{Homeschool Tips} Why Homeschoolers Need Not Fear Tests

We've lost touch with the idea of testing as "assessment" of student understanding (rather than simply progress) and the evaluation of teaching effectiveness.

In the homeschool community, that problem may be compounded when families opt out of traditional schools because of frustration over standardized testing. They just don't want to deal with testing at all.

Yet, done right, testing can be invaluable in the learning enterprise.

Yes, friends, testing has its place in homeschool settings! You just have to figure out which type to employ, when, and why.

In my latest homeschool workshop, a teacher-turned-homeschooler reminded me of the two types of assessment, formative and summative.

I share here the definitions with you, courtesy of the Association of Middle Education:

Summative Assessments are given periodically to determine at a particular point in time what students know and do not know... 
Summative assessments happen too far down the learning path to provide information at the classroom level and to make instructional adjustments and interventions during the learning process. It takes formative assessment to accomplish this.
Examples of summative assessments include end-of-chapter tests, end-of-unit tests, and standardized exams.

Formative Assessment is part of the instructional process. When incorporated into classroom practice, it provides the information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening. In this sense, formative assessment informs both teachers and students about student understanding at a point when timely adjustments can be made. These adjustments help to ensure students achieve, targeted standards-based learning goals within a set time frame. Although formative assessment strategies appear in a variety of formats, there are some distinct ways to distinguish them from summative assessments.
Examples of formative assessments include things like pop quizzes but also include observation, dialogues with the child to determine progress, and even portfolios.

Formative is especially well-suited to homeschooling because we have a uniquely close relationship with our pupils.

Remember: sooner or later, be it for college or grad school admission, to pass the bar, get a driver's license or to qualify for a government post, our kids will encounter tests. 

We'd be remiss as home educators not to prepare them for that inevitability.

So I wonder... how do you use testing in your homeschool setting?

Image created via Behappy.Me


  1. I like that you are exploring a touchy area of home schooling! From your list I test my kids on information/concepts they're learning with observation and dialogue, using real life application whenever possible (I will ask my 9 yr old how much an item will cost if it is 40% off, challenge him to work vocabulary words into conversation, etc.) If a kid can discuss and defend his knowledge, viewpoint, etc. verbally and in writing I think traditional tests are unnecessary; public tests like those you listed can easily be passed (assuming the knowledge base is there) if a student can read and respond to instructions. "Test taking" is not a skill I grew up learning in private or public school. The summative tests I took measured kids' ability to remember the information that had been presented. Now "test taking" is a stand alone curriculum that trains kids in how to make the best selection from ABCD choices. I definitely won't take time from educating my kids to teach that at home!

  2. If all public schools took the hands-on approach to assessment that you are describing here, we might actually close the achievement gap that everyone is so worried about because we would really know what we need to do to close it!

    I don't homeschool traditionally, but I do work with my kids throughout the summer to make sure that they don't lose ground (and that they are ready for the upcoming year). I take a similar approach to the reader above. We work on two vocabulary words each day, pulled from my kids experiences and interests. I formatively assess where they are at with their sight words as we read our way through our surroundings. I use everyday situations with time and money to formatively assess also.

    I use more summative assessment during the year to make sure that the kids are on track and that the teacher is being objective in their assessments. I have found that sometimes teachers (including myself) want their kids to succeed so much that they lose their objectiveness. I think "teach to the test" has created this monster as well.


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