U is for Understanding

Disclaimer: this is not a post about the pros and cons of standardized testing in schools. It’s about teaching until students understand.

ABCs of Homeschooling

“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.

Standardized Test

Image by biologycorner via Flickr

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 )


About Heidi

I'm a pastor's wife, striving to live generously. I'm also a homeschooling, gardening, knitting, cooking, reading mom.
This entry was posted in Homeschool, parenting, simplicity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to U is for Understanding

  1. Heidi you summed it up so nicely…wish I could tape record you and then push play anytime someone asks me that very question:)

  2. I don’t “test” my kids, as such. I had a nice conversation with someone around here who does. It was great to get her insight, but I am with my children most days, and most of the time. I can tell when they understand something. I might ask them about it later, have them report to “Daddy” when he gets home from work, leave the lesson for a few weeks then swing back around to it. Or I might bring it up in adult conversation. They jump right in. ( I didn’t say their manners were great. We’re working on it.)

    Great thoughts on this subject. I haven’t been asked that yet.

  3. Pingback: Home School Posts Index | Give Away Seven a Day

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