It was the last week of our term and we were preparing for term examinations. My daughters were a little nervous. Even though these examinations were an extension of our normal narrations, the word “test” or “examination” seems to invoke anxiety in just about anyone. Including those who have never taken an actual test in school.
I have not always scheduled term examinations in our homeschool. I didn’t know what questions to ask or how to conduct the examinations. It was simply overwhelming. After years of studying Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, I now realize the importance of term examinations and am learning how to incorporate them.
Why End-of-Term Examinations Are Helpful And Important
Evaluate 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.
Confirm long term retention
One goal of education is for the student to read to learn and not simply read to pass a test. He should be able to express the main ideas in a reading after he reads it initially as well as several months later. Recalling the ideas he has read and narrated allows the student to broaden his understanding and make connections with other ideas as he learns.
Enhance assessment for future learning
Every student will connect with a reading a little differently because of varying life experiences and level of maturity. Evaluating his knowledge and understanding enables you to assess his strengths and weaknesses for future lesson planning.
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 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? Here’s the steps I follow when planning and implementing our exams.
Schedule term examinations
Allow a full week for examinations each term when planning your school year. No review time is necessary as we want to assess what the student learned, not ask him to learn specific material for the exam.
Compose questions for each subject
Focus on ideas, people, and events, not dates, when asking questions. 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 learned. Yet they need to be specific enough to provide your student with enough context to provide a full narration.
You may also use a project previously completed if it is a good sample of your 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 your student read.
Plan when you will ask each question
Scheduling the examinations during the time the subject would normally occur helps avoid fatigue and encourages changes in brain function. For example, I might ask for a written or oral narration, a math examination question, and something more creative such as an art creation or reenactment on one day instead of all math questions on one day and all history questions on another day.
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 is not true. Because you are recording your younger students’ answers one-on-one, this will probably take longer than a normal narration. Once I had realistic expectations, exam week was not stressful.
Record exam answers
I record everything we do for term examinations with a written document, audio recording, photo, or video. Require examinations of all students over the age of 6. Grades one through three should give all oral narrations that are dictated as you type or are recorded into a voice recorder. Grades four and up may type or write out some or all of their answers, depending on how much written narration they have been regularly completing. At the end of the week, I print all dictated answers and pictures to place in each student’s school binder.
As your student is narrating or when you look back over the narrations, evaluate what your student has learned. Record his strengths and weaknesses. Make assessments as to whether changes in teaching methodology, development of better study habits, or changes in the curriculum are needed. If you need to report grades to fulfill homeschool requirements in your state, assign pass/fail or letter grades accordingly. During this time, I also complete our term evaluations.
Do you implement term examinations?
Leave a comment below and let us know. If you do, what do you like about Charlotte Mason style examinations. If you do not, what is your biggest roadblock in implementing them?
Regain Control Of Your Homeschool
Use this simple strategy to deal with difficult homeschool days.
- Stop feeling overwhelmed and behind on lessons.
- Get back on track and gain control of your homeschool days.
- Learn how to avoid that drowning sensation in the future.
You will also receive weekly emails to help you find peace in a simple, intentional homeschool. If it’s ever too much, you can unsubscribe at any time.