The Joy of Assessment

That’s right.  I think it’s a joy.  I’m here to proclaim my love for it.  Assessment in schools is usually a dreary affair of grades and standardized tests, with lots of pressure thrown in.  Our assessment isn’t like that.

We are lucky enough to live somewhere with what I consider to be pretty minimal homeschool regulation.  On the one hand, it’s overly vague.  On the other hand, they reputedly don’t have any staff to enforce the vagueness anyway, so it’s hard to get too fussed about it.  Of course, the fact that I have a master’s degree in education and therefore can speak at least a little of their language probably makes me overly cocky.

The primary requirement we have is simply to do something for every subject (exactly what is the vague part) and to keep records (exactly how is similarly vague).  We would do this anyway.  I can’t imagine not doing this in some form.  Beyond disorganization (which I totally understand and suffer from as well), I don’t really understand why any homeschooler wouldn’t want to keep track of what their kids are doing.

I’ve tried to make a steady routine for us, which we’ve used for more than two years now.  The writing elements for me are usually pretty quick.  I try not to spend more than an hour on them total.  Every two months, we update portfolios.  Here’s what what we do:

  • I make a list of every class, performance, and field trip we’ve taken, as well as all the read aloud books we’ve finished
  • I write a 1-3 sentence summary of what we’re doing in each subject.  For some subjects, this doesn’t change from time to time or only changes in small ways, such as that we’re studying Rome instead of Greece.
  • I write a quick assessment of each kid where I answer two questions with a few sentences: What’s something to be proud of?  What’s something to work on?
  • I give the kids all the “work” we’ve saved up over the last two months.  This is mostly drawings and a few worksheets or evidence of projects.  I tell them to pick three or four pieces that are special and worth saving.
  • Next, I pick three or four pieces that I think are worth saving.
  • The kids and I sit down and make between 2-4 goals that I type up for the next two months.  This is totally their call.  Often, the goals surprise me.  They can be very silly or very ambitious and academic.
  • I compile all the parts into a binder.  We sit down and read through all of it together and we each sign the front sheet.  We also look at whether they met their goals from the last go around and occasionally look at the older work in the rest of the binder.
  • Very last, I throw away all the drawings, worksheets, pamphlets and junk that has accumulated over the previous two months.
BalletBoy's Portfolio. It has one of the signs from his lemonade stand.

After we’re finished, I always feel amazing about what we did.  I’m usually amazed to realize that the kids saw multiple plays and concerts or that we finished as many books at bedtime as we did.  When I type up things I think the kids should be proud of, I feel prouder for them than I would otherwise.  When I think about what we need to work on, it prioritizes it for me and when I read it to them, they take it seriously.

Mushroom's Portfolio from earlier in the year. Notice the super-awesome Dalek he colored! The other page is from a class about fingerprints we did with our mystery themed co-op.

That’s the joy.  Our lives are full.  They’re full of activities, social commitments, books, projects and errands.  Assessments make us stop and appreciate all that we do and, by talking about goals and things to work on, they let us look at the road ahead.

3 thoughts on “The Joy of Assessment

  1. Exterminate! Exterminate!

    We’re signed up with a DEL here in our province, and they actually give us back some of our outrageously high tax dollars. I have to report each week but since it’s an unschooling-friendly DEL it’s no work at all (given that we’re not unschoolers).

  2. This makes me want to do assessments of my personal career and life goals. Do you do this more than once or just at the end of the school year?

  3. I’m all behind replying to comments thanks to travels, but I’m doing it now anyway, gosh darn it!

    Yes, we do this every two months. I’ve thought about making it less often. 12 is also divisible by 3, after all. We’ll see how it goes. It’s especially cathartic to throw out all the old workbook pages and drawings at the end.

    Sheila, I feel like I’m always seeing hardcore homeschoolers complain about when people take the government funds because they’ll get all involved in homeschooling and want to regulate it even more. But I admit that I’m always jealous to hear about people (usually in Canada or Alaska) who get money for homeschool materials. Ah, that would be such shopping fun. And as it is, we document all this stuff anyway and no one cares except us.

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