Homeschool 101: How do I know my child is learning? Tests for homeschool

Testing is a big part of traditional school

A big part of every school child’s academic years is taking tests and quizzes.  We brag about those report card grades and test scores too.  And 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?

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One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling for many families is less stress over testing.  Parents may appreciate that their children are no longer stressed about “passing” or “failing”. They may even have pulled their children from public school to avoid excessive testing too.

When homeschooling, parents can teach their children at their own pace.  They don’t have to consider grade levels or compare their students with their peers. I personally teach my elementary students for mastery, because either they understand it, or they don’t. And if they don’t, we study it and practice it until they do.

You know your kid. Do you need to test?

Because we work so closely with our children, testing them on their knowledge or understanding of concepts is often unnecessary. 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 too.

Assessments can help determine where the gaps are.

Sometimes parents pull their children out of school only to find the kids don’t know anything. After a few weeks or months of attempting to teach them at home, parents get 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.

Standardized testing is an option

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):

  1. 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.
  2. IOWA Test: Similar to Brigance, this is a normed test that looks at student achievement. It’s very popular with homeschoolers. It’s also accepted in most North American jurisdictions that require reporting.
  3. CAT Test: This is one of the tests that colleges can use to judge academic ability and future success.  They may base admission or financial aid on the scores too.

Placement testing may work well too.

night-85645There are placement tests and assessments that can be used too. Many are free. Some are associated with individual curriculums — Alpha Omega and Sonlight both offer free placement tests. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to help figure out your child’s level of achievement in math, reading or writing. Because you can use them anyway. Here’s a list of some of the free online assessments you can use:

Assess your teaching methods

Sometimes you may want to assess your own teaching skills.  Or maybe you simply want to use quizzes and tests as part of your homeschool as well.  Or you’d like to 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:

Grading their work

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?

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There are a few options for this too:

  1. Transcripts:
    1. Transcript Maker
    2. Transcript Creator
  2. Gradebooks (downloadable):
    1. 5J’s Gradebook (downloadable spreadsheet)  — my personal favorite
    2. Class Action Gradebook (downloadable software)
  3. Gradebooks (online):
    1. Homeschool Minder
    2. ThinkWave
    3. My Homeschool Grades

Of course, you could always grab a teacher’s planbook or just a notebook, and record your own.

Options are available

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.

It’s your choice!

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.

Happy homeschooling!

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