Homeschool
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To Test, or Not to Test

should you test your #homeschool student? via lagarfias.com

That is the question, for homeschoolers anyway. When I was the homeschool student, we tested. But now, as the homeschool parent, we don’t test. I’ll share how and why we made that decision, and why my husband and I feel so good about it.

What are Tests?

When homeschool parents discuss testing, they can mean one of two things: standardized achievement tests or subjective “end of the chapter” textbook exams. Usually testing refers to the former, but it is always useful  to  clarify the terms just to make sure.

Achievement tests

Standardized achievement tests may be required in some states. They are administered by a licensed administrator or another adult meeting the qualifications of the test; usually the parent may not remain in the room. The student is scored against all other students from all other institutions across the country in his grade level who take this same test.

Textbook exams

Textbook exams are the tests that “come with the curriculum” to test the material contained within the textbook and workbook. Textbook exams usually consists of fill-in-the-blank, matching, and true/false questions over all the bold face vocabulary words, names, dates, and maps within the text.

Should we test?

I don’t test. At all. Any kind of test. I used to use some textbook exams, but I quickly saw what a waste of time that was (especially once there was more than one child to teach!), and I could not wait to throw away the testing books. I can tell if my child knows what he is learning by how he writes about it, discusses it, and interacts with the material during the day. No need to belabor the point. My oldest son can’t remember the last test he took, and my other three have never taken a test. Except math tests. Those came in the workbook, so they just did them like they were normal worksheets. The children liked “math test day,” because there were fewer problems. Ha!

The standardized testing issue was a deliberate choice my husband and I made early on, and we are very pleased we have never tested the children. We also counsel friends of ours to consider, if at all possible, not testing their children. Here is why:

1. The government institutions, for which those tests were created, do not teach the same material we teach in our home.

We teach different subject matter, different values, and different means than public schools. You cannot measure this difference on a test, but this difference – the difference between biblical home education and secular humanism is the single most important reason to home educate.

2. The standardized test grades all students against one another. We are rearing four individuals four God’s glory and His specific will.

Again, you can’t plot that on a curve. Each child will learn to add, find the constellations, appreciate the Battle of Hastings, and acknowledge God’s plan of salvation in his own time. We really don’t care what “most 7 year olds” do.

3. The standardized test would take time – teaching for it and taking it – that I could better use actually teaching my children other things.

Four children who have never taken a test would need to be trained how to take a test. And we would need to research what is on the test. Then we need to study the type of questions on the test. Finally, their type-A mother would insist on practice tests (why do something if we aren’t going to do it well?). I’m exhausted just thinking about it! [You should have seen me prepare for my ACT!].

4. Comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise.

There was a time (a generation ago) when homeschoolers were very insecure they were “doing it right” and needed testing, perhaps, to make sure the children were going to make it. We are well beyond that, now, to full-fledged “anything institutionalized can do, homeschooled can do better.” There is no reason to test and prove it.

Unless your state requires testing (you can check here), I see no need to test. That’s another monkey off of mommy’s back, then you can enjoy homeschooling all the more.

Do you test?

10 Comments

  1. joe says

    Not testing is fine until they have to go to college and no college excepts them because they can not pass a remedial test. I know 2 people who home schooled this way, one works at walmart as a cashier and one works at a gym making sure people sign in when they walk through the door.

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    • And I, a homeschool grad, scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT and was offered a full scholarship to MI state and Harvard. And how many public school graduates, tested to the hilt, are working at WalMart and fast food diners? We could find examples for any argument, and that does not, itself, prove our point.

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  2. I’m sorry but even without having taken tests all their lives homeschooled children should certainly be able to pass a remedial test. Even without life long tests homeschooled children are perfectly able to study to take any kind of test that is required of them. We personally have done limited testing. I agree that testing knowledge is useful for college but I don’t ever recall having to take tests at work to see how I was learning my new job.

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    • Good point, Ticia. If college is the right path for our children, then we will need to prepare them for testing – college entrance exams and college tests themselves (but in hindsight, isn’t that a little silly, learning how to test? Oh, well). In real life, there may be limited testing. For example, there is an exam to apply for some jobs, like banking, law, police work, teaching, and others. But, again, I would still assert we can teach our juniors and seniors how to prepare for this part of life.

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  3. Excellent post. We are fairly new homeschoolers, going into our third year. Last year the boys (4th and 7th) had taken the Terra Nova at the local DoDDs school. Why? Hey, I am new at this, I wanted to ‘see’ where they were at–right? LOL! Secondly, I was not sure of which new installation we would be headed to (military family) and I wouldn’t know if that state required testing…so safe side; let them take the test.

    Well, my seventh grader did absolutely well, my 4th grader not so well!! I was ‘shocked.’ They even called me to make sure his age was correct (he is 9 in the 4th grade). Anyway, I am not sure why he didn’t do well. He was in a classroom with others and there could be SO many variables as to why…

    But after a day, I calmed down. I really realized that the reason for the low score is because all year I wasn’t teaching to their materials. We focused on Biblical world History and nothing on US History, we taught Bible, multiplication only, studying only BIRDS for a whole semester and so forth–English is English though–the only thing he did well on. 🙂

    So, I understood completely why most homeschoolers do not like the ‘standardize testing’ —because it TRULY does not evaluate the true intelligence of that particular student. So, now we know where we are headed to next…and that state does not require testing and we won’t be doing it. 😉

    Thanks for the post!

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    • Jessica, this is an excellent example of why testing is such a mixed bag. I’m so glad you shared your experience. That must have been quite a roller-coaster of emotions for all of you. It is great to look back and see the perspective you gained from the experience. Now you are that much more knowledgeable on the subject!

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  5. Suzanne says

    Lea Ann, we have also done limited testing so I tend to agree with most of what you’ve written here. I graduated 5th in my high school class (out of around 360 students) and went on to graduate from college but honestly didn’t learn much of anything in school. I wanted to make good grades and didn’t truly care about learning. Thus, I studied for the tests, made good grades, and immediately forgot the information. When too much emphasis is placed on grades received, the goal ultimately becomes only making good grades, in my opinion.

    However, I have been homeschooling for 7 years and do feel like standardized testing can be used for our benefit as the parent of homeschooled children. Two of our children have undergone standardized testing 2 times while the youngest has only done standardized testing once. While I agree with you about testing for the most part, there are some benefits to standardized testing every 2-3 years, in my opinion. It gives the parent an idea of what we might be missing in our schooling. While we are decidedly Christian in our schooling, there are still things that a child should know before graduating from high school. If we were to wait until close to graduation to test, we could have much retracking to do and feel overwhelmed by it. Testing scores are only a snapshot in time. They only tell us what the child knows at that particular point in time. So you have to look at scores with that in mind but I do believe testing in this way can be beneficial if you’re attempting to find out where your homeschool might need some adjustments. Just a thought…

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    • Suzanne, I really appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts. Like you said, we really do agree in most part about testing, and that is refreshing. I am curious about one aspect of your response, however. You said that testing “gives the parent an idea what we missing” and if we wait longer [or, by implication, don’t test at all], parents “could have much retracking to do and feel overwhelmed by it.” My question is this: why is testing the only means of finding deficits in our child’s education?

      Before the advent of standardized tests, children were confidently taught by their parents and their progress was appraised by the same. History bears out that the homeschoolers of history did just fine without ever coloring in a circle or answering multiple choice.

      More importantly, iwe as homeschoolers believe that parents are the ultimate authority in the child’s life, bear the ultimate responsibility for rearing him, and know him better than anyone else. Why then would we homeschoolers ask a government test to determine that child’s learning, competence, or growth? Would it not stand to reason that the parents who live each day with the child should be most knowledgeable on him, his abilities, and his weaknesses?

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