With winter coming to an end and spring upon us we are also entering a new season in our homeschools. It’s time to recognize the progress we have made. Perhaps we are a little behind and have not been able to accomplish all that we have planned. But does that mean that we have not made progress or that our children haven’t learned? As the bitter cold gives way to gentle warmth let us recognize all we have accomplished and begin thoughts on what new seeds to plant.
One thing I have learned about homeschooling over the years is that I need to track successes. We often set the bar far higher than any teacher would because we want our children to succeed! How can we keep ourselves in tune with the objective without driving too hard? Better yet, what are our objectives? How can we measure all that our children have accomplished? We must feel confident that they are making progress and that our efforts are paying off; otherwise it’s easy to get lost in the effort and simply feel like we are spinning our wheels.
Depending on our circumstance, not all assessment types are good indicators of how we are doing. You have to find the best way for you. For example, what happens to the mom of the ADHD child if she only considers the day to be a success if her child finishes every page of the program? Does it mean she has failed or that he isn’t learning because he hasn’t completed all his work? Or what about accelerated children? Are they being challenged enough? And the reluctant reader? Is he making enough progress for his age? You get the idea. It is important that we choose the right way to track success so we can see our progress and not get discouraged or doubtful of our abilities.
Here are 5 possible ways to track your homeschool success and to ensure you meet your homeschool objectives.
1. Write goals for each of your students every year.
Goals are the perfect way to know if you are meeting your objectives. They define what your objectives are for your student and lay out at the beginning of the year what you want your child to achieve. If written properly, they are specific and easily measurable at the end of the year. Either your child has or hasn’t met the goal. If you haven’t written goals in the past, try doing so next year. When your child meets a goal, begin working on another. In order for your goals to be fruitful, they must meet these 3 criteria:
- Goals must be measurable. In other words, you have to be able to quantify the way in which the goal will be met. For example, instead of saying “John will learn to read” you may say “John will be reading at 1st grade level,” and then have a way of measuring that such as a trustworthy reading test or assessment.
- Your goal should have times and dates when applicable. Your goal may read, “John will be reading at 1st grade level by second semester.” That is a good measurable goal, and you will know if you have met it. Another example may be something like, “Micheal will have his times tables memorized at the end of this school year.” You can also add non-academic goals such as life skills you want your child to develop or goals based on his particular need.
- Lastly, your goal should be realistic and attainable. You must make sure your goal is within your child’s ability to attain. Goals should be realistic for your child’s age and appropriate for her ability. This may sound obvious, but sometimes we can be overachievers.
Once you have goals written, you can check in anytime to see how close your child is to achieving them. Some moms choose to do a mid-year review checking in on progress around Christmas break. With goals, you don’t need to finish every page of your text to know that you have succeeded!
2. Keep records of all you’ve accomplished.
Most likely no one will ever see your records but you. But that’s the point. They are for your benefit as the teacher. You can use your records such as work samples and portfolios to compare your child’s earlier work with the later work. Reassure yourself how far you’ve come. This of course works only after a year’s time at the very least. See how far your child has progressed by taking time to note the improvements you see in his work today as compared to last year. There are many types of records you can keep. The simplest and quickest way is to file samples as you go. I have used binders for each year in the past. But after 10 years of homeschooling with 3 children, it added up to way too many binders. So I recently got my records down to all 10 years in one file box.
3. Use standardized testing.
I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, tests do tell us something. I find them helpful in regard to pointing out each child’s areas that we need to work on. I usually know about them already, but it reinforces for me that my observations are correct, and sometimes I am surprisingly made aware of other areas where we should work as well. So there are benefits to using tests. On the other hand, these scores compare your child’s performance to other children in the same grade level. This tells you nothing about how YOUR child progressed, though. It simply tell you how he performed in comparison to others. For children with special needs, other types of evaluations are more helpful.
4. Use grades, verbal feedback, or rubrics where appropriate.
This isn’t as important in the elementary years. Unless you’re a true unschooler, you’re probably going to do some of this as your child goes into middle and high school. Kids need feedback in order to know how to improve. It’s just that simple. If you use the same standard, for example, for writing assignments, then as they progress their grades should too, at least until the standard is raised again.
5. Utilize a tracking system.
I have never done this, but I can’t overlook it as a viable option. I know many homeschoolers who use them and are happily doing so. Some moms prefer to use a record keeping system to track their children’s success. One definite benefit is being able to print out a simple spreadsheet to keep as your record at the end of the year. Two examples of homeschool tracking systems are Homeschool Tracker and Applecore . They often tell you about trends in your child’s performance or highlight areas of concern. Here are a few reviews right here on Hip Homeschool Moms for Applecore and Rhino Tracker that may help you in assessing if this option is something you are interested in.
What way do you like to track your homeschool success?