Success is defined in many ways—from a favorable outcome to the attainment of wealth and prestige. It can simply mean the accomplishment of your goals. So, for many homeschool families, measuring homeschool success can look different from family to family. For some families, measuring your success may simply be based on setting appropriate homeschool goals. For others, it may mean setting up a student with a complete homeschool transcript, a progress tracker that reflects good grades on homeschool testing and completion, or even doing well on standardized testing. When you’re determining how to measure homeschool success for your family, you’ll need to consider what your goals are and how you will measure whether you’ve achieved them. How can you declare homeschooling a success when it is all done? What key performance indicators will you measure?
Homeschool Goal Setting
The first step in measuring the success of your homeschool is to set some goals. Make sure they are SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each of these characteristics ensures that the goal will drive you toward your desired result. We all have experience with New Year’s resolutions such as “I’m going to exercise more.” The problem with this goal is that it’s vague and undefined. How will you know if you “exercised more”? More than what? How much more is enough?
A SMART version of this goal would be “This month, I’m going to set my alarm for 5:45 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week and spend 20 minutes working out.” Next month, you might change your goal or keep it the same, but the time-bound nature of this goal gives you the opportunity to feel a measure of success rather quickly. With the original goal, you might give up by the time February or March rolls around, and you have no momentum to get you going again.
Similarly, your homeschool goals should be more specific than “finish all the 4th grade subjects with my child.” You can write goals for a month, a semester, or a year at a time but then create a list of tasks that will get you to the end result. Try to stick to process-oriented goals, like the exercise example above, rather than result-oriented goals. You usually can’t guarantee a certain test score or grade, but you could ensure that your child has sufficient opportunity to practice test-taking to build confidence going into the final exam.
What does achievement look like for my child?
Achievement looks different for each child. Your goals for each child will probably look different, too. The definition of success for your child may depend on interests, attention span, and learning style. Certainly each course your child takes and each unit within that course will have objectives to meet. Base the goals you choose on your child’s strengths and weaknesses. You know best what these are. If your child is behind in a core subject like math, you might write a goal like this: “By the end of first semester, Jack will be able to multiply single digits in his head with more than 85% accuracy.” You can practice regularly and easily measure that goal by the end of the semester.
Homeschool Testing, Quizzes, and Alternatives
Regular assessments are the best way to determine whether your child is meeting the objectives of a course. They can also serve as guideposts to show you how to improve your teaching. Assessments do not have to be high stakes exams all the time. They can simply be an opportunity to provide feedback about how your child is doing in the course. Tests and quizzes have their place, but so do questions during lessons, activities, writing assignments, labs, and other alternatives. Save these examples of your child’s work, so you can visually see the progress made throughout the year.
What about standardized testing for homeschoolers?
If you live in a state where standardized testing is a requirement, then do your best to prepare your child without simply teaching to the test. Give plenty of opportunity for practice tests. If standardized testing is optional for you, you should still consider using them if your child is college-bound. Since standardized testing will be required for most colleges, it would be helpful if the SAT or ACT is not the first standardized test your child ever takes. The best chance of a good score on those tests comes from having prior experience with that style of test-taking. Either way, there are some pros and cons to be aware of before you decide whether and when to start using standardized tests.
Pros of Standardized Tests
- Standardized tests are a tool in your toolbox as a home educator. You will have data comparing your child’s results with those of other children of a similar age. This is valuable insight into strengths and weaknesses that will help you set goals for the following year. They may reveal certain subjects you need to spend more time on, or perhaps a certain type of question that your child struggles, with such as essays.
- The more familiar your child is with standardized tests, the more consistent and accurate the results will be. If your child plans to attend college or intends to have a career in a field with certifications, test-taking skills will be invaluable.
- They can provide reassurance that your child is on track. Especially if you are new to homeschooling, you might have doubts about where your child stands in relation to other children of the same age.
Cons of Standardized Tests
- For students with test anxiety or learning disabilities, standardized tests can be a bad experience and may not accurately reveal the student’s knowledge.
- Even for students without test anxiety, taking standardized tests can be stressful, especially if it is a new experience.
- Standardized tests are limited in what they can measure. They may not accurately reflect the depth and breadth of a homeschool education.
Perhaps you have decided not to take standardized tests in the past because of the stress and anxiety they cause your child. Consider how you might help your child through that stress and teach coping strategies to reduce stress. Ultimately in many cases, the ability to tackle a difficult testing situation will serve your child well in the future. As long as you are not placing undue emphasis on the test and its results, testing can be a great tool to help with goal-setting in the following year. Remember that the scores could never define or encompass all that your child is and knows.
How to Prepare for Success in Homeschool Testing
Whether you’re using regular tests and quizzes for assessment, or using standardized testing to measure success, here are some ways to prepare and make the experience as stress-free as you can.
- Take practice tests. With your regular curriculum, you can often use chapter reviews as informal practice tests. These reveal how much your child already knows about the material. With standardized testing, many test publishers offer simple practice tests so students can get familiar with the format. For test security, these practice tests are usually only a few questions, but if your child has never filled in bubble answer sheets before, it’s great practice.
- Visit the testing center before achievement test days. If your child will need to go to a testing center or a school building to take a standardized test, visiting ahead of time can alleviate some uncertain.
- Consider less stressful assessment options during regular school days. For children with test anxiety, remember that a standard, multiple-choice test or quiz isn’t always the only or best option available to you as a homeschool parent. Less stressful assessment options include projects, essays, labs, discussions, and others. So long as your assessment methods have measurable objectives, they can count for transcript grades.
- Stick to your routine. Try not to create more stress about the test by overdoing the practice and spending a lot of time talking about it. If you act like it’s no big deal, your kids are more likely to relax and do their best work.
- Get a good night’s sleep. A well-rested test taker is the most likely to perform up to her potential. This is actually true all the time, since sleep is a time of memory strengthening.
- Eat a good breakfast. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Serve up a combination of protein and healthy carbohydrates to keep your child full and energized throughout the morning.
- Prepare fun snacks. Prepare your children’s favorite snacks for testing days. Make sure there are plenty on hand, especially if you have several children taking tests on the same day.
Homeschool Transcript Requirements
Your homeschool transcript should include all courses your child took during high school. If your state has required courses for graduation, be sure to include them on the transcript. Be sure to follow your state’s standards for required courses. But you should also be recording every class, credit hour, and grade your child receives during each year of high school. The grade you calculate on your homeschool transcript will typically be the average of all the points your child has earned on various assessments (tests, quizzes, projects, homework, and others), or it can be a pass/fail indication when the course objectives are simple (PE is often a pass/fail course).
Standardized testing scores are not typically recorded on transcripts, but your state may require them to be reported to your state’s department of education or your local school system. Colleges won’t typically require regular standardized testing scores, but they often require SAT or ACT scores. These scores should be kept separate from your homeschool transcript.
Finding and Using a Homeschool Progress Tracker
The Homeschool Hub is an all-in-one solution designed to help you track your progress through BJU Press Homeschool courses. It can also help you track other electives you are designing yourself or from other curriculum publishers. It is designed to help with day-to-day scheduling all the way through to creating a transcript or other progress report of your child’s work. If you have purchased online video courses from BJU Press, the Homeschool Hub will also contain the streaming video content for each day’s lessons, along with digital copies of the textbooks.
Whether or not you use the Homeschool Hub, some type of planner is an important tool. It will help you keep track of your lesson plans, and be able to show progress throughout your homeschooling years. Staying organized is an important factor in being able to demonstrate that your children have successfully completed their goals and objectives for the year.
• • • • •Valerie is a wife and a mother to a very busy preschooler. In her free time she enjoys reading all kinds of books. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Bob Jones University, minoring in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from Ohio State University. Valerie has 15 years of experience working in research laboratories and has coauthored 8 original research articles. She has also taught several classes and laboratories at the high school and college levels. She currently works as a Data Analyst and a freelance writer.