Monday, October 30, 2006

Standardized tests...

So, here in my home state of Georgia, state law indicates that you must "Administer and retain the results of a standardized test every 3 years beginning at the end of the 3rd grade." So, dutifully, at the end of 3rd grade (well, OK - late August - as long as it was before we started 4th grade work it counts as "end of 3rd grade", right?), we administered the Cat 5 test, using Kolbe Academy. Because we took the test "off-season" (in other words, late! ;-), our results were delayed a bit getting back to us. We got them back this weekend. As expected, J1 did very well. And I have such mixed feelings about the whole process. It's state law, so obviously I will follow it, and give another test in 3 years. But truly? What a waste of time!

I mean, I am his mother, and his teacher. I work with him every day, I check his work, we talk about what he does - I am well aware of what his strengths and weaknesses are. The only surprise for me on the test was that he didn't score exceptionally well on the section on "word analysis" - apparently he had trouble with long vowels and variant vowels. But, since he aced his reading comprehension scores, and was in the top percentile in spelling - obviously, there are no issues there. I suspect he either misunderstood the directions or just got bored and careless. So, J1 pretty much did exactly as I expected him to - $40 and 6 hours of our life later. It's a bit frustrating.

Though I do feel proud of him for his efforts. He's never taken any kind of test like that before, and because we were so rushed and busy with our late summer move, we didn't do any practice tests or anything. And admittedly, it is nice to see that our efforts here in our homeschool are bearing some fruit. And I'm very thankful to Our Lord for blessing me with a very academically oriented son as my first child - he has great intellectual gifts, and it makes my job much easier as a homeschooling mom. I think that I would have gone nuts (well, more nuts! ;-) if my first child was of the "late blooming" type. Just my personality, I would have worried endlessly - more so than I already do! :-)

But, I am struck by how one-dimensional testing of this sort is. Yes, in the basic academic subjects, J1's doing quite well. But there is so much more! He has much to learn about our faith, his handwriting's still, well, terrible, he has many character issues to work on, he still needs help buttoning his pants, we have so many "life skills" to work on, like cooking and cleaning, etc. He is a fairly typical 9.5 year old boy, in other words, in most ways.

We knew when J1 was quite young that he had very special intellectual abilities (he's officially "highly gifted"), and we made a conscious decision not to push for any sort of "acceleration", or special programs, etc. We always felt that he had all the time in the world to learn academics, and only a very short time to be a little boy.

One of the beauties of homeschooling is the opportunity to serve his needs in *every* way, not just academically. We can spend time learning "life skills", and work on developing a strong character, and immerse ourselves in our faith, and really nurture our relationships. And, at the same time, not stand in his way as he pursues his interests and grows intellectually. I am so very thankful we are able to homeschool, it is truly a blessing in so many ways!

And yeah, it's kind of nice to see those test scores, even though everything I believe about education tells me they're mostly meaningless!

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