Oh, I am not talking about me here. I love test days. It means that I don’t have to teach the subject that day. Lately, I have been hearing that statement a lot from moms, and while your homeschool is really your business, let me give you some reasons why I think you should take another look at testing.
First, a disclaimer. Testing in elementary school, I agree, is silly. My points here are for the more advanced students. Around 7th grade, kids need to start developing some good habits.
Testing helps develop good study habits. My children were not self-motivated learners. I always looked from afar with envy on those parents who had children that got right down to business and studied with passion. Mine chose different avenues of interest. If I had chosen not to test them, they would never have learned how to find important information in a text. There is always the question when we read, “What is the author trying to tell me?” This just doesn’t pertain to textbooks. When we read a news article, we must ask ourselves this question. Even the reader boards at the museum ask this question. Finding main ideas in our daily lives is an important skill. Of course, there is always the problem of “data dumping”. My college kids confess to this. I did it. You probably did it. In fact, that could be one of the reason that you do not like tests. It doesn’t make good study habits less important, it just means that we didn’t care about the information. Those are two completely different things. If you aced the test, you studied well, data dump or not.
One thing I hear from moms is that they already know how their kids are doing, so it is unnecessary to test them. I get this. When we lived in Washington, I had to test my kids every year. There was never a surprise on the results. I have always known how my kids are doing. The bigger question is do the kids know how they are doing? Remember I am not talking about 6 year olds here. I am talking about middle school and high school students who need to be aware of how they are doing. For example, my son was complaining that he knew all the stuff in his Biology module. It was so easy, he said. He didn’t need to study for the test. Well, he found out the next day that maybe he didn’t know the stuff as well as he thought he did. I knew he didn’t. I could have told him until I was blue in the face that he didn’t know it well. He wouldn’t have believed me. He needed to know that he wasn’t as cool as he thought he was. A test gives him that information.
Finally, whether or not you believe in tests, the world loves them. Your kids may as well get used to taking them. Your child doesn’t want to go to college? They still may have to take them. If they choose a technical school, there will be tests. If they choose to go into the military, there will still be tests (lots and lots of them). If they start a job that needs any kind of licensure, they may need to take a test. If they want to work minimum wage at Pier One Imports, they will need to take a test (crazy, I know). They have to take a test to get their driver’s license. Telling our kids that they will never have to prove their knowledge is not fair to them.
Tests are not evil. You don’t have to use them to berate your kids or make them feel stupid. Use them as a tool. Use them to help your kids develop good study habits. Help them be successful. Don’t throw a test at a kid whom you haven’t properly prepared. Some of the responsibility of good testing rests on you, the teacher. Sometimes the responsibility is on the student. In your homeschool, you can decide where the responsibility lies and how to delegate the responsibility. Testing is useful. Don’t give up on it.