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Homeschooling High School without Tests

Homeschooling High School without Tests

When your children are younger, you might be completely confident about avoiding tests and simply focusing on learning in your homeschool. When they reach high school, you may think you have no choice. You need to give grades and include them on a transcript! Don't panic. Did you know that you don't have to test to give a grade?

As a home educator, you have the option of evaluating your children with methods other than tests. You can evaluate them simply based on what they do. Discussions, writing reports, completing projects, and reading books can all be part of the evaluation process. Tests or quizzes don't have to be involved.

I like to show people the homemade homeschool transcript I made for my own kids as an example. In our homeschool, only about half the classes included testing. I chose to give tests for math, science, and foreign language classes only. The curriculum for each of those classes included built-in tests. You can't tell this by looking at the transcript. I did make sure to show how I graded my kids in the course descriptions included in the application package I sent to each college though.

All the other classes in our homeschool included no tests at all. I evaluated these classes without tests and my children were admitted to every college they applied. They were offered great scholarships and received full tuition scholarships to their first choice university! We accomplished this without testing in every subject.

If the curriculum you're using includes tests and you want to include them, go for it. If your child does well without tests and you don't want to use them, that's ok too. Do what works best for your child. You don't have 30 children in a classroom to keep track of and you know your child best! That's the beauty of homeschooling.

If you're still not confident about how to evaluate your high schooler and put together admission packages for colleges, including transcripts and course descriptions, feel free to check out my Gold Care Club. Members get all the tools they need to homeschool through high school, including private consultations weekly! I'd love to chat with you!

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Important Dates for 2013

Important Dates for 2013
The New Year is here, and it’s time to mark up your new 2013 calendar!

Include any upcoming exams or college preparations you need to make for your high school student.  Don’t miss these deadlines, because many of them are inflexible!  Check the links below for further information about each test.

Deadline                                 Test or Activity
January                                    Find a college fair to attend in your area

January 11th                             Register for ACT test on Feb 9th

February                                  11th graders schedule college visits

February                                  Find summer jobs and enrichment programs

Feb 8th                                     Register for SAT test on March 9th

March 1st                                 Homeschool deadline for AP exams

March 8th                                 Register for the ACT test on April 13th

April                                        Update reading list, transcript, record keeping

April                                        plan graduation for seniors, order diploma

April 5th                                   Register for the SAT test on May 4th

April 5th                                   Register for SAT Subject Tests on May 4th

May 1st                                    Seniors must decide which college they choose

May 2nd                                   Register for the SAT test on June 1st

May 2nd                                   Register for SAT Subject Tests on June 1st

May 3rd                                    Register for the ACT test on June 8th

May 6th – 10th                          AP exams

May 13th – 17th                        AP exams

June 1st                                    Ask local school about PSAT registration

July                                          Update reading list, transcript, record keeping

August                                    Start college application essays

September 1st                          Ask local school about PSAT registration

October 16th and 19th              PSAT Test

For more information about important tests:
ACT Test Dates
SAT Test Dates
AP Test Dates
PSAT Test Dates

Your best strategy for keeping all the balls in the air is preparation.  The HomeScholar Gold Care Club will give you the comprehensive help you need to homeschool high school.
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Evaluate Without Grades

Evaluate Without Grades
When faced with courses such as math or spelling, most homeschool parents feel pretty confident in their grading methods.  But what about those more challenging courses, like fine arts, or even creative writing--how do you grade those things?  If you were teaching culinary arts, think about a yummy piece of chocolate dessert, and how you would grade something like that!

Of course, grades definitely have their place, but an equally useful method of evaluating your child’s education is using the concept of mastery.  Mastery simply means your student has learned the things you want them to and they are meeting your expectations.

Think about that piece of chocolate dessert again:  If you’re grading a student’s culinary arts class using the concept of mastery, you could use a variety of different criteria to evaluate them.  First you might consider their work based on taste, and then you might evaluate them on the appearance of their work, or their presentation.   You could really grade them on a variety of different things based on their overall mastery of culinary arts, all of which would be a part of their final grade.

It’s important to remember that there’s a huge difference between mastery and perfection. A great example of this would be my checkbook, because it looks like a bunch of chicken scratch.  Sometimes I do have to scratch things out and start subtracting and adding everything again, so I know that my checkbook is not perfect. At the same time, I do actually have mastery over addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; it’s just that sometimes I make mistakes in my checkbook (okay, a lot of times!). Whether you’re grading with or without tests, you still have to remember that a grade of one hundred percent may not necessarily mean perfection.

If you’re reviewing a test your student took, you could send it back so they can correct what they got wrong, or if you’re correcting an English paper, you could circle the mistakes you find and ask the student to correct it.  Both scenarios indicate that you have high expectations. If your child is meeting your high expectations, then it’s fine to give them one hundred percent for their work. That’s what I did most of the time; I gave my sons one hundred percent based on something they knew or produced or did, if they met my high expectations.

Don’t forget that you can give a grade for things that are not tangible, like oral presentations, classroom discussions, class participation, or finishing homework. Every time my sons completed a chapter of math, performed the end of chapter test and finished all their homework, I gave them one hundred percent. They were really working hard for these grades, and spent hours on math assignments each day, so I believed they earned some reward for all that work.  In the end, mastery of important concepts is really what you are seeking for your student.

Do you like getting this sort of help for homeschooling high school?  Gold Care Club members get extended answers to their most challenging high school issues.  Homeschooling is NOT the same as doing schoolwork at home.  There is LOTS of freedom!  My Gold Care Club will give you all the help you need to succeed!
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Fee Waivers for Tests and Applications

Fee Waivers for Tests and Applications
Homeschooling isn't cheap.  We pay for our own curriculum, supplies, and teacher manuals.  It doesn't get cheaper as kids get older, either!  For some families, finances are a HUGE issue, even while they are committed to homeschooling through high school.  Here is some helpful advice for these parents who are thinking about college admission.

Two important truths
Homeschoolers tend to be single-income families.
Homeschoolers love to save money.

Two important expenses
SAT and ACT tests are required for admission, and kids need to score well so they can get college scholarships.
Colleges application fees must be met in order to apply and get college scholarships so homeschoolers can afford college.

Problem:  How to save money on tests and applications.
Solution: Fee Waivers! There are ways to request that some fees are waived.

Save money on Tests
Homeschoolers can save money on the SAT or ACT by requesting fee waivers.  For both tests, homeschoolers must provide proof of eligibility to your local high school.  These waivers can't be completed by the SAT or ACT company, they must be provided by a high school, but it never hurts to ask.  They will usually only waive the fee for the test one time.  You can read here for more information:
SAT Fee Waivers:
ACT Fee Waivers:

Save money on College Applications 
Many colleges will waive the application fee if you ask them to.  Many colleges will waive the application fee is you visit their school and request an application.  Ask them!  Other colleges are so eager for qualified students, they will ask you to apply to their college at no cost.  For that reason, getting great SAT or ACT test scores can allow you to apply to more colleges for less money.  If those ideas don't work, you can request a fee waiver through the NACAC website.
NACAC Request for Application Fee Waiver Form:

Read the rules and make sure it applies to your family.  You will have to provide financial information if you want a fee waiver, but it's doable!  And it can save you money!

The HomeScholar’s newsletter comes out on the first of every month.  Sign up now for your free monthly newsletter!
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Recent Comments
Don't give up, Elijah School districts can be really difficult. Do you have an advocate on staff at school? A teacher or guidance... Read More
Thursday, 12 September 2019 22:27
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"Cramming for Tests" or "Loving to Learn"?

"Cramming for Tests" or "Loving to Learn"?
I posted a public school student's valedictorian speech on my newsletter, and it brought up an interesting question about cramming for a test.

I love that speech! But now I'm concerned because we're thinking of using CollegePlus (recommended on this website). Doesn't CollegePlus do just that - train people to cram for tests and then forget? I totally see the value of getting through college in high school, but please give some input about how to reconcile this process with a true, critical thinking education. Thanks so much! ~ Lisa

Dear Lisa,

Don't think about CLEP study as "cramming for the test."  Certainly there is an element of learning how to test well.  But instead of focusing on that, think about it from a different perspective. CollegePlus and CLEP exams help you measure what your child knows.  They use tests to do that.

Study skills and logic are important in life, helping children make decisions in every area.  Teaching children how to read quickly with comprehension will be helpful in any career or college pursuit.  Those skills can never be wasted.

The young woman in the video had been taught many worthwhile skills.  She has chosen to devalue their meaning, and has decided for herself that she was merely learning for a test.  With homeschooling, we hope to encourage our children to become life-long learners.  We want them to learn and REMEMBER, not learn and fill in the bubbles.

Thinking back to my own high school years, I'm amazed at what I have forgotten (or never learned in the first place.)  When I look at my grown adult children, I'm amazed at how much they remember.

Focus on the love of learning.  College Plus is a method to measure the learning they have done.

For more information on how to utilize CLEP Exams in your homeschool, please see my website on "How to Homeschool College."

I hope that helps,

Let’s be friends on Facebook!
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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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How Do I Grade Without Tests?

How Do I Grade Without Tests?
There are a lot of details about grading in my book, Setting the Records Straight.  In it, you can see for yourself how a real homeschooler provided course grades without tests!

I used tests for math, science, and foreign language because I used curricula that provided tests for those subjects, not because those subjects require tests.  Most of the other classes listed in "Setting the Records Straight" describe how I evaluated without testing.  If you are having trouble getting your head around this issue, the book can be a real eye-opener!

I have two articles on grading that may help you begin to think outside the box:
How to Assign Grades without Grading
Grouch Free Guide to Grading

If you haven't tested prior to high school, there is no reason to change.  If there is a subject you are studying, and you don't want to test but you don't know what else to do, I encourage you to think outside the box.




Do you enjoy these daily doses of high school homeschool wisdom?  Sign up to get them delivered via email or reader!
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Do You Really NEED to Take College Admissions Tests?

Do You Really NEED to Take College Admissions Tests?
Do you really NEED to take college admission tests?  Even when you have dual enrollment in a community college?
Quick question. If my daughter is in the Running Start program,  doing dual enrollment, and will enter college as a transfer student, does she need to take the SAT? Thank you in advance,

Dear Leslie,

Quick answer:  yes!

Long answer:  She doesn't rally "have to" take the SAT in that position, but it will help.  If she is doing dual enrollment her junior and senior year in high school, she is only a transfer in terms of academics.  She'll still be a freshman in terms of admission.  So having the SAT scores will help her freshman admission package to look as complete and awesome as possible, and can lead to more financial aid.   If she really stinks at tests, then the SAT probably won't hurt her, and her grades at community college will be more important than her SAT.  But if she does above average on the test (above 500 on each section) then it will improve her chances of admission and scholarships.

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Feeling Overwhelmed with Homeschooling High School?

Feeling Overwhelmed with Homeschooling High School?
Angela says >>>My oldest is just going into 9th grade and I feel completely overwhelmed and out of my depth. <<<

And that, my friend, is why I allowed my pleasantly-plumpness to be filmed for the "Preparing to Homeschool High School" DVD!  I had been consulting with local clients, and going into their homes to encourage them as they enter high school.  It's a 3 hour conversation, and I go over everything you need to know about how to "do" high school:  tests, courses, grades, etc.  But when I started getting calls from other parts of the country, I knew I had to help.  So, diet or not, I taped myself giving that three hour presentation - just for folks like you!  I really think it will help you feel knowledgeable and confident.  That 3-dvd set has a coupon on my newsletter.  Here is a link to read more, and see what others think of that product:

Looking for some great homeschooling resources for next year? Check out the new page on my website on homeschooling resources. Click on the selections to go directly to Amazon to purchase!
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