How to Assess Student Learning in for Homeschoolers?
Homeschooling is wonderful because it allows instruction to be very individualized, hands-on, experience-based, and student-led. The wide variety can cause parents to struggle to know if their child is on grade level. Especially for first-time homeschool parents who are only planning on homeschooling a year or two.
A Few Cautions Before We Start:
First of all the wonderful thing about homeschooling is that it is individualized. Students and parents can work together to help the student reach their full potential one step at a time. Parents have the luxury to work from where they’re student is, instead of focussing only on grade level.
This blog speaks to the benefits of homeschooling in a very eloquent way. This is a great article for the mentality a homeschool parent should adopt.
Also, remember that when you are assessing student progress, we focus on the measurable data points. These points are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. There is a danger when we focus too much on assessment, that we lose focus on some intangible, but very important elements of learning (like student motivation, curiosity, work ethic, ability to communicate and problem solve, etc.). This article talks a little about the pros and cons of student assessment.
That being said, here are some general tips especially for parents new to homeschooling during this time of COVID.
Find Resources and Curriculum that are Rigorous and Standards-Based.
Standards are the learning goals for students at a certain grade level. Many states have similar standards (most states have adopted Common Core Standards). As a parent educator, I would familiarize yourself with your child’s grade-level standards (Check them out HERE). Then if you implement a curriculum that is standards-based (or focuses on teaching those learning goals) as part of your work for your child, they should be right on grade level when they go back to school.
To find a curriculum that is rigorous enough, look at a practice test for your state standardized testing. Give it to your child at the beginning of the year and see what areas are needing more practice.
Here are some ideas for a free curriculum that is rigorous:
Prodigy (it can be a lot of “playtime” if you do not supervise it...but it also is a great resource for having students practice standards-based, rigorous math problems).
Check out THIS PAGE to find more ideas on choosing a curriculum for your child.
One of the most important things a child learns (especially in early elementary) is how to read. Make sure you are taking time during the day to help your child read. Here is some guidance on how to break up reading into phonics, fluency, and comprehension to help your child step by step.
To assess your student in reading here are a few suggestions:
Have children start with a phonics screener to make sure they know all the rules.
Next test them on sight words to see where they may need some practice (I use fry’s list HERE).
Then time them reading a grade-level passage for 1 minute and record the number of words they read correctly
Finally, have them take a comprehension test on a grade-level passage.
These are a few areas to test in reading to know what your child needs more practice with during reading time. But remember, YOU are your child’s best asset in knowing what they need (much more than a teacher with 30 students who would just be meeting your child for the first time). The most important thing is to keep them motivated to read and practice reading!
Implement A Few Routines
Are you struggling to create a balance between a really engaging curriculum and curriculum that encourages practice on skills your child needs? You can get a curriculum that provides quick skill practice on the concepts your child needs to work on and then use that as a guide to know what areas your child needs more practice with each week or unit. These routines may only take 5 to 15 minutes a day, but it can be an anchor/pacer for you so you can enjoy spending most of your time doing engaging, hands-on projects, while knowing your child is still learning grade-level skills.
Some skills that may need routine practice can include:
Reading Comprehension (read a passage, answer questions)
Math facts (addition/subtraction, multiplication/division)
Take some practice tests
Most states have practice tests for the end of year standardized testing. You can use this as a guide to making sure you are checking all the boxes and keeping your child on pace. Have them take the practice test at the beginning of the year, in January, and then again at the end of the year to help guide you in your instruction.
Remember Not All Growth is Measurable
I just want to begin and end on the same note...remember that our ultimate goal in education is to prepare students to be successful in life. Very few jobs require students to pass multiple-choice tests. Teach your child to be a problem solver. Help your child integrate multiple subject areas into one project or apply concepts they are learning into everyday life. Show your child the value of seeking out knowledge and being informed.
Not only are these things more important than testing, but odds are, if you are doing these steps, your child will probably do just fine on standardized tests.