Part 3 – Testing Series – College Entrance Exams

We had recently been reviewing the different types of scores that we find on standardized tests.  The two most common the percentile, and the grade equivalent were discussed in two previous posts.  There are other types of scores that are used on standardized tests, however, I feel that the two we discussed were the most common.

To finalize our series, I would like to bring a few thoughts about standardized tests themselves.  Of course, some of the most common grade school tests are the Stanford, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and Wechsler’s series.  However, one of the most important tests that we take before going to college is the college entrance exam.  The two most common of these tests are the ACT and the SAT.  Depending on where you live you may only have testing centers for one of these tests.  The southeast region where we live, uses almost solely the SAT college entrance exam.  These tests are comprehensive tests designed to let prospective colleges now how and if you are prepared to begin formal study with them.

Sadly though, students today have developed great anxiety and fear associated with these tests. There’s really no reason for this.  The SAT and ACT can be retaken several times if the scores are not acceptable.  So many young people are given heavy expectations to perform a certain way, or to enter “ivy league” schools.  Having high goals is not wrong, but it is a sad day when we have teenagers dealing with huge amounts of stress because of them.  If you are in this situation now, take a moment to step back and see the big picture.  If it really is your heart’s desire to attend a college that requires very high scores on college entrance exams.  Just relax, and start preparing. 

There are many stress free ways that a student can prepare for these tests – but it takes time. You can begin by purchasing the test prep books from the test developers, you could hire a tutor, or find a few great online sites.  There are several that I use to help students who come to me for “test prep.”  I like  A Major tests for word lists and short practice tests, Time4Writing for essay prep, and many other sites to download and print out practice tests.  Start early, prepare thoroughly, and refuse to allow stress to hinder you from performing at your best!

Can you write like a third grader?

Why does writing tend to be one of our most challenging subjects?  In our homeschool, other areas are typically covered with ease… maybe a few frantic moments with math…  uhmmm….  But most of our agravation stems from making an attempt at writing.  I have recently posted about my two older daughters and their current struggle with research papers.  Well, to update you on that – we are still in the notecard process.  It is going slowly, but going.   Today, I have been thinking about my two third graders… twins, of course,  and writing from their vantage point.   Well, I don’t know if that would be too good. Their vantage point would be the abolishment of any type of writing at all.  They have learned most of the parts of speech, and understand capitalization and punctuation, but still hate putting complete thoughts into print.  They especially hate putting several sentences together into paragraphs.  With this in mind – I decided I would check out what the writing standards for third grade consisted of.  (I don’t know, I guess I am a sucker for discouragement…)

Anyway, I have to admit that I was absolutely shocked at what the standards consisted of.  My third graders would cry and scream and scream and scream if I carried out the “write and rewrite and rewrite” advice.   I have to admit, I was a bit disapointed that my third graders seemed to be a bit behind the standards for their grade, however, it gave me a new goal!  You see, the standards are to be used as our “goals.” I have often said it is difficult for the homeschool parent to see all the cracks and gaps in our children’s education… but today I had a great opportunity.  The magnifying glass was held up – and I could see some BIG gaps. Check out this post about “gaps.” The positive side is that we have several months before third grade is finished, and I hope to use these standards as a guideline for improving our third grade writing skills. Maybe by May they will be writing several paragraph stories with examples and comparisons… whooohooo wouldn’t that be great!!!

Benefits of Blogging for Children… and adults!

Do your children struggle with creative writing? At our house, there is a constant on- going search for opportunities to motivate creative writing skills. About a year ago, I decided to try blogging as a creative writing MOTIVATOR. We started out by getting each of the two older girls (9,12) a blog on Homeschoolblogger.com. This is a nice starting point for children because there are restrictions in place that protect them. The two older girls responded beyond my wildest dreams. It became more than just an assignment from mom to get them writing – they loved it and it wasn’t long before they were hooked!
I watched this with interest – watching them learn not only writing skills but computer and techonolgy skills as well. It was absolutely thrilling to see them enjoy writing. My stab in the dark to motivate them to write really paid off this time! Whooohooo!
As I watched their eagerness over growing their own personal corner of internet, I began to think of joining them. I took my time though – I am typically not one to commit to something (blogging – among many other things :)) unless I know that I can do it right. I finally joined the blogging “masses” by taking a blog writing course this past fall. I am not sure what I expected from the course when I began, but I have to admit I was shocked at what I learned. In the course of 8 weeks I created a blog that I was proud of and had even built up a small audience. The teacher was wonderful and as students we had a great time encouraging one another and helping each other think through things. They are about to start another Blog Writing Course 101. They even offer a free blog Pre-Course  to whet your appetite for blogging!You may want to check it out – you never know just what you might walk away with!