August 17, 2016 Edition 
Grading and Testing - When and Why  
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Mercy Every Minute   

The Wuehler Family
Some of us prefer to grade every bit of our student's school work. I choose not to put a letter grade on every paper or workbook page, but I also don't let errors go. We work for mastery before proceeding. Sometimes we have a computer program that does the grading for us. Whether we grade every paper or not, we know our children, what they are capable of, and what needs repeating.
Testing is really up to the state you live in or the preference of the teacher or administrator (that would be my husband and me). We have decided that we don't need to test our children until they are in junior high or high school because we pretty much know what they know in the early grades. I have friends who choose to test their children every year and love it, and I have friends in other states who are required to test every couple of years whether they want to or not. Here are a few benefits of testing:
  • First, testing can be used as a gauge to guide us in our teaching choices for the next year. We find out what areas need work and what areas we can go easy on, so summer is a great time for testing as we plan the next year.
  • Secondly, testing can be that confirmation that no matter how poorly we think we have done, our children have excelled despite us. It encourages us to continue on the journey.
  • Third, our children learn to take the first of many tests that may come in their academic future.
Want to know how homeschoolers test overall? Check out NHERI's Research Facts on Homeschooling:
  • The home educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.
  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents' level of formal education or their family's household income.
  • Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children's academic achievement.
  • Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.
  • Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
  • Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges.
Copyright © 2016 by Brian D. Ray, rev. Mar 23, 2016
 "Prove (test) all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).


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When we first started homeschooling, every semester, we made a little report card for our son. None of the other children ever got one. Sorry, kids, but we realized report cards just didn't make sense.  

We knew what our children knew, and they knew what they knew, so why even bother? Grades are a way of communicating performance to someone who wasn't there. We were striving for mastery, and a page full of A's just didn't give anyone any more information.

We do grade chapter tests and papers so that our kids understand what level of work they've done, but we don't do semester or yearly grades any more. Our kids love to learn, and they just don't need the motivation of grades.

If you are taking a child out of an institutional school, however, they may need to be graded and see report cards to take it seriously, at least until they learn to love learning for its own sake again.

There comes a time, though, when you'll have to grade and test--high school. That's because at the end of the process, when they graduate, you'll need to communicate their performance to potential employers, recruiters, or colleges. Reporting grades and figuring out a GPA, or grade point average, is important to eligibility for certain jobs or scholarships.

Be careful not to grade too harshly, though. Grade inflation has pretty much taken over institutional schools, and you need to be careful that you don't handicap your children by making them look like worse students than they are.

How do you grade, then? It's up to you! One of our high school students had some test anxiety, and his tests didn't accurately reflect his knowledge level. We counted everything in his case! We included his tests, lab reports, projects, homework, posters, and class discussion. Another one of our kids was a good test-taker, and we had had a very challenging year involving cancer, surgeries, and more. Melanie was waaaaaaaay behind on grading, having not even graded chapter tests for a long time. We told him to take the final exam, and if he was comfortable with his grade, that would be it. If not, we'd go back and grade all the other stuff. He made an A, and that was that. We had professors in college who did that. Give them a grade that honestly reflects the level of knowledge they gained or work they did, and you'll be fine.

College entrance exams like the SAT or ACT are very important for homeschoolers. When college admission officers get a transcript from Purgatory Gardens High School, they know what that means, whether that is a top, elite high school, a kind of average one, or a sorry excuse for an educational institution. They don't have that history to judge yours by, though, so they want to see test scores that support the grades you've given them. Homeschool kids tend to do very well on these tests, so don't worry. Just help them prepare in advance by doing practice tests and getting used to being timed.

Tomorrow we take our fourth son to college. Making all these decisions about grading and testing were pretty alarming when we were just starting out, but we did fine and so will you!

If you want to hear more about how to manage getting your kids ready for college and real life, we have an online class series you can do along with them called PreFlight that will help you make sure you're prepared.

Your friends,
Hal & Melanie Young 
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Building Faith Families

Steve Demme
Home educators are tutors. They teach one student at a time. Schools teach multiple children at the same time. I have been a classroom teacher for many years as well as a homeschool dad. When I had 140 students spread over 5 classes, I needed to grade homework, give quizzes, and administer regular tests to gauge how much each of these students knew and whether they were learning math.
I didn't have the time to work one on one with each of these high school students. Most of the attention I gave was to those who asked questions during the class and a few who might stay after school for extra help. But as much as I encouraged students to participate in class, it was generally the brightest and most confident who had the gumption to speak in front of their peers.
But when you work one on one, you have an excellent idea how much your student knows and whether they are mastering the material being taught. I rarely gave tests or quizzes to my own children or to those who came to me for tutoring. I knew what they knew for I watched them do their work and was at their side. 
Testing is a tool for teachers but rarely necessary for a diligent parent educator. The best part of a test is diagnostic in nature to measure what the student knows. Grades are unnecessary in a home environment. 

Since most parents have been trained in a classroom setting, they teach as they were taught, and tests and grades are a significant part of their background. But home education is a different paradigm. I am not a fan of testing, or grading. But if you need to do it for your state requirements, or your own peace of mind, remember that the best value of a test is measuring how much information your student has retained and if there are any areas you need to reinforce. 
As far as national tests like the SAT, ACT, or Iowa Basic Skills Test, I am not a fan of these either. They don't measure knowledge as much as test-taking techniques and how students measure up to their peers, neither of which has any value to me. And they rarely measure all the information a student has learned above and beyond the basics. They do not give an accurate picture of what a homeschooled child has learned. And the trend today is not to teach a love for learning, or a biblical worldview, but teaching to get high test scores.

Steve Demme and his wife, Sandra, have been blessed with four sons. He is the creator of Math-U-See and the founder of Building Faith Families. He produces a monthly newsletter, a weekly podcast, and other resources to strengthen and encourage parents. Learn more about these at

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The Familyman 
Here's the short version: If you don't have to test, don't. It is not an accurate way to measure your children's progress or learning. Take it from me, a good test taker; test results don't equate to learning. Besides, it's either going to make you feel artificially good or artificially bad.

Oh, you should feel good though. Your kids are learning just like they should be learning . . . or as God designed them to learn, but do not get your pats on the back from how they did on a test. 

If the state mandates a certain test, then give the kids the test, and then don't show them the results . . . and don't look at them yourself.

If you haven't noticed by now, I'm not a testing fan. It's old school and was used for classrooms full of kids. You homeschool and know how your kids are doing. Besides, TESTS are NOT accurate measures and should not be used to measure learning. 

P.S.--Don't buy into that educational mumbo-jumbo that says if kids don't learn how to take tests, they won't know how to in college. That's a bunch of . . . hooey. We didn't give tests at our home . . . and my graduated kids have all passed gobs of tests with flying colors. Myth . . . BUSTED.

Be real . . . Enjoy the last days of summer break, and make sure you get my back-to-school "first aid kit" which includes the Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe book, How to be a Great Wife Even Though you Homeschool book, and The Homeschool Experiment book. Order in the next 36 hours, and we'll throw in the life-changing audio CD, "This We Believe," for FREE.
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Contest Corner 
For the month of August 2016 

It seems to me, as I work with the teenagers and children in my Bible classes, that Biblical literacy is at an all-time low. Children think that they know all about the Bible, but when we actually begin talking about the Bible, I realize that they have very little idea of the big picture. The details that they do know are ones that they often don't understand or don't know how they fit into the big picture of the Bible. Kenneth Berding is a college professor, who, in his struggle with the same issues, has created a curriculum and kit to try to help teens and adults grow in their knowledge of the Bible and the big ideas that it contains.

I received for review a copy of the Bible Fluency Complete Learning Kit. This kit includes a DVD set of Bible Fluency teaching videos, an instructional guide to allow for note taking from the videos, a workbook for deeper study, a set of personal-sized flashcards, a CD of songs to help memorize the flashcards, and a copy of Berding's book, Bible Revival. Although the kit is self-contained, there are additional downloadable worksheets and lesson plans on the author's website.

The kit does not come with clear instructions for use. However, use of the kit is fairly self-explanatory, and those needing more detail can download the teaching curriculum online. For my own personal use, I simply popped in the teaching DVD and watched the video for each section, taking notes in the instructional guide. Although the video length varied, they each averaged 20 minutes.

Then, I began learning the section of the songs that would go with that week's book of the Bible, and I would use the workbook to delve deeper into the materials for the week. The workbook includes more in-depth study of different chapters and verses from the Bible to explain the song stanzas. There are questions included as you go throughout the study. The flashcards, of course, helped with learning the songs that would give me the key cues for the
material in each book of the Bible.
(. . .)
(Read the rest of the review.)
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