Apparently, it’s shocking that we don’t do any testing in our homeschool.
Going against the norm is uncomfortable for lots of people. Homeschool parents seem to feel like they must recreate a school environment at home.
We don’t do testing in our homeschool.
Whoever said there’s no such thing as a stupid question never looked carefully at a standardized test. ~Alfie Kohn
Our culture is permeated with performance.
Outcomes, grades, products, success are more important than the process, than learning. When we focus on outcomes, the motivation is extrinsic and meaningless. We cram for the assignment and then purge the information to move on to the next. There’s no learning involved except in the conditioned behavior, like a rat pushing a button for food.
Let’s begin with a few definitions:
What are Assessments?
Assessment focuses on learning, teaching, and outcomes. It provides information for improving learning and teaching. Assessment is an interactive process between student and teacher that informs the teacher how well the student is learning what they are teaching. The information is used to make changes in the learning environment, and is shared with students to assist them in improving their learning and study habits. This information is learner-centered, course based, frequently anonymous, and not graded.
What are Evaluations?
Evaluation focuses on grades and may reflect components other than course content and mastery level. These could include discussion, cooperation, attendance, and verbal ability.
Tests, exams, quizzes, assessments, and evaluations are often used interchangeably among teachers and parents.
In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson. ~Tom Bodett
Some arguments I’ve heard for testing:
How do I know if the kids are learning?
I have FOUR children. I think I know if they’re learning or not. I don’t have 150 students. Testing is for schools. We’re always learning and the kids are great at self-evaluation. Life is learning. I allow them great freedom to explore their interests.
How do the kids know how to take tests?
Trust me. My kids know what tests are and can complete true/false, multiple choice, fill in the blank, short answer, and essay questions on a variety of subjects. But why would I require such low level evaluation?
How do I report to authorities that require test results?
Sure, it’s probably easier to subject the kids to standardized tests to report to state authorities than complete a portfolio or evaluation form. But is it easiest for the kids or the parent?
Only 8 states require testing with no other option: GA, MN, NC, ND, OR, SC, SD, TN. The standard and penalty are arbitrary, undefined, remediation, “family should remedy,” or enrolling in an umbrella school. AR, MN, NC are the only states which require annual testing without alternatives.
I had my eldest daughter tested in Hawaii in 3rd grade. We weren’t stressed about it. It gave us a baseline, but nothing we didn’t already know. The other states where we’ve lived, TX and UT, didn’t require any reporting.
We’re not interested in comparing our kids to anyone, so testing isn’t important to us.
It’s not difficult to complete portfolio or evaluation requirements. Or just enroll under an umbrella school or homeschool organization if that’s an option.
How are the kids graded?
My kids are not graded.
I repeat: We don’t do grades.
We’re constantly learning. Grades ruin the process. Grades don’t mean anything. They have freedom to learn. They have freedom to take risks, to explore, to fail, to succeed, to be challenged. They are not limited to a rubric. There’s no pressure.
Grades are extrinsic motivation and we prefer intrinsic motivation.
How do the kids know how to study?
I prefer that my kids learn than cram for some test, but they have great skills to help with studying if and when they need it. They’re active readers and writers and remember lots of information and make great connections. I occasionally offer minilessons to teach a skill I think is interesting.
How do I write high school transcripts?
Transcripts are pretty subjective. I list courses completed to mastery. Based on effort, there are a range of A’s and B’s on the transcript.
My eldest audited physics. Civil Air Patrol didn’t issue grades, but she excelled at it.
I’m hoping for colleges to look at a portfolio and not put such an emphasis on grades.
No one has ever asked me for my transcript or GPA or grades since my grad school enrollment.
How do the kids prep for the SAT/ACT?
Strong vocabulary and math skills are key. We read lots and discuss for comprehension, focus on math skills all along, then learn some testing tricks. My teen’s score on the PSAT was great with no prep at all, so we’re hoping to boost that score by a couple hundred points with some practice on Kahn Academy and a vocabulary book.
Thanks to the nation’s testing mania (which I like to call ‘No Child Left Untested’ rather than ‘No Child Left Behind’), children are being barraged with a nonstop volley of standardized tests. From kindergarten to graduate school, students are subjected to an unprecedented number of high-stakes tests. ~Laurie E. Rozakis,
How we assess in our homeschool:
My kids are great learners. They don’t need me.
I’m not a teacher. I’m not a tutor.
I’m a guide. I’m a counselor.
We constantly discuss what we’re learning and reading and exploring. Narration is a great tool that can be really fun with all ages.
Language is important to express our ideas, preferences, interests.
I love to hear what my kids have to say about art, music, literature, history. I love to see them make connections on their own. I love to see that lightbulb moment.
The kids love to write and draw about their experiences. The open-ended idea of notebooking allows for great creativity and individuality instead of a cookie-cutter worksheet with low level thought processes.
I’m not worried about benchmarks, curricula, What My Child Needs to Know in Nth Grade, grades, tests, or knowledge. We don’t participate in co-ops.
I don’t discourage essay writing, but I don’t force it. I don’t even really teach it until high school.
I think younger kids need to learn so much more than writing that we don’t focus on it at all. Kids are natural storytellers. We discuss what we read and make connections, synthesizing knowledge…and this paves the way almost effortlessly into the formulaic essays that college professors like.
I’m more concerned that my kids love learning and exploring and grow up to be free thinkers.
Educational success should be measured by how strong your desire is to keep learning. ~ Alfie Kohn
Learning is a lifelong process.
I’ve learned more outside of school, after high school and university, then I ever did inside a classroom.
Kids will learn despite school.