Does WinterPromise incorporate tests in its curriculum?
This is not a simple question, as the Charlotte Mason methodology and the literature approach method on which our curriculum is based generally do not advocate a strong testing paradigm. One thing many parents find as they investigate homeschool methods is that really good methods turn many “traditional” schooling methods on end! Assessment is definitely one of these issues. Assessment in the traditional schooling sense is designed for a teacher of 20 or more students must determine their mastery of the material. This goal for testing diminishes in relevance when you as the teacher have direct contact with just a few students in such a way that you are not “teaching” them as much as you are “learning with” them. The Charlotte Mason method our curriculum employs encourages discussions, open-ended questions, and instant feedback that, in a homeschool setting, is leisurely and increases with time to a way of life. For clarity, let’s consider an example. One of our families recently reported being engaged in a conversation about the Romans’ development of naval ships. They discussed at length why that was important and what happened on the international scene as a result. One child offered that the Romans fought at sea as if they were still on land, using hand-to-hand techniques. Another mentioned that their techniques required the use of elevated platforms for archers. Another brought up their use of the gangplank to bring enemies into their type of fighting. Another talked about how their dominance at sea allowed peace that brought trade, prosperity, and connection between peoples. This conversation is precisely what our methodologies desire as an educational outcome; an ability to ask an open-ended question, require reasoning, and receive answers that combine facts to make a conclusion. The goal is not to simply recite facts. Now, I could assess them each with a test, but to test them I’d actually have to test them for information – reciting facts — that isn’t really my goal for them. My goal in teaching them really isn’t to establish that they know isolated facts like “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 …” Instead, my goal is for them to know in what period he sailed, why it was important, and what happened as a result. With this goal in mind, assessment changes totally. Assessment of my success with my student must be gained differently.
Decide what your true goal is for your student. Set your mind on your goal for your student, then ask yourself how to get that. Usually, you’ll find you’re very in touch with what your student does/does not know on your own, so assessment may be more often for the benefit of state agencies, than even for the benefit of you, the parent. But, it’s still nice to have peace of mind as a parent! So, below are some ideas we’ve used for assessment for these agencies with great success (and for giving a parent peace of mind that he is holding the student to a standard for success). The big thing here is, that you’ve redefined the “test” to meet your own goals for your student, which more closely reflect your methodology and your ultimate desire for them to be “well brought up,” as Charlotte would have said. We’ve never had a state agency question these types of grades.
Use varied techniques to assess that more closely represent your true goal for your student. Use the narration starters we’ve provided for you in our guides, and give a daily grade for student success with them. Assign a daily grade for discussion participation. Assign grades for reports/projects completed based upon activities we’ve given you in the guides. Elaborate with learning goals accomplished. Give a student a “narrated test” that simply allows them to tell what they know, rather than a Q & A format. Assign grades for daily review that you incorporate. Assign grades for volunteering or skill learning that supports your learning goal. Assess student achievements overall in a set “rubric” that defines your own goals. These are just some examples of assigning grades.
Use traditional techniques if you really need the peace of mind, or to reassure yourself you’re doing well until you grow in confidence with this new way of “teaching.” If you’d still like to do more traditional testing, an easy way is to underline key facts in key resources as you are reading them aloud to your students. Then, use these underlines to perform a daily review. Finally, every 1-2 weeks, simply read aloud a “question” based upon the fact you’ve underlined and have your student write the answer. Grade the impromptu test right away, and you’ll have an instant, low-prep test. This is an easy way to feel as though you’ve done some more traditional assessment. Some of our programs do have some quizzes and tests, including Ancient Sr High, which features quizzes and tests in Mystery of History Volume 1 and the Holman Bible Atlas, as well as Middle Ages Sr High, which features the same from Mystery of History Volume 2.
A couple of practical notes – -You might be surprised that the state agencies’ parents often “worry about,” for their turn rarely worry too much about assessment techniques. Why? It’s hard to say; perhaps it’s because the state knows assessments can be manipulated by parents anyway. Most agencies want to see work samples and sit down with parents to make a judgment about the probable success of their students. It is likely that any assessment you do will demonstrate a far more personal understanding of your student’s progress, and also demonstrate your commitment to their success, than any assessment the state could perform. Then — as to get to know more about these different approaches — we’d encourage you to read “A Charlotte Mason Companion” by Karen Andreola. It is a great resource for additional, practical ideas, and comfort in those moments you might feel unsure. If you have read it, we’d encourage you to try to take her ideas as the next step to a home setting. I say all this to reassure you that, as you slowly immerse yourself in this world of homeschooling, you may find new freedom to leave behind some constraints to be found in the practicalities of managing a multi-student classroom. When you work one-on-one with your child, you just know a lot more about what they are learning! Enjoy the journey!