For a time I thought I had overcome my personal issues against testing. Am I wrong. Here we go again..
Yesterday, we (all four of us) trooped to The Learning Place school to give Ari our moral support as he took a Learning Skills Assessment test, which is a requirement to attend the school. We had been earlier advised that the test will take an hour and a half covering 3 subject areas: Reading, Math and Language Arts. The truth is, Ari had never taken a written test as comprehensive as this one. We were concerned about his overall preparedness for taking such kind of a test, and so we spent nearly a month and a half trying to get him ready to take on such an overwhelming task.
Ari is a very active young boy and has a difficult time sitting through long activities—movies, paperwork, hearing mass, you name it. But he can be a quick learner if given the right kind of guidance and instruction. We know he has the ability to focus on things that he is interested in. For instance, he can spend a long time building, unbuilding and rebuilding LEGO figures, following instructions all by himself. And over the past year, he has greatly improved his focus and attention span, and perseverance to complete tasks, including paperwork.
In mock tests that we try to do at home, Ari can sit through several worksheets for a duration of 30 minutes, at most. We also ask him to read aloud one story book each day, which he does with much fervour. We do not push him to complete more than he feels he could finish, and we are more than happy with the 30-minute chunks of him focusing on a particular activity several times in a day. To tell you the truth, a lot of things can be learned in just 30 minutes.
All the while, we had been guided by the scope and sequence of LifePACS curriculum (the curriculum TLP uses), which we used to check Ari’s mastery of Kindergarten concepts. I also reviewed his worksheets from the previous school year to validate this. When we felt that he had mastered most of the concepts in the LifePACS scope and sequence, we gave him a one week break from all the mock test-taking at home, psyched him for the impending assessment, and walked together to TLP on the scheduled testing date.
Before the test, I told Ari he can ask the teacher questions if he does not understand something, and request for a break if he needs to. An hour and a half into the exam, I was getting nervous. Ari was still in the testing room and I was starting to think he was having a tough time with the questions. I was less concerned about him getting the answers right. My biggest anxiety was that he might end up feeling bad about the test, his performance, and end up traumatized about the school and taking tests in general.
After two hours, Ari came out of the testing room asking for a break. He ate an apple and drank some juice, and then said he was ready to finish the test. I was relieved to see Ari being very cool about the test. He said he’d done math and that it was easy. I was so proud of his very positive attitude toward the test. He finished 30 minutes later.
There was supposed to be a parent interview after the test where the school director will discuss the result of the assessment. This didn’t happen yet because the director was out for some reason and we will be scheduled sometime later (which totally pisses me off considering that we had scheduled weeks ahead). Although the teacher who administered the test did show me Ari’s test paper and pointed out that Ari had a lot of “learning gaps” as he failed to answer some of the test questions.
I will not go into detail about the test questions, but our general observation was that it was too advanced for Ari’s level. Way too advanced. Both Turo and I felt strongly that the test could not provide an accurate assessment of what a child already knows. And it was not presented in a manner that was friendly to a six-year old child. We were not surprised that Ari was too overwhelmed to answer most of the questions. After seeing the kind of assessment tool TLP uses to gauge its students, Turo and I are suddenly apprehensive of participating in their homeschool program. We suddenly felt that the school’s educational philosophies may not run parallel with the kind of learning goals we have for our children.
As of today, we are waiting for the schedule of the interview where we get to hear what the school has to say about their assessment of Ari. In my mind, I am anticipating that it will be about Ari’s learning gaps and areas that he will need to improve on. Something that we somehow disagree with because our family goes by the principle of focusing on strengths, not weaknesses. Our personal biases aside, I am still praying for an open mind and heart that will allow me to listen to and understand what they will tell us. A part of me is hoping that maybe TLP would still be a good institution to partner with for our homeschooling journey. It is by far the most practical option available to us. But we now have our reservations and if we feel that we would not get the kind of support that we need from this homeschool provider, then we would need to reconsider our other alternatives.
As it turns out, finding a homeschool provider is never easy.