To Test or Not To Test? That is the Question

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Ammon is his bean teepee, trying to look like an Indian chief

TEST!

That one word can strike terror in the hearts of kids and moms alike.

What is a test for? Should testing be a part of homeschooling? Are the scores accurate? Do my children need outside testing by the school district to determine their grade level and their weaknesses and strengths?

New homeschoolers often worry that their children need testing. Our society seems to base worthiness or excellence on test scores. But testing is really a crutch to use if you don’t know your students. Any mom knows that talking to your child for 5 minutes about the subject in question, or observing him for 5 minutes at a skill, will uncover every secret. No need for test scores. Their “level” is obvious if you know your child.

My son Ammon enrolled in a Botany class at our local high school. On the first day, he discovered he was one of two students, and the other student was not interested in Botany. As the semester wore on, the teacher administered hour-long tests for this class of just two students. One day I talked to Ammon about the nonsense of this, and he asked his teacher if he could just take a simple oral test with the teacher, and save both the time it took for the instructor to make up the tests for just 2 students, and the class time spent (wasted) taking the test, and correcting it. The teacher agreed!

Ammon came home from the class quipping, “Now I know why they give tests. It is to give those who aren’t interested and don’t study a chance!” Then he explained how the teacher began his oral examination by asking Ammon to explain details of the process of growth and the parts of the plant involved, etc. Ammon was truly interested, and had poured over the books eager to learn, so it was pretty easy to get him fully involved talking excitedly about the subject. Then the other student had his turn. Ammon said he was so uncomfortable and embarrassed for this student, who—painfully obvious to all—had not studied. Multiple choice tests protect the uninterested and uninformed!

Tests serve to categorize the masses according to score. Of course, scores are not an accurate assessment of the whole person. My son Ammon has a scientific mind. He is methodical and very intelligent, particularly in the sciences. He isn’t a perky fast-thinker, fast-moving person like my daughter Emily. He slowly mulls things over, considering all ramifications, sometimes for a far longer time that his impatient mother can stand! This is a personality trait. But you can imagine how the scores turn out for my son Ammon on a timed test that requires whizzing through the problems at a rapid rate. They are far from accurate in representing Ammon’s knowledge.

Can you train your child to do well on tests? Well, probably as well as you can train a circus animal to jump through a hoop. But why? Is “testing” a skill that will serve him well all his life? I don’t think I’ve taken a test since I took my last driver’s license test eons ago. (Well, maybe a medical test, but that doesn’t count!)

Spend your time putting the information in, letting your children soak up the delight of learning. Don’t spend your time and energy trying to extract information from them. It doesn’t prove anything that you can’t learn in a short conversation with your child.

 

May I recommend:

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My Child is Behind in School

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