April 27, 2016

My Homeschool Grading Rubric

I decided to start issuing grades for a few subjects in our homeschool. 

Ok, so how on earth do I give grades? I've never done this before!

I had to resist making a very complex grading formula or rubric for myself. I knew that this would 1) confuse me, 2) confuse my daughter, and 3) be impossible to maintain for an extended period of time.

I didn't want to create a complicated system that would fail within a few months. And let's be honest, if the grading system is complex then I have all kinds of annoying math to figure out for myself.

After discussing my grading options with my husband, we both agreed that I needed to keep it very simple for our first foray into record keeping and grades.

I decided to create a very simple rubric that could be used in every subject.

Here's what I did:

Every paper is worth only 10 points (easy math, people!).

  • 5 points for content
  • 2.5 for formatting
  • 2.5 for critical thinking 

For these points the answers have to be correct (math problems), contain the required elements, (writing and composition) and include correct spelling and grammar.

These points includes writing problems and numbers correctly, staying in margins, writing in correct paragraphs, indenting, using a proper outline format, titling papers, etc. Handwriting neatness will also be included in this section.

Critical Thinking
Not every assignment will have this component. However, critical thinking will entail going above and beyond just the simple requirements and demonstrating that thought, time, and effort was put into each assignment. (And if the assignment elicited lots of whining and complaining then these points won't be awarded....).

So there's my very, very simple grading rubric that will hopefully keep me accountable to grading assignments and enable me to keep grade records for the rest of the year.

I'm sure over time the rubric will become more complicated and some assignments may have their own rubric or checklist. But for now I thought we would start with the simplest possible method.

So, now I can write down assignment grades on my simple excel spreadsheet and track our progress!

April 25, 2016

Why I Started Giving Grades in Our Homeschool

I'm sure that no other homeschool mom can relate to this.....but this year I've had a student turning in subpar work. I have a kiddo who is apathetic!

Ahh! Isn't homeschooling supposed to create children who are in love with learning? 

Reality check! Sometimes your students will be apathetic about their schoolwork.

So, how can you motivate your student?

I've tried pep talks, consequences, encouragement, and closer monitoring of schoolwork yet I'm still not seeing an improvement.

Let me give you some examples......

This child rushes through math work and makes very silly mistakes such as adding instead of multiplying or dividing and ignoring all the remainders. The end result is a math page with mostly incorrect answers.

For a writing assignment, this particular child turned in three poorly written sentences with zero punctuation, a disregard for indentation and margins, and atrocious handwriting.

During science time, this child wrote out the new vocabulary words, misspelling all of them despite the fact that we had just highlighted them during our science reading. The words were bright orange and right in front of both of us.

Nope. This child just isn't trying very hard right now.

This is so hard as a homeschool teacher/mom. I know exactly what this child is capable of and I know it's much more than what I'm seeing in the assignments.

So, to spur on some changes in our homeschool I've started giving out grades. I'm finding that having a rubric and grading policy is holding my child accountable and work is steadily improving.

I also determined that if a passing grade of 70% or above is not achieved in any particular subject, then the book needs to be repeated before moving on. So, the grading policy does come with a subtle reality (or, um, threat?) of repeating a subject or a book the following year.

No longer can I simply rely on allowing my child to redo work to attain mastery. I'm finding that this child was taking advantage of the fact that I assignments would be redone with my help. Apparently, it was better to have to do a paper over again with my guidance than to work through the assignments alone.

It's no longer about mastery but about responsibility.

Now I'm using a very simple rubric and I'm assessing all assignments. I'm finding that having a standard set in our homeschool has forced my child to strive for excellence and want to surpass the minimum standard.

Up until 4th grade, I never gave out grades but instead corrected papers with my child present so I could show the mistakes and help correct the mistakes. Then we often redid assignments together to make sure that all topics were mastered.

Well, welcome to 4th grade and a student that is not always cooperative. I'm having to change my policy and take a different approach. I now issue grades for assignments in several subjects!

Do you give grades in your homeschool? When did you begin grading papers and keeping grade records? 

April 13, 2016

Why My Kids Read Aloud Every Day

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Recently a friend asked me if my children still read aloud to me and how often. 
The answer is that yes, my kids read aloud every day. 

However, I made a bit of mistake with my oldest child - I let her stop reading aloud to me too soon.

When I asked her to read part of a book to me a year ago (after not reading aloud to me frequently), I realized that she read without any inflection in her voice. She often skipped punctuation as she read. As a listener, it was difficult to follow the story because sentences and phrases ran together without any stopping points and there was no emotion to keep the listener engaged.

I resolved to make some changes in our homeschool to address some of these issues. 

Now I make sure that my kids have read aloud time daily. They either read parts of a book to me or to each other. No matter their audience, they are practicing reading aloud. 

What I've learned is that reading aloud is a skill that is not mastered by many people. Too often people are uncomfortable and insecure about reading aloud.

I've determined that my kids will learn to be comfortable reading to others.

Why is reading aloud important?

  • Reading aloud helps practice fluency. As my kids read aloud, they become more fluent readers and reading becomes easier. 

  • Reading aloud makes my kids slow down in their reading so they don't miss important details. Most people can read much faster when they read silently, but sometimes this is at the expense of details or nuances in the story. 

  • Reading aloud gives my kids practice speaking in front of others. Though they are not sharing original thoughts and ideas, they are learning to be comfortable speaking in front of an audience, no matter if the audience consists of only one person. 

  • Reading aloud gives my kids the chance to practice inflection and infusing a story with emotion. They can learn skills to help keep a listener engaged in their story and this will help them in the future if they need to give speeches or presentations. \

  • Reading aloud allows me to assess how well they are able to read the words and keep up with the flow of the story. I can also see what vocabulary words are pronounced incorrectly and if they are skipping important punctuation marks in the story. 

Now I have read aloud time scheduled into our day. They read aloud every day and also have silent reading time as well. 

However, I also make sure that I am reading aloud to them daily to provide a good model for reading. We also make liberal use of audiobooks to train their ears to be filled with well-read stories that are narrated with emotion and good inflection.

I wish I had not stopped having my oldest practice reading aloud, but I'm working to remedy my mistake by making read aloud time a priority in our homeschool.

And if you're looking for wonderful ideas for your next read aloud, The Read Aloud Handbook is one of my favorite resources for helping me choose our books.

April 11, 2016

{Review and Giveaway} Kwik Stix

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We've reviewed Kwik Stix before, but recently they came out with a new product - Kwik Stix Neons! My kids were thrilled to try out the new colors. 

And don't forget to scroll down to enter the giveaway for a set of Kwik Stix Primary Colors AND a set of Kwik Stix Neon Colors!

Kwik Stix were created by The Pencil Grip, Inc. They are solid tempera paint sticks that make painting mess-free. The sticks glide color on easily and dry in minutes. They can be used on paper, wood, canvas, cardboard, or even for painting Easter eggs or decorating pumpkins.

My kids decided to make a picture on canvas. I chose two canvases and we created designs with painter's tape. My kids painted each section a different color with their new Kwik Stix. And because the paint dries within minutes we were able to remove the tape and see our finished product right away. Now our beautiful canvases are hanging in our playroom!

All of my kids ages 10 down to age 3 love painting with the Kwik Stix. And I can let all of them, the toddler included, paint without supervision because these paint sticks don't cause any messes! When my kids need more of a particular color they are able to twist up the sticks and continue painting. These are my new favorite way to do art - easy, mess-free, and quick.

We loved the brightness of the 6 neon colors. My kids thought they were a great addition to our regular Kwik Stix and they were excited to have more colors. 

The Pencil Grip, Inc has just come out with metallic colors as well, and those are now on our wish list!

You can purchase Kwik Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc website or on Amazon.


Winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond to email.  I will verify the winning entry.  If the winner does not respond within that timeframe, a new winner will be selected.  The product offered is free of charge, no purchase necessary.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are not affiliated with this giveaway.  By providing your information on this form, you are providing your information to me and me alone.  I do not share any information and will only use your information in order to contact the winner.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And the Pencil Grip, Inc has wonderful pencil grips that are a favorite at my house. You can read my review here for more information!

April 6, 2016

How I Adapted the Workbox System to Organize My Homeschool

I wrote about how I am a workbox system dropout.

However, I was able to take some of the principles behind this system and create my own organizational system.

Here's how I organize our homeschool room, have fewer planning sessions, do less daily prep work, and maintain my sanity.

The key to my little system is a set of drawers on each side of our homeschool table and an abundance of notebook binders.

The other important aspect of my system is more upfront planning and fewer planning and prep sessions throughout the homeschool year.

Each side of our large homeschool table has a bank of drawers. I currently have each of my 4 children sitting at a different side of this table so they each have their own set of drawers.

I place all the curriculum we need for the semester in the drawers according to the order that we complete them during the day.

The top drawer is full of supplies like pencils, pens, crayons, markers, etc.

The second drawer holds logic books, poetry books, and our daily workbooks. These are the first items we work through in our school time together.

The third drawer holds the curriculum for whichever subject comes next in our daily routine.

The next two drawers hold the remaining curriculum items according to the order in which we complete them.

As we have our homeschool time together we just work through each drawer one at a time until we are done with school time. This helps me stay organized and not forget a subject (I can admit that I frequently want to "forget" about math or grammar). The drawer system also ensures that all of my curriculum stays in one place and is not MIA when I need it.

Bookshelf and Book Basket
I have a bookshelf dedicated to books for that particular school year. I have our read alouds, science books, and history books for the entire year on that shelf. When I need a book, it's right there for me to grab off the shelf.

I also have a book basket where I place books for the entire week. I pull them off the bookshelf and stack them in our basket. Then I refill the basket each weekend and not daily.

Notebook Binders
Rather than refill drawers with daily worksheets, I spend my summer printing out all necessary papers for our school year. Then all papers are filed in our notebooks.

My kids each have one binder per subject. And if they do any additional work or papers throughout the year, they can easily be filed in the correct notebook.

By the end of the year, we have a collection of all their work in each subject and I don't lose papers all over the house!

How and When I Plan
Instead of trying to plan and do some prep work each night, I do all of my planning and prep over the summer or at the beginning of a new semester. I spend several days organizing our curriculum drawers and filling our notebooks.

I put all supplies in our supply cabinet for easy access. I place all of our read aloud and history books in our bookshelf so they are ready for the year.

It does take a lot of time and brainpower to plan ahead during the summer. However, I've found that this is worth it for me to not have to do much homeschool work in the evenings.

My kids appreciate knowing the order of their schoolwork by looking through their drawers and they know what papers need to be completed in their notebooks. Nothing goes missing during our year and I save so much time by organizing over the summer.

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