We’re just a couple of days away from starting year two of homeschooling and I’m getting excited. I must admit that I’ve enjoyed our break but I am ready to get back to it. We do school year round, six weeks on and one week off. We do three of those, have a two week wrap-up/review, and then have a three week break. Forty weeks in all. We schedule the longer breaks to fall at Christmas and then one for summer at the end of June. Seems to work pretty well.
I was ready for the break at the end of the year but I was also dreading it. We live in a state that requires yearly testing and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I like to say that the tests don’t matter. I’ve read all of the stuff about testing not really being a good way to judge learning, narration trumps it every time. Plus, I can just watch my son learning, I can see him picking up the information and then start to use it. I’ve seen him grow immensely over the past year, seen him start to enjoy learning in ways that he didn’t used to. I know homeschool is working.
But I also know that most of society sees homeschool as some aberration. We’ve been lucky and most of the people that we’ve told about homeschooling have been kind about it. Some have even commented that my son is very lucky to have parents who would put in that much work for him. But I know that isn’t the majority opinion. I’ve read a lot of things online. Many think of homeschoolers as fanatics. Some think we are doing our children a disservice. A few even go so far as to call homeschooling abuse. These are the same people who have bought into the system that I homeschool to get away from. And they believe in the standardized test.
So, though I hate to admit it, I viewed the year end test as a validation of the work we’ve done over the past year. I know most of the world isn’t going to take my word for it when I claim my son has excelled, they want quantifiable results. They want a nationally standardized score that can be compared to a national norm. No matter how many studies there are out there showing that homeschooled kids surpass their private schooled counterparts in pretty much every category, we are still out of the norm. We still have to prove ourselves. I was worried.
What if he didn’t do well on the test? I’d heard of parents using the test scores to justify the grades they gave their students, to prove that they were valid, that they hadn’t been the pushover parent-educators every seems to expect. What if his scores didn’t reflect the work I had seen him do over the past year?
Granted, we were only finishing up fourth grade. It’s not like I was sending out transcripts to colleges. But it was our fist year. And I have to admit, I have doubted myself a lot over the past year. We’re told teaching is a specialized profession, that not just anybody can do it. The fact that this has been true just the past hundred years is immaterial. You can read all you want about how much better education was in the past, can internalize it, even believe. But when you think about your kid taking a test that is basically grading you, the job you’ve done as an educator…it shakes your faith.
The day eventually arrived. There was no more studying to be done, he was as ready as he was going to be. All our state requires is a test for math and language, no science or history. Which is good, because I pretty sure we are not covering the material that would have been on those tests. Anyway, I was fairly confident with language. We have been using Rod & Staff and he has been picking it up pretty well. Math…I wasn’t so sure.
We had switched from Singapore math to Math Mammoth part of the way through the year because he had been having trouble with the Singapore style. He wasn’t getting it in the time frame the curriculum expected so, the next time a concept came up and the instruction took it for granted that the student knew what was going on, he didn’t. We were going back and reviewing a lot. So we had switched. Math Mammoth had worked a little better but it was still too much mastery. I knew we were switching to something more incremental for next year but that wasn’t going to help with this year’s test. We did a lot of review at the end of the year to shore up fractions. He seemed to be getting it. Still, I worried.
For nothing. We took the CAT from Christian Liberty Press online. It was so easy to use. And when they say they are graded immediately, they mean it. He had a score for each section as he finished it. He thought it was fun because he could see he was doing well and it spurred him on to tackle the next section. It was an amazing morning. I would definitely recommend Christian Liberty Press’s testing services if they will fulfill your state’s requirements.
The results are broken up into seven categories, two for math and five for language. The two for math are Mathematic Computation and Mathematics Concepts & Problems. He scored 98 and 99 percentile on them. He achieved a Stanine of 9 on both, with grade equivalents of 7.4 and 9.6 respectively. I would say that is a success.
His language was even better. 99 percentiles across the board, straight nines for Stanine. His lowest grade equivalent for language was 11.6, his highest was 13.6 in both Language Usage & Structure and Language Spelling.
So the past two and a half weeks of break have been restful. And I’ve definitely got a lot more confidence heading into year two. I know it’s sad, I know the test shouldn’t mean that much to me, but it certainly buoyed my enthusiasm. Dashed my doubts. We’ve used the break to just chill out and refresh; we were undeniably flagging at the end of the last year. The test scores unquestionably gave the process a nice kick start.
I’ve also been piecing together the curriculum for next year, which I had been researching for the past two months of the last school year. That doubtlessly added to the stress, but with just a three week break I knew I couldn’t get it all researched, ordered, and delivered on time. Hopefully I will work that out as time goes on. But that is a post for another time. Right now I’m still floating on the glow of the last year and happy thoughts of the year to come.