Testing doesn’t seem to stress out homeschoolers the same way it does children who go to schools (and parents who have to prepare them for their tests.) I don’t want to make this a general statement about conventionally-schooled kids but they do seem to have a lot more performance pressures imposed on them. Tests are a big chunk of quarterly grades so they matter a whole lot.
For homeschoolers, the focus is different. Tests are used as a diagnostic tool to determine areas of weakness and strength. And many times, parents have their kids re-study and re-test for mastery.
Some homeschool organizations encourage children to take year-end assessments and some parents opt to have their children assessed even if they are independently homeschooling.
Elijah took his year-end assessment last week. I asked him if he was nervous and he said something like this, “I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m also excited. But I’m more excited than nervous.” And when I asked him again afterwards how he felt about testing he said, “Testing is not scary, it’s actually fun. It’s not like it’s the end of the world!” Oh okay. Got it. That’s a good sign!
The comforting thing about a year-end assessment is that it doesn’t flunk children out of a level. With TMA Homeschool, for example, children have scheduled portfolio reviews during their school year. So the end-year assessment is a means to validate the portfolio reviews. And moving forward, the results become beneficial as a diagnostic tool. Parents can also use the results to monitor their child’s progress through the years.
Homeschooling Solutions Inc. (HSI) is a company that was very recently set-up to support the needs of homeschoolers (and non-homeschoolers) by providing access to materials, curriculum, enrichment classes, and testing services like the Otis-Lennon School Abilities Test and Metropolitan Achievement Test.
Students who take the year-end assessment with HSI are given both sets of tests, in a group setting, on the same day. Testing time will vary depending on a child’s grade level. But generally, they won’t exceed half a day (even for higher levels).
The Otis-Lennon School Abilities Test measures abstract thinking and reasoning ability, specifically covering verbal comprehension and verbal, pictorial, figural, and quantitative reasoning. All questions are multiple choice in nature.
The Metropolitan Achievement Test will assess reading (including vocabulary and comprehension), mathematics, language (i.e. writing), science (life science, physical science and earth science) and social studies (geography, history, political science and economics). The results are shown as grade level equivalents. Based on data culled last year by TMA Homeschool, almost 50% of their homeschool students perform at least 2 grade levels higher in one or more disciplines.
As a homeschooling mom, I especially appreciate how an assessment like this gives an evaluation of strengths and weaknesses. It helps me to modify, supplement, or improve my instruction. And since I am after a very honest evaluation of Elijah’s homeschooling experience. At the end of each year, I don’t make Elijah study for his year-end assessments. First of all, I don’t want him to be stressed out the week before his testing. Second, if he knows his stuff, he knows it. And if he doesn’t know something then I would like to find out so we can cover it the next year.
The only thing I do to prepare him is to get him to sleep early the night before. So, for the most part, he has gone into these testing scenarios without feeling too “pressured.” I just encourage him to do his best for the Lord. Of course we pray, too!
Each year when I see the results of Elijah’s tests, I am reminded that God is faithful. He helps my children to learn and learn well, despite my shortcomings as a teacher. Sometimes I think, are there big holes and gaps that I may be missing? Am I really teaching enough? Are my children really learning? But the results keep showing me that homeschooling is working! It is not some backyard-crazy-idea that risks the academic future of my kids. It is a superior education. (I am saying this especially for those who are concerned about the academics part of homeschooling.)
When we respond to the call to homeschool, God qualifies us and makes us able to do far beyond we can ever imagine. Two years ago, I gave birth to my fourth child, Tiana. I hardly had time to homeschool. My schedule revolved around breastfeeding and caring for the needs of a newborn. I did my best to teach my kids, but very often, I was exhausted.
But I looked to the Lord and trusted in him to finish that year of homeschooling. When Elijah took his year- end assessment I just hoped and prayed that he would do well. The results came back a few weeks later and I cried when I saw the interpretations by Phil Psychor (The testing organization that was assessing TMA Homeschool students at the time). Elijah’s results were in the 99th percentile across all areas for his Otis-Lennon School Abilities Test. And he was several levels above his grade level for most of the disciplines he was tested for in The Metropolitan Achievement Test.
That experience confirmed once again that God is my partner, sustainer, and enabler as I homeschool my kids. He continues to supply where I lack and redeem my failings! He has done this year after year just as he promises…Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1 Thessalonians 5:24 NASB)