I don't think testing is ever really a positive experience - or should I say "enjoyable" experience - for the one being tested. Sure if you know the material really well or maybe if you score above average you might be able to look at it as a positive experience but it is doubtful that most will look forward to it much less 'enjoy' it. However, it is a necessary evil... at least so I'm told.
Next week child one, two, and three will spend a week enduring the Iowa Assessment of Basics Skills standardize test. Why this particular one? I don't have a good reason other than it's NOT the FCAT's (Florida's standardize test which does not have a good reputation in our state). I know there are other similar tests out there but this one seems to be well respected by the homeschool community and it is also the only one being offered at this time. Two reasons good enough for me.
Why test? I've been asking myself this very question especially in light of a difficult two weeks preparing for it. Generally speaking, I don't like the idea of standardize tests for many reasons most of which are obvious to those who oppose them. One of my favorite quotes goes something like, "You can't judge October apples in June." In some ways, taking this kind of test in 4th, 7th and 8th grade seems exactly like that. My kids are not done learning what they need to know, so why test them now? As homeschoolers, we are definitely NOT doing things the way they are in public school so I'm fighting my own self on whether it has any value to see how they stack up against other kids their age. Even more of a curiosity to me is whether any of them have a particular talent in one area or another which we have not picked up upon yet.
I'm guessing some subjects, like math for my older two, will reflect fairly accurately how much they have learned and remembered over the years. For my youngest it will be less accurate because we have not covered some of the math that I know other 4th graders may have already learned. Social Studies and Science will mean almost nothing as clearly these can be taught in any order. Language Arts will be interesting because even if they have been taught to the student, it takes a while for all the rules to be internalized and truly become part of the person's body of knowledge. Reading and Spelling are anyone's guess. We all know that getting A's on spelling tests does not always translate into being a good speller just as people who love to read aren't always good at reading comprehension.
Even though I'm expecting somewhat flawed results, I'm still going to have them take the test for the same reason we do anything that we do as homeschoolers....for the experience of it. Sitting in a desk for more minutes than you'd prefer, feeling a little pressure, having to recall information, having to solve problems, bubbling in answers, checking and re-checking your work... these are all things they will encounter at other times during their life. Whether it be a driver's license exam, the SAT's, a pilot's license, or maybe a hair dresser's exam... they all have one thing in common - a test. No one becomes "certified" without taking a test. For that reason, I have no doubt that this will be a worthwhile event. It might not rank up there with their latest visit to SeaWorld, but I know it's part of their education experience that will hopefully serve them well in the years ahead.