by SPED Homeschool Team

Each state requires different things from homeschoolers, and sometimes that means incorporating testing in your homeschool. Other times, parents prefer testing in order to get an idea of what to focus on next. Here are our team members’ experiences with testing in their families.

 

Peggy Ployhar:

For our family we homeschooled most of our years in MN, and there was a yearly testing requirement we had to fulfill per the state homeschool law.  I was rarely surprised by the test results, and I never spent time teaching toward the test because it never carried much weight in my mind as to what my children were accomplishing in accordance with the goals I had set for each of them.

One surprise I did experience though as a result of this yearly requirement was the fact that my middle son was struggling with Dyslexia.  We switched our test and tester that year to a more comprehensive battery of tests which ended up fatiguing my son. The woman who was testing him actually caught the fact his answers were getting worse and worse as the test progressed and noted the incident to me as we finished up reviewing his results.  Her observation was one the actual test would have never caught because the test only showed that he excelled in the subjects he was tested on earlier in the testing cycle and fell short in the subjects he tested on later on during his testing.

 

Just like your homeschool, make your testing fit your child.

 

Amy Vickrey:

I have been using testing in my homeschool to track progress.  While not required by the state, circumstances have necessitated that I track his progress through this year in a more formal manner.  I especially like the Lexile score I receive from the test. This has helped be more aware of helping my son transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”  I was also pleasantly surprised at the amount of math skills he had picked up informally from watching education videos and playing educational apps!

For accommodations, we take lots of breaks when we take a test.  I help navigate the test on the computer so that my son doesn’t “accidentally” hit the wrong button due to his fine motor limitations.  I also use reminders to stay on task and to read thoroughly through the questions before answering. I like that the test I have been using grows with him, and shows growth over time.  This has been helpful in tracking his progress.

Here is the link for the test I use: https://truenorthhomeschoolacademy.com/product/standardized-testing/

SPED Homeschool community members receive $5 off with code SPED.

 

Dawn Spence:

As a formal public school teacher testing does not conjure up good memories. I have to push that to the back of my mind and take on the hat of homeschool mom. I ask myself what do I want to get out of the testing? I informally have tested my daughters in many online assessments. I also use the testing that is done with my daughter through therapy as wonderful information. I am hardly shocked at the results as I see them learning everyday and know where their strengths and weaknesses lay. There are so many choices timed, untimed, paper test, and online tests. Call and talk to the companies and many like IOWA and CAT tests send out samples for free or inexpensive fees. Just like your homeschool, make your testing fit your child.

 

 

Tracy Glockle:

At different times, we’ve been required to include testing in our homeschool. While I personally don’t see testing as the most valid way to show what a child knows, I also see the value in having my children learn to take these tests as a life skill. Test-taking is a skill in and of itself. Because I know that my kids will inevitably have to take tests throughout their lives, we focus primarily on how to take a test and what they need to be successful in their test-taking skills, rather than focusing on the academic data.

For many years when my kids were younger, we worked through different anxieties over timed activities. I timed everything as a way to help them overcome their panic. We worked on teaching them to pace themselves and to not get stuck on a single problem. My kids still have individual areas of test-taking that we continue to work through.

I also encourage parents that especially standardized testing is a trajectory, not an end result. And just as our kids may spike and plateau on a growth chart while maintaining a healthy trajectory, our kids will spike and plateau on an academic trajectory as well. We like to think of education as a steady trend upward, but that isn’t always the case. And that isn’t always a cause for immediate alarm.

 

Whether you are testing in your homeschool because of state requirements or your own preferences, finding the best fit for your child and having the right perspective can provide a more positive experience and a more productive result.

 

 


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By the SPED Homeschool Team

Other than choosing to homeschool, the biggest decision we have to make is choosing homeschool curriculum. This decision is filled with a lot of stress as we decide what curriculum is “perfect” for our child. Here are some thoughts from the SPED Homeschool team to help make that decision a little bit easier for you!

Cammie Arn

Initially when I started homeschooling I loved the idea of using living books such as Sonlight, but after several years and more children I needed some things that were more independent.

After that I tried everything with my first child trying to figure out what worked best for both us. It took me several years of learning about learning styles, teaching styles, state requirements, and the freedom of choice that goes with those things. Walking into my first vendor hall was completely overwhelming. The options are endless.

However, after 20+ years of homeschooling, I now choose homeschool curriculum based on the biblical worldview that will work for all of my students at the same time, such as Mystery of History. Or I like options that cover multiple subjects at the same time like Notgrass. Efficiency is my goal now as we have life to live and ministry to do as well.

Dawn Spence

The journey of how I picked homeschool curriculum has changed over the years. In Pre-K for my girls, I did self-made units. Even through Kindergarten and when my son joined homeschool, I went to more group-type work for science, history and Bible studies. We have enjoyed My Father’s World for that. The thing that I love most about it is that it is easy to modify in order to accommodate my child’s needs. It is structured, but also classical. I have in recent years made it my own and added and subtracted as I felt. I add videos and audio books and hands on activities. For individual work, we use all kinds of curriculum. My kids are hands-on and visual for the most part. We use Math-U-See, Spelling-U-See, Touch Math, Handwriting without Tears,  Memoria Press, Little Giant Steps, Diana Craft, and Equipping Minds. My three kiddos are very individual and need their own way. No one child fits in a box, and neither does their curriculum.

A lot of choosing homeschool curriculum is a matter of trial and error, experimenting with what works and doesn’t work. There is no perfect curriculum, and there isn’t any curriculum that is a complete failure; you learn something from each choice you make.

Tracy Glockle

Choosing homeschool curriculum can be daunting with so many choices available. What I have found really helps me is when I start with my child rather than the curriculum options. My first step is to look at my child’s skills and ask “what is the next step?” I then look at my specific goals and vision for my family and for that particular child. By asking these questions first, it narrows the choices. Each year, I start that process over again because I’ve learned that my kids change: their needs and skills change, their interests change, and their learning preferences have even changed over the years.

Some curriculum options have passed the test year after year, while other curriculum is constantly changing. For instance, we have loved Tapestry of Grace from the very beginning because it allows everyone to be learning the same material, it fits our worldview, and it provides a lot of flexibility since it is designed to provide you options for customizing your own study. It also allows for certain subjects to be integrated into the history studies and provides ideas for all learning styles. The flexibility of the curriculum has made it a great fit for us, though each year I may tweak how we use it or the choices I make within the curriculum. Language arts, however, has been an area where I’ve supplemented and changed quite a bit, even disregarding grade level as I look at what specifically needs to be tackled next and what curriculum choice tends to deal with a specific area best.

A lot of choosing homeschool curriculum is a matter of trial and error, experimenting with what works and doesn’t work. There is no perfect curriculum, and there isn’t any curriculum that is a complete failure; you learn something from each choice you make.

 

As you can see, there is no “right” answer when choosing homeschool curriculum, but don’t let that overwhelm you! You are never going to “fall behind” if a curriculum doesn’t work out. It is okay to pick a curriculum and find that it is not a great fit. That just means that you have learned something about your child, and that is part of homeschooling! Take your time, try different approaches, and don’t be afraid to jump right in!

 

 


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By SPED Homeschool Team

To be successful homeschoolers, we need to embrace all the different aspects of our child. A big aspect that needs a lot of attention is incorporating their physical bodies into their learning. Each child will have different needs when it comes to physical movement, but they all have needs. Here are some ideas from our team on keeping our active kids learning with movement.

 

 

Tracy Glokle

We use movement a lot. One of our recent math lessons had my little guy running around the table to different “stations” to solve addition problems from his worksheet with different manipulatives. I used a stopwatch to encourage him to move quickly. We’ve also hidden words around the room to find and then read or spell. One of my favorite products to have on hand has been Ultimate Brain Breaks (by Heather Haupt). When my kids get restless, I have them choose one or two brain break idea cards. It only takes us a couple of minutes and really helps with both focus and motivation.

 

Five minute breaks to beat the punching bag, jump on the trampoline, scooter around the block, or dance to a favorite tune will also do wonders, particularly for my older kids.

 

Mary Winfield

I have some very active boys and one that has a lot of sensory needs, so we use physical activity a lot in our homeschool. We take lots of breaks to do sensory input that he needs. When it is warm outside, we try to do a lot of our learning outdoors, but we also have indoor swings that we use when the weather is too cold to spend too much time outside. We also try to do yoga for body awareness everyday.

Whenever I can set up math or reading in a way that incorporates movement, we do it! From doing addition problems using jumping jacks or racing between sight words, he definitely learns best when he is moving! I think the most important thing is to know what your child needs and when he usually needs it. My son is best at sitting still for things in the morning and needs a lot of movement in the afternoons, so we schedule our homeschooling accordingly.

 

Cheryl Swope

Some think the classical tradition produces only “bookish” children, but a classical education has always emphasized both gymnastics for the body and music for the soul. We help our children with special needs exercise, grow strong, and gain self-control over their bodies for poise, grace, and service to others. Daily movement, walks in fresh air, swimming, or brief bursts of soccer and other ball games can ease anxiety, promote calm, and refresh for further study.

 

 

Dawn Spence

We take breaks in our school day. Sometimes it’s an outside bubble break or some time to  swing in our backyard. I can tell when we need movement; that’s usually when things start to derail. Playing a ring-toss game to review a subject or jumping or dancing during learning a song all help my kiddos to learn.

 

Shannon Ramiro

  1. I would walk around the house with my son sitting on my shoulders while I asked him rhyming words, words that include letter blends, words that matched definitions, etc. Obviously, I was asking the questions as I thought of them because my hands were not free to look at anything.
  2. In a similar fashion, I would hold him like a wheelbarrow while asking questions, too.
  3. I created “stepping stones” with letters on them for my son to step on when spelling words or practicing phonics. I spread them around the living room so he had to look for the correct one, and they were not near each other.
  4. When he was younger we would play Twister sometimes as part of a break from learning.
  5. I incorporated nature walks as much as I could, and we would talk about anything we saw around us.
  6. Along with some other homeschoolers, we would tag along with a Montessori teacher on Fridays to nature preserves, beaches, and state parks around the area. Sometimes we attended naturalist talks as part of those trips.
  7. A co-op here meets once per month at a local park to participate in cooperative games led by a Waldorf teacher.
  8. There is also a parent who organizes “Nerf Wars” at a local park periodically.
  9. We have participated in a parent and child bowling league in the past.
  10. We plan on participating in therapeutic horseback riding, and my son will also be volunteering to help. (He does have experience with horse care.)
  11. I count walking our dog as P.E.
  12. There are several orchards within driving distance where we can go to pick fruit, which is good for reinforcing science as well as counting for P.E. I hope to arrange some tours and conversations with farmers in the future as career exploration in agriculture, too.
  13. Laser tag is another thing I hope to organize with some other homeschoolers.
  14. Some days we go to the mall and walk around, too. (My son will walk the whole thing more than once.)

 

In general, movement is needed to help our body be able to learn and process information. It also helps keep our kids motivated. I have always incorporated learning breaks every 15-25 minutes, especially if we are not moving as part of our activity. Jumping jacks, crab walk, walking on a curb as it if is a balance beam, jumping from one hula hoop to another placed on the ground in a row—these are all things that can be done in a few minutes and be beneficial. My son and I have played Red Light-Green Light and Simon Says as well.

 

Cammie Arn

My little boys have so much energy, and Mama doesn’t have as much as she used to. So when they need to run and play, they go outside pretty much until they are worn out. We utilize a trampoline which is great for one child in particular, as whole body stimulation relaxes him. We also have two of those $14 Walmart plastic pools on our covered porch that stay filled year round since my kids enjoy water play so much. At 8 & 4 they are through with school so quickly. I’m grateful that my children have so much safe space to run and play. In addition to these, my older children have enjoyed Tae-Kwon-Do and dancing classes.

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

It is hard to remember back to those days when my kids wouldn’t sit still.  Now as young adults and a teen I find I have to work extra hard to get them moving, but I digress.  When my boys were younger we lived in MN, so for about 6 months out of the year we either bundled up and went outside or were creative about purchasing annual memberships to places that had HUGE indoor spaces.  Fortunately we lived within a mile of the MN Zoo, so we made sure to plan school around a trip every week. We also taught the kids how to ski, went sledding at the local “hill,” and employed them as shoveling helpers.

 

Other active indoor activities my kids loved were fort building, historical reenactments backdrops, and relay race courses using every piece of furniture they could scramble over and under to  increase the difficulty. Usually I would allow these “creations” to stay a day or two, and as much as I could I would incorporate our learning activities inside them or alongside them.

 

As our kids moved into their teen years we moved to the country, so chores in taking care of animals became a huge part of our lives as well as their school.  My children learned so many things living in the country, some which they remember with fondness and others not so much; but those activities have made a lasting impact on their work ethic and how much they appreciate the simple things that life has to offer.

 

As I look back, I do recall how much extra work it was to make learning active, but I am so glad that I didn’t allow myself to stick to just books and computers for instruction.  My kids would never tell you about how great their math lessons were when they were in 5th grade; but they will tell you with vivid descriptions the entire day and night they spent under the dining room table eating, sleeping, reading, studying, and talking about cold Russian winters while simulating the long sleigh ride of Catherine the Great from Poland to meet her future husband.

Conclusion:

As you can see, we love to get moving in our homeschools! Whether by including movement breaks or creative activities, learning with movement is a key part in keeping our active kids engaged and motivated. Try some some of these ideas to get your kiddos moving or check out our Pinterest boards for more ideas.  

 


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By the SPED Homeschool Team

 

One of the most important things we can do as homeschooling parents is to instill a love of the Lord and a desire to serve others in our children. Since that can look different for each family, our team members share how they incorporate Gospel-centered parenting  into their homeschool.

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Relationship

 

Cammie Arn:

“For our family it hasn’t been a particular program or study that we have done, rather it’s been living our relationship out in front of our children. Allowing the kids to snuggle up while I finish my morning quiet time has been key for them to see how we prioritize God in our home.

Taking them to Sunday school and church weekly and allowing for questions and conversation. Having them share prayer requests and watching God answer prayers has given our kids a foundation to stand on into adulthood. We read real stories of courageous Christians as examples of people who lived Godly lives. They have seen God provide clothing when we needed something in particular, food when there was none, money when it was needed, vehicles to both our family and individual adult children.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon Ramiro:
“I have a general prayer I say, and I make general comments to God throughout the day, often when I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, etc. My son always comments that he doesn’t see the point of it. He also wonders when I will stop considering any kind of “pseudoscience” (e.g. Feng Shui). I recently bought a vinyl sticker I have in my office area at home that states, “Don’t Stress God’s Got this.” It has been rather recently that I have begun being more open about my beliefs, but I have always lived a life in which I serve others as much as possible. I have always hoped I lead by example and my children know certain behaviors that are expected in my household, as well as in the treatment of others and responsibility to our greater community.”

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Prayer

 

Dawn Spence:

 

“We write out our prayers on a board and talk about how God has answered their prayers. Some of their prayers have been on the board for many years and still they see we are consistent to pray.

What came to my mind is the power of prayer and what my kids have witnessed as they have prayed for others and have seen them be answered. It was hard to see when prayers of healing are not answered the way they wanted. They also saw how when they have a need or have a hurt it is the best way to get their needs meet. I have seen my daughter find people and pray with them. I wish I would have had that opportunity when I was younger.”

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Service

 

Debbi White:

 

“Our homeschooling journey spanned many years, so different methods and techniques were utilized, but the overarching emphasis in our home was ALWAYS the Lord.  (Hind-site has shown me several areas that I was flawed in, but I did the best I knew at the time, as most of us do.)

 

Memorization of scripture and hymns, reading/learning Bible stories, family prayer time, and service in our community were main pillars in our spiritual pursuits.  We invested in quality Bible story books when the girls were young, and read them over and over again in our evening devotions. Christian radio was the main medium in our house, and the girls listened to tapes of Adventures in Odyssey daily.  When they got older, we read Christian biographies and memorized hymns.

 

 

The girls and I enjoyed baking, and often we would take muffins, cookies or cake to the sick or elderly.

 

 

One Christmas we bought several gifts from the dollar store, wrapped each one (I think we somehow segregated male/female and child/adult gifts.)  We piled them in a wagon and took them to the hospital. It was so touching for me to see my young daughters pass out gifts to the patients. We also often visited the local nursing home, and we entertained in our home weekly.  We enjoyed having a couple over for board games, families over for meals, and large groups (church, neighbors, home-school friends) over for Open Houses. We also entertained missionaries frequently.”

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Bible Study

 

Mary Winfield:

 

“For our spiritual learning we do a lot. We go to church and Sunday School each week and our church has a  curriculum that encourages families to learn at home when not at church. The manual has the topics that will be taught on Sunday (and ideas on how to study at home), so you can instill the gospel in their hearts with continuity. We also have a nightly scripture study and prayer as a family. Overall I think that my kids are not going to remember all the specifics of the lessons and prayers we had, but they will remember that we were always striving to be closer to God and to have a Christ-centered home.”


Amy Vickrey:

 

“In the past, we have done daily Bible Studies, and I hope to make this a priority again as we settle into a new schedule this new year.  We enjoyed learning about the Names of God, and the different ways we see him based on those names. My son has learned to pray from going through that study, and can say the most heart-warming, sincere prayers that I feel are years beyond where most people would see his understanding.  I feel it is God who gives him the ability to pray with such sincerity and earnest!

 

I know my kids see my faith and hear me talk about it because of the things that I hear them say and do.  I know as parents we all feel inadequate at times, and unsure if we are doing enough. I know this season of my life will pass, and with time pain will turn to memory.  Life will continue and will become peaceful once more. In the meantime, I try to remind myself that it is not how we deal with the peaceful times but how we deal with the tumultuous times that make the most lasting impressions on our kids’ lives.  I know my parents did not have much to offer us financially during many seasons of our lives. Yet, they gave their time to us, to our friends, and to others. And this meant a lot to those whose lives they touched. I hope that my kids will someday say the same about me.”

 


Tracy Glockle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I think in many ways, homeschooling reflects the person or people involved. If Christ is central in my life, Christ will naturally be central in our homeschool and in anything I do. So first and foremost, my own heart and my own spiritual journey need to be a priority. It’s easy to let my own needs slip as I’m focusing on my children, to read my Bible less, to pray less, to seek fellowship with other Christians less because I’m focusing on the urgent immediate needs I see everyday. But one of the best ways I can serve my children and my family is to seek the Lord in my own life regularly. To carve out time, even a little time, and make that a priority.

 

Next, we incorporate Christ-centered conversations throughout the day, particularly at meal times. Right now, we are reading together through the book of Hebrews at breakfast, and my husband leads us in the evenings as we study Proverbs. I love the Simply Charlotte Mason resources for Bible in our homeschool. Each child also has an individual time of study, using various resources we have gathered over the years. Seeds Family Worship is another favorite resource of ours for Bible memory. Each subject also triggers lots of conversations about God and His plan for our good and His glory. The books we read out loud together, the history events we study, the marvels of creation—all speak of God’s hand in our world.”

 

As you can see, there are so many ways to add faith and service to your homeschool, and no wrong way to do it!

 

 

What does Gospel-centered parenting look like in your home?

 

 

How do you incorporate the Lord into your homeschool?

 

 

We would love to hear from you!


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