A day of Panic: Thanks to One Little Test

I had been feeling so happy with how our homeschooling has been going.  I was confident in what we've been doing and how much the kids are growing and learning.

But I  knew that sooner or later doubts would creep in.... since they always seem to.

I've been trying so hard to focus on what we are getting accomplished and trying real hard not to "borrow" trouble from tomorrow.

One of the homeschooling community blogs/pages I follow shared a link to a few free months of interactive math lessons complete with free placement test.

I shrugged and though "why not?" it will give me some idea of what they do and don't know. 

Boy do I ever regret that!

I spent a whole day panicking!

Out of curiosity I had asked my older boys to take the test.  I started with Ian and selected 4th grade math since that's the year he'd technically be finishing up.

  • Right off the bat I think he was intimidated by the fact that it's 50 questions and has a 75 minute time limit with a timer that counts down (and up) in the upper corner of the page.  
  • He felt pressured and he's never been a good tester.  I tried to tell him it was "to see " but that didn't seem to help.  
  • Many of the problems needed to be written out (like when subtracting three digit numbers from 4 digit numbers with re-grouping) and since my boys HATE to write anything down he was trying to do them all in his head.  
  •  I sat with him and was surprised by the difficulty level of questions and seriously started questioning what I've been teaching him. 
I could feel my heart racing!

  • Do 4th graders really work on multiplying 3 digit by 2 digit numbers? 
  • Do they convert fractions to decimals and then compare which is larger and smaller?  
  • Do they divide three digit numbers by two digit numbers?  
  • Should they really know these skills-- I mean REALLY KNOW these skills by the end of fourth grade?  
To me a test is supposed to measure mastery not introduction of skills-- right?

I felt like Ian and I spent an hour having a really long math lesson

  • as I explained the terminology of these questions to him
  • as I showed him what 9x-3x= when x=3 means
  • I taught him how to compare fractions, add fractions, make improper fractions,  reduce fractions, multiply fractions.  
  • I taught him the different types of triangles, how to find the area of rectangles (though I admitted to not remembering how to find the area of triangles; even though that was asked).  
  • I taught him how to figure out elapsed time, reminded him what perpendicular, intersecting and parallel meant.  
For the most part it was almost all new material and by the time I stopped him at question 30 I was close to hyperventilating.

I was overwhelmed with all that he did not know. I was feeling so down on myself and questioning what I was doing.

  • Is he ever going to be ready for higher education?  
  • If he wants to go to high school in three years can I really have him ready?  
  • Will his teachers want to answer all his questions and review with him any of those missing pieces it seems he will have?  
I was having big time doubts.

Screaming in my head doubts.

I saw him getting more and more overwhelmed and dejected as well and I just wanted to cry.

I turned off the test, reminded him it was vacation and told him to go play and have fun.

 I think he may have gone to his room to cry.

I felt awful for him, for me, and for subjecting him to this whole experience.

Either I'm failing my boys something fierce or else this test is a bit much.  I decided to research further.

I created a third student and took the first grade test;

  • adding two digit numbers with regrouping
  • subtracting one digit numbers from two digit numbers with regrouping
  • writing/ reading out the words nine hundred ninety three for 993
  • pointing out the numerator in fractions and circling the correct fraction(s) for 5/8
  •  a series of equivalent fractions for 1/5
I seriously doubted that the older boys would have passed even this the "first grade" test without making a few mistakes-- I sure was having to stop and think!

The tests did not start with easy questions and get harder, they did not follow any sort of logical order and quite frankly I don't think they followed any set of curriculum books I had ever seen!

For the first grade test you were expected to type your answers rather than having multiple choice, if you accidentally pressed enter instead of clicking on the "next" button it ended the test.

All three tests had 50 questions and a 75 minute time limit.  I thought 50 questions would just be cruel for a first grader to sit through anyway.

I was basing my feelings of inadequacy on whether they were getting the answers right or wrong figuring they would not ask questions they didn't expect the kids to know.

Ian scored a 60 since we totally ignored the last 20 questions but later in the day I got a report on his performance and in reading the bar graphs found that he was "above" average in almost all the areas....

I was baffled, frustrated and angry.

After all,  I had spent the whole day second guessing myself and my kids.

Who designs a test like that?

I decided, after a long day of complete and total panic, that I was just going to ignore all this and snuggle with my guys on the couch watching some of my favorite movies; I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and I'm so glad my boys are now too!  We'll worry about math next week when school in in session and for today we'll concentrate on making family memories.   

What do you do when panic and doubt takes over?

We spent the evening relaxing.

 Alec, my bookworm, curled up on the couch and read through three books while the younger two boys headed outside to go fishing.  The sun finally made a minor appearance and we wanted to take advantage of our chance to get some fresh air.

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  1. I completely understand what you are saying about these type of tests. My daughter hates to show her math work, would rather do it in her head, and doesn't like to do timed tests. I just don't believe a test like this works for every child. I know it doesn't for mine! I would much rather her spend 75 minutes playing educational games, than taking a test that is not a true reflection of her abilities. (We like Learning Games For Kids). I find the games less frustrating for her, and less frustrating for me. And winning the games are incentive to learn more so that she can beat the game. Sorry you had the math test experience. Good to see your guys wetting a line! Doesn't even matter if they caught anything, that's why it's called "fishing" not "catching" right? Have a great week!

    1. Yeah, I really wish I had not given into my curiosity and had them even attempt that test. I would rather they have spent that time playing-- with anything really. We do have lot of online games we like-- cool math for kids, kahn academy, and sheppard software just to name a few. We have a whole list of learning games posted right to our computer table that they can play anytime.


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