Preparing My Daughters for Their First Standardized Tests

I never thought I would be a test prepping homeschooling mom. I really don't believe in teaching to a test. I teach based on the topics my daughters have interest and the basics like reading and math. This works well for our homeschooling style, and honestly, this method prepares them for subject based tests like the Iowa Assessments.
Standardized Testing and homeschooling

Why do I need to prepare them for taking a standardized test?

For the past few years, we've homeschooled as independent homeschoolers through our school district. As independent homeschoolers, my daughters have to test in grades 5 and 7 in order to be in compliance with our state's law. There are other homeschooling options for Tennessee for those who aren't interested in testing or who desire not to be a part of the local school district.

Since testing is a requirement, I ordered practice Iowa Assessments for both of my daughters. We've never tested before, and as a person who has taken my fair share of tests from elementary school until receiving my certification to teach, I know the value of having an idea of what topics will be tested. During my testing days, I appreciated knowing which math skills I needed to brush up on or the type of reading or writing topics the test developers emphasized. As a parent, I know my daughters aren't used to being timed while doing their work, and the test I chose is a timed test. I also know that one of my daughters isn't a good test taker. This has been evident when taking regular assessments using our curriculum. I don't condemn her for not being a good test taker, but I know standardized tests don't take into consideration that a student may really know how to do the work that is being tested.

Thinking about test prep!

Thinking about test prep!

How am I preparing my daughters for the Iowa Assessments?

We are using the practice tests for the form of the Iowa Assessment that they will be tested. As with most practice tests, there are only so many questions to work through. Based on the areas that they have the most difficulty, I am pulling resources from our bookshelf. Our regular curriculum is great, but one thing I've learned from the many years of homeschooling is that my daughters need to see the skills they've learned outside of their regular curriculum. They need access to word problems that aren't a part of their normal curriculum. They need to read short passages from reading comprehension books that are intentionally focused outside of our normal book talks. I have several resources, but I also decided to buy an inexpensive testing workbook for each of my daughters from a bookstore.

When are we testing?

Since I am proctoring the tests for my daughters, I can choose the testing dates as long as it is within 30 days of the public school testing.  The last day of testing for the public school is May 2 so I am considering testing my girls at the beginning of May. I believe this will give them plenty of time to ease into the idea of taking a formal test. This will also help me to remain cool and calm because I won't feel hurried to get them up to par which honestly isn't my goal. My goal with preparing them for the test is to give them a fair chance. I am not trying to ensure that they get all of the answers correct or score high because I want a true assessment of THEIR skills. 

While preparing for the test, I am also taking into consideration which time of day is best for them to test. Since we've become more relaxed in our schedule, I have to be intentional about scheduling the test at a certain time versus going with the flow. As of now, I am thinking we will test late morning. Not too early, but before lunch. We did practice tests in the afternoon, and it was bad y'all. I honestly thought I failed them, but testing while tired or when you're ready to wind down isn't the best thing to do.

We're using the Iowa Assessments in our homeschool for testing.

We're using the Iowa Assessments in our homeschool for testing.

Testing isn't a big part of our homeschool, but we are looking forward to doing something new. My daughters are adapting to my rule of using regular pencils versus mechanical pencils for the sake of the test. They are actually eager to take it even if it does mean a little extra schooling to ensure understanding.

Do you use standardized tests in your homeschool? If so, do you take time to prepare or does your child just take the test?