Disclaimer: this is not a post about the pros and cons of standardized testing in schools. It’s about teaching until students understand.
“Do you have to give them tests?” I’m asked this question frequently by people who wonder about our home schooling life. And no wonder…
Tests are a big deal in public schools around here. A very big deal. An entire month of the school calendar is devoted to testing. Now, to be fair, I have no idea what that actually looks like in the classroom. I doubt that it means children are taking tests all day, every day, for the whole month. More likely, it’s a little bit each day. But I do know some great kids who feel stressed out that month! And I hear teachers who are pressured to make sure their classes perform adequately.
So it’s interesting to have another view of testing.
1. Do you have to give them tests? Well, no. In my state, home schooled students aren’t required to take standardized tests. (In fact, in my state, all parents are required by law to make sure their children are educated in specific subjects.
Some most do that by enrolling their children in a public school. We take care of it at home.)
2. Do you have to give them tests? This is where home schooling diverges most from traditional schooling, in my experience. Teachers teach, students learn. Teachers give tests, students take tests. Right? Not so much, at our house. Once they know how to read and write, surprisingly little of my time is spent directly teaching them. My role is to give them clear assignments and help them understand if they run into problems. Their job is to do the assignments well enough to teach me the concepts. (Honestly, it’s a lot like how public school parents help their kids with homework… except I don’t have to worry about contradicting another teacher!)
3. Do you have to give them tests? There are times we use tests, such as our daily (yes, daily!) spelling tests. There are other times when my kids show their understanding of subjects through our conversation over breakfast… or by drawing a picture… or by teaching me how to do the math lesson they just completed. In fact, especially in math, I don’t let them move on to a new concept until they can confidently teach me the previous lesson. Simply getting the right answers on the worksheets is not enough!
That’s what’s important to me… that they understand what they read and do and discuss! In subjects where new skills build upon previous skills, we don’t move on until they understand. I’m far more interested in hearing about what they know than in seeing a high test score.
Care to join the testing/understanding conversation? What kinds of tests do your kids take? How do you know they understand what they’ve learned? (And be sure to check out the other ABCs of Homeschooling posts at http://www.5kidsandadog.com )