It's one of those years for us.

New York State requires standardized testing for homeschoolers in certain years, and this year is one of those years for us.

I use the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and here's how we prep and test: I order the tests and schedule a few mornings to complete them. On test days, I make sure the kids have a good breakfast and I find some #2 pencils for them to use. I hand each kid a test booklet, I read the instructions to them, and I set the timer. When all the tests are complete, I put them in an envelope and mail them at the UPS Store around the corner. That's it.

Okay, sure - I scan the questions before giving the tests to the kids, to reassure myself that brain surgery and rocket science aren't topics on the tests. Other than that, I don't do anything beyond our ordinary studies to make sure  my kids are prepped for the test.

The test results arrived in the mail on Saturday, and I opened the envelope with my husband. We don't homeschool because we want our kids to score well on standardized tests, and the test results don't matter as much to us as other things do. But when we saw the numbers, I admit we were pleased. We were very pleased.

We aren't super-duper brainiacs (which is probably obvious when I use the words super-duper brainiac), but we do read a lot and are diligent. I guess I would describe those two habits - reading and diligence - as our test prep methods.

My kids aren't in high school yet, and when they are, we're likely to approach standardized tests differently. But for now, I'm sticking with Charlotte Mason and using narrations, rather than tests, as assessments that really matter.

Plus, it's much more fun for me to hear oral narrations or read written narrations by my kids than it is to look at numbers printed on a sheet of paper. The piece of paper with test results will reported to the school district and then stuck in a folder and stored in a box. The narrations will spark conversations and connections for perhaps a lifetime. Even if the topics of the narrations are forgotten, I bet the time spent with family will not be.

Photo: After the kids finished their testing for this year, we took a field trip to the Museum of Natural History to supplement our geology studies. The photo is a detail of a rock in the gems collection.


  1. Oh, I can imagine the feeling of opening that envelope even though you don't school for the exam - and what a great way to celebrate the completion.

    Really lovely photo.

    Our guys will have to take standardized tests before jr. high and high school. As a child, I always loved taking the Iowa Basic Skills Tests - a couple of new No. 2 pencils and trying to fill in those ovals perfectly.

  2. Richele - I loved the Iowa Tests as a kid, too! LOL.

  3. I love your final statement about time with family. Narration is a great thing. I'm glad that you have used it faithfully and also have achievers on those standardized tests. We haven't had to do any yet. I've thought about how I would prepare him for something that is so different from how he has been "tested" for so many years.

    I too was the nerd that enjoyed the new pencils and coloring in the ovals. Oh, sigh....

  4. Kay, glad to have your in the nerd club. I had to wrestle the tests from my kids so I could at least fill in the circles for their names. Why should they have all the fun? :)