New home schoolers’ most common question is, “How do I tell if my child’s learning is progressing?”
Public school children are constantly tested. Every week, spelling and chapter tests are given. In many states, standardized testing is also available. Parents of public school students often decide that their child is learning if they get good grades on report cards and test papers.
Parents sometimes have difficulty determining if their child is learning enough to keep up with peers when they remove them from traditional schools. Home school students are not tested as frequently as students in public schools. This is a big problem. Is this a problem? Or is testing the only way for students to determine if they are learning enough?
It can be difficult to determine if a child is learning enough through home-schooling, as it generally takes less time than traditional education. Because they are not as advanced or behind their peers, home-schooled children spend less time on a topic than traditionally educated students. This is partly because your child is being given one-on-one attention. They don’t have to wait for other students to catch up. They also won’t be limiting the time they spend on a particular topic. The student can start moving on if they are clear about the topic.
Traditional education is designed for a traditional school calendar, which is around 180 school days in many states. Each subject receives an hour of instruction per school day, which is 180 days or 180 hours. Consider this: How long is a public school’s hour of instruction? Students must move between classes, talk to their peers, use lockers, and change rooms and buildings. The time spent moving, getting settled and ready to learn can make a traditional school hour as short as 45 minutes.
It is possible to take most of the transition time for home schoolers. It takes much less time to commute from math at your kitchen table to history on your sofa than to move from one end to the other and climb a few flights of stairs. What is the last time you saw a traditional educated student finish a textbook in one year? Home-schooled students are likely to cover more material in one school day than traditional-educated students. A home-schooled student can complete the entire course using a home-school curriculum.
Students who are home-schooled tend to not take as many tests than students in public schools. Therefore, home-schooled students spend less time teaching “to the test”. The test-based teaching method limits students’ exploration of a topic by restricting them to the material they will need to learn. A test is not a measure of an individual’s understanding of a topic.
Students from diverse backgrounds and upbringings can find standardized tests detrimental. For example, consider a standard test question asking about the Civil War. Because the Civil War is seen differently by different ethnicities and different places, a question that aims to demonstrate understanding of the war’s causes might not be realistically tested a student’s knowledge.
Standardized testing has another problem: Some students are extremely test-savvy and can understand how to take the tests even though they don’t fully understand the subject matter. Some students struggle to take timed tests and are not good test-takers. A poor test taker’s score is not an indicator of their learning or ability. It only measures their testing abilities.