VISIT THE HOMESCHOOL PLANNING RESOURCE PAGE FOR MORE ABOUT PLANNING YOUR CHARLOTTE MASON HOMESCHOOL.
Both girls were nervous as we looked over their exam questions for the term.
Both made comments about how they do not like exam weeks.
The word “test” or “exam” seems to evoke anxiety in just about everyone, including those who have never taken an actual test in a school setting. The reality is that our Charlotte Mason style exams are an extension of normal narrations, but the formality apparently makes them seem more consequential.
I have not always scheduled term examinations in our homeschool because I was overwhelmed and did not know what questions to ask. I now realize the importance of term examinations and conduct them after most terms.
Here are four reasons why end-of-term exams are important
1. Evaluates student learning
In a Charlotte Mason homeschool, we evaluate what our student learns through narration. Term examinations are an extension of this type of assessment. Through term exams, you will know what your child learned and what ideas were important to him.
2. Confirms long term retention
One of our goals for homeschooling is for our children to read to learn and not simply to pass a test. She should be able to express the main ideas from a single reading after she initially reads it as well as several months later. Recalling the ideas she has read and narrated allows her to broaden her understanding and make connections with other ideas as she learns.
3. Enhances assessment for future learning
Every student will connect with a reading a little differently because of varying life experiences and level of maturity. Evaluating my daughter’s knowledge and understanding enables me to assess her strengths and weaknesses for future lesson planning.
4. Prepares your child for the real world
The real world rarely has multiple choice, true/false, or fill-in-the-blank questions as part of our daily lives. Instead, we have to evaluate situations and come to our own conclusions. And we have to be able to communicate those ideas to others. Charlotte Mason style exams allow our children to communicate the conclusions and connections they have made over the past term or year. This is excellent preparation for college and life in general.
How to Implement Charlotte Mason Style Examinations
How do you create end-of-term examinations when you don’t use a boxed curriculum? Doesn’t it take too much time to write examination questions? It is actually not as intimidating as it sounds. Here are the steps I follow when planning and implementing our exams.
Schedule term examinations
I allow a full week for examinations each term when planning my school year. No review time is necessary as I want to assess what my student has learned, not ask her to learn specific material for an exam.
Have realistic expectations
The first time we implemented term examinations, I thought we would have extra time during the week for personal pursuits. (Translation—I could tackle some other projects as well.) This was not the case! Exams are different than our normal school work, but they still require the same amount of time. Once I had realistic expectations, exam weeks went much smoother.
Compose exam questions
Instead of focusing on dates when asking questions, focus on ideas, people, and events. While it is important for students to understand when in history events happened, it is more important for them to understand the main ideas, themes, and motives.
Good questions are open-ended, which allows you to evaluate what your student has learned. As you phrase questions, make them specific enough to provide your student with enough context to provide a full narration but open-ended enough to allow him to demonstrate the ideas that most impacted him. Think essay-type questions.
I include questions that cover each subject we studied as well as questions pertaining to field trips we took during the term. My goal is to have a total of 20-25 questions, depending on the difficulty of the questions.
After composing exam questions, I talk through them with my children and make a plan for which ones will be oral, written, or project-based. We try to have three to five projects each exam period. The remaining questions will be oral or written narrations. The breakout depends on the age and ability of the child.
Sometimes I count a project previously completed during the term if it is a good sample of my student’s work over the course of the term. An example would be a diary written from the perspective of a character in a book.
Record exam answers
When my children are in grades one through three, their exam questions are completed through projects and oral narrations. Sometimes they narrate orally and I do not record their answers. Other times, they dictate their answer to me as I type or they record their answer into a voice recorder. Grades four and older complete projects as well as oral and written narrations. At the end of the week, I print all dictated answers and pictures of projects to place in each student’s school portfolio.
As my students are narrating or when I look back over the narrations, I evaluate what they have learned and note their strengths and weaknesses. I make assessments as to whether changes in teaching methodology, development of better study habits, or changes in the curriculum are needed. During this time, I also complete our term evaluations.