It's CAT testing week at our house. Living in California, homeschool families have the option of using a charter school, an umbrella school, or filing the R4 and declaring yourself a private school.
We have many friends who use public charter schools, and that works for them. But we've always filed the R4. I like being independant. I like having the freedom to choose all my own curriculum and not have to omit any religious references in sample work submitted for approval. Heck, I like not having to submit any sample work, period!
While we are not required to do any testing, I like to keep a pulse on how the kids are doing, and it's a nice way to break up the routine every spring. My kids take the CAT 5 California Achievement Test that we order through http://www.familylearning.org/ . Once we've filled all those bubbles in, we send it back to be scored and get the results a couple weeks later.
Testing can only tell us so much. It can tell us how the kids are doing in math or spelling fairly accurately. But since we choose our own curriculum, often what they're testing in Social Studies or Science is not what we're learning that year. Interestingly, the kids usually still score well in those areas, simply by virtue of being curious in a learning-rich environment. Books, books, and more books play a role in this, I'm sure.
Hannah's too little for testing, of course. But her picture is here to remind us there's so much testing can't tell us. Just like when we were waiting to travel to China to adopt her, what's reduced to paper is only one tiny facet of who a person is. She's so much more than her referral paperwork.
The scores we get back for the homeschooled kids are just a part of the bigger picture. Scores don't mention things like, "Amazing cuddler" or "Class clown" or "very creative!" They don't test in the areas of my kids' obsessions.
If Eli was tested in Aircraft or Lego, he'd score top marks. If Sam was tested in his areas of interest, he'd do well in Marine Biology, WW2 history, and Survival Skills. Brianna could ace any quiz in bling or glitz. Maybe fashion design is in her future?
So yes, testing is important to me as a school administrator. I want to know where we're doing well and what areas need some improvement. But as we've seen from public schools, "teaching to the test" leaves out so much. And really, who came up with these tests? Who gets to decide what a second grader should know? And what happens if they don't know that until they're (gasp) 10 instead?
I'm going to look at their results and plan for next year based on what I see. But I'm also going to plan for next year based on what works for our family, and the interests and abilities of the individual children I'll be teaching. After all, isn't that the beauty of homeschooling?