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How do I know if my homeschool curriculum is working?

Is your homeschool curriculum working? How homeschooling families benchmark, and whether or not to do state testing.

A common question we hear from our families at Outschool is, “How do I know if my homeschool curriculum is working?”

No surprise, there are many different opinions on this topic. As we found this out recently when we posed a similar question to our Homeschooling with Outschool Parent Community.

The conclusion: some families love state testing to benchmark, while others strongly dislike testing. The good news is you get to choose–as long as you follow your state’s homeschooling laws. We’ve laid out some options below, so you can make the best decision for you and your family.

If you have suggestions we didn’t cover, we’d love your feedback, please share your ideas with our Outschool Community.

How to start exploring whether your homeschool curriculum is working

When it comes to evaluating your homeschool curriculum, it's important to understand the state laws that apply to you as a homeschooler. Certain states require state testing for homeschooled students, so you need to find out what your state requires. 

HSLDA provides an easy-to-use tool for looking up homeschool laws by state, including any testing requirements.

Reviewing your state’s homeschool laws is a simple but crucial step to understanding what is required. Even if you don’t believe in standardized testing, it’s critical to follow all state requirements. 

Doing so will ensure you abide by your local education laws and that your children receive the credentials they need if they choose to move on to college or a career.

Tips for understanding whether your homeschool curriculum is working

It can be overwhelming to figure out if your homeschool curriculum is working. To guide you in this process, here are some key evaluation concepts. 

Engagement

Is your child engaged in their education? Are they excited to learn and engage in your homeschool? Or do they seem bored and uninspired? If your students are excited about what they are learning, it’s a good indicator that your curriculum is a good fit for them.

Mastery

There are a variety of options for evaluating whether your children are mastering the content you are teaching them or hoping for them to learn. Many Outschool parents find testing helps to understand where learning gaps may exist and to identify if their children have any learning differences that need to be addressed. 

If you go the testing route, it’s a great idea to explain the purpose of the tests and to try and make the experience as stress-free as possible.

Here are a few options we recommend. 

State tests

State tests are administered by your local school district. Check out your state’s department of education to find the details. 

Stanford Achievement Test Series (SAT10)

The Stanford Achievement Test provides a solid measure of academic achievement that can enable you to make essential instructional decisions. The reporting you receive as a parent can help inform you about the academic strengths of your children and about the skills they may need more support in.

MAP Growth

This test from NWEA is a respected assessment for measuring achievement and growth in K–12 math, reading, language usage, and science. 

It can provide accurate, actionable evidence to help inform your instructional strategies. One Outschool parent reports: 

“We do MAP testing in Fall and spring. We use it as a tool to see growth and gain insight. I teach all three of mine, so I have a good idea where all of them are, but I find the testing is useful for us. It also gives them testing experience, which we feel is important if they decide to go to college.”

Outschool

Several of Outschool’s outstanding educators offer assessments as part of their 1:1 classes. We also have specific test prep and test-taking classes. See the full selection of options. 

DIY Assessments

Some Outschool parents report creating their own regular assessments, pulling out ideas from their curriculum, or basing them on their children’s interests. It’s another way to gain insights into whether they are learning the material. 

Exhaustion 

Are your children restless or tired when homeschooling? At times, your children may just be tired and need a break. One great benefit of homeschooling is how flexible it is. Take a day off to do something restful or outdoors. 

Come back to your classroom and curriculum, and see if things are working better and if they just needed a break. As one commenter put it

“I feel that any curriculum could be judged as ‘bad’ or ‘good,’ but mostly it comes down to how you use it, how you adapt it to your child's individual needs, etc. If it's not working, yeah, try something else, but also consider just doing it differently. Like using just certain parts of it, slowing down or speeding up, or in other ways adapting to your child's needs.”

If you’ve tried some different approaches and you still feel like your curriculum isn’t working, trust your instincts. Don’t be scared to shift gears and make a change. 

Homeschooling offers flexibility, and it’s crucial to find the materials that work for you and your children. Maybe you need to go back to the drawing board or find a curriculum that’s more culturally competent. Here are some ideas for how to select the best curriculum for your family. 

You can also bring in additional teachers to supplement your homeschooling. It’s an easy way to try a new approach and get a fresh perspective and support. Check out Outschool’s unique selection of online classes for homeschoolers.  

If you have additional suggestions for how to know if your homeschool curriculum is working, we’d love to hear them. Please share them with our Outschool Community

Jennifer WolfeJennifer leads strategic & DEIB partnerships for Outschool. She's a former The Learning Accelerator partner and advisor to many ed tech companies on the development of high-quality K-12 curriculum.

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