I have been reading Don Quixote and one thing is for sure: this book is about illusion vs. reality, which is a human dilemma through and through. At first, I saw myself in Don Quixote. Now, I see other people in him. Events in different people’s lives can be a certain way in their minds, when the reality is completely different.
What does all this have to do with homeschooling?
For one, it’s a good argument for annual testing outside the home. We have chosen to test our children every year starting in second grade, using a national standardized test (Terra Nova 3, which used to be called California Achievement Test). I may think my children are doing really well while they may not. Illusion vs. reality.
They might struggle with particular aspects of Language Arts, for instance, and excel in Science. Or the other way around. Since we don’t quiz them incessantly at home, I don’t know how much they remember from everything we do.
On the other hand, we may think our children are immature socially. At home they let their hair down and fight constantly with each other, obey reluctantly if at all, and show bad table manners, despite all our lectures. And then, one day, we take them to the restaurant or to a family reunion and they shake hands, look people in the eyes, cooperate with each other and use their knives and forks impeccably. Our perception of reality was different before this happened. Now we know better.
Back to testing. Tests are necessary to give us an idea of what reality is, i.e. the reality in our children’s mind. And that is why I choose to test the kids annually. We take them to our umbrella school, Berean Christian School in Knoxville. They spend three hours (with a break) the first day and two hours the following day.
I don’t stress over it. I don’t get them anxious about it. Since we don’t test them at home a whole lot, they actually enjoy the idea of getting to show what they know. I tell them, “Show what you know! Then we can go for icecream.”
The results help me plan for the rest of the school year. If I see gaps in their bank of knowledge, we buy (or borrow) more books about that. If I see they hit the highest mark possible in one subject, I don’t schedule it for every day anymore. You get the idea.
Perception vs. reality is a worthy topic of meditation every day of our lives. And it applies to homeschooling, too.