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Confessions of a Homeschool Mom Regarding Achievement Testing
Patti T., 1/27/2012

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: Often when I talk to families about how their kids did on achievement tests, I have a special question I ask-- it's "What is your child reading independently-- and does he enjoy reading.... or need to be 'nudged' to tackle a book?"  I've found, over many years of informally asking this of parents, that a pattern has emerged-- those kids who read widely, and have a lot of personal choice over what to read, generally do great on achievement tests. Those kids who don't read much at all beyond their required homeschooling studies or texts, and who clearly don't like to read, generally don't fare so well. Doing things that are 'like' achievement tests on a daily basis does not seem to be the key factor -- though definitely familiarity with testing formats is a great help, and I certainly recommend some focused 'test prep'. But I've met kids who have *only* done 'comprehension questions' during the time the family is helping them get ready for standardized testing-- at all other times, the child simply reads and enjoys and talks about his reading informally with his parents every now and then... and these kids generally do just fine when the scores come in. This general trend was shown again in the experience that Patti T. describes so well in this touching piece-- I hope it is a good encouragement to all other families facing the 'dreaded' 3rd grade testing experience! 

I have been homeschooling my son since he was in kindergarten.  As we went through our first few years, I had this gnawing feeling about third grade. I knew that was the year we would encounter achievement testing.  I knew in my heart I was doing my best to make sure my son was learning and thriving in homeschool, but to have “THE TEST” prove or disprove this point was a little scary for me.  OK, very scary!!!! So I was on a mission to be prepared!!!!

I purchased the sample test material from PA Homeschoolers for his appropriate grade.  I was glad I did because after the test my son remarked, “The test was just like the one we did at home.”  I was glad he felt comfortable from having done the practice tests.

In addition, I combed the PA Homeschoolers website, in the months prior to the test, for any information regarding achievement test taking.  I am thankful for the resources I found to help me prepare my son and myself.  They really put my mind at ease and helped me to keep the whole test experience relatively stress free.  Knowing the test results were not the soul benchmark for how our homeschooling was progressing was the biggest relief!

I remained optimistic waiting for the test scores.  When I received them, I could hardly believe my eyes.  My son did very well on the test.   All of the prep work we did helped, but the biggest preparation was something we had been doing his whole life.  We instilled a love of books and reading in our son. 

My son is an avid reader.  It is not uncommon for us to walk out of the library every other week with 30+ books, and he reads every one of them.  I let him pick whatever books he wants, even if they are his old favorites like Henry and Mudge or Mr. Putter and Taby.  He likes to read graphic novels such as Stone Rabbit, Lunch Lady, and Tiny Titans.  Yes, he also likes Captain Underpants as well.  I let him read those books and trade off with books I have selected that are a little more appropriate for his age.  I think the reason he loves to read is because he has the freedom to explore and choose the books that interest him.  He isn’t just forced to read the material assigned by me for school.  His love for reading is the biggest factor as to why he did so well on the reading and language arts portion of the test, so I am told.

Now, interestingly, I should mention at this point that I have a rather unique visual impairment that makes it challenging for me to read without the assistance of visual aids.  I developed this issue about 15 years ago and it has gotten worse through the years.  I can still read, and do so.  My son sees the struggles that I have and is very kind to offer to help me.  He often suggests that he read different material that we work on to help take some of the work from me.  We have laughed and cried together for the challenge this provides but it makes me thankful for how eager he is to read and how understanding he is when I am not able to read as quickly as he can.

If your child is not a reader try to allow them the freedom to discover books they like.  Perhaps they will develop a like for comics, silly stories, or picture books.  That’s OK!  Don’t think because the book is for a younger age they can’t read that book.  If they read the same book over and over again, that’s OK!!  The point is they are reading. 

If your child doesn’t like to read the books you select then read them out loud together. Kids are never too old to enjoy having their parents read to them.  There have been a number of times I selected a book that didn’t really appeal to my son, but after we started to read it aloud he really enjoyed it, Red Sails to Capri comes to mind. I display my enthusiasm and excitement for the book as we read so that my son can see that I enjoy reading with him. There have also been some books that he didn’t care for after we started them, so we stopped reading the book and just got a new one. This helped him build confidence in my ability to select books that he would like. 

I find some of my suggestions for books, by browsing selections included in the book Honey for a Child’s Heart, by Gladys Hunt.  This book provides great suggestions for preschool through teens. 

As I look back on the testing experience, it was very positive. I am glad I took the steps I did to get my son and I prepared.  That being said, I am very thankful for providing an environment where my son was able to develop his love of reading.  The benefits are very obvious now and will be reaped throughout his lifetime. 


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