Exams

This week, precisely today and until Friday, we are doing exams for term 2 of years 2 and years 4. I started exams last year after putting the task off for quite a while. Exams with Ambleside Online and Charlotte Mason are different, they should not intimidate us. They are not to give grades, catch you in what you don’t know, or test you in which you have memorized. It’s an extension and reflection on what we do on a regular basis. Example of a question for year 4, “tell about two of these: Benjamin Franklin, James Oglethorpe, la Salle, King William’s War, or Chief Pontiac”; for math, an exam from the program they follow or a couple of questions are provided at the AO page, the children are asked to show their handicraft, to recite to father what they have committed to memory, show their music instrument pieces, describe a picture from their picture study, a piece from their composer study, sing their favorite hymn and folk song… Exams are made to give a chance to the student to reflect upon a terms worth of learning and shine and rejoice in all.

But I admit they still make me uneasy.

As I tweak a bit the questions to fit our Bible reading schedule and our Geography detour, I look at those areas and questions I am almost sure the girls will most likely not remember (since I don’t know many of the answers, I am assuming they won’t either). I am probably too harsh. It can be the case they surprise me remembering more than I expect, and doing better than I expect. It should humble me that, even though I have read many of the books, and some twice, I still cannot articulate a good answer to many of the questions. But even if they cannot answer to some, or even many of the questions, I should still be glad for that which they will be sharing and showing me.

Let’s be honest, I don’t like exams because they expose without shame those areas in our studies we have not done specially well, -and we teachers are to take responsibility for those-. I conclude I should not fear exams but do them, and do them as often as they need to be done (at the end of each term). “Humble yourself, Silvia”, this is not a competition for your daughters, or a chance to come back and brag about them, or whine about them… take it as it comes. Rejoice in whatever goes well, and set to work on that which needs attention. After all, they have their lifetime to keep facing these real exams that come to make them stop, look back, and recall that which they care about and know.

As soon as I finish typing this and I hit publish, I will retire to pray about exams, because my tone of voice, my whole attitude when asking them these questions, will matter much. They will sense my disappointment, my doubts, my anxiety, and I want to be the teacher that rejoices, that is content with whatever the outcome of the exams, and that will be able to see growth and humbly roll up her sleeves and simply keep on keeping on.

Not only they do better at exams every term, likewise, we, moms and teachers, should be learning to conduct the exam week or days in a gracious manner, keeping in mind why exams are important and why we should not fret about the outcome but rejoice, learn from them, and keep working.

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14 thoughts on “Exams

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  1. Silvia, I find you very brave to keep on keeping on! My experience with exams is a bit similar and I gave up. My son has Aspergers and we came to CM because of this. He has a really hard time answering questions. For his narrations I don't ask him anything, he just tells me. But exams, I kind of have to ask him things. It gave him a lot of anxiety and he didn't do well at all.
    I feel that I can still give him a CM education, even without the exams.

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  2. I agree with you. I did not give exams to my first daughter until her year 2, but thanks for sharing openly why you don't do exams with your son.

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  3. We've doing exams this week (it's Thursday here). This is the first time I've been happy with how it's worked although the week started with my son sick & unable to do anything. I've been more relaxed this time – previously I've tended to think the week was a waste of time.

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  4. True. It's amazing how a bit of preparation, and our positive look on exams can change the whole experience. My daughters L.O.V.E.D it, I was recording them for some of the questions, and they had such a blast… this is giving me much opportunity to grow and I am enjoying the change of pace. This week is also allowing us to catch up, practice more piano, and work ahead with our next Shakespeare and some free reads. It's a win win.

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  5. Exams make me a bit uneasy, too, Silvia. Maybe because there are such negative connotations from my public school days associated with that word. Nevertheless, my children don't stress about them at all, and I am so thankful that my uneasiness isn't contagious. 🙂

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  6. I just typed a comment that got eaten. Super short redo – I feel overwhelmed by exams because with so many children and so many books I cannot be as intimate with what they are actively learning as a CM school teacher would have been. I don't think it fair to ask questions when I haven't made sure they attended to certain things – and CM exams aren't just open ended. I solved this for myself with the older children by having them write term papers in all the major subjects – topics they choose. Sometimes I think I'd like to revisit exams again..and then I don't. If I mention exams now my children will laugh. Yeah, well :-).

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  7. I can count on one hand how many times I did exams with 3 students (2 of which went all the way from K- high school graduation). My first exam attempt totally blew me away, by how little my dd retained! I tape recorded that oral exam and several years ago the two of us listened to it! So funny! It's always easier to laugh about it when it's all done! LOL

    Exams were always so intimidating to me and so I skipped them for the most part. Sad, but true. As I mentioned in several blog posts there was much in our CM studies that didn't measure up. When my girls were in high school they did mostly written exams for several terms and those went much better than the earlier ones.

    The good news is that in the long haul exams mean little. Remember the Big Picture! And just keep on keeping on! LOL

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  8. That's a way to work the closure after each term out. It sounds reasonable. I am glad that works for you. My girls had a blast yesterday, now they are into editing and adding titles and music to their battery of small recordings of them talking about some of the questions I have done… and we have a few more but they are so absorbed that it's taking me long to get them back downstairs to continue, lol.

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  9. Agreed. I am taking all this as another opportunity to take a break and recap, and the girls are keen on seeing themselves in the future on recording. I had a short video of them when they were tinny, saying the books of the NT, and they loved it recently when they saw it, and now they are into that. They love acting, singing, and videos, so, lol, that's good. And yes, as they progress into writing, we can just keep those and that's fine.
    I don't tire, Linda, of listening to you, because you ground us and remind us of the big picture. This is not a race, but it's true we all have, according to our means and knowledge, goals to always do better, but it should never be too complicated, or rob us of our joy. I have a friend whose friends tell her she is the only hs mom that seems to enjoy this (she also follows AO with her adjustments). I like to think that us, who use CM, are this type of people who need to share some of our readings at dinner with our husbands, or that are always discovering new things, making connections, enjoying it all.
    Thanks for stopping by. I do value your comments immensely.

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  10. I put them off far longer than you did and I do regret it. The school system we've grown up in has caused us to see them with a pass/fail mentality. I know see them as feedback that can help me shape what we are doing. The gaps tell me to stretch out, slow down, or substitute.

    Pamela loves exam week. She called them finales and, at our school, we call them the term finale.

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