If our desire is to grow lifelong learners who are attentive to relationships between what they are learning and the world around them, we need to develop in them a sense of wonder about that world. We also need to teach them to be self-motivated in their learning habits if we hope for them to carry those traits into adulthood.
Because we seek to accomplish “change in the innermost parts,” process is more important than product. The workings of the inner mind are not so easy to condense onto two dimensional pieces of paper. Too often, testing measures a child’s ability to take a test, not their ability to think.
The best method I’ve found for figuring out what is going on in the deep, dark recesses of my children’s minds is to get them to talk about it. Eventually, as they grow and mature, it should become more of a written narrative, but for now talking will suffice. The flow of thought is vital to the process, and the mechanics of writing gum up the works too often at this age.
The answers to these questions that Barb, from Harmony Art Mom, lists here tell me much more than a multiple choice test or a fill in the blank questionnaire:
Can they express what they have learned in a meaningful way?
Have they interacted with the author and his or her ideas?
Are they relating those ideas to what they already know about the world?
As they grasp them more fully, are they applying them in their writing and conversation?
When all is said and done, I want my children to be able to think. Narration allows the child to "generalize, classify, infer, judge, visualize, discriminate, labor in one way or another, with that capable mind of his, until the substance of his book is assimilated or rejected, according as he shall determine; for the determination rests with him and not with his teacher." ~ Charlotte Mason