by SPED Homeschool Team
Each state requires different things from homeschoolers, and sometimes that means incorporating testing in your homeschool. Other times, parents prefer testing in order to get an idea of what to focus on next. Here are our team members’ experiences with testing in their families.
For our family we homeschooled most of our years in MN, and there was a yearly testing requirement we had to fulfill per the state homeschool law. I was rarely surprised by the test results, and I never spent time teaching toward the test because it never carried much weight in my mind as to what my children were accomplishing in accordance with the goals I had set for each of them.
One surprise I did experience though as a result of this yearly requirement was the fact that my middle son was struggling with Dyslexia. We switched our test and tester that year to a more comprehensive battery of tests which ended up fatiguing my son. The woman who was testing him actually caught the fact his answers were getting worse and worse as the test progressed and noted the incident to me as we finished up reviewing his results. Her observation was one the actual test would have never caught because the test only showed that he excelled in the subjects he was tested on earlier in the testing cycle and fell short in the subjects he tested on later on during his testing.
“Just like your homeschool, make your testing fit your child.“
I have been using testing in my homeschool to track progress. While not required by the state, circumstances have necessitated that I track his progress through this year in a more formal manner. I especially like the Lexile score I receive from the test. This has helped be more aware of helping my son transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” I was also pleasantly surprised at the amount of math skills he had picked up informally from watching education videos and playing educational apps!
For accommodations, we take lots of breaks when we take a test. I help navigate the test on the computer so that my son doesn’t “accidentally” hit the wrong button due to his fine motor limitations. I also use reminders to stay on task and to read thoroughly through the questions before answering. I like that the test I have been using grows with him, and shows growth over time. This has been helpful in tracking his progress.
Here is the link for the test I use. Plus, SPED Homeschool community members receive $5 off with code SPED.
As a formal public school teacher testing does not conjure up good memories. I have to push that to the back of my mind and take on the hat of homeschool mom. I ask myself what do I want to get out of the testing? I informally have tested my daughters in many online assessments. I also use the testing that is done with my daughter through therapy as wonderful information. I am hardly shocked at the results as I see them learning everyday and know where their strengths and weaknesses lay. There are so many choices timed, untimed, paper test, and online tests. Call and talk to the companies and many like IOWA and CAT tests send out samples for free or inexpensive fees. Just like your homeschool, make your testing fit your child.
At different times, we’ve been required to include testing in our homeschool. While I personally don’t see testing as the most valid way to show what a child knows, I also see the value in having my children learn to take these tests as a life skill. Test-taking is a skill in and of itself. Because I know that my kids will inevitably have to take tests throughout their lives, we focus primarily on how to take a test and what they need to be successful in their test-taking skills, rather than focusing on the academic data.
For many years when my kids were younger, we worked through different anxieties over timed activities. I timed everything as a way to help them overcome their panic. We worked on teaching them to pace themselves and to not get stuck on a single problem. My kids still have individual areas of test-taking that we continue to work through.
I also encourage parents that especially standardized testing is a trajectory, not an end result. And just as our kids may spike and plateau on a growth chart while maintaining a healthy trajectory, our kids will spike and plateau on an academic trajectory as well. We like to think of education as a steady trend upward, but that isn’t always the case. And that isn’t always a cause for immediate alarm.
Whether you are testing in your homeschool because of state requirements or your own preferences, finding the best fit for your child and having the right perspective can provide a more positive experience and a more productive result.