Documenting your child’s progress throughout your home education journey is like collecting treasures along the beach. However, it can and should serve as much more than an academic record of progress. It offers a recollection of how your child has grown in a variety of ways. Most importantly, it provides one with a glimpse into who your child is, who he is becoming, and who he might become. I like to look at it as a way to honor your child–so cherish the process!
Many years ago, while home educating my sons, I asked them to create puppets of their favorite mammals. (This was part of a culminating activity, as later I would ask them to use their puppets to “act out” their answers to questions.) Their final products were so incredibly different. My husband and I laughed and laughed about the stark differences, as these products were mere reflections of the differences in my sons’ personalities, learning styles, and preferences. My oldest son’s puppet was meticulously colored and cut, with the animal’s color “perfectly” depicted. My youngest son’s puppet, on the other hand, was vibrant and colorful–the colors clearly not within the “norm,” but truly entertaining!
According to Carol Tomlinson, “Intelligence is multifaceted. Children think, learn, and create in different ways.” Therefore, assessment must also be multifaceted. The end products must and should look different. Thus, the better question is: “What evidence do you have that your student has mastered the objective?” And “What skill, strategy, or process must he know, and does he?” It is that simple!
Once that is determined, how you gather your information is the fun part. The sky’s the limit! (I am sure you are already incorporating many of these.) Here are some of my personal favorites!
- Anecdotal Records & Observations–Keep notes in an old-fashioned spiral notebook. Put the date on the top page and record what you have done that day, how the student responded, and any glaring challenges. Be an astute observer of your child(ren). Which concepts/skills did they master easily? What did they find difficult about that lesson? Are they bored with the content? What poignant or purposeful statement did they make? Review these records later and note what needs to be done the next day or week.
- Portfolios–Keep a three-ringed binder of your child’s work. This could include art projects, book lists, worksheets, writing samples, poetry, as well as photographs of field trips, activities, and projects. Make sure each item is dated. Include as much as you can and need. At the end of the year, you can review and decipher what stays and goes. Make sure you keep some samples from various times throughout the school year so you can show growth.
- Learning Logs for Content Area Subjects–Encourage your student to keep a notebook for Science or History. Upon studying a particular concept or topic, I ask the student to write (or dictate) a paragraph about the topic. (You can be as specific as necessary.) After reviewing the paragraph, you will know whether the child has a firm grasp of the content.
- Reading Response Notebooks can be used for literature. The teacher can pose questions and the student may answer. Or the student may simply write (dictate) a retelling/summary of the story. Again, this informs you how much the child remembers about the story and specific comprehension strategies. Does the child understand cause/effect relationships? Is he/she inferring the hidden meaning? Is he/she able to sequence the key events properly? If challenges are present, then you can reteach those concepts. These are great teaching opportunities!
- Checklists/Lists–Keep a checklist or make a list of books read, words mastered, vocabulary completed, math facts reviewed, etc. Checklists can be your best friend and a quick glance can provide you with an idea of what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.
- Calendar–Use a monthly calendar to note which skills or strategies were taught/learned on specific days. Use different colors to notate whether a skill was taught, reviewed, mastered, etc.
- Assessment Grids/Rubrics–Follow a grid or rubric to ensure that specific skills have been completed and/or mastered. For example, using a Scope & Sequence rubric for phonemic awareness, phonetic analysis, or math skills is an efficient way of keeping track of these skills.
- Formats – What evidence do you have that your student has mastered the objective? A video, photograph, experiment, illustration, essay, or test may assess the understanding of a concept or the ability to apply a skill.
- Be creative and offer your child choices. For example, after studying lightning, provide a list of products the student may create to “show” their understanding. Your child may conduct an experiment and explain the process, illustrate the process by labeling with keywords, or perhaps they can even “act out” a lightning storm while describing the phases.
- Storage – Keep all such documentation in one place. I enjoyed keeping all of my kids’ artifacts in a large plastic bin. What you store them in does not matter. Keeping the documentation is important. Keep copies of any type of informal tests, formal evaluations, or standardized testing. These can be placed in a notebook, binder, or box.
Remember that assessment and documentation of such should only occur when and if it serves to inform your instruction. It is then that the teacher should craft his/her instruction to ensure proper skill application and concept understanding. Otherwise, it is meaningless.
How many tests or assignments have been given to students and the results carefully documented, without a mere mention of what went wrong, why it went wrong, or how it can be corrected? It is when such questions are examined and used to promote more effective instruction that assessment and documentation become valuable.
And only then can you truly honor your child, as well as your journey.
Theresa has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Beaver College (now called Arcadia University) outside of Philadelphia, and a Master’s and Sixth Year Certification in Reading/Language Arts from Central Connecticut State University. She is a Connecticut certified Elementary Educator (Pre-K-8) and Reading/Language Arts Consultant (K-12). She is also trained in the Orton-Gillingham method. Theresa has taught preschool through post graduate adults as she has been a classroom teacher, reading specialist/consultant, adjunct college instructor, and staff development trainer. She spent 15 years home educating her two sons, one of whom has deep dyslexia and dysgraphia. In 2007, she co-founded “Homeschooling Our Special Kids in Connecticut,” which she led for 12 years. Throughout those years, Theresa thoroughly enjoyed facilitating learning cooperatives while developing and teaching a wide variety of courses for students, as well as offering educational workshops for parents. Her greatest passion however, lies in teaching those deemed unteachable, and creating a student’s best learning life. Therefore, in January 2020, she founded “Learning in the Living Room, PLLC,” where she embarks on expanding her impact, and makes this beautiful space and philosophy available to all parents, teachers, and students. She can be contacted via telephone at (203) 525-1205, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website at www.learninginthelivingroom.com