by NCHE Guest Contributor Whitney Cranford Crowell

Out of all the months of the year, October is perhaps the one most associated with the ghoulish and the ghostly. But no witch or goblin could ever strike fear into the hearts of new homeschoolers as much as our state’s annual testing requirement.

Never fear! Testing your student once each year really shouldn’t be any scarier than the adorable little princesses and superheroes who parade through your neighborhood each October 31. Here are five reasons you should ditch the standardized testing superstition:

1. Nobody Has to See the Scores but You
Yes, that even includes your student! If doing well on a difficult test motivates and inspires your child to continue reaching higher, then by all means, share the results! But if test scores only produce anxiety or lower your child’s self-esteem, there’s no need to even mention them. Simply file the score sheet away as part of your school’s official records, and go on with life.

It’s possible that you may be asked to show proof of testing to a representative from DNPE at some
point in your homeschooling career, but most of these meetings are strictly voluntary. And DNPE isn’t
interested in evaluating your child’s test score, but only verifying that you’ve had him tested. Test scores may also be requested should you decide to enroll your child in a public or private school, but there are generally other options available for placement if you feel that they don’t accurately reflect your child’s abilities.

2. Testing Can Give You Good Information – About Your Student and About Yourself
While they’re far from perfect, standardized tests do exist for a reason, and they can give you valuable information about your student’s strengths and weaknesses. They can also show you where you, the teacher, may need to up your game and find a better way to meet your child’s needs– whether that means providing extra support or extra challenge. In order to glean the most useful feedback, it’s important that you know how to properly read the test’s score report, so be sure to take the time to study the explanatory key included with your child’s scores.

3. “Test Prep” Is Unnecessary
The emphasis on testing and test prep is one reason many families have left public school. But as
homeschoolers, we have the benefit of being able to use the tests for the good they provide us without the added stress of weeks of prep. If your child is completely unfamiliar with the mechanics of taking a test (such as filling in bubbles), you might wish to introduce those to her prior to test day. But spending a lot of time preparing for the test is unnecessary. Instead of test prep, focus on providing an enriching educational environment and experience.

4. Test Scores Aren’t the Boss of You
Annual and end-of-course testing can cause a lot of anxiety because of the influence they exert
over a class’s final grade or promotion to the next level. But in your homeschool, test scores don’t have to change anything unless you want them to. Decisions about the course of study, promotion to the next grade, and how high school credits are earned are completely up to you. You know your child best!

5. Finding and Administering a Test Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
The State of North Carolina requires homeschoolers to administer a “nationally standardized test or
other nationally standardized equivalent measurement” which “measure[s] achievement in the areas of English grammar, reading, spelling and mathematics” annually to each enrolled student. There are many options that fulfill this requirement. Most are relatively inexpensive (in the $25-$60 range), and many can even be administered at home, although some require the administrator to have a bachelor’s degree.

If you’re not comfortable administering a test at home, contact a few co-ops in your area to see if they
offer group testing. You can also utilize one of the many testing services in our state, or choose a test
that is given one-on-one by a trained administrator, such as the Woodcock-Johnson.

NCHE has a wealth of information about testing on its Testing and Testing Services page. Remember:
When it comes to testing, DO be prepared, but DON’T be scared!

Whitney Cranford Crowell knew she had reached peak homeschooling when she bought a custom nine-foot by six-foot bookcase with matching ladder and still did not have room for all the books. She lives in her childhood home outside High Point, with her husband of twenty years, their fifteen-year-old daughter, and their nine-year-old son.

Are you a new NCHE member? We’d love to meet you! Introduce yourself in the comment section below, or email us at nche@nche.com. We are serious about our commitment to serving each one of our members. Thinking of becoming a member? Start here.

Have you encountered the frustration of spending time and energy trying to teach your children something, only to discover that they completely forgot about it in a week, a day, or even in a few minutes?

In my recent interview with Andrew Pudewa, I asked him about how we can help our children remember what they are learning? Listen to our conversation to learn how three dynamics of memory work: 1) Frequency, 2) Intensity, and 3) Duration. Frequency is the basic repetition of facts that we often use. Intensity is a dramatic experience that causes us to remember something. And duration is the reinforcement of repetition over longer periods of time.

As you listen to our conversation, you will also hear about the time Andrew stapled his finger and learn how to say “toilet” in Japanese!

The rest of the interview covered challenges and tips on how to teach writing. This is a daunting task for many of us! If you’d like to see the portion of the interview on teaching writing, then join us on the NCHE Facebook page for a Watch Party on October 20 @ 3pm.

Go here to learn and more and sign up for a reminder.

 

Our family really likes bugs. This year, we sorely missed attending BugFest: the annual North Carolina bug festival. Insects are an important part of most ecosystems. They pollinate flowers and foods, help control harmful pests, and they are the food source for other animals. Plus, insects are pretty fascinating. Honeybees stop buzzing during an eclipse! In unison, they all become completely silent. That’s because honeybees don’t work in the dark. But not all bugs are friendly. Here are a few common North Carolina bugs to stay away from. Note: each insect’s Latin name is hyperlinked to an image so you may learn to identify them.

Spiders When it comes to spiders, the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) and black widow (Latrodectus mactans) are two dangerous species that live here in the Tar Heel state. Brown recluses are brown, nocturnal, and usually not aggressive. But their bites can be fatal. The black widow is far easier to spot: they are black and have a red hourglass on their bellies.

Kissing bugs (Triatominae) are flat and light to medium grey-brown in color. They have distinguishing stripes around their abdomen. They carry a parasite that can cause Chagas disease.

The Cow Killer, or Eastern Velvet Ant, (Dasymutilla occidentalis) is not an ant at all. It is actually a furry, black-and-red-striped wasp. You are most likely to see them at dusk.

Tussock Moth Caterpillars (Lophocampa caryae) have a number of species on the East Coast. Their bristles may cause swelling, rashes, allergic skin reactions, and some of their bristles are even venomous.

A Stinging Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) is easy to spot by the giant… spot on its back! Touching its bristles could make you feel nauseated.

Puss Caterpillars, pictured above, (Megalopyge opercularis) are the larval form of the southern flannel moth, and a relatively new arrival to our great state. The toxins that these stinging caterpillars carry on their hair are excruciating and could also be toxic.

If your family spends time outdoors, this old adage may be helpful: when in doubt, give a shout! That is what I was taught as a child, and it meant I needed to ask my parents (or another adult) before I touched anything I found in nature that I didn’t recognize—especially if it was red, furry, or spikey!

Are you a new NCHE member? We’d love to meet you! Introduce yourself in the comment section below, or email us at nche@nche.com. We are serious about our commitment to serving each one of our members. Thinking of becoming a member? Start here.

Have you “had it up to here” with homeschooling your boys? They are a special kind of student! If we listen to our culture, there are no differences between boys and girls. But any common sense observation tells you otherwise, and so does the research. Boys and girls learn differently. It is such a relief to accept this reality and make the proper adjustments so that your boys can learn in the way that God created them to learn.

I sat down with Andrew Pudewa (creator of Excellence in Writing) in Virginia a few weeks back for an interview. One of the topics that emerged was the research behind how girls and boys learn differently and how we can make some helpful adjustments. Below you can view the part of our interview that addressed this topic. Some of the practical take-aways include:

  • Girls and boys learn differently and use their brains differently. 
  • Girls hear quieter sounds than boys. When boys can’t follow what is going on, they get bored very quickly.
  • Girls are more sensitive to volume, so be careful about raising your voice.
  • Help boys learn how to pay attention and develop the skill of listening.
  • Boys are not good at being still. Making them sit down often does not facilitate learning. 

The rest of the full interview covered challenges and tips on how to teach writing. This is a daunting task for many of us! If you’d like to see the portion of the interview on teaching writing, then join us on the NCHE Facebook page for a Watch Party on October 20 @ 3pm.

Go here to learn and more and sign up for a reminder.

 

This week, an amazing story of loyalty and integrity made the headlines—perhaps you saw it. Former NBA pro-basketball player Delonte West had fallen on hard times. When Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks (one of the teams for which West played) found out, Cuban went to find West and offer help. You can read the story here.

This story made a remarkable impression on me. Immediately, I saw the correlation between the relationship between these two gentlemen and the parable of the shepherd, the ninety-nine sheep, and the one who was lost. I thought of my own family and my community: the homeschool community.

Are homeschool families this loyal? Do we have the fervor to go out of our way to seek out those among us who are struggling—simply because they are ours to love and care for? What about those who have fallen on hard times, or those who are discouraged, ill, or alone?

When we look to the example of many first-generation homeschoolers, we see that what makes the homeschool community great is our willingness to humbly love and serve one another—in good times, and especially in hard times. I have observed deep fidelity in the homeschool community as moms drive one another to receive cancer treatments, pray for one another at co-op, and dads step in to help others rebuild after storms.

As homeschooling grows, I know that seasoned homeschool families will mentor new families in reading, writing, arithmetic, and high school transcripts. I earnestly hope we are also mindful shepherds who do not let our devotion to caring for one another fall by the wayside.

Mark Cuban’s financial, philanthropic, and industrial accomplishments are truly inspiring and remarkable. But whenever someone says his name from now on, this story of his willingness to love his friend is what I will always remember about him. I hope that the way homeschoolers care for one another is what will be remembered of us.

Are you a new NCHE member? We’d love to meet you! Introduce yourself in the comment section below, or email us at nche@nche.com. We are serious about our commitment to serving each one of our members. Thinking of becoming a member? Start here.