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bored to tears with anything that will serve us in the HS review

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

In the effort to acummulate material that we can show in the homeschool review, I sometimes make up written work thta matches the expectations of our county reviewer.    I've been able to do this easily in math and history but we have very little in "reading" because although dd i a voracious reader she doesn't write much and only writes when she wants to, what she wants to.  She is very creative an original, but there is almost nothing that we can show the reviewer.   SHe also prefers to write on the chalkboard, she says it is so easy to erase.  I took a picture once of what she wrote on the board, but I dont think that is going to be enough.


I found the Maryland State curriculum website and printout some grade 3 tests for reading and math.  I figured, these will be so easy for her and we will have something in the format that the reviewer can understand and easily accept.


So I gave her the reading test.  It was so easy I thought she would breeze through it.  Instead she was soon in tears because ...

"why do I have to do this, I already know how to read!"

She also found fault with various questions for various reasons. 


At first, she would add a 5th choice to the multiple choice and circle that.  I told her that was even better and I would have to give her "extra credit" for having an original answer.  But overall she was very antagonistic towards the test.  Halfway through she said, "it is better to just let them crush the creativity out of you and just give the answer that they want."  I started to say, no that is not better, you should write what you think is right.  SHe stopped me and said, "no that is simpler."  I later said that I did not want her to do something that she felt was crushing her creativity and she just said, that's okay, I have plenty of time to uncrush it.


TO be honest, that is probably the way I and I daresay most of my classmates approached our school work and exams all the time  - and in a way, how I am approaching this review.  I know that the reviewer has no appreciation for or interest in how my child learns etc but just wants to see material so that she can tick her list.  Based on past experience, knowing that she is not interested in something departing much from the school curriculum, except that it might be done at a different pace and in a more "interdisciplinary way" - that is what she calls "the beauty of homescholing" -- I see that I have to repackage whatever we are doing in a format that she recognizes and accepts.  My struggle is to do this without imposing too much change in what we are doing.   That is the really hard part. 



I used to approach the review as an opportunity for me to get new ideas from an external source but now I just see it as useless except to meet the requirement.  When I saw these assessments and realized that my daughter definitely "knew" all the stuff, I thought this is the answer to my problems, just show the reviewer that she passed the state grade 3 assessment and that will fill the bill.  But I can't do it if it drives dd to tears.  And in a way I don't really want dd to swallow the bitter pill and just do it - losing her high standard of learning and compromising for the sake of the system, etc.


any thoughts??



post #2 of 17

Poor kid! We're doing our required standardized test this week. While I wish ds would be willing to listen to a few minutes of guidance on proper punctuation, I'm really grateful he isn't worried about taking it. In general, he really hates doing anything that demonstrates his knowledge of something. He's very private about what he knows.


What I did two years ago, when he last had to take one for 3rd grade, was pick my moments for when he was in a good mood, not hungry, not tired, etc. Then he only did a couple sections at a time (sections are timed, nothing more than 10 minutes). 


This year, I'll do the same. But I was wondering if I could slip him some worksheets about when to use apostrophes and how to use quotes before he takes the language mechanics section. He is usually resistant to that sort of thing but if he's in gear because he knows this test needs to happen, he might take it in stride.  Anyway, I was looking at free printable worksheets and thinking how much better they would be if I swapped out some of the sentences for things that had more meaning to ds, personalizing them by changing Uncle Joe to Uncle Real Name.  And I was thinking the reading comprehension section of the test would be much more appealing to ds if it was actually the kind of story ds would be interested in reading. Possibly, you could make up a reading comprehension test that was really funny or personal. If she hates multiple choice questions (some kids really really hate multiple choice), have open ended questions. If she doesn't like writing, she can dictate her answer. You could even tape her talking about a book she read by choice. That would demonstrate reading comprehension.


Well, I don't know if any of that is helpful, but good luck!


ETA: Since your dd really did not like the test you found to give her, do you think she would get excited about making up a test the way she thinks it ought to be? Designing a better version with a more interesting passage? Fixing the "stupid" test and making a creative one?


Another idea is to give her a higher level grade assessment. Maybe she'd do better with a challenge than something too easy. My own ds needs to have things just right. Too easy and he is annoyed, too hard and he is frustrated. It's tricky.

post #3 of 17

Wow, what a brilliantly insightful little girl you have!


I love the idea of a fifth multiple choice answer. But if that didn't appease her fully, is there any reason you couldn't re-write the questions on the test in future to be open-ended rather than multiple choice? Or how about a couple of book reviews / reports? Many websites accept use reviews (eg. Amazon) so it doesn't even need to be a contrived exercise just for the reviewer. Any reviewers we've ever worked with have been outrageously happy with two or three examples of insight gleaned from reading and writing which expresses original ideas. We've usually also presented a list of novels read independently and those done as shared readalouds and discussed (naturally!) between us. For the past two or three years my kids have been keeping blogs to report on their learning, using photos and text to describe projects, activities and trips they've taken part in. That has created more than adequate written work samples for our reviewer. If your reviewer is not happy with these sorts of indicators, would it be possible to change reviewers? 


My kids have had to do standardized testing in 4th and 7th grades. They found it rather idiotic, but because I empathized with them about it and presented it as "something that needs to be done to get us the perks we enjoy through our homeschooling program" (which in our case are not insignificant) they were on-board with jumping through the silly hoops. Perhaps you could work with your dd, brainstorming a number of different ways of satisfying the reviewer, and then have her participate in deciding on a solution, and then she'd be more on board with the choice even if it's a rather distasteful one.



post #4 of 17

Oooh! Writing a book review on Amazon is a great idea! I will have to file that for future portfolio fodder. My ds is a real proponent of online reviews. He also likes to look up video reviews on youtube, as well.

post #5 of 17

Some print magazines-- What If? is a good one-- publish book reviews by kids and teens. I wonder if she would be interested in submitting a review for publication? I love her comments, by the way. She sounds like a fabulous kid and it's great that she has faith in the uncrushability of her creativity.


Funny story-- When we first started home schooling in grade 1 (last year), I tried to get my son to write something to send to our DL program. He gave me a seriously annoyed look. I said, please? Just two or three words? He wrote, Robin is bad. I didn't send it and I haven't asked again! Luckily our DL program is very flexible and I generally just send anecdotal descriptions of what we've been up to and photographs of various projects.


Miranda, we're still two years away from the grade 4 standardized testing but my son's done the math and figured out the hourly rate he'll be getting-- DL funding divided by hours of testing-- and he figures he'll be pretty well paid for his time ;-)



post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 


Quote 4evermom:
he really hates doing anything that demonstrates his knowledge of something

same with dd .... do you think we cultivate that quality in our kids?


She actually typed up a travel review for tripadvisor once and posted it but then it got rejected because she was under 13.  I will have to see if she is willing to try again with Amazon or Google Books - since she already has a google account I assume she is eligible to write reviews.  I am not sure if she can get her own account on Amazon as a child and without a credit card, but I will see.


She and I did start a blog together and wrote a couple of things.  It has been a while since she has touched it though and I hesitate to bring this into the realm of things that I "encourage" her to do, esp for the sake of the review.


I will probably try to make original exam questions and/or try the dictation route - hope the reviewer does not mind that she doesn't write it herself.



thanks everyone for your ideas and I was smiling ear to ear to see that you appreciated her insightful comments.  Wish you could be my reviewers!!



post #7 of 17


Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post

Oooh! Writing a book review on Amazon is a great idea! I will have to file that for future portfolio fodder. My ds is a real proponent of online reviews. He also likes to look up video reviews on youtube, as well.


Stealing this idea as well!  We don't have to do portfolios, but we will probably start keeping one for oldest DS in the next year or so.  I think he would find writing an online review of his favorite graphic novels/lego sets very empowering.  Thanks again for the idea.

post #8 of 17

Tangent ....


A very cool idea I stumbled across recently for character study from a novel in kids who are reluctant writers and visual learners is to have them create a board on Pinterest of images / links that describe or illustrate the character in question. 



post #9 of 17


Originally Posted by cheery View Post


same with dd .... do you think we cultivate that quality in our kids




My ds came this way, no doubt. I feel like a detective trying to figure out what he knows. The first time he took a standardized test, 2 years ago, it was enlightening because he could read much better than I knew. He is still resistant to reading (we did the 5th grade reading comprehension, today), wanting to answer the questions with only glancing at the passage. I know he can read well enough though he guesses or skips words he doesn't know (refuses any kind of sound it out phonetic methods). 


Taking dictation should be fine for reading comprehension. I type in that situation so it doesn't look like I'm trying to pass off my handwriting as ds's. Then the evaluator can assume it was proofread and spellchecked, if she likes. Handwriting samples can be a separate thing, like a photocopy of a letter or the photo of the chalkboard writing. 

post #10 of 17

Do you keep a reading log of some type? I use that in our quarterly reports although no one has to review our portfolio here thankfully! I just keep a note in my phone of the books DD is reading presently, independently and read aloud. Everything certainly doesn't make it on, and I dont make a fuss about recording how long she reads or what days or anything, just a running list. On the reports, I put "From 7/1 to 9/15 (first quarter), X added over x books to her reading list. A typical book read and discussed is [title] by [author], at guided reading level P." That lets them know she's reading a decent amount, even if some are chapter books and some are picture books, and a sense of reading level. You can just pick a book off the list you think is typical, or whatever you think was "hardest," and google a guided reading level (A-Z) or lexile level (100-??? 1000 maybe? I know it's a numerical system anyway) for that book. 


I think a nice long reading list always makes a good impression too. If it's easier to show an evaluator, you could even make a table in a word doc and include columns for "Oral Discussions of: Characters, Setting, Plot, Similarities and Differences, Problems and Solutions, Making and Checking Predictions" etc. Checking off some of those as you find that your child has talked to you about her favorite characters, or what she thinks will happen next, etc. would make a good record without stressing the child too, I think. You could do a similar chart for non-fiction books too, I suppose, which ones include TOC, index, glossary, etc. Maybe you could do "Written Review of:" ones for things she's written about on the chalkboard even without a pic of it in the file?

post #11 of 17

You could type out what she has written on the chalk board.  You could do a video of an oral book report; she could make a poster, book jacket, project that ties in with the book; research and report on a related subject.  Dylan does projects for a lot of his submitted portfolio.  He has done a video of himself dressed as a Mongol warrior retelling his adventures to the village children; Huck Finn's raft; poster illustrating Tuck Everlasting; diorama complete with model soldiers of a Roman battle; oral presentation of how a catapult works with a working catapult that he made (not a kit).   Created a personal diary of one of Napoleon's officers retelling Napoleon's rise and fall.  He turned our backyard into a settlement in Oklahoma Indian Territory.  He mostly reads nonfiction, history mostly, preferably military history.  So I pick books for literature that goes along with what he is studying in history.  He is studying US history this year--from native Americans, through the colonies, Revolutionary War and will end with the Civil War and hopefully Reconstruction.  He read a biography of Napoleon for the War of 1812.  He just finished Huck Finn for years preceding the Civil War and we just started Civil War poetry.

post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

DO you have a suggestion for a good site for children to keep reading logs?  I am thinking of going with google books but maybe you all know of something better?


If there was a site that was for kids only probably I would feel better about it.  Right now dd is not online much and I don't want to introduce her to the online world without being properly prepared - I personally am not all that familiar with what is out there and what privacy measures I need to take. 



post #13 of 17
Originally Posted by cheery View Post

DO you have a suggestion for a good site for children to keep reading logs?  I am thinking of going with google books but maybe you all know of something better?


If there was a site that was for kids only probably I would feel better about it.  Right now dd is not online much and I don't want to introduce her to the online world without being properly prepared - I personally am not all that familiar with what is out there and what privacy measures I need to take. 



You could just have a program on the computer, no need for it to be an online thing. I just type up our books in a word processing program since we are required to keep a book log. Some libraries keep track of all the books you take out so you can see your withdrawal record.

post #14 of 17
OP - your situation is exactly why we are using an umbrella group instead of the county for reviews.
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

So we had the review.

Since I had experience from last year, I knew what the reviewer wanted and I supplied it.  So we were fine.


I realized that it did not matter as much WHAT we did as that we

- planned it

- kept a record of it


I wasn't thrilled about either of the above.  We plan for field trips or playdates but not for english, math, science, etc.  And anyway I am growing more and more uncomfortable with sorting things into subjects.  The problem I had last year was that I was illustrating all the "natural learning" that was going on through the ordinary activities that we did, as well as the field trips, playdates, experiments while sitting in the tub, etc.


Reviewer's comment was, "well everyone does that."


I did not want to do "too much" documentation because that would only raise her expectations and I could only imagine the experience of the next parent who followed our un-planned / free-flowing approach to learning (aka un-s) being told that "I have parents who keep a daily log."


Believe me I tried "daily log" a couple of years ago, thinking it should not be too hard since dd does so many amazing things all the time. 




Daily log was not happening.  Not even close.


So I decided to make it a monthly log and forget about trying to capture the "amazing moments" but rather just look through the Maryland State Curriculum that is available on their website and write out items, in their language, to be covered each month.  I did this for each subject on their list.  It is a lot of writing on my part,  but I was able to do it without interfering much with what dd and I actually did.


Because I was worried about being found wanting in the samples of work, I resorted to printing out the tests from the state curriculum website.   Eventually dd managed to do them - inserting her own comments or outright disagreeing with the questions in some cases, even refusing to answer, but writing at least one sentence to that effect so that it was not merely blank.


How I stayed on message this time:


 - I highlighted the things that we do that fit her idea of what homeschooling is.  For "curriculum" I listed Khan Academy, Junior Great Books, Highlights Top Secret Adventures - she was not familiar with Khan or the Highlights series, but when I explained them to her they neatly fit with her idea of what a hs-er does.  We don't do these every day or even every month - it goes in spurts - but we do them and dd likes them so they went into our report.   I even listed AAA, which is a spelling and vocabulary online program.  I did give dd one "spelling test" using words from their list.   She loves words in general and always finds out the meanings of new words that she reads in her books and sometimes we play games with a dictionary.  Last year I would have described all of that to the reviewer.  This year I wrote "AAA vocabulary and words found while reading and using dictionary."  It would actually have been fine if I only wrote AAA vocabulary.  Even though she has learned all the words in their list, just not from their list.  She herself has never seen their list.   But when the reviewer asked me, Are you using a curriculum for English, instead of describing her voracious reading and providing a list (as I did last year), I simply said "Junior Great Books, AAA Spelling and AAA vocabulary."    Special thanks to LitMom for the "Oral Discussions of: Characters, Setting, Plot, Similarities and Differences, Problems and Solutions, Making and Checking Predictions"   - that was all I needed to say!  These are things she talks about ALL the time - often very late at night when I am half-asleep, or when she just wakes up or when she is in the bathroom.   To try to get out my notebook when this happens and write the stuff down is not possible.  (actually, I had thought that I would do this and thus document the brilliant insights that result, but I have thrown this out the window because it just interrupts our flow too much.  I know some of the amazing hs- and us- blogging parents are able to do this and when I see the blogs I really really think I should do it too, but I have given up after perhaps a half-hearted effort.)


I digress.


What I would do next time - 


Now that I have the log thing under control, I will not worry about quantity of work to show.   I will not try to use ready made worksheets but make them up myself and enlist dh (who makes really good ones when he sets his mind to it).


What 4evermom said about getting the right level of "challenging" - not too easy and not too hard is very true for my dd as well.  This is why we have to make them ourselves.   (That and the fact that she finds fault with the questions if she disagrees with their assumptions or they have not stated them as such. smile.gif)


Plus I could see in some cases she was really enjoying the (home-made) worksheets and she even told me so afterwards.   I can use this feedback to design  exercises that she likes.  I will probably have to give up on the idea that I could find a ready-made set of worksheets / workbooks that would serve the purpose.  Initially I thought "BrainQuest" might be an easy answer because it is just one book covering the spectrum of "subjects" but in a way it is worse because she likes some and doesn't like others and refuses to do anything "too easy" leaving us with a 300 page book and only 10% of pages done even though she is "capable" of doing all of it.   What I did this time was photocopy about 15 pages from the ones she had done, and file them in their respective subjects.


She also made up her own "fill in the blanks" worksheet  - that served as one of our writing samples.  (thanks 4evermom!)

btw there is one thing that fits both "what reviewer expects" and "what dd likes to do" and that is Highlights Top Secret Adventures.  We do it and call it Social Studies (and it is!).  Then I just keep quiet about the social studies that we do in everyday life. winky.gif

post #16 of 17

Glad the review went well! Sometimes I think the key is to not give too much information, lol. In PA, we have to give a list of objectives at the beginning of the year. But they can be vague (like "Continuing building vocabulary and punctuation knowledge") AND we aren't held to doing what we said we would. We need a book log, but all that is is a list of any reading material we touched throughout the year. We don't need to name a curriculum or anything like that.


Ds is almost done the standardized test that is required this year. He has done the Reading and Language Arts sections and just has Math left. I predict he'll do fine on the Math Concepts and he'll do poorly (by which I mean average) on Math Calculations. 

post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 

Yes, I agree on the not too much info part.


I think that in retrospect the amount of paperwork I had to do for the reviewer was not really "too much."   If I did it right now for next year, for example, having it all fresh in my mind, I don't think it would take me more than a few hours.  And I have also learned from the experience of trying to do all those tests, and can design assignments accordingly.  Maybe I am "just" being optimistic, but I think I am going back to looking at the review as not entirely a waste of time.

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