“I see a lot of crafts, books, and experiments on your instagram, but do you do any actual teaching?” Or “If you don’t test them, then how do you know your kids learn anything?”
If you homeschool long enough, sooner or later you’re probably going to encounter questions like the ones I did recently.
Teaching without textbooks, measuring proficiency without exams, report cards, or grades? It sounds like madness and chaos to some.
Yes, I am actually teaching. Though the children teach themselves new things all the time.
Yes, the children are learning. Though sometimes not the lessons I’m trying to teach.
Judgment vs. Curiosity
It can be tricky knowing exactly how to answer some of the comments. There is a difference between the answer I would give someone who is genuinely interested, but maybe doesn’t understand what education can look like outside of the only system they have ever known.
And then there’s the answer for the person who asks that type of question from a place of judgment.
Perhaps they are wanting to call me to task for what they feel is neglecting my children’s education by allowing them to do astonishing things like spend days at a time crafting or doing math outside. Or using biographies, personal diaries, and literature to teach history instead of textbooks.
The latter person isn’t curious, they don’t really want an answer from me. They just to wag their finger and they want me to accept their criticism.
Maybe they hope for me to humbly walk away, shamed by their words, vowing to change my ways forever?
While that certainly isn’t going to happen, I’m also not going to spend much time trying to convince this person about the validity of my choices. There really isn’t much of a conversation that can actually happen there.
So this second person? They get a healthy serving of the “bean dip response.”
How do I know my children are learning?
To the person who is asking because they really want to know how my husband and I can tell that the kids are learning? I say this:
We know our children are learning the same way that you know your children learn. The same way you’ve known since you watched them take their first steps or listened to them sound out their first words.
We can tell our children are learning because we see them apply their education to their daily lives, solving problems and finding solutions.
We can tell our children are learning because we see the recognition on their faces when a concept clicks and they understand.
We can tell our children are learning because when the books are closed and the experiments are over, the ideas are still living beyond the page and the experience.
We can tell our children are learning because they can teach others what they know.
We can tell our children are learning because they are developing new skill sets, accomplishing new things.
We can tell our children are learning because they can make comparisons to and draw correlations between history and modern day events.
We can tell our children are learning by the questions they ask.
We can tell our children are learning because we witness the progression as they go from struggling with a skill to mastery.
We can tell our children are learning because we see them self-correct when making mistakes.
We can tell our children are learning because they don’t quit trying. That’s an important lesson.
We can tell our children are learning because they write down things that are interesting to them. Or, our pre-writers draw pictures or dictate to someone what they want to say about a subject or idea.
We can tell our children are learning because when they really love a subject, they become obsessed with it. They live it, eat it, breathe it for days, even weeks or months at a time. They are enthusiastic. They want to share all the cool things they know on a topic with anyone who will listen.
We can tell our children are learning because, while often silly or acting totally age appropriate, they can also engage in meaningful conversations. They make observations that seem beyond their years.
How do I know my kids are learning? I know because I know. I’m there. I see it. And I bet you see it with your kids, too.
The time will come perhaps when they need testing. When applications must be filled out. When the SAT, ACT, and other evaluations will be given.
But, for now, I’m okay with knowing that my children are learning based on my observations. I see. I listen. I know.
That’s all the proof I need.
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