Preparing for Your New Homeschool Year: Annual Assessments for Homeschoolers

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By Maggie Dail, Learning Specialist

Homeschooling parents tend to think about the annual assessments for their children towards the end of the year. Unless your state requires a specific time of the year, consider doing at the beginning of the year – especially if this is your first year of homeschooling. No matter when you do it, you should use your child’s test results to plan for the new homeschool year.  In around 20 states these tests are required by their homeschool laws. Washington State is one of those and allows for two types – standardized and non-test assessments. When you have the option, choose the one which fits your family / child best.

  • Standardized tests – While some are administered in online formats, they have traditionally been administered by having the student fill in the bubbles on an answer sheet. They are then normed and standardized meaning that they tell you how your child compares to a representative 99 others. Further, they are to be administered according to set rules and times.
  • Non-test Assessments – In the Washington State homeschool law these are not defined per se, but they are to be administered by a certified teacher currently working in the field of education.  Since the assessments are not defined, qualified test administrators use a variety of measures – some more subjective and others more objective.

Whether your state requires annual assessments or not, you can gain valuable information from these experiences. Other than “the homeschool law requires assessments” these may prompt you to have your children tested:

  • Assess a starting point in your homeschooling (given before you begin or early on). Using the same instrument of assessment before and after provides comparable scores.
  • Assess whether the curriculum, learning styles or methods you are using are helping your child learn.
  • Provide preparation for your child to take college entrance tests in the future.
  • Provide objectives or ideas for study for the next year, semester or month.
  • Provides a “third party” assessment of the academic process.
  • Identifies areas that the child may need some additional help.

 

Unlocking Learning Potential provides a number of assessments for homeschoolers in any state via video conferencing year around. For more information:

https://www.unlockinglearningpotential.net/services-1

One more thing: Remember that testing is only part of your evaluation of your educational program. These assessment tools may tell you much, but remember many of the things that assessments cannot measure.

Important Things Tests Can't Measure

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Preparing for the New Homeschool School Year: Missing Pieces in Elementary Math Curriculum

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As your new homeschool year approaches (or has arrived) you may still need some help for a math curriculum that works for your elementary aged child. You need to remember that there are three areas of math to cover: facts, computation and concepts. If math has already become a struggle for your child, then you will especially want to break math down into these three areas. Spread math over the course of the day with short sessions covering these areas in separate sessions.

 

  1. Math Facts – Math facts are primarily a function of auditory memory so be sure you present this new information to your child auditorily as well visually. Whether you have a full math curriculum or find materials that cover the different parts, you must include this in your child’s day.

 

My Best Recommendation for Learning Math FactsRapid Recall System 

 

  1. Math Computation – At a different time of the day work on computation skills. Computation is primarily a function of visual memory so I recommend 75% visual instruction. That is you do three problems for your child as he watches. You say only a few words to identify steps as you go along. Then your child does the fourth one. Repeat for the duration of the session of say, 10 minutes. You start with simple addition and work up to long division, fractions etc. If the child doesn’t remember a math fact, tell them so that the process of computation is learned without interruption. You work on the math facts during a separate time. You can get the computation problems from any math book, but if you just want to pay for the computation problems, get a book that has only those problems in it.

 

My Best Recommenation for Learning Math Computation: Remedia Press – Straight Forward Math and Key to….. (Decimals, Percents, Measurement etc.)

 

  1. Math Concepts – The first two items are the nuts and bolts of math. Concepts are how the basics are applied to real life. If you want a regular curriculum, look into Math U See, Singapore Math and Right Start Mathematics. They cover the whole spectrum of math in a fresh way, but it makes it harder to separate out the three parts and concentrate on one at a time. There are a host of math games available that apply these math concepts in an interesting way. You can spend big bucks. Perhaps a better way is a book of games that you can play as a family. My best recommendation is actually a series of books, but the original is the best overall for K-8 math games. Family Math arranges the games in sections according to the different math concepts. Each game has an objective, instructions and sometimes a page that serves as a game board. You may need to add some household items for game pieces. Each game is labeled for one or more of the three age groups within K-8.

 

My Best Recommendation for Learning Math Concepts:  Family Math

Bonus Recommendation for Mental Math / Auditory Skills:  Verbal Math Lessons Series

 

Since math skills build on each other, home educators find it helpful to use a “Scope and Sequence” for navigating through math. Downloadable lists of skills can be found on the Internet. By including math facts, computation and concepts you can prepare your children for Algebra, Geometry and beyond.

Preparing for the New Homeschool Year: Record-keeping

FA-Online-logo-w-tag-1Whether you  homeschool in Washington state or in another state…think about record-keeping. 

By Maggie Dail, M.A.

I have often asked graduates of Able to Teach, a state-approved parent-qualifying course for those wanting to teach their own children in Washington, “Based on your understanding of the homeschool law, what records do you plan on keeping?”

Generally, I get parts or all of the following:

  1. Copy of Declaration of Intent
  2. Copy of the Able to Teach certificate
  3. Planner / portfolio that reflect the time spent on the 11 subjects (K-8) or graduation requirements (9-12).
  4. Annual Assessments

Since the only document that the law requires you to submit is the Declaration of Intent (or maybe in your state nothing is required), one might ask, “Why keep records at all?” Here are my answers:

First, and most importantly for yourself:

  • To help you plan and assess how you are doing.
  • To help you on one of those “bad days”- when you or someone else is “beating you up”- (you know the kind of day that every parent has whether you are homeschooling or not).

 

Second, it is always better to have records if any one of the following occasions mentioned below occurs. Do not let this scare you, because if you are ready you will have the records to show the appropriate authorities (not just anyone who comes to your door).

  • CPS – Even if a well-meaning neighbor makes a call with erroneous information, CPS is required to investigate. If you have records it will more than likely be a brief investigation.
  • Custody battles – Sadly, in my experience, this is the most frequent request for records.
  • Homeschool child is in trouble with the law.

 

Finally, transferring to a school. It is always the receiving school that decides the requirements for enrollment and what they will accept.

  • Elementary /Middle School – usually children are placed according to age, but they may want records.
  • High School – Credits and graduation requirements now matter. (State Approved Private Extension programs like Academy Northwest, which is also accredited, help with transcripts, diplomas and so much more.)
  • College Entrance – varies with college – survey your desired colleges as soon as possible. See pages 53,54 in Homeschooling the High Schooler Available through Homeschool Resources Also see: www.academynorthwest.org

I also encourage parents to consider having a conversation with their children about their “grade level and school.” While Washington State’s truancy laws (Becca Laws) do not target homeschoolers, occasionally they might be mistaken as truants. Older children may be out of their home during school hours if they are part of homeschool activities or even work. More than likely any one questioning them will be satisfied with “I homeschool” at the least or “here is a copy of my declaration of intent” at the most.

Parents may want to talk with their children to be sure they understand that homeschooling is legal and a good choice for their family. Also, if the child is working at a different grade level for different subjects they may not know their grade. For the most part it doesn’t really matter, but if someone asks a child, “Where do you go to school?” or “What grade are you in?” they will be more confident if they know how to answer.

There is no one right way to keep records! You can keep what is most helpful to you and that reflects that you follow the homeschool law in your state. Happy Homeschooling!

 

Maggie Dail has taught for over 40 years and worked with homeschoolers full time since 1994. She has been teaching Family Academy’s Able to Teach, parent qualifying course since 2003. www.familyacademy.org