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How do you decide your child has learned "enough"?


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#1 brookspr

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 03:53 PM

Hi all,

 

We are newbies to home schooling this year and I have a question that has been bugging me for a while.  I already have curricula ready for both of my kids (11yo DS and 13yo DD) for all subjects but I am constantly trying to learn more myself, through the internet (forums like this!) and books, looking for tips and techniques to make our year as successful and fun as it can be.  

 

After reading a thread on the WTM forum about learning styles and teaching techniques, and having read books like the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens/People and Practice Perfect,  I feel it is important for DH and I to sift through all of the curricula and set some goals in each subject for the year, for each unit, and each lesson.  Over the next two weeks we are going to try to do just that and plan for at least the next two to three months.  We will officially start school the day after Labor Day.

 

My question is, how do you decide what exactly you want your child to take away from each lesson or unit?  Whether you plan ahead or figure it out as you go, how do you know you are going into enough depth for their grade level?  My kids would be entering 6th and 8th grade, and I want to make sure that they are well prepared for whatever might lie ahead, whether they want to enter high school at some point or go to college.  But I have NO idea how much an 8th grader should know about ancient civilizations or at what level they should be able to analyze and write about a classic book!  

 

Most of the curricula we are using work for a range of grade levels (6th-9th grade) which is a pretty big range if you ask me.  How will I know when enough is enough at 6th or 8th grade?  I am afraid I won't be able to find that comfortable space in between too easy and too hard.  If I find some of the material is too easy, some is just right, some is too hard and they need help, is that the sweet spot where I know they are at the appropriate level?

 

Am I just over thinking everything?  Would common core standards at least give me a place to start?  I just feel like if I don't have a way to measure how much we are all learning they will somehow fall behind.  I don't want to give tests but I do want to know by discussing the subject with my kids that they are absorbing the material at a level that is appropriate for their age/grade.

 

Thanks in advance for your support and advice.



#2 54879525

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 03:58 PM

Short answer yeah I think you are overthinking things a bit.  I spend the bulk of my planning on picking good books.  We read the books.  Some stuff sticks and some stuff doesn't.  Learning is an ongoing process that is never over, finished, or "enough".  IMO.  Just like you said you are always learning stuff. 

I think with some subjects this might make sense though.  For example, math.  You might want a big picture/little picture sort of plan.  Some stuff has to be learned before other stuff. 

 

 

 



#3 regentrude

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 04:10 PM

I work from the back. I see what my kids need to be successful at a four year university, so whatever that is they need to have acquired by the end of high school. I have a rough map for the four years of high school; anything that gets me there is "enough".

 

I see a need for systematic instruction and steady progression in math. Holes will be hard to remedy, so should be avoided. I started here my kids were they were when I pulled them out of public school and let them work from that level onwards, at their pace, steadily.

I do not believe that any specific content must be covered in science and history in the middle grades; my goal was to lay the groundwork, create some knowledge base on which to build a systematic study in high school, wake an interest and retain my kids' natural curiosity. Consequently, I have given them much input in their choice of subjects. I do not give one iota about common core standards or "should cover" or grade level designations.

 

I judge whether the materials are appropriate by observing my children: if they are engaged, achieving results when they spend time on task, but must put in some effort, the materials are the right level. If they are bored, cruise without effort, get everything correct on the first try, the curriculum is too easy. If they were frustrated and working hard without having any success or results, the curriculum would be too difficult or just not a good fit.

 

I require time on task by stipulating a certain number of school hours per day. Time on task with materials that I have found appropriate will produce the results I aim for. Flying through a too easy curriculum in less time does neither produce the work ethic they need nor the results they are capable of; spending insane amounts of time on too hard materials destroys the spirit. What is "enough"? I know it when I see it. Watching my kids' mood, their feelings about their schoolwork, their sense of accomplishment tells me quite accurately if we are hitting the sweet spot.

 

Since I see you are just starting: I would recommend using grade levels as a very loose orientation. you know your children best, and what fits the "average" must not fit your child. If a 6th grader is on 5th grade level in math, that is where he needs to work. If an 8th grader is ready for college level work, that is what he needs. Do not compare your kids too much with other kids, but observe and trust your instincts.

Good luck on the journey!

 

 



#4 whitehawk

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 04:43 PM

I work down from the big idea/central concepts to each discipline: What do I want DS to eventually understand about this? Then for every course, I ask how this can extend DS's concept of those main ideas.

You might like to look at the five themes of geography or the underpinnings of the scientific method, for example, and look to build on them through your approach to that year's content. Or ask, what are *your* core beliefs about the value and purpose of the subjects you're undertaking?



#5 Homeschool Mom in AZ

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 04:53 PM

I used TWTM and mix it with Charlotte Mason and unit studies, so I use mostly real books.  My children did a lot of writing analytically about them in the higher grades. I gave them a list of questions a little more specific to each subject (Science, History, Literature) than the general questions I list below.  (They're in college now and I homeschool my 8 year old.)  When it came to analyzing literature, I had them use The Greenleaf Guide for Ancient Literature for High School and there were a few introductions to literature analysis in WWS which can be used in the Logic stage.

 

 

Remember that The Trivium has 3 stages, so the focus should about the stages if The Trivium matters to you.  Being very simplistic here, Grammar is about facts, Logic is about cause and effect, and Rhetoric is about application and persuasion.  Since your kids are older, you might have to combine 2, maybe even 3 stages, when covering new content, depending on each child's development.

 

Grammar

What are the most important facts a child should now about about the event, person, development, discovery, idea, being studied? Does the child grasp, who, what, when, where, why this event, person, development, discovery, idea happened? 

 

Logic

Was this event, person, development, discovery, idea, the cause of something significant? Was this event, person, development, discovery, idea the effect of something significant? How did the world (or region) change because of it?

 

Rhetoric

Why is it that people bother reading about it today?  What does it teach us about what we should do, be, or think? Is it a cautionary tale in some way warning us to avoid certain problems or mistakes?  Is it instructive as to how and why we should do or think something? What important conclusions should we draw from this information being studied? Can my child make a reasonable, rational, persuasive argument backing up those conclusions?  

 

 

 

Obviously skipping a stage makes the following stage anemic at best.  How can someone understand cause and effect having no foundation in the relevant facts?  How can someone make conclusions about anything without understanding facts or cause and effect?  Don't panic.  When they're older and developmentally able to understand cause and effect, they can still learn the facts and cause and effect in the same unit without it being burdensome.



#6 My3girls

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 08:35 PM

This is my first year, too.  I have 2nd, 3rd, and 6th graders.  I have used the core curriculum kind of as a guide of where to start.  Then like the other ladies are saying if they breeze through it, up the difficulty or if they are really struggling then back down a level.  I have found that I have really had to back down on grammar and math.  The school may have taught it, but the kids evidently didn't master it.  As for how deep to explore topics or determining when they have mastered it, I am trying to trust the curriculum I have chosen.  It has taken months to make those choices so at this point, I am sticking to the plan.  I will assess our wins and losses at the end of the school year and let that help me make decisions for next year.



#7 OhElizabeth

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 11:26 PM

You can try all you want, but what they retain is really a mix of what they came in with, what caught their interest, what they connected to something else they knew.  It's totally schooly to say here's a list, learn it, take a test.  It IS reasonable to have some points you want them to take away, and those typically become memory work under WTM/classical.  But as far as what they ACTUALLY take away and retain?  That's totally dependent on the kid.  If you make sure they're engaging, they'll learn.  

 

The *skills* are typically more important than specific content.  Thought process and analysis are typically more important than what the thing is they're analyzing.  WTM focuses quite a bit on skills, if you notice.  I think you'll find it much more useful to think about what skills you want to see happening in high school and work backward.  Junior high sets you up for high school skill wise.  Also think about how your content coverage now, as a whole, creates pegs and exposure that prepares them for what you might want to use in high school.  THAT'S where you should be putting your time.  That's the most valuable thing you can be doing.  



#8 brookspr

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 09:11 AM

You can try all you want, but what they retain is really a mix of what they came in with, what caught their interest, what they connected to something else they knew.  It's totally schooly to say here's a list, learn it, take a test.  It IS reasonable to have some points you want them to take away, and those typically become memory work under WTM/classical.  But as far as what they ACTUALLY take away and retain?  That's totally dependent on the kid.  If you make sure they're engaging, they'll learn.  

 

The *skills* are typically more important than specific content.  Thought process and analysis are typically more important than what the thing is they're analyzing.  WTM focuses quite a bit on skills, if you notice.  I think you'll find it much more useful to think about what skills you want to see happening in high school and work backward.  Junior high sets you up for high school skill wise.  Also think about how your content coverage now, as a whole, creates pegs and exposure that prepares them for what you might want to use in high school.  THAT'S where you should be putting your time.  That's the most valuable thing you can be doing.  

 

I totally agree with everything here.  I am not giving tests or quizzes, we are just going to work through the curriculum and let them dive in deeper where their interests lie.  I am focusing on skills this year, research skills, note taking skills, studying skills, writing skills, etc... but even then I'm not sure how to evaluate whether their skill level is appropriate for their age/grade.  I guess you keep building and building on those skills and as they work through harder and harder material and they will progress naturally.

 

That's where I find I am having a hard time, just letting it happen.  Every once in a while I read a post where someone says their child is way behind where they should be and that is what scares me.  I feel like because we are starting later than most, I can't get it wrong the first time around.

 

Thanks to all who responded.  I feel more confident that we can do this and will figure it out as we go.  I will still make goals for the unit and lesson, but they will be broader, like "able to discuss in detail what significance ABC event had on the economy and culture of XYZ people."



#9 Margaret in CO

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 03:18 PM

One thing to do is to realize that there will ALWAYS be "holes". It's inevitable! Once you accept that, you can focus on skills so they can fill in their own holes. And remember, what a kid looks like as a freshman is going to be very different than what he looks like as a junior. It's amazing the maturity and growth that goes on!



#10 Homeschool Mom in AZ

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 04:19 PM

  I am focusing on skills this year, research skills, note taking skills, studying skills, writing skills, etc... but even then I'm not sure how to evaluate whether their skill level is appropriate for their age/grade.  I guess you keep building and building on those skills and as they work through harder and harder material and they will progress naturally.

 

Writing With Skill (WWS) by Susan Wise Bauer is a solid intro to research skills, note taking skills and writing skills.

 

I know there are a lot of parents here whose children were in institutional school settings before being homeschooled, and a significant percentage will return there as homeschooling for many here is not their first choice, so when what I'm about to write comes up, it usually gets a lot of negative reactions from those with positive views of institutional norms,  but here goes:

 

Grade levels are one of the biggest scams in American education. Let go of the idea of grade levels.

 

Anyone who has done their homework diligently researching and comparing curriculum knows that grade levels are meaningless and arbitrary.  My kids started Latin and Greek Roots in the 4-6 year old range.  What grade level is that? They began logic at that age too.  Does that mean that because a few institutional settings offer those things in the Jr.-Sr. years that my preschool/early elementary school aged kids are in 7-12 th grade levels? Of course not.

My children all went from being unable to read to reading fluently with in a year and a half starting at ages 4, 8, and 6.   Most institutional settings drag reading out over years and divide it into grade levels.  Does that mean my oldest, who could read anything other than college level texts by her 5th birthday should've been at high school level grades for reading? That would be silly.

 

What is taught in one math curriculum at one grade may be introduce at different levels of difficulty in grades higher or lower than another curriculum. The idea of variables such as X+ 6= 12 is introduced in early elementary grade levels in some curriculum and not introduced at all in other until pre-algebra where it gets far more complicated very quickly.   Grade levels are a completely useless "system" that isn't systematic at all and can be a source of undue pride or angst for some people who buy into it.  That's why some math programs, like Math U See, don't do grade levels at all.  Each workbook covers a particular skill set and the following workbook builds new skill sets on top of those.

That's why the Trivium avoids labeling stages by age or grade-it's really a developmental issue that different children reach at different times.  Also, as I pointed out, one builds directly upon the previous stage in a systematic way, so without laying the appropriate foundation, the upper level can't be well done.  An older child can make an argument about what should be and why (the Rhetoric Stage)  but his opinion shouldn't carry any weight at all because it's based on little to no facts and little to no understanding of cause and effect.  He may be doing high school level work, but he's really is essentially a simple child with no real understanding of the issue at hand. 



#11 Sobeknofret

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 04:25 PM

The thing is, education never stops.You just keep throwing things at them; some things stick, some don't. Most programs are structured so that you cover the same stuff more than once, and different stuff sticks at different points. I taught my 2nd/3rd grader about angles and geometry last May. Some stuff stuck, some didn't. We're reviewing that same material right now, and I can see different ideas sticking now. It's repetition that seems to be the key.



#12 serendipitous journey

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 09:05 PM

Just a thought ... if you are interested in making sure that the big stuff is there, there are sources for this. 

 

I've found the "What Your ___th Grader Needs to Know" series useful; the Core Knowledge sequence on which these books are based is available, and free, at the Core Knowledge website.  I don't fret about the specific grade levels but one could have the goal of being familiar with much of the material by 8th.  (FWIW board member Hunter strongly prefers the History/Geography and Science of the original ___th Grader Books, which have an image of a tree on the front and not the pictures of children). 

 

A rough guide to writing and comprehension by stage & grade level is included in the Well Trained Mind book. 

 

I myself am not too fretted about these standards, but like to keep an eye on them. 



#13 Mrs Twain

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 10:01 AM

Just a thought ... if you are interested in making sure that the big stuff is there, there are sources for this. 

 

I've found the "What Your ___th Grader Needs to Know" series useful; the Core Knowledge sequence on which these books are based is available, and free, at the Core Knowledge website.  I don't fret about the specific grade levels but one could have the goal of being familiar with much of the material by 8th.  (FWIW board member Hunter strongly prefers the History/Geography and Science of the original ___th Grader Books, which have an image of a tree on the front and not the pictures of children). 

 

A rough guide to writing and comprehension by stage & grade level is included in the Well Trained Mind book. 

 

I myself am not too fretted about these standards, but like to keep an eye on them. 

I also use the sources listed above.  If you read Hirsch's book The Knowledge Deficit, you will see why his organization developed the Core Knowledge K-8 Sequence and how content knowledge is critical for reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.  Lack of core knowledge leads to deficits in reading comprehension and critical thinking skills, and the later a student starts learning core knowledge the farther and farther behind he will be.  Therefore, I consider content and skills as both equally important, even at the younger grades.

 

Another book to read which is excellent regarding how students learn and retain information long-term is Willingham's Why Don't Students Like School?  Ignore the awful title and check out this book.  This and Hirsch's book are the two best books I have ever read about educating my children.

 

I also agree with the sentiment that memory work is one of the best ways to help children retain information about which they are not especially interested.  This is discussed in detail in Willingham's book.

 



#14 serendipitous journey

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 08:32 PM

....

Another book to read which is excellent regarding how students learn and retain information long-term is Willingham's Why Don't Students Like School?  Ignore the awful title and check out this book.  This and Hirsch's book are the two best books I have ever read about educating my children.

 

I also agree with the sentiment that memory work is one of the best ways to help children retain information about which they are not especially interested.  This is discussed in detail in Willingham's book.

 

okay, fine, I've ordered the book!!!!!

 

:laugh:

 

I can't count the # of times you've rec'd this, and I don't like the title for some reason so I've ignored you.  But I like your other advice so much that I may as well go for the full monty on this ...
 



#15 Mrs Twain

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 08:34 PM

okay, fine, I've ordered the book!!!!!

 

:laugh:

 

I can't count the # of times you've rec'd this, and I don't like the title for some reason so I've ignored you.  But I like your other advice so much that I may as well go for the full monty on this ...
 

You won't be disappointed.  :coolgleamA:



#16 DianeW88

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 11:22 PM

You're not pouring knowledge and material into their heads like you pour water from a pitcher.  The most important thing to impart to them is a love of learning.  The idea that learning is fun and that it is something we do throughout our lives is what they really need to know. 

 

You cannot possibly teach them everything they "need" to know for each grade level...not even close.  And then there's the fact that they will not retain most of it (this depends on your teaching method, but that's a whole different subject matter) from one year to the next...heck, sometimes not from one day to the next.

 

What your goal should be is to give them the skill set they need to learn how to learn.  My kids are always reading, always looking things up they don't understand, always visiting museums, exhibits, etc.  My two oldest are in college (homeschooled K-12...they never darkened the door of a brick and mortar school in their lives), both on scholarship, and are so excited about everything they're doing, learning and experiencing in their respective universities.  They've been complimented by their professors on how much they know, how well they write, and how perceptive their questions are.  They both love to learn, and I know I won't have to worry about how they'll succeed in the world at large.  They have it by the tail.

 

Teach your kids the fun of discovery, the excitement of reading, the thrill of experimentation, the idea that it's ok not to know something, and it will be an adventure to learn about it.  Convey how wonderful learning is by your enthusiasm for it.  Share your excitement when you learn something new.  Learn WITH your kids...don't lecture them. That is what makes a successful homeschool...not how many ancient history facts they can recite.  Because seriously...that will get them nowhere in life.

Good luck!!



#17 brookspr

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 07:03 AM

You're not pouring knowledge and material into their heads like you pour water from a pitcher.  The most important thing to impart to them is a love of learning.  The idea that learning is fun and that it is something we do throughout our lives is what they really need to know. 

 

You cannot possibly teach them everything they "need" to know for each grade level...not even close.  And then there's the fact that they will not retain most of it (this depends on your teaching method, but that's a whole different subject matter) from one year to the next...heck, sometimes not from one day to the next.

 

What your goal should be is to give them the skill set they need to learn how to learn.  My kids are always reading, always looking things up they don't understand, always visiting museums, exhibits, etc.  My two oldest are in college (homeschooled K-12...they never darkened the door of a brick and mortar school in their lives), both on scholarship, and are so excited about everything they're doing, learning and experiencing in their respective universities.  They've been complimented by their professors on how much they know, how well they write, and how perceptive their questions are.  They both love to learn, and I know I won't have to worry about how they'll succeed in the world at large.  They have it by the tail.

 

Teach your kids the fun of discovery, the excitement of reading, the thrill of experimentation, the idea that it's ok not to know something, and it will be an adventure to learn about it.  Convey how wonderful learning is by your enthusiasm for it.  Share your excitement when you learn something new.  Learn WITH your kids...don't lecture them. That is what makes a successful homeschool...not how many ancient history facts they can recite.  Because seriously...that will get them nowhere in life.

Good luck!!

YES!!!!!

 

I think I am making progress in realizing that my kids don't need to excel at everything, but simply to experience it and learn from it is enough.




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