This week we are in the midst of our term exams. Don’t worry–it’s not as bad as it sounds. When people hear about a Charlotte Mason education, they often picture a homeschool with little structure and children sitting around, quietly reading storybooks and traipsing through flowery meadows like the von Trapp children. But don’t be deceived! Mason’s emphasis on children as persons doesn’t mean she doesn’t expect them to work hard and learn. So Mason’s first-graders had exams just like the older students.
Exams for first grade? Yup. When we began the term, I considered skipping the exams. But as I thought about it, I realized it was a good opportunity to gauge how we were doing. We did the work for the term, and I wanted to know how much he remembered.
Charlotte Mason Style Exams Overview
So we dove into our exams. Since my husband is a college professor, my son has heard the word “exam” pretty regularly, so exams seem pretty normal. I was glad we didn’t have to deal with exam anxiety (although he has developed stage fright and doesn’t like to perform in front of people). I would ask him the exam questions and then record his answers.
Basically, the exams are a form of narration. The child is narrating what he or she remembers (or doesn’t remember in some cases!). At times I was encouraged by the things he remembered, especially about the stories we read for Literature. However, there was one time when he couldn’t tell me anything about the question I asked. The challenge for me was not prompting or giving clues to help him along.
After the Exam
When the exams are over for the particular course, it is helpful to go over the results. If a child performed well, it could be that the book really captured their interest. If they struggled, perhaps attention was an issue or maybe the book was not a good fit.
After reviewing the exams with my son, it has been helpful for me to review our practices and think about ways we could improve. There have been areas where we have struggled, and I want to take some time during our term break to brainstorm changes we can make.
Encouragement to Keep Going
Even though there were exam questions that didn’t go well, I realized that not everything can be easily measured. Natural history has been an area where we have struggled. We’ve talked about different insects that live in trees and potato plant diseases. This isn’t the most scintillating material for a six-year-old. However, as we were in the car recently, we were talking about pollination and bees. I brought up how flying insects can similarly spread diseases on potato crop. Boom! He remembered the book we were reading and details. It was the perfect example of the science of relations.
These little glimmers of hope are encouraging. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. We begin to focus on the day to day work of lessons and page numbers. But if we trust the process, we will begin to see results. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if we persist.
How is your homeschool year going? Did you give exams? I would love to hear what you’re doing. Feel free to send me an email: hello(at)amblesidetales.com. Also, be sure to connect with me on Instagram and sign up to receive encouraging resources via email.
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