Holy Week is always a busy week in our home, and this year perhaps even a little more so. We have several things that we always do, such as spring cleaning, a big shopping run "down the hill" for groceries and other necessaries, a special dinner on Holy Thursday (based on this tea), and keeping a prayerful silence between noon and three on Good Friday. This year I decided to also add our Term 2 exams to the week, which worked better than I had hoped.
I wanted to share a little with you about how I use the term exams and how I use them to gradually and incrementally improve our homeschool. In our term exams, I use some of the questions from Ambleside Online, some blank maps, a few Calculadder worksheets, and a few questions I come up with myself based on books I'm using that are not part of Ambleside Online. The boys answer all their questions orally, and Emma types all her answers.
I should note that after the Term 1 exams I wanted to focus more heavily on mapwork with Nathan and Gregory, and I wanted to also help Gregory be more attentive to his readings where he was doing the reading himself. I'm pleased to see that both of these areas improved quite a bit.
In Term 1 I was trying to do mapwork fairly casually, having the kids find locations in our readings and point them out before or after a reading. I also had them label a few locations we came across in maps in their binders. I found that they retained almost nothing from these practices, however, and started doing map drills with them instead. Nathan, in Y2, had written labels that he was placing on a map, and Gregory, in Y4 was doing this as well as copying the labels onto a blank map. I had them do this 3-4 times a week and they showed a remarkable improvement over the course of the term.
Emma, in Y8, mainly needed to improve in her mapwork. This was a mixed success though, as I asked her to continue using TapQuiz Maps as well as work on successively labeling a map with the Shires in England. I think this ended up being too tedious a task (there are over 70 of them!) and it was not a great success. After her Term 2 exam it was clear that Europe still needs a lot of work, so I'm going to have her work on that instead. Her writing is delightful though, and I'm very pleased with how that is developing.
The Term 2 exams continued to highlight something I had noticed in the Term 1 exams, namely that the boys have not mastered all the basic math facts. I tested this in both term exams by giving them a Calculadder worksheet that they had not used before and gave them five minutes to fill out as much as they could. The results were revealing, to say the least. This year I've been using the math wrap-ups to have the kids practice their math facts, but I don't think it is really helping them make much progress on their memorization. I've used XtraMath in the past, but I've found that this has led to a lack of diligence and quite a bit of staring blankly at the computer, neither of which are habits I'd like to encourage! I'm considering having them work though the Calculadder program (as much as I hate all that paper!!) but it was an effective tool for my daughter years ago.
I hope this little glimpse into our term exams and my analysis is helpful. I'm still fairly new to term exams (this is only our second year doing them - and last year I only did Term 1 and Term 3) but I've found them an excellent practice not only for implementing incremental improvement, but also for helping all of us see how much we are learning, growing and developing over the course of the year.