Exams in the Charlotte Mason Homeschool

Today I’m sharing a video and blog post on Exams in the Charlotte Mason Homeschool. This is my second year doing this type of exams with my daughter, and I feel like it’s time to share what we love about, what works well, and why they’re some of our favorite weeks in our school year. Keep reading to learn more about Exams in the Charlotte Mason Homeschool.

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What Do Exams Look Like in a Charlotte Mason Homeschool?

Raise your hand if you cringe when you hear the word “exams”. I sure do. I think back to late nights in college cramming for my psych 100 class. I remember virtually nothing aside from a few key names from my time in that class. My guess is many of you had the same experience in school!

When I shared with our friends and family that we were in the middle of our exam week, I got so many puzzled looks and odd comments! Exams for a 6 year old? Yes!

But here’s what exam week looked like for us:

01. A joyful celebration.

We are celebrating the whole child through art, dancing, recitation, as well as measuring the knowledge gained from various subjects, like history, arithmetic, and geography.

02. Short, 1-2 open ended questions per subject.

The questions are short and open-ended. Allowing the child to feel little to no pressure in answering.

03. The students share their knowledge orally, through art, painting, dancing, singing, and even acting out what they’ve learned.

We assess the whole child, and even perform some of the subjects for family members.

04. There’s no trick questions.

There’s no “trick” or multiple choice questions, just the child telling what he knows.

05. There’s no comparing students to other students.

There is no scale by which we compare students against each other. We measure each student’s knowledge based on their ability and own unique level.

Charlotte Mason’s Thoughts on Exams

So, what does the PNEU (Parents National Educational Union) say about exams? We read their thoughts pretty clearly in the article by G.H.A. Stephens, titled, Examinations in the PNEU Schools and Schools Affiliated.

“From the beginning examinations have been an important part of our work, not with the intention of criticizing or grading, but as a means of encouraging and helping both teacher and taught.”

“The child’s personality is involved and he or she gives back not only what has been given, but what has become his or her own. There must be no prompting or catechising. The teacher must stand aside. The child is to put in what he likes, to leave out what he likes and to stop when he likes …The child’s answer is an exercise in choice as well as memory. It has to decide what is relevant to any particular answer, and it is in this power of choice that the child becomes a person whose intellectual development is linked to its moral and spiritual development. We begin to see, even on the level of examinations, what Charlotte Mason means when she chose as our motto ‘Education is a Life.’” “Always we are looking not for repetition or feats of memory, but for evidence of interest, experience, involvement in the subject, not as an academic exercise, but as an eager sharing of a universal human inheritance.”

How to Administer Exams

For my Form 1 (first grade) student, almost every question was answered orally. I recorded the audio and then later went back to transcribe. I can’t imagine asking my 6-year-old child to write a page of information as the answer to one History exam question… not likely! But if I ask her to tell me about what she knows, she is able to tell me a page worth of information. At this age I am not testing her ability to write and spell when I ask an American History question, so why would I expect her to demonstrate those skills? I simply want to know what she knows. 

It’s remarkable how different exams feel to me now that I’ve experienced them the Charlotte Mason way. When I compare them to filling out of bubbles, and playing the “multiple choice” game it’s a completely different method.

How to Assess Exams

Instead of grading them, I just go back and review them at the end of the exam week. I use the answers to inform how I schedule out our timetable (schedule) for the following term. I also use it to help me understand which subjects my child and I need to spend more time on. That’s it! No pressure, no grading, and no making children feel bad. Remember, in her book School Education, Mason says “The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”

Examples of Charlotte Mason Exams

Exams can be a delightful experience rather than anxiety-inducing! Here’s a few of the drawn and oral (recorded then transcribed by me) questions from my student and some other work from her first term of formal lessons. 

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