If you’ve looked around at your options and picked out the test, the setting, and the date (stuff we talked about in Part 4) that seem like the best fit for your student and your family, you’re ready for the next step!
This step might seem small to you . . . but taking it will answer a question that’s looming so large for your child: “How do I prepare for this test?”
Helping your child get ready for test-taking is a job you’re uniquely qualified for—you know your child’s strengths, weaknesses, fears, and motivators. You’re one of their most enthusiastic cheerleaders and they trust you to give them the real deal.
So what kinds of things can you do that will help them feel confident on test day?
Before the Test
Generally speaking, homeschooled kiddos get fewer testing opportunities than kids in traditional school. So, if your child has never taken a standardized test before, you can prepare them in advance to understand the whole process. (Remember the first time you had to perfectly fill those bubbles with the No. 2 pencils your mom sent to school with you?)
Walking your child through the testing process ahead of time can help minimize their stress on test day and elicit their best scores. Here are a few things you could consider:
- What are your goals for testing your child? Have you taken the time to explain them to him? Most kids deeply want to please their parents, which can lead to pressure- or shame-inducing assumptions about the purpose and meaning of testing. Clearly communicating your objectives may help allay your child’s fears and nurture a resilient growth mindset. For example, you could explain, “Honey, I just want you to do your best so that we can determine what you know and don’t know.”
- You can also boost their confidence by explaining that the test questions will purposely range from below the test’s official grade level to well above it. You can help prepare them by explaining that they will come to some questions that are “ so easy!”—they learned them a long time ago! Other questions may be a little more challenging and may reflect what they’re learning right now. And . . . the test will even ask questions that completely stump them! For those questions, reassure them that it’s OK—they’re not supposed to know the answer and you don’t expect them to.
- Testing centers and curriculum publishers have test prep materials and practice tests which you could use to familiarize your child with the testing process. This allows you to provide reassurance and guidance while your child practices—something you won’t be able to do during the actual test.
After: Should You Retest?
“Retest? Why would anyone go through that again?” you might wonder.
But after the test is taken or the scores have been received, you may want to consider retesting in situations such as the following:
- Your child scores below the state-required percentile.
- Your child scores lower than you believe they are capable of for an exceptional reason. For example, immediately after taking the test your child comes down with flu symptoms, making it likely that they were too sick during the test to do well on it. Or you find out a week later that your child needs glasses and was unable to easily read the test questions.
- You discover that the test-taking process does not fairly represent your child’s knowledge, so you want to choose a different test (such as an untimed one instead of a timed one).Testing ethics generally require a three-month minimum interval between retests.
- If in doubt about the appropriateness of retesting in your specific circumstances, check with your state law, the test publisher, or the testing center. If you are an HSLDA member, please feel free to contact our Legal Department or Educational Consultants for advice. You might even consider an alternate method of assessment, such as a portfolio or evaluation.
All the Way Through: Keep It in Perspective!
In our achievement- and comparison-driven world, it’s easy to forget that assessment is for the benefit of your child and you. It’s not a time to compare or judge, but to just get feedback so you can prepare wisely for your child’s next year of learning.
Maybe you overestimated your child’s understanding in a particular subject area. Check in with the educational goals you set at the beginning of this academic year.
Taking those goals into consideration along with the test scores, is your child on target or do you need to adjust their course? Guess what—the flexibility of homeschooling means you will be able to do so easily!
A test is just one snapshot of your child’s academic progress. You know that your child is more than the sum of their results—and your child needs to know that, too!
So whether their scores are low or high, give your child a big hug.
Tell them you love them and are proud of them for who they are.
And now . . . on to your next homeschooling adventure!