About Me

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Michigan, United States
a registered yoga teacher, and a Thai/Yoga Bodywork practitioner.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Will this be on a test?

I don't test the kids. I might ask a question to see what they picked up after a reading or a video, but there's nothing graded beyond marking a math problem so we can go back and redo it.

Often, something we are studying is referenced--TV shows, articles, etcetera-- and I point it out. For instance, the publisher of the book cited below is "Perseus Publishing" and they know the story of Perseus. At least, they knew it a few weeks ago.

So in the realm of what educators consider testing, I don't test them. The only familial resistance to homeschooling has been the question: how do you know if they've learned anything if you don't test them?

I don't feel completely at ease with having no paper-based proof of  progress. I wonder how they line up with their former classmates. We did math all last summer so as not to "fall behind." Getting behind in school, by unschooling standards, is not a race to run anyway. According to John Holt,

"School is a place where children learn to be stupid....it [is] fear, boredom, and the confusion of having constantly to manipulate meaningless words and symbols." It is a place where "others [have] taken control of their minds...being trained like circus animals to do tricks on demand" (164-165).
 It's a remnant of school conditioning to compare how well my little bears dance in comparison to other circus bears. Holt goes on to distinguish between trained tricks and genuine resourcefulness:
"The elephant in the jungle is smarter than the elephant waltzing in the circus. The sea lion in the sea is smarter than the sea lion playing 'My Country Tis of Thee' on some instrument. The rat eating garbage in the slums is smarter than the rat running mazes in the psychology lab. The crawling baby, touching, handling, tasting everything it can reach, is smarter than the baby learning, because it pleases his mother, to touch his nose when she shows him a card with NOSE written on it" (165).

My response to the testing question and to some of my feelings of  inadequacy is: what do you remember from your school tests?

I only remember those parts that interested me acutely or that I sought out myself. I remember what a remora is due to a shark phase.


I know the basic outline of the Lincoln County War from a Billy the Kid phase.


I know the symptoms, muscles involved, and stretches to do for  IT band syndrome. A couple people have asked about it recently--and given my interest in yoga and therapeutic movement--I looked it up.


Things I knew are fading from disuse. I may forget about the IT band symptoms in another year, or if  I ever switch career fields. I may learn it cold for years to come because it's something a lot of people at the gym complain about. It may even be the thing making my knee feel touchy.

A test is a tool, but it's a lousy one. There's no longevity in a test. Do you care about it? Can you apply it in a useful way? Then it tends to stick.

"Intelligence...is not the measure of how much we know how to do, but of how we behave when we don't know what to do. It has to do with our ability to think up important questions and then to find ways to get useful answers. This ability is not a trick that can be taught, nor does it need to be. We are born with it, and if our other...needs are fairly well satisfied, and we have reasonable access to the world around us, we will put it to work on that world" (166).

Holt, John, & Pat Farenga. Teach Your Own, The John Holt Book of Home Schooling. Cambridge: Perseus     Publishing, 2003. Print.


  1. I think we are moving more toward unschooling as well. One eye-opening thing for us happened last week while helping our daughter with a logic problem. Neither my hubby nor I, who both excelled at math in school, could come up with a fairly basic algebra equation to solve the problem. We don't use use much past basic math in our chosen life paths, so we've forgotten it. How much time was spent memorizing equations and excelling at something we ended up not retaining?

    I'm loving the Holt book currently.

  2. I find the "unschooling" as portrayed in articles as not fitting Holt's description. His definition of "unschooling" is more about finding alternative ways to teach, not abandoning them.

    Today, I offered the kids the option to invent a hero Rather than force them to write out a description, I said, "You can write it, you can comic book it, you can make a video about it." They abandoned whatever other thing was occupying their attention and DOVE into chatter about who/what/how they would do their heroes.

  3. I have found us moving toward unschooling too. We seem to vacillate between lessons and unschooling. I guess we will simply have the best of both worlds!