I have the great fortune of knowing a number of lovely ladies who are willing to help me out on occasion when I want to make sure that we are learning “as well as” Miss Oh’s contemporaries at school.
Usually all I have to do is ask a simple question and I get a great series of replies and conversations about how things work at various schools around the country. It’s a great insight that I would otherwise be missing out on. And I’m very grateful for it.
Just to be clear… we’re not trying to replicate school at home. We’re trying to integrate learning into our daily life instead.
We are also very aware that we chose to homeschool in order to allow our children to learn at their own pace, whatever that happens to be. However, it is an ingrained characteristic that both Mr and Ms Oh Waily like to have empirical evidence of progress. Informal testing helps us ensure that concepts have been learned, and give us a reference point for future learning opportunities. After all, there’s nothing worse than boring your children with things that are too easy or frustrating them with things that are too difficult.
Lately I have been lucky enough to borrow some reading books that give me an indication of the difficulty level of each ‘colour segment’ on the New Zealand curriculum’s reading wheel. It turns out that Miss Oh is probably reading independently somewhere around the green level. I now have an idea of the complexity of the sentence structure and the difficulty of the words introduced. And judging by the sorts of books she’s able to read, we’re doing just fine.
Then this morning I asked her to sit a short maths test just to see how she would go using a test administered in a school that was kindly shared with me. I was pleasantly surprised by her results. I was slightly concerned that she would struggle to keep her focus for the full eight minutes, but she proved my concerns to be unfounded. Now I have another baseline test to help me gauge how well she is doing with mental addition and subtraction. This just adds an objective empirical measure to my arsenal of assessment tools. The main one being observation. I knew she would be able to do the entire first set of problems, but was not sure if she could get through them all in the timeframe of the test. I was wrong. She completed the entire first section (including a short break to run and get her hanky – it’s the start of a cold in the Oh Waily household today) with only one error. I now have my objective evidence backing up my observations.
We have the best of both worlds – daily observations and occasional baseline testing to ensure we are on track.