As a believer in self led learning, right down to the bottom of my heart, I have tried my best to ignore the hype around Common Core, yet it never ceases to amaze me that many of same people who thought the last educational fix all “No Child Left Behind” would save the day, are now expecting Common Core to do the same.
The thing is, a one size fits all solution never really does. We’re all different, and we always will be.
Spring is going to bring a round of new, but still high stakes, Common Core testing to schools. Even though we are homeschoolers, both of my kids work through charter schools, which means they too are supposed to take the tests.
I don’t really put much weight into these tests as a measure of their education, but I do encourage them to do their best anyway. Like it or not, it’s how the charter school gets paid, and we directly benefit from that.
Some people firmly believe we should opt out of any testing, but when we enrolled in the charter schools, we agreed that taking a couple of tests once a year was the price they would pay in exchange for a whole lotta free classes, lessons, books and art supplies.
I realize no one could really make us comply, but I believe in keeping my word, and want to encourage my kids to do the same. Also, knowing that the schools funding is tied directly to the tests would make me feel rather selfish to bow out now since we’ve been getting stuff from them all year.
The opponents to Common Core are certainly vocal enough~ some fearing disastrous outcomes and sinister motives. Honestly, I haven’t done a whole lot of research into it, but chances are, a lot of kids won’t fit into the new box any better than they fit into the last one. And the motive, well...it’s usually money, and that’s not really surprising.
The frustrating thing for me, is that as a culture, we keep believing that somehow forcing kids to “learn” skills at earlier ages will make them more successful, and that everyone is going to master, or even need the same set of skills and knowledge.
Even more frustrating, is that so much of the “knowledge” kids are pressured to learn will be forgotten in a few years or less, the same way that we adults forgot all the useless things drilled into us during childhood.
Most frustrating of all is that as a whole, our educational system so often ignores things that will really come in handy~ like interest based learning and real problem solving (not the kind that involves ridiculous situations like determining the cost of 84 watermelons) ~ and I don’t know...maybe some basic consumer knowledge like realizing that if you take out $100,000 in loans, you are actually expected to pay them back, and that there will be interest….things like that might be handy.
The stress we put on things that really don’t matter in the least only kills the natural curiosity humans are born with, and takes time and energy away from actual learning.
Some kids will do great and even shine, and I’m happy for those that succeed. But it’s a sad, sad thing that so many bright young people will have their spark squelched in the educational process. I wish I had an answer for all of those kids, but as I said earlier, one size fits all never really does.
For us, the answer was homeschooling, and as always, I’m really grateful for the options I’ve had for my family.
We’re currently really fortunate to be involved with charter schools that actually encourage finding creative and flexible ways of individualized learning.
My kids who wants to take robotics and guitar classes a few days a week with his friends gets to do that, and he gets to sleep in and work at his own pace on things he’s actually interested in on the other days.
My kids who wants to direct her own path, take classes at the community college, volunteer at the animal shelter and explore the world hands-on style, also gets to do that.
And if we didn’t have those programs, we’d still have the option of homeschooling solo, which we did for years and loved.
The solutions for our family certainly won’t work for everyone, but if you’re struggling with Common Core, or any other educational conundrum, I’d encourage you to trust and value your kid as a person over a system that changes every few years and blames children for not conforming quickly enough.
Neither you, nor your kid needs to feel bad about not fitting in a box, and you don’t have to keep trying to squeeze in it either. If you really look around, you probably have options too.