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clancariens
09-27-2011, 12:45 PM
How do you know your kids are learning anything if you don't TEST them? This is one of the things I embraced with homeschooling - at least that there would be no grades, no grading curves no "sorry you failed but we'r moving on", no not ever learning what the right answer actually is if you miss it. BUT I'm not sure my kids are learning. How will I know that? I am still too engrained in the traditional schooling mentality I guess. I keep asking myself, am I wasting my time on this or that? Shouldn't I be drilling stuff into their heads? Shouldn't they be studying for test? Quizzing dates and vocab and states and capitals or something? Ugh. Just not a good mental day for me. To distract myself I joined Amazon Prime and we made homemade pizzas for lunch. :confused:

AddlepatedMonkeyMama
09-27-2011, 01:06 PM
Mmm... I have been distracted from your real question by the thought of homemade pizza...

Oh, yeah. I tell people that public schools have to subject children to standardized tests because they don't have time to assess each child individually. I, on the other hand, can evaluate my children's progress daily since I work with them one-on-one. I will know right away if they don't know their math facts or to use an uppercase letter at the beginning of a sentence. I can help them immediately, instead of waiting for test results to come back weeks or months later to tell me that they didn't learn something they should have.

Jeni
09-27-2011, 01:13 PM
We do all that. We don't grade unless she asks but testing (assessments) are part of daily lessons. It's not a fail and move on thing, unless she has a really crappy attitude that day or something. If she gets one wrong, and truly doesn't know, isn't just being a goose, we go over it until she knows it. But she can usually catch her mistakes on her own, pass the test, and we move on. She has unit assessments as well that go over everything she learned in that unit that sometimes takes weeks to complete. We are also required by law to test once a year, so that helps us tell where she is in relation to her peers. Which reminds me, I have to call and order that.

I think testing can be beneficial if you don't go overboard with it. Little quizzes on what was learned can help you as a parent see where your kid stands. And it can be fun for the kids. My dd looks forward to taking the test and seeing what her percentage is.

ETA: I am no good at assessing on my own. I get really stressed out and anxious thinking dd is falling behind her peers. Testing, both the small ones and the end of year big one help me relax in that area.

Crabby Lioness
09-27-2011, 01:15 PM
I was asked this question Sunday by a retired teacher who is a distant in-law we were visiting. She wanted to know how I was sure my 10yo and 12yo had enough "basic skills".

"We-ell, in the car on the way up here they were fighting over Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi and To Kill a Mockingbird," I drawled.

*blink* "Oh. Okay, then."

clancariens
09-27-2011, 01:55 PM
Monkeymama -- see....it works. Mmmm...pizza.

I guess where I'm having my problem is ok, they've read, they've done projects. But is it enough? I'm using MBtP. So it should have what they need to know. I'm just having a serious lack of confidence spike right now. Keep thinking I'm "ruining" my kids. I listened to a friend go on for a half hour about all the projects her kid has already and all the tests and how they are applying to TJ (affectionate term for the super smart science/tech school in Northern VA). And I'm like, well my kids sleep in and are learning stuff, I think. But they certainly aren't going to have stress disorders by 15 but I feel like such a bunch of underachievers! Will her kids be more prepared for college and for life?

5amigos
09-27-2011, 03:14 PM
i have the same fears. i am hs two boys, both 9. i feel like my one son who remembers *everything* will be fine. he hears or reads things once and its stuck in his brain. (i'm so envious of his brain!) but my other son literally can't remember a very basic concept we learned yesterday.

I have been thinking about switching math programs and right now we are doing the 2nd grade assessment (just for my own mental assurance that we are so passed that)...BUT, both of them are struggling with the assessment! ack! its totally stressing me out. so, i understand. my kids will take a 3rd grade state assessment at the end of this year and i guess that could be telling. maybe i just need time to gain some confidence that they actually are learning things.

StartingOver
09-27-2011, 03:43 PM
I listen to my children, things that we learn about come out in conversation, play, or their daily work.

WindSong
09-27-2011, 06:12 PM
I listened to a friend go on for a half hour about all the projects her kid has already and all the tests and how they are applying to TJ (affectionate term for the super smart science/tech school in Northern VA). And I'm like, well my kids sleep in and are learning stuff, I think. But they certainly aren't going to have stress disorders by 15 but I feel like such a bunch of underachievers! Will her kids be more prepared for college and for life?

If there's one thing I have learned, it's never to compare my kids to other kids. Don't go there. It will only drive you crazy. We are using MBtP too. Just remember that it is a complete curriculum. We are finding it to be quite rigorous.

You are doing a great job! There are many paths one can take to educate her children. You and your friend have merely chosen different paths. One isn't necessarily better than the other. And don't feel guilty because you can sleep in. :)

Stella M
09-27-2011, 06:22 PM
You just see the development over a period of time. I think the trick is to take a medium term view. I won't always see progress in my children week to week. Sometimes they will plateau. But if I compare where, for example, ds was last year - sounding out Frog and Toad books - to this year - reading Magic Treehouse books on his own - well, there's progress.

This is also why I expect to sit with my kids as they work for quite some time. For something like maths, sitting with the child helps you see where they are going horribly wrong and not understanding; similarly, it helps me see when they develop a sudden confidence and facility with a topic that was previously a struggle.

Same with talking through a lot of lessons - it's easy to see when they comprehend and when they don't.

For me, it's also not too hard because I value skills over content any day of the week. And it's pretty easy to observe an improvement of skills over time.

On occasion, when I have a moment of 'oh my god, I've failed my child and she isn't learning anything' - why, I just come here and everyone tells me not to be such an idiot :)

AddlepatedMonkeyMama
09-27-2011, 07:34 PM
Same with talking through a lot of lessons - it's easy to see when they comprehend and when they don't.

In the same vein, I was about to suggest narration if you're worried that the info is going in one ear and out the other.

Penguin
09-27-2011, 10:15 PM
Monkeymama -- see....it works. Mmmm...pizza.

I guess where I'm having my problem is ok, they've read, they've done projects. But is it enough? I'm using MBtP. So it should have what they need to know. I'm just having a serious lack of confidence spike right now. Keep thinking I'm "ruining" my kids. I listened to a friend go on for a half hour about all the projects her kid has already and all the tests and how they are applying to TJ (affectionate term for the super smart science/tech school in Northern VA). And I'm like, well my kids sleep in and are learning stuff, I think. But they certainly aren't going to have stress disorders by 15 but I feel like such a bunch of underachievers! Will her kids be more prepared for college and for life?

I'm kind of having the same question about my 7yo. We're using MBtP too, and sometimes things seem to stick and sometimes I'm less sure. And separate from that, we're doing Ancient Rome and I got a bunch of library books about Rome thinking I'd plan lessons around them, and he read them all in the first day. But can't tell me anything he read about. I don't know how to be sure they're learning, but then I'm not sure tests necessarily show the truth of what kids are learning either.

And totally random tangent, but my DH went to TJ.

laundrycrisis
09-27-2011, 10:56 PM
Maybe I am oversimplifying.....
I have DS1 doing three online programs that get progressively more difficult, and I have him do a lot of written work - as much as I can fit into a day. A lot of it is in grade-level workbooks and the rest goes into a binder. He keeps making progress and moving forward in the online programs. He is moving through the workbooks and they get harder as you go. I also have his binders, and I can look back at work from several months ago and see things he struggled with then that are easy for him now. The amount of work he can complete in a day is also increasing with time. So I know he is making progress. I don't test or grade, but I do feel I have tangible proof as well as my own awareness of his progress and memories of him mastering new things to go by.

Stella M
09-27-2011, 10:59 PM
Narrations are good for checking comprehension. They don't even have to be formal. "Hey, anything cool in those books about Rome ?" If he can't tell you..."I'd like to have a look. Run and choose one and you can show me some good bits." The you have a chance to re-do the reading.

Fwiw, with a 7yr old, I'm only really focusing on whether the skills are sticking, not all the content. The content is icing. Although I'm not a classical home schooler, I do like the idea that first you just lay down a familiarity with content, then you go back and learn it at another level and yet another before you're done.

OrganicFrmGrl
09-28-2011, 09:24 AM
In my state I am required to test but, I don't think it really tells me how he is doing!

I saw so much improvement in my DS last year. He was way ahead of his PS school friends in every subject. I did small quizzes here and there to make sure he was getting it all. When I got his test results back I was shocked. He did great in math but the rest of his subjects were questionable. HE did poorly in science (his favorite subject). He did ok in vocabulary which is surprising he didn't to much better and ok reading but poorly in spelling. I think I know better how he is doing that some random standardized test! I will continue to do to meet my requirements but, I will not stress over the results.

laundrycrisis
09-28-2011, 10:45 AM
Fwiw, with a 7yr old, I'm only really focusing on whether the skills are sticking, not all the content. The content is icing. Although I'm not a classical home schooler, I do like the idea that first you just lay down a familiarity with content, then you go back and learn it at another level and yet another before you're done.

This is very much how I feel. I am not evaluating his knowledge of content except in basic 3Rs areas like math facts and spelling of commonly used words. I am looking for progress in skills and understanding. Memorized content will build with maturity, interest and repeated exposure. This is one of my pet peeves with certain programs. They put all this emphasis on a child having stored certain things in memory by the end of each grade level. I have never been a store-in-memory person and I don't think DS1 is either. I would exhaust both of us by trying to get him to learn a lot of science, history or social studies facts permanently. I don't know most of them permanently. I know how to look them up when I need them. I really think it is fine to expose and move on then come back again and again for repeated exposure. When I look at his progress, I am looking for progress in the 3Rs, his stamina for doing work, his ability to work independently, and his ability to understand and complete more complex work. When he is older I will be more interested in testing his knowledge of various subject area. I really believe the early years are for building skills.

jess
09-28-2011, 10:51 AM
Turn it around - what does a test prove? How much of what you were tested on in school do you actually remember today? Does learning with the goal of doing well on a test tend to encourage enthusiasm and further study in a subject?

I agree with everyone else - when you're working closely with a child, you get a pretty good idea of what they understand and what they're struggling with. EVERY homeschooling parent I've seen has had a pretty good idea of their child's academic strengths and weaknesses.

Theresa Holland Ryder
09-28-2011, 12:01 PM
Turn it around - what does a test prove?

A test proves how good you are at taking tests. If you're going on to schooling in another setting, such as public or private high school or college, test-taking skills are not meaningless. They also prove to other nosy people that your kids are learning something. That's also sometimes useful.

At my house I find out what my kids know mostly by using the old dialectic method of making them argue with me about it. I mean argue in a debate style respectful sort of way, not argue like disrespecting each other and screaming and crying and stuff. :D

Staysee34
09-28-2011, 12:27 PM
I do assessments with my girls on Friday (our short day). Nothing is graded. I circle mistakes and we correct them just as we do throughout the week with exception of a sticker or something at the top. This is more for my piece of mind than anything else. Sometimes with my DD9, it's difficult to ascertain if she has gained any understanding of the material. Sometimes she acts like she knows it and flies through her work getting everything right and other times, well....not so much. Narration is sometimes enough but because she has difficulty finding words, she prefers paper and pencil. Coming from a public school, she understands that tests are to be taken seriously and it's usually when I get the best work from her. As for DD7, it is undecided if she will go back to PS. At this moment, she says she doesn't want to but that may change with age(big time social butterfly). If it does, I don't want her to be overwhelmed.

coloradoalice
09-28-2011, 12:34 PM
Save their work and you will see they are learning. I mean, I know my kids are learning because of our conversations but it's also really nice to look back at the written work and see the improvements. You can see handwriting improvements, sentence structure improvements, etc......

Also we don't test but we do correct work every day so I know if they understood the subject or not. If I am circling every other answer to fix we will do the same topic the next day, if not we move on. Assessment happens every day in every subject.

Megan_Hampson
09-28-2011, 01:30 PM
I think you should test them. Testing has gotten such a bad rap I think because some of us project our own bad experiences onto our children. Some tests are bad, but some are good. Some kids, like those with dyslexia, may have some challenges with testing, but most kids don't. There are many ways you can test them, too, depending on their individual needs and gifts. You can ask them questions during the day, the can demonstrate working knowledge by performing a related task, you can play twenty questions or educational board games....you can be really creative.

jess
09-28-2011, 02:01 PM
A test proves how good you are at taking tests. If you're going on to schooling in another setting, such as public or private high school or college, test-taking skills are not meaningless.
Exactly. The fact that test-taking skills (or, for that matter, cheating) can increase scores on tests is exactly why I question their worth/necessity for assessing a child's actual level of knowledge about a given subject.

We do work on test-taking skills because I agree that they're beneficial in our society, but, while my children are young, I rely on observation and conversation rather than formal testing to figure out what they know.

SueEllen Grieves-Curl
09-28-2011, 09:31 PM
If I put my oldest in front of a few sheets of paper and tell her she has 5 minutes to get as many of the questions answered as she can. "Who, what. What really???" would be the response I would get. And she would freeze.
If I sit down with her and tell her she needs to get 2 pages done in her math book today because we did no book work yesterday. She would ask if I would help her. So now we go over the first problem 234+12= ? And by the time we get to the next one she says to me mommy I can do this. And she asks me if she is second guessing herself if the answer is right. But for the most part she is doing it on her own. Just a few months ago we were still struggling with 3+5=?. Those were giving me a headache because she really was not getting it.
So ask me again how do I know that my child is in fact learning?
I know what she came from and had to go through to get where she is at. Is she at the same level as other kids her own age. No she is not. Kids her own age struggle to read and spell. They might be better at addition than she is but they have no concept for time, money, fractions, and measurements and all those are easy for her.
What I love about HS is that I can cater to the way my kids want to learn. Some days we do book work but most days are filled with life learning.

SueEllen Grieves-Curl
09-28-2011, 09:39 PM
Oh there is no need to test. When they understand the material enough that they do not need me sitting right there to help them and still get the correct answers, that is when I know that we can move on to the next thing.

Penguin
09-29-2011, 01:22 AM
Narrations are good for checking comprehension. They don't even have to be formal. "Hey, anything cool in those books about Rome ?" If he can't tell you..."I'd like to have a look. Run and choose one and you can show me some good bits." The you have a chance to re-do the reading.

Fwiw, with a 7yr old, I'm only really focusing on whether the skills are sticking, not all the content. The content is icing. Although I'm not a classical home schooler, I do like the idea that first you just lay down a familiarity with content, then you go back and learn it at another level and yet another before you're done.

Yeah, narration is about all I'm looking for, and not even very much. I just ask if there was anything he found out from the books that was interesting. He says he can't remember any of it. But what I think he means is that he can't focus on any one thing to talk about. I know he's absorbing some of it, I just don't know how to "prove" it, as the OP was asking. But I'm not particularly concerned about it. (Honestly, just slightly frustrated that he read all my lesson resources before I got to them. ;-) ) I'm not exactly classical either, but I agree with you -- I like their idea of cycling through things at a deeper level each time. I'm not looking for memorization of facts at all.

Stella M
09-29-2011, 02:57 AM
Get him to narrate smaller chunks of text, maybe. If he can't tell you anything about the whole book, get him to tell you about something short and specific.

clancariens
09-29-2011, 08:14 AM
Thanks everyone for your thoughtful responses! I decided to quiz -- either orally or in writing. No grades and we go to open-book for anything they can't remember and I'm not quizzing in a nitpicking detail driven way, nor am I making trick questions. I gave oldest an assessment on what he's been studying with MBtP for ancient Egypt and he did pretty well. He is bad at essays -- that whole tell me what you know....format is not familiar to him. As you can imagine with the rise of standardized testing, he is great at 'slashing the trash' and doing multiple choice answers. So we'll practice with that. I know that most of what they learn other than language, writing and the basics of math are what they really need. I think it's easier to see that progress when they are younger -- like progressing to more difficult books. I am starting to notice where they're strengths and weaknesses and also where the "holes" are in what they've been taught. BUT all that being said, I'm still going to worry if they are actually learning anything and then will struggle with how important that anything is. Tough stuff this home educating.