Like many parents, when I first started out on our family's homeschool journey, I read article after article on how others were homeschooling. I wanted to see what methods- from the old to the new- that people were using to provide a home-based education for their children. I looked through a plethora of resources businesses had to offer that could assist with teaching language arts, mathematics, sciences, the whole nine. Along this journey I also saw many "testing" assessments for children's learning as well. There were multiple choice tests, fill-in-the-blank tests, and open-ended assessments. In a nutshell, it all looked like what I was trying to get away from (traditional schooling).
Though I believe these kinds of "tests" may have their place in assessing where a child may be, it doesn't truly capture if a child has mastered or fully understands the concepts we deliver to them on a regular basis. For example, you teach your child addition, 3 + 3 = 6. Pretty simple. She may be able to add these 2 numbers up by drawing lines on a paper, counting on her fingers, or even using mental math.
Now, let's take this lesson to the grocery store. You put 3 apples in the cart. Then you ask, "How many more apples do we need to get 6 apples?" Some children may be able to figure this out. Others may be stumped. In my mind, this is an example of a child who can perform math computation on a worksheet or sheet of paper, but does not actually know "how to apply" the concept of the mathematics she's been learning. This is an example of testing versus application. After all, what's the use of knowledge that you can't in real life situations.
In our homeschool, we educate the children on entrepreneurship and business ownership. As an Afrikan-centered family with a mission of ensuring our children become influencers and sellers within the world community. We have Entrepreneurship Day every Friday where we discuss the basics of entrepreneurship such as how to start a business, overhead, profit, loss, etc. I have not bothered to give my children a paper test to assess whether or not they are obtaining the information. That's simple regurgitation.
Instead, two years ago when we first started homeschooling, we asked the boys what kind of business would they like to start up. They chose a lemonade stand. We worked with them on writing out a small business plan, creating flyers, marketing, branding, and customer service. To truly put them to the test, we hosted a "Grand Opening"at the garage of our home.
They sold $.50 cups of lemonade along with homemade cookies and lollipops for $.25 each. When neighborhood children or adults would walk up to the stand, our husband and I stood back to observe them. They were a little nervous at first but still excited! They gave their "assuming the sale" pitch ("Good afternoon. Which item would you like to try today?"), sold their products, counted the money (assessing their money counting knowledge, addition, and subtraction), and delivered their "ending pitch" ("We look forward to seeing you back next weekend!). After the day was done, we helped them count their revenue and calculate their profit. We then asked them what they liked most out of the experience and what they believe they could improve upon next lemonade day. These experiences have helped them to improve upon their marketing as well as expand their product line. They have even expanded their target audience by moving their lemonade stand to 2 local farmer's markets on some Saturdays and Wednesdays during Summer and Fall season.
Because we had made the decision early on to ensure our homeschooling was allowing our children to master concepts they could use in real life, any assessments that do not include placing our children in real life situations just would not suffice. Applied knowledge is true power. I encourage you as a homeschooling parent to incorporate real life application of concepts for your young and mature learners. Experience breeds competence and confidence. Let's ensure our Black children are going out into the world with great competence and confidence!