I looked at my daughter’s spelling test in disbelief. She had failed it. She had never failed anything before, so the fact that she had missed almost half her spelling words was a bit of a shock. And I was now faced with a question I had never faced before in my homeschool: was retaking tests the way to go?
Retaking tests is something that I, as a homeschool mom, have the liberty to allow. But is it a good practice? Here are some considerations.
I want my child to master the content being taught.
Tests really have one main purpose—to help me as a mom know if my child is learning what he or she is supposed to learn. A failed test is not something that I can ignore because it means that my daughter didn’t learn the content. She needs to learn that content, and I need a way to assess whether she learned it. Allowing her to retake tests is one of several ways for me to verify that she has truly mastered the material. But some other concerns come into play.
I want my child to learn academic diligence.
We as humans have a sinful bent toward laziness. I know I do. That’s why the book of Proverbs spends so much time encouraging us to be diligent. It tells us that the diligent will “have plenty of bread,” “will rule,” and “will be made fat [or rich].” In contrast, the lazy person “craves and gets nothing” and “will be put to forced labor.” I want my daughter to learn diligence in all areas of life—including her schoolwork—but if she knows that she can retake a test whenever she receives a poor grade, she will be less likely to be diligent in her test preparation.
I want my child to learn academic honesty.
Let’s say my daughter takes a science test and earns a 60%. She then goes and studies really hard (especially the questions she knows are on the test), retakes the test, and earns a 95%. Is it honest for me to put that 95% in my gradebook? She had an unfair advantage over most students, and that 95% is not an accurate representation of her level of mastery of the material.
As a mom, I want my daughter to look good. I want her to be smart and successful. But it is more important to me that she be a woman of integrity.
I want my child to learn how to deal with failure.
In life, we often don’t get second chances. If we botch a job interview, we won’t likely get called back for another one. If we forget to pay our mortgage bill, our credit score is going to be affected. I want my daughter to learn from her mistakes, and she must also learn that mistakes usually have consequences. It may sound harsh, but I believe that it’s OK to let my daughter fail and face the consequences for her failure. Learning to deal with failure is an important part of the maturing process.
So what did I do about that failed test? I had my daughter review that same spelling list the next week. But I didn’t change her grade. Since that test, she’s become more diligent in her weekly test preparation—and her grades testify to her diligence. I think she learned something even more valuable than a list of tricky spelling words.