Welcome back to the 12 Simple Steps to Homeschooling Series. Today we have arrived at step 10 and our topic is overcoming test anxiety and grades. Here is Step 9 in case you missed it: Learn How Recess is the Most Important Homeschool Class
This is a difficult topic for me because it caused such heartache for my son. For years he struggled with self-confidence and anxiety because of the actions of his kindergarten teacher and standardized state testing. There is a lot of pressure for children to perform well on standardized testing. Some states do not have to participate in state testing yet there are several that do. Our state is one of them.
State Testing and Test Anxiety
We dread the state testing not because it is too hard for my children but because of the feelings that it invokes. My oldest boy went through a very real, very negative experience with a teacher involving state testing. Her salary was based on her students’ state test scores. This resulted in her taking it out on her Kindergarten class. My son as you know if you have been following my series is dyslexic. Learning to read was incredibly hard for him. When he was struggling, instead of helping, she yelled at him repeatedly. It scared him enough that he literally hid underneath his desk from her. When I found out about it, I marched into that school and pulled him out. This began our homeschooling journey.
For years he was scared of tests. He would do fine with school work but if I had him take a test he would freeze. For the longest time, I had to start calling them reviews or quizzes. Just the word test was enough to make him upset. I had to teach him over time to let go of the stress involved in taking tests. Just about everyone I know has anxiety over taking tests. While I see the need for them in some situations, I feel like too much pressure is put on children in taking standardized tests.
Test Anxiety is Real
I think the biggest thing for parents to realize is that test anxiety is real. You have to come up with ways to overcome it. One of the ways we dealt with tests was to practice taking them in our curriculum. The curriculum we use has a couple of quizzes and a test in each unit. I taught my children how to take notes and study for the tests. Being prepared for a test does a lot to help their confidence and their ability to take it. For the state testing, we buy a pre-test from the testing company, to practice it. Sometimes, just the act of filling out a bubble sheet can be so foreign to homeschooled children.
Also, I spend a lot of time telling my children that no matter the outcome of the test it doesn’t mean they are worth any less or I will love them any less. Sometimes kids wrap up their value in taking tests and think that if they fail they aren’t loveable. This may seem ridiculous, but it is true. Children need to be reassured that it is just a test and nothing more. That their value doesn’t depend on getting a certain grade or test score.
Using Grades in Homeschooling
This leads me to the other point of this article, grades. You will need to determine if you will use grades in your homeschool. We didn’t for a long time. I knew what they were working on, and how well they were doing. I felt it was pointless for me to keep track of grades. The only reason we do now is that my children are older. In high school, grades will matter because you need to be able to provide a transcript for college. They will need a GPA score to apply for colleges and jobs. So, when my boys reached middle school age we started using them as practice for high school. They enjoy seeing when they are doing well. I think by gradually introducing them it helped strengthen their confidence.
For your homework, I would like you to share any tips if you have dealt with test anxiety with your children and how you overcame it. I want you to think about grades and if you will be using them. Let me know your thoughts.
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