We are relaxed, eclectic homeschoolers, and so it feels strange to me to willingly test my children. However, I have several reasons for doing so:
- To see how my children are doing in comparison to children who attend traditional schools. I need to know if there are any major holes that I might need to address.
- To give the children practice and confidence taking tests. We don't really do tests in our homeschool, so I feel like it's probably not a bad idea to take one once per year. I know that one day they will probably be in some sort of class situation that requires them to take tests, so I want them to feel familiar with it.
- To see how they take "bubble tests." I have been particularly interested to see how Bee (who has ADHD) does with the bubble test. I was worried that he might have trouble filling in bubbles in the right row. I feel like it is important to know if he has trouble with this type of test. He does not seem to, so that is good. I was also concerned about the test being timed, but that has not been a problem for him.
- To force myself to go over things I might have let slide a little bit, mainly English grammar. Having the test coming up forces me to get to things that never seem quite so important.
- To have proof of progress, should our homeschool ever be "investigated." The majority of our learning comes through natural life experiences, and it is a challenge for me to maintain documenting it, day after day, week after week, month after month. It just seems to me the simplest way to demonstrate that I'm doing my job.
- Similar to above, when family members or others ask me how I know that my children are learning, I can just casually say that they take a standardized test each year. For some reason, this satisfies them and ends the discussion.
- They have to be tested every three years. I feel like they will do better if they get some practice tests on the other years.
- We never know what life has in store for us. In case of some sort of illness or tragedy where I could not continue homeschooling, I like to know that my children could place into their correct grade level should they have to go to school.
So far, I think the Iowa is an okay but flawed test. I'm not overwhelmingly impressed with it. The drawings in the first grade level have been confusing for Bug, who can't always tell what they pictures represent. Some of the items in them are old-fashioned enough as to be barely recognizable to a homeschooled child in 2015 who is not used to doing worksheets. They are more what I remember from worksheets and tests when I was in school. I found the "listening" portion to test a lot more than listening.
It has made me realize how glad I am that my children basically spend 100% of their school time learning rather than taking tests. It's kind of a vacation for me, because giving the test is easy. All I have to do is set the time and answer any questions they have about the test (I am very careful not to help them with any content). We did a bare minimum of test prep for Bee and basically none for Bug.
For Bee, I had him take some the practice tests for language and math in the Spectrum Test Prep book. He did very well on those. I also had him do some paragraph editing and some pages from his 6th Grade Math Minutes book in the couple of weeks leading up to the test. I didn't mind having him do these things because I felt they were beneficial anyway. We didn't work specifically on any test taking strategies.
I don't see myself giving this test at home next year, and next year is a year that Bee will have to be tested. I wouldn't mind giving it again, although I might consider trying the TerraNova test, but we will have a year-old baby in the house, and I'm not sure how it would work. I could always give it on the weekends when my husband can take care of the baby. I'm also curious about the PASS test, which was designed for homeschoolers, 3rd grade and up.
Our coop gives the Iowa to 3rd and up, so I could use them for Bee, which would give him an experience of testing in a group setting, and do something else for Bug, who won't be able to test there for another year.
Other options for testing might be having the tester we used in Virginia come to my house to test both boys, since she has family to visit in our state. However, I'm not sure that option would be cost effective unless I could get other people to sign up as well to cover the travel fee. I could look harder for a local individual tester (the only one I have found here gives the Stanford, which is expensive).