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Common Core’s Changes to SAT and ACT are No Problem For Homeschoolers

Common Core’s Changes to SAT and ACT are No Problem For Homeschoolers

States are busy implementing Common Core State Standards.  According to the Common Core website, “Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have voluntarily adopted and are moving forward with the standards.”

The Home School Legal Defense Association says this national standardization of English Language Arts and Mathematics will affect all students, even homeschoolers, in three ways: “First, designers of the expanded statewide longitudinal databases fully intend to collect data about homeschool and private school students. Second, college admissions standards will be affected: Common Core standards for college readiness will be used by institutions of higher learning to determine whether a student is ready to enroll in a postsecondary course. Third, curriculum and standardized tests are being rewritten to conform to the Common Core.”

In this post, I’ll discuss the second way Common Core will affect homeschoolers.

It’s simply a fact that homeschoolers have to take standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to get into college, even in states that require no standardized testing of homeschoolers for the duration of their K-12 school years.  Homeschoolers have to take these tests and do well on them in order to legitimize their atypical education in the eyes of college admissions boards.

In some ways, standardized tests are great for homeschoolers.  They provide parents a way to see if their child is measuring up to his same-age peers.  They give parents an idea of what subjects need more work and in what areas their child is excelling.  And, importantly, standardized tests prove to the world that, academically-speaking, homeschooling is successful for the majority of its students. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschoolers “typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.”

What happens to homeschoolers when these tests get rewritten to conform to the Common Core standards for Math and English?

Nothing.

With the utmost respect to HSLDA, so what if “the new assessments and revised tests will create de facto national testing?”  We already have “de facto national testing” for every student who wants to get into college: homeschoolers, public schoolers, and private schoolers alike.  We have “de facto national testing” for anyone who must pass the ASVAP to join the military or take the GED to get a job, too. Granted, HSLDA’s fear is that the CCSS will lead to a nationalized curriculum for all students.

But this de facto national testing” does not have to impact what we actually teach in our homeschools.  Our job (in part), as homeschooling parents, is to academically prepare our children for their future, whether it’s vocational training or college, or in the words of the Common Core, “college and career-ready.”

Of course, we know our job as homeschooling parents goes far beyond the academic.  We’re tasked to prepare our children for life, not just the way in which they’ll earn money for their lives.  Character, spiritual and social formation are all included.

Sarah Mackenzie, in her new book, Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace puts it this way: “Here’s a hard truth we might as well get used to: much of the best learning cannot be proven, documented, or demonstrated.  The kind of encounters that form our children’s hearts, minds, and souls occur as they come in contact with great books, learn to ask hard questions, and their minds are trained to think logically and well.”

If parents are doing this, the standardized tests are a mere formality. Students who grapple with original texts, big ideas, classic literature, and math concepts in concert with math operations will be able to perform well on standardized tests. Parents must “Change the way you assess your success.  The quality of the encounter is what matters.”

Common Core Does Not Prepare Teachers How to Teach

A recent article in the NY Times Magazine by Elizabeth Green details the problem with requiring teachers to conform to the Common Core standards in math, but not helping them with the “how.”  She argues, “The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it.”

American teachers, she argues, “learn to teach primarily by recalling their memories of having been taught, an average of 13,000 hours of instruction over a typical childhood.”  Frustratingly, the way teachers were taught math was ineffective.  Americans usually are good at operations and formulas, but can’t connect these to actual concepts, Green says.

Most of us can recall how we were taught: the teacher showed us the new idea or operation for the day, we practiced it together as a class, then we were set to work doing an infinity of math problems on our own.  If we didn’t get the concept, we practiced what seemed like hundreds of problems wrong.  I remember how shockingly unusual (and therefore terribly frustrating) it was to have my AP Calculus teacher in high school make me go try to figure out my mistakes instead of just telling me (“teaching me”) where I went wrong.

This idea of making students “figure it out” is foreign, literally, to American schools.

Green compares American math education to the Japanese system, juxtaposing an “ ‘I, We, You’’ approach “with a structure you might call ‘You, Y’all, We.’ ”  In the Japanese approach, students first have to try to figure out the new concept, then they work together to do it, then they do it as a class.  The onus is on the student to “figure it out;” they’re not spoon-fed information like American math students and then made to practice, practice, practice, and, Green argues, the Japanese perform much better than Americans.

American teachers don’t teach this way because it’s not how they were taught.  American homeschooling parents probably were not taught this way either.  So, in order for homeschooling parents to redeem the education of their children, they have to redeem their own educations, too.  They have to change how they’re teaching their children.

What Does How We Teach Have to Do With Common Core?

Common Core implementation is leading to changes in standardized tests.  I assert that this will not affect homeschoolers, here’s why:

As long as homeschooling parents help their kids learn math, language arts, and other subjects, in whatever way works best for the parent and child together, homeschooled kids will pass the new standardized tests anyway because they’ll know the material.

Helping your kids learn math may take a paradigm shift like moving from “I, We, You” to “You, Y’all, We,” but the homeschool environment is perfect for this kind of learning.  The one-on-one instruction in the homeschool is ideal for the parent to be able to actually assess what her child has learned on a daily basis, and without resorting to standardized tests.

The key is, as Sarah Mackenzie says, “The quality of the encounter is what matters.”

Parents are in the perfect position to make their students “figure it out,” because they don’t have to teach to the standards like public school teachers are required to do.  Homeschooling parents can eschew the Common Core standards, whereas public school teachers are bound by them. Homeschooling parents who focus their efforts on quality encounters will see their children succeed, much to the surprise and chagrin of Common Core advocates, on any SAT or ACT they take.

Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.

Rhiannon

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  • One of the things I most love about #homeschooling is the freedom it allows us to love books. It is 9:30am. We just finished breakfast after getting up late because last night we had troop meetings for our scouting groups. The kids are all well-fed and well-rested. But before we start on reading the books I’ve assigned them, we’re taking some time to read our own choices.
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When I was a kid, we had plenty of books in the house, but I never really read for pleasure. It didn’t matter that my mom was a librarian and teacher. I wanted to be outside. I thought reading was for school hours and school work.
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I carried these thoughts through high school and college, where I read a lot of really great books, but not many that I chose for myself.
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My kids will have a totally different experience. Not saying mine was bad, but I am saying that I missed out on worlds or great books and thoughts from great authors in my younger years that I am only discovering now as an adult: the middle books of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Arthur Conan Doyle, Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter, Harry Potter, and many more.
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My kids have the TIME FREEDOM to get to know the thoughts of authors they CHOOSE. I don’t care how you school, all kids deserve this opportunity. All kids DESERVE to believe that books can be FUN and INTERESTING and MYSTERIOUS and LOVELY.
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What can you do today as a homeschooling/private schooling/public schooling parent to help your kids love reading? Make no mistake: if ALL our kids take from their educations is a habit of reading widely and enjoying it, they will stand a great chance of becoming great adult humans.
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#amreading #readaloudrevival #bravewriterlifestyle #homeschool #schoolchoice #charlottemasonirl
  • FINALLY! Everyone is well (enough) that we are back to school. No one is in bed with a fever #winning . Instead, we get to spend our morning with the Scottish Play. I 💛 me some Shakespeare and #MorningTime !
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#homeschool #homeschooling #family #amreading #shakespeare #bravewriterlifestyle
  • Fact: The #Navy wife life will kill you if you don’t find support somehow.
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Fact: That support will almost 100% of the time be the females around you.
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Fact: Our whole family got the flu literally THE DAY Jake’s boat pulled out.
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Fact: This little @theglorioustable ditty about crashing our proverbial banana trucks posted the same day. God has a sense of humor. Link also in profile. (https://theglorioustable.com/2020/01/banana-truck-out-of-control-devotional/)
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The fact that I am just now getting around to posting about it tells you the extent to which the flu knocked me on my ass. I was in bed for three days straight. I am NEVER this sick.
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Fact: If it weren’t for strong, kind, generous WOMEN around me, I probably would have ended up in the hospital and my kids may or may not be alive. The menfolk care too, they just weren’t here. Couldn’t support. Had their own work to do. The mission does not stop for sick families.
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Find yourself a tribe if you want to survive. You HAVE to have someone to call. Even if, like me, it’s your mom (who will--wisely--tell you to ask for local help even though you don’t want to be a bother.) I needed prayers, sure, but more than that, I needed local people to literally come to my house and feed my kids and put food in my fridge, be here while I went to the doctor, and put my kids to bed when I was too sick to stay awake a minute longer. A virtual community CANNOT do those things. It can try, but a local community has power a virtual community will never have.
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Another post on this topic here: (https://theglorioustable.com/2019/05/how-to-build-a-tangible-community/)
#community #Navywifelife #momlife #sisterhood
  • Happy New Year and all, but more importantly, today we got to watch our @wyo_football win the Arizona Bowl. (With a freshman QB starting for the 1st time ever, btw 😮😮😮💪🏻) Way to go Pokes! #theWorldNeedsMoreCowboys #OneWyoming #GoWyo
  • We always have so much fun doing projects from @artforkidshub #homeschool #trynewthings #watercolor
  • Morning Time Details! E. (12), S. (almost 8), and L. (6). Our Morning Time morphs as the kids grow and change. It usually includes a combination of memory work and reading aloud. We try to cover a WHOLE LOT of things: Shakespeare, Bible, poetry, catechism, hymns, timeline, art study, composer study, and Ambleside selections for nature study, tales, and church history. This term I’m adding Plutarch.
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The hard part is figuring out where I want to aim, with the 5-year gap between E. and S., and then L. being a newbie to full-on school. Having moved twice in 2019, I nixed MT and just focused on individual work. That came with costs. Shakespeare, Plutarch, art study, and composer study suffered. Memory work barely happened at all. I was BUSY. We missed out on discussing things together. Now that we’re settled, it’s time to restart MT.
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This term I’ve decided to aim Shakespeare and Plutarch at the oldest, while the girls listen in and do handwriting/drawing/fine motor. I won’t ask them for much narration. Our reading schedule for these is AMBITIOUS. Maybe crazy. Then we’ll do all the memory & read aloud stuff that suits everyone. These lessons are SHORT. Then E. will go do his individual work while I read aloud w/ just the girls.
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Also, “Morning Time” is a misnomer, considering we break it up throughout the day. It should really be called Morning/Lunch/Nap Time. I need a new name. Circle Time? Except we don’t sit in a circle. Together school? Except we’re together doing school all day. I don’t think English has the word I’m looking for. Maybe Tertulia or Salon?
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Our actual coursework is: the Scottish Play, Plutarch is Alexander the Great’s life, our artist is Gustave Courbet, composer is Paganini, Bible memory is Psalm 46, Hymn is Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me, read alouds will rotate from Burgess Bird Book, Trial and Triumph, Blue Fairy Book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Vanderbeekers, & picture books. Timeline is from Classical Conversations. Poems are Charge of the Light Brigade, Winter Night by Teasdale, and The Land of Nod.
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Whew! It’s gonna be a fun term! What do you guys do for Morning Time?

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