By Sarah Miner
While my mother was immersed in the lengthy process of completing a combined MS/Ph.D. program and theoretical doctoral dissertation, she kept a cartoon clipping taped to the wall by her desk. It showed a character staring up at a very large and complicated map with a red dot in the middle that said, “You are here.” It seems simple at first but it is also profound.
We homeschool our two daughters, but don’t do “school at home” or use a packaged grade-specific whole curriculum. That is, we have an eclectic assortment of workbooks, textbooks, and other resources to meet each child’s learning needs that usually spans several grade levels and we don’t do content tests. The drawback to this method is that every once in a while we need to stop and check the map for that little red dot. Naturally, we don’t have an actual map on a piece of paper or poster board (could be fun to make, come to think of it…), but the concept is the same. Where is my (older or younger) daughter on her learning path? What has she accomplished? What are her strengths and weaknesses? How does her scope of knowledge and skills relate to standardized grade levels?
My mother asked me once how we know if the kids have mastered a concept if we don’t give them quizzes or tests. In lieu of tests, we have conversations. If she can’t demonstrate knowledge in a conversation, she doesn’t have it mastered. These conversations reveal where she is on her learning path and illuminate that figurative red dot that says, “You are here.” While these conversations have a strategic educational purpose, they are also a treasured interaction between me and my daughter. It is enchanting to hear a young child explain with great excitement something new they have learned. The passion and eagerness to talk about something important with a parent just pours out of them with every word.
And, in the grand scope of life, education, and parenting, it feels good to know where we are, together.