Tests you won’t find in textbooks

feedback_formby Mary Schofield

I’m often asked questions like, “How can you teach advanced high school courses like Calculus at home?” My usual response is that with the excellent textbooks available today and with easily accessible resources like the library and the Internet, most courses are pretty easy to teach at home. (Of course, I’m not the one memorizing abstract theorems.)

But there are a number of things we need to know to function well in the adult world that don’t seem to appear in textbooks. See how many of these your junior or senior high school student can pass:

  1. Find any word in the dictionary in 30 seconds or less.
  2. Find a book or magazine article on any subject within five minutes of entering the library. (For fun, you might try this at a library never visited before.)
  3. Name your state senator, assemblyman, congressman, and two U.S. senators.
  4. Fill out a 1040 tax form (even the short one).
  5. Change a flat tire.
  6. Introduce two people who have never met and get them started in a conversation.
  7. Plan a formal meal, including menu, food prices, and cooking schedule.
  8. Organize a group event such as a science fair, field trip, or evangelistic outreach.
  9. Figure out the miles per gallon that your car gets.
  10. Get three car insurance quotes.
  11. Prepare an estimate of what it would cost to live as a single in an apartment in your town.
  12. Locate the best price in town for a refrigerator, computer, or DVD player.
  13. Give directions to your home from the nearest airport.
  14. Show how to turn off a gas valve in an emergency.
  15. Locate a recipe for a particular dish within three minutes from a stack of cookbooks.
  16. Fill out a job application, rental agreement, or real estate purchase offer. (These are available online.)
  17. Figure out, using any available resources, how to get bubble gum out of the carpet.
  18. Work all afternoon on an incredibly boring task, like filling out that 1040, and remain cheerful and kind.

When your children can manage all these tasks, then they are educated.

Mary will be speaking at the Annual Christian Home Educators Convention on “Preparing for High School” and “High School Overview.”

Copyright 1990. Used by permission of the author. Originally published in Parent Educator Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 3
Image copyright 2007. Used by permission of photographer Dominik Gwarek.


Mary and husband Paul began homeschooling in 1986.Their children graduated, married, moved into their own homes, got decent jobs, have great kids of their own, and are doing fine out in “the real world” despite the fears of homeschool naysayers. Mary wrote The High School Handbook based on years of experience, research, and prayer. She speaks at home education conventions, encouraging parents to seek God’s unique plan for their families. Mary has been enjoying her “retirement” from active homeschooling by continuing to serve on CHEA’s Board of Directors. She also found time to go back to school, get a law degree, and become an attorney, practicing in northern California and serving as “of counsel” for HSLDA.

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