Morning journey from bad to good

Test anxiety

This is the first year Tre has been required, as a homeschooler, to take the standardized test du jour. In our case, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Now, as a homeschooler, I have all sorts of opinions about the obvious weakness of standardized testing such as this. I have full on rants about the various forms of intelligence represented in any group of children, and how only certain kinds of intelligence are measured by such tests. Even how the tests lean on skills that boys in general tend to lag behind girls in acquiring (verbal, associative, and even the fine-motor work required to fill out those little circles).

So. I know how meaningless this is. I know how inadequate it is in measuring Tre’s academic progress. I am closely involved in his academic progress, and I feel fine about how he’s doing. No reason to be nervous, right?


Tuesday I was driving him to the school for his first day of testing. He had his sharpened #2 pencils, a little baggie of sunflower seeds for a snack, and a water bottle. He was trying to read his book, but I kept interrupting him.

“Hey, Tre? If you come to a question you can’t answer, just go on to the next question. If there’s time, you can come back.”

“What? Oh, ok.”

“Oh, and be sure to CHECK every so often to be sure you’re filling out the right numbered line on the answer sheet. You know, match the number on the answer with the number of the question.”

“Uh huh.”

“And READ the instructions. Don’t just skim. READ them.”

“Right. Read them.”

I stopped at a red light, and watched him in the rearview mirror. He was utterly unprepared for this. I’d considered getting him a prep test, but had smugly decided that our school time was too important to waste on such silliness. So instead I was throwing him to the wolves. A full morning of sitting and squinting at paper. Seeking out and filling in little circles. Reading those disjointed, unrelated little excerpts. What was I doing?

I worried about him all morning, worried about what his impression of the test and his performance on the test would be. What had I done to my boy?

I picked him up at noon, and was relieved to see him bound happily over to me. Hey, I thought, maybe he did FINE. He’s a bright boy; maybe he ENJOYED the intellectual stretch of a different kind.

“How’d it go, honey?”


I had to smile. That’s my boy.

“Really? What was your favorite part?”

“The chairs were sort of like whoopee cushions. They made noises when you sat on them.”

“Uh…what about the test?”

“Oh. I don’t remember.”

So. There you have it. He seems to have survived the experience.



* shake head bemusedly *

Heather McCutcheon

Good job Mom! I enjoy reading blogs from responsible homeschooling moms... and generally you all have the same feeling about the tests, which I so totally understand.

It's just, what if there weren't any tests at all, I'd be afraid for the irresponsible homeschooling moms and their kids who would have no idea...

I admire you and your abilities, Kira, you inspire me!


I loved those kind of tests when I was a kid. Time off from class, doing something that you wouldn't get graded on. Could it be any better?


I think my own 12-year-old son has said the same thing to me. "How was your testing?" "It was great! Nick kept going to the bathroom, and he'd make loud farting noises for us!"


I know what you mean about standardized tests. I abhor standardized assessment of pretty much any kind, an aberration among us education types. *laughs* I think the thing that irks me the most now is the tendency of schools to teach to the test instead of teaching for knowledge and actual skill or even for real comprehension. Ugh. And with certain government standards to uphold, this tendency is only going to increase. I've taught in public schools in two states, one of which is considered a leader in education, and with new regulations in place, teaching to the test is becoming more and more common.

"[I] had smugly decided that our school time was too important to waste on such silliness." Brava! Keep doing what you're doing. *grins* And the above reaction comes from a former student who actually enjoyed taking standardized tests in high school and college. For some reason, I did like seeing what I knew compared to what was expected on those tests.


As a homeschooler, I despise these tests. We're required to do them in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades here, but at least we can do them at home, but on mandatory test years, the parent can't be the one to administer the test. I think this is completely whacked since, in public schools, the teachers the kids know and are comfortable with administer the test. If we have to do the tests to begin with, why should HSers be treated differently? As far as them being a reliable way to gauge progress, I feel like that is a joke. My dd tests great. My son? He doesn't do these kinds of tests well. As a result, his scores are not accurate reflections of his skills. I find the tests to be a major waste of our time. We could be doing actual *learning* activities during those two mornings it takes us to do these tests.

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