This past week has been exam week in our homeschool. Even though we have been using Ambleside Online and the Charlotte Mason Method for a couple years now, this is the first time I have actually formally done the exams. So far in the past I have either skipped them altogether or gone through the questions quickly and informally. My two boys are currently in AO Year 1 and Year 3. Ambleside Online actually provides exam questions for each year. All I had to do was print them off and make a few adjustments to reflect a few changes I had made to our studies.
I bought these slim, blank notebooks awhile ago and they have been sitting in a desk drawer waiting for the right use to come along. They were perfect for our exams! Each child received one booklet for a record of the exams, and we will continue to use them each time exams roll around until they are full. Because these booklets have blank pages I went ahead and added lines to some pages using a ruler (something like this would make it easier and my Mom has one which she is giving me, so next time it will be a breeze!), but left some pages blank for a few questions that required charts or drawings;for example some math and natural history.
In our Charlotte Mason education we have 3 terms each school year of 12 weeks each. At the end of each term we should be spending time on exams. The purpose of exams are simply to evaluate how the term has gone, areas of strength and weakness, and to make adjustments as needed for the next term. Using the CM philosophy we don’t really depend on fill in the blank test questions or questions with easy formulaic answers. What we are looking for is a peek into what the child remembers and what he has made connections with over the course of the term. To that end each question is open ended, and usually beginS with something like: Tell me a story about… Tell how… Describe the way… or What do you know about…
This often leads to at least a short paragraph. I have taken the method of asking the questions orally and the child gives his answer orally as well while I write it down for them. My youngest is not quite writing on his own yet and my oldest still finds writing uncomfortable. This way the act of writing does not hamper the free expression of their thoughts. I get much longer and in depth answers than if they were doing there own writing. However it was a challenge for me to keep up and my hand certainly got a workout! Another option would be to record their answers with a voice recorder.
We spread out our exams over the course of a week; each day doing a few subject areas. I wrote a schedule for the week out on a blackboard so everyone could know the plan. The subject areas we covered were:
- Bible Memory Verse
- Foreign Language
- Art Study
- Natural History
Some of these, like reciting poetry and singing hymns, we saved until evening when Daddy was home and did them for him.
I was so pleased with the way our exams went! Honestly I was nervous that my boys wouldn’t remember much or wouldn’t want to answer the questions. But overall they did very well and exceeded my expectations. We had a few struggles and attitude issues but were able to work through them and have a very successful exam week. Even my 4 year old daughter who is not doing any formal schooling yet insisted on participating. So I gave her a booklet and asked her to draw pictures form her favorite books or of what she likes to do outside. She enjoyed herself and felt included!