Friday, February 26, 2010

Put to the test...

    Every year right around the end of February, the kids and I start to get a little nervous.  We work a little harder at our school work, we watch the calendar very closely, there is a palpable tension in the air at our house.  It is not the coming of Spring that stresses us out.  It is not the Lenten season either.  No, our fears and worries are caused by the coming of our annual home school testing.  Testing is one of the requirements to home school, at least in the state of Florida.  It can be done at any time of the year but must be administered by a certified teacher or other educational professional.  The results are then sent in to be a part of the children's file.   The first year we home schooled we got the name of a tester and when we called she was able to fit us in the last week of February.  It was the only opening she had.  So every year, the last week of February, she has come with her heavy bag of test booklets, flip charts, and grading materials to see what progress we have made.  And every year, the kids and I hold our breath, cross our fingers and say some fervent prayers hoping the results will be positive.
    This year, on February 25th I awoke early with a now familiar fluttering of nerves in my stomach.  Testing day was finally here! We had done our best to study our math facts and spelling words.  We had cleaned and shined our classroom and set up a table and chair for our wonderful tester, a retired principal who is very supportive of home schooling.  We were as ready as we could be.  The kids were unusually quiet as they had their breakfast and I found myself anxiously tidying up rooms the tester would never even be in.  When she drove up to the house a little after 9:30 am, my son announced, "She's here!" and we all answered the door together.
    She took the children into the extra bedroom we turned into our classroom and shut the door for quiet, as she always does.   I tried to sit on the floor and play with the baby while I awaited the results but found myself staring at the clock every few minutes.  The kids did the first part of their test together, then took turns alone with the tester for the rest of it.  In total it took about two hours but finally I was allowed in to see the numbers......and thankfully, they passed for another year!  Despite the daily distractions of family life, the challenge of juggling our new baby and our lessons all at once in the midst of my utter exhaustion after many sleepless nights, the struggle to be motivated on those mornings we all feel burnt out, the never-ending ordeal of lost pencils, missing books, and sloppy desks, somehow, my children are learning. 
    I have heard that home schooling works.  I have read countless articles and books on the subject. I have seen studies that show the amazing results of home education.  I believe in the success of one-on-one family based instruction.  And, without a doubt, I know home schooling is a wonderful blessing. But most days I can't see it.  Day to day, I cannot gauge the results of our efforts.  Day to day, I cannot tell if we are succeeding or failing. Day to day, I cannot measure our achievements accurately.  It is so much easier, most of the time, to see the areas we struggle in than to see the progress we are making.  Every year at test time I brace myself, prepared for the worst and every year my children's tests results surprise and impress me.  Somehow, despite my imperfections, they are learning!  Somehow, all the books I've read and studies I've seen are right.  Home schooling does work.  And so, though I doubt it will get any easier and I doubt I will ever feel completely confident with myself and my teaching abilities, we will continue to trust that this is what God wants for our family.  And for now, we will continue to home school, at least until next February when again we will undergo our annual testing...

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