5 Ways to Incorporate Creative Writing

5_Ways_To_Incorporate_Creative_WritingYou’d think, really you would, with all the books I read, I would enjoy writing. Well, truth be told, I like sharing; that’s why I blog. But, writing, writing for the sake of writing; writing to tell a story? Yeah… that’s a little more intimidating.

The mere idea of sitting down to flesh out an entire novel scares me. I can usually come up with a basic plot, that’s fairly simple. Fleshing it out? Not so much. All those details, plot twists, and unearthing a satisfying ending? (sigh) I’m tired just thinking about it.

As I’ve started to encourage creative writing in my children, I’ve come to realize perhaps I am thinking a little too hard. I need to start off with something small and work my way up to ‘bigger’ projects. Take one moment at a time and simply enjoy the process.

Our family has begun to incorporate a few creative ideas to encourage a love of writing in our home. Some you’ve already heard of; some you might already be doing; and others will be fun to explore!

Family Mailboxes

Who doesn’t like to receive mail? Each of our children has their own ‘mailbox’. We’ve taught our kids how to write letters, post mail, and to respond within a reasonable amount of time to keep the fun going.
As a bonus, we’ve helped each of our children create their own letterhead, bought them rubber postage stamp sets (to use in place of real stamps), and boxes of envelopes. Seeing our children become excited to both give and receive letters has been such a blessing. It’s great to see them look for ways to bless the other members of the family.

Letters to Friends

Pen pals are fun, too! In the past, we’ve written letters to family members, friends, and online acquaintances. There are even websites you can work through to help your children get connected with others who are looking for a pen pal.

Dante’s Wardrobe

A few years back we ran a series on this fun, creative writing technique. Dante’s Wardrobe consisted of having our children create an ‘alternate’ personality for themselves; each person in our family picked a character they wanted to be. For the next learning year, we wrote to each other, left clues for each other, and made presents for each other, based on the character we had chosen.
This helped our children think outside the box and find imaginative ways to tell about themselves. Each year we did this, we picked an entirely new character and explored new options.

Journaling

Journaling allows my children to write down their personal stories, poems, and thoughts without the fear of anyone else reading. We usually have scads of notebooks strewn about the house for them to use. However, we’ve also begun to have dedicated writing journals.
One creative way we’re encouraging our kids to journal is by setting them up with their own blog! We coax them into posting several times a week, on whatever topic they like. Writing in this manner is especially fun for our kids and they love the feedback from the few readers they have, besides mom and pop.

Writing Prompts

Occasionally, I have been known to throw out a writing prompt as part of our homeschool lessons. I try to make the topics something our children will want to write about.
During this coming school year (and here I’m going to spoil the fun for my own kiddos, who didn’t know this yet, and read my blog), we are going to be doing a lot more writing prompts. Our prompts will be based on our history lessons. Each of us, mom included, will have a personalized journal to write in. The idea is to use the prompt given (which are planned to be silly, yet thoughtful) and write for only three minutes; no more! Then, we will each take a moment to read our prompt and see whose is the funniest, cutest, or most heartfelt. Perhaps we will even do an occasional exercise of ‘Round Robin’, finishing off each others work.

Using these five, easy writing ideas, we are trying to encourage a love of writing in our home. It’s important to point out, while doing these activities, we parents aren’t checking for errors. The purpose of these exercises is to increase their love of writing, not to make sure they are writing correctly; that is where formal practice comes in. Enjoy the ideas and go with the flow, this should be fun!

“And he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs…”
Exodus 35:31-32

🔔Time to Chime In: Which of the five ideas above would your family use most and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

We’d love to see your creative writing projects! Instagram your homeschool inspired ideas & projects with the hashtag #A_HomeschoolMom & you might find your picture featured on AHM’s Instagram!

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To The ‘Cadets’ In My Charge

A letter to those whom I’ve been asked to train, disciple, and raise up. May you hear myTo_The_Cadets heart in this message and put into practice the wisdom you find here.

Dear Young Trainees,

I have been given a commission from our Commander to train you up in the way you should go. I am to disciple you, discipline you, and get you ready for what lies ahead. While we have already begun our basic training, I would like to take a few moments to remind you of several things.

We are ALL Soldiers

As I was reminded recently myself, let me remind you… you are still young and growing; do not expect perfection in your training. None-the-less, let me assure you, no matter the age, we are ALL called to be soldiers of Christ.

Daily we battle our flesh, the world, and the devil. We are to fight against those things which would prevent us from having a full relationship with our Commander, Christ. 

Let me also assure you that, while I am one of the drills in charge of your training, I too am still a work in progress. Unfortunately, my training started ‘on the job’. You did not come with a field guide, a manual, or a YouTube tutorial. I receive new instruction on a minute-by-minute basis from my Commander and am doing my best to be all that you need. 

The Battle is Real

While you are still under my protection, the battle which we fight is kept from being fully known to you. It is my responsibility to ensure you have a good foundation before you take on these bigger battles. Use your training time wisely and become well grounded before heading out into full-scale war.

However, I need to assure you there is a real battle going on. Our enemy is waging a war for your soul and of those around you. The enemy wishes to see you struggle, fall, and remain defeated. Do not listen to his lies, follow the narrow path which you have been called to walk. 

I’m Just Doing My Job

Training is not easy, I fully understand this. Who likes having to do KP, those thousand push-ups, or take pesky training exams? But, if you are going to be ready for life after basic training, you need all these things! 

Please understand when I hand out duties I am simply trying to do my job, which is to train up the next generation of drills and soldiers. I am following the commands given to me by the officer in charge and my Commander. I do not do this because I am trying to be mean, but because it’s necessary.

Insubordination is Unacceptable

A certain amount of craziness is to be expected on a daily basis. One thing which is never acceptable is insubordination; refusing to do what has been commanded. Again, I understand not everything being asked of you is fun, however this does not justify a lack of obedience. 

Remember, my instructions do not come from myself, but from those higher up. When you choose to disobey me, you disobey the officer in charge and our Commander. Make life easier on all of us… just do it!

Training is Everything

Once again, your training is of vital importance. You NEED to learn how to do these things put before you; your future welfare depends on it. The tasks being given to you are well thought out, important, and meant to be challenging so that you will grow in your independence. 

Before you are ready to move on, you must first have a firm foundation. You need to not only know WHAT you believe, but WHY you believe it. You must also understand how to put those beliefs into action. You need to be able to stand firm in your beliefs and defend them against the world and our enemy. 

We pray you have fun while moving through your training, but we also pray you take this seriously. We want you to enjoy your experience, but also put your heart, mind, and hand to the task. Do not waste a moment taking life for granted. We are never promised tomorrow.

I Do It Because I Love You

Remember, my little charges… I love you, truly. I do all I do because I love you and want you to succeed in the battles ahead. In those moments when the skirmish seems overwhelming, may our Commander remind you that you are loved, not only be me and the officer in charge, but also by the Commander Himself. 

While I tend to be firm and require respect, please note… I am also willing to accept hugs. There is nothing in our rule book which states a drill cannot either give or accept affection. Please feel free to approach and offer such demonstrations should you feel these actions might be warranted. It should also be noted that I, too, reserve the right to make similar demonstrations.

Always remember, we are here to help you. We love you and want you to succeed. Take your training seriously and give it your best. Remember for Whom we fight. May His name be glorified forever and ever.

In His Name,
Your Drill 

“I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery. I may never soar o’er the enemy. But, I’m in the Lord’s Army. Yes, sir!”

🔔Time to Chime In: Whether drill or the officer in charge, we are all commanded to train up our children in the way they should go. How do you ensure your charges are receiving the training needed?

We’d love to see you in action! Instagram your homeschool inspired ideas & projects with the hashtag #A_HomeschoolMom & you might find your picture featured on AHM’s Instagram!

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To The Drill Sergeant Within

To_The_DrillTo the drill sergeant within my head, may you take these words to heart and put them into action.

Dear Drill,

With four little ‘cadets’ in your charge, you have a full routine of activities before you. Responsibility quickly fills your day, leaving little time for anything else. While I appreciate all you are doing and all the hard work you are putting into training up these little charges, there are a few things I wish to point out to you.

They’re Still In Training

It’s true, you have been given a huge responsibility; one which you are putting your full effort into. However, from time to time, it’s good to remind yourself these trainees are just children. They are going to stumble, fumble, and grumble on occasion. These little ones need not only strict training, but also lots of love. They need to know you are not only able to whip them into shape, but also able to be fun. They need to understand you desire respect, but offer grace. You are firm, but kind. You challenge, yet help. 

As they grow, they will need your daily assistance less and less. However, this does not mean your job will be over. Your job will move from drill to councilor. You will be expected to listen carefully, help them analyze their situations, and encourage them to move forward with confidence. 

Pick Your Battles

In your struggle to train these little people up wisely, you will come across many battles. It is key that you remember not all battles are going to be won and not all battles are yours to fight. Allow our great and powerful leader, Christ, to conquer where you are unable. Afford your charges opportunities to fight battles for themselves, gaining strength from their experiences. 

Stop beating yourself up over battles lost. Focus on the bigger picture, winning the war. 

Trust Your Leader

The Lord, Who called you to this, knows what He is doing. He has given you all you need to complete this mission. Never fear, He is constantly watching you; moment by moment. He is keeping tabs on the situation and is offering help constantly.

Put your faith in Him, knowing He will see you through; even those moments when dolling out thousands of push-ups seems the only answer. He understands your frustration, but He knows you can do this! 

Remember They’re Not Yours

While it might be tempting to think of these charges as your own, please remember they aren’t. Yes, they are in your care, but, in truth, they belong to our Commander. He has given them to you for a short time to help train, but they always have and always will belong to Him.

Train Them, But Love Them

You have been called to a unique mission. You are being asked to train, but to train out of love. Your training IS an act of love, to be sure, but, from time to time, they are also going to need physical affection; even those whose training is almost complete. Never forget to hug them, cuddle them, and show how much you care. A good drill knows there should be balance between being firm and being loving. 

Keep Up The Good Work

Finally, drill, I leave you with this. Do not give up! Your mission might seem frustrating at times. Often you might wonder if your job is really all that important. But, let me assure you, it is vital. What you are doing is of the utmost importance and you need to pursue till the end. Do not allow our enemy to deceive you into thinking you are worthless and of no value. 

One day these ‘cadets’ will be drills themselves. They will look back on this time and remember all you have taught them, putting to use all the skills you are so diligently training into them. May they see you struggle, but always rise again. May they see you move forward with confidence, kindness, and affection; knowing love is behind all you do. 

My dear drill, may the Father continue to give you strength and peace. May He fill you with His love to share with these little soldiers. May He constantly reaffirm His mission for your life, leaving you with no doubt that to this you were called.

Be Blessed,
Cristina

No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” II Timothy 2:4

🔔Time Chime In: Write a short note to your ‘drill sergeant’ and share it with us!

We’d love to see you in action! Instagram your homeschool inspired ideas & projects with the hashtag #A_HomeschoolMom & you might find your picture featured on AHM’s Instagram!

Want to stay connected & up to date with A Homeschool Mom? Don’t forget to follow on FacebookInstagram, & Pinterest!

April Parenting Weekends – Tight, But Not Crushed

Join us in sharing April Parenting Weekends! Come read, be encouraged, and share yourapril parenting thoughts relating to all things parent. Today’s topic: Tight, But Not Crushed

Today, Tanya, from God’s Character, will be talking about setting boundaries.  To read more posts from Tanya you can go to God’s Character.

I remember seeing a photo some time ago of a person in an area with a fence going all around it. The person in the fenced area did not want to be there because he thought that he was being restricted and caged in. So over the fence he jumped, only to realize that he was on a plateau.

For our family, setting boundaries is not about restraint. Setting boundaries is about protection, much like in the analogy of the fenced plateau.

When I was younger, I remember that we had chickens at some point. My earliest memory of holding a chicken was how I could feel all the bones and I was so scared to hold it too tight that I might break it’s bones. And so I did not hold it tight enough and it got away. Parenting sometime can be a lot like holding a chicken. You don’t want to hurt your children so you try not to squeeze them too hard. Yet you don’t want to be too lax and let them get away and get out of control.   

Continue to read at God’s Character.

Parenting can be a bit rough at times. With a little encouragement, we can all become better parents to the glory of God!

April Parenting Weekends – Boundaries

april parentingJoin us in sharing April Parenting Weekends! Come read, be encouraged, and share your thoughts relating to all things parent. Today’s topic: Boundaries, Set Ones That Work For Your Family

Today’s parenting post is by Grace.  Grace is a wife, homeschooling mom, doula, pastor’s kid, and writer. She currently resides in southern Oregon with her husband and three gorgeous children, where they enjoy walks in the woods, wading in the river, reading good books, and attending a diverse and compassionate church. You can find Grace over at My Divine Blessings where she blogs about special needs, family, pregnancy, Christianity and many other things.

After three children, it’s become quite apparent to me that every child has their own unique personality. One would think that this fact would be obvious, but for some reason our society’s books on parenting seem to think that all children will respond to one particular method or technique. Within these various methods, whether they work for most kids, or only work temporarily for some kids, or don’t work for any kids in the long run and ought to be done away with altogether, there is some commonality, which is that there are all ways of setting boundaries: “You may do X, but not Y”; “This behavior is not acceptable, but that one is”; “Such actions are not acceptable, but these other actions are to be praised”. 

April Guest Post

Boundaries are what teach our children how to behave in modern society without any resemblance to the “society” in Lord of the Flies. Teaching manners, kindness, and compassion are all vitally important for us to live together in this world. Yet how to teach those things is a mystery to many parents, especially with so many different “experts” claiming their method as THE method to use.

What I support in my doula and parent educator work is for parents to make informed decisions. Every parent has the right to choose one method or another (provided it is not abusive to the child), but they ought to make decisions after exploring different options and being truly informed. It’s important that as we set boundaries and teach our children how to behave, that we do so in a way that works for them, and that you, the parent, can get behind and support fully. It’s not only your child’s individuality and personality to consider, but also your own. So here I will present a few ways to sift through the various methods and figure out which one will work for both you and your child.

Continue to read at God’s Character.

Parenting can be a bit rough at times. With a little encouragement, we can all become better parents to the glory of God!

When The Kids Know More

When_The_Kids_Know_MoreIt’s happened. I knew it would come sometime in my children’s learning adventure, I just didn’t plan for it to happen quite this soon. We have finally reached that point in life when my kids know more than I do.

If I’ve done things well, I will begin to work myself ‘out of a job’. As a parent, especially a homeschooling parent, my goal is to raise a fully functioning adult; four of them, in fact. In raising independent learners, it was inevitable that at some point they might discover things I have yet to explore.

So, what are parents to do when their children start to exceed their knowledge? How do we continue teaching them when they absorb facts faster than a sponge absorbs liquid?

Practice Humility

Pride is hard to overcome. We’ve spent years educating our children and they have the nerve to start telling us we’re wrong? They want to explain how things are done, when events happened, and impart newfound knowledge to their parents.

Sure, we could get upset with them for correcting our poor grammar and interrupting our lessons with more details than we prepared. Or, we could make this a teachable moment. We need to be able to swallow our pride, accept that our children are eager to learn, and continue to teach.

Teach Humility

It’s wonderful to learn new things and impart that wisdom to others who might be interested. However, we also need to learn the right time and place to share. We need to learn how to share. While our children might have learned facts we haven’t, they still need to learn how to share with kindness, grace, gentleness, and humility.

Learning new things should not fill us with self-righteous pride and arrogance. If that is the case, you have increased your knowledge base, certainly, but have yet to increase in wisdom. Wisdom is by far the more important of the two.

Be Patient

When our children wish to share all the exciting new things they are learning, expressing their interest in the topic, they can often times exhaust our patience. We need to remember that our children are learning and loving the adventure. The surest way to kill their enthusiasm is to become frustrated with them, belittle them, or refuse to hear their thoughts.

Be open to hearing them and listen with attention to what they are trying to say. You never know, you might enjoy the lesson!

Show Some Respect

There is a fine line between sharing newfound information and disrespectfully tossing around facts to belittle parents or others in authority positions. Again, the purpose of increasing in knowledge is not to lord it over another and make them feel small.

When our children share with us, and others, they need to be mindful that respect remains intact. They should respect the life experience the adult has, respect the feelings of the adult being spoken to, and respect the role the Lord has given that person in their life. Yes; they might have knowledge to share, but that doesn’t give them an excuse to be rude to those around them.

Encourage Growth

It can be uncomfortable to admit our children know more about a certain topic than we do. But, to my way of thinking, this shows what a good job we have done as parents. Our children have been well-taught; they know how to find information for themselves, comprehend what they are reading, and are motivated to keep doing so. We ought to give ourselves a pat on the back and enjoy the fact that our children are learning, and we didn’t have to do a thing.

Encourage them to keep up the good work. Encourage them to keep sharing what they find with the family. Encourage their love of learning.

Continue Teaching

Our kids knowing a little more than we do in a particular area should not prevent us from continuing on with the remainder of their learning. If we feel out of our depth, it might be time to find other ways to assist them. However, this should not discourage us from trying our best and moving forward.

Things might need to change, but it doesn’t mean we need to give up. Keep pressing forward!

More or Just Different?

I’ve teased that my kids know more than I do, but, in truth, they don’t. They might have learned a few cool, new facts. They might remember dates better than I. What they’ve learned is not more, just different. Life experience and some Godly wisdom are on my side. (laughing)

If your children are avid learners, take heart; you’ve done a great job in your parenting. Do not be discouraged when your children spout facts you never knew, read more books than you can, program an app that makes your head swim, and/or cook better than you on any given day. Their increase is a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication you’ve put into their education. Be proud of what your children are accomplishing, and train them to use it wisely.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'” – I Peter 5:5

🔔Time to Chime In: If applicable, in what area has your child surpassed you in knowledge?

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

– John 14:27

Let_Not_Your_HeartI am a worrier. Lord forgive me – literally – but this is true. If our routine’s off by just a smidgen, I start to sweat. Mass amounts of responsibility sit on my shoulders and I start to wonder if I can handle it all. Kids are getting out of hand, acting out, and I start wondering if I’m failing as a parent. My choices in curriculum and social activities begin to weigh on my mind. These are just the small worries.

If work is slow, paying bills is going to be tight, because we are self-employed. My kids need braces, all four of them. New laws in our state might force regulations upon us that usurp our parental authority. The list could go on.

It is in my nature to worry about everything and anything. I worry about having dinner finished at a good hour; using too much laundry soap; stretching our budget; whether or not I should have said those words to that person; and if I am ‘enough’ for the people who depend on me. I worry; I worry; I worry. This is who I am… on my own.

Ah! But that changes everything doesn’t it? What I am on my own cannot compare to what I am in Christ. In Christ, I am a new creation. (II Cor. 5:17)

My old nature is constantly battling with who Christ is trying to help me become. I can easily slip back into a pattern of old habits, allowing myself to be overwhelmed by life, forgetting Who is in control. My emotions war with the Holy Spirit who is trying to comfort me, offering me peace during times of trial.

Overwhelmed by Emotion

If gone unchecked, emotions can sometimes overwhelm; clouding our minds and paralyzing us. We cannot see the truth for the feelings standing in the way. We have allowed reason to fall by the wayside and allowed our hearts to dictate our current state of mind.

And yet, we are reminded in Jeremiah 17:9 that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We are not to be ruled by our emotions or the turning of our hearts. What we feel is not to be our focus, but, rather, what is true.

What Is True?

The truth, as we are reminded in John 14, is that we have been given a spirit of peace. Not just any peace, peace given by God Himself! We have the God-given ability to accept this peace and move forward, but we have to choose to do so. God will not force His peace upon us. He will not shove this peace down our throats. He will not beg us to take it. We must choose to accept His gift willingly.

Let Not Your Heart…

Our emotions are not going to gain control of themselves. We need to be proactive about not letting our emotions control us. We need to rely on the Lord and ask Him to remove this stress and fill us with His peace. We need to trust He is going to see us through.

This does not mean He will always meet our needs in the way we expect; sometimes He doesn’t! Christians die, go hungry, and are persecuted – we are told to expect this (John 15:20) – instead we ask that He see us through the trial and come out of this stronger. We accept that God is in control.

On my own, I am a worrier. In Christ, I am learning to have peace; peace which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). My friends, let not your heart be troubled. Instead, accept the gift our Lord has freely given. Peace which fills our empty hearts, calms our sea of emotions, and confounds the unbeliever. May we choose to accept the gifts Christ so willingly died to give us and enter into a life well lived.

🔔Time to Chime In: When worried, I find it helps to pray and reorient my focus. What helps you when emotions seem to hold sway?

The Outer Limits

“Mom, may I play on iPad now?” “You know the rules. Have you completed everything on the list?”

Yeah… You read that right. I have a list. It’s not a long list. It’s not a particularly hard list. But, it’s a list nonetheless. You see, I want my kids to understand something important. Technology is not the be-all and end-all of life. Using devices is fun, absolutely, but responsibility and activity really ought to come first.

How do we determine when our kids can use a device? I’m glad you asked!

Setting Boundaries

The_Outer_LimitsSurprisingly, there are only a few things our kids need to get out-of-the-way before they can get on a device. The list is short, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the list is fast. First things first, our kids need to get their day started off on the right foot. No devices before breakfast, not even on weekends. Second, during the week, our kids need to finish their learning activities. No games until they’ve added a few ‘wrinkles to their brains’. (Love that phrase my sister-in-law uses!) Lastly, our kiddos need to handle chores. We all need to contribute to the functioning of the household, no matter how small the task, before we dig out those devices.

Once our kids are allowed to get on iPads or computers, there are also a few restrictions. I love for them to have fun, but spending all afternoon playing is just a bit too much for this mama. So, they are allowed to play for one hour and then they must find something else to occupy their time. They are encouraged to go outside, play with one another, start a project, or just relax. Just because we have the blessing of a device, doesn’t mean we have to sit in front of it every waking moment.

How Much Time is Too Much Time?

If you’re looking for a fast, easy answer, you’ve come to the wrong place. Honestly, this is not a decision anyone can make on your family’s behalf. Through prayer and study of your children you will have a better understanding of how much time is too much time and when to pull the plug (literally).

I would recommend monitoring their screen time though. As in all things, moderation is key. You can have too much of a good thing! (laughing) One key factor is how our children start behaving in their free time. If they become unable to entertain themselves outside of devices, they are spending too much time on it. If their behavior starts to suffer from usage (throwing tantrums when asked to get off, for example), this is also an indication that we might need to start cutting back or cutting off entirely for a period of time.

Understanding the Difference

There is a significant difference between being on a device for gaming purposes and learning purposes. Yes, both require sitting in front of a screen, but one adds significantly more of those wrinkles than the other. (Yes, I know. Arguments could be made that Minecraft and the like are actually helping our children to learn; I won’t debate that point. However, games like Crossy Road? Just… don’t.)

Our kids are allowed one hour of screen time for gaming purposes. Learning, generally speaking, has no limits. However, I reserve the right to kick my kiddos off all technology and make them get fresh air. After all, one can only sit in front of a glowing screen for so long before the brain starts to fizzle and die.

If At First You Are Confused…

… Go and ask Pop! (laughing) As much as I’d love to tell you we always abide by the above routine, that would be a lie. There are days our routine is completely thrown off; days when we take field trips; days when we have hospital visits; and days when they want more than one turn on a device. When mom doesn’t know what to say or, frankly, doesn’t know what to do, we ask Pop. He always has an answer!

Let me be honest. If I could own the newest Apple device the minute it comes on the market, I would. I like technology. I use technology. All…the…time. However, I also understand that sitting in front of this screen all day everyday is a bad idea. Our bodies need sunshine, exercise, food, fellowship, and rest. Technology is a good thing, as long as we exercise self-control and use moderation. (sigh) Sometimes that is soooo hard, isn’t it? Especially when you find a new app you just can’t wait to use!

🔔Time to Chime In: In your opinion, how much time is too much time?

Boundaries vs. Individuality

april parenting

If you haven’t joined the conversation yet, April Parenting Weekends has started! Join me as I guest post on this month’s topic: Boundaries vs. Individuality!

Thanks to Community Moms and God’s Character for this fun opportunity.

Testing, Testing… 1, 2, 3 (Part III)

Testing_TestingDepending on where you live, your state may require standardized testing to ensure your child is receiving a well-rounded education. Of course, you state may not require testing, but for your own mental well-being you’d like to test your children to ensure you aren’t missing any key points in their education.

No matter the reason, testing season has begun around the United States. For those of us who are not a part of a PSP, who helpfully arrange our testing for us, this means we have to go out and buy tests ourselves. Just where does a homeschooling parent go to buy said test? Which test should we be buying? And, when exactly am I supposed to be giving them? I’m glad you asked!

Choosing a Standardized Test

Iowa Standardized Test

The Iowa Tests meet most state’s requirements for an annual, nationally normed standardized test and offer educators a diagnostic look at how their students are progressing in key academic areas.
Available for Kindergarten to Grade 12, the Iowa tests allow educators to trace student achievement growth continuously. These tests can be administered year-round by someone with at least a B.A. degree.

The Stanford Achievement Test

The Stanford 10 Achievement includes a Lexile measure on all Stanford 10 score reports (except for SESAT levels). The test is untimed and in full-color, and special formatting keeps students focused, interested, and on track during testing.
The Stanford 10 is nationally standardized and meets most state requirements. It is available year-round, and you may administer the complete battery or omit the optional sections of the test. Please be aware that some areas may need to use an alternate form of the Stanford test series.

The California Achievement Test (CAT)

The California Achievement Test, CAT E/Survey (Grades 2, 4-12) is a nationally normed standardized test that measures achievement in the areas of Reading, Language Arts and Math. It meets most states’ requirements for an annual assessment for homeschool and private school use. This is a Core Battery/Survey Edition and takes approximately 2½ hours to administer. NO BACHELOR’S DEGREE REQUIRED!

PASS Test

The PASS Test was developed specifically for home schoolers. It has certain similarities to other achievement tests in that it measures student achievement in the subjects of reading, language, and mathematics. But it has important differences:

  • It was designed for parents to administer at home. This can greatly reduce the stress level of testing. We do not require that a certified teacher administer it.
  • It is untimed, which helps students relax.
  • It consists of many test levels instead of one per grade. As a result, students take a shorter test and find most questions challenging but not frustrating. By contrast, tests for an entire grade must cover a broad range of abilities and therefore many items are either too hard or too easy. A brief placement test is included with the PASS to help choose a test level of appropriate difficulty.
  • While the PASS results show personal achievement and national percentile comparisons like other tests, they also include home school percentiles and improvement suggestions for each subject.
  • Because of the inherent stress of testing and our informal approach to teaching lower elementary grades, the PASS test is only available for grades three through eight.

When to Administer Standardized Tests

Depending on the state you live in, testing may be required in the early elementary years. Determine what your state laws are and test accordingly. If your state has no required testing, consider starting the testing process around sixth grade. This will help your middle school student better prepare for the upcoming college SAT’s and ACT’s.

Generally speaking, standardized tests are given toward the end of each school year; beginning in April. You can take the test all in one day or stager each subject, taking them through the course of a week.

Reviewing Results of Standardized Tests

As we’ve mentioned before, we do not use our results to determine our children’s grades. The results of these tests are more for us as teachers, helping us to determine which subjects might need a boost during the coming year. These tests are not the end-all-be-all of learning; merely a ruler to measure their progress. Keep in mind, not all children test well; however, testing is something they probably ought to become familiar with, especially if they plan to attend college.

Some states do require a minimum allowable score. If this is the case, try doing a pretest to prepare your child and give yourself an idea of which areas might need a refresher before taking the actual test.

Where to Buy Standardized Tests

To purchase any of the tests previously mentioned, simply click on the links above. Companies that offer standardized testing are aBeka, BJU, Hewitt Testing, and Seton Testing. Feeling a little uncomfortable about administering the test on your own? Do a quick Google search and find out if any local groups are offering testing in your area.

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Testing isn’t the final authority on how well our children are doing in their learning, but it does have its benefits. Consider which test is best for your family and move forward with confidence. Use the results not as a final score on your child’s education, but as a guide for what could be improved during the next school year. This is test, this is only a test…

🔔Time to Chime In: Do you administer your own standardized tests at home? Which test do you prefer and why? Or, does your family prefer not to test? Share your thoughts with us on why you refrain and how you determine which areas might need improvement.