Inside: With the end-of-the-year wind-down in full swing, what’s the best option for your homeschoolers: standardized testing or a portfolio submission?
It’s that time of year. As homeschoolers, we’re winding down and doing final assessments for the year. In some states, that means a choice:
Or to portfolio?
Things to Consider when Choosing Testing or a Portfolio
When I first heard our state’s law concerning end-of-the-year homeschool record-keeping, I was SURE that I’d want to build a portfolio for my children. I didn’t want them to feel test-taking anxiety and thought it would generally release pressure from our homeschool year.
But as we drew closer to completion, I changed my mind. (And my kids did great!)
Here are the main things to consider when deciding whether to submit a portfolio or use standardized testing.
Every state is different. Some require testing. Some give you options. Some require nothing at all. I know this is obvious, but the information you’ll find here really only applies if you have a choice.
Even after making your decision, there are guidelines to consider. In our state, a portfolio has to include certain subjects and showcase the progress that our children have made throughout the year. It then has to be reviewed by someone qualified to do so.
If you choose to test, you’ll have to get an assessment that also meets guidelines. For all of the information on that, visit BJU Press. We ordered our tests from here, and all went swimmingly. Know that you’ll need to order your materials 4-6 weeks in advance for the traditional written test. They also have a test that’s an online option, though!
Possible test-Taking Anxiety
This one was my biggest concern. I didn’t want to test my children because I didn’t want them to worry about their scores and end up bombing the exam.
If your children are perfectionists or buckle under the pressure when even doing things in class with you, you may want to consider a portfolio instead of a standardized test. I will say, in spite of my children’s (passed down) perfectionism, they did well. One of them did become overwhelmed during one section of the exam but was able to move forward with some reassurance and a minute to breathe.
YouR Child’s Unique Abilities
It may be fun to make a portfolio to showcase your child’s strengths that wouldn’t be apparent in a standardized exam. After all, that’s a big reason why many of us have chosen to homeschool. We don’t want our kids to have to fit the (standardized) norm.
Your Homeschooling Philosophy
This is especially important for unschooling / child-led learning, both of which I think are beautiful and will be incorporating more of as we go forward.
But when unschooling, your child may not hit all the standardized expectations based on grade level. You may not even be tracking what grade they’re in! So a standardized, across-the-board test may not be a good fit. Not because you’re child isn’t brilliant but because their strengths or areas of interest may not be what’s being tested.
If you’re using curriculum that’s more standardized (like we did this year with The Good and the Beautiful), test-taking likely won’t be much of an issue.
Your Personal Time
Depending on what type of portfolio you decide to submit, there may be lots of curating involved. I quickly realized that I didn’t have a great system for managing our portfolio throughout the year. I basically kept every paper in a box and took lots of photos (that are buried in the same archives as all my other photos) of hands-on activities and trips.
There are mommas who have the portfolio down to a science. In year one, I was not one of them.
Availability of Testers & Reviewers
Since there are guidelines for who can be a tester or a portfolio reviewer, you have to be able to find one. Admittedly, there are plenty of portfolio reviewers in our area. Testing was a different story. I looked at testing centers or group testing, but COVID eliminated that option.
In the end, my husband became a certified tester which worked well for our family. You can find those guidelines here.
This may seem silly to some, but for our first year, I felt a little like we had something to prove. And as we were wrapping up, I knew my kids had a great year, but most people don’t see the day in, day out of your homeschool. Many think we’re unqualified and incapable of teaching our children.
But a standardized test holds our kids up against the rest of the kids in society and says, “homeschooling WORKS.” And it says it in a way that your distant aunt can quickly understand while questioning you during Thanksgiving dinner.
Standardized testing presents another opportunity for your homeschool and that’s self-evaluation. What should we have covered a little more? In what areas is the light bulb not quite going off yet? And on the other hand, in what areas are they totally rocking it?
Even some families who don’t have to test choose to for this reason.
Of course, we should take the results with a grain of salt, but they can be a great tool for showing us where we need improvement.
Pros and Cons of Standardized testing
- Great tool for self-critique
- Not time-consuming
- Possible test-taking anxiety in children
- Focusing too much on standardized norms
Helpful Testing resources
As I mentioned before, BJU Press is a great source for learning more about standardized tests and the guidelines surrounding them, and your tests can be purchased directly from their website.
Pros and Cons of Portfolio Submission
- No test pressure for your children
- Easy to showcase unique strengths
- A sort of yearbook to look back on
- Customized (within requirements) to your homeschooling philosophy
- Harder to measure if your children are “on par”
- Less “legit” in the eyes of critics
Helpful Portfolio Resources
Remember when I said other mommas have this down to a science? Exhibit A. You can find out more about creating a simple portfolio by visiting that link. It’s something I’m hoping to implement this new school year.
Overall the choice comes down to personal preference and what will work with your children. I hope this post has helped as you decide which end-of-the-year assessment to use.
What other questions do you have? What pros and cons am I leaving out?
Until next time,