Part 1: Encouragement
Around this time of year, homeschoolers begin thinking about the annual assessment and that often gets them worrying whether or not they're doing enough for their kids, or if the kids are “falling behind” academically.
It is tempting to compare your children’s academic progress to others, especially public-school peers. There is often a deep concern about keeping on track with the local school’s standards and scope/sequence and avoiding learning gaps. It’s understandable for parents to have these concerns, and I think every homeschooler does at some point in their journey. But know that by definition, homeschooling is a customized learning plan, so it makes sense that it does not replicate the public-school model or even how other homeschooling families structure their children’s education.
In homeschooling, there is no "behind" because you are progressing as your child is able, in his or her own time. Even among siblings, each child is unique and will progress when they are ready. One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is the ability to allow children to learn at their own pace.
While it is tempting to use the local public-school requirements as a benchmark, or as standards for your home ed program, know that it is not required. That does not mean that families may not have goals and objectives for their children’s learning, especially for older students. But, families, not the state, make the decisions.
(The caveat is if you have a student who wishes to enroll in your local public high school. Please refer to our video for specifics re how to maximize your home ed learning to count towards public school graduation credits.)
Parents have a natural nervousness about homeschooling, I think, because it’s a tremendous responsibility, and deep down, we’re afraid we’ll mess up. We want to get their education “right” and prepare our children for success.
You are doing an awesome job. You know your children best. You know their strengths, weaknesses, needs, goals, ambitions, and fears. Every day you make all kinds of decisions for them, from what food they eat to their healthcare to household expectations. You absolutely can extend that reasoning to their education. And with homeschooling, you can make it a custom fit to their changing needs and circumstances. Homeschooling is a beautiful gift to your children that will set them up for a lifetime of learning and success.
Deep breath…. You’ve got this!
Part 2: Practical Info
The home ed requirements include some kind of annual assessment, and there are many options so families can choose whichever methods and providers are best suited to their children’s needs and reflects their learning progress.
New Hampshire has three broad methods to satisfy the annual assessment requirement: 1) a standardized test of your choice, including the statewide assessment administered at your local public school; 2) a teacher evaluation with the education professional of your choice; and 3) a mutually agreed upon alternative with your Participating Agency, the education entity with whom you filed your original notification. We go into more depth about these options and have extensive lists of potential providers on our website on the Testing & Evaluations page.
There is no right or best way to assess your children’s growth; whatever works for your family and reflects your children’s progress is fine. If it’s easier to take an online or paper-and-pencil test, then there are many options. If your child has test anxiety or you don’t believe your children’s learning can properly be distilled into a test score, then you can seek a teacher evaluation or another method. If you are considering other assessment options, it must be agreed upon with the education entity (your local SAU superintendent, a private school, or the NH DOE) with whom you filed your original Letter of Intent. There are many possibilities, including but not limited to the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT), the Classic Learning Test (CLT), or report cards from a third-party educational provider. If you seek this alternative, get it in writing that your Participating Agency agrees to the choice.
Regardless of your particular assessment choice, the results remain private; you do not need to submit them to your district or Participating Agency. Keep the results with your child’s portfolio for a minimum of two years.
Families may determine when they finish their school year. For some, they may choose early spring to do their annual assessment to get it out of the way. Others may home educate year-round and may do an assessment based on the conclusion of one grade level before starting another. The only requirement in statute is annual, so whenever you choose to conduct your assessment, do it at least every year.
There are many families that began their home education program at some time midway through the traditional school year. You may use your child’s work samples and report cards from the previous educational setting as part of their home ed portfolio to show progress, so you are not beholden to a November to October school-year, as an example.
Results and Uses
Regardless of your particular assessment choice, the results remain private; you do not need to submit them to your district or Participating Agency. However, if you wish to have your child participate in curricular or co-curricular programs available at your local district schools, a placement test or other proof of mastery may be required. For example, a child will likely need to show satisfactory knowledge of Algebra before being placed into Algebra II or Geometry, or take a placement test in Spanish before being enrolled in the program. Your child may also need to show satisfactory grade stability to participate in extra curriculars. Refer to our page on Equal Access for more information. The assessment can also be helpful in the unlikely event of a truancy officer making an inquiry or dealing with an educational neglect charge.
The process can provide more value than just checking a required box. The annual assessment can be an opportunity to receive outside feedback on your child’s learning progress. It can help you make adjustments for the next academic year or identify deficiencies or areas for improvement.
The assessment and portfolio are also very helpful in preparing your children’s transcript if they pursue enrollment in competitive high schools or post-secondary programs. We have a video about homeschool transcripts that includes several tips and suggestions.
No matter how you handle your children’s annual assessments, know that there is no such thing as “behind” in homeschooling because your child is learning at his/her own rate. Just as young children learn to walk, crawl, and run at their own pace, your children will learn when they are ready.
By Michelle Levell