Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Measuring homeschooling success with rubrics

Two assessment rubrics--one a student self-assessment and the other a project-based assessment--stacked on top of each other alongside a pencil.

No one starts their homeschooling journey completely sure of themselves. Sure former teachers may have an edge, as they're already familiar with rubrics, learning objectives, standards, and more. But, they're probably not well versed in the standards for their kids' grade level. All of us need to meet our kids where they are and find out what works for them and us.
 

After a few months of trial and error (and lots of reading!), we came up with a set of rubrics that work for us: a student self-assessment and a project-based assessment. "A rubric is a type of scoring guide that assesses and articulates specific components and expectations for an assignment (source: https://teaching.cornell.edu/teaching-resources/assessment-evaluation/using-rubrics)." These tools may work for you or they may not; feel free to take them or leave them.
 

What do you use to measure your child's progress?
 
Illustration of a schoolhouse with two assessment rubrics--one a student self-assessment and the other a project-based assessment--stacked one on top the other alongside a pencil.

When we started homeschooling last year, I knew I wasn’t going to rely on testing to evaluate knowledge transfer. Most tests are poorly written and measure the test taker’s familiarity and mastery of a particular test format rather than their overall learning.
 

Also, time limits are a recipe for strife in our house. With a bound, our daughter, who likes to consider, reflect, plan, and then execute, feels pressure to jump into doing. This self-inflicted pressure occurs even if the time bound is a day for tasks that typically take 15 minutes or less.
 

We wanted our daughter to love learning for the sake of learning (intrinsic motivation) rather than extrinsic motivation. This meant grading was out, as she’d be incentivized to stick with what she knew to collect A's rather than stepping outside her comfort zone and getting a B or a C.
 

 

USING RUBRICS TO SPUR CONVERSATIONS

Our goal for assessments is to use them as tools for identifying areas where we need more practice or a different approach for learning. To frame assessments as a measuring stick around which we could have conversations, we opted for rubrics that would work for any subject and that we could add to based on relevant grade-level standards for specific lessons or units. This consistency helps both of us know what to expect.
 

I created two general rubrics: a self-assessment rubric for our daughter to complete and a project-based assessment rubric for me to fill out.
 

Two assessment rubrics--one a student self-assessment and the other a project-based assessment--next to each other alongside a pencil.

Together these rubrics set out expectations that hold for any project we do together. Depending on the lesson or unit we're starting, we add grade-level standards to the project-based assessment rubric together.
 

 

COVERING STANDARDS WHILE WORKING ON PROJECTS

We approach the various grade-level standards through projects related to every day life and current events. For example, we focused on COVID-19 for last year and covered the human body, geography, fractions, and more in that context. This year we’ve chosen California wildfires as our frame for California history, humans’ impact on the earth, weather and climate, map reading, geometry, graphing, and more.
 

Coffee table with a two open education books and two history books: Critical Thinking Handbook K-3: A Guide for Remodeling Lesson Plans for Language Arts, Social Studies & Science open to Two Conflicting Theories of Knowledge, Learning, and Literacy: The Didactic and the Critical and The Student Guide to Historical Thinking: Going Beyond Dates, Places, and Nates to the Core of History open to Universal Intellectual Standards with A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (Revisioning History) by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

For evaluating our progress on the standards, we simply create a copy of the project-based assessment rubric and then add entries for the relevant standards below the entries for general expectations.
 

While we’re in California, we chose to follow the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Massachusetts and New Jersey which seem more rigorous. We also used the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
 

You can find the various standards we use online:

 

To track our overall progress across individual projects, I begin the year by cutting and pasting our grade-level standards into a list that I print out. Then, over the year, I check off each standard as we cover them to make sure we don’t miss anything. I often include a few standards from the previous grade for review and occasionally from the next grade up to stretch and challenge ourselves.
 

Two assessment rubrics--one a student self-assessment and the other a project-based assessment--stacked one on top the other.

 

ASSESSING KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER WITH RUBRICS

In place of tests, we close out our units with a project. Because projects require recall, you'll be able to see clearly what your child absorbed and/or retained. To showcase what she's learned, our daughter has created comic strips, videos, and more!
 

I typically don't add format-specific items to our project-based assessment rubric, but if you want to add entries related to the project your child chooses, you can! Here's how. Once you know the format for your project, grab a relevant rubric from Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything (https://www.schrockguide.net/assessment-and-rubrics.html). You'll find a rubric for pretty much anything your child can dream up.
 

 

HELPFUL HOMESCHOOLING PLANNING RESOURCES

Besides the standards listed above, I've found these resources helpful with planning lessons and creating learning objectives:

 

Coffee table with a few education books: Critical Thinking Handbook K-3rd: A Guide for Remodeling Lesson Plans for Language Arts, Social Studies & Science; The 5Es of Inquiry-Based Science; and Let Them Choose: Cafeteria Learning Style for Adults.

If you prefer physical books, some books from my library that I constantly have out for reference are:

 

Two assessment rubrics--one a student self-assessment and the other a project-based assessment--stacked one on top the other alongside a pencil.

P.S. Like this information? Want more when it's available? Sign up for The Road to The Good Life newsletter. It's sent out monthly and includes a mix of homeschool resources, recipes, and craft activities.
 

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Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

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