NOT tell me the character of my children.
- That paper will NOT tell me the spiritual condition of my children’s hearts.
- That paper will NOT tell me their intelligence level.
- That paper will NOT tell me their worth.
- That paper will NOT tell me MY worth as their Mom or their Teacher.
Thankfully, after reciting these things to myself, I was able to drop it in the mail knowing that we’ve had a great year. Not only have we made big strides in academics, more importantly, we’ve made big strides in life.
So mamas and daddies of both homeschooled and public schooled kiddos, here are my words of wisdom when it comes to standardized testing…Everything has a place, but keep it there, in its place. Don’t allow it to seep out into other areas where it has no business. A piece of paper, whether it’s a standardized test or a BMI or anything else, at the end of the day, is just a piece of paper. It tells you a few things, but stops short of the big picture.
If you are seeking God’s will for your family and diligently following it to the best of your ability, you have nothing to worry about….God will fill in the gaps, so rest easy.