Overview: Homeschool high school assessment doesn’t have to be that hard. Here are several options for how to evaluate your teen. Note: This post was sponsored by CLT, but all opinions are my own.
The dreaded words “homeschool evaluation” are a real worry for many. The homeschool laws of numerous states require that homeschooled students be assessed or evaluated on a regular basis.
But how are you supposed to do this once your kid hits the upper years?
Back when they were smaller it was much easier. They either knew their multiplication facts or they didn’t, and it was easy for you to tell.
They could spell the words on the list, or they couldn’t. They were able to read the words on the page, or they weren’t.
And for history and science, it was more a matter of exposing them to content than worrying about whether they could spout it back to you. At that age, these subjects weren’t as important as math and language arts, so you weren’t as concerned about “evaluating learning.”
Now, in high school, it’s ALL important. Your teen’s grades in EVERY subject could make a huge difference in their future. You want to be confident in how you assess them, so you can prepare them best for whatever path they want to take after they graduate.
Not to mention the fact that you have to create a transcript, hello.
It can be overwhelming to think about!
But I’m here to say that usually the thinking about homeschool evaluation in high school is worse than the actual doing. There are numerous ways to assess learning, and you can choose whatever works with your style of homeschooling and/or your comfort level.
UPDATE: I’ve written a book all about this!
Take a look at For The Record: How to Give Grades and Organize Documents while homeschooling high school (made easy!). It has tons of information, telling you exactly how to grade specific types of assignments, calculate averages (with examples), organize all the paperwork, and more!
For the Record: How to give grades and organize documents while homeschooling high school (made easy!)
Types of Homeschool High School Assessment
Quizzes and Tests
I’m gonna be the first to say that I have used quizzes and tests A LOT. So if this is where you feel most comfortable, you are in good company. :-)
I like the objectivity of this type of evaluation. It’s not based on anything I know or don’t know; rather, the curriculum-provider has decided what it is important for the kid to know, and the kid either does know it or they don’t.
The answer key does the hard work for me; my kid’s answers are either right or wrong, and I don’t bear the responsibility for that. Therein lies a certain security that I feel good about.
Plus these are easy to administer; in fact, often the kid can just do the whole thing by themselves as part of an independent learning lifestyle. When the scheduled day according to the curriculum syllabus arrives, they take the quiz or test. Then they hand it to you for grading. Easy peasy—which as you know, I’m all about!
Quizzes and tests made by the parent are also a valid form of evaluation. There is of course a bit more work involved, but this gives you the chance to decide what you want the kid to have gained from a given time period of learning.
A possible pitfall, though, would be that the days move along and you don’t have the time to create a quiz/test, so you end up with very few instances of it actually taking place. Which means a small data set from which to determine your kid’s knowledge. Again, it’s all about what you feel comfortable with.
I generally try to avoid effort of this sort, LOL, but I am always impressed by people who make it work!
Papers and Projects
I’ve lumped these together because they are things that the student generally does from start to finish. In other words, you may not be that involved until the final product is sitting in front of you ready for you to give it a grade.
The beauty of a paper or project is that it can be about more than just facts and figures. Your teen can show higher thought such as application, analysis, and opinion. It’s an opportunity to see what they are thinking, not just what they know.
These can be chosen according to the interests of the teen, which can help with motivation, as can the hands-on nature of a project.
But these aren’t always easy to grade. There isn’t often an answer key, and you may feel like this is too subjective for your comfort level. I suggest preparing a rubric ahead of time, before the paper/project is even started, so that both you and the student know what they should aim for—and whether they’ve achieved it.
Having a discussion is a great way to determine if your teen has studied and knows their stuff. You can ask probing questions throughout to determine the depth of their understanding of the given topic. And you can see if they’ve formed opinions and can back them up.
Sometimes it’s also nice to give some further instruction during a discussion time. Parents are never done telling stuff to their kids, are they?
Discussions can happen at any time—in the car, while washing the dishes, whenever. This makes them easy to fit into the schedule.
But they do take time from mom. And there is the question of how to grade them. While a rubric may be helpful, discussions are by nature free-flowing and therefore hard to quantify.
I usually let my husband handle the discussions in our house, because his knowledge of history and science is greater than mine. That leaves me free to be an objective bystander, which makes assigning a grade a little easier.
But these are all ways to evaluate within a given course. What about assessing on a larger scale, such as determining if they are on grade level or are ready for college?
That can be where standardized testing comes in.
Assessing Your Teen’s Readiness for the Next Step
These have a bad rep among many homeschoolers, but many states do require some type of regular standardized testing. Don’t forget that the college entrance exams such as the ACT, SAT, and CLT (more on that last one, below) qualify as standardized tests, as well.
Related Reading: College Entrance Exam FAQs for Homeschoolers
These can be a great way to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your child. This can be super helpful so you can shore up the rough spots and maybe even use the areas of strength as insight towards what the teen should do after graduation.
Standardized tests are definitely objective, with your kid’s results being determined by an established authority. This can be reassuring, because you know it’s not all on you.
The CLT: Classic Learning Test
One standardized test that I have become acquainted with in recent months is the CLT—the Classic Learning Test—and I think it’s a great option.
The CLT offers three tests specifically for teens: the CLT-8, taken during 7th or 8th grade to help determine readiness for high school; the CLT-10, taken by freshman and sophomores to help prepare them for college entrance exams, and the CLT itself, which is a college entrance exam alternative to the SAT or ACT.
Here’s what I love about the CLT tests:
- Each CLT test takes only TWO hours. Not three or four, hello. This is great for kids with test anxiety!
- The CLT tests use literature from source materials that are classic, that have proven their worth over time, that aren’t watered down or concerned about being “PC.”
- This means that the CLT can provide “a highly accurate and rigorous measure of reasoning, aptitude, and academic formation for students from diverse educational backgrounds“¹ (emphasis mine). This means even homeschoolers, y’all.
The CLT has been getting some great press lately, such as this article in the Wall Street Journal: The SAT and ACT Have a Classical Competitor.
NOTE: The WSJ did get one thing wrong in this title. The CLT is NOT, I repeat NOT, a “classical” exam in the sense of the word we use when we talk about “classical curriculum” or Classical Conversations—you know, the Latin, all the stuff about Greece and Rome, etc. Rather, they use the term CLASSIC. This refers to the fact that they draw from “the classics”—the body of literature that has stood the test of time—for their reading passages. Classic. NOT classical. Just wanted to make that clear!
If you’re interested in learning more about the philosophy behind the CLT, watch this video:
Head to the website to see sample tests and to register!
For more tips about homeschool high school assessment, you might find these articles helpful:
My friend Michelle at Homeschool Your Boys reminds us to remember the big picture: Evaluate Student Learning.
And Kim Sorgius at Not Consumed has a chart that shows assessment possibilities for every stage of homeschooling: A Simple Plan for Homeschool Assessment by Grade Level.
I love how many options we have as homeschoolers these days. It’s not just about worksheets and textbooks any more—and now we even have choices about which standardized test to take! It wasn’t this way when I started high school with my oldest back in 2008, let me tell you!
Whatever means of homeschool high school assessment you prefer, you can be confident. None of this is rocket science, and I’m certain you can handle it. You’ve got this!
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