SAT—A Sporting Event

try to keep your muscles relaxed while filling circles….

Un-schooling—that crazy thing in which kids learn at their own pace.

Sometimes the pace is that of a turtle, and other times, that of a moon rocket. It varies kid to kid, and can have a lot to do with their age and what it is that they may be wanting or not wanting to do. While my oldest son bowed to his mother’s wishes and convention twice, by taking a “placement test” at the local community college to ascertain whether he was educated enough to fit into the community college classroom at age 16, the only test he would take after that was his driving test, and that was a fairly traumatic event also. He absolutely and categorically refused to submit to any form of college placement testing, even though it did become clear to him at age 17 that he was going to apply to college animation programs. It turned out that the two most competitive ones in the US did not require placement tests and he actually managed to get in off the waiting list to one of them where he is currently doing very well.

Son no. 2 has a very different approach. After spending his childhood playing and just like his older brother, not learning to read until he was 11 or 12, he is currently “training” for the SAT. He takes sample tests daily, timing himself and studying where his deficiencies in test taking lie. He knows a lot more about the SAT test strategy than I ever did when I took it as a matter of course many years ago. For example, he knows that once you get up into the high score area, getting one more answer correct gains the test taker a leap in points, whereas answering another question correctly further down the score ladder doesn’t make so much difference. This means that if you only got 4 answers wrong, your score may be well under 700, but if you get just one of those correct, you may break 700 with a margin to spare.

So what is my point? It is not to extoll the virtues of son no. 2. He is certainly not doing this because he is a good boy and knows that I want him to do this. No, not at all. He is a full fledged teen ager who does exactly what he wants to do when he wants to do it.  He is doing it because he  intends to apply to competitive colleges that require such. He is not even sure he wants to attend such colleges; it will depend on how involved he is with his own entrepreneurial projects and what the colleges offer him in terms of education and cost.  He is building his test taking muscles because he thinks it is interesting and he sees the competitive aspect of it for sure.  It is a game, and he is studying the rules and strategies as he does when he plays Risk.

There are certainly some twists here…a friend of my son’s who probably has had a more sophisticated math education and is continuing to actually “learn” advanced math rather than “train” for the SATs. He may not score as high in math simply because he has actually moved on beyond SAT math! What is actually getting tested here I wonder?

Perhaps this is the heart of the matter: “unschooling,” wherein children are allowed to play games to their heart’s content, may actually be just the very best training ground for a game like the SAT.

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