Regarding "Report Cards"
As for report cards - the WHOLE POINT of them (schools invented them) is so that teachers (who are not our children's parents) can keep the parent informed of how the child is doing in an environment the parent knows nothing about! When we ARE the parents and we are working with our child and teaching them DAILY, we do not need to KNOW how they are doing . . . we KNOW how they are doing! We know they need work in writing, or in spelling, etc. We know they are a natural when it comes to history, etc. Furthermore, grades smack of "levels." Either they discourage average or reluctant learners, or they fill with pride those who are over-achievers. If dad wants to know how they are doing, show samples of their work, or maybe he could actually get involved in some reading and discussion time to see how well they are internalizing the information. Grades don't tell us how our children are doing, parent involvement DOES! Again - unless your district/state requires them - report cards are a waste of time!
We should all keep good records of our children's school years, in terms of work done by our children, but this has already been described above in terms of creating a portfolio for each of your children. Ryan keeps track of his own book lists, and types them up for his transcript and records in bibliographic format. When your children are involved in their own record-keeping, you are giving them a chance to practice leadership skills, and motivational techniques. They will have a better picture of what their yearly goals should be.
Tests CAN be a learning tool, but they do not promote LONG-TERM knowledge. I was talking to a an acquaintance, who happens to be a university professor, last year about methods of learning. He mentioned that he ALWAYS has his students write papers INSTEAD of taking tests - that way they actually LEARN SOMETHING! Many of his colleagues agree, and statistics have shown that tests are not effective in terms of long-term knowledge retention. Yet, schools continue to use them because it is an easy way for one teacher to assess the knowledge of all the students in his or her classroom. Studies have been done wherein a teacher gives a test on a friday and then pops it out again the following week - and even those who excelled on the test the first time around performed significantly lower just a WEEK later. Research, writing, and projects are MUCH better for the retention of knowledge because a student does not just have to memorize and spit back information for one test, but must work with that information, actually THINK about it, and mold it into the correct format. Then it must be looked at again so that it can be refined into a better project. It is in this process that knowledge is internalized and becomes a part of us, so we will remember it better. In unit study, we have an even greater chance of knowledge retention, because of the connection of facts and events - we remember one thing because it was connected to another thing.