Thursday, June 18, 2015

Getting Rid of a Stumbling Block or Why I Opted Out of Testing

     I have to admit it. Our homeschooling journey has been sailing fairly smoothly over the last couple of years. Naturally, being a product of the public school system and having experienced it four times with my now-grown children, it has taken me a little while to change my education paradigm. I no longer feel that being in "school" for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 180 days a year equals a well rounded education. I see that children need to be free to move along their own path at their own speed, all the while being constantly given worthwhile, interesting, and important ideas to feast upon.

Our business is to give him mind-stuff, and both quality and quantity are essential. Naturally, each of us possesses this mind-stuff only in limited measure, but we know where to procure it; for the best thought the world possesses is stored in books; we must open books to children, the best books; our own concern is abundant provision and orderly serving.

I've learned that a few good, like-minded friends are far more beneficial than navigating the sea of hundreds and provides a healthier "socialization" environment. I have seen, first-hand, how important it is to keep family ties stronger than peer ties at this young and impressionable age. But I kept tripping over one stumbling block... end-of-the-year standardized testing.

     Why did this testing not sit well with me? Well... for three days our children would sit in a room and fill in little circles answering questions about information taught to other children their age in public school. Hey, wait a minute! We homeschool, right? Our curriculum is different than the public school's. Granted, our girls do test well but the tests asked questions about things they had not learned during that particular school year, especially in science and social studies. They would leave the sessions feeling somewhat defeated. When the scores came in, I would feel the need to change my teaching method in order for them to obtain better test scores. (That's my type A personality showing itself.) It was just plain crazy.

     So this year we didn't have our children tested. I feel that the testing was not beneficial to the girls in any way what-so-ever, in fact, I think that it was a hinderance; maybe even an offense.

An offense, we know, is literally a stumbling-block that trips up the walker and causes him to fall.   

     Instead, we assembled portfolios documenting our homeschool year and enlisted a licensed teacher to review and evaluate our progress. Now we have two beautiful folders full of all we accomplished during the past nine months. Our evaluator, who is an experienced educator in a private school setting, appreciated our schooling method. It's always nice to get some strokes for work well done. Stumbling block gone!

     For those of you entertaining the thought of a portfolio evaluation, I encourage you to do so. For those of you with children who cope well with standardized testing, then I encourage you to go that route. But for all home schoolers, and even those with children in school outside of the home, I encourage you to compile a notebook through the year so you, (and your children), can visually acknowledge the progress made from all your diligent work.

Here's what we did:

     Through the year, I had the girls put math tests, diagramming samples, copy work, essays, etc., into a file. This wasn't all their work; just a small sampling. The other papers took a trip to the recycling bin. I kept track of the resources we used for each subject and a list of books that I read aloud this year. The girls kept track of their own independent readings by recording them in their commonplace books. (More about those at another time.)

     After accumulating photos through the year, I created collages showing some of the many different ways we studied. I had these printed at our local printing store. They came out beautifully and it was inexpensive. As you know, many learning experiences have no paper trail. (Those are the best!) This was great fun to do. I also included a page of miscellaneous pictures.

     Our school name, year, mission statement, and method was placed on a cover sheet. By creating this and having it in my view daily, I was constantly reminded as to why we do what we do. It helped me stay focused.

     Each three ring binder has a cover for each girl which includes her picture, name, birthdate, grade level, and school year. I added a couple of weekly schedules.We put them all together using page protectors and dividers, separating each subject: math, language arts, science, and social studies. I also included the table of contents for the math curriculum.

     This was very simple to do and I'm pleased with how they turned out.'s what I'll do differently this year:

   1.  I will take more pictures of everything we do. I certainly covered what is required, but I want to record more memories to look back on. Additionally, I will take pictures of projects and artwork so I don't feel that I have to keep all the originals. (Less stuff in the basement.)

   2.  The girls are keeping an ongoing list of their independent readings year round. I didn't have them start this until January of this year.

    3.   I will update my resource list continually through the year instead of waiting until the end.

    4.   Finally, I plan to create more organized and attractive weekly planning sheets, ones I won't be embarrassed to post in my blog!

     The Real Deal about keeping a yearly portfolio (and writing this blog) is that it keeps me focused and intentionally moving forward everyday. While I won't be around to see the "end product" of our daughters' training in life-long learning, I can see and actually hold the end product of each home schooling year.

     So I leave you today hoping that I gave you some encouragement on your journey. Don't let a day pass without creating moments that you will joyfully remember. Melanie

I'm linking up with Trivium Tuesdays. You'll find some great stuff there.