About Tests, part II

(Continued from last post.)

Little Johnny has goals and dreams and ambitions of his own.  Those personal ambitions may or may not necessitate an understanding of the dates in which Gettysburg happened and Lincoln was shot.  Such dates may be important to Johnny or they may not, depending on why he’s studying this moment of history.  If he’s studying because he’s required to, and he has no real interest because he dreams of being a dancer or a French chef or a baseball player – well, the dates and his recall of them will never impact his life.  We’re wasting both his time and ours testing him for information that has no impact on his life.

So I would propose that testing in its most ideal form would revolve around an understanding of the actual interests of the student.

I realize that remaking testing is a revolutionary idea, and that it is an idea fraught with difficulties.  Some will argue that this approach to testing militates against a “liberal education”, one covering many subjects.  Should Little Johnny only study what he wishes, what interests him?   They will say that this will limit Little Johnny to a serious study of only those subjects that he is interested in.  To which I say (between contemptuous snorts) “Exactly”.

It’s Little Johnny’s life and it’s his education.  It’s not mine.  It’s not his parent’s, his teachers, his administrators, the State’s education, or anyone else’s education.  It’s the student’s education.

As parents or teachers, we may not like that too much.  We may disagree with what Little Johnny chooses to find important and invest himself into.

So what?  It’s not our lives that Little Johnny is preparing to live, it’s his life.

The student and only the student has the right to determine importances for himself or herself.

In assigning and enforcing importances for him, we presume.  We presume that we know best what Little Johnny should care about.  We presume to know what his future life will be like.  We presume far too much.  Why, Little Johnny himself is still discovering what is important to him, and he will be doing so for a long time to come!

The real and actual test of anything we learn is CAN IT BE USED TO MAKE LIFE BETTER.

That’s what counts in education, and it’s really all that counts.  CAN WHAT WAS LEARNED BE USED TO MAKE LIFE BETTER?

Now, “better” can be defined in many ways.  “Better” can be that the student knows enough about enough subjects that they can confront the world from a position of understanding and with the ability to act, to be “at cause” as it were.  In this regard “better” becomes a guide that could help us to determine what Johnny’s education might include, and what it may safely dispense with.  To the end, again, it will be Little Johnny and only he who will decide what “better” is for him and his life, and we forget this truth at Little Johnny’s peril.

A real and useful test, then, would be structured around Little Johnny’s interests.  It would check to see if he understood the materials, and can use them in some way that places him in charge of his life or helps him to improve his life.

Such a test would not revolve generally around names and dates, but rather around useful ideas and concepts, and even skills which should be able to be exhibited by Little Johnny in areas of study where skills are the point.
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As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

2 comments for “About Tests, part II

  1. Charisse
    January 15, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    What if little Johnny becomes a teen and still doesn’t have his interests pinned down outside of video games? This seems to be happening much more frequently in today’s society.

    • January 16, 2013 at 7:25 am

      Hi Charisse,

      Well, as I’ve stated in many articles, I HATE video games, I believe they are built to be addictive to children, and I believe that parents should never allow their kids to start with them. That said, there have always been kids, young adults, even adults who have not decided what they want to be “when they grow up.” Lots of people go to college with the idea that they will “discover themselves” there. And that’s pretty silly, isn’t it? Because it’s all about making decisions and follow through. And that can be done at any age, by anyone with a bit of courage.

      But there is exposure as a factor. The more subjects and ideas a child is exposed to, the more things he/she tries out, the more likely it is that they may discover subjects and things to do that they love. That’s in the parent’s side of the court, to make available experience and studies that will expose a child broadly to the world and what is available in it. And a parent who elects to abdicate that responsibility to schools, to TV…to video games…is really not in a position to complain when Little Johnny never becomes interested in much of anything. After all, what interest has that parent shown in their child? Parents set the example.

      Thanks for writing!

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