Much More Than Passing Tests

“If I do Lifestyle of Learning™, and I let my child learn what he is motivated to learn, will he be able to pass tests?”

This is a question about Lifestyle of Learning™ we hear often. Learning how to take tests is a very simple matter that can be quickly explained to most anyone over 10, and so the question isn’t really about the ability to take a test, but about having enough knowledge to pass a test.

I’ve been thinking a lot about tests lately. I’ve asked a few people whose line of work requires an entrance test this question, “Do you think a person can pass the test for this profession, and still be bad at it?” Without hesitation, they reply, “YES!”

I think that’s the case for the young lady who rear-ended us last November and totaled our car. I’m sure she passed her driving test. Since hitting us was this 16-year-old’s second accident, I think I could say that she wasn’t a good driver. Yet, she passed the driver’s test. Her parents and the state agreed that she had enough knowledge and skill to drive because she passed the test, and yet she remained a bad driver.

After educating my oldest children according to the Lifestyle of Learning™ Approach, and having them pass many college level tests, I tend to think that the question of test passing is actually a bit of a ridiculous question, and reveals the misplaced concern of parents toward passing tests.

Tests can only measure knowledge in the form of fact retention, and a little bit of skill. Even those tests that measure a certain set of knowledge can’t possibly measure the depth and breadth of that set of knowledge. Just last week I was listening to a Lifestyle of Learning™ young man talk about various aspects of the civil war, WWI and WWII. After just a couple of hours of listening to him, I could see that he obviously has EXTENSIVE knowledge about these subjects. A test with questions enough to prove the wealth of his knowledge about these subjects would take days or possibly weeks to take! Would he be able to pass a test about American war history? Yes he would. But would the test actually reveal the depth and breadth of not only his knowledge, but his skill, and his experience with the application of the information, and his ability to teach himself all these things? NO WAY!

As the middle of this chart shows, tests can only measure a small part of knowledge, and an even smaller measure of skill. When the goal of education remains the ability to pass tests, as in our culture’s traditional school methods, then the child’s education remains at the minimum level the test is able to measure.

The children are pressed to spend so much time making sure they retain the knowledge and skill necessary to pass the test, that they completely miss out on developing a depth of knowledge, skill, experience and most importantly, the ability to learn for themselves. The content of the test actually limits the content of the schooled child’s education.

Parents raise the concern that a Lifestyle of Learning™ will lead to gaps in their child’s education. What they are really concerned about is their child missing a measure of the minimum knowledge needed to pass tests. The white dots in the chart represent this dreaded “gap”. As you can see, on the chart, the “gap”  in knowledge is ridiculously minor compared to what the child actually knows, and can quickly and easily be filled by the child’s extensive experience and ability to learn.

The true gap exists for the traditionally schooled child, who ends up with enough knowledge and skill to pass a test, but has little else. Passing the test doesn’t mean the child has a depth of knowledge, skill, and experience. Remembering a set of facts and knowledge long enough to take a test is not the same thing as learning, and so passing a test doesn’t mean the child has actually learned or knows how to learn.

If you provide a rich Lifestyle of Learning™ for your children, they will end up with WAY more than the ability to pass tests.




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  1. Nancy Lama
    Posted February 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    This is so true! I excelled at taking tests. I graduated at the top of my high school class and magna cum laude in college. I had high SAT scores that made me look like a promising student. I was voted “most likely to succeed” by my classmates. BUT I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO LEARN and I WAS TOTALLY UNPREPARED FOR REAL LIFE. Everyday life has been one enormous struggle for over 40 years; my education was indeed limited to the minimum level tests measure, devoid of character, healthy expression of my soul, wisdom, experience, skill, and the ability to learn. That’s an ENORMOUS gap!

    I have come to see that I only exercised the first tool of learning. I collected knowledge–facts, actually–and remembered it long enough to take tests. I did well in school simply because I had a good memory for irrelevant facts! Writing things down–taking notes– is not the learning tool of recording. I did record a few things in long-term memory, because schoolwork is so repetitive over such a long time. But it was coming from outside of me. I wasn’t motivated from inner desire to go over and over the material (re-searching it) until it was mine (true recording).

    I was good at writing research papers, but I was really just collecting facts and putting them in a logical outline form. I wasn’t actually learning what I was writing about, because it was an assignment, not something I had a drive to know. (The proof was in the fact that I quickly forgot what I wrote.) I was not searching over and over again to understand something I wanted to know.

    Reasoning, relating, and rhetoric never even entered the picture for me; I didn’t even have artificial forms of those learning tools. This produced much of the struggle of my life, because although I read dozens–probably hundreds–of self-help books, I couldn’t draw accurate conclusions and relate the information to the problems of my own life. I couldn’t make the information mine and give it my own expression tailored to my own life.

    Recently I’ve come to see another gap produced by my traditional education: not coming to learn HOW I learn. Knowing how to learn is not just using the learning tools but using them in a particular way, shaped by individual bents, thinking styles, and aptitudes. Because I got good grades in school, I thought I was one of the lucky few who learn from reading print. I’ve continued to try to learn that way, the only way I knew, with minimal results. I’ve come to realize that it’s not how I learn best. Traditional style education keeps learning at an even lower level than the tests can measure for children who do not learn well reading print or are gifted in something other than linguistic or mathematical intelligence, such as spatial intelligence (all those little artists and designers), kinesthetic intelligence (all those little sports lovers), musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and so on.

    I’ve homeschooled in a state with intrusive laws that required submitting standardized tests to the superintendent of schools, so I understand the concern of parents in these states. The price of teaching to the tests and the public school’s agenda, however, is too high—literally the souls and highest potential of children subjected to it.

    • MichelleG
      Posted February 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink


      YOU JUST DESCRIBED ME! (We have SO much in common!)

      -excelled at taking tests
      -high grade point
      -good SAT scores
      -voted “most likely to succeed”
      -totally unprepared for real life
      and on it goes about the self-help books but never being able to apply to my own life.

      We have SO been sold a bill of goods. The cultural assumptions are even more than that…the way our society follows these untruths is almost cultish. I followed them too, until I recently found Lifestyle of Learning. These assumptions have been peeled away and now I am seeing the truth. Thank you Lord!

      I just watched a YouTube of high school students being asked simple questions like : Who is the vice-president? Name a country that starts with “U”. How many stars are on the flag? Some of the answers…
      -country that starts with U: Utopia (really!?)
      -flag: uh, 52 stars?
      -vp: Bin Laden?!!!!

      I am more aware that my concern MUST be training my children in Christ-like character and training them HOW to learn rather than pushing knowledge and “facts” on them and being in fear of not being able to take tests. If I do push academics and call that “education”, they’ll turn out just like me. The unhappy result of my own public education is a life of so much wasted time and a misplaced purpose in life not to mention a well engrained habit of self-focus.

      I just never really understood what true education really IS until now. I thought it was all about knowledge, but now I’m seeing that it is about the love of learning, the ability to move learning forward, the “individual creative profile” and God-given purpose. Even though I’m just starting to understand, I can SEE this unfolding through other LOLACHE families with older children. It is astounding to see a young adult blossom into who they were really meant to be. What a delight and blessing to God’s kingdom! What a contrast to what I see in young adults raised in a knowledge-driven paradigm.

    • Laura Y.
      Posted February 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! This makes so much sense. This was probably the last insecurity I’ve had in the back of my mind after starting Lifestyle of Learning. Everyone should be set free from the test myth.

  2. Oney Jones
    Posted February 6, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Great article.

  3. Cynthia
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I loved reading your article! I think testing and gaps are the some of the biggest fears of many homeschool moms! I definitely had this fear and many others before really beginning my own re-education.

    In the state of AR they are tested on two main things and the scores are only for the parents information. I don’t know about other states but I realize that many times we put so much pressure on ourselves for our own reasons or to live up to what society says our kids should or shouldn’t know for tests.

    I love the way you described and related how the fullness of our children’s Lifestyle of Learning journey far exceeds what can be tested. It is So true! Our Aim, attitudes, intentions and motivations, are never tested on school exams and yet our hearts are most important to the Lord.

    As I believe Marilyn has said before, it is not the missed subject or scores that parents of adult children grieve over, it is the relationship or condition of their adult children’s hearts that grieves them.

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