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How Homeschoolers Measure Up: Comparing Percentiles

How Homeschoolers Measure Up: Comparing Percentiles

How Homeschoolers Measure Up with Test Scores

Homeschoolers tend to do GREAT on standardized test scores. For example: on average, homeschoolers score above the 79th percentile in reading. But what does that mean to you? How does your homeschooler measure up? Are you average? Of course not!

Homeschooling alone can't guarantee that your child will score in the 79th percentile in reading, because every child is unique! But what homeschooing CAN do, is allow your child to learn as much as they can. They are likely to score better than they would have scored if they attended a public school. You see, homeschoolers can modify education to fit the child's needs. A homeschool parent can make sure their child is always challenged, but never overwhemed. This comes from the unique ability to set a schedule based on one specific child. Instead of moving them forward at a set rate, whether they learn the material or not, a homeschool parent can take time where it is needed.  And THAT will lead to great test scores!

Don't worry about the percentile of your child compared to other homeschooled children. Instead, focus on the education of your child. Know that educating your children can help them score better on those tests than you could have ever dreamed possible - no matter where they may be on the bell-shaped curve.

Test Scores Aren't Everything!

When I was homeschooling, my best friend had children with learning challenges. They were never able to score above the 50th percentile. But they were well educated, and had a marvelous work ethic. As adults, they are successful, with bachelor’s degrees from respected colleges. They each have a lovely family and a great job at a stable company. They were successful because of homeschooling.

Homeschooling works. Even if you aren't in the 79th percentile. So you don’t have to worry about how homeschoolers measure up, because they do!

PS - Check out this great infographic below!

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Grab the NEW HomeScholar Book!

Grab the NEW HomeScholar Book!
"Honey, There's a Crazed Mob of Scholarship-Wielding Colleges Pounding on Our Front Door!!"

While we can't promise that this will happen to you, "The HomeScholar Guide to College Admission and Scholarships" really is a treasure trove for college bound homeschoolers and their parents! This paperback book is available now on Amazon. Grab your copy today!

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Considering Homeschooling?

Considering Homeschooling?
What advice would you give to a mom who is considering homeschooling?  These are comments from my Facebook friends.  What do YOU tell someone who is thinking about homeschooling for the first time?

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Homeschool Lessons from Nature: All Kits Learn Differently

Homeschool Lessons from Nature: All Kits Learn Differently
I was watching a bunny run across my back yard.  Now, bunnies always catch my attention - but it was the reason for running that KEPT my attention. Apparently, Mr Bunny did NOT want to mess with a family of raccoons.  One mommy raccoon and four baby kits we slowly making their way toward our neighbor's house.  I've never seen a raccoon with four babies before!

When they came to the gate, mommy and three babies went through single file.  The fourth kit balked.  Perhaps he had a previous negative experience with a gate, but he just couldn't go through.  Instead this unusual little raccoon decided to climb over the 6 foot metal chain link fence instead of go through the gate.  Apparently raccoon kits are pretty coordinated, because he had no trouble getting up half way.  Did you know that when they climb down, they actually go head first?  Yikes! Anyway, the poor kit got half way up and then wanted to come down, but he also wanted to be on the other side of the fence with his mommy.  He ended up climbing sideways for a while before giving up.  Mommy raccoon walked all the way back, with the three other siblings in tow, and waited for him to finish doing it the hard way; avoiding the gate that was open wide enough for anyone to pass through.

Three kits walk through the gate, and one decides to take the "road less traveled."

He certainly learned differently than his siblings.   Same parental unit, same environment, and yet a very different outcome.  This Kit learns differently!

Just like all raccoon kits learn differently, all kids learn differently, too!  If your three children learn a certain way, it can be very upsetting if the fourth can't use the same curriculum or learn the same way as well. It's especially frustrating when money is involved!   But our kids don't all learn the same either, and sometimes you do have to re-trace your steps and try to figure out the unique learning style of your unique learner.

I’ve recently been connecting with friends on LinkedIn.  I invite you to send me an invitation if you want to connect with my business.
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College Placement Tests

College Placement Tests
As homeschoolers, our job is to teach our children at their level, in every subject, all the time.   It's difficult to determine what "at their level" means, because even if they have finished their math book, that doesn't mean they are ready for the next level.  What if they missed a critical concept?  What if it was so easy for them they should really skip the next level?

Colleges feel the same way.  They want to teach young people at their level in every subject all the time.  Unfortunately, they can't determine "at their level" based on SAT scores or transcripts.  With so many public and private schools having their own standards and sequences, kids with the same-looking transcripts can have widely varying skills.  Some kids come to college with stellar records but lack-luster preparation in reading, writing, math, etc.

What to do, what to do?  Often, colleges may start the year with a placement test to solve this problem.  College placement tests are usually quite different than CLEP or AP.  They were developed for this generation of students entering college  with an accredited high school transcript but without the ability to do college level work.

These placement  tests are often given during or before the first week of college to decide whether students need remedial help in reading, writing, or math.  They will help the college in placing children in the proper level of foreign language, science, or other subject area.  Those placement  tests usually do not include college credit or the financial benefit of speeding the college degree.  On the other hand, extremely poor performance may lengthen the time in college if remedial help is required. Again, these tests have become common as the result of the poor quality of high schools in general.  If your child is reasonably well-educated, I don't think you will need to worry about that.

At some colleges, these tests are required by every freshman.  Other colleges will use SAT or ACT scores for a portion of the placement.  One common college placement test is the COMPASS placement test.  Some college and professors will create their own placement tests, and require a passing grade to register for their class.

Florida recently enacted such a state-wide placement test. Their press release says, "New Placement Test Designed to Help Florida Increase College Graduation Rates:  Florida postsecondary readiness test to better measure college readiness skills and placement."

This highlights the fact that a placement test may be a better measurement of college readiness than an accredited transcript from a public or private school.  For more about that, please see my article on accreditation.

The press release also underscores the benefits of teaching students at their level, citing improved college graduation rates.  Homeschoolers can keep their students working at their level and also see wonderful benefits.

Keep your homeschool curriculum challenging but not overwhelming. Understand that college placement tests may be used to do the same thing at the university level.

Check out my new profile on The Old Schoolhouse’s Speakers Bureau, and then ask you conference coordinator to invite me to come speak to your conference in 2011!
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Feel Like a Failure? Tests Can Help!

Feel Like a Failure? Tests Can Help!
In spring and summer parents may look back on the year and feel VERY discouraged.  They see how little they got done, they notice what was not finished.  They clearly see the difficulties and traumas that got in the way of  formal education.  But all is not lost!  You can't actually PREVENT a child from learning.  That's where standardized tests can help.  They can show you how much your children have learned while you weren't even paying attention!  Even if you don't believe me, listen to what my client Rebecca shares:

This has been an extremely difficult year for us as we had a baby in  the middle of the school year, took an entire month off, and struggled through the last semester with nursing and diapers and spit-up and everyone wanting to stop working to stare at the baby...  Anyway, they just got their CAT scores back.  I was so worried.  They both scored in the 99th percentile a grade ahead of where they'd be in public school.  My new mantras are Lee quotes:  You can't keep a child from learning if they're reading; Mastery, not Perfection; and Failure is Feedback!!  Thanks a bunch!!

Read "The Joy of Tests" for more encouragement.

If you are curious about providing a great homeschool education for your gifted child, check out my audio training, “Gifted Education at Home.
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Foreign Language is like Weight Watchers

Foreign Language is like Weight Watchers
Hi Lee,
I was wondering if you have any thoughts on Rosetta Stone software for learning a foreign language?
~ Diane R.

Dear Diane,
I've heard that it's a good curriculum WHEN it is a good fit for the child.  It's just not always a good fit.  I would try it to see.

We used PowerGlide, and that was very effective for us.  Others love Tell Me More. These can also  be found from most homeschool resources, including Sonlight CurriculumRockSolid Discount Homeschool Books, and

It's more about being consistent everyday, really.  The problem with foreign language is the same problem I have with Weight Watchers.  It only works when you actually DO the program, LOL!

If you are curious about providing a great homeschool education for your gifted child, check out my audio training, “Gifted Education at Home.
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Pre-test in the Fall!

Pre-test in the Fall!
Children learn all the time, even when we aren't looking - and even over summer!  You might want to "pre-test" your children in some subject areas before you start school next year.  For example, Spelling Power offers a placement test for their program, and you can check their spelling level at the beginning of each year, to make sure they are learning something new.  In most math books, the first chapter or two is review.

You can see if your student really NEEDS the review.  You can give the chapter one test on the first day of school, and if your child scores well, just skip chapter one, and move on to the chapter two test.  Keep in mind that our goal isn't to "teach" something.  Our goal is that our children learn something new - something they don't already know.

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My experience with LD and ADHD is not first hand, but through friends and college advisers.  In talking with them, I came to recognize that the core issue of the LD crowd is the same as it is for the gifted crowd:

Teaching every subject at their level all the time.

That's how I provide guidance.  I can tell you that I have spoken to many colleges who are eager to have all children, and are well prepared to accommodate, and my Gold Care Club message is all about preparing for college.

Beyond "expertise" though, much of homeschooling high school is about having support.  I can be your buddy, your friend who is GLAD you're homeschooling your child and thinks it's a GOOD idea.  I can be your second pair of eyes on your curriculum and records, and another caring parent researching issues online.  In other words, sometimes it's not about me knowing more than you, but about me going through it with you.

How about this idea.  You could get the Total Transcript Solution and try Gold Care Club for free for a month and see if it works for you.  Surely you'll need a transcript anyway, and it comes with some great classes along with the Ebook.  And then you can try the Gold Care, see if it meets your needs, and only stay on for the monthly fee IF it meets your needs, you know?  No harm, no foul that way!  Here is the link to the Total Transcript Solution so you can read more about it.

Also, make sure to read my article on College for Struggling Learners.

The women quoted in the article are very close friends of mine, and I know their children very, very well.  Please be encouraged - these are real people.

I am now the Seattle Homeschool Examiner.  You can read my homeschool articles here.
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Biology for a Struggling Learner

Biology for a Struggling Learner
Homeschoolers can make accommodations for struggling learners, just like they do in other school situations.  If your child needs extra help learning, then you can provide that help.  The important thing is that they learn!  Mary had a question about how to accommodate her daughter in biology, and still determine credit.
Good Morning Lee, Thanks for the information on credits that was helpful. My daughter did biology last year and struggled. She did the first part of the book with lab work dissecting and this year she will complete biology but using it as a health book as well to learn about the human body and diseases.  We will dissect a pig to see how it compares to the human body. This book is very hard to follow for her.  It's called "Biology A Search For Order In Complexity." I only have her read, answer question and do lab work and verbally test her because she a struggling learner. Do you have an opinion on that? Thanks Lee,
~ Mary in Washington

Hi Mary,
There are two schools of thought about credit value.  For some parents, a completed book is a high school credit.  No matter how long (or how short) it takes a student to get through the book, when they are done it's a credit.  For that reason, you could wait until she is finished with the book, and then give her the biology credit on her transcript, putting in a completion date for the month she finished the book.  On my own transcript, there were some classes that we finished mid-year, and it's really not uncommon.

For other parents, they want their child to receive credit for the hours the child has worked.  So if you daughter worked a full hour a day or biology, for the entire school year, you might decide to put "Biology 1" or "Biology 1A" on her transcript the first year and "Biology 1B" or "Biology 2" the second year.  That's fine too, as long as you aren't trying to convince anyone that she learned twice as much biology as was in the textbook.

In a public school setting, and even in college, kids are sometimes given the opportunity to verbally answer questions.  In a classroom setting, some of the grade may be based on class participation, in which a teacher asks questions for the student to answer.  That isn't much different from what you are doing.  I think it's a great idea to teach her in a way that makes sense, at a rate that keeps her challenged but not overwhelmed, and assess her is a way that truly demonstrates what she has learned in the subject.

Part of me wonders if the textbook isn't a good fit for your daughter.  Have you considered that?  I haven't seen the book, it just seems like that may be part of the problem.

Have you seen my article about college for struggling learners?  That may encourage you!

Did you see my newsletter this morning in your inbox?  If you enjoyed it, please write me a brief review in Thanks!
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Success in High School is Better Than Failure in College

Success in High School is Better Than Failure in College

When you are thinking about taking classes at a community college, using the dual enrollment option, it's tempting to have your children take their weakest class.  Community college can quickly provide missing classes, but always remember the long term goal.  If your child is doing poorly at home in a certain subject, they may not do better in a community college.  Spend some time looking objectively at your child, and decide if he or she is really ready for college level work.  After all, most students who are a sophomore or junior in high school are completely grade appropriate and emotionally appropriate for high school.  That doesn't necessarily mean that your child will also be grade appropriate in college.  

If your child is struggling to do the work at home, then placing them in a community college isn't going to make the subject easier or a better fit, or closer to their learning style.  Instead, the class will be harder and faster - more like an assembly line classroom.  There will be less flexibility and possibility of matching a learning style.  

Particularly if your child is a unique learner, I would try to expose them to as much success as possible, and encourage them to become a confident learner.  That may mean you avoid the community college until they are older.

You want your child to have success in high school.   You want them to learn at the level where they can learn and love learning.  You don't want to put them in a situation that is so challenging that they may fail.  Community college is very popular among homeschoolers right now, but it's not a perfect fit for everyone.  If your child is doing well at home, you may want to keep doing what you are doing.  If your child is struggling at home, then recognize there may be even more struggles if they are exposed to college level material at a college pace of learning.  It's not right for everyone, so evaluate the situation carefully.

Listen carefully to your heart, and remember that it's OK to be working at grade level.  It's OK for high school juniors to be doing the work of a high school junior.  You want your children to experience success in high school, not experience failure at a community college.  


I am now a featured expert on!  You can read my first articles here.
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Homeschool Teachers Who Know Too Much

Homeschool Teachers Who Know Too Much

I'm a nurse, and I know too much about the human body.  My husband teases me about it all the time.  When a family member is sick, and I get worried, my husband will laugh and say, "What is it this time?  Spinal menningitis?  Homonymous hemianopsia?"  There have been times when I've had my child in the hospital, and I knew WAY too much!  When Alex had his ER visit for peanut anaphylaxis, I knew just how quickly it could go bad, and exactly what it would look like.

When you are homeschooling, and you're also a certified teacher, you may also have the problem of "knowing too much."  

Teachers have spent years in school, learning how to teach.  They learn about philosophy, and about crowd control.  It's hard to let go of four years of education training.  It's hard to remember that the love of your child is the most important factor in teaching.  In high school, the problems of "knowing too much" becomes more acute, as you start to think about high school grades. 

I know that it's hard to separate homeschooling from being a teacher.  I have a lot of clients who are certified teacher, and they tell me it's one of their biggest areas of struggle!  They are often gifted, GIFTED teachers, but struggle to "let go" of the classroom strategies they were taught in college.  

One area where certified teachers often struggle is in testing their children.  Just try to remember that tests in school are given because you NEED tests to assess large groups of children.  When you are homeschooling, you can assess in other ways.  Just try to figure out how you ARE assessing them already. Perhaps that mindset will help a bit.


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Is Distance Learning Leading you Astray?

Is Distance Learning Leading you Astray?
Distance learning means time on the computer - and kids LOVE computers!  But what do you do when they love being online too much?
My daughter is taking distance learning this year so she is online a lot.  I am homeschooling my 16 year old daughter with an online Gifted and Talented organization. We have a net nanny programmed but there are still plenty of sites to keep her busy doing anything but school work. Have you come across other parents who have students doing online courses (or maybe even offline), who find it hard to keep their children focused on what they are supposed to be doing?  Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Spring is on the way!

~ A homeschool mom

In our home, we called that behavior "falling into the abyss" <giggles!>  It's SO easy to get distracted when you're online!  So many great things to do and see!  Especially with very bright young people, who may be bored with school.

When you are not using an online program, the solutions are a little more straight forward.  You can eliminate all computer time until after school work is done, and you can set a timer for those times when they are allowed to be online, so their computer time is limited.  It's more difficult to do that when school *is* the computer.

Since you mention that your daughter is gifted, it might be that she is bored.  I know you are using a gifted education online source, which is good.  You also want to make sure that it's not just a gifted class, but that she is in the RIGHT LEVEL for each gifted class.  Try to identify if she is bored.

Spend some time talking to her as an adult.  Describe your struggles with limiting your own computer time, and ask her advice about how she handles her computer time.  Sometimes when a teenager expresses it themselves, they are more likely to do it.  In other words, if you can make her SAY what you want her to do, then it's more likely to be successful than if you say it to her.

You may want to ask her if this curriculum is a good fit for her.  Ask her if she would prefer studying away from the computer.  Although we sometimes *think* we have found the perfect choice, sometimes our kids will recognize it's not a good fit before we do.  Maybe she doesn't like learning that way.

You can try having her do the work on a separate computer, or with paper and pencil, and then getting online only when each assignment is done.  I'm not sure how it would work with your online program, but sometimes you can do the work offline, and then cut and paste (or scan and attach) work that is done when you aren't on the internet.

The online format may be too great a temptation.  Like an chocoholic in a candy store, it may just be too tempting to be efficient.  Nobody can answer that question but you and your daughter.

This may simply be the downside of any online program.  Like many things about parenting, I don't think you will find "THE solution."  At best I can only give suggestions for you to try!

So look ta the overall experience, and see if it's a good fit for your family.  There are many alternative ways to homeschool if it isn't.

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Homeschooling High School: The Joy of Delight!

Homeschooling High School:  The Joy of Delight!
When did you start the Delight directed Learning?  Did you find it hard to get through a year-long school course when doing it 4 days a week?  Did you just tell the kids they could do whatever they wanted on the non-school day, or did they have certain things they always did, like going to a class in a homeschool coop?  Did you allow them to watch TV or play video games during the free day?

Dear Diane,

What a GREAT question!  When I speak to groups, I usually try to mention that we homeschooled 4 days a week, and the 5th day was for specialization - also called delight directed learning.  When my kids were young, that 5th day was the day we went skating, swimming, bowling, or to park day for fun.  When my kids got older, that was when Kevin studied chess and taught classes, and Alex studied economics and charcoal drawing.

I think that having a 4 day homeschool can help provide a much-needed "margin" to our busy American lives.  It gives kids a time to be a kid - especially if you have very academic children anyway, they need to be able to lighten-up sometimes!  I don't think it's necessarily for everyone, but it was GREAT for us.  I didn't do a co-op with my children.  Once in a while we would take a class at a local group, just for fun (like "World War 2 Naval Battles" so they could meet other boys their age) but we never used co-ops for their primary courses.

During our fifth day of the week, the boys were still required to get their math and foreign language done.  Later in high school, when I would assign them a week of school at a time, they could choose to do school during that 5th day, so they could take part of Friday off instead.  But the "free day" did come with some rules and regulations.  It was meant for "margin" for "specialization" and independent study.  So there was NO TV allowed - unless it was an educational video from the library.  There was NO COMPUTER or VIDEO GAMES unless those were educational games (as determined by ME, not as determined by them!)   On our "free day," after dad got home they day was the same as every other day, and they got their usual amount of TV and video game privileges.

My husband has written a series of articles about encouraging delight directed learning called "Raising your Own Superheroes" here:
Part 2:  Observing Passion

Part 2:  Catching Fire

Part 3:  Providing Opportunity

I also have an entire chapter in my transcript book devoted to Delight Directed Learning, and how to incorporate that into a transcript.  Check it out!
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Homeschool High School Success!

Homeschool High School Success!
How do I know that homeschooling works?  My children are now 19 and 21 years old, and in college.  How do I know that homeschooling high school was a good thing for them?  Today they each updated their Facebook status.  What do they think of their academics?

My younger son is in the honors program, majoring in Political Science.  His status:
Alex really enjoyed his Faith & Science II class

My older son is majoring in electrical engineering with a computer science minor - and he takes upper division math "for fun."  His status:
Kevin is happy about his morning, his awesome lunch, his music discovery, and his upcoming lab. Whee... :)

I've decided that my homeschool was indeed successful.  They both love school, and don't mind telling the world about it.  I know that not everything in life is perfect - at least not in my life.  On the other hand, my kids love college, love their classes, and really enjoy learning.  That's success in my book!

Homeschoolers, remember your 5-year plan, part of which is a close-knit family, and children who love learning.  It may not solve all your problems, but it may help you tolerate some of those difficulties today.

Holy Cow!!  71 new subscribers to "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" Mini-course since our January newsletter came out!  How very cool!!
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