What constitutes a good education? The answer to this question has evolved and grown in my mind and I have no doubt it will continue to do so. There is no choice, because education is alive – and life is always trying to improve itself.
Education is learning, but it does not equal learning by itself , at least in my book. The key ingredient, as many fantastic cooks with a penchant for creating delectable dishes will vouch for, is love. If that love and thirst for learning, that openness and wonder we are all born with, is not dulled and diminished, our education is successful.
What is the one thing that is sure to kill this zest?
The clue is in my earlier posts. Yes, it is that T word.
Testing, people, is the beginning of the end. Adults view test scores as a mark of intelligence. And they convince children that their lives and futures depend on these scores. It is so farcical that I have to laugh.
Generation upon generation, we buy into this measure of intelligence. And with each successive generation, we pile more and more pressure on the students. No wonder so many people dread learning and look at it as a burden, as the opposite of play and fun. Why do we keep giving tests a God-like status? Do we really think there is no choice? Do we really believe the system is right?
So, how and why did I choose to stop buying into this belief and process?
My history is that of a star performer in tests right through school and college. And foolishly, I considered myself to be intelligent. What a shock awaited me outside the gates of my fool’s paradise. I knew nothing of the real world and made many an “un”intelligent choice as I muddled my way through jobs and trying to find that thing I could feel passionate about. I did okay, but lived way below my potential for many many years. A part of me felt ashamed, felt that I had somehow let myself down. And still, the scales stayed on my eyes, hiding the truth from me.
Time passed. I gave birth to my first child. Life changed. I can see every parent on the planet, and possibly aliens too, nodding their heads.
A combination of observation, chats with my husband, research and chance bubbled together in a mixture that resulted in a parallel way of life in an unparalleled Universe.
We discovered the possibility of home education.
I watched the joy in my child’s eyes, the sparkle and laughter as she figured out something new. I realised then what it means to love to learn. And little children are nothing if not pratical, hands-on learners. We pretty much knew which path we were going to travel along by the time our second child came along.
I read something in Glenn Doman’s books that has stuck with me – share knowledge with your children as a gift. Testing is like asking them to return that gift. And finally, the penny dropped.
I watch my children learn all the time, from every situation, from their play, from people around them – life skills, practical skills. They don’t have separate compartments for learning and play. In fact, most of our learning is done through games – you better believe it. Like a snake, we have shed whatever structure we first had along the way.
More importantly, I watch myself, learning and discovering things alongside them, every single day. The love has come to life again. I have come to life again. I can smile indulgently at my mis-spent youth studying and stressing about tests. I can even laugh about it.
Do I make mistakes? Of course, I do. The biggest one is slipping into my pre-programmed testing mode, but something, usually my husband, always makes me realise I am on a slippery slope and I quickly back-track.
This post would be incomplete without clarifying something – when the time comes for my children to choose what qualifications they want, I have full confidence that we can find the resources to prep for any required tests. At that point, it will just be another practical step to be tackled on their path.
Meanwhile, we will carry on living, learning and laughing with absolute gusto.