Beef Jerky and Bubble Tests: A Homeschool Mom’s Perspective on Testing
I want to share with you some thoughts from my wife, Betsy, on the subject of testing homeschool students, as the deadline (end of July 2022) for BJU testing for homeschool students is coming up.
Disclaimer: I am not and will never be in favor of required, government-mandated standardized testing for homeschoolers. We do not want to give that authority to the government to determine content or consequences for test scores. I support any parent who chooses to forgo the testing altogether. Pray and let God lead you in what is right for your family.
Every year in May, my family has a fun couple of school days. It’s the week of standardized testing! It’s quite the event: everyone fourth grade and up gets to choose a special (healthy!) snack from the store, spend a couple of hours with friends, and then take the rest of the day off. What’s better than friends and beef jerky while doing something totally out of the ordinary on a school day? Oh, and kids… we have to learn to prepare for important days by packing the night before and using self-discipline to go to bed at an early hour. You are too young for coffee.
The newest fourth grader usually asks why we do this testing thing every year, and I have a multitude of reasons to discuss in the car on the way. I first explain that testing isn’t actually a measure of what I value most in their school (this is a conversation I need to have with them and myself more often). Testing doesn’t measure Biblical worldview, righteousness, wisdom, kindness, or how they are able to love God and one another. These are the reasons we homeschool, right?
Testing is merely a tool that I use as their mother and teacher. I think it is a helpful and valuable tool, and I want them to be patient with the test, work diligently, follow the instructions, not fall apart if they don’t know an answer, and manage their time well. Those are valuable skills that I want them to practice. I explain to my child that the testing results help me evaluate what areas academically are strong and which are weak so that I can make wise choices as to how to use our school hours. I honestly can usually predict how they will score, but when I tell my (strong-minded) daughter that she needs to put more effort into her spelling and the test results support that, it affirms me as a competent educator in her mind. When I reprove my son, (again…) about his daydreaming, warn him of the consequences of idleness and encourage him to focus, then when he doesn’t finish his test because of doodling, I am affirmed in my wise instruction. Whaddya know? Mom was right!
Since we are probably still driving, I will also explain to my children other reasons that we test. The fact is that we live in a statistic-driven culture. I can explain educational philosophies all day long to unsupportive family members, skeptical doctors, and nosy neighbors. However, I’ve found that the data from the tests, which shows competence, excellence, and improvement of weak areas, will quiet their concerns enough that even the homeschooling naysayer can finally open the ears and shut the mouth long enough to receive what I am saying about the heart of homeschooling. I also know that if I am ever investigated by a government agency, easily procuring the objective results will quickly shut down any accusation of educational neglect. Sometimes we have to speak the language of the hearers, and in American culture, our government and its various agencies must first hear “expert” and “percentile rank” before they understand anything else. It’s what they are used to talking about and using as their standards, and while my methods look very different than the classroom, my results speak for themselves.
Finally, the fact is that high stakes tests are used in the professional world and in college admissions and university classes. I’m trying to prepare them for this reality by establishing testing as a non-threatening event with no need for excessive anxiety. Testing, rather, is sort of fun! We prepare, try our hardest, and for every question that is lobbed at us we bat it right back, or at least give it our best swing. Some of my children have taken a few years to get to this point and all have shed a tear or two. But they are maturing and as individuals have grown and become accustomed to the process and handle it better every time. In fact, they have enjoyed seeing their weak areas improve every year (I’m looking at you, math computation).
A last reason I am glad that I test has come to me in the last year. I’ll be honest, the last few years have been hard: COVID, difficult pregnancies, homeschooling a wide range of grades, young adults struggling with their own changing hormones and growing independence while also addressing toddler tantrums and diaper leaks. Some days I feel like I’ve taught nobody anything and everyone nothing. God is faithful, I know that I’m following Him. However, it was a very comforting thing to get the scores back just in the middle of a difficult week and see that despite all my academic and organizational shortcomings, they really have learned! In a way, it quieted that nagging voice speaking discouragement to me and allowed me to step back and remember why I am homeschooling my children.
Now kids, everyone focus! We finished family worship an hour ago! Put the Legos away, get a book out and… where are the flashcards?….
Written by Betsy Pierce.
The deadline for BJU testing for homeschool students is coming up! There are still plenty of slots open, but we only have a few weeks left for your students to participate before testing closes at the end of July 2022. Test your students while participating in California-specific homeschool research! This is a great way you can advocate for private homeschooling.
We had a great response last year and are looking to continue our research. Because of homeschoolers’ participation in 2020-2021, NHERI recently published its California-specific research results. Read it at the button below.