In this post, we’ll talk about the last piece of your homeschool strategy: evaluation. How do we measure success so we can improve for next year? Will our kids turn out as well as we hoped? Our hopes, like the hopes of any homeschooling family, are very high.
I remember hearing of a homeschool family whose four children all ended up in Harvard. When I look at the many studies on homeschooling, they indicate that homeschooled children are over-represented in spelling bee contests, and other academic contests. They are more likely to find employment and tend to be more resourceful as adults. They are more involved politically and in their community. Some homeschool families with children who have special needs have found their children progressed much faster at home than they had at school.
And though all these outcomes sound wonderful, the real question that needs to be answered is whether that will happen for us.
Despite these success stories, not all homeschool situations are an overwhelming success. Some students progress better in the school than they do in their home. There are many variables, and assessing the progress of the homeschooling program as you progress is critical to staying on track for success.
How can we become more efficient and more effective? This is a big question with many potential answers and I will only discuss the three main areas I feel are most helpful:
An area that I think is not emphasized enough in homeschooling is what educators call “classroom management.” Cooperation in the learning process is critical to student success whether at home or at school. When one of our children is uncooperative or struggles to pay attention, learning is not as effective as it could be. For this reason, one simple test of the probable success of homeschooling is measuring how cooperative the children are outside of schooling contexts. If my child is willing to do daily chores without a big fuss, and will help when asked to do so, likely the relationship between us is cooperative.
Children aren’t the only variable, though. If my home atmosphere has a lot of yelling and arguing, this is not a good learning environment and its success will be limited. It is important to prioritize “homeschool classroom management” to maximize success.
It is also beneficial to have external measures to help us evaluate the success of our homeschooling venture, but not just any external measure will work. It needs to align with the homeschool family’s goals.
One tool that has provided me with a valuable external measure of math and reading skills is SuccessMakerⓇ. This computer-based online program, available through ADLC, assesses the student’s academic ability. It also provides tutoring tailored to the student’s needs.
Some other options for fulfilling our external measures criteria:
- CTBS tests and various online assessments are also valuable.
- ADLC has placement exams at the high school level and they will provide the suggested course level for the child.
- Taking teacher-directed courses provides a lot of external feedback, giving me a sense of how my child compares to other children in Alberta.
- Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma exams provide similar feedback.
The strongest sense of success often does not come until children have graduated and moved successfully into post-secondary education or career pursuits. This is why in the earlier years of homeschooling, it is important to learn from those who have traveled the road before.
Learning From Other Successful Homeschool Families
My wife and I have found that many of the most helpful resources are books and online information from other families who have been through all of this before. I have created a list of suggested resources based on years of reading on this topic and from our own experience trying various resources. These resources are loosely similar in rigor and academic equivalence to the Alberta curriculum, meaning that students who succeed in these resources are at a similar level to those in an Alberta school at that grade level.
No other family is exactly like ours and each family has unique tastes and goals. I have tried to capture a variety of styles based on the success of other families as well. If you are interested in doing your own research, there is a lot of information available, and here is a link to some key research sites I have used in the past. What works well in one situation may not work well in the next, but with the growth of the homeschool market, the number and quality of resources is continually growing.
The more involved parents are in the education of children, usually the better the results. However, at times we tackle too much. If we burn out as parents, everything could come crashing down. Alternatively, if we don’t invest enough time into our child’s education, the results will also suffer. For this reason, efficiency needs to be a part of our decision-making process around resources and methods of educating our children. But that’s a blog for another day!