Does your state require testing in your homeschool? If not, have you considered administering a standardized test?
I’ve found the testing experience to be valuable for several reasons.
This year we decided to give Curly (1st grade) the Stanford test. I was excited when we got our results and saw that she had done very well. I expected her to struggle with the math section since math is not her strongest subject; however, I was pleased to see that our hard work on math in 1st grade had paid off. She did not miss a single math question in any of the sections! Seeing our results showed me that we were on the right track and I found them to be encouraging as well.
We fall into the latter category. I don’t avoid testing and I don’t have to test through our state. I gave Curly a standardized test for several reasons. Let me outline them for you…….
Why We Test:
To learn how tests work
I want my kids to have practice taking tests so they can see how they work. Before Curly took the test we talked about the different kind of questions that would be asked. I also gave her strategies for completing multiple choice tests such as reading all the answers before choosing one and crossing off any that are wrong to being to eliminate answer choices. I want my kids to understand test taking strategies and learn to assess what the test is really asking of them. This is just a great way to practice and see how test questions are asked and how answers are presented.
To practice for the inevitable test taking scenarios later in life
My husband has had to complete many tests for his job and for continuing education for some of his licenses. I had to take tests to enter college, to qualify for scholarships, and throughout my college years. Tests are part of our society and part of our education system. While I don’t always agree with the purpose of the test or the way the test is scored, my kids will have to take tests at some point. I would rather have them practice now on tests that don’t matter so they are prepared when for tests when the results do matter.
To provide one way to assess progress
Hear me out on this one. I don’t think standardized tests are a very accurate measure of progress. I sit with my kids during their lessons; I help them with their assignments; I teach and re-teach concepts to them. I know exactly where they struggle and how well they are doing in most subjects. Tests are just another measure of assessment. I feel better covering my bases and evaluating my kids through various methods. Then I can use what I’ve learned from each method and get a more complete picture of their progress and their learning.
To reduce test anxiety
I never had test anxiety in school but I had several friends who would freeze on tests. I want my children to view tests in the same way I do – as something that needs to be completed to the best of your ability – and that’s it. They are not something to cause panic. You can approach them with the information you’ve learned and with strategies for eliminating wrong answers and reading questions carefully. I want my children to have the knowledge and skills to approach test taking without fear. And I feel the way to ensure that my children don’t panic at test taking time is to give them lots of practice.
To practice working independently
I have a child who doesn’t want to do anything a part from me. This child wants assurance, feedback, and lots of direction. While I’m happy to give detailed instructions and lots of help and encouragement, there are times when my kids will have to follow the instructions as they are given. They will have to make judgement calls and they will have to work independently with confidence. Before I give tests I remind my kids that this is for them to show me what they can do without my help. They are to do their very best – which doesn’t mean perfection. Then they will have the chance to see how they did and learn from mistakes. But the most important thing about the test is that they answered every question on their own.
To put skills into practice
I want my children to be able to put all the skills they learned in various subjects into practice and show me they can apply what they’ve learned without any prompting from me. Tests give them the chance to integrate and apply the information they’ve learned. And comprehensive tests require them to recall facts and information from months prior and use what they’ve learned to complete the test. I want to see them applying what they’ve learned in various ways. Tests give them an independent avenue for applying what they have learned.
To keep detailed records
I don’t have to test for my state but there’s no guarantee that the laws won’t change or that we won’t move to another state. I don’t want to see homeschooling more regulated in any state, but I want to be prepared in case the laws change. I want to keep accurate records of what curriculum we use and how my children are progressing. Test results are one way that I can keep a progress report in case my homeschool is ever challenged or the laws require more detailed record-keeping of me.
To give me peace of mind
I will admit that while I don’t think standardized tests are very helpful, it was extremely reassuring to see Curly’s scores that were above average in every area. I felt like what we were doing was maybe successful! I know homeschool moms can struggle with self-doubt and wonder if they are doing enough, too much, or leaving gaps in their child’s education. Well, seeing the results on paper reassured me that Curly was not suffering in her education. I felt confident to continue on our current track and keep working to challenge her.
So, while testing is not right for everyone and may not be a part of every homeschool, it is a small part of our school here at Lextin Academy.