“But How Do You KNOW???”

I get one particular question a lot, when I open my big mouth to gleefully announce that not only do we homeschool, we don’t even use a curriculum or do state testing!  The one question that follows from people is:  “But how do you know they’re learning anything?”

It wasn’t too long ago that I wondered the same thing…if I take my kids out of public school, then how can I make sure they are learning what they need to know?  If I can’t compare them with what other kids are doing at their age, in their grade, then how do I know they are learning up to par with everyone else?!  It caused no fair amount of stress and anxiety in my psyche, I can tell you. 

But here’s what The Naturalist taught me:  Kids learn best at their own speed and in their own time.  And comparing their progress against one another with standardized tests negates any unique strengths and pigeonholes kids into ‘smart’, ‘average’, or ‘dumb’.  My daughter tested average/below average on state tests–and I believed it for a while.  The teachers believed it.  They didn’t expect any more from her because of it, and denied her any services for her dyslexia/LD because she was performing according to the ‘norm’.  Imagine my surprise that in the battery of tests the neuropsychologist did, Brooke showed as very gifted.  When I brought the results to the school, they told me I had an average child who performed average on tests. End of story.  She didn’t spell well, but that was to be expected from an average kid.  They never once considered her aptitude–state testing is all about comparing and ranking.  Nevermind she can name dozens of birds native to Colorado and whistle their calls.  That’s not on any test.  Nevermind that she couldn’t spell or do math to save her life and broke down into anxiety filled fits when she had to do either…she did well enough on the tests to be within average range for a 3rd grader.  Nevermind that she spends hours pouring over a Nature Encyclopedia, even though the dyslexia made it difficult to make sense of the words.  Nevermind that her visual perception/short term memory were in the 2%.  None of this made any difference because to the school district, she was an ‘average kid’ with ‘average scores’ (the quotes are theirs).    So, standardized tests lost their cache with me. 

Here’s how I ‘know’ that my kids are learning, and what they know:  I listen to them.  When the older two were cleaning the kitchen after dinner, and The Naturalist accused The Golfer of being “Pope Julius” and then fumed that now she “knows how Michelangelo felt while painting the Sistine Chapel” because he kept pointing out all the dirty areas to clean…I learned what she knew. 

When The Golfer wanted Blackberry Izze, and I only had Pomegranite left so gave it to him hoping he would go by color and not by the label, and he totally called me out and said, “Hey, this says Pomegranite!” then I learned what he knew. 

When The Naturalist announced to me that “people didn’t have to be married to have babies”–which is how we had previously described procreation–“in fact, mom, they don’t even have to LIKE each other to get pregnant!”…well, I learned a lot then, and even more about her new friend’s family. 

When I offer to share 1/4 of a piece of cake, and keep 3/4 for myself, I learn just how well they know fractions by their reaction.  When I give them back $1 in change when they should really get $5.75, I learn a lot about their money skills if they notice or not. 

Kids are an open book–it’s not hard to figure out what they know or don’t know by what they talk about and notice.   It’s easy to become focused on test results instead of the child…all I’ve done by homeschooling is take out the public school middle man–who was w-r-o-n-g wrong about my daughter anyways–and go directly to the source. 

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One Response

  1. […] in math and reading. They brushed aside my concerns, stating that her performance was ‘within a normal range‘ but what that there was something else they were concerned about. VERY concerned about. So, […]

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