Thursday, May 26, 2011

Narrative Assessments. . . what do I need to know?

The school year is coming to a close.  You have read many wonderful books with your student, watched them solve many math problems, and walked through many history and science lessons together. You are ready for summer!   You are now checking out the pool schedule, getting ready for summer reading at the library, and thinking what do I need to do to keep homeschooling in the state of Ohio?  The last one may not be on the top of your list, but it would be nice to check it off your list.  The following post is intended to help you check it off your list and get on with the joys of summer.

Ohio homeschool law states "The parent(s) shall send to the superintendent an academic assessment report of the child for the previous school year at the time of supplying subsequent notification."  A parent in Ohio has three choices on what they may send a with their homeschool notification.  1). Results of a nationally normed, standardized achievement test.  2) A written narrative indicating that a portfolio of samples of the child’s work has been reviewed and that the child’s academic progress for the year is in accordance with the child’s abilities. (3) An alternative academic assessment of the child’s proficiency mutually agreed upon by the parent and the superintendent. (please note my understanding is that you would have needed to work this out with your superintendent last year when you sent in your homeschool notification.)

A written narrative is an option for an assessment report.  You have a certified Ohio teacher review work samples of your student's work to determine if you child has made progress in accordance with his/her ability last year.  The assessor then signs a form verifying that your student has  made progress, and you send that form to your school's superintendent along with your intent to homeschool the coming  year.

I am a homeschool mom who is also a certified Ohio teacher.  I am able to review your child's work samples, send you some encouraging notes, and send you the forms you need to send to your school district with your intent to home educate.    I enjoy reviewing work samples and love getting a chance to see the many different ways people home educate their children.  The following are a few common questions I hear in regards to narratives.

What if my student  is not reading?
You may send me a list of books you have read aloud  to your student, maybe the progress they have made in a phonics program,  and/or how many sight words that they know now as compared to the beginning of the year. 

What if I do not have physical samples that are easy to send to you?
You are welcome to take a picture,send me a link to a YouTube video, or write up what your student learned in that area.  I have enjoyed power point presentations, pictures of field trips and community gardens, and wonderfully written explanations about unit studies and cooking projects.  If you have questions on how to communicate what your student accomplished, please contact me.

What are you looking for?
I am looking for progress. I like to see that your student is completing  more complex math problems than he/she did at the  beginning of the year, I look at handwriting and writing samples to observe growth, and learn a great deal about your student from looking at the books they are reading now as compared to the ones they read in beginning of the year. I look at how your student has changed.   I do not look to see if you completely finished your history text book, made at least one salt relief map of a continent, and/or  if your bookshelves are organized by the Dewey Decimal system.  I am looking  for progress in your student by viewing his/her work samples.    (But, if your bookshelves are organized that way I would love to see a picture and know how you did it. )

I want to support you on your  home education journey.  I greatly enjoy helping other homeschool moms. Let me know if I can help you this year! Click here for how to get started.

Becky Boerner
Mom to 6 home educated children,  M Ed. in Reading Education.

Another  post  I have written dealt with standardized testing vs. a written narrative.  You may enjoy reading  if you are still pondering on what you would like to do for this year.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Narrative or Standardized Test?

A question I receive often is "Should I give my home educated student a standardized test at the end of the year, or complete a narrative portfolio assessment to fulfill the end of the year requirement for homeschooling in Ohio?" I usually reply it depends on what kind of information you hope to gain. One way to look at this question is to think "Do you want one picture of one moment in time, or a running movie with many pictures taken over time? "

A standardized test is a "snapshot "of a student at one moment in time. A standardized test is scored in a consistent manner so you are able to compare your student to a group of students in the same grade who have taken the same test. You usually receive a percentile ranking which tells you what percentage of the students taking the test your student scored better than. For instance, if your student was in the 33rd percentile in math then your child scored better than 33 percent of students in the sample group from the publisher who took this test in math.

A standardized test is limited in that it is more likely to tell you what your student does not know versus what they do know or have learned this year. A standardized test also dictates what the publisher feels is important for your student to know. It does not take into account what your student has learned this past year.

A narrative portfolio assessment is a group of work samples that reflect your student's growth and progress over the last year. It consists of many "snapshots" that come together to reflect what your student has accomplished this year. You, as parent educator, get to showcase what your student has accomplished this year

Besides celebrating what your student has accomplished, a portfolio also helps you to plan instruction for the next year. For instance, you realize you concentrated on learning your math facts, but did not spend as much time learning how to solve word problems. Next year, you commit to working on more problem solving. You look at your book list and notice that your student has mainly read adventure stories this past year. You commit to introducing him/her to biographies, non-fiction, and /or some poetry next year to vary his/her reading diet. I believe this is time well spent. You are assessing your student's needs and planning instruction based on those needs.

A narrative portfolio assessment also gives you a chance to present what your child has accomplished to a certified Ohio teacher. My hope is that when I review your student's work I bring a different "set of eyes" to your student's portfolio. As an assessor, I try to provide encouragement to parents, insight into your student's growth, and provide feedback to help you plan future instruction for your child. My goal is to partner with you to celebrate your student's accomplishments and encourage you on your home education journey.

Please click here to get started. 



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Freestyle Assessment thoughts

I really enjoy reading the freestyle assessments I receive.  They are so interesting.   People often ask me for some ideas on what to write and send.  The following is what I have shared with them. Hopefully it will help you as well.  

I have seen freestyle assessments written in many different ways.  The key thing is to show the progress your child has made from last July/August to now.  Ohio law says the child must make progress within their ability.  So when I do this for my kids I try to think through the following questions.  How have they changed? What can they do now that they could not do a few months ago, several months ago, and a year ago?   What do I have demonstrates this? (pictures, samples etc.)  Lastly, what can I share that communicates this?  

As far as writing up the assessment, I have seen them set up by subject, by project, and just sharing progress. The following are some ideas to get you started.  I think once you get started you will be surprised at how much you have to share.

If you write by subject you might write about the following.  I am going to give many examples to choose from.  Please do not feel you need to use all of them.  These are to spur your thinking about your year. 

Reading:  Share the books your child has read or you have read to them. Maybe share a series they are into like the Boxcar Children, Arthur, or Henry and Mudge.  What magazines do they enjoy reading?  Is there a web sites they enjoy visiting and reading?  What your child is reading now versus the beginning of the year communicates the progress they have made. 

Writing/Handwriting If your child is writing tell me what they are writing. Tell me if they are making lists, writing their name,  writing stories, labeling pictures, writing letters etc.  If they are older, tell me about their creative writing, poetry, or journaling.  Send me a sample.   Do they write a blog, email letters to Grandma, or maybe record in a nature journal?   Tell me about it, send me a link, or take a picture of it.

Math: Share how your child is telling time, working with money, adding or subtracting, multiplying or dividing, using percents, and/or measuring.  Tell me about activities your child participates in like cooking, grocery shopping, or building with blocks or LEGOS ©.  Share games with me that you play that involve math.   If you happen to do any worksheets you can always send in one from the beginning of the year and the end. 

Science/Social Studies/History/Art/ Music/PE: For younger kids you might share experiences to demonstrate progress.  You write  about the museums you have visited, zoo visits, park trips, neighborhood walks, nature walks, music lessons, and any sports your child may participate in.  Do you attend the YMCA to swim each week?  Do you attend an art class?  Tell me about books they have read or you have read together, if they have completed any projects, or art work your child has created.  This is a great place to include pictures.   For older students share what they have learned this year, a class they have taken, and/or a research project they have been working on.  Having your child write a summary of what they have learned is a fantastic way to demonstrate progress.  

Another way share your student's progress is to write up your assessment by project.  For instance you worked on a community or family garden together.  You discuss how you preplanned by getting books from the library and  reading about plants, your internet research, the garden store you visited,  how you measured the rows, how you prepared the soil, did you count the plants, if you sold them the skills you used,  and anything else that your child learned.  You might include pictures of your child working in the garden, some notes your child took while researching, and a list of books your child read.  You might share the 1-3 projects that your family used to facilitate learning for the year.  Then maybe you share about trips, nature walks, park visits, any type of lesson, and art you do.   

You are trying to showcase what your child has accomplished this year.  Usually when I sit down and think about all we have  learned, I am excited about the progress my kids have made.   If you are working on learning most days you have made progress. This is your chance to celebrate by sharing it with me. 

If I can help you in anyway let me know. Link to Freestyle Assessment

Friday, May 13, 2011

No Biking in the House without a Helmet

My mom and I have a running joke.  She tends to think she has told me things that she has not. I usually say something  like "Back up.  I think I missed a day," or "Thanks for including me. "  I am of course joking, and it is kind of funny.   I guess when you have 19 kids you are bound to forget to share some things.

Two weeks ago she starts telling me a story about how a friend of hers called to relay that  she saw my name in Melissa's Faye Greene's new book.  My mom kept talking and I said,  "I am sorry mom, I think I missed a day."  "Oh, didn't I tell you that Melissa included our family in a chapter in her new book No Biking in the House without a Helmet?, " she said.  I must of missed that.  Thanks for including me. 

I went and found the book at my local library.  It really is a great book.  Melissa Faye Green is an amazing author with a realistic take on  the world of adoption.  She tells wonderful stories of adopting older children and has a witty way of viewing her world.  She will have you laughing out loud.
PS  I am on p. 100.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Slow-cooker: A homeschooler's best friend!

Growing up my mother use to rave about her slow cooker.  I still remember her bright orange one humming along in our very brown wallpapered kitchen.  She tried to convince me of the wonders of the slow-cooker and the thrill of knowing dinner was taken care of early in the morning. I foolishly just smiled at her, but  now I thank her for her wisdom as I plug in one of my 3 slow-cookers.
I want to describe to you my cooking style, or lack of cooking style. I often joke I am a food arranger  and not a much of a cook.  I do things like put yogurt and cottage cheese in bowls, arrange vegetables, put hot dogs in buns. . you get the picture.  My college roommate Sue told me her goal in this life is to never cook a Thanksgiving dinner, and to that I replied Amen!  So when I talk about how I love my slow-cooker, you know this is remedial cooking. 
My   favorite cook  books are The Make it Fast, Cook it Slow, and More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow.  Stephanie O'Dea, the author, also has a blog with many slow-cooker recipes.  Her recipes are gluten free, but can easily be switched if you can eat gluten.  I would recommend starting with the book from the  library and moving forward if you like it.  We have many picky eaters in our house  and  like that the recipes do not have many ingredients.  But, that may not be your thing. Currently, we are partial to her Sloppy Joe recipe,since every single person in our house actually eats it.  We also like her Coq Au Vin,  and spinach casserole recipes.  She has a section on slow-cooking to taste like take-out.  You gotta love that!

So to end, I want to share with you why I love my  slow-cooker.  You may hum a happy tune as you read.
1. In the summer it does not heat up my whole house.
2. I dump the ingredients in and they magically come out OK.
3. I smell dinner all day as I homeschool and know that it is taken care of.
4. It makes me feel like a better person in preparing healthy meals for my family.
5. It is not very messy.
6. Lastly, it is as close as a food arranger gets to serious cooking.
Happy Cooking!