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Evaluating Your Child's Progress

For homeschooling parents, failure is not an option. Who would want to fail their own children? That's why homeschooling parents are constantly evaluating learning materials and mentally monitoring how their students are doing. Most of your evaluations will be based on observation and reflection, and will be an everyday, ongoing process. In addition to observation, some families use diaries or journals to record work assignments for the day. Some families use very large calendars to record what their child accomplishes each day. And some families use a teacher's record-keeping book to keep track of assignments. As children grow older, they can keep their own records and write down the books they are reading, their activities, and whatever else they care to put in their journals.

Every state has its own requirements as to the type of record keeping and evaluations required by homeschoolers. Some states require testing, and some states require academic portfolios.

Testing is a controversial topic among homeschoolers. Some parents like testing because it reinforces their own observations that their child is learning and identifies any "gaps" or weaknesses that might exist. Testing is also used by some homeschoolers to keep their child at "grade level." Other homeschoolers dislike testing because they don't believe tests are accurate in the first place and they want their children to learn to evaluate themselves, not to rely on something or someone else to validate their learning. Most homeschoolers use testing if it helps them achieve a goal, like getting into college, but do not like to do yearly testing because it requires them to spend too much time studying for the test and takes time away from other interests. However, if your state requires academic testing, you have no choice but to comply.

Portfolios use photos, notes, and schoolwork to show what your child has learned, experienced, and accomplished. Portfolios can be kept for each grade or each semester. Some homeschoolers show progress by including two samples for a learning activity, one from the beginning of the semester and one from the end, so the child can see how she has improved. For example, you might include a sample of the child's handwriting and essay writing from the beginning of the semester and from the end of the semester.

Flexibility is an important element in both your evaluations and your record keeping. Whichever method you use to evaluate your child's learning, make sure that it is flexible and personal. Do not let testing and record keeping be the focus of your homeschooling. Remember, your goal-as parent and as educator-is to bring out your child's special gifts. And with that in mind, you can develop a system of record keeping and evaluation that celebrates your child's successes and chronicles his achievements.

    Excerpted from: Homeschooling for Success: How Parents can Create a Superior Education for Their Child by Rebecca Kochenderfer and Elizabeth Kanna

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