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Let's Clarify Assessment
An assessment might conjure up images of a half-sheet of wide-ruled paper passed out before a spelling test. Sure, that's one form of assessment, but assessments aren't necessarily tests. An assessment can be anything that gives you an idea of your child's understanding.
In public schools, I often did quick little assessments on a scrap of paper, asking students to tell me what they learned in a lesson, or by asking them to put their heads down to measure their understanding based on the number of fingers they held up. These are non-traditional assessments, and that's the category that will be perfect for your homeschool.
Non-Traditional Ways to Measure Homeschool Growth
Having a system of tracking progress, even in a Charlotte Mason education that avoids traditional grades, is a great way to avoid the end-of-the-year panic. You can make little investments throughout the year that will help you keep track of your child's progress.
If your state requires reporting for homeschooling, you might be doing some of these already. And if you aren't sure what to report to the state because a Charlotte Mason education doesn't involve busy work, then read on!
1. Keep lists, lists, and more lists
This is a relatively simple way to track homeschool growth. We think we'll remember things like what books our children were reading independently at the beginning of second grade, but with a packed calendar and daily to-do's, your chances of forgetting are high.
What books your child reads, (and what books you read to them), is just one option for list-keeping. Other possibilities are:
- science experiments
- field trips
- nature hikes or observations
- recipes made
- songs mastered on a musical instrument
- community service projects completed
- library programs attended
When you revisit your list in the future, you are bound to see growth in the depth and richness of how you spent your time. Additionally, this makes a good option to turn into your state, depending on state requirements.
2. Keep anecdotal notes
Anecdotal notes are little snapshots of your days. My planner has space for notes on the side of each week. I use that space to write down what we did, interesting or thoughtful comments my children made, or anything else that I think will be helpful to know in the future. This also is great for writing homeschool milestones, like "Read Frog and Toad by herself" or "Finished level 1 math today." As a bonus to tracking progress, you'll get to keep some precious memories from your homeschooling days.
Charlotte Mason's idea of narration is actually a great tool for tracking our children's progress. Through it, we can tell if they're understanding and attending to the stories they read or listen to, are growing in vocabulary, and have connected with the ideas in a story. There are several ways to track narration as an assessment tool:
- Video record narrations using a device
- Audio record narrations
- Transcribe a young child's narration
- Younger children can draw a picture for narration
- Have an older child write a narration in a copybook
4. Portfolio or Notebooks
We keep both portfolios and notebooks in different forms. Since we don't have a lot of loose pieces of paper, we don't keep portfolios for school work, but for artwork. I bought three big portfolios, one for each of my children, on Amazon several years ago. Anytime we finish a project, or my son brings something home from Mother's Day Out, it goes into the portfolio.
For schoolwork, I prefer to keep it all in notebooks. This gives us somewhere to write, draw pictures, or, for my son, to transcribe what he tells me. We use the notebooks from School Nest. These are colorful and laid out well, so that we can use one per subject and keep our work organized.
5. Charlotte Mason Exams
Charlotte Mason exams are not the same as stressful, high-stake tests. It's basically an opportunity for students to share what they've learned from the books that they've read. The questions guide a student towards narration, but are a little more specific than just asking a child to narrate. An example Old Testament Bible question might be something like, "Describe how Joseph saved his family from famine." For non-narration subjects, you might have your student do a few math problems or do a science demonstration. However you choose to do exams, record everything you can either on video or on paper.
Sometimes I ask my children quick questions like, "What was the most interesting thing you learned today," or "What was the best part of our day?" Writing down the answers to these questions is a great way not only to track what your child has learned, but to get a glimpse into their hearts and interests.
Do you have any assessments that work well for your family?