Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane
I didn’t need to wait for any test results: The findings were clear.
I wrote here about the day I thrust a practice test at my son with no preparation, and a hummingbird saved the day and reminded me that education is more than standardized tests.
I was reminded that nature and care for living things will teach us more than a million worksheet pages.
But even with that gained perspective, I was still surprised by the results of the “real” test day. Thankfully, this time there were no tears. We had prepared. We worked hard finishing all my son’s curriculum for the year.
We had completed several practice tests. We reviewed the concepts from the year. Since we’d never done testing, I really had no idea how he’d do.
Mostly, I just wanted this test-experience to identify where we needed to focus our efforts for the next year.
It definitely did that.
The morning of the test, I found myself facing several behavioral issues in my son. I realized these things had been creeping up more and more — complaining, delayed obedience, half-hearted work, arguing, disrespect, and interrupting.
To my amazement, however, he breezed through the test. Like, he may very well have aced the whole thing. The test-administrator, a wise woman who had already homeschooled several children into adulthood, said with a smile that I could probably relax on academics a little bit.
What I needed to focus on became crystal clear:
It wasn’t math.
It wasn’t reading comprehension.
It wasn’t grammar.
It was character. The test revealed that we needed a subtle course-correction:
Attitude over aptitude.
Respectfulness over reading comprehension.
Gratitude over grammar.
Meekness over math skills.
Of course I know this, right? We all do. We’ve done Letter Lessons for years now. But that was easier to focus on when they were little.
The temptation as they grow older — and are subjected to more academic pursuits — is to let the character development slip since we have so many other subjects to pursue.
I told my husband afterwards,
“You know, we could probably take an entire year off formal school curriculum, and focus solely on character, habits, attitudes and life skills, and be just fine academically.”
Not sure that we will, but test-day was telling, that’s for sure. It reminded me of Charlotte Mason’s famous words,
“The question is not, How much does the youth know? when he has finished his education, but How much does he care?”
How do we teach this kind of education, then?
It’s easy to go buy the next grade’s math workbook. It’s not so easy to discern the hearts of our children, to see the subtle ways they are tending toward selfishness or entitlement, ingratitude or laziness. Even harder to discern those same things in our own hearts.
Of course this will look different for each of us. No package deal on character development. (How I wish I could just buy a character-kit off Amazon!)
For us, this means determining five key habits that have slipped, where we will choose to focus our attention in the days ahead, even if it means falling “behind” in academic pursuits.
For us, these are:
- Obeying promptly and cheerfully.
- Respecting others.
- Working diligently and enthusiastically.
- Expressing gratitude.
- Exercising self-control.
You know, if this is all we accomplish in the year ahead, I’d be satisfied.
Between these five things, gobbling down dozens of good books, and spending hundreds of hours outside in nature, I think I have our homeschool plan down.
So glad the standardized test taught me this.
How do you focus on character-development in the midst of academic pursuits? Please share! Thanks for reading.