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How can you, a dynamic unique homeschooler, test the progress of your unique homeschool with its’ unique students? Is your homeschool on track?
There’s no standardized test for homeschooling.
I mean, you can give your kids a standardized test just like the ones used in school. You can even compare their results to the public school’s results. But that is a tiny, tiny part of the picture. And one that doesn’t even mean that much. After all, who decided what the average 8-year-old should know?
Don’t despair. Checking the progress of your homeschool and making sure it’s really going where you want it to, is not only possible but necessary.
I have 5 questions for you to ask yourself (and family) to help you see if your homeschool is on track. And even a few steps for you to take if it’s not.
Get out your journal and favorite pen and let’s get tracking!
Question 1: What are your top priorities?
Every homeschool is different. In fact, every year in my homeschool has been different and had different priorities. There is no wrong answer to this question…except a false one. Don’t think of your best friends homeschool, or the Pinterest perfect website. Think about your family, right now.
What is the most important thing?
One year the focus of my homeschool was relationships. I woke up one day and realized that while I loved my children, I really didn’t like being around them. I knew that had to change. How can children learn from someone who doesn’t even want to be around them? Sad but true.
That year I focused only on improving my relationship with them (and a little bit of learning on the side, if it didn’t get in the way). If I hadn’t been honest with myself, the huge progress we made that year wouldn’t have happened and I would still not like being around my children. How tragic would that be?
Be honest with yourself. What are the most important things? For this exercise, list no more than 3 per child.
To learn more: What I Learned From My Year of NOT Homeschooling
Question 2: How much progress have you/your child made on your top priorities?
If your top priorities are academic, this will be easy to check. Pull up work from 6 months ago and check it against what they are accomplishing now. Look for progress, not perfection.
My 1st grader has been working on recognizing her letter sounds easily. In August, I timed her for one minute to see how many sounds she could recognize in that time. Then did it again in January. At first glance it looked like she hadn’t made any progress at all. She said the exact same number of sounds. But when I thought back to her test in August, I realized that in January, she was much more confident of each sound and said them so much clearer! Since speech is her priority, this is a huge win. But even if it wasn’t, this is still progress.
Look for any progress that is being made, including confidence and a shift to a positive attitude.
If your top priority is not academic, think back and find a memory associated with that priority. This is why I have started to journal.
I have one student who I was really concerned about how she handled her temper. I started to journal any time she had a blow up. I wrote: the date, what she was upset about, what helped her calm down, special circumstances, and anything else I thought might be important later. Looking back over that journal has been so helpful in helping her overcome her difficulties, but also in seeing the progress she has made. I can look back over the months and years, and see that she is struggling in this area so much less than she was. If I had not kept track, however, every time a blow up would happen, I would only see the blow up, not the progress.
If you are finding it difficult to answer the question, how much progress is my child making in their top priority, you are probably lacking a useful tracking method. Take a few minutes and decide how you are going to track their progress from here on out. Some ideas include: journaling, tests, video recording or samples of their work.
To learn more: Tracking challenging behaviors
Question 3: What’s the environment like in your homeschool?
Few people realize how important environment is to learning.
Imagine you are a stranger walking into your homeschool. What would they see. What would it feel like? Would it be cheerful? Cooperative? Silent? Chaos? So stressful you are currently refusing to do this exercise? Totally been there.
Now, what do you want it to be like?
It’s important that you answer how you want it to be. Not someone else. I am ok with learning being messy and noisy, if it’s happy.
The biggest question is: are you happy with your environment? Or are there things you want to change.
Question 4: What stage are your children in?
Children grow up so fast! It’s important to take a time out once in a while and see where they are at as children becoming adults.
Are your children ready for more responsibility? Are they handling the responsibility they have well? Are they ready to move on to more adult things? Do they need a more active role in their education?
Sometimes when homeschool suddenly becomes a struggle, I will get to this step and realize that I have been pushing a child too hard. I expect more grown up behavior from her than she is ready for. This is a good question for me, to remind me to back up and let her play.
Question 5: What do the children think of their education?
Take some time with each child and ask them:
- Is there anything you would like to change?
- What do you enjoy?
- Is there anything you would like less of?
- Is there anything you would like more of?
Let them know that this is data collection only and just because they said they want ice-cream every day doesn’t mean they are going to get it.
When I did this I was really surprised by some of their answers. One of my students wanted to study rocks. Rocks? Another told me she wanted reading lessons 6 days a week. Yes, she was asking for more school! You never know how students may be feeling until you ask.
What to do with all this information?
By now you probably have one or two things that glaringly, obviously need to be addressed. Now it’s time to make an action plan. Get out your journal or open a word document. Label it “Making my homeschool awesome” or whatever you want to call it.
Write down all the things you think need changing. Don’t worry about priorities yet, this is just a brain dump.
Look back over your list and pick one really big thing, or 3 smaller things that you think need getting done now. Homeschooling is a process. Don’t worry about picking the right things, just go with your gut. Or go with the ones that feel doable.
Now, make a plan. What needs to happen to get these things done? What are the steps you need to take? Make a new page for each project. Write out all the steps for getting that thing done.
Now, schedule when those things get done. These are top priority projects. When you schedule, come what may, it’s going to get done!
To learn more: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Is Your Homeschool on Track?
This process was probably not the easiest thing for you now. But keep at it. The more you do it, the easier it gets. The better your homeschool gets.
No standardized test required.
- Is Your Homeschool on Track? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions to Find Out - April 4, 2018
- 5 Ways to Be More Productive Using a Homeschool Bullet Journal - August 9, 2017
- Why Your Homeschool Student Needs a Bullet Journal - January 12, 2017