Standardized Tests, the SAT, and Other Things Homeschoolers Shouldn’t Care About

orange VW minivan“Exactly! That’s just was I’ve been thinking!” I burst as I drove down the highway. My unconcerned kids didn’t hear what Andrew Kern said in my earbuds, but they’re used to verbal eruptions like that when we drive. Maybe I should have been embarrassed, but I don’t care. And that’s the point.

We want classical education to prove itself in the research-based mode and in the utilitarian analysis mode. It will, if we stick to it—by accident. In other words, if you just give your kids a good classical education, they will do really well on SAT scores. To which I say, ‘Who cares?’

Our Misplaced Worry

We care about all kinds of things we shouldn’t, like what the in-laws think of our cooking, “Is lunch both nutritious and delicious?” Or what the neighbors think of our lawn, “What do they say when they see all my dandelions?”

It’s like we’re on the highway driving our dented, thirty-year-old, orange (who paints a car orange?), but paid-off van, when everyone else on the road is cruising by in their sleek black sports cars. Secretly they’re cursing the weight of the car payment, but they’d never let that show. They look disdainfully out their tinted windows as they and their custom hubcaps fly by.

We get self-conscious. “Maybe we could afford that car payment.” Certainly our kids would be less mortified. We worry and overanalyze. We may even fight with our spouse about it. It’s hard to be the guy in the orange van. But it’s the better choice.

We Simply Have Different Aims

I’m a classical homeschooler because I believe the classical model is a lush climate through which any serious student can grow in wisdom, love toward God, and love toward his neighbors.

Classical and other similar forms of homeschooling have the capacity to nurture all of a student’s humanity: the need to discover Truth and develop memory, the need to create and communicate, the need to synthesize faith with experience.

But the culture doesn’t get that. That’s why it has no use for homeschooling, classical or otherwise. When was the last time you heard anyone in public education mutter the word “trivium,” or speak of nurturing a student in wisdom and love toward God through her studies?

When the Culture Holds Too Much Sway

The problem is, even those of us in the classical renewal let our utilitarian culture influence us too much. We fret that our kids won’t get into college or get a good job. Subconsciously, we worry they’ll end up destitute unless we give them a college-preparatory education like ours.

So we succumb to the culture’s demands to evaluate the work our students do everyday. We begin spending time preparing for standardized tests, instead of nurturing our students where they need it most.

But we can’t drive the van and the sports car at the same time. We’ve got to get real and recognize how different our educational approach really is from the rest of the culture. And we need to embrace our plan.

Refocus and Embrace

Think about just three advantages homeschoolers have over their peers in public school:

  • An insanely low student-teacher ratio
  • The ability to go at the student’s pace instead of the pace dictated by the teacher, class, district, state standards, or other outside forces.
  • Time freedom for out-of-school exploration—they’re not tied down to one building for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and can explore nature, museums, historical sites, local businesses, and more.

Given just these, it would be hard to be a serious homeschooling family and not do well on the SAT and other standardized tests.

If we look under our van’s hood, we see a powerful engine, and unlimited fuel. The hot little sports car sputters and chokes to a stop three miles down the road, right when the driver gets a call saying he’s behind on his payment and underwater. He stubbornly can’t understand why we drive our paid-off orange beast. He still thinks we’re stupid for it. And we look ridiculous.

We may, but we’re flying down the road in our loving, robust vehicle full of character and wisdom.

If we simply focus on where we’re going, success on these tests will come naturally—our kids will have learned far more than what they need to know just to get great scores on their SATs (if they take them).

What are ways you maintain focus on your homeschooling, despite the cultural pressure to focus on test scores?

I’ll leave Mr. Kern the last word.

We need to not look for validation to this world that has no idea what education is…Why would we grovel before them when the whole point of us starting to homeschool and start other schools is because we don’t think they know what they’re doing?…We don’t need validation from those who think what we’re doing is useless.

(Image source)

Leave a Reply