Navigating the Red Tape- Part 2: How Do I Comply?

How I keep the daily logs, portfolios, and how we will prepare for standardized tests

     Okay…it’s confession time. After watching my kids do seemingly nothing today other than petting the cats and arguing until I intervened and made them find something to do, I was feeling pretty panicky. I mean, even though I know they’re learning, I really don’t think the school district is going to accept ”If they’re living, they’re learning” as proof of adequate progress, so that old (okay…not that old) anxiety came creeping back today.
     I can’t tell you enough what a treasure trove of information is over at FIMBY, so once again I turned there for inspiration and some much needed advice directly from Renee Tougas, and, as always, her wisdom has grounded me again. (I highly recommend her blog to you. If you’ve never visited it, trust me. You’ll be glad you did.)
     So now that I’m feeling rejuvenated again, let’s get on with this post. Today I’m writing about how I’ve been keeping the state-required daily log and portfolio and how I plan on preparing for standardized tests.

Daily Logs
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– In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about how I break down each of my children’s activities into subjects. This is where this categorization would apply.
     I bought several teacher plan books at a teacher supply store and labeled each subject on the pages (English, Math, Social Studies, Science, Health/Safety, Art/Music/Phys. Ed., and Consumer Science aka Life Skills). Along with writing the date for each logged entry, I also write what number school day we are at. (Example- Today Arianna completed her 139th day of school, so under today’s date, I’ll just write 139.)
     Around 8pm every night, the kids will journal about everything they’ve done that day, and then give it to me. Either that night or the following morning, I will use the journals to log in what they did. Sometimes this takes some creativity, as the school district would probably sneer at Dillon’s phrase ”played military”, so some rewording is necessary. In this case, ”played military” became ”military strategy activity.” The journal is probably the easiest part of the requirements, although it’s very time consuming.

Portfolios
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– I have a feeling portfolios are going to prove to be much trickier now than when we were completing more seatwork. In prior years, I had no problem submitting portfolios as thick as phone books. That won’t be so this year, as most of our activities are hands-on projects that you can’t very well put in a binder.
     This is why I must be creative this year. While I can always ask the children to write summaries of their activities, I find myself really liking the idea of taking pictures- and lots of them. There’s something about seeing the actual project or experiment in color versus just getting a written account. I feel it brings more life to their activities. Another great asset to record-keeping requirements is this blog. It’s like a diary of our homeschooling journey, and I’d be more than happy to share it, if needed.

Standardized Tests
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– Aah…the lovely standardized test- a thorn in the side of students everywhere- homeschool and public school, alike.
     My state requires that standardized tests be taken in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade, which means that I will have anywhere from 1-3 kids taking them every year in the foreseeable future. Sigh. Only reading and math tests are required, but I did notice that the test that we use does throw in some grammar and punctuation.
     The main thing that worries me the most is that, since we’ve changed homeschooling styles, I’m a little fretful their test scores may drop a little, as they were testing anywhere from 2-4 grade levels above where they were at.
     I have a feeling that Khan Academy will be our friend this year. Dillon is the only one taking it this year, so starting a week before I plan on doing his test, he’ll go through an intense math review by watching these videos. My kids actually really enjoy this website. (They like the colored markers…it’s the little things…) I’m not too concerned with the reading portion, as reading is a large part of our lives.
     I used to have to take the kids to the nearest school to take the test there, or I had to find a homeschool group who would administer the test for a fee. Last year, however, I learned about the online California Achievement Test through Christian Liberty Press, and it was truly a godsend. This test is taken at home, and you can take however long you want to complete it, although it is a timed test. You can just take however long or short of a break between sections as you want. The results are then emailed to you within five minutes of completion of the test.

     So, there you have it. Again, I’m still a newbie at this whole natural learning thing, so if I hit any roadblocks or have second thoughts about any of this, I’ll be sure to write about it.

Any questions, thoughts, or suggestions? I would love to hear from you!

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Navigating the Red Tape- Part 1: How Do I Know What My Kids Are Learning?

This is how I’ve broken down my children’s activities into subjects.

 That title’s a mouthful, isn’t it? 🙂  My apologies; I couldn’t think of another way to convey my complete thought.

 Anyway, living in a state which requires keeping records of each subject completed when you don’t approach learning with such rigid boundaries can be tricky. It requires looking closely at exactly what your children are doing in a whole new way.
Thanks to John Holt, author of Learning All the Time, and Renee Tougas, probably one of the most inspiring bloggers I’ve ever read, (over at FIMBY) I can see value in pretty much everything my children do.
In order to demonstrate how I keep a record of our unschooling days, I’m going to break down some of what my children did last week, subject by subject. I’ll only be including the activities of my children in 4th through 8th grades because I do not keep records of my younger children because it is not required until they reach 3rd grade. I’m also not including anything by my oldest daughter because I treat high school differently and will discuss that in Part 3 of this series. Keep in mind that, for this post, I’m only separating by subject- not by child- so if I write something like ”playing house,” please realize that I’m not referring to my 8th grade son. 😉

Subject breakdown for daily logs:

English- silent and shared reading, reading aloud to siblings, writing, proofreading, and editing blog posts, writing and illustrating ”readers” for younger siblings, visiting the library, writing captions for pictures, journaling, games on tablet- Ruzzle, Scribblenauts, creating new tablet ”apps”- Brave Writer

Math- Lifepac workbooks, Minecraft math (area, perimeter, symmetry, etc.), strategy games like World of Warcraft (problem solving), geometric patterns, grocery shopping (price comparison, budgeting, mental math)

Social Studies- Little House on the Prairie (watching miniseries, family read-aloud, pioneer times, Native American attire and customs), biblical history- Book of Matthew, field trip to accountant, Minecraft project (building an entire town, researching what businesses and institutions are necessary for a town to thrive- fire and police stations, hospitals, stores, churches, post office, etc.)

Science- going to nearby creek and exploring the frozen surroundings, listening to different sound waves created by throwing different size rocks onto frozen pond, Little House on the Prairie science (how a well is dug, how to test underground for noxious gases), learning how oxygen feeds fire by putting lids on candles, YouTube science experiment- how a flame in a bottle can create a vacuum strong to suck in an entire egg, reading about cryptids, fake lung activity, how lungs work, creating mythical animals and describing what they eat

Health/Safety- fire safety while experimenting with candles, a visit to the eye doctor, how lungs work, the effects of noxious gases (Little House), checking thickness of ice on pond before getting too close

Art/Music/Gym- drawing, makeup tutorials, applying theatrical makeup, clay and play dough creations, sewing, making posters and murals, Minecraft (architecture, interior decorating), illustrating books, foam collages and mosaics, listening to music while playing, worship music, singing, playing in the snow, going for walks, skateboarding, shoveling snow.

Life Skills- cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, washing laundry and putting it away, meal preparation, grocery shopping, driving simulator game, helping with baby, pet care, making beds, game- Burger Maker

So, this is how I’ve broken down my children’s activities into subjects. It’s something I, honestly, find very tedious and, well, pointless, but it is so important that we homeschoolers comply with our state laws to protect this awesome privilege right that we are blessed to have.

What about you? What are your state requirements?

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Linking up with
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http://www.soyoucallyourselfahomeschooler.com/2014/01/25/homeschool-mothers-journal-january-25-2014-big-annoucement/