I’ve been watching several old episodes of Star Trek DS9, one of my husband’s favorite television shows. During one episode, I really liked an exchange between the character Captain Cisco and his teenage son, Jake. Jake wants to go hang out with a friend the night before a big test, but his dad tells him he ought to be studying.
“Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll ace the test.”
To this, Captain Cisco tells his son,
“This is not about tests, Jake. This is about learning. You can’t learn to appreciate Klingon opera by cramming for the test the night before.”
He may not be a real person and there may not be any such a thing as Klingon opera but I still really like what Cisco expresses to his son here because it expresses the same thing many homeschoolers, including myself, believe about education.
We value authentic learning over traditional classroom achievements. It doesn’t bother us that our kids will never have report cards. We’d rather them have shelves full of books they’ve read and reread, photos of history and science projects they done themselves and notebooks full of original drawings, reports and narrations.
There are so many things that can’t be learned in a classroom and there aren’t many that a student must have a classroom for. So we home school so that our kids have time to learn to actually appreciate subjects like opera, for instance, rather than study these things just enough to pass a test on it.
We want the subjects we learn to become a part of our understanding from then on, not just long enough to get a good grade and move on to something else without recalling the subject matter long term. Not that you can’t develop real appreciation for subjects in school, but let’s face it, there isn’t much time in school to pursue interests even if one is sparked by something you are assigned to study. And there is so much emphasis on achievement that students (and many teachers) can’t really even tell the difference between test performance and authentic understanding. As homeschoolers, we get to create a universe where it really is all about learning.