I often say to new homeschool parents,
“It doesn’t take 12 years to prepare for Matric/ final exams.”
Many new homeschoolers worry about homeschooling through high school and how their children will cope with formal exams. As a result, and very sadly, many new homeschool parents opt for strict curriculums that require regular tests and exams to ensure that they cover their bases. It is really a shame to waste early homeschool years of a love to learn by following a strict, rigid, formal, school-at-home approach.
Tests and exams are used to evaluate what the child has learnt and remembered. It is often the means to prove that the teacher is good at her job and so that parents can see specific results to show how their child is progressing. With large classes, it is often the only way a school teacher has a good idea how each child is learning. Homeschooling is a one-on-one approach and, especially with daily narrations, parents can immediately assess their child’s knowledge and skill set.
Over the past 20+ years of homeschooling I have used a Charlotte Mason approach for all my children until they decided how and what they wanted to do to graduate/ matriculate. In 2013 my eldest daughter opted for a NSC Matric (National Senior Certificate = South African nation-wide public school matriculation) and she used a curriculum that required regular portfolio assignments and quarterly exams at done under strict exam conditions at home. She only wrote her first external, formal external exam for her Prelims exams (the exact version of the final exams in the same exam venue) and these prelims helped her prepare for formal her formal exams more than anything else!
Here are some tips to prepare your children to write formal exams ~
- Complete the work~ It seems obvious, but it is vital that you ensure that your child completes their course material and portfolio projects. Marks given during the year are a very important part of the final mark, adding to the exam marks.
- Summaries~ Teach your child to make good, clear summary notes for each subject. Show them how to simplify summaries with mind maps/ drawings/ labels or numbers or first letters of each main point in the margins. Use colored markers and highlighters.
- Use past papers ~ We downloaded past papers for each subject and printed them at a printers. It cost a bit, took up an entire box file, but it was an excellent investment.
- Exam memorandums ~ Ensure that you include the answers to all these past exam papers. This is a vital component! Allow your child to work through an exam under exam conditions (timer and no books or notes) and then they need to work through the results. Check the mark allocations and ensure they do not miss steps that would cost marks.
- Use a timer~ This is a vital skill = to first check through the whole exam and look at the mark allocation and then work out how many minutes per section. (You can find an example here.) Do this will all past papers! It is vital to prepare your child to keep on track in exam situations. Many exam centres have a clock on the wall, but if your child sits far from the front, they may struggle to keep their eye on the time. Many exam centres allow the entrant to use a small clock on their desk.
- Prelims~ Prelims taught my daughter how to write matric exams! Read the post here. Everything was learnt in this experience = from a good night’s sleep the night before, eating a good breakfast, time needed to travel to the exam centre, comfy clothes, the necessary identity and other documents, her stationary, meeting other exam candidates, to the exam room protocol and the actual exams.
- Manage stress ~ Exams are stressful. While studying, eat well, take breaks, exercise, stretch, meditate, write motivational notes and messages to yourself, take extra nutritional supplements and herbal nerve support. Teach your child slow, abdominal breathing. Pray together. Write out faith-building scriptures and promises.
- Join the group~ Learning with others in a study group is important, especially for isolated homeschoolers. It may help to join some other exam candidates for an early coffee and chat to discuss issues, fears, and share important tips. It somehow helps to know that others fear and feel the same as you!
In the end, I believe that these exams are NOT about information my highschooler may have learnt. Exams are simply a life skill = learn how to complete the course work in the prescribed format.
Dear moms with young children, enjoy a simple, relaxed homeschooling journey. Take your time. Enjoy your child and their unique learning styles. Focus on these delicious years of freedom.
Wishing you and your child writing the 2016 matric exams the very best!