Trust The Children

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Problem With Assessment

One problem many home schoolers find themselves needing to address is how to assess the progress of their children. Cyndy has also given this a lot of thought. It seems like grades are limited in their ability to inform parents about the potential of a child, because they are often only a snapshot of what has been and not what can be.

While reading an article in my studies, I ran across this quote:

The state of development is never defined alone by what has matured. If the gardener decides only to evaluate the matured or harvested fruits of the apple tree, he cannot determine the state of his orchard. The maturing trees must also be taken into consideration. Correspondingly, the psychologist must not limit his analysis to functions that have matured; he must consider those that are in the process of maturation…the zone of proximal development.


I don't mean to share this to confuse anyone, or even mislead someone into thinking I understand all of what this quote is about. I am still trying to understand. But what I get from this is the importance of considering the orchard and the tree, not just for what they produced this last harvest, but also how the trees are maturing, growing and thriving generally as well.

Do we see or sense in our children the development of the kinds of traits and capacities that we had hoped for? This is of course easier to do, if we decide for ourselves up front, what specifically we hope for in our children. We decided that we wanted our children to be leaders, to be independent learners, and to have a well developed curiosity that only grew stronger over the years. You might decide for other things. There are no right items for this list. Your list might be different than ours and rightly so.

What is important is that 1) we choose a method of instruction that gets the job done we have envisioned on our list, and 2) that we assess the progress of our children against the standards WE have set.

Warning: We have observed over the years, that it is often the case that even well intentioned standard setting for our children will get off track listening to others and responding to their questions or judgments of how they view our children and their growth." Why isn't your child reading at age 4, or even age 8?" for instance. That is so much not anyone's business but your own. These questions are so often really saying is, "I am not comfortable with your approach. I want you to be like me and conform to my standards."

Now that Cyndy and I have married children who are also home schooling, and we see how each of the 11 have developed as leaders, as independent learners and still full of light and curiosity, we have no need to give such judgments the time of day. Further, I have to say, that we didn't pay any attention to them back in the early days either. We trusted in what we were reading and learning about home schooling, because we WERE and ARE students of the art, and we trusted more and more in the goodness and developing potential of each of our children. If others want what a non-home schooling approach has to offer, without questioning it or objectively evaluating the pros and cons of the method, have at it.

With each child we saw halting steps and bumps in the road of their development, but we continued to trust that they would get over such things, and they always did. We stuck to our guns, in both method and standards, and we can tell you, it worked. And it can work for you as well.

Plant well. Nourish well. Look at the tree, look at the general health of the orchard, and sleep deeply.


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