Category Archives: Progress


Often when I read about homeschooling in other states I am reminded about how fortunate I am to live in NH, where homeschooling is very mildly regulated. While the state has virtually no control over what we teach or how we teach it, we are required to provide annual evidence of progress in one of two ways: a portfolio evaluation performed by a certified teacher; or standardized test results at 40th percentile or above. In the past, this evidence was submitted to the district for evaluation, and could then be used to determine the legitimacy of a home education program. As of last summer, this changed. While we’re still required to show evidence of progress, it no longer has to be submitted to anyone and it cannot be used to terminate a home education program.

I keep a portfolio of Lillia’s work, but I am not too keen on presenting it to someone to be “evaluated.” It feels like a situation where I would have to “explain” the why and how of everything, and I’m just not interested in doing that. I’m also not a huge fan of standardized testing, for many reasons, but just once in the spring seems okay to me (and Lillia actually likes taking the test, for some reason).

So, today was test day. Our district allowed us to take the test they use (the NWEA MAP Reading & Math). As usual, Lillia’s Reading scores were through the roof. Her overall Reading score was 232, which puts her in the 98th percentile for her grade, nationwide. I’m not going to mince words here — she is reading better (by quite a few points) than the average 11th grader. I’m actually a little overwhelmed by this knowledge, but not exactly surprised.

On the other hand, her Math score was 203 which is, literally, the national average and puts her in the 50th percentile for her grade. Last year, her percentile was much higher. I’m still trying to sort through this but the most obvious explanation is that we just started learning multiplication, whereas her peers have been studying it all year. As I’ve mentioned many times we are using the Life of Fred books, and I love them. I am not blaming Fred for the drop in her math score. The Fred books are doing something completely different than what the district is doing (not coincidentally, the district is preparing students for the test that my daughter just took). I chose to go back to the beginning of the Fred series, even though the work was easier, because there are a lot of concepts that Stanley Schmidt introduces in the early books that Lillia will need to know later on. I didn’t want her to miss anything. But, because of that, we are just now getting to the books dealing with multiplication…so Lillia is behind. I’m trying not to agonize over this because I think that what we are doing has value, above and beyond preparation for standardized testing, but it will be helpful when I’m planning what to do next year. Math never came easy for me, and it’s possible it won’t be easy for Lillia, either. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see her scores at the end of next year when we have finished the Life of Fred elementary series. My guess is that there will be a big improvement.

Here are Lillia’s actual test results: Lillia MAPs 2013 (the notes are the test administrator’s)

And, here is the entire text of the law that I referenced in this post:

Section 193-A:6

193-A:6 Records; Evaluation. –
I. The parent shall maintain a portfolio of records and materials relative to the home education program. The portfolio shall consist of a log which designates by title the reading materials used, and also samples of writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the child. Such portfolio shall be preserved by the parent for 2 years from the date of the ending of the instruction.
II. The parent shall provide for an annual educational evaluation in which is documented the child’s demonstration of educational progress at a level commensurate with the child’s age and ability. The child shall be deemed to have successfully completed his annual evaluation upon meeting the requirements of any one of the following:
(a) A certified teacher or a teacher currently teaching in a nonpublic school who is selected by the parent shall evaluate the child’s educational progress upon review of the portfolio and discussion with the parent or child;
(b) The child shall take any national student achievement test, administered by a person who meets the qualifications established by the provider or publisher of the test. Composite results at or above the fortieth percentile on such tests shall be deemed reasonable academic proficiency;
(c) The child shall take a state student assessment test used by the resident district. Composite results at or above the fortieth percentile on such state test shall be deemed reasonable academic proficiency; or
(d) The child shall be evaluated using any other valid measurement tool mutually agreed upon by the parent and the commissioner of education, resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal.
III. The parent shall maintain a copy of the evaluation. The results of the evaluation:
(a) May be used to demonstrate the child’s academic proficiency in order to participate in public school programs, and co-curricular activities which are defined as school district-sponsored and directed athletics, fine arts, and academic activities. Home educated students shall be subject to the same participation policy and eligibility conditions as apply to public school students.
(b) Shall not be used as a basis for termination of a home education program.
(c) Provides a basis for a constructive relationship between the parent and the evaluator, both working together in the best interest of the child.
Source. 1990, 279:3. 2006, 13:4, eff. May 12, 2006. 2012, 227:2, eff. June 16, 2012.

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Filed under 2013, Progress

The Thirteenth Week

The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I really appreciate this quote by Emerson, as it truly embodies my experience of homeschooling, and parenting in general. There will always be web sites to consult, books to read, and advice from well-meaning friends and relatives, but I find that the true key to my success as a teacher and mother comes from listening to my intuition. A book is never going to know my own children as well as I do, and though there is value in seeking guidance and wisdom, it is dangerous to rely too heavily on the opinion of others. The harder I try to hear what others have to say, the more difficult it is to hear my voice and then I risk losing my ability to see what my children really need.

So…what am I trying to say here? Last week I posted about my search for a language arts curriculum for Lillia, and my decision to buy a random selection of titles that looked promising, in the hopes that they would be a better match than the packaged curriculum I had tried to use. Well, my intuition was spot on, and things have vastly improved for us on the homeschool front. Here’s a roundup of our adventures this week:

For language arts, we started the week with Jacob’s Ladder. Lillia read “The Ant and the Dove” and then did the accompanying “ladder.” She learned about consequences and implications, cause and effect, and sequencing. She had to create a new generalization for the story (she came up with “The early bird saves the ant.”) She also had to draw some pictures of details from the story, and then use phrases from the text to support her drawings. On Wednesday she did her first “Word Ladder,” which was challenging for her but we worked through it. Thursday we started a writing project from Don’t Forget to Write that involves crafting a tragic tale. I find that it’s more fruitful to have her dictate stories for me to type, rather than to force her to write it all out by hand. I read that gifted children have difficulties with manual composition — why should we get bogged down by penmanship when we can use technology to emancipate her imagination? On Friday we did our first lesson from Giggly Grammar and Lillia loved it. Have you ever heard of a “bloat of hippos” or a “nuisance of housecats”? Me neither, but now I know a lot more (silly) collective nouns!

9780735814134-lWe’re still reading Lisbeth Zwerger’s Stories from the Bible, which is a beautifully illustrated selection of stories from the King James Bible. We are not using it for religious purposes, but we are studying the ancient Near East so we are reading it as a primary source for our history lessons. We’ve been discussing the parallels between the stories in the Old Testament and what we read in Bernarda Bryson’s Gilgamesh. We talked a bit about why so many ancient stories deal with very destructive floods. There may be some connection between the old tales and the collective memory of the civilizations that emerged at the end of the last Ice Age. We already learned about the flooding of Doggerland, but that kind of inundation probably happened in many places around the globe as the Earth warmed and the glaciers melted. Some scientists, namely William Ryan and Walter Pitman, have speculated that a catastrophic flood is responsible for the creation of the Black Sea, which is relatively near to Mesopotamia and the Levant, from which some of our earliest stories originate. This theory has been refuted several times by other groups. I’m hoping to find a documentary or article that will shed more light on this topic.

Moving on to other subjects, we’re still loving Life of Fred, and we’re just about done with the fourth book in the elementary series (there are 10 total). I just read this week that Stanley Schmidt has finished his intermediate series and it is now available for purchase. I am excited about that, because I know we will finish the elementary books before she starts 5th grade, which is the age recommended by Schmidt for starting Life of Fred: Fractions. We started a new science unit that I found on the Mensa for Kids web site. We will be learning to classify animals scientifically, and I think Lillia is going to have a great time doing this. I see lots of opportunities for enrichment with this unit, too. And, finally, after struggling with our cursive handwriting program, we are now picking up speed. My only guess is that now that Lillia has been freed from the tyranny of uninspiring language arts worksheets she can more easily accommodate a few humdrum penmanship exercises.

I don’t want to give the impression that everything is perfect, but things are definitely improving. And, I will further add that not all success can be measured in academic terms. She gets so much out of homeschooling that cannot be quantified or verified on paper. In fact, the changes I have seen in her so far this year have almost nothing to do with schoolwork, and everything to do with being emotionally secure. That’s no small achievement, and I will try to remember to consider our progress in its entirety as we struggle to find our way, academically.

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Filed under 2013, Books, Progress, Weekly Update

Report Card – Semester 1

When we first decided to homeschool Lillia, I was adamantly opposed to giving her grades. I wouldn’t have dreamed of giving her a report card. But, after talking with my mother-in-law (a high school French teacher) about people who are completely externally motivated and how difficult it seems for them to muster up the willpower to do a good job, she suggested that maybe I try grading Lillia. So, I gave it a shot, and the response was interesting. She actually argued with me about some of the grades! But, overall, I think it is a great way to gauge how she is doing so far, and give her a little push toward trying harder.

Also, we have started using a behavior chart, so she will earn a star each day she does her best work (meaning no whining, or writing things like “I hate Anne of Green Gables” on the border of her language arts worksheet…). If she earns enough stickers, she can trade them in for a prize. It always amazes me how much she thrives on rewards. I’m mostly internally motivated, so I never needed this type of reward system. It’s really important for me to remember that we are different people with very different temperaments.

Here’s her first semester “report card”:
(click on images for larger size)

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back and front

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And, just because it’s way too amusing not to share, here is the “report card” she made for me! A “C” in “funness” and a “D+” in “time with kid.” Looks like I have some areas in need of improvement! Though, I notice I did get an “E+” (E=Excellent) in “Allowance.”

11-05-2012 04;27;31PM
back and front

11-05-2012 04;28;50PM

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