Opting OUT of standardized testing? Then opt IN to fun and engaging learning at home!
Why are so many parents opting out of standardized testing for their children? Why are teachers “cheating” on their students’ standardized tests? Why must every kid in every school in every state learn the exact same content? I wish I had an answer to those questions because they are burning in the minds of parents, teachers, and administrators across the country.
As a retired teacher, I can attest to the stress placed on teachers to perform according to the standards set by well-meaning bureaucrats intent upon raising the educational bar in America. Too often, students are the guinea pigs of state departments of education who want their students to have the best scores. Too often, administrators judge teachers by the scores that their students achieve (or don’t achieve). Too often, the true educational goal is tossed aside in the name of standardized testing. What is that goal? Plain and simple: The joy of learning.
When children enjoy what they are learning, the brain reacts in a way that forces them to continue that learning. No outside force is responsible for that impetus to learn about butterflies, bridges, Kenya, or even quadratic equations. (Yes, I was the kid who wouldn’t let the equation rest until I solved it!) Think about your own life. Right now. What interests you? Maybe you enjoy gardening. Wouldn’t you watch videos, read books, and experiment with various soil enhancers until you achieved success? Of course! Nobody forced you to pick up a spade and turn over your soil. Nobody is testing you on the volume of your crop. And nobody demeans you if your crop fails due to drought, flood, pests, or other event outside your realm of control. Basically, you enjoy what you do, regardless of the circumstances.
Education should have the same ethic. Some experts disagree about the use of fiction as a platform to teach facts. They say that facts should remain pure without the additional of fictional dialogue to muddy the concepts. However, when those facts are cleverly hidden in a book, game, or video that engage and entertain young people while teaching them valuable intellectual and emotional lessons, children will learn in spite of themselves. And isn’t that what we all want? Young readers who want to learn, who want to expand their horizons, and who want to discover the best way to live in our world.
Help your children to understand the value of loving to learn by providing them with the necessary resources. Ask yourself this question: What is my child interested in and how can I help him to explore it by himself? Follow these easy steps and you’ll find that your child will grow in his desire to learn other topics in the same manner, despite the standardized testing methods at his or her school.
- Independent study: Go to the library and let your child find books on her reading level. Gently suggest books that will increase her reading level each time you return the books. If you find her getting frustrated with the texts, scale back until she is comfortable with the reading level.
- Meaningful discussion: Find out what your child finds most fascinating about her chosen topic. Nothing helps a child learn more than interaction with a caring family member. You might even find that more serious topics will creep into the conversation.
- Make the learning FUN: FIND other ways to support their interest, UNDERSTAND that they may go off on a tangent, and NURTURE their learning with simple incentives and pats on the back. Sit back and enjoy the smiles and giggles that come from your children while they learn.
When you help your children to realize that not all learning is mandated and can actually be considered fun, you’re expanding your child’s brain and his or her horizons in ways that schools, with their standards-based education, are unable to achieve.
Renee Heiss is the co-author of the award-winning EnteleTrons™ Series, which combines STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) topics with character education and literacy lessons in all of their books and games. The wildly successful fictional characters, The EnteleTrons™ show children about their natural world, their built environment, and their social interactions. See all of their products here: http://entelechyed.com/entelestore_. The interactive e-books contain links for children to further their understanding of the concepts covered. The EnteleKids Exploration Club encourages kids to explore topics on their own.