I recently asked in some groups, and my Facebook page if anyone had any burning homeschooling questions. Here’s one response:
Any kind of standards or testing systems to consider especially in case of children at middle school levels. How can you check if your child is up to the current level of academic performance?
This is a common question, and I haven’t addressed it yet on the blog, so I’m glad you asked!
Homeschoolers and standardized testing
There are many ways you can measure academic performance. In Minnesota, we are required to complete some sort of standardized test with our children that is approved by the school district. I’ve written a comprehensive post on Real Life at Home about the different standardized testing options, so I won’t go into detail about each test here, but just know you can test your children with the same, or very similar tests to their public school counterparts.
Not all states in the US require that you complete standardized testing, though. You can find out general information on a state by state basis, or read up on all the state laws for homeschoolers from HSLDA. Last I checked, you had to sign up for their mailing list to get the state law information, but it’s an easy trade off for the ease of learning what’s required of homeschoolers in your state.
Limits of standardized testing
Let me make this clear:
Standardized testing is only a tool. It is not a pass/fail for your homeschool or your student.
As you get more comfortable in your homeschool and settled into a learning environment, you will be able to measure academic progress on a more nuanced level. Does your child explain their observations in more detail? Do they seem more curious about the world around them? Do they seem more relaxed while working through their math problems?
These are all indicators of progress that a test can not show.
Many homeschoolers would be saddened watching their child pass a standardized test with flying colors, and then never pick up a book for the rest of their lives.
As you get comfortable in your homeschool and realize that learning happens in so many forms, the goals of homeschool grow bigger and wider than standardized tests.
Measuring academic performance without standardized testing
Some kids really don’t fare well with standardized testing, and it doesn’t do them any good to only be measured on one test a year. That puts entirely too much pressure on that one test. There are other ways to measure academic progress, outside of an exam.
On the more traditional side, you can see their progress through their own curriculum. Did they complete what was asked? Are they using their new skills in reading, writing, art, and logic?
On a less traditional note, you could keep a journal of their progress. Some families keep a binder of their favorite work throughout the year, and some moms keep a notebook with their own notes on how their children are doing, and what they are learning.
It’s easy to feel like your kids have hit a plateau in learning if you do not keep records of their work, so at the very least, keep some samples of their work. You might be surprised how much they’ve grown and learned when you look back at what they did at the beginning of the year.
As you head closer to homeschooling high school, curriculum naturally heads more traditionally, so it’s easier to see measured performance because many families are using textbooks that include exams and other measures to keep tabs on their performance. In fact, most homeschool resources have testing built right in for you to use, if you wish.
When you are truly falling behind
One year we took the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills – a standardized test used often in MN) and Kira, who was in 7th grade at the time, tested below average for research skills. Oops! We had leaned too heavily on online resources and I had forgotten to show her how to look things up in a printed encyclopedia or dictionary. Fortunately, our library actually had a class on research skills, so we signed her up.
Another time, she was struggling with understanding the nature of variables in pre-Algebra. We stopped our current lessons and she took a couple weeks to run through the Khan Academy videos that cover this topic.
My point? There are homeschool resources for all the issues you encounter.
Also, most kids will be in various grade levels for different subjects. Your 4th grade student might be in 6th grade math and 2nd grade reading. Public schools are adapting to allow for these types of fluctuations with students as well.
Not all students will be on grade with everything. All students have struggles or weak points. The point is progress, not uniformity.
Your job as a homeschool mom is to facilitate progress, not to emulate the public school system at home.
Need more ideas on how to help your student make academic progress? The wealth of ideas contained in this book is second to none!
The rest of the series to check out!
- Q&A: Homeschool Scheduling (February 20, 2013)
- Q&A: Homeschool Time Management (March 7, 2013)
- Q&A: Keeping Track of Grade Level (March 18, 2013)
- Best Kids Islamic Resources (April 1, 2013)
- Q&A: Planning the High School Years (May 7, 2013)
- Q&A: What is a co-op, and why have one? (May 28, 2013)
- Q&A: Pros and Cons of Virtual School (June 10, 2013)
- Q&A - I'm not patient enough to homeschool (June 26, 2013)
- How Do You Check Academic Performance? (October 19, 2015)