What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluations
I will not ask your child to jump through hoops for me. A few years ago, in my local area, it was common to hear from homeschooling families that their evaluator “tested” their kids during a portfolio evaluation. My initial reaction? SAY WHAT?! During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to FL law, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above. We are so fortunate in our state to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article to read more. I feel so strongly that the portfolio gives you and me a much more comprehensive picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do portfolio reviews exclusively. Testing has its place. I have my girls test every year in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well. Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. If I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare. Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.
Let’s Look at the Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessments
A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you, (the teacher) have done throughout the year. The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension. You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning. Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare. You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project. Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it. During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio. I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the Florida law ask me to. I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this, and eventually our homeschool-friendly State of Florida will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your child to the test As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children. I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.
Why do you need New Year’s resolutions for your homeschool? I’ll be honest: I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. In fact, several years ago I resolved not to participate in the seemingly pointless, tradition of sharing with friends all the ways I was going to make my life better in the coming year. What a set up for failure, right? I mean, all these ads and sales for healthy foods, supplements, weight loss products, exercise equipment is enough to prove that resolutions don’t last; otherwise all these things would be in your face all year long.
But today I’m not talking about exercise and diet resolutions; I’m talking about resolutions for your homeschool. Are there changes you’d like to make? Things you’d like to do differently? Do your kids have ideas about what they’d like to add to their schooling? Now is the time to regroup, recharge and resolve!
Making New Year’s Resolutions for Your Homeschool is Important and Here’s Why
It allows you to take stock of things. mid-year (or right around mid-year depending on your schedule) is the perfect time to take stock of things. Revisit your mission statement. What has worked so far? What hasn’t? Write the successes and failures down.
It provides a chance to involve your kids in the creation of their education. Ask your students to answer these questions too. Kids can participate in these discussions at any age. In our home we have “team meetings” and discuss things like this. I have found these discussions to be very eye-opening and my girls bring more ideas to me than I ever would have thought of myself.
It gives you a road map of where to go next. If you are anything like me, you want your kids to have wonderful experiences. Isn’t that why we homeschool after all? Jot down all the field trips you want to take, all the places you want to see, all the things you want to do aside from the actual academics and make a list. Plan these out on your calendar for the first part of they year.
Writing these ideas down together with your kids really helps provide a starting place. I am a big fan of lists. I like to make lists, I like to cross things off of my list, and I like to take about list-making. Sometimes though, I get caught up in my pretty lists and forget about why I started making them in the first place. Here’s how to avoid that trap.
Keep it Simple
Don’t do anymore than is suggested above for now. Start with the suggestions above and make three lists of resolutions for your homeschool:
Look closely at what needs to change. Don’t be afraid to admit it or do something about it. No homeschooler ever hasn’t changed things up. Most importantly, be sure to find out why those things didn’t work. Ask your kids for ideas if you are not sure. So often I’ll think that something I have planned will go over well with my girls, only to find out that their interests are different or that they’d rather try it a different way, in their own style of learning.
One of the biggest advantages that we have as homeschooling families is our freedom to be flexible. For us, this means having the flexibility to take off for a few days to see snow in another state, or to ditch the math lesson halfway through when friends call to see if we can join them for a hike.
In the beginning of our school year we make a plan for at least the first three to four months and jot down what field trips we want to take. We always include some to the theater, the orchestra and the ballet. What types of things are your kids interested in? Find ways to expose them to these things. There are so many opportunities for us as homeschooling families! We love it!
When you finish your list of resolutions done this way, you will feel renewed and inspired, not guilty and worried about failure! Share with us one resolution you will make this year, whether it be a personal resolution or a resolution for your homeschool. We’d love to share ideas and inspiration!
While I was writing this post, Kate decided to add her own resolutions to our whiteboard list. A homestead can always use more land and more animals, can’t it? Oh, and cake, Yes, cake, too.
These are the five most important things every homeschooler should know. It helps us to come back to these things often as a reminder!
You Probably Won’t Stick to “The Plan”
We homeschoolers have so many inspired ideas when we first begin! Who doesn’t love a new adventure, with a shiny new schedule to go along with it?I promise you, you will go “off course”. You will “follow a different path”. You will get “redirected”. It’s all okay. It’s necessary, and it leads to new adventures and new opportunities.
Consider this fictitious day. Does it resonate with you?
* 8:30 You and your children begin the day with stretching, exercise and/or prayer time. Everyone is smiling and well-rested. The bigger kids help make smoothie bowls for breakfast at 8:30 am while their younger siblings clean up their toys. Breakfast is followed by journal writing and free reading. Your group history lesson begins at 10:00 followed by a snack (which the kids prepare themselves) and a short free-play or free-time session for everyone until exactly 10:45, which leaves just enough time to fit in some handwriting practice before it’s time to involve the kids in preparing a healthy lunch.
* 11:30 Lunch We want to take advantage of all the teachable moments that we can, so involve the kids in every aspect of daily life. The children will take on the lunch prep, and the younger children are learning about knife skills. We are also going to have an opportunity to incorporate some math and reading into it! Sometimes we plan to cook special ethnic dishes if they correlate to the learning of the week, however, today’s focus is on a Paleo-style menu.
* 1:00 Team-work clean up. After lunch everyone pitches in to help clean up. The dishes, counters, table chairs and floor is cleaned to shining. Household work for a homeschooling family is a family affair. Mom does not do it all.
* 2:30 Read Aloud Time. Since the kitchen is now well-cleaned it’s time for everyone to help fold and put away the laundry that was started first thing this morning. The favorite part of the day is now when the whole family snuggles together on the sofa to read aloud from a current favorite. Vocabulary is discussed, and the kids each do a retelling, so that mom can assess comprehension.
Remember: This is a Fictitious Schedule!
* 3:15 Art. We know that one way to help our kids internalize the learning that has taken place today is to have the kids work on a painting, sculpting, or other art activity related to the lessons of the day. This is all done in a neat and organized fashion. Art supplies are located in the bin with the pretty label, and the kids clean all of these up afterward and put them away themselves.
* 4:00 Math. By this time the clock is ticking ever-closer to dinner prep time, and our shiny new schedule tells us that math must be done. Math lessons take place exactly from 4-4:50. Mom works with each child individually for 15 minutes, and then the children continue with practice on their own.4:50-5:15 Mom does grading and planning for the next day while the kids have play time. Mom needs to check journals, handwriting, history and math so she sends the kids outside to play.
At this point, today, Mom is not finished with her grading, and has not even looked at plans for tomorrow, but the kids are already asking when dinner will be ready. Mom doesn’t know, because she hasn’t planned for dinner and her day with her perfect, fictitious children has not gone as planned; the house is a mess, the kitchen tables and counters covered with paint and glue and glitter, and she can hear one child crying in the next room over her math lesson.
Mom sighs, feeling defeated. How is this going to work? That evening she starts drafting a new plan.
Can You Relate?
Can anyone relate? Personally, I have planned, and re-planned, typed up and handwritten, discussed, and prayed over, plans just like this until one day I realized:We probably won’t stick to the plan. And that’s okay. Your kids, too, will be okay. Read that again, homeschooling moms and dads! Send yourself a text with these words. Write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Use this quote as your copy work for the day. Remember it. This is the number one most important thing for homeschoolers to know.
Following a Daily Rhythm is More Important Than Following a Daily Schedule
It is fine (and good!) to have a road map for your homeschool. Knowing your destination is important and necessary, and you can reach this destination even if you do miss a day, or weeks’ worth of math lessons for example. Sit down and think about what types of things you want to accomplish for that particular month, quarter, or even year. Write them down in broad ideas.
My second grader will be able to read short chapter books and retell the story through writing. He will have mastered double digit addition and subtraction.
What is a Rhythm?
A rhythm is like a schedule, in that following it helps everyone know what will come next. It’s important for both the homeschool teachers and the students to know what comes next, however, you don’t have to be tied down to an exact schedule. Remember, you decided to homeschool for a reason, and one of those reasons may have been that you wanted a different environment for your kids; including a different schedule.Having a rhythm helps you remember that as long as you have a broad sense of what you want to accomplish that day, week, month, or even year; but happen get off-course because someone got strep throat, or a sprained ankle at soccer practice, or you had company down from up North, you will be more likely to be able to go with the flow of whatever life throws at you. And remember, on days when you feel like you can’t get it all done (or any of it done), simply sit down with your kids and read aloud.
Homeschooling is a Lifestyle
I’m just going to be blunt. If you try to duplicate the public (or private) school system in your home, you (and your children), will burn out quickly and you will probably change your mind about homeschooling. I have seen it happen many times. Remember: you chose to homeschool for a reason. You might want to write these reasons down and keep them where you can see them and be reminded regularly. So often we lose sight of the reasons why we are educating our own children. If you are not sure anymore of the reasons why you chose this lifestyle, perhaps a homeschooling mission statement would help you clarify?
Homeschooling is a lifestyle, because homeschooling families do not live like other families whose kids go to either public or private brick and mortar schools.
Generally, some of these differences include:
1. Homeschooled kids are exposed to “real life” situations earlier and more often than their non-homeschooled peers. This is what homeschooling families call “real world learning” and isn’t this what our schools are trying to prepare kids for?
2. Homeschooled kids are often more mature in social situations and have a larger vocabulary than their peers who are not exposed to these real world situations.
3. Homeschooled kids spend more time with their families, and are exposed to, and participate more in the household activities. All these things and more, help prepare our children for the “real world”; a world that is made up of more than a group of same-age, often same-sex peers.
What About Doubt?
When you doubt yourself, please go back in time and remember all the reasons you chose to homeschool in the first place. Write them down. Go back to your mission statement and remember what your homeschool goals are. If necessary, change them. Hold a family meeting and revise and revamp. Talk with your core support group, or sign up for our low-cost mentoring program. Get it out of your head, and move on with revitalized purpose, or with a new plan, but above all, talk about it! You are not alone.
It’s Important to Celebrate Success
You will also look back on each year and marvel at how much your kids have grown. Also, you will notice the importance of not only academic growth, but social and emotional growth as well. You will bear witness to your kids becoming amazing, empathic, self-assured people. Each success, whether it be mastering the division of fractions, or providing a listening ear for a friend in need, will be a celebration of the success of the lifestyle you are living. Don’t discount these seemingly small successes!
It’s Important to Celebrate Failures
On the other hand, your kids will fail too. Failures are also reasons to celebrate. That sounds counter intuitive, right? What I mean is, each time your child fails at something, it is a learning opportunity. We must let our kids fail at certain things, and not rescue them. For example, let’s say your high schooler has an important assessment coming up. This student has procrastinated and has not done his best work and now the time is running out. Do you run to his aid? Or do you allow him to suffer the consequences of poor time management? Each lesson learned this way, is a success and a good prep for not only future college work, but for life in general. Don’t discount failures! They are successes in disguise.
Please revisit this list of the most important things that homeschoolers should know often. It will re-inspire and sustain you. Share it with all of your friends. All of us fall into the homeschooling doldrums every know and then. Remember these things can help lift us up!
Calling All Cat Lovers – Here’s the Ultimate Gift!
When I saw this adorable hoodie on Amazon, I knew that it would be the ultimate gift for Leo, our cat, and Kate, our cat-lover. Leo is actually still a kitten at about seven months old, but he is getting close to full-grown. There is no doubt that he considers Kate his “mommy” because she has carried him around like a baby since he was the size of her muck boot, and he follows after her (and the rest of us) like a faithful dog.
Today, our weather was cool again, by Florida standards, and since it is quite possible for us to be wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts on Christmas Day, we decided to take advantage of the weather and gift Kate and Leo with this hoodie today. If you, too, have a cat who loves to snuggle and be held, or if you know someone who does, look no further. This is the gift you need!
This hoodie is extremely cute. The hood comes complete with little cat ears, paw prints on the front pocket, and pom pom tassels for your cat to play with. The sweatshirt itself is soft cotton material, not too thick, and the pocket is fleece-lined, which can be taken out in case your cat gets too hot. Kate immediately loved this when she opened it and put it on because the material is very soft and not too thick.
Here’s Leo’s first reaction to his new ultimate cat carrier/sweatshirt/kangaroo pocket.
The True Test
Leo seemed to like being carried around in this pocket while Kate walked around outside; in fact, he did not want to get out out of the pouch even after about an hour of riding around in it. Now it was time to really put this carrier to the test, or was she putting her easy-going cat to the test? Either way, Kate discovered that she could also do her outdoor chores while Leo watched and played from the pocket.
I suppose there isn’t much more to hear except the sound of purring. Listen closely after the buzzing of the bee goes away, and you will hear Leo’s purr of approval.
Kate’s Final Review
For over an hour Kate walked around outside with Leo in the pocket, she mucked Biscuit’s stall while Leo stayed in the pocket, and she rode around with me while we spread the mucked poop on one of our pastures. Leo will generally ride along with us anyway, but we think he enjoyed riding in the pocket even more than just sitting on the seat next to us in his cat-dog style. After this initial test, Leo had fun playing in this pocket on and off throughout the day, and I am just guessing that first thing tomorrow morning, when Kate goes out to feed her horse, that Leo will be purring loudly from his fleece-lined womb again.
Kate and Leo both love this hoodie so much, that Kate decided to give you her thoughts on this awesome, adorable, ultimate gift for cats and the owners who love them.
Kate is twelve-years-old and is a typical sized kid for her age. Meaning, that she wears size 12 pants and isn’t quite big enough for a ladies’ size small shirt or hoodie yet. The one we ordered her was a size small (they are only adult sizes) and after reading the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see that most people suggested buying a size up. I did notice that there are a few different sellers on Amazon selling these hoodies, but I am not sure if they are all from the same manufacturer. This one is perfect! It is called the Petgaroo Women’s Sweatshirt. I hope that information helps you!
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Let’s face it. We all have those relatives that just won’t listen when we ask them to send our homeschooled kids educational toys for the holidays. There have been years when we thought about banning our parents from sending gifts and instead asking them to simply send gift cards or better yet, Amazon cards, so that we could spend the money ourselves. But we didn’t want to hurt their feelings. So we didn’t. And now we have more junk than we really want. Add to that the fact that we moved into a much smaller house a few years ago and now we just want to shout, “please send the good stuff!”