View Full Version : Feeling like a failure - tests, reviews, assessments - do you do any of these?

02-17-2012, 01:23 PM
My husband and I had tough words because I'm not reviewing what the girls have learned and am not testing them. He feels we need some kind of regular review to make sure the girls are progressing throughout the year - like a review test on spelling words or science concepts. Well, I tried. Gave our 8 year old a spelling test consisting of words from last year - she failed miserably. This from the child who only missed 6 words on her spelling tests for an entire year. Our 6 year old did great - 95% correct. Then I thought I'd give our oldest a state assessment sample test in math - in our state it's the FCATs. HORRIBLE results! She is progressing great in our math curriculum but when faced with this test, it was a disaster. (Not to mention frustration from both of us.) I could really use some guidance. I'm feeling like we are failing overall - but somehow, progressing well on a day-to-day basis.

Accidental Homeschooler
02-17-2012, 01:58 PM
We have not done any testing. I had my dd6's reading level checked by a teacher at the beginning of the Fall, she was reading at the level of a beginning first grader. I think part of the problem with spelling tests, even in ps, is that the kids learn them for the test and then forget them. My older dd is still a horrible speller and she did well on her spelling tests in school. Could it be that your dd8 just isn't used to testing and that is why she did not do well in the math as it sounds like you can see her doing/understanding the work on a daily basis. I guess those yearly test results I got when my older dd was in ps were kind of reassuring at the time. I am just not sure how meaningful they are. My dd took them in third grade for the first time and her scores were pretty low. The next year she tested into the gifted program. Did she go from the bottom half of the percentile rankings to the top 4% in one year? I think she just did not test well the first time. Schools do a lot of test prep and you probably haven't done that.

02-17-2012, 02:47 PM
I think reviewing is important especially if you have kids who seem to forget one concept as soon as anything new is introduced (MINE!). We usually do a recap on Friday by playing silly made up games, having discussions, or breaking out the white boards (math mostly). I do assess my girls when we finish a unit but it pretty much follows the same pattern as review, so they don't really see a difference. I don't grade anything but on occasion, they'll ask what their grade would have been and I tell them. Not that it really matters because they correct any mistakes on their own if possible or with me.

Next year both girls will be in 3rd grade respectively and we're required to do standardized testing. Because test anxiety runs rampant in our house, I'll probably set aside some time each week to do some test prep. My only goal by doing this is to get them used to the format and not feeling pressured with being timed. We'll be using the CAT and I've downloaded the 2nd and 3rd grade released test questions to use with them.

02-17-2012, 02:53 PM
Don't feel bad! I'm going through a bit of test misery here, too. My 12yodd is applying to a particular school, and they require a couple of tests from homeschoolers, since she has no report cards of any kind. I've spent most of a month preparing her for these tests, and the first few practice tests she did were HORRIBLE, even in areas that she excels in. There is a whole set of skills involved in taking tests, from managing your time, to working diligently with focus for 45 minutes (I have a daydreamer), to making an educated guess when you don't like your choices.

Math is particularly tricky, because there are so many ways to ask the questions. I was able to look at a lot of sample questions that my daughter would be asked, so we could spend some time learning these TYPES of questions. There were a few notation things that I had not pointed out to her before, so I covered that, too. It wasn't so much studying or cramming, just getting familiar with the format and style. She wrote two sections yesterday and scored 60% and 68%. Not amazing, but she herself will tell you that she has always hated math and resisted learning anything related. Considering all that resistance, I think we managed to insert a decent quantity of math into her brain! (The quote about "education isn't filling a bucket, but lighting a fire" is on my mind lately. Still, I wanted to put SOMETHING in the math bucket. She's on fire in other areas.)

There may be other ways to document or provide evidence to your dh about your kids' progress. Testing is a colossally lousy way to do it. After all, it's been proven time and again that you can prepare kids for a test, score them, and give them the same test two weeks later, and their scores will be significantly worse. The fact that you are working through a math curriculum and have completed books to show, writing samples and possibly projects or timelines, a reading log or other things to show should count for something. Does he TALK to the kids? My dh is loves talking to the kids, and most people who talk to my kids find they are interesting to talk to, know stuff about a variety of subjects, are reasonably articulate, and so on.

02-17-2012, 04:34 PM
The FCAT is a crock. My sister had to take those when she was in school down there and failed almost every year.

My husband feels the same way about testing and review. Our curriculum (K12) comes with all that and we both really like it. Dd likes taking them and likes seeing her results. It lets us know we are on the right track.

About the spelling. I am a slacker in the LA department so sometimes we'll start on a unit and then finish it a week or two later. So the spelling words she got right at the start of the lesson she's totally forgot and gets wrong by the end of the lesson. That could be what happened there. If your dd didn't get a couple days to practice the words, she may not be able to remember all the rules.

02-17-2012, 05:03 PM
But your state's math test is made to correlate with the math curricula they use. (Well, the other way around actually, but you get the idea.) If you're using a curriculum used by homeschoolers, then the end of the road may be the same (as in, by the end of 5th or 6th grade) but before that, you're not necessarily even teaching what it's testing.

I think assessments can be really important... but most of the standardized tests out there now are pretty mediocre measuring sticks in my opinion. I know it's disheartening - I would be really depressed by that too! But I think you have to look at the whole picture. This is why we do portfolio assessments (eventually we'll do standardized tests too, but not quite yet) - because it's a more multi-faceted measuring tool.

02-17-2012, 05:13 PM
Was it a fear of tests complicating things?

Can you go through the test results and see what parts she had trouble with? Can you ask her similar questions at other times to see if she understands how to do them when not in the test setting?

Saving samples of their writing might give a better example of their spelling abilities than spelling tests.

02-18-2012, 10:29 AM
i dont test at ALL. I mean, i have really bright kids so i'm not worried, but i'm also not going to micromanage. Think of it this way - how much of what you learned in grade school do you remember? ask your husband, too. So much of the learning that we test kids for in grade school is learning that they could quickly pick up later when they are more mature and actually need it. I havent done ANY spelling with my kids. I mean, my older son did great in public school in spelling anyways, and the younger one wasnt reading fluently until this year. He is showing interest in spelling, so I will start next year or maybe this summer, we'll see.

Why are you homeschooling? And what are your husband's biggest concerns? Its hard because we all spend so much time in school believing that tests are the only purpose of school, the only measure of success, and if you dont 'pass' the test, you have 'failed'. One great aspect of homeschooling is that you can approach it a different way. You can make learning relevant for your kids, focus on making them LOVE learning, and worry most about the things that really build on each other.

To me, math is one crucial one, but some kids struggle so with math - but still, you can even just play dice games to work on basic facts until they are ready to move on, and read picture books about math concepts. Really, prealgebra is a review of all the math that they were supposed to learn in grade school, because so many kids didnt really learn it.

Language Arts also have to build - but its so developmental. My older kids read early, wrote early, and were ready to learn spelling early. My youngest one was late to talk, late to read, late to write. I follow HIS timeline, not the school's timeline. He's ahead in math and in science comprehension, but i dont make him memorize terms that the public school standards say he should memorize - i encourage him to learn what he's passionate about, trusting that these words will gain real meaning as he sees them used while discussing topics he cares about, rather than just memorizing a definition without real understanding of the word.

If your child has forgotten how to spell words - either she didnt really learn the spelling rule, but was trying to memorize without understanding, or maybe its not a word she's been reading or writing - so its not really part of her language world yet. Kids learn better when it all comes together, imo.

Sorry i'm rambling. but the thing is, you ARENT in school, you dont have to make your kids jump through those hoops, you have to teach them where they are. if your husband needs assurance, try having him work with them some on something they are good at, and discuss with him what HE remembers from 2nd grade that he still needs.

have faith in yourself and your kids!

02-18-2012, 11:43 AM
Ok thought I replied here...

I do test.. a bit. Only immediately after we finish up something. There is very little that I teach that I expect my kids to remember forever (basics of writing, reading, math. That's it.). I don't expect them to ace an end of year type test EVER. And yet.. this past September I was pleasantly surprised by how much they DO remember, and how well they apply it to things we never covered (my ds spells much better- not necessarily with the tiny lists we cover, but in daily writing of all words).

I could get on a soapbox about state testing. I think they are set to test success in a pedagogy I don't agree with AT ALL. So what would the test tell me? Not a thing about my kids. My ds could probably muddle through it anyway (he's like that, with a keen understanding of people), my dd would be a crying mess and set back a year. And in the end we would discover what we already knew: that my kids have solid skill sets and were taking a test made for kids with rudimentary understanding, guessing, and odd strategies over more (but far shallower) areas in reading and math. Not worth it.

I'm happy with my yearly teacher portfolio. Once the tests start testing actual knowledge (what grade is that?) we're in. But as long as they seem to be based on a fuzzy logic I don't share, there is zero sense stressing us out about it.

02-18-2012, 02:08 PM
I'm far more interested in the connections my son is making than an ability to fill in bubbles correctly. We don't test, but I constantly assess. Most of all, I spend real time with my son, and therefore I know what he's learning. :)

02-18-2012, 05:21 PM
First, as PP have said:
1) test taking is a learned skill, and IMO a useful skill, but still a skill that needs to be learned and (occasionally) practiced
2) ps teach to the test, which means their whole curric is geared towards prepping for the test -- about 25% of the 3rd grade released CAT LA questions were where to put a comma -- something I haven't discussed with her all year
3) test should be a useful tool -- a chance to step back and see an objective measure, but NOT a hill your hs should live or die on. ETA: it is NOT more meaningful than the measure you have by teaching them every day.

As to review -- the ps schooling model is to teach things earlier and earlier, over and over, hoping that by the end the skills "stick". *Sometimes* our kids need "review" to reinforce, but sometimes they aren't retaining the info because what we were teaching them just wasn't relevant or they just weren't ready for it. Are the spelling words things dd commonly sees in her reading or needs to write? If not, it may just be too much spelling, too soon. Kids are good at NOT letting things stick that isn't directly useful to them right then. LOL Maybe try to use spelling lists formed from words that are interesting or relevant to your other subjects?

I downloaded the CAT questions for my 3rd grader, put them on the iPad, and let her at them (there's about 100 questions each for math and LA). I've had her do 3-4 pages of each per day. What was different from a real "test" is she would ask me if she hit something she didn't know how to do. She's pretty accelerated, so there weren't many, but the comma thing was one. Rules of capitalization holiday names was another. I explained the rules and put her back at it. In math, visualizing volumes of cubes was a sticking point, as was just the endurance of tens of arithmetic problems. We discussed reading the questions before the story in the reading comp part, so you knew what to look for, as well as skimming. In most of the grammar parts she could skip the "story" completely and just answer the questions. In math, we talked about how to eliminate possible solutions and finding the right answer without actually doing the problem. ;)

I haven't scored it yet, but looking at it I don't think she missed much. Not saying she'd do as well in a timed test -- that's another skill. Originally I planned on doing this as prep and to gauge what level to use for a "real" standardized test this Spring, but now I'm thinking I've learned what I needed, found areas to work on, and areas I still don't care to work on. LOL I think I'll wait until next Spring to test, then use an untimed test like the SAT-10, because that would be an issue for dd. Again, I think for a first test I've learned more by informally testing than if I'd gotten a CAT official report.

02-18-2012, 05:37 PM
My Dh said the same thing to me the other day. That I help them to much. Mainly that I should use a red pen and put a check on the problem and then make them figure out the answer. I used spelling as an example. If he gets the spelling word wrong 5 times he then has 5 different spellings of the word. But if I help after the first wrong one, he only has 2.
As for the assessment tests, we tried a 3rd grade math one on the computer since we are thinking of moving to a state that has testing. Well, he failed. Miserably. But the main problem is that the wording was different from the wording I use.

You would need to evaluate,use curriculum and test if you want your child to know what the ps kids know. Or you want them to be able to take a test.
Some do, some don't, and some can't decide!

02-18-2012, 05:58 PM
again, tho, the hubby is thinking of public school terms. What is more important, that you tell them how many problems they got wrong, or that you help them learn those words by the end of it? The purpose of grades is to rank kids against each other. You dont need to rank your child. You know what he does and doesnt know, and you will make sure he learns it. Learning should matter more than knowing how many problems you got wrong, no?

02-18-2012, 06:36 PM

Where did you download the CAT questions from? I really do want to teach my son how to take tests. I figure a little bit every now and then.



02-18-2012, 07:25 PM

Where did you download the CAT questions from? I really do want to teach my son how to take tests. I figure a little bit every now and then.



Someone here pointed me to them: