Testing & Grading in Homeschool

The question of whether or not to grade and test in homeschool is very much a personal one.  If there is no state requirement for it, does it need to be done?  For some, the idea of testing and grading seems redundant.  After all, when teaching homeschool, it’s very easy to get a sense of student progress and ability.

At our house, we do test and grade.  Every single assignment is graded and we do ‘finals’ after every trimester for all the subjects that have testable material.  At the end of each term, report cards are issued.  I’m not just doing this to add paperwork to my schedule.  I’m doing this because I honestly believe testing and grading have merit (for us at least).

When we’ve just had a horrible day of homeschool  (I mean really horrible – tantrums, terrible productivity, messes, and tears), I will probably tell you that homeschooling is horrible and we aren’t doing nearly as well as I would like.  However, ask me again on a good day and I’ll tell you that we have this homeschool thing in the bag.  The same attitude shifts impact the way I feel about my children’s academic performance.  I’ve learned that I am unable to completely remove daily influence from my thinking, even when I try to be aware of it.  The solution?  Grading.

By recording the performance over the course of the term, I can really get an objective measure on how well my children are doing.  We can look at trends to find problems, and determine if new ideas are working.  This keeps things fair for my children too.  I don’t evaluate their performance based on my ideas about their performance, I evaluate them based on their performance.  I have often been at least mildly surprised by final grades, showing that separation between how I think things are going and how they actually are going.

Right along with keeping grades, testing allows me to really understand how well my student is doing in a subject.  While there is less surprise here most of the time, I still can still be enlightened by answers, and lack of answers on a test paper.  In addition to assessment, testing serves another, more important purpose in my homeschool.

Testing is a skill.  Learning to understand what information is being looked for, finding ways to get the work done within time limits, and learning to self-correct are all skills that need to be developed.  What better time to start than when the stakes are lower and the answers are simpler?  As my children grow and learn, the tests get harder, strengthening those testing skills even further.

Even if my children end up homeschooling through high school, they will, at some point, need to take a test.  I want them to be relaxed and know how to handle testing when it comes.  In a way, testing them in homeschool in another set of skills on the curriculum.

This does sometimes make things feel a little more like school at home rather than homeschool, but I do think the value of grading and testing more than outweighs the costs.

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