You’re convinced that the state-mandated, fill-in-the-bubble tests are not terribly helpful. Instead, you're certain that sitting with your child one-on-one day in and day out gives you a much better gauge of his skill mastery. But you’ve got a niggling curiosity… are your kids really retaining what you’ve covered in your homeschool lessons?
It’s normal to wonder what information is sticking with your kids. As homeschool parents, testing reveals just as much about us as it does our students:
- Are we presenting information in the best ways?
- Are we offering the right environment for learning?
- Are we using the optimum level and right curriculum?
These can be important questions to ask. But is a written test the best way to assess what your kids remember and how you can do your job better? Usually, no.
Do Homeschoolers Test?
While tests, in all their incarnations, are a necessary evil in society, they aren’t usually required in homeschooling. Some states do require annual testing, and college aptitude tests in high school are generally unavoidable. But Sonlight’s History / Bible / Literature programs don’t actually come with written assessments. And your child can, with no ill effect, sail through four years of upper level Apologia Science without unwrapping the test booklet.
Assessing a child’s understanding of a topic in a creative way is often a more complete picture of what he or she actually knows. Plus it reveals insights about the effectiveness of your teaching methods. Most homeschooling parents have already realized that how something has always been done is often not the best way to do it.
Thinking Outside the Testing Box
So how does a homeschool parent test without, well… , testing?
Anything that digs into previously covered material can be used to assess retention. That conversation you and your 10-year-old had about Across Five Aprils while washing dishes at the sink? The one where he shared detail after detail about the Civil War? Put that down as an oral test because you now know how firm his grasp is on the history you presented.
Your first and third grader just cordoned off an area of the backyard and began a detailed reenactment of the action in Archaeologists Dig For Clues? Listen close, because you might get first-hand feedback on how well they understand the concept of uncovering ancient life—no true or false questions required!
Some other options that will get the job done painlessly:
1. Create a Review Game
Using any board game as a review is easy. Simply ask questions from the appendices of your Instructor’s Guide instead of rolling dice or pulling cards. Students must provide a correct answer before advancing their token. Nearly any game be used in this way! Make sure you play along as well, allowing your kids to make up their own questions to ask you!
2. Assign a Project
There are dozens of unique ways to know your kids are retaining their homeschool lessons without the confines of a test:
- making a display board of facts
- writing a comic book of a historical figure’s life
- pulling together images for a slide show
- presenting a scene from a novel
- creating a diorama of a scientific discovery
3. Let the Student Be the Teacher
Let kids demonstrate what they know:
- Have your child perform a science experiment while explaining what’s happening.
- Let your child make a short movie to illustrate the steps of a math formula
By flipping the script and letting the study be the teacher, they might even be able to pass on their newfound knowledge to their younger siblings— a decided bonus!
Adding these assessment tools to your toolbox will help you revisit areas that need more work and move on from topics that have been thoroughly covered. They’ll help you tweak your presentation skills as you work to become the homeschool teacher your kids need. You will learn to use your strengths and teaching style to maximum advantage. Best of all, these creative assessment methods will answer any questions you might have about how your kids are doing— without stress!