The

Heart of Testing

and

Grade Placing
   
By Barbara Edtl Shelton

   
 

 (I have put Scripture references in red

and quotes of authors in green.

guest authors in purple )

   

      



A homeschool mom said: "It doesn't really make much sense to "graduate" [my children] to the next "grade" because homeschoolers are usually at so many different levels.  For example, my son is "officially" in 7th grade, but is way ahead of that in math and reading, but behind that level in writing.

   

Another homeschool mom wrote to me asking about testing and said that the state they live in doesn't require it, but she had her kids tested anyway just so "I could know if I had failed to teach in a particular area."

     

   

Grade Placement ~ "Ahead" or "Behind"?

   

The standards for being "ahead" and "behind" are only man-made, for the purpose of herding millions of children through their man-made system.  This system, I might mention, is one that has totally kicked God out of the focus and purpose of it. Therefore I'd like to suggest that we kick out of our thinking the idea that our kids are ahead or behind in anything, whether it pertains to testing or grade levels, like "first grade," "eighth grade," etc. These two words ~ ahead and behind ~ imply that a comparison has been made, and therefore is actually unscriptural. No, I'm not saying we're sinning if we say this!!!!!    There are times when the concept might come in handy for certain purposes. (which have dwindled down to pretty close to zero for me!)  I'm merely saying that it would behoove us and (especially) our children to just get rid of the idea that they are on any time table other than the one God has them on, and His standard is not man's.  At least that's what I get out of the verse "God's ways are higher than our ways; His thoughts higher than ours." Isn't that idea freeing?!?!? 
   
However, most kids like the idea of being promoted, especially if they have friends in the system and already feel "weird" enough by just being homeschooled. I felt it would not harm them to have a sense of "normalcy" by saying they were in a certain grade. We could still homeschool, and we still defined out own terms.  

   

   
What Do Tests Reveal?

   

Shifting our focus now to "testing," I want to challenge people to think about how we regard testing. It is the norm for "The Test" to be our standard, which we feel obliged to "live up to."  Allow me to explain as I would like to shed a bit of light on this subject and free up anyone who is "tied" to testing, either by being required to do it, or by thinking that it is a valid assessment of how your child is progressing. (For more on the legal side of this, see my article entitled "Obeying the Law, Testing, and Qualifying to Homeschool.")

   
The words that caught my attention were "failed to teach in a particular area." Let's delve into the word: "failed." Failed by whose standards?  We cannot "fail" unless there is a specific standard that we have failed to live up to, right?  Did Jesus set the standard of acquiring a certain amount of knowledge in the subject areas tested on a CAT or SAT?  We can fail or be successful only according to the standards we choose to submit ourselves (and our children) to.
   
   
False Sense of Security
   
When our children test well, or show improvement in test scores, we can get a false sense of security that they or we as their teacher "did well."  Again, by whose standards?  Jesus'?  When the Heavenly Father said of Jesus as He came up out of the water at His baptism: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," we can be reasonably sure He wasn't referring to Jesus' test scores, or even His ability to do well on them were He to take them! He was referring, of course, to His Son's character, His obedient heart, His love for His Father...

   

For these there are no tests, other than the ones that come along in our daily lives. And, I might add, these are the tests we ought to be "fearing" in a God-fearing sort of way. Let me share Isaiah 8:11-13 with you: "For the Lord spoke thus to me and warned me not to walk in the way of this people..." (and the public school system and its methods of testing are two of the "Top 10 Ways of This People," even gaining the attention of our president!), "saying 'Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord Hosts, Him you shall regard as holy; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." Now get this next part, which is the fun part of following God!!!... "...And [if you do this] He will become a sanctuary." 
   

   
Whose Idea of What They Should Know?
   
The problem (one of several) with testing is that it is based on the public school's idea of what a child should know, and when he should know it. While it is true that there are certainly some many good things that any child should know, the state crosses over a sacred line when they set their own standards as the standard to which all parents must submit. 

   
Oregon's homeschool law, for instance, requires homeschooling parents to put their children back into public school if the child does not score at least at or above the 15th percentile. I can't think of any way to describe this other than an abomination before the Lord. It is a prime example of the state trying to exercise control in an area it was not given authority by God to control! Playing "Big Brother" when it did not get its authority from the father.
   
   
What the State is Assuming
   
The state is assuming three things here, really major things.  And, by the way, it (the state) is not only wrong, but dead wrong about all three of these:
   
      1) that it knows what is best for your child; 
   
      2) that it is in control of your child (and you), and 
   
      3) that it can do a better job than you.
   

If anyone thinks this is not really the case, then let's turn the tables and see whether those children who fall below the 15th percentile in public schools are required to be sent home and homeschooled!?!  I don't think so!
   
   
One of Our Experiences
   
Now, even in light of everything I just said, I have to tell you that when our son scored well on a CAT test he took last year, I was thrilled! Not to mention relieved. It's not that it's wrong to take a test or be excited with the results, especially if they were good. But I also understand the extent of the real meaning of that test, and it's pretty minimal when put within the context of the "big picture" of Tory's total development.

   
I could easily have looked at his test scores and thought I was "done"; after all, he scored 12.9 (which means 12th year, 9th month) in just about every area. (I should insert here that this doesn't mean he has mastered everything on the test, but only that he scored the same as typical students in the 12th grade, 9th month; in other words, at the end of high school). But I know that, in reality, in God's plan for Tory, he is far from done. All the testing did was give me a measure of how much he knows compared to other public schooled kids. This is some, but not much comfort to me, if you know what I mean. (About 1.5 inches on a yardstick of 36 inches.)  

   

Testing must have its rightful, God-ordained place in our minds and hearts, or it will be our master.  I guarantee it! 
   
   
A Right Attitude Toward Testing
   
I'm not out to spoil anyone's fun (including my own ), or their satisfaction of their children scoring well on a test. But at the same time I know that test scores are not a true or complete indication of the depth of a child's education. They only tell what the child knows academically compared to other kids, neither of which is the essence or foundation of education. 

   
And, as Marilyn Howshall (developer of the Lifestyle of Learning message) points out in her book Making a Homeschool Decision:
     
"In the area of academic goals it is common to look to the standards of diagnostic and standardized tests. These can be effective tools for use in your children's education, but beware, they are an inferior model to follow after. Much knowledge does not produce scholarship [from Barb: contrary to popular opinion] and character. Generally, (and legally in the public schools), God's truth is not lifted as a standard in the area of education. As home educators, we have the opportunity to strive toward a higher mark the Word of God." 
       
Marilyn goes on to quote from II Corinthians 10:12:  "'For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring them selves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.'  Any institution that thinks it can do a better job of educating a child than the parent is 'commending' itself." 
   
   
Effects of Testing on Children
   
Part of the problem with testing is that only the smartest children can take part in it and still have their self images intact. Susan Schaeffer MacAulay in For the Children's Sake says: "A child should never be made to feel that he is lagging behind others of his age. We don't harass babies of eighteen months to walk if they still crawl. Einstein only started talking at four years!

   
Testing also totally invalidates the uniqueness of each person. Everyone must fit into the test's mould of what should be known. I quote Susan again: 
   
"The Bible teaches that we are like parts of a body. In other words, we are different from each other, we all have different gifts. How immoral to apply an arbitrary yardstick to the little child and expect him to progress at some "normal" speed!  We take from him the joy of accomplishing new skills which should be part of growing up..."

   
As for the content of what is being tested, I quote Susan one last time: (This one is lengthy, but please bear with me!  It is excellent!)
   
"If I were to have to label much educational material today, I'm afraid a large percentage would definitely be twaddle. How colorfully and scientifically our generation talks down to the little child! What insipid, stupid, dull stories are trotted out! And we don't stop there. We don't respect the children's thinking or let them come to any conclusions themselves! We ply them with endless questions, the ones we've thought up, instead of being silent and letting the child's questions bubble up with interest. We tire them with workbooks that would squeeze out the last drop of anybody's patience. We remove interesting books and squander time on a clinical procedure called "reading skill testing," using idiotic isolated paragraphs which nobody would dream of choosing to take home to read. The recording of testable features of a child's taught tricks ("skills") is held to be more important than the mysterious, exciting growth of a person.

   

(By the way, all of these quotes and a few others are in another separate "article" consisting of just "Enlightening Excerpts on Testing" of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.)

This "all the above" is the precise context within which any and all testing is done. Are you seeing what a greatly over-valued (than-it-is-worth) tool it is?


Come Out of Both Angles of Delusion! 
   
The bottom line then is that, on one hand, high test scores can give us a false sense of security and success, and low scores can give us a false sense of failure and low achievement.

   
When I went down to Oregon to have our kids tested a few summers ago at a homeschool testing service, I had the opportunity to see several moms freaking out over the tests. And I do mean freaking out!  A couple were even in tears!  I was able to minister to a couple of moms in particular who were so freaked out over how poorly their children tested that they were ready to send their kids back to school that coming fall!!!

   
This is a perfect illustration of the problem I see with testing. Its major pitfall and snare. Those who believe they are doing poorly at educating their children just because of poor test scores are in the same state of delusion as those who believe they are doing well at educating their children if the test scores are high!

   
We will do well to unplug from "believing" in the tests at all! They must assume their rightful place in our attitudes or we will find ourselves serving them instead of God. "Do not be fooled; a man cannot serve two masters."

   
Testing, if used at all, must be your servant no more than a tool in your hand, just as you are a tool in God's hand to truly educate your child and help make him fit for God's purposes, not to merely "school" him and make him fit for society's purposes.

      

   

 

      

  

There are those who will hold the conviction that they are to have their children tested.

If this is where you are at,  then here is a way to KEEP your children's hearts safe from the evil one ~ who

would  like to use this means as a way to destroy:

 

a) their self image (and I mean this in a godly way)

b) your view of yourself as their "education provider and facilitator"

c) your relationship with your children

 

Sisteren...  THIS NEED NOT BE SO!!!!

Read this article before you even get close to testing date,

and let the Lord redeem even this area!!!!

 

 

Taking the Sting Out of Testing!

 

by

JulieBeth Lamb

 

List shepherdess for the

Senior High Form+U+la List

 

    

 

{{Today we had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and I needed some encouragement. Our state requires testing at the end of the year and we are in the middle of that right now. We are a relaxed learning family with wonderful kids, but today I
was ready to find some one more "competent" than myself to educate my kids! My 12 yo ds struggles so much on these tests and after today I feel like I'm not doing a very good job at all. He struggles with reading and began reading late. I'm wondering if I should have him tested, if so how, and with whom, and all those kinds of questions. I guess I'm just feeling like what we're doing is not working, although we enjoy learning as we do. We do some unit studies and some other stuff and I am working through Barb's book as we have another ds that is 15yo and in the high school adventure.  It was just such a hard day....tears, apologies, hugs, discussions...  I'm usually a very optimistic, positive person, but today has really thrown me for a loop. I so appreciate the wisdom on this list! Thanks for all your help!
Susie


Oh precious sister, please don't let the requirements of man hurt the child of God. All your state can do is require your child to take them, you and your child don't need to put any importance on them or worry about how well they go. Do not feel that you are not competent to educate your children, you are the only one that God chose to be their mother and train them up. Teaching to the test and how to test isn't education, it is rote drilling that offers no real learning. Just because that is important to the public schools and state officials doesn't mean it should hold any concern for you. Tests only show how well someone takes tests, not what knowledge they hold.

Your son is on his own path in reading and all of school. If you truly feel that he is not progressing and he is frustrated about his lack of understanding then ask the Lord to show you if he should be tested and find a Godly homeschooling parent with expertise in that area. However, if your son is moving in the right direction, you can find some reading materials he enjoys, and he is beginning to see the joy that comes from books and magazines, let him go at his own pace without the stigma of being tested or going to a tutor when he felt he was doing OK. It is all about his perception, how does he feel about it?

I have a couple of students who were slow to read. I made up for it in different subjects, giving them non verbal math problems, doing read alouds together, having plenty of hands on projects, and having them give oral feedback about books they read, etc. Even as they began to accomplish reading I didn't push it and let them do their english orally with me, write in their math books, and dictate stories to me to type, so that they could use their reading and writing just for things that were enjoyable to them. It has worked and they all like to read and write, some more than others, and do it for pleasure and work.

I hope you finished your testing day with some prayer and fun! You all deserve it. When everyone is calmed down talk about the foolishness of man. There are plenty of other examples in the world, tell them that mandatory school testing is much like signs on coffee cups that say not to spill them on you because they are hot, giving driver's license tests orally in foreign languages, and inheritance taxes. They are foolishness that humans thought up.

Be prepared before next year to have a testing day plan. Maybe you can get some other homeschoolers involved and mke it a party. Talk to the children about testing, remind them that it is just a formality, no one cares how well they do, it is just something that has to be done. Explain how well they are doing in the tests from the Lord in areas that have real value. Give them some testing tips like skipping ones that they don't understand or that are difficult and moving on to ones that are easy, relaxing, and keeping focused. Then have a park day, BBQ, pool party, pizza party, whatever is fun and will take their minds off the testing. Remind them when it is done that they did just fine and now it is over until next year. Even make up awards with silly wording as prizes for finishing the testing.

There are many foolish laws in the world that we have to follow, we have learned not to take them too seriously. We need to help our children do the same. Help them keep their eyes focused on the Lord and what He values and they will be just fine. Love in Christ, JulieBeth
 

     

 

     

      

  

Here are some further

insights on and examples of

Real-Life Testing

that were recently shared on the

Senior High Form+U+la List

by list shepherdess

Patti Ballard

    

 

A test is only one means of evaluation. Even in schools, the teachers use more than one means - even though testing is still the major measure of the child's learning. I rarely use tests. We do a spelling test, and minor tests (drill sheets) on things like the times tables, but mostly I use "other" means. Such as:

  
~ dinner table discussions of a topic recently studied

  
~ drawings of topics, books read, or other learning that lends itself to this means

  
~ displays, crafts, mini-reports, booklets (the Booklet Building Book) and such

  
~ I catch the kids making reference to things studied and tuck it away in my mind that they were able to apply that knowledge to life. I don't formally record that type of thing - it takes the fun out of hearing it.

  
~ I ask hidden questions that the kids don't realize are to just see if they know something.  For example, Hannah just came to talk to me about the book she is reading. We were admiring the illustrations and I "innocently" asked ~ I wonder who drew the pictures in there?  She flipped to the front and told me the illustrator.  She passed "the test" and never knew she took it!  

  

     

  

  

  

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