The school year is complete, but what kind of progress has your child made? And what do you do with the information about that progress?
Annual assessment is an invaluable tool for guiding your future homeschool planning. It helps you make sure you have laid a good academic foundation for your child and are building on it in a systematic manner. It also uncovers any gaps that need to be dealt with immediately.
The most practical assessments come from resources that indicate what your child should know or be able to do at each age, grade, or stage of learning. Well Planned Start is an assessment that practically walks you and your child through the evaluation process, but you can also find grade-by-grade checklists from various curricula that can give you an idea of how your child has progressed.
Using the Information
As important as it is to evaluate each year, remember that evaluation or assessment of any form is meaningless if you do not know how to apply it to real planning for the coming year. Here are some suggestions for turning an assessment into a real plan.
With any form of evaluation, assessment, or comparison there is always the temptation to stress and panic over something we missed. Guess what? It’s okay! Any evaluation will show that there are some things your child did not learn or retain over the course of the past year.
Various curricula take different approaches to learning, so in any assessment the first consideration is, “Did we even go over this material this year?” Even if the material was explored in a previous year, it is probable that your child, especially in the elementary and early middle school years, does not recall enough details to answer assessment questions correctly.
Does that automatically mean that your child is behind? No! It simply gives you a point of evaluation to help you consider what you need to focus on in the coming year.
Make a List
Lists help us break down information well, even for those of us who are not normally list-makers.
Write down the topics or concepts your child struggled with. Then work through the list item by item. Divide the list into the following two categories:
- concepts my child learned but did not retain
- concepts or topics not covered
You will handle both categories separately as you look at the new year, so hang on to these and be prepared to refer back to them regularly.
A Little Help
Start with the concepts that your child learned over the past year but did not retain. Think back over the year. When were those concepts covered? Was it at an especially busy time? Were you rushed in any way? Was there struggle with them at the time?
As you approach summer break or plan a new year, consider ways to work these concepts into the learning process. Well Planned Start includes teaching tips to help reinforce some of the concepts in fun an natural ways. Consider working some of those tips into your break, keeping learning light and fun. Or plan to spend the first month or so of the new year in review, targeting those concepts that need to be reinforced.
Sometimes the concepts will be revisited in the new year. Take a look at your curriculum or lesson plans of choice. Are some of those concepts covered again? Will it be possible to enrich those planned lessons to emphasize skills and concepts that need to be relearned?
The Big Picture
Next look at the “big picture” concepts or topics that you did not cover through the course of the year. These are concepts that are best looked at through the eyes of multi-year planning.
For math and language arts concepts, pay close attention to your curriculum of choice. Actively look for the concepts that were not covered. When will they be introduced? Are they listed in the upcoming year? Keep in mind that Well Planned Start always includes a few concepts that should be too advanced for your child, because a perfect score means you need to test for a higher grade! So, a quick look ahead over the concepts coming up in the next year or two can help you know whether or not there is truly an academic gap that needs extra work to fill in.
Science and history are much more fluid than math and language arts, especially in the elementary years. If you are learning on a history cycle, use Well Planned Start or your concepts checklist to help you make sure that your child covers the history gaps at some point before starting high school. Then, make sure American history, world history, government/civics, and economics will be covered through the course of the high school years.
Approach science in a similar fashion, ensuring that your child is introduced to foundational topics throughout the elementary and middle school years that will prepare him or her for high school science.
Pull It All Together
Once you have broken down and considered scores, concepts, topics, and the difference between real gaps and big picture concepts, you are ready to make a plan of action.
- If there are gaps, contemplate whether there are enough to warrant a repeat of the previous year’s learning, maybe using a different curriculum or approach.
- If a repeat of the entire year is not necessary but gaps do need to be dealt with, make a list of ways to handle those gaps with as little stress as possible. Make learning fun through games, hands-on activities, read-alouds, field trips, and daily life learning. Sometimes a fresh approach is all that is needed to cement those concepts.
- Be sure to not overload the new year by piling new information on top of the need to fill in gaps. It is okay to slow down a bit, if needed. Homeschooling allows the freedom to let our children learn at the pace that is best for them. Take advantage of that freedom! It could be that extra time now might turn into faster absorption of a more advanced concept down the road.
Above all, remember that assessments and evaluations are meant to guide you, not stress you. You know your child better than anyone. Let your annual evaluation be the compass that helps you give you and your precious child exactly what you both need to succeed!