As the leader of our local homeschool group, I have been asked several times recently how parents can keep up with where their child is “at” vs. where their child “should be.” Since there are so many different types of homeschooling, the method used to homeschool will directly influence where the child should be. This is really a tricky question and one that I try to be careful in answering. Really it boils down to … answering the question with a question… “According to whom?”
Homeschooling types range from the “unschoolers” or Charlote Mason styles all the way to the very structured classroom at home approaches. Obviously, the “unschoolers” would not be concerned as much about whether or not their child was meeting the “typical” or “normal” standards for their age. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a negative comment, I have seen this work! The unschooler is not concerned with the “increments” as much as he is with the overall picture of education. Often these children learn in chunks and will study a subject exhaustively, and then move on to another. The unschooled homeschooler usually not only meets the standards, but also EXCEEDS them.
Which makes me ask, “What is all the hype about standards for anyway?” It’s a take it or leave it situation. Some parents like to know that they are meeting or exceeding the “standardized guidelines” – others could definitely leave it. For those who want to take it – there are several reasons that they crave guidance. Some people like standards because they have difficulty judging the scope and sequence of their child’s education and therefore need the standards to act as a goal or bullseye. Some are just beginning their homeschooling journey and the standards or framework make them feel secure and confident that their child is getting what they need.
Either way, here are a few ways for you to keep track of where you child falls in regards to the “standards”: (definitely not an exhaustive resource on this subject.)
- Know the national standards for your child’s age/grade. This is kinda tough for the beginning homeschool parent. Most of the standards are in “high folutin'” language. There are some education sites that will summarize these for you.
- Use a “graded” homeschool curriculum. This just means that the company that developed the curriculum used the national standards and based the levels of their curriculum on school grades. This will help those parents concerned with standards to have an easy solution to knowing where their children are “at” or what they “should be” doing.
- Use a Standards based electronic, DVD or online curriculum. This method is really the simplest solution for beginning shomeschoolers and others who are deeply concerned about performing at level. the online curricula is typically not only standards based, but usually will have parent tracking features that help with grading and monitoring your student’s progress.
- Get them tested. If none of these ideas fit into your style of homeschooling, but you still want to know where your student is at, have them tested. Homeschool your student as you see fit, and then have them take a standardized achievement test. Most states require this from their homeschoolers at least every 3 years. A few of the more common standardized achievement tests are the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Stanford Achievement Test, and the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. There are several more tests that you can read about here.
Hopefully these few ideas will answer the questions. Whatever your homeschool style, wherever you are, you are doing an admirable thing. You are making a difference in the life of your child!