This year for the first time we had John take a standardized test. We can meet our state requirements for homeschooling by either taking a test or by having an outside evaluation. In previous years we’ve gone the outside evaluation route because I’m not all that fond of standardized testing. One of the reasons that we homeschool is that we live in a test-heavy state. However, we also realize that standardized tests are important in the world in which we live. We didn’t want his first experience with filling in bubbles to be when he takes the SAT. Our homeschool co-op offers testing which made it easy so we signed him up this year and had him try it.
The experience itself was interesting for him. He’s a bright kid who gets bored easily. I knew that just sitting and doing a test would be a challenge for him. The more bored he gets with things that are easy, the more careless mistakes he makes. We talked ahead of time about those challenges and trying to stay focused. (And also that he shouldn’t rush through the test just to have a chance to sit there and read the book that he took with him.) Beyond that he didn’t really study or prepare for the test.
We got his results back today and that was an interesting experience also. He did well overall. The results weren’t really all that surprising in some ways. The things I know he needs to work on are the areas he scored lowest in. The areas that I know he is strong in he scored highest in. He also wasn’t surprised by his scores. I didn’t show them to him but I did tell him he did well and that there were some things he needed to work on. Without me saying anything, he named all the areas where he knows he can improve. In that sense we didn’t learn anything new. What was surprising to me was how gratifying it is to see a number and feel affirmed that “Hey, he is learning something.” I guess a little outside recognition is nice after all.
I’m glad John went through the testing this year. I think it provided him with a new and valuable experience to tuck into his arsenal of skills. And it was a nice objective pat on my back that what we are doing is working. I’m also glad however that this test really doesn’t matter that much to his education. He won’t be labeled or tracked based on a test. He didn’t learn things because they were going to be on the test and once it was over we didn’t feel like learning was done for the year. No teacher will be fired or school will be closed based on his test results. We have the freedom to use these results as one tool among many. Which is really how it should be in my opinion.