Friday, March 17, 2017
Weekly Wrap-up ~ Teaching the Test
If you are a homeschooler I think you would agree that a big motivating factor in your decision to homeschool is that you have the right (with limits in some states) to teach your children what you want to teach them. At least in Missouri, we do not have to get approval for our curriculum or follow Common Core.
Brynne will be reentering public school in the fall for 7th grade. The school will require her to submit assessments to enroll, standardized test results. We do not take standardized tests. Really, we do not even take tests. Our assessments are typically based on discussion and mastery of materials as we compete lessons.
The elementary school has agreed to allow Brynne to sit with the other 6th graders to take the MAP test in May. That way she does not have to take a standardized test by herself at the high school sometime this summer, and I want the school to proctor her test so there is no question about its results.
The 6th graders do testing in Math and English. Because we do not follow Common Core, I need to make sure that Brynne has covered all of the topics that will be on the tests. I purchased Study Island for two months. She is working on a lesson of both Math and English each day. English has been super easy for her so far. Math has presented a few challenges, but she is moving through the problems nicely.
Because Eli and Brynne use the same curriculum in all of our subjects, we have put away our current Math curriculum and Eli has also been doing the Math portion of Study Island. Although he will not be sitting for the MAP test, or any standardized test in the near future, the use of Study Island is helping me see his strengths and weaknesses in Math. It has helped me see where our focus should be next year. In fact, it has shown me that, perhaps, we should scale back a bit for him with Math concepts, to slow down and let him digest some things that we have, obviously, not covered thoroughly enough. He was showing some extreme frustration and distress about his progress, so we shut down Study Island and covered some other material for a few days. His entire demeanor changed (I mean for the whole school day) because he was experiencing some success in Math instead of constant failure. It has helped me identify what Math we will be covering the rest of this school year, through the summer, and into next Fall. Homeschooling is a blessing, even when standardized testing gets involved.
But Brynne is pushing on in preparation of her test in May.
What this whole standardized testing thing has really shown me, though, is that our public schools really are so standardized.
I was at the high school last week at a Meet the School Board candidates forum and play practice was going on in the gym. I looked around the commons area at the posters and things hanging on the wall displaying some of the other areas of extra-curricular activities. I listened to the school board candidates discuss the challenges in our schools including technology, making sure students are ready for college and life after high school, etc. But in my mind all I could think was, "How in the world do you have time for all that other stuff if you have to be 'teaching the test'?" No wonder our students are strung out, spaced out, and stressed out.
I can see it in the eyes of my two students at home in just the little bit of standardized learning they are doing with Math.
And the standardized learning is anything but enjoyable. And because there is so much of it in just one day's lesson, we have had to put some of our other topics on the back burner just to get them completed.
Public schools have to do that every day. That's why you see so many extra-curricular activities happening only in after-school hours or being eliminated from the schools altogether.
I am not going to lie when I say that I am sad that Brynne is going back to public school. I think they try, I really do, but they are just not able to meet the needs of all of their students. I pray that she will not get lost in the shuffle. If anybody can navigate the waters of public school it will be Brynne. But I can't help to stop and think of the other students like Eli who would drown in that environment.
I only have 6 weeks left of teaching Brynne. I hate it that those weeks will be spent teaching the test. But, for her to be prepared, it is what has to be done.
Instead of taking off a full week for Spring Break this year (um, we did just start back to school from Christmas Break at the beginning of February), I told the kids that I would just give them off 5 random days between now and the end of our school year. They thought that was a great idea. We had pre-scheduled a day off this past Monday because we had such a busy weekend and I was pretty sure we would all need the day off. I was right! We were exhausted that day, and I had caught a cold and needed some mindless rest. Then yesterday we took off another day because I got asked to sub in my mom's card group, and I played cards all day. This week was a little low-key, but that was great for us. We still completed what we needed to complete and are ready for a full, strong week next week.
2016-2017 School Hours Logged: 752.5 hours, including 160.75 hours outside home. Plus Summer 2016 Hours Logged: 70.75 hours, including 27 hours outside home.