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Friday, April 30, 2021

This week...

I registered for jury duty. I mentioned a bad mail day a while back and, well, finally dealt with some of that bad mail (because I had to...within ten days...or else). Filling out the form was rather comical for me; it felt like filling out my medical history. Like, when I first started filling out my medical history forms it was short and sweet—literally nothing to report. But nowadays I have a few more boxes to check. Very similarly, the first few times I was called for jury duty, the paperwork was very straightforward for me—literally nothing to report. Now, however, I'm like, "Pull up a chair. This could take a while..." Anyway, I could have gotten a deferral or something, on account of being a homeschooling mom, but unfortunately (or fortunately) we're hitting our 180 mandated days on May 5. We literally have three days left of school, so I have no valid excuse to bow out. Jury duty isn't ever something I've been eager to do.

*****

I administered standardized "end of year" tests for Benjamin and Miriam. Technically Benjamin still has two sections left to take. He's need the hands-on management of his time that he has required of me since we began homeschooling, so I've sat beside him and said things like, "Okay, now...next question." And, "Read the whole thing first." And, "Make sure you actually click in the circle." And, "I know you think you're finished but let's go back through to make sure you answered all the questions. Oh, look. You somehow missed one. Go ahead and answer it now." At times this was a painful process for me (like when I knew he was selecting the wrong answer), but he's done surprisingly well. Today he took one of his language tests and was repeating aloud spelling rules like, "Drop the E and add -ing! Duh! Obviously "makeing" is spelled wrong! It should be m-a-k-i-n-g!" And I would just sit there in shock because, friends, he does not think about spelling rules in real life. Like, at all. Ever. He just doesn't ever consider how words should be spelled. 

I should note that on Monday we took some practice tests since neither Benjamin or Miriam had taken a standardized test in a couple of years. Tuesday I let the kids loose and wandered between them as I monitored their test-taking. Miriam completed her sections in a respectable timeframe. Benjamin flew through his assigned sections. We're talking, like, 40 questions in 7 minutes. He...did not score well on the sections he took on Tuesday. That's why I started sitting with him on Wednesday—to remind him to pace himself, to read the questions, to go back and make sure he answered every question before submitting his exam. And he's done so much better. But it's also been much more time-consuming for us. 

Miriam finished her tests yesterday and did very well overall. The testing, though mandated by law, is solely for our benefit—to help us find knowledge gaps and strengths. I think I found a few areas we could do better in. I ordered grammar workbooks for this coming school year, for example, because while we've gone over such things periodically throughout the year, it isn't really something we've focused on. I'm somewhat of a descriptivist at heart.

To that point, there's one section of the test that I found to be rather...racist...or at least elitist. The point of the questions was to identify "standard English" and they offered some sentences that were "correct" as well as sentences that were a little more...colloquial. We happen to speak General American English at our house (more or less (though my children are also familiar with some non-standard (Canadian) terminology, like "housecoat," for example, or "pencil crayons")), so this section was easy-breezy for my children. All they had to do was read the given sentence and they knew whether it was "standard" or not. (Miriam was able to read these sentences in her head; Benjamin has read his entire test out loud (I don't even know what they would have done with him at school)). Anyway, I guess knowing standard English is important (at least to fit in with the dominant Discourse of society), but I imagine that section of the test is a lot harder for students who (a) speak English as their first language but who (b) didn't grow up speaking standard English. And then that would earmark them as having done poorer overall. 

It's not only a race thing, although I imagine a common example to come to mind for many (Americans) would be African-American Vernacular English. But there are other non-standard dialects, such as Newfoundland English or Cajun Vernacular English or Appalachian English, and many others. 

I just think it's sheer luck that my children have grown up speaking a standard dialect and think it's a little unfortunate that other dialects have such a poor stigma attached to them because I think linguistic diversity is beautiful. 

(But if you ask me to edit your paper for you, you might end up wondering if I'm actually a prescriptivist (I'm clearly not; just read the blog).

Anyway, I'm looking forward to finishing up testing tomorrow. And then we don't have to do it again for three years! Well, Rachel will have to test next year, but somehow Zoë, Benjamin, and Miriam will all be on the same schedule. (We have to test in grades 3, 6, 9, and 12, I guess, though I think technically you can do that earlier since the law states that we have to test at least every three years, beginning at the end of grade 3, and the ACT counts as a test, which obviously you want to take prior to your senior year).

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