Latest Writings

Debunking standardized test results

By now, if you child took a standardized test in the spring, you should have the results back. Unlike a school test which gives either a letter grade or a percentage, standardized tests give several different grades. None of the numbers you see indicate a passing or failing grade. What do the numbers mean to you and your child if there is no pass/fail grade? You have to break down the numbers into meaningful information.

 

Understanding a norm-referenced test

The standardized test your child took is called a norm-referenced test. Norm-reference is a process that allows scores from all versions of a single test to be normalized into a meaningful score. For example if your child took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) test at the third grade level, and your child’s test was version B and another child in a different city took the same level test but had version A, the scores would be different. Some questions on one version may be somewhat more difficult than questions in a different version. In order to normalize (norm-reference) the scores so that they accurately reflect an even playing field, the scaled/standard score is used. Why Do Standardized Testing Programs Report Scaled Scores (Tan, et al,) explains in detail how testing companies derive scaled scores.

 

Your test results will include a page that shows the breakdown of each test component, and a composite score. For each part of the test, there are four scores; SS, GE, NPR, and NS. Each score has a different meaning.

 

SS is a standard/scaled score. This score gives the actual grade received on the test. You can use this grade to see if your child is making improvements from year to year. However, this score is only meaningful if you take the same test every year. There is a scale next to your score that shows the proficiency level of your child. Most kids test at a proficient level. Some will score above or below proficient. Use the sub-test scores to find areas where your child excels and where they need improvement.

 

GE is the grade equivalent score. It is shown as a decimal. This grade does not tell you the grade level for your child. For example, if your fifth-grader has a GE score of 9.2 in math, it means that a ninth-grader in the second month of the school year would be expected to get a similar score on the test your child took. If the score was 4.9, then it means that a fourth-grader in the ninth month of school would be expected to get the same score. Use the GE grade to see if your child is performing at grade level or not.

 

NPR is the national percentile rank. This score shows where your child ranks nationally as compared to others who took the same test. Most kids will get a score somewhere in the 50 percentile. A score of 50 percent means that 50 percent of all students who took the test scored at or below this score. A score of 25 percent means that only 25 percent of all students taking this test scored at or below this score. A score of 80 percent means that your child did better than 80 percent of all students taking the test.

 

NS stands for national stanine. This is a single digit number assigned to your child’s score. The higher the number–the better the score. Nine is close to a perfect score.

 

Still confused? The powerpoint presentation Iowa Test of Basic Skills: A quick overview of score interpretation, gives a really simple and visual explanation of how to interpret scores.

 

Using test scores

Test scores are useful in helping you determine where your child is academically. The sub-scores in math and English will show areas that need improvement and areas where your child does well. Use the scores to develop a curriculum for the upcoming year that is exactly tailored to your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Standardized tests are just a tool. Use them to help you find the best curriculum for your child.

Posted on 4 August '14 by , under Standardized testing, Testing. No Comments.

Back to School in Fall 2014: How do I file?

Every homeschooler in Arkansas must file a Notice of Intent and a Waiver form no later than August 15, 2014. This is the final year parents can file paper forms. These are either mailed in or you can drop them off at the local Superintendent’s office. Whether to file electronically or by paper is a personal choice.

Paper Forms

To file your paper forms, download and print out the 2014-2015 paper forms. Fill out the forms and either mail them or drop them off at the Superintendent’s office for your school district. This is the final year for paper forms. You will have to lookup the contact information for your school district in order to fill the form out.

Electronic Forms

If you filed electronically last year, you have a user name and password. Go to the login page at the Department of Education’s website. Fill in your login information, and it will take you to the rest of the form.

If you have never filed electronically before, you must register for an account at the login page. Write down your user name and password. You will need it if you have to print out the forms later on.

 

If you forgot your login information, you can lookup your user name or password. I tried the reset password option–now I am locked out of my account—good grief. I contacted the Department of Education about this. Looks like I’ll have to wait before I can submit my forms.

Contact Info

If you have questions about any of the homeschool forms or regulations, contact Lisa Crook, Program Director at the Department of Education. She will be glad to answer your questions. I have contacted her in the past, and she is great to work with. You can also contact her by mail or phone:

Arkansas Department of Education

Division of Learning Services

Four Capitol Mall, Mail Slot 3

Little Rock, AR 72201

Phone: 501-682-1874

Fax: 501-371-3514

Posted on 3 August '14 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Homeschooling 101. No Comments.

Mid-Year doldrums

So here it is, the middle of March. The weather up until recently has been horrible, keeping most of us indoors this winter. Now that Spring is here, are your thoughts on lesson plans or getting outdoors? My breast cancer diagnosis taught me a lot of things. First, don’t push the lesson plans. There will be plenty of days where you will have time for lessons. If you and your kids are not in the mindset to sit and do math–don’t. Instead find something else to do. Almost anything can be considered educational if you put your mind to it. Here are some suggestions for those difficult days:

Math is Everywhere

Just about any activity can be turned into a math lesson. Go outdoors, plan the garden. Ask you kids to calculate the area of the garden beds and how many of each plant can be planted there. They will have to read the seed packet or planting instructions for live plants, determine how large the planting bed is and figure out how much space each plant requires. Topics covered: geometry, multiplication, reading, critical thinking skills, biology, and botany.

We plan on reinforcing our back fence so that we can bring in some chickens. If you have a similar fence project, ask your kids to measure the current fence (or space for a new fence) and calculate how much fencing is required. Then take a shopping trip for price comparisons. Topics covered: measurements, multiplication, perimeter, money skills, personal finance, life skills.

Chickens

Braekel poultry. Gold variant of the breed. Photograph by Stijn Ghesquiere 2004. 

Chickens

We are finally making the jump into suburban homesteading. This past summer we finally purchased a home in Arkansas although it is much smaller than anything we have lived in previously. Gardens are going in and we have decided to bring in chickens. This is a huge undertaking and it requires plenty of disciplines in order to bring this about.

For chickens, we had to determine if it was even legal to keep chickens within city limits. We checked with zoning and got the okay–hens okay, roosters not allowed. Next comes deciding on how many chicken we would need to provide a family of five with enough fresh eggs.

The egg question actually depends on the breed of chicken. Some produce a lot more than others. Production from a hen bred for commercial egg production is very different than a heritage breed. So, the kid did some math. Average yearly production from hens of a specific breed divided by 52 (number of weeks in a year.) Compare that to the number of eggs we buy or use in a week. Now add enough hens to reach the number of eggs your family requires. This requires researching chicken breeds, division, comparing numbers, addition and multiplication.

Deciding on a breed of chicken takes a lot of work. It is more than just egg production. Some chickens need the ability to free-range in order to be happy. Some fly well–others, not so much. Some tolerate cold better than others. Certain chickens are likely to scare easily while other are more mellow. Right now–we are still researching chickens. As we progress in our homesteading adventures, I will keep you posted as to how this all fits in with homeschool.

Other difficult day ideas

If your kids participate in scouts, 4-H, or similar group, take a day that is not going well to work on a merit badge or project. You can always find some school subject to tie this in with. Sometimes, taking a break from the norm is just what everyone needs to regroup and get back on track.

 

–Lynda

 

Posted on 21 March '14 by , under Homeschooling 101. No Comments.

Testing time in Arkansas: Are you ready?

Want to test privately this year? I am a certified test administrator for the Iowa and Stanford tests. I can administer tests for your homeschool groups or I administer tests individually. Another option would be to get a group together for testing. Here is a link to my profile. My certification comes from BJU Press.

 

Arkansas requires that all students in grades 3 through 9 take a norm-referenced standardized test every year. Parents can take the state provided tests at no charge, this option requires that you register for testing and you must go to the state testing site on the day and time you registered for. If you miss that test, you will have to find another option.

 

Arkansas also allows parents to choose which test their children take. This is the private option. Using a test administrator like myself is one option for ordering and administering a test. Another option is to use one of the testing services listed in the information packet that should be sent out by the end of February. There is a fee for private testing, no matter which test options you choose. Parents must pay for the test and many times for the test administration.

 

Certain students with disabilities may be exempt from testing. You should carefully read what is required in order to be exempt. Most testing sites can accommodate minor test modifications.

 

Once testing packets are sent out by the state, I will update this page.

 

—Lynda

Posted on 17 January '14 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Standardized testing, Testing. No Comments.

Information about Common Core

Common Core is alive in Arkansas schools. Homeschoolers should be concerned because the standardized tests in 2014 are being aligned to the standards in many school districts. This means that homeschoolers will be subjected to Common Core standards, even if we don’t agree to teach them.

Here are some pdf documents that you may want to read in order to better understand Common Core.

Common Core Fuzzy Math

Common Core Standards

Common Core Topic Papers

Common Core FAQ

 

Posted on 18 December '13 by , under Common Core, Standardized testing. No Comments.

Free Big History Curriculum from History Channel

Lynda Altman

Lynda Altman, author and creator of Arkansas Homeschoolers

This is just a quick post to let you know about a great freebie from the History Channel. If you have homeschool kids in middle school and high school, grab the free, Big History curriculum while supplies last. This is completely free, they do not charge for shipping.

You will receive a USB drive with the curriculum and videos on it. This curriculum coincides with the History Channel’s new series, Big History.

When History Channel did this with Ammerica, the Story of Us, I requested the DVD set. My kids and I were thrilled with it. We had a blast with all the activities.

To get your copy of Big History, just fill out the online form.

 

Hope this was helpful

— Lynda

Posted on 31 October '13 by , under Free or Almost free resources, Freebies, Homeschool Curriculum. No Comments.

Free access to Discovery Education for 30 days

I love freebies. Discovery Education has amazing content for grades kindergarten through 12. Once upon a time, the state of Arkansas gave homeschoolers free access to Discovery Streaming. Those days are long gone. The good news is that through the Home School Buyers Co-op you can get a free, 30-day trial to Discovery Streaming.

 

I like Discovery Streaming because it has video content on a variety of subjects. Students can explore history, art, science, math, and language arts. Parents can assign their children specific content to watch. The trial subscription is unlimited. Parents can preview all video content prior to allowing their children to watch.

 

In addition to the streaming videos, Discovery Education has lesson plans and activities. Sometimes even veteran homeschool parents need new ideas. I have found Discovery Education very helpful when I am putting together a unit study. Parents have plenty of multi-disciplinary options at their fingertips.

 

This is truly a free trial. You will not be asked to provide credit card information. If you love Discovery Education Streaming and want to purchase it for your homeschool; make your purchase through the Home School Buyers Co-op before September 30, 2013. They are currently offering a one-year subscription for $99. The retail price for Discovery Streaming is $199, so don’t wait to make a purchase if you want this for your homeschool.

 

I recommend getting the free 30-day trial. You have nothing to lose and if you like it, you can purchase it at a steep discount. This is a great offer, especially for households with limited TV. At $99 it costs about the same for the year as Netflix or Hulu Plus, but the content is educational.

 

 

Hope this was helpful

—Lynda

Posted on 20 September '13 by , under Free or Almost free resources, Freebies. No Comments.

Homeschool freebie: Make it Real by Math Mammoth

If you are not familiar with Math Mammoth, you should check them out. There is a ton of free math worksheets and materials on their website. One of my favorite freebies from this website is the Make it Real, Volume 1, activity sampler. The ten lessons in this sample book show your child exactly why math is important.

 

The lessons are real life situations that your child will eventually come across. Make it Real starts off with a lesson on choosing a cell phone plan. Your child is given a data set—rates for different plans—and they must choose which plan would be the most cost effective for a given situation. This lesson is for kids who have already been exposed to working with linear equations. After completing the lesson, why not have your child examine your current cell phone plan to see if you are getting the best deal.

 

Cooking in the Kitchen is the second activity in the sampler. This lesson involves working with fractions and percents. Students will explore the importance of fractions and percents by working with a recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. You can take this one step further and perform the practice exercises in your kitchen.

 

Several lessons include higher level math including calculus. Some lessons, such as the lesson on investigating cubic functions, may not be suitable for younger children. This particular lesson uses teen pregnancy statistics as the basis for the lesson. I know many parents who would prefer not to touch on this subject with younger children.

 

The ebook is free to download as a pdf file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader or other program that can read pdf files in order to use the book. You can download the Make it Real ebook here.

Hope this was helpful

–Lynda

Posted on 14 September '13 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Free or Almost free resources, Freebies, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

Curriculum Review: Artes Latinae

Homeschoolers who are using classical studies will want to include Latin as part of their curriculum. Finding a high quality Latin program can be difficult. This is especially true if you are teaching students who are in high school. Many of the programs available are not challenging enough for high school students. Another problem is teaching multiple children when there is a large age difference. The solution is a Latin program called Artes Latinae.

 

When I choose a homeschool curriculum, I pay attention to several key points. First, it has to be easily adaptable to teaching multiple ages. The program needs to be portable—up until very recently, I had to work around cancer treatments. But, I still want a program that I can access or take on the road with me. Language programs should include more than just reading and speaking the language. Finally, it needs to fit my teaching style and my kid’s learning style.

 

Artes Latinae meets my criteria. It is published by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. Back when I was first introduced to Artes Latinae, it included filmstrips, cassette tapes and workbooks (yes, I am that old.) The publishers have kept up with the times and there are two versions available. The traditional version uses workbooks, and CDs. A newer version, DVD-ROM. This version replaces the books and CDs with a DVD-ROM disc. Mary Pride gives Artes Latinae a First Place Award in her book Practical Homeschooling.

 

Adaptability

One of the best things about this program is that you can use it for almost any age, even if your child cannot read yet. Non-readers can use just the audio parts of the program. Fluent readers will be able to work the program at their own pace. Younger children will require help from an adult or older sibling. Asking kids under the age of nine to work independently for an extended amount of time is unreasonable, so expect to be there to assist younger children.

 

Where Artes Latinae really shines is in the middle and high school grades. Level 1 is the equivalent of a traditional high school Latin 1 class. Your teenagers can work independently or if you have more than one teen, they can work together on their Latin lessons.

 

Portability

Artes Latinae is portable. Whether you choose the traditional or DVD-ROM version, it is easy to take the materials with you. This means you can have kids working at the library, while waiting for appointments, or in the car. All you need is access to either a CD player, or with the DVD-ROM version—a laptop computer. I have not used the DVD-ROM version, so I am not sure if it will play in a car’s DVD player because it has text documents as well as audio on the disc.

 

Your kids can listen to the CD in the car or use the graded reader while on the road, at the library or wherever quiet activities are required.

 

No More Language in a Vacuum

Latin, like any other language, did not exist in a vacuum. Teaching a language without learning about the culture in which the language was used is useless. Artes Latinae teaches students about the culture in Ancient Rome. For high school students, this is a bonus. A single curriculum purchase will give you a foreign language credit and a history credit. The history credit can be anywhere from ½ credit to a full credit or more—depending on how involved you get in the culture of Ancient Rome.

 

The publishers offer books to further the study of Latin. Favorite childhood books such as the Cat in the Hat or How the Grinch Stole Christmas are available in Latin. For students who have completed Level 1 and are working on Level 2, advanced titles in Latin are available. Artes Latinae, Level 2, when combined with the advanced readers, is a great way to prepare for the AP Latin exam.

 

Classical Studies and More

Our homeschool follows Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and teaching methods. We have found that Artes Latinae fits into a Charlotte Mason homeschool. It obviously will work in a homeschool that is using classical studies. We used Artes Latinae as a unit study which incorporated Latin, Ancient Rome, and Roman and Greek mythology.

 

The program is adaptable to many learning styles, especially when you add in some of the readers for younger children. Hearing a favorite book read to them in Latin instead of English gives them a new perspective of the story.

 

Purchase Options

Artes Latinae is somewhat expensive. The cost adds up quickly when you start adding in the extra readers or if you want to purchase books on mythology. I would recommend using the Home School Buyers Co-op for purchasing the Traditional Version as it is available through September 16, at a 40 percent discount.

 

The Traditional Version for Level 1 and Level 2 include: books one and two, audio CD, teacher’s manual, graded reader, teacher’s manual for the graded reader, reference notebook (consumable), test booklet (consumable), and guide to tests. The retail price for the traditional version is $159.

 

The DVD-ROM version for Levels One and Two replaces the student textbooks and audio CD and combines them into a DVD-ROM. A free sample for the DVD-ROM version is available. The retail price for the DVD-ROM is $279.

 

In addition to the actual Artes Latinae curriculum, the Home School Buyers Co-op offers a mythology bundle, a Christmas bundle, and an “I am reading Latin” bundle, to compliment the Artes Latinae program. These bundles are offered at a 40 percent discount and can be purchased with or without the Latin program.

Posted on 4 September '13 by , under Homeschool Curriculum, Reviews. No Comments.

Homeschool Freebie: Math Mammoth Percent

I like things that are free and here is a good one. Math Mammoth is offering the Math Mammoth Percent ebook for free, now through August 18, 2013. The book is designed for middle school students or students performing in math grade levels six through eight.

If you are unfamiliar with Math Mammoth, this is a good time to check them out. They do not sell their math worksheets and curriculum directly, you have to go through one of several vendors, like the Home School Buyers Co-op,  to purchase it. All of the products are available for download, some are available in print and CD format.

Click here for the free Math Mammoth Percent ebook.

Hope you find this useful

 

–Lynda

Posted on 16 August '13 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Freebies, Homeschool Curriculum, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

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