How to Navigate Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers

Blog, She Wrote- How to Navigate Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers

No matter where you homeschool or what your state regulations are, at some point, you’ll want to assess how your students are doing. Where do you begin? How do you know when it’s time? What is the best environment? Who can give the test? What tests are available to homeschoolers? Today’s post is all about How to Navigate Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers.

When Should I Start Testing My Student?

As with other aspects of assessment in your homeschool, when you begin testing and how often you test will depend on varying factors. For example,

  • Homeschool Laws- I’d say this is the biggest single factor when it comes to testing. When are you required to test your students? In NY State, homeschoolers are required to test every other year beginning with 4th grade and then annually once a student begins high school. Many families choose to make their “other” year 4th grade and begin testing in 5th.
  • Learning Concerns- Do you suspect your child has a learning issue? A simple assessment can give you information. It may not give you the whole story, but it can confirm some things and help you to know whether or not it is time to intervene.
  • Personal Preference- For many homeschoolers, regardless of requirements, prefer to use a standardized test as their annual year end assessment. I fall into the “later is better” category. While the test can give you a lot of information about your student, if your student is young, you can observe their performance and as long as you are engaged with your child, you’ll know how they are doing.

Choosing the Best Testing Environment

There are a few schools of thought here. Some parents think it’s wise to have their students take tests in a way that will help them to prepare for future classroom situations, including other standardized tests like college entrance exams. Others prefer to shelter their children from this experience for as long as they can!

Here are a few factors to consider when choosing your testing environment:

  • How easily is your student distracted? If she is easily thrown by other kids or even small noises, you might consider testing alone or with a small group of people.
  • What is your child’s anxiety level with school? If you have a child who gets upset easily at completing tasks, you want to pick the surroundings which will diminish anxiety triggers- or, at the least, not add to them!
  • Can you administer the test? It depends on the test you choose as to whether a parent qualifies to be a proctor. The only test with extra criteria is the Iowa Test. You must have at least a bachelor’s degree to be a test proctor. Giving the test yourself means testing in your own home which can make a huge difference to a test taker.
  • How old is your student? The older your students are, the more they may benefit from being in a group testing situation. The younger they are, the more they might be comfortable at home.

Standardized Test Options for Homeschoolers

Each of these tests has strengths and weaknesses based on how they are given and what they test. All of these are norm-referenced tests meaning they are testing the basic skills that any student at a particular grade should know. They are not based on any particular curriculum (criterion referenced tests).

The test scores will give you information about your child which can be useful. In particular, the Iowas have a very detailed score sheet which breaks your student’s results down to each section and even the number attempted vs the number correct. This way you can tell if they just got something wrong or they didn’t finish the problem. Choose the test based on what is best for your student given the information below.

Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)-

  • Available for K-12
  • Must be careful to order the right level for the grade your child is in- BJU Testing has a nice site for explaining it all
  • Latest version not available in NY state- because it is embargoed. They will replace it with an alternate version.
  • Timed test
  • Must be a registered tester to administer this test- In order to register, you need to have a bachelor’s degree or a teaching certificate.
  • Testers can register on the BJU site so you can find one near you to give the test to your student.

California Achievement Test (CAT)-

  • Parents can administer the test
  • Available for grades 2-12
  • Timed test
  • Online version
  • Note that the CAT offered to homeschoolers is a 1970 version- the distributor says it makes that choice because the quality of the assessment declined significantly after that year. They believe the 1970 version is the most robust.

Personalized Achievement Summary System (PASS)-

  • Designed for parents to give at home
  • Untimed
  • There are many levels of a test per grade- not just one grade level test
  • Available for grades 3-8
  • Offers homeschool percentiles in addition to national percentile scores

Standardized Testing for Homeschooled High Schoolers

It should be noted that once your homeschooled student reaches high school, other options become available.

  • PSAT- Given to 11th graders to determine National Merit Scholarships and to give your student an experience before the SAT.
  • SAT- Taken at the end of 11th grade and beginning of 12th as a requirement for college entrance applications.
  • ACT- Another option/requirement for college exams taken in a student’s junior and senior year

Any of these exams can take the place of other standardized tests once they begin taking them. I’ll save suggestions for test prep on these and working practice into your high schooler’s day for another post.

How to Prepare a Homeschooled Student for Standardized Tests

Being ready and knowing what to expect from a testing day goes a long way to relieving any stress your student may have about test day. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make sure your student knows basic information about himself- so he can fill out the demographic information on the answer sheet.
  • Practice doing timed math.
  • Try timed reading activities.
  • If your student is in algebra, make sure they brush up on arithmetic in the month or so leading up to the test date.
  • Explain about the bubbles and keeping the answer sheet straight with the row you are on!
  • Go over math strategies- like skipping problems in timed computation that they know will take them too long.

In the end, you need to know your student and which standardized test will suit him best and which environment will help him to perform to his potential. Many times as homeschoolers, we fall into the trap of thinking we have to test our kids one way because “it is the right thing” or because “we need to prepare them for the future” or because “that’s the way we think of tests”.

Standardized Testing follows certain conventions like being timed and filling bubbles, but there are other aspects that do not need to look the same. Choose the method and test that fits your student. Keep it low key and encourage your kids to show off what they know.

You’ll learn a lot about your student in the process which will help you to further tailor their schooling to their needs.

Take a deep breath. You can do it!

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Blog, She Wrote Favorites from 2014

Blog, She Wrote Favorites 2014

Every now and then it’s fun to take a look back over the year and reflect on the things I enjoyed writing about. Today I’m sharing my favorite posts from the last year in Blog, She Wrote Favorites from 2014.

Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment- How do you put together an environment which encourages learning at every level? These are some principles we’ve found to be successful.

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment

How to Use Current Events in Your Homeschool- How do you approach current events in your home? This post is all about how and when to introduce them and how to use them as your kids get older. Note the video of a G+ hangout on the topic.

Entomology: The Science of Insects- A series of blog posts on how to be an entomologist and collect and pin insects. This is a 5 day series with the other series titles at the bottom of the post.

Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction- Love this post on how we encourage fantasy & science fiction writing in our home. You’ll see lots of great resources and how to approach it.

Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool- Do you want your kids to be independent and have an environment for project work? This is your guide to the essential supplies for a project based homeschool.

Blog, She Wrote: Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Engaging Multiple Ages in Your Homeschool- Do you have more than one student to homeschool? Do you have younger and older kids? Discover how we work together during a school day without necessarily studying the same things.

Learning Geography with Atlases- A fun list of great atlases along with why and how to use them in your homeschooling. This includes a G+ hangout video with another atlas aficionado, Tyler Hogan from Bright Ideas Press.

Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool- A comprehensive list of our best art supplies for doing art and projects in our homeschool.

Weather Stations & Forecasting

Weather Stations & Forecasting- This post is special to me because it’s a very early post which I decided to update last year and it was mounds of fun! Since then, I’ve taken a number of early posts and made them new. Honestly, it’s a new favorite blog past time!

The Salamander Room: Amphibians & Reptiles- Long a favorite FIAR title in our homeschool, this post takes a look at other resources and how to study these animals as part of enjoying the book. We even had the book’s author, Anne Mazer, in our family room to learn about her writing process! It was great fun to see the galley copy of the book (the first mock up of the book printed by the publisher) and learn the inspiration for the story.

The Snake Project- I love this one because it is a compilation of a year of life science nearly completely directed by Rebecca’s interest in reptiles and, specifically, snakes. She mapped the way and it was delightful to see how thoroughly she would tackle her questions. She explored a lot of reference material and contacted experts at the local veterinary school while having the authentic experience of keeping a snake. We still have snakes. She was up to 3 this summer, but currently has one which she cares for diligently.

The Snake Project

Tips for Botanical Illustrating- Rebecca loves to draw plants and this post is all about how to approach botanical illustrating based on a workshop we attended along with other resources on the topic.

Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting- The thing I love most about this post is the work it represents, from studying and learning about Jules Verne, to hearing about steampunk, to choosing a design for a dress and creating it only from ideas. This project has it all. And the results are stunning. As an update, the final product went to state fair!

Celebrate Spring with Hodgepodge Art- Who doesn’t love a good art project? Hodgepodge is one of our favorite art resources and this particular post shares a rare Hodgepodge acrylic paint tutorial.

How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day- A look at how the elements of discussion, mentoring, consulting, reading aloud, and project time come together during our day and how you can implement the ideas which work for your homeschool.

Thanks for joining me down blogging memory lane. Which ones are your favorites?

Other iHN bloggers are sharing their favorite personal posts from 2014. See what you might have missed!



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Resources for High School Art

Blog, She Wrote: Resources for High School Art

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Do you know your state’s requirements for high school art? In NY, students need one credit of fine art in high school. Upon thinking about it, that is rather curious because I know in high school I didn’t have any art credits- practical or fine. With our non-art oriented high school junior, we’ve chosen to do one quarter credit each year to be filled by project requirements rather than a full art course.

However, our high school freshman is an artist. She has chosen to have one credit of art during each of her four years in high school. How do we meet her requirement? Today we’ll discuss, Resources for High School Art.

Blog, She Wrote: Resources for High School Art

Online Classes for Homeschool Art

Craftsy- is a great source for online classes. We use them all the time. At first we chose only the sewing classes, but now they have many art classes to choose from. These classes are available forever and you hardly ever have to pay full price for a course. These have been worth the investment for us. Rebecca has been working on these courses:

  • Painting Trees in Acrylic- a class dedicated entirely to painting trees. For our nature enthusiast this has been a favorite! The instructor spends a lot of time focusing on various elements of trees and how to paint them.
  • Mixed Media: Pen, Ink, & Watercolor- This was a new medium for us. Rebecca had not worked with pen & ink before. The ink is permanent and besides learning basic drawing techniques, the instructor shares strategies for the watercolor wash.
  • Mixed Media Workshop by Flourish- Alisha over at Flourish has been releasing seasonal mixed media classes since the fall. We love her classes! There are so many projects she teaches and you can repeat them with different themes.
  • High School Art Plans- This post talks more about Rebecca’s art goals. She had some things in mind and we found resources to match her goals.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool

Materials for High School Art

Over the years we’ve gathered a lot of art supplies & equipment. We often find a new medium in classes or Rebecca will learn about something she’d like to try.

As our students have grown and matured, so have our art supplies.

Here’s a list of some newer things to our collection with a link to some of our standbys!

  • Sta Wet Palette- A paint palette which will keep acrylics and other water based paints most for weeks. Rebecca has been learning color mixing and to be able to keep color wet on the palette means she can leave a project and come back to it. We picked up the refill packet as well.
  • Gesso- For prepping canvas and other surfaces for painting and mixed media applications.
  • Art Acrylics- Long a fan of the small craft acrylic paints, we’ve enjoyed getting to know art acrylics.
  • Canvas Panels- An alternative to the stretched canvas, though I haven’t figured out how to hang them yet!
  • Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool- This is our ultimate list of supplies to have one hand.

Join Us for a Valentine’s Day Mixed Media Workshop

Rebecca and I will be participating in this mini two week Valentine Mixed Media Workshop. There will be ten projects taught by video instruction starting on February 2, 2015.


Registration for the Valentine’s Day Mixed Media Mini Workshop is $24 and class begins on February 2nd. What a great way to celebrate Groundhog Day!

What resources do you use for high school art?

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