Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Unschooling and Testing

Issues about taking state-mandated tests have come up on several lists and discussions I've had in the last couple of weeks. I typed this up about how we've dealt with the state-mandated testing for homeschoolers in our state, and thought it might be worth sharing in case other unschoolers have these issues to deal with. In general, I don't find testing to be a terribly onerous burden on homeschoolers since in some states you have to present quarterly portfolios or have your homeschooling overseen by a teacher or something like that. I'd rather have our kids be able to be educated however we feel is appropriate and then just deal with a day of testing very two year as opposed to other hoops that we might have to jump through.

As far as the testing goes, I wish we didn't have to do it, of course. But I also believe that in life there are things you have to do that you wish you didn't have to, and at some point, that's just the reality of things. So we talked with the kids about the testing, about how it's one day every two years that we just have to do in order to have our whole wonderful unschooling lives the other 729 days out of those two years. We talked with them about what the test would be like, and offered to get some practice tests if they wanted to do them. No pressure to say yes, just an offer. The kids were interested. We actually had fun going over the practice tests together, I photocopied a ton of bubble sheets and we filled them in in crazy ways, but then I showed them how to make sure you were filling in the answer for the right question too. We read through the questions together and had fun picking out the wrong answers that are planted there to make you want to choose them ( like if the right answer is 321, they'll have 312 as a wrong answer).

It was also really kind of fun just seeing all the stuff the kids knew how to do - like Mackenzie knew how to do averages because we had a Clevenger Family Great Rootbeer Tasteoff one night where we tasted 6 different kinds of rootbeers and each gave them a star rating and then we averaged the star ratings to come up with our family's overall favorite. And he knew measuring from when we built the chicken coop, and so on. I pointed out how they had learned these things from their everyday life and isn't unschooling cool?

We just treated it like a big game. On test day, we made sure to go to the park and out for ice cream afterwards, to have something to look forward to. Basically in our unschooling house it's just treated as a hoop we have to jump through. We try to make it as fun as possible, but acknowledge that sometimes in life you just gotta do what you gotta do and enjoy the rest. I never showed him the results and he never asked to see them. Asa takes the 3rd grade test this year and Mackenzie finished the 5th grade test last year. We'll do it the same way for any future tests.

And one thing I've noticed is that my kids' reaction to tests is not the same as mine. They own their own journey and its very different than mine when I was a kid, simply because they are unschooled. They have no pressure to perform on the tests, the tests can be something that they simply experience, the tests don't define them or who they are and their self-esteem is not tied to any outcomes. This has been a nice discovery for me, so I don't worry so much about the testing like I did at the first.


Stella said...

Oh those stupid freakin' tests.... I HATE THEM! My parents won't let me see the grades, which bugs the heck out of me because it makes me feel like I've failed, but they don't want me to see and acknowladge my failure because it will break down my self-confidence or something(my theory. no idea how true it really is). I'm pretty sure that I just keep flunking math and scoring super high in english so it balences out and I pass. BUT, the 10th grade test is seen in college addmissions, so now there is a ton of pressure for me to actually do really well, and I'm still trying to calm down and get a good grasp on math and everything. Stupid tests. Stupid grades. Stupid stress. AUGH!

Robin said...

Knowing your general stellar level of intellect, I'm sure you do fine on those tests.
But Mackenzie wants to start on Algebra, you're welcome to come on over and go through all of it with us!