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.
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 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.