The Onslaught of Exams

I have never been big on tests. I have vivid memories of studying like mad for tests and exams to only receive an average mark and then quickly forget everything I learned soon after. I did not see any point to test my children.

Up until now.

Now that Emma is in Grade 9, I am opening up to the idea that it might be a good to acquaint her with the process of exams. It is my plan to have her take some online courses in the next 4 years; courses that will undoubtedly have exams so I want her to be familiar with it all.

I like how Charlotte Mason gave exams to her students. They weren’t true/false or multiple choice but, rather, they were of the ‘tell me’ or ‘describe to me’ type of questions. I decided to break Emma in with these type of questions.

I had planned to have these exams for Emma only and at the end of each 12 week term. As usual, my plans went awry. The other two found out about these exams and thought that they sounded like fun. They wanted to have exams, too. (Really?) They also didn’t want to wait until the 12 week mark. They wanted them right away(again, really?) so we decided to have them at the end of 6 weeks.

The end of the 6 weeks was this past week. Hence, exam week.

I made up 3 separate exams. There were only 7 questions. The questions weren’t all that difficult–‘describe your favourite scene in Gilgamesh’, ‘list and explain the characteristics of an epic poem,’ ‘explain the ways that the Nile was important to the Egyptians.’

Let’s just say that the results weren’t all that positive. The kids were discouraged to say the least. Against my better judgement, the kids asked to have grades given to the tests and I agreed. Big mistake. It was interesting to me to see my children, who have never been to school, have never been tested nor been given test mars, act like schooled children, asking what their siblings got on their exams. That whole competition thing was alive and well in our home that day.

This week is our Sabbath week; our week off from school. I have taken this time to think about how to make things better from their point of view. I have also been thinking that some changes have to be made in the way that I have been teaching. There needs to be more review, more repetition and more discussion. It all comes down to that blasted discussion. We also need more practise in writing out answers in full sentences.

Even though last Friday was a rough day for us, I am glad that we did the exams so we all can see what needs to change and focus on those things. It was helpful for both the kids and the teacher.

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