Are you thinking about evaluating your homeschooled student? Check out the hidden benefits of standardized tests for homeschoolers.
Even though it’s been twenty-six years, I still remember the first day of my testing for my nursing boards.
A room so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. A proctor who was as crabby as Frau Farbissina. Completely irrational panic — “What if I fail? Will I lose my job? What the heck will I do?”
Thinking back on that day makes my stomach hurt, even though I passed without any problems. Taking a standardized test is stressful, but it’s a part of life, no matter what field you’re in. Our children will have to take standardized tests if they’re going to college, or the military. My job as a homeschooling mother is to prepare them well, and to make the process a little less painful.
Disclaimer: I was compensated for my time to use Affordable Homeschool Testing Services in my homeschool. All opinions and results are my very own.
Reasons to Consider Standardized Testing for Your Homeschoolers
We live in Kentucky, which is very laid back for homeschooling. I’m not required to test here, but having Affordable Homeschool Testing Services in my wheelhouse of resources has helped me tremendously. These are the benefits for our family.
Qualifying for Gifted Programs
If you have a student who scores particularly well in math or reading, this can qualify them for gifted and talented programs nationwide. A quick search through the Duke Talent Identification Program shows that the MAP is a qualifier for this exclusive program.
By taking a standardized test, I can get a virtual pat on the back to say, “Relax, momma. They’ve got this.” I need this boost of confidence, folks.
Another bonus? If anyone questions how my kids are getting along in school, this is a solid answer.
Test Taking Practice
At some point in their life, your homeschool student will have to take a standardized test. As part of the classical school that we are involved with, Rachel has already taken the National Latin Exam a few times, and Maeve takes the ITBS test every spring, even when she was a tiny kindergartener.
The NWEA MAP Growth Testing Services (MAP) is a lower stress way to let your children practice for these important exams.
Identifying Areas of Weakness
In our house, I have a pretty good handle on the areas where my kids need more work. I have two that needed extra help in reading, and one who needs to work on areas in math.
If you’re not sure where your children need a boost, this test helps you with an assessment. For older students, it can also be a visual reminder of what Mom’s been saying all along.
Identifying Areas of Strength
On the flip side, the MAP Testing also highlights areas of strength for your student.
My boys have had issues with reading in the past, due to some learning disabilities. When I received their results this year, I sat down and sobbed. Not because the scores were bad. Completely opposite. Their scores were nothing short of stellar.
It was a shot in the arm for me to know that we’d worked hard, used the right curriculum for them, and climbed a mountain.
Tips for Preparing Your Homeschooler for Standardized Testing
The last time we used Affordable Homeschool Testing, I didn’t do a very good job with preparing my children. I threw them in with minimal warning, thinking that this was a good approach, and that they wouldn’t have time to stress over the testing.
Not a good idea, mommas.
Definitely look ahead in your calendar and plan appropriately. You’ll want to pick a week without a lot of extra activities or added schoolwork. I scheduled all of our home testing, only to find out later that my boys had THREE tests in their cottage school. Instead of rescheduling, I decided to just press on. They performed well on the AFHS, but some of the school tests suffered. Live and learn, right?
I’d definitely recommend that you have your students work through practice questions. Affordable Homeschool Testing Services has a customized practice area for your students, designed to show them how the real MAP testing works.
It’s important to let your children know what you’re evaluating, but in a way that’s age appropriate and not anxiety producing. For my older daughter, the word ‘test’ sends her into a tizzy. My sons see it as a challenge. I know I have to approach my directions differently with each child.
You’ll also need to prepare your children for unexpected questions.
The NWEA MAP Growth Testing Services is a challenge exam. It’s directed at an age level, but it may also contain questions or concepts with which your child has ZERO experience. My children don’t do that well with these sorts of challenges. They all required a LOT of encouragement to remind them that they weren’t expected to know these things.
For children without experience in testing, you’ll need to explain the concept of multiple choice. That comes naturally to us as adults, but this is a brand new idea to some children.
The MAP is an untimed exam, so remind your children that they are free to get up and go to the bathroom and grab a snack when they need one.
Standardized Testing in your Large Family Homeschool
Depending on your family’s schedule, you could do this a few different ways.
Originally, when I scheduled my AHTS sessions, I spread them all out — Rachel one week, followed by Maeve, then Adam, then Thomas. When the boys heard about the testing, they requested that I bump up their sessions. I’m not sure if they were anxious and just wanted to be done, or if they were curious.
The scheduling tool makes it easy for you to customize. Just take a look at the days that work for you and your family, and go from there. You can schedule children back to back, or even concurrently. We did schedule my twins to test at the same time, but I don’t think I’ll repeat that in the future.
Standardized Testing in Your Homeschool with Younger Children
I’ll be honest with you. Getting my youngest student through the NWEA MAP Growth Testing Services was a total BEAR. I didn’t realize she had perfectionistic tendencies, and she really struggled with not knowing an answer. I’m not certain if I did a bad job of preparing her, or if it’s just her personality. Her scores weren’t as high as I would have expected, based on her academic performance at home and at her classical school.
In our classical curriculum, she’s used to spelling tests, and speed drills for math, but not an extensive, comprehensive test like the MAP Growth. We did take the practice tests, so that she had an idea of the setup. We also took breaks as she needed.
I’ll be interested to compare her MAP scores to her scores on the ITBS later this year. Her classical school administers these tests every year, and historically, she’s done quite well.
Standardized Testing with Special Needs in Your Homeschool
In our homeschool, we’re dealing with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and auditory processing disorder. This could be a recipe for disaster, but AHTS makes this so much smoother.
The tests are non- timed, even for neurotypical students. This alleviates so much pressure, and allows students to take their time and answer correctly. There’s also the option to have questions read to the student, either by the proctor (parent) or by the computer. (You’ll see my younger children wearing headphones during the exams.)
You can also administer the testing over multiple sessions in a day, or even over a number of days.
Standardized Tests and Middle School Students
As we approach the high school years, standardized tests are becoming more and more common for my daughter. I don’t want her to struggle with test anxiety when she’s staring down a high stakes test like the CLT, ACT, or SAT.
By using these NWEA MAP Growth Testing Services at home periodically, she’s gaining practice and confidence that will help her for future testing.
Is Standardized Testing Expensive?
Standardized testing isn’t free, but it’s very affordable.
Fees for the NWEA MAP Growth Testing Services are $60 for the first student, with a family discount for more than two students. If you have two students, the discount is $10, three students is a $25 discount, with an additional $15 discount for every additional student.
If you would like the Language Use Test, that’s an additional $10 per student.
You can enter to win testing for your entire family — just click the Rafflecopter to get started. (Available only for US families)
The Standardized Test Results – What Do You Do with Them?
Depending on your child’s age and maturity level, you may choose to share the results with them. It can be a source of validation that their hard work is paying off, or show them that you really do mean they need more practice with math!
I didn’t discuss Maeve’s results with her, because she’s young. With the boys, I couldn’t have been more thrilled with their reading improvement, so I sat down with them and shared the scores. For Rachel, I gave her a copy of her scores, so that she could see where she was strong, and where we needed more work.
Planning on transitioning to a public or private school setting? You could take the results with you during the application process to help with placement.
In our homeschool, we’re using them as a benchmark, and as a guide for areas in which we need more review. As you look over the math testing results, you’ll find a handy link to connected activities on Khan Academy. Along with the language arts assessment, you’ll find access to suggested books for your kids, based on their Lexile levels.
At this point, I’m tentatively planning to test our kids again in the fall of 2019, but just in the MAP math. We’ve got some areas we need to work on improving, so this will act as a yardstick for me.
What about you? Have you given your homeschool students a standardized test? I’d love to hear about your experience.