Friday, August 04, 2006

Tax-free Shopping, TAKS-free Teaching

"It's the m-o-o-o-st wonderful time of the ye-e-ear!" I remember that Staples commercial a couple of years ago, where the parent danced through the aisles buying school supplies while the glum-faced kids stood looking on... Well, to me this is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Ecclesiastes says there's a "time to gather." Well, this is it! Tax-free weekend! Back-to-school sales! ::::sigh:::: Folders! Paper! Jeans! Socks! Fun!

As we're preparing for an afternoon of gathering certain items tax-free, I've been thinking of the other spelling of the word: TAKS. For those of you not in Texas, the TAKS are the state-wide achievement tests, which have (unfortunately) increasingly begun to govern what teachers are able to teach. I haven't been in the classroom for some time now, but how well I remember that feeling of having a great teaching idea, or coming across a fun activity I'd love to do, only to realize that I really shouldn't because it didn't have test objective tied to it (especially in the spring). Every spring, CPA's have their "tax season," well Texas Public Educators have their "TAKS season" at the same time. (I never noticed the correlation until today!) It took me several years after I quit teaching to not have the test dates firmly implanted in my mind. (In our state, homeschools and private schools do not take the TAKS.) Ahhhh, freedom!

This weekend we have the freedom of shopping for clothes without the added burden of state sales tax. It's not that we don't have to pay for what we're buying, or that we don't have to pay taxes on anything, but eliminating the extra cost of the tax on certain items is... nice. As a homeschooler, I have enormous responsibility in teaching my kids, but eliminating the extra requirement of state testing is... nice. In fact, it's wonderful. Now, the TAKS isn't all bad, just like taxes aren't all bad, both accomplish a measure of common good. Extreme taxation, though, is stifling (just ask our founding fathers!) and many schools suffer from extreme TAKSation. I'm glad to be free from both. Just like our nation still seeks a way to balance taxation, there are many schools and teachers, I'm sure, who have found a way preserve the joy of learning amid the test requirements.

This isn't an "in-your-face" nya-nya to anyone, but just the observation of one lil' ole homeschooler from "deep in the heart," who's gearing up for another year of TAKS-free teaching and heading out for an afternoon of tax-free shopping.


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