A big part of every school child’s academic years is taking tests and quizzes, and getting grades on their work and report cards at the end of the year. In addition, now we have those big standardized assessments featuring so heavily in the news. As homeschooling parents, how should or could we handle this issue of testing and grading our children?
Passing, Failing, Mastery
One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling for many families is that their children are no longer subject to “passing” or “failing” and the associated anxiety. Parents can teach their children at their own pace, without having to consider grade levels or comparing their students with their peers. I personally teach my elementary students for mastery — either they understand it, or they don’t. And if they don’t, we study it and practice it until they do.
Because we work so closely with our children, testing them on their knowledge or understanding of concepts isn’t always necessary. But that means that our children can reach high school age and be unused to the structures of formal testing. Learning how to take a test is a life skill that is important to understand.
We can teach test-taking skills as part of our homeschool, or use some of the free test-creators or existing placement tests (see bottom of post) to get our kids used to testing. Also, many curriculum options offer end-of-unit quizzes, tests and exam options as part of the curriculum package.
Gaps from Public School
Sometimes parents pull their children out of school, and after a few weeks or months of attempting to teach them at home, are shocked by the gaps in their kids’ education. While many protest the current culture of standardized testing, assessments of children’s skills and knowledge can help the homeschooling parent tailor the curriculum to their child’s strengths and weaknesses.
There are a few normed tests that homeschoolers can use to assess where their children are at in the skills subjects (math, reading, writing, logic):
- Brigance: From IED assessments to preschool and early elementary, to the classic Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills, Brigance is well known and respected as a thorough assessment of children’s skills. Rather than testing on content, this test gives a picture of what level a student is working at.
- IOWA Test: Similar to Brigance, this is a normed test that looks at student achievement. It’s very popular with homeschoolers, and accepted in most North American jurisdictions that require reporting.
- CAT Test: This is one of the tests that colleges can use to judge academic ability and future success, and they may base admission on the scores.
There are placement tests and assessments that can be used too. Many are free. Alpha Omega and Sonlight both offer free placement tests, as part of their curriculum options, but you can use them without using their curriculum. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them to help figure out your child’s level of achievement in math, reading or writing. Here’s a list of some of them you can use — marked free or paid.
- Free Math Test
- Free printable tests on a variety of grades and subjects
- Free Online Reading Assessments (from Sonlight)
- Free Printable Reading Assessment
- Free Reading and Kindergarten Readiness assessments (from Alpha Omega) — scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the printables
- Free Placement tests (from Calvert) — K-Gr3 is free printable, but Gr 4-8 requires talking to a Calvert representative.
- Free printable Language Arts assessment
- Free printable Math assessment
- Free printable Math placement tests (from Math Mammoth)
- Free printable Math placement tests (from Math U See)
- Kindergarten Readiness Test
- Free Online Placement Test (from The Cambridge Academy) — registration required
- Free Kindergarten Readiness Test
- Free Printable Kindergarten Readiness Assessment
Create your Own Tests
You may want to assess your own teaching skills or simply use quizzes and tests as part of your homeschool. Or maybe generate your own matching/puzzle/question-and-answer type worksheets as part of your homeschooling. Here’s a list of sites you can use to create your own tests without tedious formatting in word processing software:
Tracking and Recording Grades
When you aren’t grading your children’s work, it can be easier to keep up with the planning and educating. But how do you handle tracking, recording and reporting grades, when and if you do use them? What about transcripts and report cards?
There are a few options for this too:
- Gradebooks (downloadable):
- Gradebooks (online):
Of course, you could always grab a teacher’s planbook or just a notebook, and record your own.
Assessing and Tracking Progress
However you assess your homeschooling efforts — whether before, to see if there were gaps left by public school — or after, to ensure you’re doing a good job, there are options. There are also options to record your assessments, and track your child’s progress as they learn.
Whether you choose to assess or not is up to you. Testing can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, but it is also a good skill to learn. It doesn’t have to be difficult or under pressure. Use these tools to better tailor your child’s education, as you need them.