Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Evaluating Scholastic Progress in Your Homeschooled Student

It's that time of year. The time of year where if two homeschooling moms get together -- even if it's in the aisles of Wal-Mart -- their thoughts turn to how their kids measure up.

It's that time where we wonder if we've really done a good job. How would our kids compare to others? What if they got thrust into a traditional classroom? Would they be okay? Where would they be ahead? Where might they be behind?

Ack! What's a mom to do?

This is the point in the school year where I take an honest assessment of my kids. Spelling has never been our strong suit. For my 8 year old it's math facts. The kind that come with lots of flash cards. I'm a good speller, but I hate the roteness of it which means I struggle to make sure my kids get what they need. The same with multiplication and division facts. This year I finally found a program that seems to fit us...but now, I wonder if I need to move my oldest back to a more traditional approach. The questions and doubts never end. Here's how I try to handle the questions.

1) Research. I ask other moms. How are their kids doing? What do they use? What seems to work or what was an absolute failure. It's important to remember that there are different learning skills and styles. Now there are different approaches that help with most of those styles. But ask others for advice. They might have something that worked brilliantly or not so well. With all the choices out there for homeschoolers, don't try to evaluate them on your own.

2) Pray. God know our kids so much better than we do. He'll direct us to the right approach. Spelling is our bugaboo, but as I prayed about it, I felt a conviction to hold back and work on reading and writing. If the reading excelled, I thought she'd begin to understand when a word just didn't look right. That approach has paid off. While not an exceptional speller -- yet -- her spelling is definitely at grade level now. Maybe by next year, we'll get ahead.

3) Be diligent but relax. I've decided my kids stress when I stress. And stress is not really the best environment for learning. My daughter got jazzed about algebra when she realized it was a puzzle. Now to convince her spelling is the same!

How do you handle the questions that come with homeschooling?


Laura McClellan said...

Back when I homeschooled my kids (they're grown and gone now), I worried like all moms do that I wasn't doing it "right" and whether they were keeping up with their classroom-schooled peers. In addition to all the approaches you mentioned in your post, after a couple of years of homeschooling, I decided to test them to see whether they were on track for their ages. At the time, the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills was considered the best standardized testing platform, so I ordered them through an accredited source and administered the tests, neurotically following the testing protocols. When the results came back, I learned that they each had tested at least two years ABOVE grade level in every area. I sort of quit worrying about "keeping up" after that. :-)

Cara Putman said...

Laura, that's great! My mom did the same with us -- tested with Iowa Basics every couple years just to make sure we were on track...with similar results. I did that a couple years ago with my oldest, and then last year with both of the school-age kids. it really does help to give you the assurance they are right where they're supposed to be or ahead.

Laura McClellan said...

I agree, Cara. I used to do the tests every other year, mostly because the kids thought they were fun!


Cara Putman said...

It does give them a break from the normal pace :-)


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