Q & A With the Author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Kids Outside the Conventional Classroom

homeschool in Florida
If you’ve been homeschooling long enough, you’ve likely come across the term “unschooling.” Unschooling is one of those terms that often has the homeschooling community at odds with one another, as if there are only black and white approaches to educating our children. Many homeschooling families, chose to educate their kids at home so that they can educate kids outside the box: unschooling is just one way of (as the title reads), raising curious, well-educated kids outside the conventional classroom.

As a homeschool consultant and evaluator, I have had the pleasure of working with many unschooling families over the years. To schedule a homeschool portfolio evaluation with me click here.

To learn what you need to know before scheduling that homeschool portfolio evaluation, read this.

To join my Homeschool Helpline and get ongoing support for your homeschool life, click here. 

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am a huge proponent of child-led learning. I have a deep respect for successful unschooling families.

When I came across the book, Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom by Kerry McDonald, I knew I had to have it. (more…)

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation

homeschool in florida

I will not ask your child to jump through hoops for me.

This is what I say to new clients who ask about my homeschool portfolio evaluation services.

A few years ago, in my local area, it was common to hear from homeschooling families that their portfolio evaluator “tested” their kids during a portfolio evaluation. My initial reaction: WHY?!

During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to their state laws, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above for the states of Florida and Virginia, where the bulk of my clients reside.

Always check your state’s requirements.

We are so fortunate as homeschoolers across the country to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article.

The portfolio gives you and me a much more comprehensive picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do homeschool portfolio reviews exclusively.  Testing does have its place. I have had my girls test in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well. ​

About Portfolios

Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. If I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare.

Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.

Alternatives to an Annual Portfolio Review

Many families opt to homeschool under a private umbrella school, rather than sign up with their county school board. When you register with a private umbrella school, you do not need to show any type of proof of progress at the end of the school year. The only thing you have to show is that you have met the mandatory 180 day attendance requirement. Our umbrella school, Life Learning Academy, may be the right choice for your family. Life Learning Academy is a private school which allows you to remain in control of your child’s education. You can choose the curriculum you’d like to use, you can choose to test (or not test) your kids, and you do not have to send the county any proof of progress at the end of your school year. Of course, you may choose to assess your children yourself as you go along so that you can see how they’re progressing. Read on to find out how.

Formative and Summative Assessments

A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you, (the teacher) have done throughout the year.  The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension. You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning.

Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.  For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare. You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project.  Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it.

What to Expect During Your Homeschool Portfolio Review

During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio.  I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the law in my state ask me to.

I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this, and eventually our homeschool-friendly state will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your child to the test.

As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children.  I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.

I offer convenient, stress-free, distance portfolio evaluations to homeschoolers in Florida, Virginia as a way for families to prove progress. I also offer portfolio evaluations to homeschoolers worldwide as an assessment tool for parent’s peace of mind.

Learn more about the benefits of distance evaluations here.

I invite you to become a part of my Homeschool Helpline group. In this small group setting you have access to my experience and expertise in a multitude of ways, which will bring you all the confidence and the peace you need for a successful homeschool.

You can read more about Life Learning Academy, our private umbrella school for homeschoolers here. Our private school, Life Learning Academy offers support for your entire homeschool family: parents, students and younger siblings. Life Learning Academy offers a wide support staff if and when you might need them including an expert on ESE students (dyslexia, giftedness and more); a speech/language pathologist and an expert on schooling kids on the Autism spectrum.

Top Three Things to Help Avoid Homeschool Burnout

top three things to help avoid homeschool burnout

I don’t know about you, but I need all the tips I can get for how to avoid homeschool burnout. By the end of December, and again around the beginning of May, you can stick me with a fork because I’m done.

I’m tired.

I’m worn out from all the curricular AND extracurricular activities. I’m barely hanging on, and the words you’ll hear most often from my mouth those days are, “just skip it!” My homeschooling mojo has left the building. My inspiration lies wet and soggy somewhere underneath a pile of once shiny-new ideas.

I need a pick-me-up, and a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino with almond milk just won’t do. I’m experiencing homeschool burnout.

I’ve been through this before. Many times. And I can help you get through your own version of homeschool burnout

Here are three things that have helped me most: (in order)

Stop Feeling Guilty

I know you feel it. You can’t deny it. We homeschool moms are the ones who begin each year with our polished new ideas, mission statements, clean schedules, new resolutions and high hopes. When we get to May and are reminded of all the ways in which our ideas didn’t pan out, we feel awful. It’s to be expected. But guilt (or remorse or regret) just don’t serve us. Throw those feelings away and replace them with a mind open to learning why those ideas didn’t pan out. For me, it’s usually because of one of these three things: (more…)

Running a Business While Homeschooling: Making it Work for You

Running a business while homeschooling

As a homeschool parent, a huge portion of your time is tied up teaching your kids, and so running a business and earning money can be tricky. However, thanks to the internet, no longer is it impossible and there are actually lots of ways to earn an income in a flexible way, right from your own home. However, there are some things you’ll need to consider, here’s how to make running a business while homeschooling successful for you.

Find a place to work from

When you’re working from home as a freelancer, or running your blogging business, it’s easy to assume that you can sit at your dining table, on your sofa or even work from your bed in your pajamas! (more…)

How to Homeschool Multiple Children

The question of how to homeschool multiple children is one of the top questions I get when I work with homeschooling families. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why homeschooling moms book consulting appointments with me.

When I was an educator working in the elementary brick and mortar classrooms, I taught in what we called then multi-age classrooms. I had kindergarten, first and second graders together for several years and then third, fourth and fifth graders after that. As a passionate educator who had a wonderful and diverse education in the art and science of educating, teaching in multi-age classrooms was a dream.

When I decided to homeschool my own children, I followed what I knew worked in my classrooms, and I even ran a small cottage school out of my home for a while consisting of students of multiple ages. These days were some of my girls’ fondest homeschool memories.

Here are some things that I learned along the way that can help you homeschool multiple children in your own homeschool. We’ll start with the very important and less “academic” things. (more…)

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