by Cynthia Heren from  Inside Our Normal, SPED Homeschool Blogging Partner

 

When we uncovered  our child’s disability, it was because we realized they weren’t meeting the suggested age-based milestones. In our case, we were still spoon feeding them yogurt and applesauce. We kept telling ourselves as parents “It’s ok, they are only 2…” but that excuse wore thin as they were getting ready to turn 3 in a couple of months, so after consulting with our pediatrician we began Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy for our child.  

 

For our  outside the box kids, learning doesn’t always happen at the same pace as their peers.  But with strong support, they can make the same progress in their own time. The child I mentioned above entered Pre-K with an IEP that focused on support in fine motor skills and sensory needs.  When we had them reevaluated in 3rd grade after moving across the country and a few years of homeschool, their new IEP reflected struggles focusing and social skills. 

 

Fast forward a few years and that same child is now a preteen. Their strengths and challenges have changed with time. Progress has been made in some areas, and new challenges have arisen. In our homeschool we can fully accommodate their needs and provide support for the best ways to help them grow.  Fine Motor skills are still a struggle but we meet the need by having primary-ruled paper always available for written assignments and the computer available to type on, instead of being overwhelmed by small lines on a worksheet. This accommodation is easy because we homeschool and don’t have to think about 30 students. We only have to consider what is best for one. Our child had grown and changed in their own time! Take heart. Working at your child’s pace is always the right choice.     

 

3 reminders for working at your child’s pace

#1 – Ignore grade levels and meet them where they are at

Many times, our special kids excel in specific areas of learning but struggle in other areas. It is important to look for  homeschool materials that can meet your child where they are at instead of where they “should be” based on their age. Trusting the placement tests of any program you are considering is valuable and will help you find the right fit for your child’s needs in that skill area.  I am homeschooling three children and only one of them is on the same grade level for all subjects. The other two students fall across at least two grade levels in their materials.  

 

#2 – Celebrate their progress

No matter what level your student is working at when they finish a project or workbook, take time to celebrate! It can be as simple as a dance party using songs from the radio or a special trip for ice cream. Celebrate all progress, however that looks at your child’s pace. They may never catch up with their age level peers but since they are in a classroom of one, they are never behind. 

 

#3 – Your homeschool is uniquely yours!

The most important thing to remember when homeschooling Outside the Box kids is the flexibility it gives you to meet their needs. Stop looking at other homeschoolers you know and don’t compare your homeschool to theirs. Your homeschool will look unique to your family and the needs of your student, and that’s how it should be. Likewise, their homeschool will be unique to their family and learning needs. When you focus on finding the perfect fit for your students, your students will thrive!

 

When we parents remember to keep our eyes on helping our child succeed and set unique learning goals based on their current skill sets, we will see the best growth. It may not look like a typical child their age but Progress is Progress and we will celebrate with you every step of the way!  

 

 

 

 


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by Cheryl Swope, Simply Classical Curriculum and Cheryl Swope Consulting

 

David was small in stature. He had only five small stones. By any standard of measure, David stood no chance against Goliath; but the LORD was with David.

 

This is what I wish I would have understood when my twins were young. As an adoptive mother, I fretted. My son’s legs were twisted and his muscle tone floppy. He spoke with sounds that were difficult to understand. He seemed perplexed by reasonable rules. Unusually passive, he was willing to let his twin sister attempt to button his clothing, do his simple chores, and speak for him in public. She, by contrast, was eager to help, but lacked the skills to do so. With odd language and fine-motor skills so weak they fell into the 2nd%ile. Even at age four, her drawing and coloring appeared at a toddler age. What was I to do?

 

My mind vacillated by its own weakness. On hearty days, I vowed to “catch them up” with heroic amounts of attention, therapies, and hard work. Much of the time, this mindset served my children well. We truly worked hard. The therapeutic work structured our days, nurtured our bonds, and resulted in measurable, albeit small, gains. On weaker days, I despaired of ever being able to catch them up to their peers. Just when I thought we had made great strides, a same-age child would come over to play. I marveled at the organized mind of the child as she planned her play, folded a swim towel, or spoke with coherence. I felt myself tumbling into the chasm of difference between my children and the capable neighbor child.

 

Where was my mistake? I believe now that my mistake, on both the hearty days and the weaker days, was thinking that my role was to “catch up” my children, as if the differences were merely quantitative and resolvable. My little David–my twins Michael and Michelle–would never be the size of Goliath, the physically and mentally able “giants” among other children we knew. They would not run and play freely like the others, navigate friendships or draw and color like the others, speak or plan or achieve like the others. But the LORD was with them. 

 

I began to understand that the enemy was not the other children. They were not “Goliath;” rather my giant was the temptation to hold up other children as the measuring stick for my own. I had nothing in my satchel to slay this temptation. But the LORD was with me. I want to share this excerpt from I Samuel 17:

 

Then he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine….

Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts…. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you.’

 

Slaying the temptation was my first, small step of progress, and one that would need to be taken. One of my children’s occupational therapists told me that the top factor for a child’s success was his sense of love, acceptance, and closeness from his mother. As if scales fell from my eyes, I compared less and, instead, saw my children as the unique, fully human, endearing children that they are. Scrapbooking helped. I jotted down the delightful things they said, the small steps of progress they made, and the ways in which they evidenced growth beyond what is measurable: thoughtfulness, gentleness, kindness, helpfulness, self-control. 

 

Our children are created imago Dei, in the image of God, redeemed by Christ, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Him, my twins have an unmatched advocate, defender, and sustainer. With this comfort I am free to continue therapies, press on with academics, and teach the many things they need to know. We can work on exercises, speech articulation, social understanding, and manners. If we move forward in spelling, math, writing, and reading, we rejoice. Today as we watch other families make progress step by step through our Simply Classical Spelling: Step-by-Step Words and  Simply Classical Writing: Step-by-Step Sentences, we rejoice greatly. But most importantly, we have learned the hard way that even if we make no progress despite great effort or, due to degenerative conditions, experience regress, the LORD is still with us.

 

We can remember that young David who once carried only five small stones later prayed words we can say together with our children in great confidence: I will fear no evil, for You are with me. We can trust in His faithfulness toward us no matter where our children fall today on percentile rank, stanine, and other manmade measures. The LORD provides us with comfort and understanding as we love our children on hearty days and weaker days.

 

Resting in Him, we can rejoice in our children’s small steps. We can rejoice most of all in sharing the truth that closes David’s beloved psalm for ourselves and for our children: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Let us guard this comfort closely and teach this, above all else, to our children day by day.

 

 

 

 

 


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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.  Plus, 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 Peggy Ployhar and Mary Winfield

One of the biggest stressors for new homeschoolers is trying to figure out what is required of them in their state. It can be overwhelming to dig through information to find what you need to do while being sure that you aren’t forgetting anything important. You also don’t want to have to hassle with testing if it isn’t required because often testing doesn’t accurately measure what your child knows due to anxiety, poor cross over skills, or other issues. Here is a comprehensive list of the bare minimum required for testing and evaluating in each state, so you can focus on what is most important: your child’s education. (States that have been omitted from the list do not have any evaluation requirements!)

You also don’t want to have to hassle with testing if it isn’t required because often testing doesn’t accurately measure what your child knows due to anxiety, poor cross over skills, or other issues.

Arkansas:

Norm-referenced testing is required for homeschooled students per state mandates for testing at students at specific grade/age levels . (Arkansas Department of Education, August 2007)

Colorado:

Standardized achievement tests must be given to homeschooled students in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th grades or the student should be evaluated by an individual deemed qualified.  Norm-referenced testing marks must be above the 13% national mark or evaluations should show sufficient student progress.  (Christian Home Educators of Colorado – Homeschool Law)

Connecticut:

Homeschool programs should be deemed equivalent to other schooling options available to that student and this equivalency is determined by an annual portfolio review of the school district. (The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers Connecticut (TEACHCT) – The “Guidelines”)

Florida:

Homeschool families must be able to prove educational progress and back up that progress with a portfolio of the student’s work. (Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) – Florida Homeschool Requirements)

Georgia:

Homeschoolers are required to use standardized tests at a minimum every three years and yearly write an annual progress report.  Records of both of these requirements are to be kept by the homeschooling family and are not required for reporting. (Georgia Home Education Association – Georgia Law)

Hawaii:

Annually families must file a progress report including standardized test results, a certified teacher evaluation of the student, or a parent-written student progress report with supporting work samples.  Additionally, standardized tests are required for 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th grade students and can be taken through the local school or other evaluation alternatives may be requested by the parent in lieu of these tests. (Hawaii Homeschool Association – Hawaii Regulations)

Iowa:

There are some homeschooling options in Iowa that do not require annual reporting or assessment, but some options still do.  To find out more about these options and the requirements each entail, visit the Homeschool Iowa – Know the Law and Rulespage on their website to find out more.

Louisiana:

Based on the homeschooling option you choose, testing and curriculum submission may or may not be required.  To find out more visit the (Homeschool Louisiana – How Do I Start Homeschooling) website page.

Maryland:

Up to three times per year a homeschool can be assessed by the local superintendent (or designee).  These assessments may include a portfolio review, discussion with the homeschooler regarding homeschooling instruction, and/or monitoring/observation of the homeschooled child. (Maryland Home Education Association – Legal)

Minnesota:

Homeschooled students are required yearly to take a standardized test that is nationally norm-referenced.  Test results are not submitted for review, but there is a requirement that any student scoring below the 30% mark should receive additional testing for a specific learning issue. (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE) – Legal)

New Hampshire:

An annual education evaluation for students can be determined either through an educational progress report written by a certified teacher, by a nationally norm-referenced test or local district assessment test, or another assessment tool “mutually agreed upon by the parent and the commissioner of education, resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal.” (New Hampshire Home Education Statutes Section 193:A6 Evaluation & Records)

New York:

New York regulations planning, reporting and assessments for all homeschooled students in the state.  These requirements rage from mandatory oversight and content requirements of student Individualized Home Instruction Plans (IHIP), required course and instruction material submissions, attendance requirements, quarterly reports, and annual assessments. To understand the specifics of these area of regulation, visit the New York State Loving Education At Home (LEAH) – Regulations website page as well as the New York Home Instruction Regulations page.

North Carolina:

Homeschooled students are to take a nationally norm-referenced test on a yearly basis. (North Carolinian’s for Home Education (NCHE) – Helps Page)

North Dakota:

Homeschooled students in 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th grade are required to take a standard achievement test either administered in their local school district or that is nationally norm-referenced by an approved test administrator.  Test results are to be filed with the local superintendent. If the student’s score is below the 30% mark, a team is assigned to evaluate the student for any disabilities. Upon completion of the evaluation, the parent, with advisement from an licensed teacher, is to create a remediation plan and file this plan with the district superintendent. If a remediation plan is not filed, the district can revoke the right to homeschool the student in question. (North Dakota Home Education Code)

Ohio:

Yearly assessments for the prior homeschooling year are to be filed at the beginning of each new homeschooling year.  Assessments can be determined either via a norm-referenced test, a portfolio with written report, or by an alternative form of assessment.   The validity of any of the above submissions must be determined by either a licensed/certified teacher, mutually agreed upon professional with the local superintendent or by a test administer approved by a specific test publisher. If the superintendent determines a student needs remediation based on their filed assessment, then the homeschooling parent must file quarterly progress reports for the subjects covered and explanations is less curriculum was covered than in the originally filed homeschool plan.  If the student doesn’t show reasonable progress the superintendent has the right to notify parents the child must enroll the child. (Christian Home Educators of Ohio – Homeschool Regulations)

Oregon:

Norm-referenced tests are required for homeschooled students in 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th grade and some districts request for those tests to be filed. Students with learning difficulties can request other forms of evaluation if desired.  For students who fall below the 15% mark there is an allowance given to help the student improve over a three-year period. (Oregon Christian Home Education Association Network (OCEAN) – Summary of Homeschool Law)

Pennsylvania:

Evaluation of a yearly portfolio with the addition of nationally norm-referenced tests or state administered tests for reading/language and mathematics in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade is required as well as a report which includes documentation of an interview with your student and an assessment of the student’s portfolio contents.  (Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency – Law Guide)

South Carolina:

Homeschoolers have three options in South Carolina which vary testing and evaluation requirements.  Under option one parents must keep a plan book, portfolio, semi-annual progress report and yearly testing results from their student’s participation in the Basic Skills Assessment Program. Options two and three vary in their requirements per specifics are determined by your choice of oversight agency. For more information on these options and the laws associated with them visit the South Carolina Education Association Homeschooling website page.

South Dakota:

Homeschoolers are required to use test using a standardized test monitored by their local school, a norm-referenced test covering math and reading provided by the Department of Education, or a nationally standardized test of basic skills in the 4th, 8th, and 11th grades.  Test results are to be filed with the local school district. (South Dakota Education Association – Homeschooling)

Tennessee:

There are two homeschooling options in Tennessee. Under one option homeschooled students are to be tested in 5th, 7th, and 9th grade, while under the other option the oversight institution determines the homeschool students testing requirements. (Middle Tennessee Home Education Association – Is It Legal)

Vermont:

Annual assessment is required by one or more of the following methods:  a formal report submitted by a teacher licensed in Vermont; a student portfolio that demonstrates progress and is accompanied by a report from either a parent, teacher, or curriculum publisher; and/or standardized testing results from an approved achievement test covering agreed upon subjects and scored per publishers standards. (Vermont State Board of Education Home Study Program Statutes)

Virginia:

Homeschooled students not taught by a certified teacher must submit a yearly report that includes either testing results from a nationally norm-referenced test, an equivalence score from the ACT, SAT, or PSAT, an evaluation letter from a licenced teacher or other approved academic professional, or a report card from a “community college or college, college distance-learning program, or home education correspondence school.” (Home Educator’s Association of Virginia (HEAV) – Virginia Homeschool Laws)

Washington:

Annual testing is required and can be obtained either through a non-test assessment by a teacher certified by the state of Washington or through a standardized test approved the the Washington State Board of Education.  There is no requirement for filing testing results. (Washington Homeschool Organization – The Law)

West Virginia:

Yearly assessments are required via either a nationally normed standardized test, a testing program used in a state school in the student’s county of residence, via a portfolio reviewed by a certified teacher with a written report, or through an alternative assessment mutually agreed upon by the parent or legal guardian and the county superintendent.”  If assessments fail to show “acceptable” progress, a remedial program should be initiated by the homeschooling parent/guardian and if progress does not improve in the following year’s assessment their must be additional materials presented to the superintendent showing additional instruction remediation.(Christian Home Educators of West Virginia – WV Homeschool Law)

 

Hopefully you were able to find some clarity and peace as to what you will need to do to ensure a successful homeschool year in the eyes of your state from this list. Do you want to connect with other homeschoolers and maybe find some people in your state? Head over to your  Facebook support group; we would love to have you!

 

 

The data shared in this article is for informational use only. In no way is the contents of this article intended to constitute legal advice.

 

Also we are aware that homeschool/educational law in every state is constantly changing.  The information shared in this article was compiled in March 2019. There is no guarantee the data above is currently correct, complete, or up-to-date.

 

Please refer to the links provided in each section for further investigation into each particular state law referenced.

 

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Did you know a student does not need to take the ACT or SAT in order to receive a degree from a 4-year university?  For students like my oldest who has anxiety issues, this fact removed a large amount of stress when he realized his call into a profession that would require a 4-year degree.

The ACT and SAT are placement tests often used by universities to award students freshman placement into 4-year universities or by scholarship organizations to award funding. So, if your student is not looking to attend a university right out of high school or compete for any academic scholarships, then these tests are more than likely not worth the time, energy, or stress they would place upon your student.

 

Navigating College Admission without the ACT/SAT

That being said, the route to a 4-year university without taking a stressful entrance exam does not negate testing all-together.  If your student enrolls in a community college as a precursor to enrollment in a 4-year university, that school will usually require a placement evaluation.  Each community college has different regulations around these enrollment tests, but most can be taken without time limits over a multiple day period, or without penalty if there is a need for multiple re-tests.

The most commonly used community college placement test is the Accuplacer Test, but some community colleges use a state-standardized placement test or one they have developed for their own college system.  To ensure you understand the specific testing requirements of your community college, as well as the required courses your student should have on a transcript for college admission, it is best to set up an appointment with the college if your student is preparing to transition into post-secondary education via this route.

Also note that even if your student doesn’t pass the community college placement test, that does not limit enrollment in the college.  For subject areas your student has shown college competence, they are awarded the ability to enroll in college credit classes. For those subject areas where the test shows the need for remedial work, they can enroll in various non-credit courses; a passing grade in these courses would allow credit hour enrollment.

Most community colleges also offer tutoring help for students who are taking remedial courses and work with students who need accommodations.  These special services departments also help students with testing if they discover a student may have a learning disability and may need help in gaining more services for their college career.

Transferring from a community college to a 4-year university requires certain qualifiers set by the university be met by incoming transfer students.  Each university is different based on courses that are allowed to be transferred, GPA of the incoming student, and admission requirements for specific degree programs, but none require an ACT or SAT score.

Transferring from a community college to a 4-year university requires certain qualifiers…but none require an ACT or SAT score.

For my son who is now in his third year of studies and on track to graduate from the University of Houston’s Biomedical Engineering program in a little over a year, the ability to work towards his degree one step at a time has provided him a much more successful route to achieving his goal.  My hope is that, if you too have a child who struggles yet feels led to a career that requires a degree, neither of you will let go of that dream just because of an admissions test.

To find out more about how we can help you homeschool your struggling high school student, visit the SPED Homeschool High School Help Checklist pageon our website.

 


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