My daughter is only two years old right now, but it seems like younger and younger children are being subjected to formal testing these days. It’s hard to picture little kids even sitting still long enough to complete a written test, never mind the amount of experiential learning that is missed when everyone is so preoccupied with testing scores. I feel like all of this testing encourages rote memorization at the expense of critical thinking and creativity, and it worries me.
As adults, haven’t we learned our lesson in this? Some of our most in-demand professions require vast creativity paired with this critical thinking. Most of us are happier when we use our bodies, our creative abilities, and pursue our interests.
This led me to think … what if I parented only “to the test?”
I guess this imaginary toddler test would include something about reading basic words. So instead of spending time with a few friends at the nature center, where my daughter got to pet a live snake and hasn’t stopped talking about “how scaly” it was, we would be at home (probably alone) reviewing how to identify and spell the word “snake.”
We might be too preoccupied with learning our numbers to have Taylor Swift dance parties, where my daughter learned that mommy can’t dance but still likes to have fun anyway.
At the zoo, we wouldn’t have had a 5 minute conversation about why the ‘mingos stand on one foot. I would have been too busy grilling her on the feeding habits of mammals. You know, the little tidbits of life that can be condensed into multiple choice questions.
We wouldn’t have time for her playgroup, where she has gained a ton of social confidence and close toddler friendships. She’s learned how to take back a stolen toy, how to let it go if she doesn’t care, how to hug her friends goodbye, and to generally enjoy the company of others. All skills not addressed on a paper exam.
If I parented “to the test,” my daughter and I might not have made a giant chalk mural across the driveway. We might not have ordered a photo of the mural, framed it, and put it on our wall — all the while discussing the steps involved in this process. This has been one of our proudest accomplishments for the month.
We probably wouldn’t have spent time making banana bread, doing yoga together, or creating a princess castle out of legos — because these skills may not test well. But I argue that they are vital — simply because of their ability to enhance the enjoyment of life.
Even thinking about these drawbacks makes me want to send a shout-out to the teachers who work hard to incorporate all kinds of learning into their classrooms, and to that dad who took his kids to the Boston Marathon, and basically to everyone who gets that the real test isn’t about coloring in little bubbles on a standardized assessment paper.
If I parented ‘to the test’, I would be missing the point of parenting in the first place.More On