I have an 11 year-old-son who is homeschooled. Everything is going fairly well with his schooling except for his tests.

Whenever it is time for a test, he will start to cry and become more and more distraught. He will do things like cry, rip up his test, and display extremely poor behavior in general. He claims he can’t remember the material and will go on and on about how “stressed out” he is about taking the test.

pencil-shavingsHis “test anxiety” is getting out of hand and I’m not sure how to deal with it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Answer by Liz Mallett
Stress is something that no one enjoys, much less a child who has no coping strategies in place. As a homeschool mom myself, I actually found myself worried that my kids weren’t experiencing “enough” stress, compared to their peers who attend traditional school.

I’m going to assume you are talking about the basic tests teachers give to see if their students are actually retaining information, not the standardized tests that some states require even homeschoolers to take. I think that many times, teachers (even homeschool teachers) get so caught up in the “tests” that they take the joy out of the “learning.” You say that your son is doing well with his studies so that tells me that he enjoys learning. That’s the most important thing!

I’m a bit non-traditional in my homeschool. I did not apply any institutionalized educational precepts in our school. It wasn’t my desire to “do public school at home,” but rather to provide my kids with an education tailored to their learning styles and personal gifts. Here are some principles that I’ve found to be helpful in the past 13 years of homeschooling:

1. At that age, I never gave tests. I could tell by my conversations with my kids if they retained what they were reading. I often times employed the “tell it back to me” concept. After a reading assignment I would have them re-tell me the information in their own words. If they left out anything I deemed to be pertinent, I’d ask them a more specific question to jog their memory. This worked well for them. No one was forced to take multiple choice, True/False or fill-in-the-blanks until they started doing high school level work. Sometimes I would orally test them using those types of formats- but I did it pretending to be a game show host and gave them each a buzzer in which they could chime in if they knew the answer.

I never placed a TEST in front them and walked away. The way I did things, I don’t think it ever occurred to them that they were being tested over anything. We were just talking, playing and learning together. Sometimes I’d ask my boys to test me over their material. The reversal of our roles was fun for them (and I know that the best way to learn material is to be forced to TEACH it to someone else!) They rather enjoyed it when I’d get an answer wrong and they delighted in schooling me, for a change.

2. If you absolutely MUST MUST MUST give a test (to ease your own mind) then make them short and sweet.There’s no reason for an 11-year-old to agonize over a test which takes an hour to complete. If it takes you multiple settings to administer a test, then so be it. Let him see that the “test” is nothing to fear by making them easy (for now). Once he gets to where he’s acing his tests, make them longer and more difficult. You must remain calm and rather disinterested in the outcome of these tests though. It’s HIS education, not yours. The sooner you let him take control and responsibility for it, the happier both of you will be.

Math test anxiety can be avoided by having HIM check his daily work as he is doing the assignment. That means giving your son access to the answer book. Math was not a strong subject for one of my children, so I required him to work ONE problem, check his work, then work another problem. This enabled him to see immediately where he’d gone wrong before he’d completed an entire assignment incorrectly.

There’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you are doing something right, only to find out you’ve got to do the entire job over again because of one small error you repeatedly made. (This is especially applicable once he starts Algebra!) What I found is that, when he was completely responsible for doing AND grading his own work, he a) learned the concept quicker and 2) was so comfortable with the math concept that the test was simply a formality.

What About College?
Now if you are saying, “At that rate, your kids will never be ready for college! They will have no idea HOW to take a test! You are doing them a disservice by not making them take tests!” I promise you that none of those things are true. My oldest son started taking college classes his junior year of high school and he was a B student. He was (and is) fully capable of taking tests on any subject and he does so with the confidence of a kid who knows what he knows.

Let me know how it goes!

Writer’s note: On occasion I answer questions on John Rosemond’s website I plan to share those questions and answers with my own audience as well. Become a member on his site and browse thousands of questions and answers from John and the parent coaches he has trained. The question above came from a homeschool mom regarding test anxiety.

Liz Mallett lives in Arcadia, Oklahoma with her husband, their two teenage sons, four dogs, two cats and a smattering of chickens. Having homeschooled her boys for thirteen years, she now finds herself in the role of “veteran” homeschooler, mentoring new homeschool moms on their journey. She is a parent coach, blogger and wanna-be Cajun chef. You can find her at or by email at [email protected].

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