Difficult is now easy

This time of year is often a time of reflection …

… looking back and evaluating,

… looking forward and planning.

In a recent Art of Simple post, Katie wrote  When Everything Seems Difficult   and made this incredible statement ~

“Don’t judge yourself by what’s still difficult. Judge by what’s now easy.”

Wow …

I don’t know about you, but in my homeschooling (and in life) I found myself often judging myself when I didn’t know how to tackle a certain problem,  when I seemed unable to help my kids, and I even judged my ability as a teacher when my children struggled. I judged my parenting abilities when my children battled with issues.

But, if I had just marvelled at what now seemed easy,  observed that we had mastered certain skills, or looked at how we learnt how to pace ourselves instead of struggling to keep up with someone else’s schedule, or found what learning methods and approaches worked, those successes would most certainly been encouraging.

When you are deep in the trenches, perhaps with newborn baby, or potty-training a busy toddler while struggling to continue teaching kindergartener or junior primary children, you may well feel overwhelmed.  Everything seems like a struggle.

But look back at how far you and your kids have come.

Look to see how many skills they have mastered.

Look to see that those habits you worked with so much effort to establish with such intensity, now seems completely natural, and be encouraged.

So as you evaluate your year, may I encourage you to look through the lens of this question ~ “What seems easy now that was difficult a while ago?”

If you want to do a character evaluation for each child, here is a free download for you ~ Character Report.pdf .  I shared how we enjoyed this evaluation process in my post Report and Evaluation Pages because if the child is old enough, he/she can evaluate themselves with a 1-4 scoring system.  This post also includes a Homeschool Assessment form I used to summarize the schoolwork, books, materials and skills covered and describe my children’s strengths, weaknesses and joys and highlights of the year.

We are all learning and growing, moving forward, gaining momentum, finding our way.  In whatever area of your life or your family’s life, give credit to this positive growth and be encouraged!

Peace and Blessings, Nadene

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No Tests

Poster of things tests can’t measure - white with colored pencilsA common question homeschool parents are asked is, “Do your children do tests or exams?”

And my answer is always, “No.”   Well, not until their graduation year, when exam results are a requirement for acceptance into most tertiary institutions.

Testing is NOT needed in homeschooling because parents are almost always one-on-one with their child and can quickly see what their child knows and understands.  Especially when using a Charlotte Mason approach, narrations are an excellent method of listening to or reading what a child remembers and understands on a specific chapter or topic.  And for most seat work subjects like Maths, Spelling and Reading, you are right there with your child and can go back to re-establish a concept or correct a mistake.

Standardized tests are for public school parents, or for teachers of large classes, to measure each child’s basic knowledge or skills, or worse still, for schools to brag about their institutions’ achievements!  With this kind of pressure, many teachers actually “teach the exam” rather than aim to educate the child.

Information and facts can always be learnt, at any time.   Google helps all of us find information in a jiffy, so why waste precious time forcing a child to memorize facts?  Narrations are personal, which is the aim of our homeschooling, isn’t it?

In an article 30+ Important Things That Tests Can’t Measure says,

“Tests can’t predict who will “succeed” in life, regardless of your definition of success. Tests can’t tell a child how or even what he needs to improve.’

She lists some of these things tests can’t measure ~

  • compassion or generosity
  • imagination or creativity 
  • a child’s logic skills
  • faith, trust, hope, reliability, or depth of character
  • friendship or self-worth
  • curiosity, effort, determination or resilience
  • a child’s potential and diligence

In an article , “Kids Don’t Fail, Schools Fail Kids: Sir Ken Robinson on the ‘Learning Revolution’ she quotes Ken Robinson, (famous for his TED talk on the topic of whether schools kill students’ creativity),

“The government has essentially pushed for more and more nationwide testing in order to 1) standardize everything, and 2) try and improve education “through an intense process of competition.”   He believes that the problem with standardized testing is that it “does not prepare kids to achieve.” 

Ken Robinson’s own definition of education’s purpose ~ “To enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become.”

He encourages “personalized learning” without relying heavily on technology.

“But what’s most important,” he concluded, “is that every student deserves to be treated like the miracle that they are—with personalized, individualized education that addresses that “world within.””

Parents know their children.  Homeschooling should be individual, tailor-made, delight-directed.  Its pace and focus should be based on the individual’s ability and interest, not focused on tests, scores and exam results.

So, please hear me …  especially parents of kindergarten, junior, middle and even junior high school, please do not buy curriculums that require regimented testing.  You will kill your child’s creativity and natural love to learn.  You will instil fear and anxiety into your homeschooling, both for you and your child.

Your child can learn how to learn for exams, how to write exams and how to succeed in exams in a relatively short time; within 6 months to a year.  At the most, you may need to move towards tests and exams for their final 3 years of senior high school.  And that is stress enough!  With my 17-year old writing her final high school exams, I see her fear and anxiety.  I feel dread’s icy grip in my stomach.

As Marie says, “Children everywhere deserve to know this:  YOU ARE NOT YOUR TEST SCORE.  You are so much more.”

Blessings, Nadene

Report and Evaluation Pages

Previously I described how we ended our school year and filed our work.  While we put our files in order,  I ask some questions and jot down my children’s answers. I use these answers when I compile my end of year report.

Here are our Report and Assessment Pages ~

First, we had fun filling in our “Character Report” forms together!

The child choses their own scores and then I give my scores.  The scores are 1= rarely/never; 2 = fairly/ seldom; 3 = mostly/ very much; and 4 = always/ Yes!  I am!

(Hint: Whenever you ask someone to give a score of 1,2, or 3, most will inevitably choose 2; the middle or average score, but with 4 scores, they have to choose which side of the middle they prefer.  This 4-score-method forces them to make a more correct assessment.)

We chatted about their personal scores and mine and I asked them which character traits they were strong in and which areas they felt they should work on.  My kids really enjoyed this!

Secondly I filled in a “Homeschool Assessment” form ~

I use this form to summarize the work , books, materials and skills covered and describe my children’s strengths, weaknesses and joys and highlights of the year.

I do not award marks or give any scores. (You may be required to assess your children’s work differently for your country or state.)

During the year I usually only mark my children’s Spelling and Maths.  I oversee all the other written work and usually don’t check/ tick or mark it.  We correct handwriting immediately in our copywork and dictation lessons and discuss grammar in Language Arts lessons.

In junior and middle school, a parent sees that the child completes the work correctly and with a good attitude. I believe we are evaluating daily.  We know the moment our child struggles or does not grasp concepts and we can repeat that lesson/ present the work in another way/ or remediate immediately.  This is the joy of homeschooling!  We can work at a pace and with the most appropriate methods to make sure that our children love what they learn.  Tests and scores are helpful to make sure our children meet external standards, however they are stressful to everyone!

My high schooler’s curriculum requires that I evaluate her work and send them quarterly marks and exam results.

To be completely honest, I have NEVER written any formal evaluations for my children.  I create a portfolio of all their work, include their book lists and the year plan.  I believe that their work speaks for them!

This year however, I will include their assessment forms in their year files.

(Please, I would like to reassure you that this kind of evaluation is not necessary.  I believe that we use what works for us and we try to do what is required of us by our government.  If you have not evaluated your children before, perhaps you could include the character form.  I believe that, “Information can always be learnt at any time, but character formation takes a lifetime!” )

You are welcome to download these forms for your own use ~

I have included MS Word versions of each document  for you to tweak them to suit your needs.

Homeschool Showcase

This post is featured on

Homeschool Showcase #63

at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Pop over to find other exciting homeschooling posts.

Blessings,