If we are to be responsible homeschoolers we need to know that our kids are learning. We can’t just hope for it, or presume it – we need to know.
Are our kids slipping through the system? I don’t mean the government regulated testing etc but do we know that our kids are learning? How can we be sure?
Unfortunately completed work doesn’t necessarily mean learning has taken place. We are all familiar with cramming for a test, passing it and forgetting everything to do with it. So how do we know that our kids have learnt something?
To start with, what do we mean by ‘learn’? The dictionary defines learn as:
- Acquiring knowledge of or skill in – by study, instruction or experience
- To become informed of or acquainted with
- To memorize
- To gain (a habit, mannerism) by experience, exposure to example
When we test our children’s learning we are hoping that they have recall on the things that they’ve memorised. And yet from the definition above we can see learning is more than memory.
Learning happens in two places – in the head, which we can’t really see, and in our actions/words which of course we can see. We need to give credence to the hands on projects/activities that our kids do, and we need to find ways for our kids to express what is going on in their heads so we know what learning is taking place there too.
The only way we can fairly look for evidence of learning is to know what we are looking for. We cannot assess on something we haven’t set out to teach. This is one reason why we don’t do the Naplan Testing (government testing which is optional for homeschoolers in my State ). I don’t want my kids tested for something that I haven’t taught (my main concern is that I teach these things in a difference sequence than the schools do). So if we want to be sure of learning we need to know what we want our kids to learn.
Though I’m very big on taking every opportunity that comes your way as a learning experience I am also a big believer in being intentional and planning learning experiences as well. Our homeschool is about walking the balance between these two. We must have goals or objectives, if we are to assess wisely.
Do you know what you want your child to achieve? Or are you stabbing in the dark.
The thing is, I know my kids are learning – they live in an idea rich family, they are involved with other people, they read books, we talk and do stuff – they are learning. But what are they learning and are they learning what they need to learn right now?
At the beginning of each year I consider where my kids are at. I consider all aspects of their life:
- their relationships (with God and man)
- how they handle responsibilities
- how they are growing as an individual/person
- how they are growing in their individual talents
- and where they are at with their academic learning
Then I set some goals – sometimes these goals cover all the kids and we learn together, other goals are for the individual. Then I find the teaching resources I need to reach those goals. Then throughout the year, I pause and reflect back on how we are going? Is it working? Are they learning? I don’t always have a rubric that outlines progressive growth or learning – I must admit sometimes there is a degree of mother-heart in my assessment – but I know what I’m looking for.
I have my goals, and I can observe how my children are going with that.
I can see learning by
- How they talk about the subject, or integrate that subject matter into other topics of conversation
- How they write or create using that information
- How they ask questions to further their learning
- How they are changed in their responses to life, that is how they use it
- If they can teach someone else (help others to understand – by their words or demonstration)
- Self assessment – if they can express how they have learnt something
Are you seeing learning happening in your home?
Is it happening for the important areas?
If so, are you keeping a record of it?
If not, what are you doing to address it?