I was still going back and forth this morning about whether or not Chana should take the scholarship exam for high school. Making a list of pros and cons:
pros: If Chana does well, it will give the administration insight into her abilities. This happened to Sarah when she took the BJE exam. I had told the principal that I didn't want her in the Hebrew honors classes. She wasn't especially motivated to learn Torah and I didn't think the intense atmosphere that required a lot of studying would help. She agreed, but a few weeks later when she got the results of the BJE exam she said she hadn't realized how smart Sarah was and she wanted her in the Honors secular track. This led to a lot of academic satisfaction on Sarah's part in high school (and the Judaic middle track [out of 5 tracks] was perfect for her since that track had intelligent thinkers who were not bogged down by test anxiety).
cons: Chana does not have the test experience that Sarah did. Chana is slower and less confident on tests. Might this cause her unnecessary pain and anxiety?
I really wasn't sure. I asked the principal today. Her primary concern was that if the test was stressful for Chana, it would create an unnecessary anxiety towards school and tests. But she said she thinks it's pretty straightforward, and worth it for Chana to take. And it includes a lot of Yediot Klaliot that Chana will probably know. I said, "Actually, Chana probably won't know them."
So Chana will take the exam. She's not thrilled about waking up for a 9am exam. But she's not overly concerned about the test.
I googled "yediot klaliot" and found a set of online flash cards. As I suspected, Chana does not know most of these.
I do think that general knowledge is a good thing. And important. (Though due to Seth Godin I think we have more flexibility than ever before because of google.) But although many educators would be horrified that an 8th grader is missing so much basic knowledge, an unschooler knows that the motivated acquisition of knowledge is so quick, so efficient, and so easy, that gaps like these are really nothing to worry about.
I have the luxury of a 5.5 year age gap between my children (it didn't feel like a luxury when it was happening). Sarah is in her second year of college. It was nerve-wracking when she was an 8th grader who seemed not very interested in thinking and learning. But the cognitive and intellectual leaps that go on during the high school years are incredible. If you unschool and raise your children with the confidence that they can acquire the information or skills when they are interested, they will be happy to do so. When they are interested or want them as a means to something they are interested in.