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Monday, August 13, 2007

Testing the Guinea Pig

I'm not 100% sure how I feel about "testing" in our homeschool just yet. When we do our math tests in Horizons, I tell Camille a day before that she will have a math test the next day. No big deal. On the day I give her the test first when we get to our math lessons without reviewing anything. She is so eager to know how she did, as she is with all her math work. She routinely requests for me to mark her papers with a 100! if she got everything right, complete with stickers or one of the many stamps she has begged to buy while out shopping.

We also have spelling tests once a week and if Camille misses a word, she is to write it 3x and then I ask her to spell it everyday until our next spelling test and I include that word on the test. Since we're in our 4th week of 2nd grade, the technique I just shared is what we did in 1st grade. This year, she gets flashcards of her spelling words on Monday, we flip through them and she reads the word and spells it aloud. Thursday she will be tested after she completes her Spelling Workout worksheets and in Spelling Workout there is a cumulative spelling test.

We haven't had a problem with tests in math or spelling. I'm wondering if it would be beneficial to quiz her in other subjects as well. As a student, I loved challenges and she is a lot like me. Hmm. I do have concerns though. She hasn't "failed" anything since we've been homeschooling. If she were to fail, would it mean that I may be testing her wrong, my teaching is lacking in some way or she's not applying herself. How to determine for sure? I don't want quizzes or test to become important- not in the way she evaluates herself or how she is performing. Is there any way around that? I want her to see tests, quizzes, exams as a challenge to prove what she knows, nothing more. If she doesn't know something well enough to "pass" or do well on the test then all that means is that there is more work to be done, not that she's a failure. Tests were normal for me, a part of life as a public school student. Now that I have my own dd's education in my hands, I'm not sure what is best for her.

I really could go on about my concerns but I'll spare whoever is reading my gibberish. I've spent some time reading about the positives and negatives about testing, as well as asked other homeschoolers their thoughts and opinions about testing in a home education environment- the spectrum is wide and long on that one! I decided that since Camille's in 2nd grade, I have some wiggle room to find out if this will help her or harm her. Yes, I over think things and aren't you lucky you decided to read my blog today to share the agony of my thoughts? Lol.

Here's a link to Ambleside Online, the free Charlotte Mason based curriculum and their examination page. And here is a link to one of my favorite homeschoolers, LindaFay and the examinations she has given her own children.

More links about testing & homeschooling:
National Home Education Network: Article on the Side-Effects of Testing

Oops, guess what? I couldn't find many articles that weren't about standardized testing! Which is not what I'm talking about at all. I want to quiz/test, whatever you want to call it, about what I have taught. What I think was "caught" or items I wish were caught. Lol. When talking about this with other homeschoolers, some mentioned that games were a good way to "test" knowledge. That's great if it works for them, I tend to want to help my child when we play games and I want to have fun. If my dd plays an online game, which I haven't allowed yet, I don't want to make the mistake in thinking she doesn't know the material when in fact she couldn't move the mouse quick enough, the questions were formulated in a confusing way or the questions contained information she hasn't learned yet. I did find one site I might start letting her use as a "game" after our lessons- Internet4Classrooms, 2nd grade. They have K-8 there and the games are from Harcourt and other educational resources.

Want to see the quiz I'll give Friday as a test run?

Quiz 1 Name: ___________________ Date: ______________

You’ve memorized four scriptures. Pick one and explain what it means.

1. Jesus was in the beginning with God. All things were made though him. John 1:2-3

2. In Him was life...the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness. John 1:4-5

3. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah 9:2

4. And He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6

Oral discussion

1. How fast can you add your 3’s aloud?
3+0, 3+1, 3+2, 3+3, 3+4, 3+5, 3+6, 3+7, 3+8, 3+9, 3+10?

2. Count by 3’s to 36.

3. Say this number in number words: 4,931.

4. [ 54, 23, 67, 45, 17, 76 ]

What is the largest number in this set?
What is the smallest number in this set?


In 1822, a doctor’s wife found a huge tooth buried in a rock. It looked like it belonged to a giant lizard. The woman was the first person to find the remains of a dinosaur.

1. Who was the woman’s husband?
2. What did the wife find?
3. Where was it buried?
4. When did this happen?
5. To what did the tooth look like it belonged?
6. To what did the tooth really belong?
7. What was the woman the first to do?

Bonus Question: Do you remember if the first dinosaur found was the Iguanodon or Triceratops?

Name the types of sentences and put the appropriate punctuation mark at the end.

Stop Mr. Jones, we're heading for those rocks_

This is a lot of work_

Has the game started_

Pass me an eraser_

The girl spent two hours on her report_

A canoe can tip over easily_

Should I paddle like this_

What nouns do you see in the above sentences?
What pronouns?
What proper nouns?
What verbs?

Oral discussion

1. In the story Beowulf, how did Beowulf kill Grendel?
2. Why is the Middle Ages called the Dark Ages?
3. What are scribes?
4. What kind of life did a monk lead in the Middle Ages?
5. When the Celts asked for help, who other than the Angles came across the North Sea?

Oral discussion

1. What is the very middle of the earth called? Is it soft or hard?
2. What does a geologist study?
3. Name three continents. You may use the map or globe.
4. Where is the equator?
5. Which is brighter a full moon or a new moon?

Separate sheets for handwriting and piano.

All of this is what we have learned in the last 4 weeks, the only thing that is extra is the dinosaur question which I'll be pleasantly surprised if she knows it. The more I look at this, I don't feel like it's a "test", more like a review but based on what she knows, not what I tell her. My poor guinea pig. There are times I feel sorry for her, I actually asked her over the weekend if there was something she didn't like about our lessons so far and after the deadening silence, she just said- "No. I love it all." I even pushed a little, "you like this? you like that we did that?" If this quiz/review thing works, we'll have it every 4 weeks and for our 40 week year, we'll have a total of 10 of them. I have a feeling that in 3-5 years I'll read this and laugh at myself. Maybe even hysterically!



Beverly said...

My take on the whole testing thing is that how your child perceives it really depends on both the emphasis you place on it and the child's personality. If you make a big deal out of test performance, or if testing makes your child really anxious, testing could be a negative thing or at the very least not a very good indicator of what your child actually knows. I think your approach to it as a review makes a lot of sense and should help discourage any kind of performance anxiety.

I know what you mean about the whole "guinea pig" thing. Sometimes I cringe as I think about some of the things my oldest DD, now 11, homeschooled since she was 8, has had to endure as I've learned what works and what doesn't. There may be some advantages to being the oldest, but there are definitely some drawbacks too!

Love your blog!

5atkins said...

I think it is good to go back and review. Dh usually asks the girls toward the end of the week about things they have learned that week. We daily give a summary of our Bible lesson and catechism. Anyway, one way I have found that is really telling is to watch them as they "teach" their dollies or younger sister! Then I really know what they are hearing and how their minds understand something. I also have them look back through their work about every six to eight weeks and see what they remember and what they want to talk about again!

Eventually I plan to expose them to standardized testing but not until upper middle grades unless I change my mind by then! :)

Sorry about the hard day! You know when days like that happen for me, (today it was me who was tired, fighting a migraine, etc) I am so thankful that we can just stop until we are ready again! In public school if your child has a bad day and zones out the rest of the day that time is lost never to return. At home we can stop and pick up when attitudes or physical health are better!

Praying for you to be refreshed for tomorrow! In Him, Eva

Margie said...

My son loves testing and quizzes! He is 2nd grade too and we use Horizons as well. It is our first time using it. I never could get him motivated to do school until one day he went to work with his daddy and his school work. I was at my wit's end with him. This was 1st grade. Anyway, my husband graded everything! I was surprised. I told him I don't grade any of that. My dh told me our son liked him grading it. It was like a light went off in my ds head. He had something to work towards. After that, I specificly looked for things this year that were had tests. I will create some as well. We use MFW and I will make my own for history etc. I also have a chart on the dry erase board that grades his conduct (attitude, following directions, motivation, etc.) for each subject. (I will post it on my blog soon.) He loves that too. I mainly set it up for another reason, but if I forget to grade after a subject or to put it up, he reminds me. It is amazing! Now, I don't really care what an expert says. I know for me and THIS child, he wants and apparently needs it. Sorry this was so long!

Margie said...

I am sorry for all the mistakes on the previous comment. I was really tired and did not proof. I have included a link to Jeannie Fulbright's (who I respect very much) thoughts on testing. It is very different from my thinking. I wanted to offer an opposing thought to mine. It also made me give it some thought as well.