Discovery, Discipline, and Discussion

I will take a summer’s break from the Weekly Homeschool Wrap-up meme as we abruptly ended our homeschool year on last week.    I use the word ‘abruptly’ because my non-spontaneous nature had planned last week to test, with this week as our last school week.   When the other parent in charge of testing materials didn’t receive her materials on time, we had to quickly adjust ourselves to have a “normal” school week on last week and to test on this week.   I feel bad for the kids as we usually try to do something, even if it’s just lunch out, for them when the school year ends.    Because we have to wake up two hours earlier than they’re accustomed to, this week has been in some ways grueling for them—and for me.    Friday is our areas minority homeschooler year-end picnic, and we’re having the in-laws over on Saturday for an early Memorial Day celebration, so it will be Sunday before we spend time with just the five of us.   I’ll have to think of something special just to say, “nice work, guys.”

My thoughts haven’t changed regarding standardized testing from this post of over two years ago.    I still see semi-anxious students and seriously anxious parents.   Yet, my thoughts as I prayed over the community of students and parents gathered this morning were that we spend all year long for excellence—in their spirit, in their character, in their academics, and otherwise.    The tests will say something about them.   Yet, here’s what God says about them:

They are the head and not the tail.   They are above and never beneath.   They are lenders and not borrowers.   They are blessed in their going in and blessed in their coming out.    (Deuteronomy 28: 6, 12-13)

They will do greater works than Jesus Christ.   (John 14:12)

God’s work in them is marvelous.  (Psalm 139: 14)

Furthermore, eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man all the things that God has prepared for them because they love Him.   (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Our task is to trust.    God has already walked their steps, and He knows them down to the hairs on their heads.   We simply have to help them to position themselves for usefulness.

At any rate, I did have an interesting conversation with a couple of parents about the nature of the tests.   It occurs to me that these tests are a source of angst and frustration in many communities.   Some think that they are culturally biased.   You know what?   I agree with them.   But it’s not a racial/ ethnic bias.   There are a number of biases, expressed in the following examples:

1)    A grammar test in which the student must read the following and then determine the incorrect portion:

I wanted to read a book

tonight, but these here stars

are simply beautiful.

Most of us could immediately pick up that ‘these here stars’ is the line with the incorrect grammar, but where I come from, I’ve heard many say this and more as if it was standard English.

2)    A science question asking a student which temperature (with a choice of three numbers) indicated that a child has a fever.

For a child like my small one, who has never been sick enough to run a serious temperature, praise God, she struggled with the right answer.

3)    Questions that ask a student to distinguish a certain leaf, or the root of a plant (like a carrot) versus the plant itself, or how to identify an insect versus a spider.

You must spend time with nature to learn some things in a way that promotes retention.

What is this bias, then?    It’s a bias against children who aren’t exposed to rich language and eloquent speech.    It’s a bias against children who don’t get out much, and so may not understand a map or gather a sense of direction from just hanging around the neighborhood.    It’s a bias against children who’ve never felt dirt in their hands, or who’ve not allowed a ladybug or “roly poly” to crawl over their fingers.      It’s a bias against a child who’s never looked up at night and wondered about heavenly bodies and the miracle of the sun and the alignment of the planets.

Amidst all the odds stacked against you (or maybe a lack thereof if you’re fortunate), there are constants that ensure success; how you accomplish them is a matter of personal choice and learning preferences.    However, nothing replaces discovery, which is the essence of science.   Nothing replaces discipline, though a child may hate the logic and analytical skills taught via math drills.  Finally, nothing replaces discussion, which allows us to utilize language.    And the beauty of language is that we can use it to tell our children about a great God who lovingly crafted a world that’s worth their curiosity.    The test then becomes just another opportunity to capture a particular level of curiosity.   God bless you.

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6 thoughts on “Discovery, Discipline, and Discussion

  1. I agree with your opinion of testing! As far as that poem goes, I liked the sound of it the way it was written-I find poetry to be more art form, than models of good grammar & punctuation. 🙂 We took our testing last week using the PASS test. Some of it didn’t make sense, but it was ok for the most part. Holly

  2. Wonderful blessings there within your post!
    We too are testing, but later this summer. I had tested my oldest two years ago and felt fine about. Oddly, I’m feeling a bit uneasy about testing this time around. I think it’s because the scores will be a direct reflection on my teaching or lack thereof these past couple of years. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised :-).
    You had spoke of a year-end homeschool minority picnic and it made me think of a black friend of mine that homeschools (four girls). She’s one of those kinds of friends that you automatically see one another, hurry over, hug, and before you know it, you’re giggling over something funny or engrossed in a deeply philosophical issue. I love her! She has voiced her frustrations with there not being other black homeschoolers in our area. I may direct her here. I think she would find encouragement.
    I pray the rest of testing goes smoothly and have a wonderful break from the “structured schooling :-)!” After all they’re always learning, LOL.
    Blessings, Julie

  3. I agree about the testing. We should be getting our results soon.
    The thing is that the schools try so hard to “teach to the test,” but it is living life and a parent providing many opportunities for a child and encouraging an attitude of exploration that truly gives the child an education.

    1. Tracy wrote:
      The thing is that the schools try so hard to “teach to the test,”

      Oh, my friend, you’ve said a mouthful there. I hear so many teachers complain about this as I’m sitting watching the kids dance. They will talk about all of the rich learning opportunities that they have in store for the kids, and how it is either mandated informally, if not formally, that the students be taught the test. Of course, insult to injury is that here in our area, those tests are conducted in September and then in May. Everything hinges upon them–teacher’s salaries and bonuses, school enhancements and supplies, etc. Like so many institutionalized processes, the intent is good, but it punishes those who are most in need. Our kids don’t always realize how very blessed they are, huh?

  4. Belinda, I am still reading your blog, though I have to confess I do skim at times. *cringe* Sorry I have not been around to comment in a while. I saw you say somewhere that you are still trying to figure out the friends posts thing here at the new HSB, and I was wondering if you noticed the drop-down menu on your activities page, that allows you to see only friends’ recent posts. ??

    We are done with the school year, declared done by ME, though we are not through all of our material. Kudos to you for your persistence and diligence. It has been a draggy year here, and now we are in the stage of homeschooling that I languish in every year, and that is deciding what to do for the next year. What? Did you say, Pray? Yeah, I am. Commit it to the Lord? Yeah, I’m doing that, too, but I still have to DO something, lol. Ick. I don’t want to choose curriculum for next year. … But take away that liberty and I’ll fight for it, lol. Okay, Working on an attitude adjustment here…

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