End of Year Assessment: A Quick Portfolio

May 30th, 2009

It is that time of year when you need to evaluate your child’s progress in your homeschool. Here are a few tips for showcasing your child’s learning.


Create a portfolio of literacy and math skills. There are many ways to keep a portfolio, but here is one quick and simple way of creating one. Include the following items in your portfolio:

1. Information about your child’s literacy. You can find a comprehensive collection of printable assessment forms for all kinds of literacy assessment at Reading A-Z. Here are other ideas to help.

*A reading comprehension assessment is important for you to include because it tells you about your child’s readling level, comprehension skills, and what kinds of books to choose in the future. Story retellings are a great way of assessing your child’s reading comprehension. You can find an example of a retelling rubric (a scale that gives a score) here. You can also estimate your child’s reading level at ReadWriteSite: Level Estimator.

*Spelling tests can give a snapshot of your child’s knowledge of spelling patterns. The LA County Office of Education has directions for how to use spelling inventories to better understand specifically your child’s knowledge of words. All About Spelling offers spelling lists for grades 1-7 as well as the Dolch Sight Words list and the Ayers Spelling Scale. Education Place has a number of spelling lists for 1st-6th grades.

*A book list of all the literature your child has read and a book list including all the literature you have read aloud to your child gives a snapshot of your child as a reader. It will also help you choose books wisely in the future.

*Writing samples can showcase your child’s writing skills. Include a description of the assignment with each sample. Carefully choose samples that show what your child has learned. Choose a few different genres of writing, too: a report, a short story, a poem, etc.

2.Information about your child’s math competency.

*An end of year math test is a great way to show what math skills your child has retained this year. You can use the assessments that come with your curriculum if you wish. Otherwise, I have found two websites that have math assessments: Open-Ended Assessment in Math and Free Math Test.

*Work samples are also important to include. Carefully choose work that shows what your child has learned in math.

*Photographs of math projects with descriptions about the work are also important samples to include in a portfolio.

Hopefully this guide to creating a portfolio will help you to wrap up your school year with a good glimpse of what your child has learned!

Photo courtesy of Hey Paul

Sticky Note Learning: Miscellaneous Ideas

May 25th, 2009

Here are a few more creative ideas for using sticky notes to enhance learning in your homeschool.

~Create a scavenger hunt. On each sticky note write a clue about where the next sticky note is. Or you could include math problems, trivia questions, or riddles on the sticky notes. Place the notes all over the house. This is a great activity for rainy or snowy days or times when it feel like you need to change things up a bit.3051936558_3cca68d76f_m-by-tomsaint11

~Practice descriptive writing with famous paintings. Have your children write descriptive sentences about the artwork on individual sticky notes. Post the notes around the painting. Then the notes can be moved around in order to plan a paragraph or a story about the painting. (Photo courtesy of tomsaint11)

2034374619_507354ebd8_m-by-calm-a-llama-down~Practice rhythm. Write sixteenth notes, eighth notes, quarter notes, and rests on individual sticky notes, and place them in any order on a wall. Use percussion instruments such as drums, claves, or a xylophone and play the rhythm posted. Mix the notes up and play the new rhythm. (Photo courtesy of calm a llama down)

~Have your child label scientific drawings using flag post-it notes. For example, create a poster with a drawing of a flower on it. Have your children use the flags to label the parts of a flower. The same poster can be used later as a test of that knowledge.

Have fun!

Homeschool Sticky Note Literacy

May 14th, 2009

My kids love sticky notes. Do yours? This is the first post in a series on how to motivate children to learn using sticky notes.

Encourage Literacy Skills

~Emergent readers can use sticky notes to label items in a room. For example, you would write “table” on a sticky and your child would place it on a table. 3126480391_ef814034b6_m-by-viernestThen your child can “read the room” using a pointer and reading each of the words. You have the freedom to take the stickies off the items in the room and play games with them. Put them in alphabetical order. Find words that rhyme. Find words that fit into particular categories such as furniture or toys.

~Help your beginning reader to practice reading words and constructing sentences. Either have your child dictate a sentence to you or choose a sentence out of a book you have read together. Write one word on each sticky note and scramble the sentence. Post the notes on a wall. Have your child reconstruct the sentence.

~Practice spelling with sticky notes. Choose a “secret” word. Write each of the letters on individual sticky notes. Have your child make as many words as possible with those letters. Record each of the words spelled on new sticky notes. At the end have your child try to find the “secret” word. Use the words made to highlight spelling patterns such as “ae”, “ing”, or “ch”.

~Sticky notes can help you add a kinesthetic component to brainstorming before writing by creating a web on a wall. Have your child write one idea on each sticky note and post it on the web. Or practice writing paragraphs by having your child write one sentence on a sticky note at a time. S/he can move the sticky notes around in order to create a cohesive paragraph.

~Teach vocabulary with sticky notes. Write synonyms on separate sticky notes and post the vocabulary words around the house. Have your child collect the words and match the synonyms on a wall in your school room. Or create a vocabulary obstical course by posting words around the house. Have your child read the word and act out the meaning of the word.

Have fun using sticky notes to encourage literacy skills!

Photo courtesy of Viernest

A Traditional Literature Theme: Tall Tales

March 19th, 2009

Continue your Traditional Literature study in your homeschool with Tall Tales. These stories are short, fun, and engaging. If your children are resistant to reading, Tall Tales can be a great way to capture their interest.


~You can find copies of American Tall Tales here. There are also comprehension quizzes on this site.

~You can find a unit study on Tall Tales at German Town Academy.

~Tall Tales fit into a unit of study on the westward expansion. You can find general information about America in the 1800’s at this website. You will also find a host of educational resources at this website.

~Some Tall Tales are based on actual people. You can have your children research the lives of the Johnny Appleseed and Davey Crockett and compare the facts they find to the exaggerations in Tall Tales.

~You can make a lapbook on Johnny Appleseed. Homeschool Share has a free one.

~Have your children write their own Tall Tales. Remember to include exaggeration in the tales. Illustrations would complete the stories.

Photo courtesy of cliff1066

A Traditional Literature Theme: Fairy Tales

March 17th, 2009

Are you studying traditional literature in your homeschool? You can engage your children in this study by diving into Fairy Tales and adding a twist to the learning experience.


  • Your children might enjoy reading several versions of the same fairy tale. It is common to do a study on the Cinderella stories and compare the different versions of the tale. You can find a great lesson plan at EDSITEement. Write or act out the story from a different character’s point of view. You can even have your children write their own version of a fairy tale but from as if it is from a different culture. Research a particular culture thoroughly first and require that the story include information about that culture in the story.
  • Add fractured fairy tales to your study. Read the “original” version of a tale and compare it to the fractured version. There are many great fractured fairy tales available now such as The Fourth Little Pig, Just Ella, Sleeping Ugly, and The Paper Bag Princess. Then have your children write their own fractured fairy tales. You can even incorporate persuasive essays in your study. Your children can write from the antagonist’s point of view explaining why s/he was wronged.
  • Since many fairy tales were collected by the Brothers Grimm in an effort to preserve German folklore, you can do a research project on Germany.
  • Study Hans Christian Anderson’s life and fairy tales. (Beware that his tales do not always have happy endings.) You can also learn about Holland since Andersen was Dutch.

Photo courtesy of g.naharro

A Traditional Literature Theme: Myths and Legends

March 14th, 2009

Here are more ideas for using traditional literature in your homeschool this month. Try reading Myths and Legends.



Myths are creation tales that include supernatural activity. For a more detailed definition go to About.com.

  • Spark Notes is packed with information about mythology. It can be a great resource for you as you start to learn about mythology.
  • Have your children read Myths from various cultures such as Native American and Greek myths. Examine the themes that appear in those myth,s and create a grid to of those themes as a graphic organizer. You can also have your children illustrate the myths in order to help them visualize the stories better.
  • Discuss the religious nature of the myths that you read. Since most myths have something to do with creation, take this opportunity to discuss creation according to the Bible. You can even make a creation lapbook with your children. I found a free creation lapbook from Lapbook Lessons.


Legends are stories partially based on fact, but have exaggerated details.

  • Children of all ages, particularly boys, love legends! Who can resist the adventures of Robin Hood and King Arthur? These are great, action packed stories to read aloud.
  • Write a script for a favorite legend and act it out, or simply have your children choose a favorite scene to turn into a skit.
  • Since it is March, you can research the legend of St. Patrick at History.com. You can also find information about St. Patrick at RiverDeep.net
  • Write a modern day Legend after examining others. Have your children include illustrations of the legendary hero and his/her adventures.

Photo courtesy of Jorge-11

A Traditional Literature Theme: Nursery Rhymes & Fables

March 13th, 2009

March is a month filled with inspiration for themes for learning in your homeschool. This month many people will be taking advantage of St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps you don’t want to read all about Irish history and culture, but you can twist that theme and read traditional literature instead – myths, folktales, fairy tales, fables, and legends.

My Favorite Author is using this theme this month, too. Stop by that blog for interviews with authors and reviews of books related to this theme. “What can you do with a traditional literature theme?” you ask. It is one of my favorite literature studies because it is truly a rich topic. Today I am sharing a few ways to engage your children in this study with Nursery Rhymes and Fables:

Photo by aturkus

Photo by aturkus

Nursery Rhymes

Nursery Rhymes are very short, funny, poetic stories. They are often historically and politically significant.

  • Your little ones can participate in this study by reading Nursery Rhymes. These funny rhymes build phonemic awareness and are easily
    memorized. Have your little ones choose a few to commit to memory.
  • Make and Break words from the rhymes. Use words such as Jill/hill, down/crown. Use the onsets and rimes to build new words (spill, fill, mill, bill).
  • You can have your children illustrate several Nursery Rhymes and bind them into a book. Those illustrations are a great way to teach visualization, and they help you see if your child comprehends the text.
  • Teens can research the political and historical significance to each of the rhymes. Then they can write their own Nursery Rhymes that have political and historical messages cleverly hidden in them.


Fables are short stories that have a moral or a lesson at the end.

  • Since fables are so short, you can use them to practice oral reading. Have your children read them aloud with the goal of making the reading “sound like talking”.
  • You can focus on memorization skills with Fables. Choose shorter ones that your older children can memorize and have the younger children memorize the moral.
  • The lesson can spark an interesting discussion about morals. Ask your children what they think is the right choice in each situation.
  • Fables can help you gauge your children’s comprehension because they are short and have a moral. Did your child predict the outcome based on the clues in the text? Did your child make connections to other stories or situations?

Look for more posts about using folklore in your homeschool.

Puppets Encourage Homeschool Literacy

March 8th, 2009

Puppets can be a useful tool in your homeschool literacy program. Here are a few ways to use them with children eight years old and younger.


~Your beginning reader can read books to a puppet. Young children buy into the fantasy of the puppet interacting with them. Sometimes the presence of the puppet helps a child who is struggling with reading to relax and enjoy the experience. The puppet makes it fun to read.

~Your children can retell books by writing a script and using puppets. It is a fun way to encourage your children to reread a book and understand it well enough to capture the essence of the story. It also encourages your children to write a good script. Younger children will love to watch the puppet shows, too.

~You can make a read aloud more engaging with a puppet. My kids love listening to the puppet read stories, ask questions, and explain parts of the stories. They talk to the puppet. They also like touching it and even mimicking the way that I use the puppet. This tool can be especially helpful in engaging children who find it difficult to sit still long enough to listen to a whole book.

~Your children can teach the puppet. This is a fun way to have your child summarize a new skill or concept that you’ve been practicing. For example, the puppet can learn to sound out words or find rhyming pairs. The puppet can even find sight words in a story such as “the”, “what”, and “said”.

~You can research another culture with puppets. Shadow puppets are part of Indonesian culture. Your children can create a shadow puppet show as a culminating activity after researching Indonesian culture.

Have fun with puppets!

Photo courtesy of nickstone333

“Seuss Up” Your Homeschool with The Lorax

February 20th, 2009

Continue to “Seuss Up” your homeschool with these ideas for The Lorax. I have included curriculum ideas appropriate for all ages here.

~Read The Lorax. Have your children create a diorama of what the land looked like before the Once-ler chopped down the Truffula trees and what it looked like afterward. Be sure to include Brown Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, and Humming-Fish in their habitats before and after the Once-ler came.

~Write a sequel to The Lorax. Tell what happens after the last Truffula seed is planted. Do all of the animals come back? Is the air and water clear now? Do new animals come? Make sure you reread The Lorax several times to help you when you plan your sequel.

~Study seeds by observing them sprout. The Watching Seeds Grow experiment will allow you to closely observe the seeds. Older kids might like to try an experiment about the affects of water quality on seed germination found at Salt Lake County Storm Water Quality Education Lesson and Activity Plans.

~Learn about how plants help our environment. Start a garden from seeds. Since it is still too cold to plant them outside in most areas, you can start growing your seeds inside your home. Make observations in a journal as they grow. Talk about how plants breathe. You can find a good summary of plant respiration at The Open Door Web Site. This science fair project idea is great for ‘tweens and teens.

~Learn to knit since the Once-ler and his family knitted the Thneeds in the book. There is a great tutorial at Crafttown including illustrations and definitions of vocabulary. This video from Expert Village shows you how to cast on.

You can also learn the knot stitch with this video.

I hope these ideas make learning fun!

Photo courtesy of Maine Coast Semester

Using Field Trips in Your Homeschool

January 3rd, 2009

Are you dreading getting started with school after a delightful vacation time? Take a field trip! Here is an example of what you can do with a particular field trip to make returning to school exciting.

Plan a trip to your local children’s museum.


~Research together the exhibits in the museum including those exhibits that are there for only a short time. Plan out your schedule to include the exhibits you would like to spend the most time visiting.

~Decide how much money you will need to cover all of the expenses and create a budget. Don’t forget to include the cost of food and parking.

~Have your children use maps to locate the museum and determine the best route to take to get there.

~Read various books related to one of the exhibits.


~While visiting the different exhibits, ask your children probing questions. Encourage them to make hypotheses and deductions. Show them how certain things work.

~Bring your science journals along. Have your children spend some time at the museum writing about a science related exhibit.

~Take photos of the activities your children enjoyed the most. Use those photos to write a story. You can even make a book about your trip.


~Write letters to the museum staff about your experience. Include postive experiences as well as anything you feel needs to be changed.

~Make note of topics that your children found interesting at the museum. Continue to study that topic in the coming weeks.

~Create your own brochure for the museum. Include directions, parking information, dining options, the cost of admission, and information about the exhibits. Use thumbnail size photos from the visit in the brouchure.

Verse of the Day
  • Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV)