Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Still Pleased Homeschooling Mama

Fail at love, and the other tests don't matter.
~Richard Bach

I choose the California Achievement Test (CAT) from Christian Liberty Press (CLP) for our state required national standardized test this year. Three years ago, as I wrote in Pleased Homeschooling Mama, I used Seton's CAT, but I felt it was far too easy. The tests from CLP are based on 1970 standards, which are supposed to be higher academic standards than the updated versions today. Another difference between these two is Seton's test is set up for testing at the end of the school year and CLP's is set up for the beginning of the school year, so they say.

I wanted to stay with the CAT as it does not test social studies and science, only the 3R's. My reason is that in those areas of study I do not follow state or national standards at all. In other words, we do not cover history, government, geography, or science in the structure as required in schools. We are following a world history timeline, not an American history timeline, and I believe that the concepts of American history and government are more relevant when the student has an understanding of world history and other governments. They also are better understood at an older age. I want her to be intrigued with politics and take interest in how it influences her life. The rest is just empty knowledge to get good grades on tests, which has low priority for me.

Having chosen CLP's test, I was face with the next quandary: Should I have her take the 7th grade test as that is what grade she would be going into according to her age or the 8th grade test as she is at the end of her 7th grade math curriculum. In our home educational program, math is the only subject that has a grade level format, the rest is not grade specific even if the subject is leveled in some manner. My husband and I decided to stick with the grade of her age so it would be the 7th grade test, although the CLP representative suggested that I use the 8th grade test.

With CLP I had one other decision to make: paper or online. My husband suggested we encourage the Princess to make this decision for herself. The pros (and cons) for online version is that it would be strictly timed for each section and I cannot look over the questions to try to prep her specifically for anything we might not have covered. This high tech format would prove to be more like how I took such tests in public school, with the exception that we would be receiving the results as soon as the test was completely finished. The Princess decided on the online version, proving I was more nervous about it than she was.

I tried to tell myself that the scores would not matter really, but I am homeschooling--more specifically, homeschooling an only child. I know she is intelligent and knowledgeable, but there is no real measuring stick without testing. On one side, I want to know how she compares to others and, on the other, I fluctuate between "it does not matter" and worrying because the truth is that is does matter and "what if she does not do well?" I would see it as failure on my part.

The Princess also had been worried about the test, wondering what would happen if she did not do well. She would see it as her failure and at this emotionally fragile tween age too. Still, I think that testing yearly, although it is not required, might be something to consider from now on for the experience. I just think she needs to improve her confidence in the testing process as she will preparing for college. At least, she has been talking about colleges and potential careers quite a bit this past year.

The Princess was ready and nervous, typical pre-test stuff. She was able to pick the test sections in any order she wanted, but once the test was started there was no way to stop the timer. She felt she did well until she tackled the math sections. These she did yesterday in the morning. By lunch time she had finished them and had only one section left to go.

It was then that the meltdown occurred....

With tears running down hot cheeks, she screamed that she did terrible and had timed out on the math sections with computations being the one with the most questions left. I sent her to her room to cry it out and cool down for about two minutes and then I went to her to give her the loving she so needed. Meltdowns are expected with this age and I usually handle them well...when I am not the one having one, that is. She does not know it now, but this test will be a vague memory in the life and times of my maturing Princess; how I handled the situation will be the lasting memory.

I assured her that most children do not finish all the sections as I had told her during our test prep. Even I, who loved math, often timed out on the math sections, but I still scored quite high. She might have done better than she thought. I had prepared her for the last few weeks by telling her the tests are not about grades or how many you get right or wrong as much as how your scores compare to others who had taken the same test. It is a concept of gray in a girl who likes things black and white. I am thankful that to her right is right and wrong is wrong but it makes it hard for her to understand that getting just half right would be average, like a "C" not an "F." (And, after all those years I purposely did not do any grades...well, it is just such a major influence in the lives of her friends that there is no escaping it, I suppose.) After lunch, she felt better and finished the remaining section.

Immediately I received these results, which I arranged in order from the best to the worst.



Subject Raw Score Grade Equivalent Percentile Rank Stanine
Language Mechanics 59/72 12.694 8
Reading Comprehension 35/45 11.3 93 8
Language Use and Structure 32/50 11.7 918
Language Spelling 24/32 10.0 82 7
Mathematics Concepts & Problems 29/50 8.6 79 7
Reading Vocabulary 26/40 7.7 62 6
Mathematics Computation 22/48 6.8 46 5

I actually thought she would score worse in math, even though I know she knows it well enough and is actually good at it. She just does not like math, so she takes it slower than she needs to be able to finish the test before timing out. Still, her lowest score was as if she was in the eighth month of sixth grade so even though the percentile is just below 50, I think she still did very well. We will just need to work on her speed in math, which is one of the short comings of her using a computer based curriculum. I will have to supplement it with working in techniques. She still tends to have a habit of doing it the long and slow ways instead of the shorter and quicker ways and I think this test help her to realize that her methods need to change.

I also noticed from our test prep that she was weaker in vocabulary and somewhat in spelling, which is one of the reasons I ordered a vocabulary curriculum. She is actually interested in stretching her vocabulary and improving her spelling.

The rest I expected she would do well, but I was a bit surprised in how well! I knew that she should be way ahead in grammar, but when we were doing the test prep, I was not as sure about how well she would remember it. Reading comprehension was also one of the areas in test prep that I thought she was not doing as well as I thought she should be able to do.

I am so a very pleased with her. Come this Saturday, not only will we be celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary (which is actually today) at the Melting Pot, but also how well the Princess did on her test. 

~ Some days, my Lord, I wonder as work at educating with my daughter, if she is doing as well as I think she is or as bad as I fear she might be. I thank You again for calling us to homeschool her. We have had some bad days, but we also have had many more very good ones. It is certainly worth the effort. ~

3 comments:

  1. Give the Princess our congrats! That is super! Validation. And did you know you've used her real name in that last paragraph?

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    1. Oops! Thanks for catching that. I have not done that ever before. I guess I am having post-test syndrome!

      As much as I dislike the "make the grade" pressure that goes with testing, there is much to be said about having a measuring stick.

      Oh, and as I was typing this post the Princess was working on her latest book.

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  2. I get conflicted. I think testing means nothing in real terms. People are uneven & learn at uneven rates. However....it is nice to know that if you had to, you could put her in school & know she'd be up there.

    I stopped testing when I saw Cait start playing games with the tests. That is just a losers game all round. Yep, they're boring. Nope, she didn't care [boy, did I get a clutch of those!] Yep, my paranoia couldn't cope. Mind you, the child has a 100% average this year for her TAFE course! Scary, huh?

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.