Friday, September 21, 2018

HMJ: Homeschool Mornings plus Why We Test and Grade

How has your homeschool week been?  Mine... we've still been ironing out a few wrinkles here and there.  I think, if we can get a regular rhythm going by the beginning of October, I will be a happy mama!   Other than wrinkle ironing, this week's theme has been mornings...
Fruit and yogurt pancakes Thursday morning while grading Composition homework
Tuesday morning we headed over to the College Fair to check out options.
Mornings are for Math!  Brooke is usually finishing up her breakfast as we dive into Geometry.
All-in-all though, we are moving (mostly) steadily along.  Grades are stacking and looking good, new test dates are inching closer, and I'm encouraging her regularly to develop good review and study skills as I know they will help her in college.

I hear a lot of debate on whether or not to test and grade in homeschool.  I can understand the hesitancy in the lower grades and, honestly, I rarely ever issued anything beyond a spelling test in the elementary years.  I didn't start administering tests until later into Middle School and grade tracking didn't become a factor until high school.  I've taught different learning styles and varied personalities and there has been one unifying point as to why I ultimately decided to test and grade:

They asked for it!

Believe it or not, ALL of my kids reached an age where they asked me for grades and tests!  They wanted to know how they were doing (measurably) and if they were progressing in certain areas.  Up until they asked, as mom, I would make note of their progress measured against where they were and how they were coming along in various subjects and benchmarks.  At one time I even worried I would betray the freedom and ease of homeschooling if I tested and graded!  However, I rose to their requests and, as I did so, I realized another benefit:

It challenged them!

I think challenging my kids was another element I was afraid of.  I didn't want them to be stressed-out over-achievers nor did I want them to be bums.  I didn't know how to approach this aspect and worried of breaking their spirit when I did.  However, once I started issuing tests and grades, I noticed them working harder and challenging themselves more.  Not in the "over-achiever" sense, rather, in the realization that they had schooling super-powers they could tap into and they wanted to be homeschooling superheros!  They looked forward to proudly sharing good grades with their dad when he got home or discussing progress if they were working to bring a lower grade up.  Then I saw something more happen:

They learned the value of hard academic work!

I am blessed by 4 hard working kids.  If a chore or task needs doing, they all clamour to complete it well.  But schoolwork was often another story.  To them, I believe, it was a necessary distraction in a day when they had 'better' plans they hoped to get to.  Yet, once we started issuing grades, they seemed to take their schoolwork more seriously.  Yes, there were some pep-talks woven into our early days of testing and grading, but those were merely to facilitate encouragement in the "You can do this" thread.

I've always wanted to teach with a purpose to light a fire for a lifetime love of learning and I often veered away from testing and grading because I worried it would damper that fire.  However, the opposite seemed to happen.  I saw them digging deeper and searching farther in all their school work and as a result, they grew more excited about what they were learning.  Where schoolwork had been a necessity, it now became a vehicle.  And where grades and tests were looming, the process actually sparked deeper curiosity and appreciation for the material being learned!  All of this opened the door for a final and crucial growth point:


Before we began regular testing and grading, I felt their retention rate of the material they were learning was minimal.  But once digging, homeworking, and studying all saturated their minds with the information necessary to make the grades and pass the tests, I saw them remembering, long term, all they had learned.  And while testing was often unconventional such as Jeopardy style reviews and oral quizzes with a periodic traditional test thrown in, the entire process met with a wonderful end.  Regardless of the style we used to grade and test, all of it taught them to really know what they were learning instead of being a passive observer of the material.  The result?

Comprehensive discussions which started as teens and carried on!

I love the thoughtful conversations we get to enjoy as a family because they have worked hard and retained what they have learned.  My 15 year old is able to enjoy the same depth of conversation my adult children have.  Whether we are sitting around the dinner table, driving in the car, or hanging out with others; I see them having thoughtful deductive discussions.

When I started homeschcooling, I didn't think I could light a fire for the love of learning if I graded and tested.  Yet, when I took the plunge into this common academic pool, I found it fueled the very things I was hoping for in my kids!

Grading and testing may not be for everyone.  Some grade from the very beginning, while others may have never factored a single grading ratio! Perhaps, like me, you fall in the middle of the spectrum.  The most important thing is to do what you feel is best for you and your homeschool.  Just don't be afraid to challenge your kiddos!  They won't admit it, and they may fight it at first, but truthfully: they like it!  Challenging them shows them how much more they really are capable of becoming!


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  1. We did grading and testing in our homeschool and it worked for us, especially since my kids came from traditional public and private schools. They and I needed to set a marker. I didn't necessarily do 'grading' as in showing their score and giving them chances to re-study and redo until we got to a comfortable 80% or better.

    1. Makes sense. I allow corrections for half points in our testing and if they get a bad score on homework.