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7/21/2011 11:46:42 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru the Early Years Newsletter--July 2011

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru the Early Years Newsletter
Where Do You Start? Placement Tests and Other Orientation Tools
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Dear Friend,

If I asked you for directions, what's the first thing you'd want to
know? You'd probably ask where I wanted to go, and where I was
starting from. Only when you know where I am going and from where I am
beginning can you help me determine the best route to get there.

What Curriculum Should You Use?

Choosing appropriate curriculum is one of the most common concerns of
parents, whether new or veteran homeschoolers. The word "curriculum"
has early Latin and French origins and means literally to run a
course; I like to think of homeschooling as a journey. "What
curriculum should I use?" is pretty much the same as asking for
directions, figuratively speaking. So, as with any successful road
trip, you'll need to know not only your destination--a well-rounded
education--but also your starting point. How do you figure that out?

Informal Assessments

As a homeschool parent, you observe your child on a daily basis and
can probably determine pretty accurately in which areas he is strong
and in which areas he could use some maturity or additional help. His
verbal interaction with you, his hands-on activities, written work,
periodic subject-matter tests (if you use them), and his achievement
of goals you have set for him are all informal indicators of his
progress and abilities.

But sometimes you can still have trouble orienting yourself, figuring
out which homeschool direction to take next. I'm incredibly
geographically challenged--known to get lost in parking garages or
within a mile from home--and this translates into my often being
disoriented in many areas of life; my kids know not to give me the
map--just tell me the landmarks to look for! The same process can work
for home education.

Landmarks: Scope-and-Sequence Guides

Many parents find it reassuring to have some sort of guidelines for
academic landmarks or milestones, such as Robin Sampson's "What Your
Child Needs to Know When" http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11786
--with checklists for evaluating progress in language arts, math,
science, and social studies (K-8th) as well as character development.
A few other resources with scope-and-sequence lists--guides to
age-appropriate learning--include:

> "Learning Objectives for Grades K-8" by Hewitt Homeschooling
Resources http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11787

> "Easy Homeschooling Techniques" by Lorraine Curry
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11788

> "Luke's School List" by Joyce Herzog (Joyce has also compiled Luke's
Life List, a checklist of life skills and character traits to prepare
a child for independent adulthood.)
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11819

> "Teaching Children" by Diane Lopez (Currently out of print but may
be found in many public and support group libraries)

> "Typical Course of Study"--World Book Encyclopedia
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11789

> Essential Learning Objectives (For grades K-8, this product lists
the math and language arts learning objectives for each grade level.)
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11790 )

> Virginia Standards of Learning (The Virginia SOLs are considered by
many states to provide the benchmark for learning standards. To see
the learning objectives for the public schools in your state, type
Standards of Learning + [Your State] in the search field of your
browser.) http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11791

Various publishers or curriculum providers have their own lists, such
as Bob Jones University Press http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11792
and A Beka Books. http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11793

Placement Tests

Another option is placement tests, either informal or more structured.
(See sidebar for some placement test resources.) When my daughter
switched from one algebra program to another, we weren't sure where to
begin, since different publishers approach the same subject in a
slightly different order. So she took the chapter test for each
chapter until she got to a chapter at which she wasn't successful.
This would let us know where she needed to begin, rather than
repeating the earlier chapters with material she already knew.

Many parents use their children's standardized test scores
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11794 as diagnostic tools; in this
case, I suggest you hold these scores loosely and remember that these
are simply a snapshot of your child on a given day. Also, standardized
tests aren't designed to determine what your child knows, but what he
knows compared to other children. So don't be too swayed by the actual
percentile scores; instead, pay attention to extremities in scoring,
such as an average math score but a significantly low language arts
score.

Assessments for placement purposes usually concentrate on math and
language arts because they are skills subjects which are generally
covered sequentially. In other subjects, such as social studies and
science, it is easier to pick up with the time period or topic in
which you are interested. For these subjects, a scope-and-sequence
checklist might help you avoid huge gaps, while placement tests are
often not as helpful because these content-rich subjects are not as
contingent upon grade level.

Now What?

The providers of scope-and-sequence guides or placement tests may be
generalizing a particular school population (such as a specific public
or private school) or may be tailoring their placement tests to their
own products. Be sure to cover any statutory requirements for your
state, http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11795 then exercise your
parental judgment. Use any standardized test, placement test, or
scope-and-sequence checklist simply as a guide, not as the definitive
answer. Sort of like the little voice in the GPS--you can
"recalculate" your route!

Once you have determined where your child "is" in a given subject
area--usually language arts or math--pray about what God wants your
family to learn this year, then set goals
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11796 for the year and select
materials to help you meet those goals.

If you still feel a bit lost in the wilderness of the myriad options,
check out our specialized web sections at Homeschooling Toddlers thru
Tweens (formerly Early Years) http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11797
, Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner,
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11798 and Homeschooling thru High
School http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11799 for more information.
And remember that HSLDA members have personal access to our education
consultants--who also happen to be veteran homeschool moms. (Not a
member? Join today! http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11800 )

Gotta go charge my GPS,

Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Toddlers thru Tweens Consultant
www.hslda.org/earlyyears .


Stay Strong

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be
terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with
you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

More placement tests/assessment resources:

> Testing/evaluations articles from HSLDA
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11801

> "What Should I Be Teaching?" by Vicki Bentley
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11802

> "What Should I Do With My Preschooler?" by Vicki Bentley
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11803

> "Evaluating Progress" by Kara Murphy
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11804

> "What Your Child Needs to Know When" by Robin Sampson
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11805

> "Evaluating for Excellence" by Teresa Moon (for grades 4-8)
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11806


> English grammar placement test
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11807

> National Right to Read Competency Test
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11808

"Part 2 [of the test] consists of six paragraphs taken from the middle
part of school readers, grades 1-6, that were in wide use 100 years
ago--a time when children were taught to read with intensive,
systematic instruction in phonics. . . . Keep in mind that
grade-level 6 is equivalent to high-school level reading today." (
From http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11809 )

> Schonell Test to determine reading age
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11810

> Sonlight reading assessment http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11811

> Letsgolearn.com (Reading and math assessments)
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11812

> Alpha Omega Publications placement tests
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11813

> State standards testing for various states
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11814
> Sonlight curriculum math readiness
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11815

> Teaching Textbooks placement tests for Math 3 through pre-calculus
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11816

> Other sources for placement tests:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11817

> Thinkwell math placement for grade 6 through calculus
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=11818
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