This is the time of year when public school students in Pennsylvania sit quietly with their No. 2 pencils and show what they have learned. At least, that's the idea behind the PSSAs. I personally think these tests are a waste of time for students and teachers. The schools must spend countless hours preparing for these multiple choice tests...reviewing memorized facts that show little of what a child has really learned during their school year. It all comes down to a couple days of testing that might give us some idea of what they really know.
As homeschoolers in PA, we are not taking standardized tests this week, because we are not required to do so.
But don't think that means we do not on occasion assess our progress. In fact, I may assess our progress a little more fanatically than is really necessary. As a homeschooling mom, you operate under the fear that you might just be missing something essential that your children need to be learning. Strangers in the grocery store may quiz your children on the gross domestic product of Botswana at any given time! We must be ready to defend our claims that our children will not grow up to be deadbeats!
When I start worrying about those kinds of things, I try to sit back and look at the big picture. Are each of my children making progress in their learning? Are there any subjects where they really seem to struggle? Is it my methods that are causing this struggle or are they maybe just not developmentally ready for a certain concept?
Focusing on the larger issues can really help me decide if our schooling is working. When I find a problem area, I look for ways to fix it. It doesn't mean we are 'failing', it just means we are ALL learning through this process. Most often the problems come when I start worrying about the way others will perceive my progress.
This week, I contacted our home school evaluator to let her know our projected last day of school so we could schedule our year end evaluation. Per PA regulations, we must log 180 days of schooling. When those days have been completed, we will meet with our evaluator to show her our portfolios for the year and discuss what we have done in those 180 days. Deciding what to put in the portfolio is difficult for me. Do I want to include only their absolute best work in the record? Do I want to throw in a few, not so perfect pages to show that I haven't chosen ONLY the best work? As recommended by most sources, I am planning to pull out a sample for each required subject from the beginning, middle and end of the school year.
I know I am probably over thinking this whole thing. Our evaluator is very laid back. I don't think she will be too concerned about the papers I have thrown into that binder. What she will really pay attention to will be what the boys say about their school year. What was the favorite book they read this year? What kinds of experiments did they do for science? What subject was the most exciting for them?
These are the kinds of questions you just can't answer by filling in a bubble on a test sheet...and I think they are the only ones really worth answering.