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Practice Tests for Standardized Testing

Good Morning! It is early in the morning and I just finished reviewing my daughter’s practice test for her standardized test in March. We like to use practice tests, to help us make minor tweaks in academic subjects that she may need more emphasis. One piece of advice is to review the practice tests, question by question.

photo-020After reviewing my daughter’s practice test, my assessment is that she did pretty well. Certainly, she has areas for improvement. However, I noticed something. Her strongest academic subject was her weakest overall score on the test. I was confused, so I went through the test, evaluating each question.

When I looked at the test, I felt my daughter did extremely well considering the quality of questions in the practice test book. For example, one problem in the practice test showed a picture of a gray shaded arena with seating sections. The student is to pick out which seating section are the best seats. My daughter got the question right. However, I do not know how she could easily read the numbers to figure out the seating sections. I think she made a good educated guess.

I feel that using practice tests are a sensible idea, especially if your child gets nervous for standardized testing. However, I would review the right and wrong questions to look for trends. In the end, my daughter needs additional review on poetry, punctuation, and government/civics. The information was helpful, but only because I reviewed the entire practice test. If I had taken the scores at face value, she would need to review; reading comprehension, word analysis, language mechanics, and government/civics.

I recommend that parents use practice tests to prepare their children for standardized testing, however be sure to review the details not just the overall scores.

Have a wonderful day!

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Homeschool Curriculum Budget Analysis: 7 Suggestions

Spring Blossoms

Just as the snow thaws and the weather starts to turn warmer, is a time that many homeschool parents begin the process of selecting curriculum for the next year.  Whether you are doing it for one child or many, this can be very nerve racking.  Depending on your curriculum, it can cost a pretty penny.

Homeschooling one child has a unique and sometimes frustrating inherent characteristic.  You are homeschooling ‘one’ child, so that the homeschool curriculum you buy is only for ‘one’ child.  Therefore, the investment cost per child can be higher compared to our multiple children homeschooling parent counterparts.  The homeschooling family wants to get the curriculum right.  You do not want to waste money.

I confess. I have bought math curriculum and discovered 2 months into the curriculum that it was too easy for my daughter.  I had to go out and buy another curriculum.  Did I feel bad that I had to do that? Yes.  Would I do it again? Yes.  The bottom line is that we as parents select the best curriculum programs that we think fit our child’s needs and learning style.

We have a finite amount of money in our family to buy curriculum each year.  In order to maximize the money, we follow a few basic suggestions or ideas:

  1. Assess a starting $$ for your curriculum budget. We start the year with an idea of the amount of money it will take to buy curriculum for my daughter.  Most importantly, we decide how we will put aside the money.  One year, I started saving money for curriculum in the fall of the previous year.  Little by little, the savings added up.
  2. Plan a basic curriculum outline. Decide what subjects you are going to cover in the next grade or homeschool year.  For instance, are you covering the Middle Ages this year or are you covering the Ancients in history, etc.?  It is important at this stage to get an idea of what you want to cover, not necessarily specifics.  By the way, I find that I tweak this throughout the curriculum process.  If you are new to homeschooling, look at some of the comprehensive programs to get an idea of costs.  Some of the programs that I look at to get budgetary costs are Bob Jones, Abeka, Alpha Omega, Classical Conversations, Sonlight, Saxon, etc.
  3. Pad or add extra $$ to your curriculum budget for workbooks, supplies, and experiment requirements.  For instance, we know that we will spend around $50.00 for my daughter’s science curriculum.  However, I usually pad or add extra money on the curriculum estimate.  Therefore, the science curriculum entry is $75.00.  I have learned that sometimes you need that extra money for workbooks, experiments, or other supplements that were not clear in the beginning.
  4. Do not forget about Co-op costs. If you are part of a homeschool co-op, plan to set aside an appropriate amount for textbooks and supplies.  Include this amount into your budget.  I signed up for a Co-op type program late one year.  The books and supplies were above my budget.  Thankfully, I set aside an ‘oops’ budget category.
  5. Create an ‘Oops’ budget category. I find that throughout the year, I usually need a resource or literature book that is not in the library.  The ‘Oops’ category allows me the freedom to be able to purchase the book during the school year.  You may have another name for this category.   I like ‘Oops’, however others like Miscellaneous.
  6. Plan for appropriate level. Starting in the springtime, homeschool curriculum vendors offer discounts. It coincides with the start of the homeschool curriculum conventions.  If you know what curriculum you want, it can be a good way to save money.  However, I do caution at this point.  I found that between March and September, my daughter learns a lot of material.  The books that I felt were the right level in March and April, changed by the time we got to September.  This is why we purchased an expensive math program only to replace with a more advanced math program once the school year started.
  7. Do not assume free curriculum for the budget. Many homeschoolers are tight on budget whether it is curriculum or just daily household needs.  One of the traps that sometimes, homeschoolers fall into is thinking that we can get the curriculum we need free or reduced price.  While we may in the end be able to find the curriculum at reduced prices or free. For budgetary purposes, I have found it better to put a budget amount for each subject.

Building the curriculum budget is a task that I do not take lightly.  It takes a lot of effort to earn the money for curriculum and time to find the right curriculum.  Please do not minimize the task.  You will save money through planning the curriculum budget.  If nothing else, it starts the planning process for the next year.

Look for our next article on Comprehensive Homeschool Budget: 7 Costs to Consider.

Have a wonderful day!