We completed our state-mandated testing a couple of weeks ago. North Carolina is a very easy state in which to homeschool. Basically, you need to keep attendance records and administer a standardized test every year (all rules and regs for NC can be found here). The results are not reported to any state or local office, and merely need to be kept on file at home.
Vincent loves taking the test and he tests very well. That choleric fire comes out and he rises to the challenge. Me? I will admit to a twinge of nervousness. After opening the envelope and thumbing through the test booklet, the chatter in my head goes something like this: “Oh, we haven’t done that.” “We’re not doing that until next year.” “That’s a fourth grade concept?” I let myself have about five minutes of this useless, ridiculous, unfounded anxiety. The scores don’t even go anywhere!
I will save my verbose rant about “teaching to the test”, and merely say I think when we reduce education to a correct answer on a generic test, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Education is bigger than punctuation, isolated vocabulary, and poorly written word problems. Are the mechanics of grammar, the love of words and the concepts of mathematics important? Absolutely. However the measurement of them in isolation is flawed at best. At least this is what I tell myself after my five-minute panic.
We have made the choice to homeschool our children. Our decision is not reactionary in any way. It is not a rejection of something, but rather an embrace of something else. Even though the number of families choosing to homeschool is growing, we are clearly in the minority of those with school-aged children. As Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers, we are a minority within a minority. This is where we have chosen to be, and I would not change our decision for anything.
On our second and final day of testing, Jude chose a book of poetry for me to read during storytime, which included the following stanza from “Rose Pogonias” by Robert Frost:
We raised a simple prayer
Before we left the spot,
That in the general mowing
That place might be forgot;
Or if not all so favored,
Obtain such grace of hours,
That none should mow the grass there
While so confused with flowers.
After storytime, both boys went out to play. Vincent was trying to catch butterflies in a field of clover. Not an hour later, my neighbor came to mow that field. We waved to him and watched him from the back porch. The English major in me couldn’t resist getting the book and reading that stanza again. No explications or explanations. Just the words. The perfect words to name that sweet sadness. Natasha Trethewey, our new poet laureate here in the US, says that poetry finds a way to “speak the unspeakable.” I couldn’t agree more.
On our final day of testing, I was taught a lesson that I seem to have to learn and relearn – again and again. What we do and how we spend our days matters. This is the education we have chosen and that we want for our boys: something that fosters thought, encourages connection and speaks truth. Ultimately what we teach and what we learn should reflect, engender and celebrate all that is. On that day, education looked like a tractor in a field. It smelled like freshly cut clover. It sounded like poetry written before I was born. Above all, it felt like home.