After they find out that we homeschool, people often ask me how I know my kids are learning. After all, while kids in schools (and even some homeschoolers) take tests, I don’t test my children. And the answer is, in a myriad of ways.
Sometimes I know they’re learning because they demonstrate a skill. For example, my 8-year-old can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and work basic fractions. I know this because these are skills he uses to accurately calculate a variety of things in his day-to-day life. On a similar note, I know he can read because he reads voraciously, and he talks about the things he’s read.
My four-year-old gains new skills and proficiencies on, it seems, an almost daily basis. He’s constantly doing things himself that he used to need help with.
At other times, my boys will ask questions that clearly prove prior knowledge of a subject. They want to know more about whatever it is they’re interested in.
And, sometimes, I see their learning not through any concrete task, but simply through some random comment. For instance, the other week my 4-year-old called me outside to meet a beetle he had found in our yard. As I sat watching him interact with the beetle, he said, “Oh you beautiful beetle! You decompose things and make rich soil. Did you know that? Let me put you over here so you can make dirt for our garden. Thank you, friend!”
And then I knew, all of our talks about the importance of beetles to the eco-system had stuck. When we checked out that stack of beetle books from the library, he retained some of the information. I didn’t need to give him a test on beetles, a random comment let me know that he was learning.
In addition to the things I see or hear, I know there are so many things that my boys learn that I’m simply not aware of. But I know that they’re both curious. I know that they love to learn. And I choose not to worry about the specifics of which bits of information they may or may not know at any given moment.
There are a great many things I want my boys to learn before I will consider their schooling complete. But I also trust that they’ll learn them in time, and I don’t feel compelled to test them to see how far we are along that road. They’ll show me in their own ways, and some days I get delightful surprises – like the above conversation with a beetle, that demonstrate that we’re on the right path.
By the way, if you’re looking for a good book on beetles, one of our favorites is The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins.