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This Is Only A Test

2011 June 8
by Pamela

Today Mary Claire started taking the SATs, a standardized test administered by a proctor to determine where she is academically. 

Today I was finally able to start breathing normally, without the weight that had been residing in my chest about the test for weeks.

There is a lot of debate about testing in general, both with homeschoolers and school children.  But for us, we believe testing is important for several reasons.  One, we want our girls to learn to take tests.  The one criticism I have about the homeschool students I was in college with is that they all seemed unnaturally anxious to take tests, which I gather is because they never had to take them.  We like the idea of our girls taking standardized tests once a year so they won’t be freaked out when they have to take the ACT to get into college.  And there is no better way to learn test-taking skills than by taking a test.

Another reason we wanted to start testing now is because we know there are no guarantees in life.  Although we like homeschooling and plan to do it again next year provided she scores well, we know how fragile our lives are.  On any given day our path could change and the girls might need to go into a school environment.  We want to be sure that they are on par with their peers academically. 

Finally, this is my job.  Just like I had yearly performance reviews, it’s important for me to know how I am doing with Mary Claire.  Are my curriculum choices working?  Do I need to make tweaks to strengthen her in certain areas?  I am still learning what her strengths and weaknesses are and an objective test will give me another view into what may become a future path in her life. 

Since our primary goal is for her to know, love, and follow God, we see testing as an opportunity to learn more about her and help her to learn more about what He has planned for her life.  In kindergarten?!  you might be asking?  Well I don’t think He’s going to reveal His exact path for her now, but I do see how my strengths were revealed pretty early.  It’s just that no one was really there to nurture them specifically.  So I floundered around for years, wasting loads of time and money only to graduate with a business degree.  Then I ended up writing for a non-profit, both of which were my true passions.  I’d like to help our girls circumvent some of that wandering in the wilderness if possible.

But for all the benefits we saw in testing, I was still a mess about it.  A Mess!  Mary Claire wasn’t due to start kindergarten this year, but three of her four friends were starting and she wanted to as well.  We were interested in homeschooling but weren’t sure if it was feasible for us.  So in a lot of ways this whole year was an experiment.  But we have loved it.  I have loved it, which is such a crazy idea to me even now.  If she doesn’t score well, we are going to put her into school next year.  And although I can hardly believe it, the idea makes me weepy.  Not because school is some awful and horrible place.  It makes me sad because we have had such a wonderful journey together and I don’t want it to end.

So that was a big part of the weight on my chest.  The other part is that we have worked hard.  Very hard.  In all respects I started a new career this year.  She did as well.  We learned and grew so much, academically and as people.  I have grown spiritually by relying on God to do something that I knew I couldn’t do.  I got strength, patience, and perseverence that I KNOW didn’t come from me. 

We worked hard, put in a lot of effort, time, money, and heart into this school year.  And more than anything I wanted the SAT to show that.  I wanted the SAT to say, “Wow, you three had no idea what you were doing, but WOW, you DID IT!  Great Job Wright Family!” 

I think that’s an exact score you can earn on the SAT, right?

So I called friends, prayed, fretted, gave it to God, took it back to worry some more, called more friends, asked for prayer, prayed some more, and then I had a revelation.

We have worked HARD.  We put a lot of effort, time, money, and heart into this school year.  It doesn’t matter what the SAT score says.  The test can’t take our hard work away.  It can’t take away the memories we will always have of this year.  Regardless of the score, it won’t change that we taught our daughter to read.  It can’t take away the patience and perseverence I’ve developed as a person and it can’t take away the academic, emotional, and spiritual growth from Mary Claire either.

In the end, it is only a test.  But this life?  Not a test.

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  1. Paige Lloyd permalink
    June 9, 2011

    Interesting take on testing. I am glad that in the end you found some peace on the issue, and have thoroughly enjoyed this year of homeschooling! : ) We are undecided on the testing issue. We do want our children to be comfortable taking tests, and taking standardized tests every so often might be the only way to do it since we don’t plan to give tests for our homeschooling if it’s not necessary (we figure we’ll know if they know the material by talking to them about it and checking on their work). But we don’t want to have to “teach to the test”, and we are confident that our children will learn what they need to know in life to succeed, regardless of what a test says. We are in a different place as far as our commitment to homeschooling – there is no bad test score that would make us want to put our girls in school – if anything, it might show us where we need to work on a certain area with a certain child more. I think a lot of times the grade-standard for children puts undue pressure on kids and parents – for example, they “should” be able to do X,Y & Z by the end of first grade or else they are “behind” and need to “catch up”. For many kids, they struggle in certain areas for a long time, then suddenly “catch up” later on, after they are given lots of patience and nurturing and time to mature. Your Mary Claire sounds like such a smart, capable girl with a smart, capable Momma – you are doing GREAT! (Are you going to give an update on how she did when you get the results?) : )

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