3 Types of Assessments & the Best Way to Use Them In Your Homeschool

Find out the best way to use assessments in your homeschooling. Learn about the three types of assessments that can make a big impact for you and your kids.

It's a side of homeschooling that not everyone talks about. Assessments and checking in on how your child is doing with their work is an important part of homeschooling.

But without the oversight provided by a school system or teacher, how do you make sure that your child is staying on track? In this article, that's exactly what we're going to cover.

We'll go over the 3 main types of assessments plus the best ways to use them in your homeschool. No matter your homeschool style or philosophy, we'll have tips and methods to help you track your child's learning so you can have peace of mind that your homeschool is moving in the right direction.

Let's dive in!

Want to know the best way to track your child's learning and progress? Explore the 3 main types of assessments and how to use them in your homeschool.  Want to know the best way to track your child's learning and progress? Explore the 3 main types of assessments and how to use them in your homeschool.I'll cover the benefits of using assessments in homeschooling, the 3 main types, and the best situations to use them. I'll also provide examples of each type of assessment.

What Are Assessments & Why Do You Need Them?

Having a system in place for tracking your child's progress and how they are doing can offer you a lot of reassurance and confidence in homeschooling. One of the biggest fears that new, or even veteran homeschoolers, have is whether or not their child is learning what they need to know.

We all want to make sure our kids have the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed once they leave the home. Whether that means, college, trade school, or some other path, we want to set them up for success and assessments can help us do that.

Assessments help you understand where your child is at and what they need to learn. It's also a great way to identify any gaps in their knowledge so you can fill them.

3 Types of Assessments

Now that we understand the purpose of doing assessments, let's look at the types of assessments most commonly used in homeschooling. In homeschooling, and education in general, there are 3 main types of assessments:

  1. Formative: used to evaluate a student's understanding of a subject or topic as they are learning it.
  2. Summative: used to assess a student's knowledge at the end of a unit, course, or year.
  3. Diagnostic: used to identify a student's current knowledge in order to provide targeted instruction or remedial help.

Let's go over all 3 of these in a little more detail:


One of the first types of assessments that you can use in your homeschool is a formative assessment. These are used to evaluate a student's understanding of a certain topic or subject while they are learning it.

Formative assessments can take many different forms including:

  • quizzes
  • worksheets
  • projects
  • discussions
  • observations
  • reflection journals
  • question and answer sessions

Formative assessments can be used throughout the learning process, from the beginning of a semester or curriculum to the end. The goal is to identify areas where your child is struggling so that you can provide additional support and guidance.

Formative assessments are also great for children because they provide feedback on their progress and show them how they are improving over time. By using formative assessments in homeschooling, you can ensure that your child is staying on track and making progress in their learning throughout the year.

Formative Assessment Examples

Formative assessments are probably one of the most common types of assessments used by homeschoolers. They can come in many forms, from traditional types of assessments such as quizzes and tests to more creative types such as projects or discussions.

Here are some ways to include formative assessments in your homeschooling:

Observations: This is when you just listen and pay attention to your child as they do their schoolwork. For example, you might observe your child's reading skills as they read aloud.

Worksheets: Any time your child does a worksheet or a lesson in their schoolwork where they have to answer questions or fill out a page, you can assess their learning. Simply grading their schoolwork will give you insights into how well they're grasping the information.

Projects or presentations: These are a great opportunity to assess what your child has learned. Having your child create a lapbook, PowerPoint presentation, or poster board on a specific topic will give you a lot of insight into how well they've learned the information.

Test or quizzes: If you're following a more traditional style of homeschooling, tests and quizzes offer a great way to assess your child's learning throughout the year. How well they do on the tests will show you how much they've learned so far.


The second type of assessment that you can use in your homeschooling are summative assessments. These types of assessments are used to assess a student's knowledge at the end of a unit, course, or year.

They are meant to evaluate how well the student has retained and understood the material they have learned during a set period of learning.

Summative assessments can come in many forms such as:

  • tests
  • end-of-year tests
  • term papers
  • projects
  • portfolios
  • performances

Summative assessments differ from formative assessments in that formative assessments are ways to track your child's progress throughout the year and as you're going along. They are used to track your child's learning after the learning has occurred.

They're often done at the end of a unit/topic, a semester, or the end of the year.

Summative assessments are an important part of homeschooling because they provide data on how well your child is understanding and mastering their material. You can use them to determine if you're child is ready to move on from one area of learning to another.

Summative Assessment Examples

Summative assessments are typically used in homeschooling to wrap up a topic or a grade level. I like to do a shortened version of a summative assessment to decide if my children are ready to move on to the next grade.

They help give me peace of mind that we've covered all the important topics needed before we advance. This helps me feel confident that my children don't have any learning gaps and that they are academically ready for the next grade.

Here are some ways to incorporate summative assessments into your homeschooling:

Standardized tests: One option for doing summative assessments in your homeschool is standardized tests. These types of tests are standardized across the country, which means that they give you a good indication of how your child compares to other students their age.

These are probably my least favorite option, but they are easy to administer and they can offer you some reassurances about your child's progress, especially if you plan on your child going back into public school at some point.

Portfolios: Another way you can do summative assessments is through portfolio presentations. This involves having your child create a portfolio of all their work throughout the year or semester and then presenting it to you or an outside evaluator.

This option gives you a good visual representation of what they've learned over the course of their learning and can often be used for homeschool reporting in some states.


Last on our list of the main types of assessments are diagnostic assessments or tests. Diagnostic tests are similar to summative assessments in that they can be used to check your child's learning.

However, you'll typically use them to assess where your child is at before learning, whereas summative assessments are used to check their progress after learning. These types of tests are designed to test a student's knowledge of a particular subject and provide feedback on areas where improvement may be needed.

Diagnostic assessments are a great way to check your child's readiness for a certain subject, grade, or topic. Here are some ways to perform diagnostic tests:

  • pre-tests
  • self-assessments
  • discussion board responses
  • interview

Diagnostic assessments can be a great way to ensure your child is doing schoolwork that is appropriate for where they are academically. They help to make sure your child is beginning lessons with the right educational foundation to be successful.

Diagnostic Assessment Examples

Diagnostic assessments are frequently used at the beginning of a topic, semester, or grade in homeschooling.

They are also often used when trying to identify your child's learning style. Teaching in a way that compliments your child's learning style will help them to better understand and retain the material.

Here are some ways you can use diagnostic assessments in your homeschool:

Academic achievement tests: These tests assess a student's knowledge and skills in specific subjects, such as math, reading, and writing. They can provide a baseline for a student's current level of academic achievement and help identify areas that need improvement.

Diagnostic reading assessments: These assessments evaluate a student's reading abilities, including word recognition, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. They can help identify specific reading difficulties and guide your lesson planning.

Diagnostic math assessments: These assessments evaluate a student's mathematical knowledge and skills, including basic operations, problem-solving, and reasoning. They can help identify specific math difficulties and pinpoint skills that need more studying.

Cognitive assessments: These tests assess a student's cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, processing speed, and reasoning. They can help identify cognitive strengths and weaknesses that may impact your child's learning.

Learning style assessments: These assessments can help identify a student's preferred learning style and help guide your lesson planning to better suit their individual needs.

Other Common Types of Assessments

Now that we've covered the three main types of assessments, let's go over other common types of assessments that you can use. These aren't used as often in homeschooling, but you may come across different situations or scenarios where they could be useful.

Ipsative Assessments

Ipsative assessments are types of tests that measure a student's progress in comparison to themselves, not their peers. These types of assessments are often used to measure a child's progress from the beginning of a topic/semester/year to the end.

In homeschooling, ipsative assessments can be used to show proof of learning for state reporting, to help with curriculum planning, for college applications, or even just to help keep your child motivated to keep learning.

Norm-referenced Assessments

Norm-referenced assessments are types of tests that measure a student's performance against their peers and are commonly referred to as standardized tests. This type of assessment is often used to measure how well your child is doing compared to other children in the same grade or subject area.

While these types of assessments can be useful for some homeschooling families, they should not be used as the only measure of a child's success.

In homeschooling, they're most often used for college applications or as a summative assessment before moving on to the next grade level.

Criterion-referenced Assessments

Criterion-referenced assessments are types of tests that measure a student's performance against a set standard. This is different from norm-referenced assessments, which compare the student to their peers.

In homeschooling, criterion-referenced assessments can be used to make sure your child is meeting the learning objectives you've set for them. They can also be useful for providing feedback on your child's performance in a particular topic or subject.

These types of assessments are often used to measure how well the student has learned material and provide guidance for any areas that need improvement or further study.

When using these types of assessments, you'll want to be careful about the criteria or benchmarks that the assessment is testing on and that they align with the goals of your homeschool.

Interim/Benchmark Assessments

Interim/benchmark assessments are a type of formative assessment that measures a student's progress over time. This type of assessment is often used to check in with where the student is at and if changes need to be made in order to stay on track.

In homeschooling, this can be especially useful when you want to make sure you and your child are on the same page as far as learning goals. It also allows you to pinpoint any areas of weakness or difficulty that your child may be having so that you can adjust the curriculum accordingly.

These types of assessments can also be used for portfolio reviews, college applications, and state reporting.

Why Use Different Types of Assessments

Now that we're clear on all the different types of assessments you can use in your homeschooling, let's talk about why it's important to use a variety of types. You don't want to make the mistake of just assessing your child in one way throughout the whole year.

Each type of assessment measures something different and provides different types of feedback.

Formative assessments, for instance, help measure student understanding in real time while summative assessments provide an overall picture of mastery at the end of a unit or semester.

Diagnostic assessments ensure that you're starting with a curriculum that is educationally appropriate for your child's current level.

Using a variety of types of assessments helps you make sure that your child is mastering the material and making progress. It also gives you a more well-rounded picture of how they're doing academically, which can be very useful when it comes to managing their curriculum or preparing for college applications.

When to Use Assessments in Your Homeschool

Now, let's dive into some of the best times to use assessments as a homeschooling parent. These are the times when getting good feedback on your child's progress will be the most beneficial.

Choosing New Curriculum

One of the best times to assess your child's learning is when choosing a new curriculum. Many curriculums will offer some sort of diagnostic test on their website. This helps to make sure you purchase the right level of that curriculum for your child.

The last thing you want to do is spend money on a curriculum that is too hard or too easy for your child. Assessing where their learning is at before your purchase will help make sure you buy a curriculum that is the perfect fit for them.

Transitioning Out of Public School

Another really good time to do an assessment of your child's academic progress is when they are first transitioning out of public school. If you're just starting your homeschooling journey you'll need to get a good idea of where your child stands.

Learning gaps or missing knowledge on certain subjects is very common in public schools. Students easily fall through the cracks in certain areas because of the sheer number of students the teacher has to keep up with.

Before advancing to new subjects, it's better to spend a little extra time catching up on any areas your child hasn't mastered yet. A good assessment will help pinpoint those areas and give you a better idea of where and how to begin.

Transitioning Back to Public School

Another time that an assessment would be helpful is before you transition back to public school. In fact, most schools will test your student before they decide what grade they'll be in.

If you already know that's the direction you'll be headed, it can be helpful to do some assessments ahead of time. You might want to do an assessment based on the learning standards the school uses.

That will help you better understand what grade your child might be placed in when returning to school. And if you assess early enough, you can see what areas your child may need some extra studying, depending on what grade you hope they'll be placed in.

At the Beginning of the School Year

Another really good time to do an assessment as a homeschooler is at the beginning of the year. This can be extra helpful if you've taken a break between grades.

It's very common for children to experience a “summer slide” where they lose some of the skills and knowledge they learned from the previous year. An assessment done before the school year starts will help you see if there are any skills your child needs to brush up on before starting new subjects.

At the End of the School year

Another ideal time to do an assessment as a homeschooler is at the end of the school year.

As I mentioned, this is one of the times I frequently do an assessment.

I want to know that before I start trying to teach new, tougher concepts and skills to my children, they've mastered the old ones. One year I did an assessment like this and realized that my daughter was NOT ready to move on to the next grade.

We spent a handful of months just practicing and brushing up on her skills before we moved on. It meant a little more time, but she did so much better that next year in math. She had the solid foundation she needed to progress.

An end-of-year assessment with help you know if your child is truly ready to move on to the next grade. If they're not, you'll know what skills they might need to study more.

Complying With Homeschooling Laws

Another very common time that homeschool families use assessments is to stay in compliance with homeschooling laws. Many states require homeschoolers to report back with some proof of learning for the year.

This might mean something like:

  • portfolios
  • standardized tests
  • observational assessments from an outside evaluator
  • curriculum records

The requirements vary from state to state, so make sure to check what the homeschooling laws are where you live. You can look up homeschooling requirements for every state on the HSLDA website.

College Preparation

The last situation in which an assessment is beneficial for homeschoolers is when your child is getting ready for college. Many colleges now require homeschoolers to take standardized tests in order to be accepted.

Doing a diagnostic assessment before taking the SAT or ACT can help your child know what they're getting into. They will be able to prepare for the types of questions they'll see on the exam. It can also help you better understand any areas of weakness that will need extra practice before the test.

Assessments can also be useful in making sure your child will be ready for college-level courses.

How to Create Your Own Assessment

Now, let's talk about how to create your own assessment. Using pre-made tests and quizzes is always an option, but they aren't always a good fit for your homeschool. Especially if you prefer a non-traditional homeschooling method, being able to create your own assessment allows you to customize it to fit your needs.

Step 1: Determine the learning objectives

The first thing you need to do is identify the learning goals you have for your child. What do you want them to learn?

This can be subject-specific like being able to do addition or subtraction in math. Or they can be more general like critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity.

Step 2: Pick your method of assessment

Next, decide how you'll assess your child. Will it be through observations, projects, discussions, tests, worksheets, etc. How will you measure their learning?

You'll also want to decide how you'll communicate with your child about the assessment. Will you tell them you're doing an assessment? Will you keep it more casual or make it a big deal?

There is no right or wrong answer, but it helps to decide ahead of time before you do the assessment.

Step 3: Track your child's progress

Once you've picked your learning objectives and decided on how you'll assess them, you can perform the assessment. Once it's done, you'll want to use some method of recording your child's progress.

If you're measuring them against certain learning standards, you can keep a checklist. Simply check them off when you're confident your child has mastered the skill. This is useful if you're doing more formative assessments, so you can just track their progress throughout the year.

If you're doing a test or portfolio for your assessments, just keep them in a safe place. That way you can reference them throughout the year as needed. They also make great ipsative assessments to compare their progress over time.

Having a record of your assessments also helps when it comes time to report back to your state or plan out future lessons and curriculum.

FAQs About Types of Assessments

If you still have some questions about the types of assessments and using them in your homeschool, here are some FAQs:

What are the common types of assessments?

The most common types of assessments used for homeschoolers, and in education in general, are summative, formative, and diagnostic. Summative assessments are end-of-year tests or projects that measure the mastery of a subject.

Formative assessments involve smaller check-ins throughout the year to keep track of progress. Diagnostic assessments are used as a pre-test before taking a more in-depth assessment, such as an end-of-year test.

What types of assessments do teachers use?

Teachers typically use a combination of assessments throughout the year, depending on the subject matter and grade level. For example, for younger learners, teachers might rely more heavily on formative assessments such as observations or questions. For older students, summative assessments may be used to determine mastery of a subject.

What is the most common purpose of assessments?

The most common purpose of assessments is to measure student mastery and progress. Assessments can also be used to inform instruction and provide feedback for both students and parents.

Do I need to use all the types of assessments?

No, you don't need to use all types of assessments. You can pick and choose the types of assessments that work best for your homeschool setting. It's important to remember that assessment should be tailored to the subject matter and grade level, as well as the individual needs of your child.

Conclusion to 3 Types of Assessments & How to Use Them in Your Homeschool

I hope this article has given you all the information you need to confidently use assessments in your homeschool. These types of assessments can help you better understand what types of learning techniques work best for your child, identify any gaps in their knowledge, and make sure their education is on track.

Overall, assessments are a great way to make sure that your homeschool is moving in the right direction and that your children are mastering the skills they need.

What types of assessments do you use in your homeschool? Let us know in the comments below!

Candice McDaniel
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