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Evaluating Progress

By Kara Murphy

Years ago, in Choosing and Using Curriculum by Joyce Herzog (a book no longer in print), I learned one method of evaluating the progress your child is making. As I no longer own a copy of the book, you will have to accept my paraphrasing and improvising and know that like most of the ideas I share, this idea originated with another, in this case, Joyce Herzog.

This evaluation works best if used consistently over a long time. Periodically, perhaps twice a year or once a quarter, have your child sit at a table. While you will be asking him to do things, refrain from helping him find the answers. If he asks, tell him, “I want you to do the best you can do. Just do the best you can on your own.” While he is working, make notes on the way he completes the assignments given. You may want to time each section.

Process of Evaluation

On a sheet of paper, have your child write his full name. If he asks, you may explain that that means his “whole” name.

Next, have him write the date. Don’t tell him the date. He may get up to look at a calendar, but don’t instruct him to do so. This is part of the evaluation. Does he know where to find the information he needs?

Tell your child to draw a person, any gender, any style.

Instruct him to write the alphabet in his best handwriting. If he asks if he should write uppercase or lowercase, instruct him to write both.

Below the alphabet, have him write the five hardest words he can spell correctly.

Then have him write one to three sentences (according to his ability) about anything he would like to tell you. This could be a story, if he likes.

Finally have him write the four hardest arithmetic problems that he can solve and then have him solve them. If he is able, have him write one for each operation: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Take a picture of your child to put with his evaluation. Do not correct anything on the page.

Importance of Evaluation

The first time he completes this evaluation, the purpose will be to give you direction in teaching and to provide a “baseline” for learning. Did he have difficulty writing the date? Did he find the information, but he didn’t use the right format? Have him write the date on his copywork papers. One of my sons consistently confused certain capital and lowercase letters. His alphabet writing not only revealed handwriting issues, but it also showed the fact that he did not understand the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters at all. (Sorry to pick on you, son, but evaluating your progress was quite a challenge in the early years.) Do your child’s sentences show a lack of proper structure? Now you know what to emphasize in copywork. Perhaps, your child chose too-easy words and problems to be sure to get them all correct. Risk-taking might be something to encourage in this child.

The strength of this simple evaluation is revealed over time. By having your child repeat this evaluation periodically, his growth will be obvious. Far from memorizing and forgetting for a test, this evaluation will show long-term internalization of academic skills. It also makes a nice one-page summary of growth over time.

Next week, we will look at one way to increase competence in skill areas by the use of games. (See Kara's next entry at Homeschooling Today.)

Be confident. Jesus will perform it. (Philippians 1:6)

P.S. Evaluation is important for individualization, but testing is not. Can you see the difference here?

Respond: How did he do? Were you surprised by your child’s performance? What will be the next area on which you will focus?


From the FirstYear e-newsletter distributed by Homeschooling Today magazine. Used with permission.

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