I expect that you are an intelligent, loving person. You and your spouse probably care about your children more than anyone else possibly could. You want what's best for them. And you work hard to raise them well.
With that formula in place, I believe you are situated to be your child's best teacher.
There are many great teachers out there, and yes, they have been trained. Many do a wonderful job and even pursue ongoing training. But even so, I believe that parents are uniquely created to deal with their own children.
You Know Your Children
You know your children better than anyone else does. You know when they're just being lazy, and when they're struggling. You can see when a concept has clicked. You may not know everything, but you do have incredible insight into what's happening in your children.
You Have an Intense Interest in Your Children
And, you desire for you kids to succeed far more than any gifted, wonderful teacher could. I have never met a homeschool mom who said "You know, my high schooler can't read. It didn't come easily, so we just gave up." (Of course, some children with special needs may never learn to read, but I bet their moms still help them succeed in every other way they can!)
I know moms will beat the bushes until they find what their kids need to thrive. Even the best teacher–limited by class size and resources–can't compete with that drive.
God Trusts You to Raise and Teach Your Children
So if you have doubts regarding your abilities, know this: God intentionally gave you the children in your home. He placed them with you and trusts that you can and will raise them.
When you're overwhelmed, He will help you. He will equip you for this task to which He's called you.
I believe with all my heart–you can do it!!
Because you are so well suited to teach your children, I see Sonlight's job as simply providing you the tools you need to do that.
I know you are incredibly busy with daily life. So I want you to have every material and lesson plan you need each day. That frees you to focus on what you do best: loving, guiding and teaching your children. God bless you as you do.
Imagine going to bed each night without worrying about what you were going to teach in the morning. Imagine not having to create your own schedules or come up with questions to test your students' comprehension.
When I was young, I remember being anxious. Not only was I scared of mice, snakes, and the usual assortment of phobia-inducing creatures, but I also was scared of going up and down stairs at night, worried about natural disasters that were unlikely to happen in our area of the country, and very sensitive to the feelings of others, whether real or imagined.
Some of my children have inherited my ability to worry about the world in general as well as being upset about injustice, disliking crowds, and having irrational fears. With children who are afraid of going outside after dark and worry about the apocalypse at four years old after hearing a sermon at church, I hesitated to use a program like Sonlight. After all, Sonlight uses stories with difficult topics.
Now, years later, I'm so glad I chose Sonlight because the books have helped us work through fears in unexpected ways.
Books Teach That Some Fears Are Irrational
The first time I picked up the book The Gods Must be Angry in Sonlight’s now Pre-K Program, I was shocked it was included in a program designed for such young children. It’s a small book about a young boy who broke a very important false idol in his family’s home, one that was helping their entire family to be happy. Without this idol, disaster might reign on their family and bad things would begin to happen, or so the boy’s family firmly believed. I placed the book up high on a shelf and resolved to forget about it.
But when the time came in the schedule to read it, there was this nagging feeling inside me that I ought to read it. I pulled it down, and looked it over, and had almost decided again not to try, when my daughter asked me, “What’s that book?” Quickly, I resolved to try reading it, but stop if she got too scared.
As we read, she was shocked that the boy would be so upset about breaking a false idol. By the time we reached the end, where the boy's family had left behind false idols and turned to Christianity, my daughter was overjoyed for them.
I seized the opening, and we talked about how the boy was truly afraid of something, but just because he was afraid of it, didn’t mean it was really going to happen.
While my daughter didn’t suddenly lose all of her fears, she began to see that just because she was scared of something or someone didn’t mean that her fears were fully based on reality.
Books Teach That Not All Scary Things Are Always Scary
When my third daughter reached the book My Father’s Dragon (now found in HBL K), she immediately vetoed it, convinced that because it had a dragon in it, it would be too scary for her. I knew that with my older children, I had also been skeptical reading any book that included dragons, even if they were good dragons.
Normally, I would not push my daughter to listen to a book about something she thought might be evil, but she was doing the level with her younger sister, who couldn’t wait to read it, and I had read it three or more times by then and knew it wasn't scary. So I gave her a green index card to hold up each time we read it. If she thought it was going to be too scary for her to hear, or it had evil things in it, all she had to do was raise the card, and she could leave the room.
She huddled anxiously, listening carefully for the slightest hint of danger or doom, while I calmly read the first chapter. The next day, she was a little less tense listening to the book. By the end of the book, she said she wasn’t scared at all by the baby dragon, and even looked forward to reading the sequels. She was able to participate in our crafts afterward, and was even the mastermind of creating our own Map of Wild Island.
I'm happy that my daughter learned that just because something is bad doesn’t mean it is always evil, just as a person who does bad or evil things is still worthy of talking to about salvation, because they also have some good in them. If we only look at and see the bad, we can never see the likeness of God in people who are making poor choices.
Books Teach that Small Children Can Still Make a Difference
The book The Hundred Dresses in HBL A doesn’t sound like a scary or intimidating book. However, it does deal with the painful topic of bullying. While my children have always been homeschooled, they are exposed to limited amounts of bullying at Sunday School or in small groups.
In the book, a group of young children start to poke fun at a little girl who acts and dresses differently. While most of the children aren’t even aware they are doing anything wrong, one girl slowly starts to recognize they aren’t acting right. She speak up although she is a little too shy and scared, worried the others might start teasing her as well. However, when it is too late to make a difference anymore, she begins to regret not saying anything.
After this book, my oldest daughter was able to identify with the girl who was too shy to speak up, but she also began to see the value in asserting herself when it comes to helping others.
I saw her newfound conviction borne out in her actions at church and with groups friends. While she still struggled to speak up for herself or give an opinion, anytime she saw even slight injustices to other children, especially the very young ones, she immediately inserted herself and tried to make peace.
Books Teach Children They Can Outgrow Fears
If ever there was a child who was taught to be anxious, it would be Elizabeth Anne, from the book Understood Betsy from HBL B. Elizabeth Anne is full of worries, fears, and anxieties, shared by her aunts, who were also afraid of many things. Eventually Elizabeth Anne comes to realize that her greatest fears were mostly fear of the unknown.
Once Betsy is able to face her fears, she no longer needs to be afraid of them.
My oldest son loved this book. He found that he, too, was able to start challenging himself to overcome his fears. First in small ways, by going to the bathroom at night using just his night light, and later in greater ways. He found some fears are not so easy to overcome. He has also learned that sometimes fears go away as he gets older.
Books Teach that Mistakes Can Be Redeemed
That same son used to worry greatly about making mistakes. Being the perfectionist that he is, even from a very young age, he has always tried to do everything perfectly and quietly. He was the child who made his bed every morning, even when the blankets were heavier than he was, and arranged his crayon box by color. He got upset when things got out of order, and would be very upset if he accidentally hurt someone.
However, the book George Muller in HBL B gave him great hope. George Muller didn’t start out life being perfect. In fact, by the time he was a young adult, he was doing a great deal of non-Christian behaviors, including drinking, gambling, and cheating. Yet, God had a plan for him, and one day, not only did he stop doing all those things that were displeasing to God, but God called him to be a man of great faith, with a faith so great, it would challenge even solid Christians to have greater faith.
My son learned that no mistake was too great for God to work with. Even if he had a past full of mistakes, he could still do great work for God.
More importantly, he learned to rely on God to help him overcome those mistakes, so he could do even greater works in the future.
Books Teach That Faith and Prayer Can Overcome Fear and Evil
One of my daughters used to be up late at night worrying about all the bad things that might happen someday. Her family might be hit by an asteroid, or die in a hurricane (in Minnesota), or perish by fire. She worried her family might be kidnapped and she would have to survive on her own, or she would be kidnapped and unable to escape. She would wake up with nightmares that she was dead and just didn’t know it yet.
To my surprise, one of the books that helped her the most was Gladys Aylward, from HBL C. Gladys Aylward is not the first book one would think of to help children overcome anxiety. Not only does Gladys undergo hardship and suffering, she is held at gunpoint, her house is bombed, and she leads over 100 children through the countryside of China while trying to avoid being caught in the middle of a war with insufficient food or water. It is hardly a calming or peaceful book!
Yet through it all her scary tribulations, Gladys held on to her faith and never wavered in her prayers.
She accomplished the impossible and narrowly avoided one disaster after another. Watching her go through so many hard times and come out with a faith that was refreshingly honest and pure helped my daughter to see that all natural disasters are under God’s control.
I could go on and on about the Sonlight books we have read over the years which have helped my children face their fears. Each time we read another story of a scared but brave character, my children grow a bit in their own personal victory over anxiety.
Pick your curriculum, including everything you need to homeschool, by using SmoothCourse.
In the Sonlight Connections group (membership for anyone with a free account on sonlight.com) and the Teacher Connection group (membership offered to qualified new Sonlighters), we asked brand new, unexpected homeschoolers how they are juggling working with teaching their children at home.
Bottom line (and you already know this), doing both is difficult. But many families are making it work through an incredible amount of flexibility and perseverance. We hope their stories will encourage you that you are not alone in your struggles! And maybe you'll find a few tips for making these days easier.
[Some responses have been shortened for brevity and lightly edited.]
Family Negotiations Are Key
"I am the youth director and do a lot of the work from home. We all make adjustments to make it all work. I'm fine with negotiating with my kids. They kindly asked last week if I could do my Zoom meeting in their room instead of another part of the house so that they could watch a show while I did my meeting. It worked great and everyone was happy. Winning."
Flexible Schedules Are Essential
The most common refrain from working and homeschooling moms is about the need of (and appreciation for) flexible schedules: either different from the public system or different day to day depending on circumstances.
"It's our first time to homeschool. I have a 4th and 6th grader, both boys, and I still work. So the flexibility that we get from homeschooling is great. I wish that I could stay home full-time. The Sonlight IG makes our lives easier. I do not regret making the decision to homeschool with Sonlight."
"I work from home, and this is my first year homeschooling. It can feel like a bit of a roller coaster. One minute I think this is the best decision we have ever made and then other times I get bombarded with doubts: Did we make the right choice? Am I enough for the kids? Will they learn what they really need? Sonlight's Facebook groups have been such a blessing. They help me get out of those anxious/doubtful times. [I get s]o much encouragement from the other moms and dads who have the same struggles or questions that I have.
"One particular thing I have struggled with is the fact that it’s hard with my job to have set times for our lessons. When I first started homeschooling my mind just equated school time as 7:45 to 2:45 (the same as public school times here). Through blogs, posts, and other homeschoolers I have learned that I can let go of that idea in my situation and embrace what truly works for us. What a relief to let that go!! "
"I am the executive director of a nonprofit and had a baby 2 months ago. So I have a lot of things to juggle while homeschooling. It's going a lot better than expected and I'm finding ways to fit it all in even if it's split up throughout the day for me and him because of baby or because of pressing work matters. He has adjusted much better than expected and is eager to learn and even asks to do school most days. We're finding he is very gifted in math and we're able to find real life applications to some of the lessons and it helps him connect it all and retain the information. I am loving that we can school any time anywhere and that we are able to to a deeper dive into his interests and encourage that life long learning."
"This is our first time [homeschooling]. I work full time from home. I love the flexibility we have to be able to do school at any time. We are currently in week 3 and have had no major issues. I was worried about how I would be able to work and teach, but the kids (4th & 10th) have been very good about working around my schedule. The IG tells me everything I need to do for daily lessons which makes everything stress-free for me. I was really worried at first but now I have gotten more comfortable with the IG and how everything is set up. My 4th grader and I can get through her full curriculum in about 4 hours and we set read aloud time after dinner. This was the best decision we made. No more tears of frustration for our 4th grader!"
Jenny C. N.
"I've worked from home for the past several years. I'm fortunate to have lots of flexibility with my job, but it's still been stressful. Glad we chose the 4-day curriculum which allows me some flex time to focus on work when I need to. And the IGs have saved me a ton of time in not having to figure out what to do every day. My biggest challenge is overcoming my perfectionist tendencies and not trying to be everything to everyone everyday."
Work Expectations Had to Change
Something has to give! You can't do everything all the time. Some moms talked about having clear boundaries with work and adjusting workflow or work expectations to make room for homeschooling.
"We were not expecting to homeschool! My daughter has always loved school! We decided as a family that this was best for this year. I work from home but was doing nutrition talks all over (which I moved online less often for the season) ahd seeing some individual clients in person/online. I knew I had to take some things off my plate to do this, so I made some changes. But am still juggling work with homeschool.
"I had a lot of doubts, but having the lesson planning done with Sonlight--has been huge! I am also finding so much joy in all of this ... far beyond what I expected! I love that in this chapter, my daughter is getting to grow in her faith, learning a lot about history, getting to do math at her pace, and I feel like we have a connection greater then we ever have! There are hard days, but the reward feels worth it!"
Tammy C. S.
"I think a lot of self-starters, which homeschoolers tend to be, tend to give their all [at work]. Clear parameters or good boundaries in the right position was a big help to keep from bleeding into homeschool time until I was well-established with homeschool routines."
Some Moms Have Opted to Leave the Workforce
Working while homeschooling is draining, and some moms have opted out of work altogether for this season of life. That's okay! And we want to honor their experience here, too.
"After experiencing the stress of trying to manage distance learning for a kindergartner, an active three year old, and a full time teaching career, I decided to leave my job [to] homeschool. The adjustment has been difficult, but I have no plans to return to work. We’ve kept at it, and we are finally finding our groove. I wish we had discovered Sonlight in those first dark months, but everything happens for a reason. Our days aren’t perfect, and I miss my work. But there is also joy in freedom. It only takes me about 20-30 minutes to organize my plans and materials for the week. That means I have the time and energy to focus on what matters most—relationships."
Tracy N. A.
"I did give up a job to homeschool, though it was only part time. It was office work, which I'm quite good at, so it was a bit difficult to give up a source of approval and competence. However, as I'm several weeks into homeschool, I realize that I may not have a boss around to tell me what a good job I'm doing, but I enjoy what I'm doing. Doing something I have a passion for is much more rewarding than something I'm good at, but indifferent toward."
Angela P. P.
We Actually Love this Lifestyle!
While everyone admits that working and homeschooling is not easy, many families are thriving with this new lifestyle and are considering continuing it past the Covid-19 crisis.
"I’m running my business from home, newly homeschooling my first grader and pre-schooler, with an 8 month old baby. I never would have thought I’d do this. Much less be (mostly) enjoying it.
"Only God can do that kind of miracle in your heart and mind. He truly used COVID to show me what could be, and open me up to the possibility of this. It’s not easy, and I do struggle at times, but I’m finding that He is sustaining and providing for me as I walk in obedience and trust."
"I am self-employed and run a small salon. I am also a full-time homeschool mom with the help of my mother-in-law who is actually a freshly retired school teacher. My only regret is that I didn't do this sooner. My son is so much happier and together we have pulled more productivity and enthusiasm out of him than any teacher he has previously had. I do feel like Sonlight is a little advanced for him coming from public school in 6th grade, but we are catching up quickly. I really believe if we had started off with Sonlight much sooner, we would have seen this happy and eager learner much sooner."
Sonlight Instructor's Guides include complete lesson plans and notes for the entire year! Just open and go each day.
Homeschool co-ops are a source of connection and fellowship for families all over the country. At co-ops, bonds are formed, and people come together for one purpose: raising and educating children.
My family began a homeschool co-op in our small town four years ago, and I am always amazed to think back at how it all came together in the beginning and how it continues to come together each day. Our co-op meets four days a week from 8:00-3:30. We teach all subjects, and parents can either pay full price for teaching services or they can swap services by volunteering. Some parents do a combination of both.
It is truly special to see our parents coming together and applying their unique gifts to serve our little group of children. I'm inspired by these parents who are committed to giving their children a quality educational experience — together.
Since we began our little co-op school four years ago, it has grown and changed. In fact, this year was our first year to actually have a waiting list because our location cannot accommodate any more families than we currently have. This waitlist caused me to wish that there were more options for homeschool co-ops in my little town. So I began to think about how we got our start, and how I could help others get their start.
It is my vision to see little pop-up co-op schools all over, each one catering to the unique needs of the children in their care.
This is the beauty of a homeschool co-op. They aren’t just one-size-fits-all. It’s a process of determining the needs of your community of children, and doing what you can to meet those needs.
So, this leads me to the question that may be on your mind. How do I start a co-op in my area? I’ve created this little start-up post to help. Hopefully it will inspire you to build a community of homeschoolers in your city as we have.
1. Find Like-Minded People
The first thing you will need to do is find other homeschoolers in your community. Put out a plea on social media or in the local newspaper. Contact area churches and ask if they have any homeschooling families in their congregations. You’ll need to build a core group to get the co-op up and running. In this stage, you’ll need to build a bond with the people who will be creating the co-op, so take your time here, and make sure that your core group is compatible. Do a lot of praying, and ask God to bring the right people into your life. Spend a few months to a year getting to know your core group. You might even start an informal co-op with these families by meeting together each week.
2. Write a Mission Statement
Get together and decide what you all need/want in a co-op. Are you looking to provide social interaction for your children, or are you wanting to provide educational experiences? Maybe you are looking to trade your skills/expertise in one area with someone who has skills/expertise in another area.
Think about what you want from this experience, and share your thoughts with your group. Then, together, write out a mission statement that covers your goal for the co-op. Remember, you can always grow and change, but it is so good to have clear expectations when you embark on any new endeavor.
3. Appoint Officers and Craft Job Descriptions
You’ll need to form a co-op board of people who will lead your group. You’ll want to decide how often these people will rotate so as to avoid any one person getting burned out. Most co-ops have a president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. Although there really is no set-in-stone formula for the number of members on a board, you’ll want to try for an odd number so there is always a tie-breaker if needed for making decisions.
Be sure to write job descriptions for your officers so the expectations for everyone are clear and concise. Don’t forget to check your local finance laws on homeschool co-ops so your treasurer will know his/her duties clearly up front. When everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them, the operation runs much smoother and no one feels as though others are not pulling their weight.
4. Determine How Your Co-Op Will Run
After your board is set, you’ll need to begin deciding how the co-op will run. Think about the following questions:
Who will teach?
Who will organize our field trips?
How many times should we gather?
Will we require members to volunteer or can they drop off their kids?
What will we charge for drop off services?
Will we trade pay for volunteer hours?
What curriculum will you use?
Once you decide on the administrative elements of your co-op, you will need to write it out. I would caution that you not make your policy too long. Short and sweet is the best way to get information out, so write out your information keeping the goal of being clear and concise in mind.
5. Secure a Location
You might be pleasantly surprised to find that many churches and communities are more than happy to loan out their facilities for homeschool co-ops. Ask around your community to see if any organizations could help you find a meeting place for free or for low cost. Commit to leaving the facility in better shape than when you found it so that the hosts will welcome you back each week.
6. Create a Schedule
Now things are getting fun! Get your calendar out and begin mapping out your year. Mark days to meet. Then write a schedule for your meeting days. Determine how many volunteers you will need and make a volunteer schedule as well.
7. Spread the Word
Once you’ve done all the leg work, advertise for other families to join in. Create a Facebook page to put out information, and publish your policies and schedules. Since you have clear expectations written out and published, it will be easy for families to decide if your co-op will be a good fit for them.
In the beginning especially, it is wise to set a limit on how many families you will be able to accommodate. Once you hit your limit, let people know that you will place them on a waiting list and let them know when a place becomes available.
It is my earnest prayer that all these homeschool co-ops will thrive and grow so that all families have options in their children’s educational experience. Raising your children with other like-minded families is so very rewarding. Your children get the benefit of a whole group of adults investing in their education and well-being, and they also reap the benefits of plenty of multi-aged playmates.
I know that our little co-op that began as a dream several years ago has certainly blessed my family. If you don’t currently have this support system for your family, then I hope you will consider taking steps to start one. Chances are good that if you are looking for some extra support, there are other families in your area who are looking as well.
If you long for a community that provides educational enrichment, encouragement, creativity, fun, and friendship, Sonlight Connections is for you.
Just leave these books out where kids can find them, and let the science magic happen!
That's what strewing is. It's a slightly sneaky and very laid-back learning strategy that capitalizes on a child's natural curiosity. You simply strew about interesting things—in this case books—for them to pick up and read. You don't make a big deal about it. You don't even necessarily point them out. You just set the books in the path of your child and let the young reader take the initiative.
Of course, the key here is to use the very best, most interesting science books. Otherwise, a child will quickly lose interest. We've got you covered with a dozen family favorites that kids just can't put down. Most of these titles are drawn from complete Science curriculum packages which are indicated below.
These titles appeal to a broad range of ages whether budding scientist full of questions about how things work or a full blown science geek who is ready for scientific principles.
Huge, salty seas and oceans make over two-thirds of Earth's surface a deep mystery.
Discover this other world, from the coastal shores and tidal pools to the bottom of the Pacific's Mariana Trench—nearly eight miles below the waves. Get to know many unique ocean creatures including whales, sharks, plankton and penguins. How do they use migration, defense and cooperation (symbiosis) to survive? And how do humans interact with the oceans, and impact our planet?
This science book is an exciting look into the wonders of the galaxy. Each page is filled with facts about heavenly bodies, spectacular full-color illustrations, and thematically appropriate website URLs that offer more about the objects and mysteries of the cosmos.
This book tells the fascinating story of medicine from the ancient physicians of Pharaoh to modern genetic engineering. The author paints his tapestry in the most winsome manner possible: by telling the personal stories of several dozen medical pioneers.
Request a Sonlight catalog for more carefully chosen books you can trust will be a hit with your kids.
The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the hardest, weirdest years for a lot of people. As a society, we have had to change and adjust to so many things. Everything we knew from years past, we suddenly have to do differently. From leaving school early last year to starting school online this year...it’s been tough.
I’ve been hearing from many parents that virtual learning is more than a challenge; it’s a struggle.
It’s been difficult for students, parents, and teachers, and I’ve heard many parents lately expressing that they just don’t think virtual learning is going to work, but they don’t know what else to do. Here’s what I’d like to share with you…
It’s okay. You do have options.
In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes that parents make in their child’s education is believing that they are trapped into a single path.
If you are in a public school situation that isn’t working for your child, it’s easy to think you're stuck.
If you start homeschooling with one curriculum but soon find that your child isn’t thriving, it’s easy to feel you have no recourse to switch.
If you are in virtual school with a child who is withering, again, it’s easy to convince yourself that there are no other options for you.
So you and your child tough it out, for better...or worse. Soon, you notice that your child dreads logging into their daily schoolwork. Then you may find tears and anxiety are close to follow. After that, the disconnect and the loss of interest and effort are apparent.
You find yourself feeling trapped. You want to help your child, but do you have any other options? Yes you do!
In homeschooling, you decide when and how your child will learn. If a Monday-Friday schedule doesn’t work for you, that’s okay! Do school in the evenings or on the weekends. You might even really switch things up and school year-round, giving you more breaks throughout the year.
You may be surprised to find that, depending on the age of your child and your choice of curriculum, your time commitment may be the same or possibly even less than what it is with virtual learning. You may also be surprised to learn that colleges are becoming more and more homeschool-friendly, happily accepting and offering scholarships to homeschooled students.
If you are interested in finding out what’s available in your area, do a quick online search or start asking around.
3. Consider Blended Education
Many communities are making it easier to blend your child’s education with a mix of different avenues. Look at your state’s laws to see if your state allows a blended education.
For example, where I live in Arkansas, children can take as little as one class at a public school while homeschooling the rest of the day. This is especially beneficial for children who enjoy sports, music, and STEAM activities. Other states provide a hybrid of in-person or online charter school with at-home instruction that you provide.
Talk with your local school administration or state homeschool advocacy organization to see what is available for you.
I’m not going to tell you that homeschooling is easy or stress-free, but I will tell you that it is a good option for families who aren’t satisfied with virtual learning.
If virtual learning is a win for your family, that’s great! We are rooting for you! But, if it’s not, don’t stay in a situation where no one is thriving. Don’t be afraid to try something different. Try homeschooling! If you do decide to give it a try, we are here to help at Sonlight.
“But how will I know if my child is where he should be?” That’s usually one of the first few questions prospective homeschool moms ask me. We always want to know if we are doing things correctly, if we are on target, if we are equipped for the task. Regularly assessing our children is one way that we can rest easier in the evenings. In addition, regular assessment provides documentation of learning, progress, and growth. Even if your state doesn’t require documentation, I think that it’s a great idea to have it on hand should the need to show growth ever arise.
1. First Determine Your Goal
Before you begin assessing your child's progress, an important step is to determine your goal in assessing. Is your goal for your child to be ahead of grade level? At grade level? Or is your goal to make sure that your child is progressing, regardless of grade standards?
I lean toward the progressing model. It’s not as important to me how quickly my children progress as long as they are steadily progressing.
If there is a sudden halt in progression, that’s when I am concerned. I prefer this method of assessment because not all children learn at the same rate, so comparing them with their peers simply based on the fact that they were born in the same year seems arbitrary.
Before you go any further, be sure to determine your goal in assessing your child. This will help you to know which assessments you will want to use in your homeschool.
2. Next Determine Your Grading Scale
Most of us are most familiar with the A, B, C, D, or F system of grading. This is a percentage based system. This system works well when you grade a paper by points, assigning each question a certain amount of points and deducting points for any questions the student missed. This works well when you emphasize memorizing facts. It also is the scale that is most widely used on high school transcripts.
In the elementary years, I prefer using a performance-based model that gives a grade according to how well you are doing on your goals. For example, with my elementary children, I use this scale:
BB (Below Basic)
This grading scale allows you to look at their performance on each individual goal. In this scale, your assessments are generally shorter because you’re simply looking to see if your child has mastered that particular goal.
For example, if my child has been working on long division, I might give them a page of three long division problems. If they get all three problems completely correct with no mistakes, I might assign them an Exemplary grade.
If I see that they’ve definitely got the idea, but they made a computation error on one of the problems, I’m going to assign them a Proficient score simply to remind them that being careful and double checking your math is important.
If the child gets the problems halfway correct, but seems to get hung up in the same place each time, I’m going to assign them a Basic score and we are going to go back to work on that skill until they earn a Proficient score.
Finally, if a child clearly doesn’t understand the concept in the least, you’ll give them a Below Basic score and this will be your signal to go back a little further and start back at the beginning. I have found this grading scale to work well with Sonlight Curriculum in the elementary and middle school years.
You can also use an even simpler version of the performance based scale, known as Pass/Fail or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. This is a really easy system of grading that is good for helping you know whether to progress or stop and reteach. It is especially helpful in the very early years such as preschool and kindergarten.
3. Finally Determine When You Will Assess
Public schools use four basic assessments that I am listing below. As homeschoolers, you will probably find that you don’t need that many assessments. You will likely keep close tabs on where your child is simply through working with them every day. However, for documentation purposes, you’ll want to use at least one of these forms of assessment.
Diagnostic testing is given beforeyou begin a unit of study. This tells you what your child already knows. This is helpful at times because you will not waste time going over concepts your child already knows. However, you should also warn your child that it's perfectly okay if he or she doesn't know many answers.
Formative testing is assessing in the middleof a unit of study. For example, a quiz given in the middle of a study on fractions will give you an idea of how your child is progressing through the concept. This is formative testing.
Benchmark testing is assessing your child at the end of a unit of study. A chapter test in geography is an example of a benchmark test.
Summative testing is assessing your child at the end of the year. A standardized test is a good example of summative testing.
Sometimes a combination of tests is appropriate. Other times, you’ll only need one type. I have found that as a homeschooling mom with a very low teacher to student ratio, I tend to know where my kids are academically most of the time, so I hardly ever use diagnostic testing. I only give a standardized test every other year and only beginning in fourth grade. Mostly, I use benchmark testing, which, for me, includes a short, simple assessment at the end of a unit of study. This provides me with concrete documentation of my child’s learning throughout the year.
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