This question is personal to us because our first child has cerebral palsy. We didn’t plan to home-educate all the way to college (even though we ended up doing so), but we wanted to get our son far enough along so that he wasn’t labeled by his disability. The risk with testing is that it can function as a labeling game. If you test kids early enough, they can start getting labeled in their mind about where they think they are, if they’re smart, or not smart, gifted, or not. That kind of fixed mindset orientation does not serve anyone well in life.
So when we think about this whole question about needing to be tested, I would say: yes: your student does need to be tested. Chances are, your state may require it. You need to check on those regulations. But how soon do they need to be tested? What we began to make sense of concerning homeschooling was that our testing needed to be really engaged, probably by the time they’re around 12 or 11. When our children were young, we weren’t dramatically concerned about testing them. But when they were older, each day had some form of testing. They would do a certain number of math problems each day, and the goal was for them to score a 90 % or better, and then work on their corrections. Or, they had to read a certain number of pages and then give feedback to show they comprehended what they read. Small tests like that to make sure they understood what they were studying.
But that kind of testing is not the same as a timed test where your student learns the skills that they’ll need for the ACT or the SAT. That kind of testing becomes valuable because it’s a measurement of your student’s abilities. As we know from the management world, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and you tend to get more of what you measure. So this measurement process by testing turns out to be pretty helpful. It prepares your child with the discipline, the knowledge, and the confidence to know that they can survive being tested. It gives you feedback, marks progress, and maybe uncovers some areas where they need improvement. Your student will need testing for sure, but be wary of testing too young and labelling your child as smart or not smart. You don’t want to limit their ability to grow because of a one-time score. Whether or not you have a bright child, they need to develop the skill of working hard. But, eventually testing is useful, especially when determining how well your child is doing in a given subject. It is your prerogative as Mom and Dad to figure out when testing is right for your student, and how to engage in a feedback loop on a regular basis, all within the boundary of what your state and local municipalities require.
-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
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