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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Tests & Trials

My younger kids are perturbed with me.  They have decided that my husband and I are meanies beyond measure because we… drum roll here… MAKE THEM TAKE TESTS-!!!

They are absolutely convinced that not another child on the face of the earth has ever been subjected to a quiz or test in their academic life.  Only them.  Only in our prison-camp attempting to masquerade as a homeschool.

Therefore, once every 20 lessons or so, we push and pull and prod, attempting to get them to study pertinent material.  Usually for naught.

Each has his or her own study method, generally one that makes no sense whatsoever to me.  Pasha can be found leafing through the back of his history book, looking up key words in the glossary.

“Why are you back there?” I inquire.  “Don’t you think you’ll be quizzed on what’s found in the front of the book, what’s actually found in your readings?  Don’t you have the key words listed there?”

He flips to the front and shows me words highlighted in blue.  As I read the paragraph, there truly is no real definition listed.  There’s nothing much in the way of explanation from the context, either.

Kinda crazy.

“Hey, you know what?”  I tell him.  “If the glossary can help you, go for it.  The more information, the better.”

I reason that if he’s failed or barely passed most tests to date, we have to change things up.  We’ve discussed taking more notes, reviewing the notes out loud, asking yourself questions that may be on the test, etc., but they usually admit after another bombed-out test, that no, they didn’t do anything differently this time.  So it means I have to breeze through the room every 5 minutes asking him, “Are you repeating your material OUT LOUD?”

“No…” he admits.

“Okay, up to you,” I remind.  “You can be successful, but you’ll have to try some new ways of studying….”

Threats about being a ditch-digger for the rest of his life have been known to put the right amount of pressure upon him, also.  Threats about his much-younger sister catching up with him in schoolwork additionally seems to light a fire under him.

Sashenka, the little preteen, powers ahead on her own course.  Puh-lease don’t interrupt her with any input from Reality.  She studies what she wants, and, as though by her own willpower, declares herself Ready and Prepared to take the test.  Benedetto doesn’t believe a word of it.  He understands that she hopes to squeak by with a D, and somehow “pass” on to the next subject where she will once again work her test magic and avoid truly working on anything.

“Yo, Sashenka!” I wake her out of her reverie.  “Start studying.”

“I AM, Mama,” she insists, while doodling on her notebook and practically laying on her desk, all the better to have her hair splayed over her “work”.

“Please sit up and tell me each country’s capitals,” I give her my own little pre-test.

“Uh…” she draws a blank.

“Please study the pages that Papa gave you to review.  Those will be on this test, and you need to prepare.  Say them to yourself, over and over.”

I hear her murmuring away a moment later.

Mashenka marches to her own drummer, our most dramatic student of the younger ones.  She huffs and puffs, loudly flipping through pages, sighing and moaning, melting down, saying she’ll definitely fail even if it’s writing her name and date on the page, scratching her head until it almost bleeds, and other histrionics that I could live without.  She starts her routine when we mention the evil word “test”.

“No,” I interject myself.  “Young lady, you are NOT going to flip out this time.  Every. single. test. you try to upset the entire family.  This is ridiculous.  This is three-year-old behavior, not thirteen-year-old behavior.  You upset the other children, you make a fool of yourself, what does it matter if you get 100% on the test?  With all of the behavior and attitude problems factored in, you deserve a score of 50%.  You are going to get a grip, understand that every other ‘shkolnik’ in the world takes tests, and do it with confidence.  You know how to study, you know how to take a test, now I want you to focus on self-control and think better of yourself.  You are not going to fail, so we don’t want to hear that kind of talk.  Start thinking of yourself as smart and capable.  You are in control, you can control the outcome, and you can also control the process….”

This time, she really tries, making notes from her notes, studying quietly.  I am not present when she actually takes the test, but she tells me proudly that she did not melt down once.

“There you go,” I smile. “I knew you could do it.”

Surprisingly, all three score in the 90s on their respective tests.  Sashenka is overprepared and completes her test, all 15 fill-in-the-blank answers, in 5 minutes’ flat.

“Do you want to check over your answers?” I hesitate accepting her paper.

“No, Mama, I already did.  I just really know the answers.”

Someone pick me up off the floor.

Mashenka does well, as usual, and without the drama.  I can stay sane for another day.

Pasha, most surprisingly, scores a 92%, his second score over 90 in four years.  He is ecstatic.  He has a new sense of having some control over his life.

“In general,” I have the same post-test lecture as our pre-test pep talk, “you get out of life what you put into it.  If you try harder, you’ll do better.  Nobody else can hold you down.  Nobody else can keep you from succeeding.  If you need to get up earlier, or study later, that’s up to you.  Because YOU CAN DO IT.”

And maybe today, they have come a little closer to believing that, with the satisfaction of success tucked into their belt.



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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar hoonew says:

    Congrats to all, especially YOU, Mama! Great accomplishments all around!

  2. avatar Phyllis says:

    Oh my goodness, we have so much in common!! You should see how 2 of my boys take tests – (it is an on-line course) take the test over and over again and eventually you have to hit the correct answers! Insane!! Now if only your kiddos passing with above 90% could transfer over to our household, too!

    We did actually enroll the oldest of the 3 into middle school this week (and I have no idea how that can even be when he is soooo woefully behind in his academics. But….). Not at all what I want to do, but praying that it will make a difference in his attachment.

    • avatar admin says:

      Whatever works, Phyllis, we have to be flexible. Kids with these kinds of backgrounds have so many different needs that it can help to bring in outside reinforcements. We’ll be praying that the middle school brings a welcome change for the better!

  3. My 8 year old HATES going to school. Well she likes the social part, but hates every minute which remotely approaches classroom learning, and anything at home that can remotely be termed as “homework.” This is school vacation week, so last evening she decided to write a story. I sat on the couch while she developed a story line, used the map on the wall to find a setting for the story, and then, without prompting by me, pulled her student dictionary off the shelf to find out how to spell “tulip”. No meltdowns, scenes, or drama. Imagine my suprise. Obviously she is capable of doing all these things, so why waste the energy to have the meltdowns all the time???

    • avatar admin says:

      Maybe it’s a feeling of pressure, Wendy, when she feels she needs to do schoolwork or homework on a tight schedule? As you said, she’s obviously capable, as well as seeming to enjoy developing an entire story on her own without any prodding. It could be the relaxation of being on vacation, or possibly choosing her own theme. You may be onto something…. That’s pretty exciting!

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