This final post in our series on writing an Educational Philosophy will look at the topic of Evaluation and Outcomes. Of course, with traditional schooling these took the form of test scores and/or grades. But with home-schooling, we have the opportunity to re-define success to something more than just numbers and letters. We have the chance to instil a thirst for life-long learning.
Of course, all of that may sound brilliant until the Education Welfare Officer from the council comes to look at your curriculum, set-up and resources. Or worse yet, your mother-in-law asks…so how is THAT home-schooling thing coming along. The truth is that we are all measured and evaluated against certain societal standards. Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret, just by choosing to home-school you have ‘failed’ to meet certain societal expectations. But how we choose to define success for our children and ourselves is one way that we can either men those fences or jump them and go frolicking in the fields of life.
Every year there is a news story about how some young child (usually 10 or so although they keep getting younger) took and passed an A-level in something. Most often these children are home-schooled. While these children should be applauded for their accomplishments, it took thousands of hours of hard work to achieve that. I personally am always left wondering at what cost to the individual. But one thing to be said for that kind of measure is that few Educational Welfare Officers or even mother-in-laws would dare question the ‘success’ of your home-schooling.
Certainly, families can choose to utilize set standards such as Key Stage testing for their child. Often, home-schooled children meet or exceed the National Standards. For some this is a reassuring and widely accepted validation of their decision to home-school.
Another important measure used in traditional schooling is lesson plans. Teachers spend hours each week carefully planning activities that will offer children the opportunity to learn specific lessons from the National Curriculum. They will think about different ways to re-enforce the lesson to visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners. They will consider how to measure and record progress for each individual child.
But what if your child is too young yet for standardized tests or you simply do not believe that lesson plans are the best investment of your time. What can give an accurate measure of your child’s strengths, challenges and progress? Emily and I fall into both of these categories by the way. As a result, I have sought out other ways of measuring the material taught and progress towards our goals.
For us in particular, the challenge of her epilepsy makes daily lesson planning moot. Why spend several hours each Sunday planning specific learning activities for each day, when one bad night can throw the whole schedule off. A more logical choice for our situation has been monthly learning objectives that define what materials we will be covering that month and what we define as success.
For instance, one of our math objectives is…to count to thirty with 100% accuracy on five occasions. By having that clear objective in mind, I can define our starting point. Emily could count to 13 without difficulty. I can measure progress along the way…she quickly caught onto the concept of twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, etc. But the number 14 to 18 continued to be difficult.
This method also allows me to take advantage of real life learning moments. We can count cars as they pass on our weekly exploration walk. We can toss a balloon in the air and count how many bounces we can keep it afloat. We can count just about anything. Over and over each day. Until we get it right. And the most beautiful thing about home-schooling is that you don’t have to move on until you do get it right. So if at the end of the month we are still having problems with 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, we just move that to next month’s objectives.
This method is a cinch for measuring progress. We defined success at the beginning…100% accuracy on five occasions. We either hit that mark or we don’t. Now I do write up a monthly report that looks at the progress we made on our monthly objectives, the challenges we encountered and suggestions for addressing those challenges in the future. For me, this is the crux of my evaluation. What we can do better next time.
And speaking of next time…I will share a bit from that monthly progress report and look how our first month of home-schooling had gone. The good…the bad…and the ugly.