Thursday, June 26, 2008

Teaching to the Test

You know... one of the things that I like as a homeschooler is the ability to concentrate on comprehension and mastery without having to "teach to the test." There is a freedom in this. There is quite a debate in our society right now about how to teach kids and how important testing is. I tend to be on the side of those who say teaching to the test isn't the right approach.

That is why it is so ironic that I find myself "teaching to the test."

Why would I do this? Because my daughter wants to participate in our Church's "Bible Challenge." It is a Bible knowledge quiz (handled much like a spelling bee) that they have every year at the end of summer. It is open to kids who have finished kindergarten through sixth grade. They divide the kids up into age groups for appropriately challenging questions for that group. For every correct answer they earn a ticket to redeem for prizes. Everyone who completes the challenge without missing an answer gets a trophy. My daughter really, really, really, wants to do this. So we have the list of questions that they handed out in June for the quiz in August. The idea is to encourage Bible knowledge, not to try to trip the kids up with surprise questions.

So, this week I have been teaching to the test. We have been reviewing the questions. I was happy to see that the questions didn't cover anything that she was unfamiliar with (with the possible exception of how many books are in the Bible). She knows all the stories mentioned in the questions, so I'm happy that she knows the context of what the questions are talking about. She also knew most of the answers. However, I have needed to encourage her to stick to the answers they expect the kids to give. Restating an answer in your own words is fine as long as it is accurate and doesn't confuse the issue (she has been fond of riddles lately and has sometimes tried to answer questions with riddles).

Now I have to try to find a way for this review of questions to stay fresh or she will get bored and not put effort into it. It would be heartbreaking for our little perfectionist to miss an answer in this much anticipated contest. (Heartbreaking for her that is, we are OK with it).

Which brings up another question: Are perfectionists that way all their life? Are there any recovering perfectionists out there? I've never seen evidence that this personality trait changes. Not being a perfectionist myself, I've never seen much point to it. My husband is one (that must be where she gets it), but he manages to use it to give himself the drive and endurance to work until he gets right whatever he is working on. That is an adult form of perfectionism. In our five year old, it tends to work more like "If I get something right the first time, I love it and want to do it constantly until I get tired of it. If I get something wrong the first time, I hate it and I will fight every attempt to get me to do it again." Anybody got ideas on how to move this stubborn perfectionist from point A to point B? I've just been making her do things anyway, until she gets it right (then I can't stop her). Nobody said parenting was easy. Parenting and teaching can be twice as hard sometimes.

So anyway, I am teaching to the test this summer as a favor to my daughter. How is that for a twist?

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