Monday, August 8, 2011

Impressive Credentials

Last week was the annual Reviewers Lunch, which serves to kick off my school year - or at least our new school year calendar.  The moms that serve as evaluators for our oversight group meet for lunch and get our "assignments" and go over our "job descriptions."  I started thinking about this during evaluation season in spring, and began a mental list of the qualifications necessary to be a homeschool evaluator.  I am blessed to live in a state that allows accredited oversight groups to conduct their own reviews of member families to verify that they are in compliance with state law, and with any additional requirements of the oversight group.  My state's laws regarding homeschool are not all that complicated either - in general, we are to be providing regular and thorough instruction, and our students' work should show progress.

When we talk to you/review your portfolio, we need to see:

  • dated work to show that the subject has been covered regularly throughout the school year (or the semester) and that there's progression

  • work in all the required subject areas (language arts, math, science, social studies) and the elective subjects you've chosen

  • for high school level courses, the completed work and/or log sheets or other documentation to show that the credits have been duly earned

Our oversight group also expects reviewers to -

  • attend the orientation meeting at the beginning of the school year

  • make sure the families we review understand our record-keeping policies, and have chosen an appropriate method of evaluating and grading their own students

But I'm sure that people wonder what it is that qualifies us to evaluate homeschools, so I would like to present a list of my credentials (and those of every peer reviewer I know):

  • Been There, Done That - My family has been homeschooling for a few years.  (this will be Year 14)  We've struggled and we've had successes.  We've tried different methods and different curricula.  So whatever issue you're facing in your homeschool, it's possible that I've either got some experience with something related, or at the very least it's not something that will surprise me.  I'm not an outsider who doesn't know what it's like to homeschool - I'm right there with you.

  • Not only BTDT, but survivedAnd so did my kids.  - We've had bad years and some bad experiences and things don't always go as planned or the way the homeschool product catalogs portray it.  But we got through it.  My oldest kid has even graduated!  And he's a reasonably well-adjusted young adult who had no trouble getting into a college and transitioning from homeschool into that setting.  I think a majority of the reviewers in our oversight group have seen at least one of their students through high school graduation, which means we've had ups and downs along the way, but we are still here and still homeschooling.  So if you're having some rough times - hang in there! It can be done, and done well!

  • Belief that homeschooling is the best way to educate - I'm committed to the principle that homeschooling provides the best platform for educating, discipling, and even socializing children of all ages.  Children learn on different timetables and at home, they can go at their own pace and have more opportunities to learn more about the things they're truly interested in.  They can apply what they are learning in school to real world situations.  Families can spend more time together when the children are in the home for their schooldays.  Parents can train up their children with the morals and values and faith traditions they hold dear without interference or being undermined.  Homeschooled students have much more opportunity to interact with people of varied backgrounds and ages in the real world, and parents can have more influence on who their children spend time with.  All that to say - I believe you have made a wise choice in choosing to educate at home and I will fully support you in that and want you and your children to succeed!

  • Respect for the Experts - I believe that parents are the experts on their children.  Not the school board, not the "professionals", not the pediatrician, not the government.  You know your kid best and you know what will work and what won't.  You love your kid better than anyone else and desire good for your kid more than anyone else.  So don't feel you have to justify your decisions or explain yourself to me.  I believe you know what you're doing.

  • Bring on the Brag Book! - Show me all the fantastic things you did during the school year! Brag on your kids' accomplishments! This is your chance, your child's chance, to show off a little.  Sometimes I've done a review and a student wants to show me their artwork, or tell me about their favorite book or subject - please don't apologize for that; if your kids are enthusiastic about stuff they learned in school and want to blow their own horn a little,  it usually means you're doing something right!  And if your kid's personality is more the type that wants to run and hide, that's okay too.  I have kids in both categories myself.  Whether your child is within hearing or not, tell me when they worked hard, what they enjoyed learning, and how much they've accomplished.

  • I'm learning from you - Just because I'm particurly fond of the curriculum I happen to be using right now doesn't mean that I won't take note of the different things that you are using and love.  I haven't tried everything out there, but like so many homeschool moms, I'm a curriculum junkie and love to hear and see what other people are using.  It helps me be more informed when I need to look for something new or different, or when I'm asked about a product that I haven't used myself, or when I need to make recommendations.  Speaking of recommendations...

  • No Ulterior Motives - On occasion, an evaluator feels the need to make a suggestion or recommendation to a family.  Things like - making sure you include literature as part of high school English courses; keeping log sheets when credits are being awarded based on time spent studying; suggestions for organization or a curriculum switch.  Most of the time, when it happens that we make a suggestion, it's because we've been asked how to do something or what should be done differently.  So if we do offer the suggestion, it's likely that it's something that we really believe will help, and it's not because we are paid to endorse  a certain product or publisher.   My feelings won't be hurt if you disagree with me.  (and I'll try to be clear on the difference between something that needs to be done in order to be in compliance with the law or our oversight requirements and something that is just a suggestion for you to think about)

  • Resident of the Real World - I live in the real world along with you.  I understand that you only have so much time and energy, that money might be tight, that you have other things going on in your life besides schoolwork, and that your kids may not leap out of bed at the crack of dawn begging to get started on Latin and Calculus.  You don't need to apologize for life sometimes getting in the way of reading textbooks.

  • Prayer Cover - our oversight group is faith-based, and the very first thing on our Reviewers Guidelines list is "Pray, Pray, Pray, Pray for your homeschool families."  And we take that seriously.  I will be praying for the families I evaluate during the school year and particularly during review times.

  • Fun Factor - not that we don't take it seriously, but to be completely honest, I think all the evaluators really enjoy doing it!  I get to meet people that I might not know otherwise, I get to see neat curriculum and resources, I learn from others and get super ideas, and I do not consider it "work"  It's a privilege and a delight, and that's the truth.


Giggly Girls said...

You rock it Miss Thing. I think #1 was my favorite. LOL

Our Peculiar Lives said...

I'm glad there are reviewers out there that seem so down to earth and pro-homeschooling - and homeschoolers themselves! We're looking at a possible move to a province that requires evaluations/reviews and it scares me! Not that I don't know that my kids are learning a LOT, it's more having to get someone else to see that! I don't like having to prove myself, I guess, lol! ;) Anyway. So glad you are out there, and hopefully lots of others!

Michelle said...

Very interesting post. Where we live we just have to turn in a monthly attendance sheet and then write what we did that year at the end of the year--it's not reviewed by anyone, it's just for our own records. I would be terrified to have to be reviewed each year. It is good to know there are some reviewers that are pro-homeschooling.

Christine said...

We have our portfolio evaluated each year instead of testing (at least for now...our daughter is in 3rd grade). Of course, we already know our evaluator so it has been a breeze. Glad to know you enjoy doing it..

Catherine said...

If i had to be evaluated, I'd want you! I love that you take this both seriously, and prayerfully consideringthe parents, and the students. Very nice.

Laura O in AK said...

Interesting process. We are now in a charter school and have to do regular work samples. I'm glad that my contact teacher actually LOOKS at them and gives feedback where it is appropriate. When we lived in Maryland and had to turn in portfolios, the teacher doing them just checked off each subject as he found them. No comments unless something was missing.

Penny @Knee Deep in Grace said...

We've never had this requirement, but you would put me at ease, if it was required. Impressive credentials, indeed - Knowledge, Heart and Experience!

Visiting from the crew and following your blog via GFC.



Mary said...

I am glad my state doesn't require this, but if it did I would prefer having you as an evaluator for sure!

Loretta said...

I review/evaluate, also, in the same state, for a different group. Though I've never thought about what my credentials are, I totally agree with this list, and hope that I come across in as kind and caring a way as you do.

Jennifer said...

14 years- congratulations! We don't have to have portfolios here, but the more I read of them the more I like the idea.

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