Sunday, June 29, 2014

Unschooling/Freestyle Assessments 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?  Are there 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, send a sample, 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 

I accept portfolios for review through Saturday August 16, 2014.  After that date I will accept your portfolio, but I will not write up any notes.  I will only send you what you need for your district.  


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summertime: Think Safety for the Most Fun

Today's guest post is by Leslie Vandever.

Summer and the great outdoors go together like blue sky and birdsong. Get out there and enjoy it, but make sure you’re prepared to stay safe and healthy. As fun as it can be, summer can also present some unique dangers.

Sunburn: Painful and Dangerous
Of all the cancers, skin cancer is the most common. To protect yourself, practice sun safety:
·         Apply sun screen and lip balm rated at least SPF 30 generously to all exposed skin, including the tips of the ears and backs of the hands. Reapply sun every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
·         Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your scalp, face, ears, and neck.
·         Sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB absorption will protect your eyes and the skin surrounding them.
·         Sunlight is at its most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Avoid prolonged, direct sun exposure during those hours: stay indoors, find shade, or cover skin with protective clothing.
Beat the Heat
When a hot environment overwhelms the body’s temperature control system, heat-related illness, such as heat stroke, can result. The best treatment is prevention:
·         Try to do most of your outdoor work before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
·         If you must be outdoors during the heat of the day, drink at least 8 oz. water or a sports drink—not a sugary soda or alcohol—each hour. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Sports drinks help replace minerals and electrolytes lost during exercise.
·         Know the symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps—and what to do about them should they appear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer an excellent educational webpage on these common but potentially dangerous heat-related illnesses.
·         Wear a wide-brimmed hat, and rest in the shade frequently.
·         Never leave anyone—children, seniors, pets, anyone—in a closed, parked vehicle.
Those Buzzy, Buggy Bugs
Encounters with insects—mainly of the winged variety, like bees, wasps, and mosquitos—are much more likely during the summer. Here are a few tips for dealing with them:
·         First, think prevention. Dump any standing water around your house and yard to prevent mosquito breeding and larvae.
·         Use a mosquito repellent with DEET in it. Perfumed skin lotions will not repel the little buggers. To relieve the itch, use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
·         If you know you’re allergic to insect bites or stings, carry an emergency epinephrine kit (prescribed by your doctor). Make sure family members/friends know how to administer it for you. Wear a medical ID bracelet.
·         If a bee stings you, scrape the stinger out with the edge of a credit card. Don’t use tweezers—you might squeeze more venom into the wound. Wash the site of the sting thoroughly, then apply an ice pack for 10 minutes on, 10 off, and repeat as needed. Take an analgesic like Aleve or Motrin for pain. For itching, take an antihistamine or apply a topical anti-itch cream. Watch for any allergic reaction as well as infection over the next several days.
·         To avoid ticks, wear clothing that covers all exposed skin. Tuck trousers into boots. Avoid hiking through brush and tall grass. If you find a tick attached to your body, you’ll need to remove it. Use pointy tweezers, not household tweezers. Disinfect the area around the tick with rubbing alcohol. Place tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Grab the tick’s head (or as close as you can get to the head) with them. Slowly, steadily, pull upward until the tick comes out. Disinfect again. Don’t be concerned if the tick’s head breaks off and remains in the skin. Without the body, there can be no transmissible tick-borne illness.
For more helpful information on staying healthy click here.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.
·         Skin Cancer Facts. (2014. March 19) American Cancer Society. Retrieved on May 7, 2014 from
·         Frequently Asked Questions about Extreme Heat. (2012. June 1) Emergency Preparedness and Response. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on May 7, 2014 from
·         Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness. (2012, June 1) Emergency Preparedness and Response. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on May 7, 2014 from
·         Insect Bites or Stings. (2010, Jan. 13) National Institutes of Health. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved on May 7, 2014 from
·          How to Remove a Tick. (n.d.) TickEncounter. University of Rhode Island. Retrieved on May 7, 2014 from

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Narrative or Standardized Test

Repost   In case you are still trying to decide what to do. . .

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.  

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Review: Four Weddings & a Kiss by Margaret Brownley, Debra Clopton, Mary Connealy, and Robin Lee Hatcher

It's summer! One of the things I love to do in summer is catch up on my fiction reading. I would love to tell you I relax in the shade near the pool, a book in one hand, an exotic drink in the other.  My pool experience is more reflective of finding myself checking my watch to see how much longer I have to chase my two-year-old around the shallow end.  I do try to get in some fun reading at other times of the day. 

I was thrilled to pick up Four Weddings & a Kiss to review.  Margaret Brownley, Debra Clopton, Mary Connealy, and Robin Lee Hatcher are four of my favorite historical authors.  The books opens on five pastors sitting around a campfire after a revival.  Four of the pastors are giving advice to the fifth about love.  That's one fireside chat you wouldn't want to miss.  They begin telling of couples where each pair appeared to be opposites, but each end up working well together. 

I loved this book.  The opening scene in the first story is like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. All of the stories take place out west in the 1800's and filled with adventure, romance, and a taste of living during that time.   Each story has characters I could root for and I was thrilled when they got together in the end.  In my hectic life I am a fan of shorter stories.  This was the perfect way to start June.  I can highly recommend this as an enjoyable summer read.\

This book was provided for this review by Booklook.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Healthy Snacks for Busy Kids (and Grown-ups)

Today's guest post is by  Leslie Vandever.

Summer: the season of family fun-in-the-sun has arrived! When the weather is warm and friendly, a variety of energetic activities—both indoors and outdoors—are high on everyone’s list of priorities. Nutrition on the run can be tricky with kids. It’s not only hard on the pocketbook, it can also be tough to find healthy, natural snacks and meals away from home.

With just a little planning, however, eating on the run can be simple and fun. And the amount of effort you spend on prep is entirely up to you.

Food in Nature’s Packaging
The easiest foods for snacks and meals are the ones that Mother Nature came up with. They don’t require any (or much) preparation, and you can eat them directly out-of-hand:
·         apples
·         grapes
·         bananas
·         blueberries
·         orange sections
·         tangerines
·         celery sticks
·         red, yellow, and orange bell peppers
First, be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables before serving.

You can eat apples just as they are, but to make them easier for small hands, teeth, and appetites, peel (or not—the peels add extra-healthy fiber and nutrients) and slice them into thin wedges, then pack into easy-to-carry, recycled containers or plastic bags. Mixing green apples with red and yellow varieties with their peels on makes them even more colorful and appealing. If you have time to pack a small, lunch-sized cooler to carry them in, that’s great. But they’ll keep for several hours tucked into a purse or tote, too.

Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are surprisingly crunchy and sweet, perfect for pint-sized tastes and appetites.

Try freezing fruit, such as grapes, before packing. Not only will they stay cool and refreshing as they thaw, they’re also delicious and fun to eat still frozen. Bananas cut into bit-size pieces and frozen solid are a sweet, creamy, incredibly ice-cream-like surprise. Frozen bell peppers are also crunchy and yum.

Natural, Nutritious, Crunchable Nuts
Nuts have to be one of the best and most portable snacks for kids and adults alike. Better, they’re also amazingly healthy. If you buy them in bulk at your local health-food store or in the health-food section at the grocery store, they’ll be a little less expensive—and a lot healthier.

If you like your nuts—almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, for instance—spiced, you can add it at home. (Not peanuts, though. They soften when heated, so they’re not a good candidate for seasoning.)

Just coat the nuts—lightly—in a little bit of canola or coconut oil, drain, toss and coat in your seasoning of choice. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on cookie sheets, and toast them in a preheated, 250-degree oven for about 45 minutes, turning the nuts every 15 minutes or so. Store in an air-tight container for up to three weeks. Try garlic powder, curry powder, cinnamon,  Chinese five-spice, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Be Ready to Rumble
You’re always on the go, ready to roll to the softball or soccer game, the zoo, the local swimming pool, and even to the library. Cut up your fruit and vegetable snacks ahead of time and freeze them, ready to grab, drop into a tote or a mini-cooler, and hit the road. Keep nuts and other snacks, like wholegrain crackers, in airtight containers, ready to pour into plastic bags or other, smaller containers for travel. Keep a roll of paper towels, moistened towelettes, and an extra bag for trash in the car.

Oh! And have a terrific—and healthy—summer!

 Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California. The opinions shared are entirely her own.