Neil Shenvi - Apologetics

Homeschool Tip #5 - Embrace Educational Standards

Homeschool Tips
  1. Have a Schedule
  2. Push Reading First
  3. Schedule 1-on-1 Time
  4. Use Technology
  5. Embrace Educational Standards
  6. Teach Outside of School
  7. Relax

One aspect of modern education, which has been criticized by homeschool teachers and public schools teachers alike, is its emphasis on constant testing. While I suspect that this criticism is valid, homeschoolers can sometimes overreact, rejecting testing or educational standards of any kind in favor of a more open-ended approach to learning. That's a mistake for two reasons.

First, if your children are planning on going to college, they will have to learn to take tests. Test-taking is a skill and your children need to practice it, even if it's stressful for them. Indeed, it's important that your children be occasionally exposed to the stress of testing and the possibility of failure, given the otherwise relaxed homeschooling environment. Whether they become businessmen, doctors, pilots, athletes or musicians, your kids will be required to perform under stress and deal with failure. College or the workplace should not be the first time they are faced with those experiences.

Second, without some kind of educational standards, it will be extremely hard to avoid gaps in your children's knowledge. For example, my older daughter is several grade levels ahead of her age in math. But a few weeks ago, I discovered that she couldn't name the months of the year in order. Because the homeschooling parent may be their child's only teacher, there is no 'fail safe', no one to catch anything missed in his education. As a result, regularly assessing your children's progress through standardized tests and standardized curricula like Common Core is crucial. Note that this point does not demand that you use Common Core to teach or that your material is all geared towards a particular test. Instead, it means that we should use standardized tests and Common Core to guarantee that our children are not missing skills that they ought to have.

I incorporate this concern in two ways. First, my kids take the Woodcock-Johnson test annually to assess their progress. The choice of test is probably not important; what's important is that the same test is used each year so that you can track their progress and can see their strengths and weaknesses. For example, because last year's exam showed that my son's writing ability was substantially below his reading and math abilities, I added a unit of spelling and writing to his daily work this semester. Second, my children's daily work includes a broad array of Common-Core-aligned workbooks to ensure that I haven't missed anything basic. While I might forget to teach my kids how to use a calendar, I'll quickly realize my mistake when they can't do calendar problems in their math workbooks. When they reach a problem they can't do, I devote their "1-on-1 time" that day to teaching them the necessary skill.

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>> Next: Tip #6, Teach Outside of School

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If anyone reading this essay has questions about it or about Christianity in general, feel free to e-mail me at Neil -AT- I also highly recommend the book The Reason for God by Tim Keller. It is phenomenal. Free sermons treating many of the topics covered by this book can be found here.

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