A Thousand Flowers vs. Bloom’s

Of all the things that are “taken for granted” in the world of education, Bloom’s Taxonomy has to be at the top of the pyramid — pun intended.

2001 version of Blooms

 

In 2017 Doug Lemov of Uncommon Schools published a very intelligent take-down of this educational holy cow.  He makes the observation that knowledge/remembering being at the bottom of the pyramid is misleading for a lot of teachers — they assume that this position means that it is a “lower” cognitive skill.

Ron Berger’s critique at EdWeek instead points out that modeling and creating are the ways we typically learn outside of the traditional K12 setting.  By putting them at the top of the pyramid, teachers may wait too long before engaging students in these kinds of activities.

The pyramid, first published in 1956, is basically a progressive model for understanding the learning process.  In my experience, even schools that do not consider themselves progressive still employ the framework without too much hand-wringing.

Cognitive neuroscience is showing us that these processes really can’t be split into neat levels.  Knowledge needs to be used in order to make it stick, and this in turn leads to greater understanding.  By chunking processes that have become automatic through practice, our brains are then able to take on more and more complex tasks.

Bloom’s Taxonomy makes an appearance in a recent ed policy paper published by the Pioneer Institute and authored by Theodor Rebarber and Neal McCluskey.   It contrasts the results of two educational reform initiatives that have gained traction since the early ’90’s.  The first is the standards-driven approach, which culminated in the Common Core State Standards.  The second is the school choice movement, exemplified by “voucher” programs, Education Savings Accounts, and charter schools.

In first part of the paper that the authors document what I think is sometimes an underappreciated dimension of CCSS.  Namely, that they instantiate Bloom’s Taxonomy in law.  The authors then take a close look at how CCSS math standards have actually lowered the bar for math proficiency vs. international benchmarks.  This happens because students are expected to take the abstract step of talking about how they solve problems vs. demonstrating the ability to solve problem.

The authors did not apply a similar scrutiny to the ways in which ELA Common Core Standards have incorporated Bloom’s Taxonomy as they were out of the scope of the analysis.

Based on what I’ve seen of the ELA standards, I think the same issue is at work.  The goals of the Common Core program were lofty and the designers meant well.  In some places, the standards may have improved instruction.  But the damage to education is that a particular pedagogical approach, en vogue in the 1950’s, has been instantiated into law.

As much as I’ve promoted better understanding of the science of learning among leaders and teachers, I wanted to just take a second to note that no matter how “settled” the science of phonics, knowledge-building, field trips, or anything else I like is, I don’t think any of it should be mandated.  I think that in a free society we should speak up about what we think, share it with people that we care about, and use persuasion, not compulsion.

I hope that my fellow-travelers who are (quite rightly) excited that (for now) phonics seems to be winning the reading war will remember what it was like to be on the losing side, and refrain from lobbying for  phonics instruction mandates. Doing so will lead to a backlash, and likely relegate phonics to the kooky fringes once again.

 

Taking Knowledge for Granted

The 2018 World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report includes a summary of the outlook for skills over the next four years, classified in terms of “growing” and “declining” demand:

future-jobs-skills.ffc08449f169a75803815aa2bc0dcc88

This report and others like it are the source material from which many business, academic, philanthropy, and government leaders derive their point of view on which outcomes K12 and higher education should be oriented to produce.  Here’s one particularly silly graph from Harvard Business School that I ran across right after publishing this post — h/t @stuartbuck1 via @iowahawkblog:

W181004_LITTLEWOOD_ANEXAMPLE.png

I’d like to share a little bit about my own journey to learn new skills, especially analytical skills.

Analytical skills are things like being able to apply statistical models to data sets and thereby derive useful insights from them.  I’ve been taking some courses in Python as preparation for a data science program.  After completing this introduction, I’ll need to take some courses in statistics.

Here are a few things I can assure you about the computer science and Python courses I’ve been taking over the past couple of months:

  • I’ve used Memory, verbal, auditory, (not spatial) abilities (“declining” skill #2) every single time I’ve settled down to complete basic Python lessons via MOOC.  I don’t know how I would be able to track the lessons, delivered via written notes and video (with speech), without “verbal and auditory abilities.”  Oh, and also, it’s kind of important to remember what you’ve learned from lesson to lesson in order to complete the end of course coding assignments.  So, you do need some “memory abilties,” too.  As to spatial abilities, when and if I get to the point of actually being able to slice up and use data sets, knowing how to present that information in useful, interesting, and memorable ways via infographics will absolutely require extremely well-developed spatial abilities.
  • Reading, writing, math, and active listening (“declining” skill #5) are sine qua non for learning “analytical skills.”  It’s particularly weird to see math on this list.  I can assure you that data science jobs (one of the fastest growing categories of jobs now) are typically filled by people who are pretty dang good at math. Statistics are a basic pre-req for learning “analytical” skills needed for these kinds of jobs.

Here’s the syllabus for the Statistics and Data Science MicroMasters Program by MIT offered through one of the leading MOOC providers, edX.  Let’s take a second to zoom in on the last paragraph of the program description (emphasis mine):

Anyone can enroll in this MicroMasters program. It is designed for learners that want to acquire sophisticated and rigorous training in data science without leaving their day job but without compromising quality. There is no application process but college-level calculus and comfort with mathematical reasoning and Python programming are highly recommended if you want to excel. All the courses are taught by MIT faculty at a similar pace and level of rigor as an on-campus course at MIT. This program brings MIT’s rigorous, high-quality curricula and hands-on learning approach to learners around the world – at scale.

This program is targeted at folks who would like to be qualified for one of the hot (and highly compensated) jobs in data science.  But guess what?  It would really help if you had COLLEGE LEVEL CALCULUS in order to take advantage of this offering.

If you never learned algebra well, you’ll struggle in calculus.  If you don’t have calculus, you may not have access to the best jobs that the 21st century is currently offering.  Enjoy your low-paying occupation that robots (enabled by data science) will soon make obsolete.

There is more than a whiff of class privilege that lists like the one published by WEF give off.  If you were to break it down (i.e., analyze) the list of so-called skills, you’d realize that they aren’t skills at all but by-products of a well-rounded, character-enhancing, rigorous education.

You know, the kind that kids who attend great schools with lots of family support take for granted.  

By diminishing the importance of strong abilities in math and reading, lists like these and the un-critical adoption of them as measures of educational quality can actually be used to excuse the failures of the educational status quo.  ACT scores in math are actually declining?  NBD, math isn’t that important.

Well, unless you want the kinds of skills that give you access to the decision-making class — the class that publishes lists that take cultural literacy, math, and verbal abilities for granted.

Speaking Up

I’m going to spend a little of the time I normally use to write this blog this morning on practicing recording a podcast.  I’ve studied up on various forums and contexts, and the advice I’ve heard from all of them is that the key is to practice (big surprise!).  So, even though I’m a little nervous, I’ll give it a shot.

As a long-time fan of the medium, I think I’ll enjoy the process of creating my own.  The barriers to entry have never been lower.  There is so much room to grow — I think that it’s only the beginning of audio taking over content consumption.

Right now, I’m thinking about making it an interview-driven podcast, since I’m pretty excited about highlighting how others have engaged in life-long learning or have created the conditions to allow others do that.  If you have ideas or your own experiences in creating podcasts, I’m all ears!

Cultivating leadership by letting sunk costs sink

I’m still digesting an amazing podcast I just listened to on Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street.  The guest, Jennifer Garvey, is a leading thinker and writer on adult development, leadership, and the intersection of these concepts in a world of increasing complexity.  Can’t wait to read her books now!

Anyway, one of the ideas that stood out to me was an idea of leadership being a kind of stage of maturation — which doesn’t mean that it can’t be cultivated by effort.  It just means that we aren’t all equally mature at any given point in our lives.  So, there is a natural limitation to the utility of leadership programs that ask folks to “write a personal mission statement,” for instance.  That may be a valuable exercise, but it’s only useful for people who are at a point where something like that comes naturally.

One concept that she didn’t mention explicitly but that I think was implicit in her perspective was the concept of the sunk cost fallacy.   In case you’re not familiar with it, I think it’s one of the most useful ideas to come out of the field of economics.  A sunk cost is one that is already spent, already done – a ship that has passed.

An example would be how a manufacturer might address the issue of a piece of now-outdated equipment.  It’s not going to allow him to be as profitable as a piece of newer equipment, but he might be tempted to keep using it (even though it’s costing you money NOW AND IN THE FUTURE) because he spent money on it THEN.

Mentally, we do the same thing when we say, well, I got a major in education, so I guess I have to be a teacher.  You can’t get those years (or dollars) back.  Being a teacher may not be the way that you can be as productive and fulfilled as possible, but you’re doing it because you feel like if you don’t, you’ve wasted that investment of time and treasure.

As I’ve been trying to grow personally by gaining new perspectives and developing new habits, one of the hardest parts is overcoming my own propensity to fall for the sunk cost fallacy.  I think growing into new identities is really only possible once you realize that old identities, especially those that cling to external validation or certainty, are the sunk costs of the mind.

Cultivation of better habits, better relationships, and better modes of life can only occur through some kind of death.  You know this if you really unpack the agricultural metaphor of the word “cultivation.”  Plants grow best in soil that is rich in decay.  If we don’t let our old ideas and identities die, we can’t get new growth.

So I’m going to try to let go of as many of the pointless sunk costs in my own mind as possible.  It’s something that I hope the people in my life will help hold me accountable for as a goal.  It’s tough to remember and tougher to implement.   But it’s the only way forward.

 

 

Neurons and the Numinous

The revolution in neuroscience is leading to a new golden age of knowledge about learning.  What is learning?  Well, fundamentally, it’s changing your brain.  But is that the same thing as changing your mind?

I’ve been giving some thought to that distinction lately, provoked by two books that have come out recently.  The first I’ve name-checked a couple of times already and am preparing to review in full here soon – Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski’s Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens.

The second is a little more off-beat, but I think is a very good companion piece.  Michael Pollan, author of some of the best writing about food and its social import, recently published a bold new book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Adiction, Depression, and Trancendance.  I promise that even if you have not a single scintilla of interest in chemical enhancements that you’ll enjoy the journey and pick up some scientifically-sound insights about the mind and brain along the way.

What struck me was that Oakely and Pollan both spend a good deal of time establishing the importance of the brain’s default mode network.  Basically, the brain has two gears – one is when you’re in “focused mode” (when using task positive networks) and the other for when you, you know, space out.

SPACE OUT.png

Oakley and Sejnowski use the term “diffuse mode” to describe either a neural resting state or a form of the default mode network.  The brain needs to go into diffuse mode periodically during the learning process.  Switching between modes gives our brains a chance to integrate what we’re learning into a bigger narrative.

This is where Pollan comes in.  He identifies our DMN with our ego – the part of ourselves that is telling back to us the story of our lives.  As we get older, this can lead us into ruts – forcing experiences and learning into a story that may or may not be working for us anymore.  We need the DMN to learn, yes, but what if our ego is a sort of old wineskin?

Oakley and Sejnowski encourage us that through conscious effort, using task positive networks, we can always change our neural pathways and our brains themselves.  Pollan reminds us of the importance of the framework into which we incorporate our learning.

It seems like Carl Jung is having a (well-deserved) moment again.  Pollan gives him a shout-out at the very beginning of the book, and I think this quote sums up his quest well:

Carl Jung once wrote that it is not the young but people in middle age who need to have an “experience of the numinous” to help them negotiate the second half of their lives.

Engaging in ego-trancending experiences is one way to ensure that our learning does more than shape our brains.  These experiences can include travel, service to others, time in nature, creating or appreciating art, or even worship.  Engaging in these experiences gives this secret, internal process of learning a telos – when we change our minds, we can change the world.

I’ll close with a famous poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose verses, if imbided in the mornings with coffee, will set you on a numinous path for the day:

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

 

 

 

Book It!, Program Design, and Aristotle

Among the many artifacts that I’ve recently encountered in the educational portfolios my Mom carefully kept was this letter:book it letter_LI

Book It! is a 34-year-old program with a very simple mission: encourage kids to read.  Since 1984 (according to Pizza Hut’s numbers) roughly 1 in 5 American kids have participated in the program.

Teachers or homeschool parents simply enroll their students in the program by the October start date each year.  There is no charge.  Teachers and parents then work with students to set monthly goals for reading.  When students reach this goal, they get a certificate that can be “cashed in” at a local Pizza Hut for a free personal pan pizza.  They have a strict policy against pizza parties in classrooms, instead emphasizing the individual nature of the award (how retro).

In 2017 Mental Floss published 12 Cheesy Facts about Pizza Hut’s Book It! Program.  If you’re looking for a fun and truly informative dive into some serious 80’s nostalgia, check it out.  But that’s not all…

I had been wondering if there had been any scholarly research on the outcomes of the program, and sure enough, the above-mentioned Mental Floss article pointed me to “Effects of extrinsic reinforcement for reading during childhood on reported reading habits of college students” (Psychological Record, 1999, by Flora, S. R., & Flora, D. B.) – here’s the PDF in case you’d like to check it out yourself.

From the abstract (emphasis mine):

Answers to direct questions about Book It! and parental pay for reading suggest that when a child is extrinsically reinforced for reading the child will increase the amount read, enjoyment of reading may increase, and if they do not yet know how to read fluently, the programs may help the child to learn to read. These results provide no support for the myth that extrinsic rewards for reading undermine intrinsic interest in reading. Rather, extrinsic rewards for reading set the conditions where intrinsic motivation for reading may develop. Any concerns that reinforcement programs for reading will decrease later reading behaviors are unfounded.

I was a voracious reader as a kid, and no doubt I would have read stacks of books without the fast-food incentive.  But it didn’t hurt, and in the process, I got in the habit of writing down lists of the books I read, which is a good practice.

There are a lot of lessons that I think education reformers and philanthropists can take from this program:

  1. It’s free and easy-to-understand.
  2. The program’s design does not take a stand on which kinds of books kids have to read.  The teacher newsletters offer ideas and suggestions, but these are purely voluntary.
  3. The program relies solely on the most local level of knowledge in terms of setting up the program’s metrics, i.e., parents and teachers.  These grown-ups frequently work with students themselves to set up their reading goals, taking interests and ability into account while also providing some gentle nudges towards more challenging books.
  4. Homeschoolers have been welcomed from the beginning of the program, and now students in online schools are welcome, too.  In other words, the program is flexible.
  5. Extrinsic motivation properly engaged can lead to the development of intrinsic motivation.  Incentives matter.
  6. It’s a privately-sponsored program.  It very clearly helps out Pizza Hut to bring in additional business through loss-leaders like personal pan pizzas.  And this is not a weakness – it keeps the program’s design and mission simple and laser-focused.

There is a lot of debate in education reform circles about intrinsic vs. extrinsic loci of control, motivation, and grit these days, and Book It! has certainly has its critics.

I’ll be coming back to those important issues in the future.  But Aristotle kinda sums up my POV, so I’ll let him take us out this morning (emphasis mine):

Again, of all the things that come to us by nature we first acquire the potentiality and later exhibit the activity (this is plain in the case of the senses; for it was not by often seeing or often hearing that we got these senses, but on the contrary we had them before we used them, and did not come to have them by using them); but the virtues we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyre-players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts. 

The Upside of the Downside

Just spent a fantastic weekend in Austin with the incomparable Nova Walsh and her fam.  We fiddled with WordPress (I’m a noob but she has mad skillz) and drank a respectable amount of vino.

She was also a homeschooled kid, and while our experiences have a lot of similarities, there are big differences, too.  Homeschooling is by nature eclectic and dependant on the values and goals of the families involved.

I’ve written a good bit so far on what I see as the blessings of having been homeschooled.  And in my case, they have been innumerable.

I want to meditate for a bit on one of the aspects that I find more ambiguous.

What got me thinking about this was (what else) a podcast that I listened to on the drive home.  Because of the Red River Shoot-Out  + ACL, the traffic on I-35 between Austin and DFW was even more craptacular than usual.  But, thanks to that, I got to listen to this one twice.  And since it’s a Tim Ferriss joint, that should give you an idea of just how bad the traffic was.  Maybe that’s how TxDOT can start measuring traffic delays-  Belton to Temple: 2.5 Tim Ferriss Podcasts.

Anyway, this episode was truly remarkable – it featured Samin Nosrat, whose book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, Nova had actually given me for my birthday this year.

Among the many topics that Samin tackled in a truly disarming and vulnerable way was this idea of being an outsider.  She was the child of immigrants from Iran, and was born in San Diego.  Her family kept the traditions of their culture alive at home even as Samin was doing all the normal stuff any other California kid growing up near the beach would do.

It got to me because, I’ll just say it — homeschooling was alienating.

I didn’t get pop culture references, and had to work hard as hard as Lisa to learn the canon of The Simpsons (am I doing this right?).

I didn’t learn as early as others how to persevere through tough subjects, difficult teachers, or uncomfortable social situations, because I didn’t have to.

I couldn’t swap funny/humiliating prom stories with peers, because I didn’t go.

I still never quite feel comfortable in my own skin.

And yet…

There is power in being an outsider.  Detachment gives perspective, even as it can take away the ability to engage emotionally.  I think that’s what I found really compelling about the interview with Samin – the idea that as outsiders, we have to work on that area of disengagement from our emotions and in doing so, turn that weakness into a strength.

Homeschooling is getting less weird.  And that’s all to the good, I think.  But there is a small part of me that is a little sad about that, too.

The Upside of the Downside

Just spent a fantastic weekend in Austin with the incomparable Nova Walsh and her fam.  We fiddled with WordPress (I’m a noob but she has mad skillz) and drank a respectable amount of vino.

She was also a homeschooled kid, and while our experiences have a lot of similarities, there are big differences, too.  Homeschooling is by nature eclectic and dependant on the values and goals of the families involved.

I’ve written a good bit so far on what I see as the blessings of having been homeschooled.  And in my case, they have been innumerable.

I want to meditate for a bit on one of the aspects that I find more ambiguous.

What got me thinking about this was (what else) a podcast that I listened to on the drive home.  Because of the Red River Shoot-Out  + ACL, the traffic on I-35 between Austin and DFW was even more craptacular than usual.  But, thanks to that, I got to listen to this one twice.  And since it’s a Tim Ferriss joint, that should give you an idea of just how bad the traffic was.  Maybe that’s how TxDOT can start measuring traffic delays-  Belton to Temple: 2.5 Tim Ferriss Podcasts.

Anyway, this episode was truly remarkable – it featured Samin Nosrat, whose book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, Nova had actually given me for my birthday this year.

Among the many topics that Samin tackled in a truly disarming and vulnerable way was this idea of being an outsider.  She was the child of immigrants from Iran, and was born in San Diego.  Her family kept the traditions of their culture alive at home even as Samin was doing all the normal stuff any other California kid growing up near the beach would do.

It got to me because, I’ll just say it — homeschooling was alienating.

I didn’t get pop culture references, and had to work hard as hard as Lisa to learn the canon of The Simpsons (am I doing this right?).

I didn’t learn as early as others how to persevere through tough subjects, difficult teachers, or uncomfortable social situations, because I didn’t have to.

I couldn’t swap funny/humiliating prom stories with peers, because I didn’t go.

I still never quite feel comfortable in my own skin.

And yet…

There is power in being an outsider.  Detachment gives perspective, even as it can take away the ability to engage emotionally.  I think that’s what I found really compelling about the interview with Samin – the idea that as outsiders, we have to work on that area of disengagement from our emotions and in doing so, turn that weakness into a strength.

Homeschooling is getting less weird.  And that’s all to the good, I think.  But there is a small part of me that is a little sad about that, too.

 

 

Podcast episodes for the insatiably curious

Some podcasts are pleasant but fleeting – they keep you company for a while, but you quickly forget them.  Others stick with you, and you want to go back and relisten once, twice, or more.  I thought I’d recommend some of the podcast episodes that have made it into that small circle of all-time greats for me.

Obviously, this is an evolving list, and know I’ve left even many of my favorites off.  I may even make this a periodic theme to come back to here.  If I’ve left of one that you think is truly great, please feel free to drop a note in the comments or tweet it at me.

Generally speaking, if the individual episode was superb, it’s worth subscribing to the feed.

  • Not surprisingly, any interview with Professor Barbara Oakley will rank very high with me – I’m looking forward to reviewing her new book, Learning How to Learn and talking (gushing) more about her ideas on this blog, but if you’d like an introduction, check out this excellent interview on Shane Parrish‘s show, The Knowledge Project.  
  • Since I’m plugging The Knowledge Project, go ahead and check out this interview with Annie Duke that I’m currently re-listening to.  Annie is a former professional poker player, and has some amazing advice about decision-making, humility, and how to talk to yourself about past failures.
  • RadioLab consistently produces some of the best podcasts, and I usually jump straight there when my feed refreshes.  One episode that’s stuck with me is this extended interview with physician and author Oliver Sacks in the final months of his remarkable life. If you haven’t read Sacks before, I’d recommend starting with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales.
  • Related to a recent post here, I’d recommend John McWhorter‘s interview of Mark Seidenberg, author of Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It.  Lexicon Valley is a treasure trove for language and linguistics nerds, and Professor McWhorter’s style is loose, engaging, and funny.
  • I’ll leave you on an emotional note this morning – I dare you to listen to the final podcast of season three of Revisionist History Malcolm Gladwell is a master storyteller, obviously, but his episode on he song that Elvis just couldn’t get “right” just left me, well, all shook up.

 

 

 

Giving an Account

Two rock-star educational policy researchers, Mike McShane and Paul DiPerna, have a new report out at EdChoice on the thorny problem of accountability in schools.  They convened two rounds of focus groups, which included four affinity groups within each – practitioners, researchers, engaged outsiders, and policy advocates.

Despite their general dissatisfaction with current practice, the groups’ consensus was hard to distinguish from the status quo.

McShane published a summary of the findings in Forbes, noting:

As part of the event, we ran a simulation where focus group participants played the role of advisors to a fictional Midwestern governor. They were given broad license to design a new accountability system for the state that better addressed the concerns they had with existing school accountability systems.

What struck me about the exercise was how similar these new systems looked to existing ones. Participants wanted to add new data (in the report we highlight the dozens of potential new metrics that participants surfaced) and maybe wanted to tweak how they were used here and there. But if the house of accountability was being redecorated, no walls were coming down. It was new paint and new furniture.

Parents, as they point out in the full study, tend to give less weight to a school’s average test scores than to other factors.

Because they were members of a homeschooling umbrella group, Mom and Dad had access to Stanford Achievement Tests, which were required of all public schools in Florida until 2009.

As they remember it, it was a gray area as to whether they were legally required to do the testing.  But the way they thought about it was simple:  it was their responsibility to provide a good education to their kids.  The tests were simply information that would help them see whether they were on the right track with us or not, whether we had specific areas of weakness or strength to work on.  It was a way to remain above reproach with respect to the county school board, yes, but more importantly, it was a tool in their toolbox.

Stanford 3-27-86

In McShane and DiPerna’s report, they capture the difficulty of defining exactly what we mean by accountability, especially as it pertains to education.  They boil it down to the Merriam-Webster definition: “subject to giving an account, answerable.”

Of course, as they point out, that doesn’t answer the crucial questions of what to give an account of, to whom an account is owed, and by which criteria to judge an account.  They go on to point out that there is serious disagreement in the education reform community over whether it is better to allow parents to be the “deciders” as to a school’s quality via choice, or whether accountability ought to be imposed by experts at the state and national level.

I think the way my parents understood accountability was far more rigorous than could ever have been imposed by human authorities.  They believed that they were accountable to their Creator for the correct education of their kids.  I don’t think it’s necessary to be religious to have an uncompromising belief in this serious responsibility of parenthood, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

My parents opted to have us tested because it was one of the ways they held themselves accountable for our educational progress.  It was not the only one, of course.  Mom looked a our test scores, yes, but she also kept track of the books we were reading (until that eventually became our responsibility), how fast we could do our multiplication tables (it was always a game), and a million other little things that only they would notice.

2nd Grade Books read 1

Homeschooling for them was a year-by-year decision.  Their school was subject to being “closed” if their students were not thriving in all dimensions, not just academic.  I know that it’s easy to say that they were not typical.  But I do really believe that if we trusted more parents with the ability to choose, we’d see many, if not most, rise to the occasion.