Catch and Release Education

Catch and Release Education Life is not a test.

Life Is Not A Test.

Formal education. What does that really mean? To me it means catch and release. We toss out facts for students to catch, only to be released after the test. The result isn’t a depth of knowledge, rather a box checked.

True retention and mastery is bypassed in the race for a grade. Click to tweet.

We toss a kid a fish. He takes it into the boat. Then he tosses it back in the lake. Never to be seen again.

What if we shook up this education paradigm and thought of it more as a process; a process of foundation plus practice plus application, and dared to toss aside this whole practice of catch and release?

Do kids retain differently than we do as adults?

If I need to figure out an app on my phone, I hit a bunch of buttons, run into brick walls until I finally figure it out. I don’t need a test or a grade to prove mastery. I have built a foundation of basic iPhone knowledge from reading directions and watching how-to videos. I’ve practiced on it every day building skills and muscle memory. Then, I apply these skills to whatever is the task at hand.

That’s learning. Same same for learning anything.

If you gave me a test on the iPhone, in the tradition of formal education, I likely would fail.

What if we had schools that never tested? That a measure of success was not in a final grade or a number, but rather in the enthusiasm of the students to conquer a concept and own it like a boss?

In the Real World, as opposed to the artificial world of Formal Education, we generally aren’t tested or graded. We either make a sale or we don’t. We either show up for work on time or we don’t. We either work and play well with others or we don’t. We either put our best forward serving others in our jobs and businesses or we don’t.

None of that requires testing.

Formal education serves a purpose. But testing doesn’t serve the student. Click to tweet.

Can you even imagine if the principal at Hometown High woke up one morning and decided to ban all testing? And in leu of all the time, money and energy put into teaching for the test, she put the resources into beefing up the libraries with truckloads of books and comfy cushions, and required that every single afternoon be spent whiling away in blissful reading? No tests. Just freedom, time and space to read.

What if they just “tested” this concept for a month? Just one month. I say a month because it would take at least two weeks for the kids to really come to understand and trust that reading is actually enjoyable and useful. Changing diets is always hard.

Do you think there would be a revolution? Or maybe some real learning and wonder?

Reading launches learning.

Imagine where these kids would go next? Maybe their natural curiosity that’s beat down through years of formal education would start to kick in?

Curiosity launches mastery.

That’s why I’ve never tested my kids. As a homeschool family, we have the luxury of choosing our own path, which is why I cringe when I hear of other homeschool families bringing the testing tradition of  “building school” into their homes. There’s no need, and I’d argue that it’s detrimental.

Some of the best moments of my kids’ childhood have been our weekly trips to the library, followed by the hours and hours on end when they would perch themselves on a comfy chair in the sun, reading away the afternoons. We created the environment for quiet reading time and made reading a priority everyday, no strings attached. No comprehension tests, no required reading, just wild and crazy reading for the joy of it.

Our kids’ first and only test has been their college entrance exams. Prepping for those have been all about learning how to play the game. It’s probably more frustrating for me than them considering my bad attitude about the couple months wasted in the whole prep game, but I’ve done my best to keep my Susie Sunshine face on during the process.

We’ve managed to keep that icky beast of testing out of our home for as long as possible and I’m happy to say our four kids really love learning. Really. I’m not just saying that.

How many high school graduates do you know that come out of commencement saying they love school (outside of the fun social stuff)? Or let alone, are enthusiastic about learning?

Learning. It’s a process. Not a test.


PS. This post barely scratches the surface of  the sad state of Formal Education. I just read a harrowing piece in the Washington Post sharing An Educator’s List of What’s Really Hard In Education Today from the perspective of Nancy E. Bailey, a longtime special educator who left the teaching profession, disillusioned by the standardized test-based reforms that she believes hurts children. And by the looks of her list, this is isn’t the only reason. She’s one of many amazing teaching professionals that have been dropping out of the industry.

About The Author

Maria Slaby

I'm a lot of labels, not the least of which is a mom / wife with four awesome kids and an amazing husband. My lifelong love of making cool stuff with an eye on our humanness has also turned me into a branding and publishing specialist. I love helping others bring voice to their passions in this wild and tangled digital world. Catch up with me on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @mariaslaby.