Monday, May 30, 2011

Find Instant Access to Homeschool Resources

Homeschool conventions have been taking place this spring all around the country.  Conventions offer a wealth of information and inspiration for families who home educate, whether you are new or have been doing it for years.  But, what about families who don't live near a convention site or whose budget will not accommodate the expenses?  You can save money and still reap the benefits of the convention by finding the information on the web.

Did you know that a simple Google search for "homeschool convention" provides over two million results?  Many of those will provide details on the speakers and vendors who attended conventions around the country.  The first search I found was for a convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Although the convention is passed and Cincinnati is 630 miles from home, the information is still available to see which speakers held workshops and which vendors had booths in the exhibition hall with their curriculum and products available.

Even if you are unable to attend a convention, having a list of homeschool vendors can be a great resource for finding curriculum with which you may not be familiar or may not be aware of it's existence. Sometimes we don't know what we are looking for, until it finds us.  While perusing the list of vendors at the FPEA in Orlando, Florida I came across one called Homeschool Tech, which offers a video based, hands-on course to learn to build computers. Before I saw the company name on the list of exhibitors at the convention, it had not occurred to me that such a course existed for homeschoolers because I had not thought of looking for one.

Also on the web site for the convention in Cincinnati, Ohio was an impressive list of speakers, each with a short biographical sketch.  Generally, speakers at a convention have years of homeschooling expertise and experience to share that can be helpful to a novice.  A search at your local library or Amazon will produce many results of those homeschool pioneers whose books offer inspiration, encouragement and wisdom.

So, even if you are unable to attend a homeschooling convention, their web sites can still offer instant access to homeschool resources.

If this article was helpful to you, please share it with others.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Are You Considering Homeschool?

A common question from parents who are considering homeschooling is, "Where do I start?"  It's a difficult question to answer because there are many different reasons for choosing homeschool education.  The remarkable certainty is that there is a wealth of information available to help begin the journey.  

First, check your states requirements for homeschooling. You need to know if your state requires testing, evaluation, or attendance records. Having this information will help you plan your goals. 

Next, decide what is the purpose of homeschooling? Religious freedom, special educational needs and academic goals are some reasons people choose to homeschool. Understanding your purpose for educating your children at home will help you choose a curriculum to suit your needs.

Finally, what style education matches the needs of you and your children? Some families choose a traditional approach to education, which may resemble the style used in a conventional classroom, while the extreme opposite approach is unschooling, where little or no curriculum or schedule demands are put on the children. Knowing which style of education you are happy with will help in planning your schedule and choosing a curriculum best suited to that style education.

The research in planning a homeschool adventure can seem overwhelming because there is so much information available. It is recommended that you consider the requirements, your purpose and the style to answer the question, "Where do I start?"

Where to look for information:
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a wealth of resources and has a link to state laws. 

Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum describes many popular homeschool curriculum available and helps match the students learning style to a curriculum suited to the child's needs and the style of education you prefer. Check your local library or click here for a link to Amazon:100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning Style
The Homeschool Buyers Co-op   is a homeschool co-op designed to pool the purchasing power of the  membership.  It is a great source of homeschool materials by subject matter and other resources.  Even if you are not ready to make purchase, this web site provides a sample of different types of homeschool curriculum available.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Measuring UP - How To Get The Most Out Of Testing

As we conclude the year's studies and anticipate summer break, many parents may be considering year end testing.  Unfortunately, standardized tests may have gained an imperfect reputation with some students and parents if results were adversely misused in the past.  Though, when used properly, testing can have great benefits, and there are different types to suit your needs.  Standardized tests that are generally given to school children are the most popular, though there are also diagnostic assessments and clinical tests which can be beneficial. 

A standardized test is provided by an approved administrator and can take up to six hours over the span of two to three days to complete.  The conditions of administering, scoring and interpreting are meant to be consistent, or "standard" in manner, which is why tests are closely guarded and the administrator must be approved.  Some of the most common are the California Achievement Test (CAT), the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), and Stanford Achievement Test.  Subjects tested are math, language, science and social studies, which may also be composed of sub tests.  The scores from the tests are collected and used to compare the academic knowledge of students across the nation.  Many people believe standardized tests to be unfair due to bias and/or environmental factors, though the results can offer parents valuable information.  Not only can they advise parents of a their child's academic mastery compared to children around the nation, the sub tests can be an indicator of a child's strengths and weaknesses in specific areas, results can be used to compare a students year to year growth and the score on reading can help parents choose appropriate level books for their children to read. Ideally, a standardized test would be used for a child no younger than nine years old or before beginning third grade, though, the maturity of the child and the purpose for giving the test can be a factor in determining when it is an appropriate tool. Standardized test do not measure the ability to think or create, but are valuable to parents for gathering academic information for curriculum choices and comparing a child's academic growth from one year to the next.

Diagnostic Assessments are less structured than standardized tests and can by given by a parent or qualified diagnostician.  The amount of time for a diagnostic can vary greatly according to the student and the purpose for the assessment.  They are generally used to determine a child's strengths and weaknesses in specific reading or math skills or to learn about a child's learning preference and personality.  This test is a great tool for a parent who is teaching children around six to nine years of age reading or math skills and wishes to learn which skills the student needs to learn and may help in selecting a curriculum for his/her child's specific needs, such as language development, phonological awareness, word identity and oral reading fluency.  Other diagnostic assessments help parents understand a child's learning preference (auditory, visual or kinesthetic) and/or whether the child's personality is introverted or extroverted. When choosing a curriculum best suited to a child, it is important to understand the modality in which a child learns information best.  Matching a student to a curriculum suited to his/her learning preferences sets them up for success and a greater sense of accomplishment.

Clinical testing includes psychological evaluations which measure IQ and diagnose visual, auditory or verbal processing disorders.  Psychological evaluations should be used only if a parent believes a child may have obstacles in learning through the use of conventional methods and seeks a qualified, licensed practitioner to diagnose a learning disability.  While all children develop at different rates, a parent may observe standard markers of language development and social skills that indicates psychological evaluation is necessary.  When choosing a curriculum for a child who is challenged in reading, writing or attention, clinical testing will diagnose specific weaknesses and allow parents to choose a curriculum suited to his/her ability.

In the past, testing has gained a bad reputation when results were used in ways that blocked a child's development, which is unfortunate. When used properly, standardized tests, diagnostic assessments and clinical evaluations can help a parent choose the tools that optimize the students strengths, while building his/her weaknesses.  Students should be taught that tests have valuable information to be used to help us reach our goals and the score in not an indication of who we are, but of the gifts we have.

Below are links for more information on academic testing and diagnostic assessment.  These particular items do not receive my endorsement, they are only examples of different types that are available.  A licensed practitioner should be sought for the application of psychological evaluations.

ITBS or Stanford Achievement Test through Bob Jones University. 

CAT (California Achievement Test) through Seton Testing Services. 

Cognitive Diagnostic Assessment for Education: Theory and Applications

What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens, 2nd Edition: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future (What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens: Discovering Yourself)

Discover Your Child's Learning Style: Children Learn in Unique Ways - Here's the Key to Every Child's Learning Success

Uncovering Student Thinking in Mathematics: 25 Formative Assessment Probes

Alpha Omega LIFEPAC Diagnostic Tests for grades 1-8 (Homeschool Buyers Co-Op is not a testing site, but offers a great selection of testing tools and is free to join.)