Home » Step-By-Step Guide to Homeschooling » Step 8: Evaluating Progress
Step 8: Evaluating Progress

Evaluating progress is essential to staying on target. Many of our ideas in this area will stem from the methods we use to teach our children. If you have decided on a mostly traditional educational method, you will likely implement tests periodically to help you evaluate what your children have learned.

“Too often, as parents and educators we attempt to evaluate student achievement when we have no idea where we started. Worse still, we use arbitrary assessment tools that don’t accurately measure progress in the areas on which we have been working.”

Teresa M. Moon, Evaluating for Excellence

There are other options that are particularly suited to home education. Our focus should always be on our child’s needs. Once those needs have been identified and a road map has been laid out to reach a specific goal, evaluation is simplified: “Did we get from Point A to Point B? If not, let’s figure out why, make adjustments, and try again. If so, let’s move on!”

However we choose to evaluate, let it be in an atmosphere of love and acceptance.


One way to quickly judge our progress is by its fruit.

  • Where is our child’s heart?
  • Is he happy, adjusted, secure?
  • Is he thriving; growing in wisdom and stature?

If so, we are doing a great job!

Personal Observation

Homeschooling takes advantage of the tutorial situation. Any good tutor can tell you at a moment’s notice how his student is progressing.

So it is with homeschool parents. We probably already know how our child will score on a particular test before he takes it. We can take advantage of these observations and put them to work for us, adjusting as we go along.

Further Reading


Have you ever judged how much someone knows about a subject by what he can tell you about it? Narration is a wonderful way to determine if a child truly has a grasp of a particular topic. We can easily fill in any gaps by simply talking it through.

Further Reading
  • Narration Beats Tests
    “For the literary subjects narration is the best way to find out what a child knows. But what about other subjects? How will we live if we don’t have multiple-choice tests resulting in statistics and percentages to point to? (Answer: how many children who pass such tests remember any of the material a few weeks later?)” Karen Andreola describes how narration can become a primary evaluation tool.


A portfolio is a wonderful way to document progress. Portfolios can be as complicated as writing our own textbook (principle method) or as simple as documenting a unit study with pictures, drawings, creations, or timelines.

For example, keep a sample of your child’s handwriting each year. Put it in a notebook. As your child looks back over the years, he will be amazed and encouraged by the progress he has made!

Further Reading


Checklists give us an option of covering the basic milestones, but in a way that fits our family’s needs. They help us feel confident that we haven’t left anything out while applying our own methods and standards.

Further Reading

Standardized Tests

Some homeschoolers use standardized tests because they are required to do so by their state laws. Others use standardized tests as a way to gauge a child’s educational progress.

We should be aware, however, that standardized tests can only measure how well our children score on subject matter taught in the public schools in comparison to public school children. Standardized tests are also primarily an indication of how much a child has memorized, not an indication of his ability to learn. Finally, a standardized test is not an effective tool for setting goals!

Further Reading
  • To Test or Not to Test
    “There are a growing number of parents (and educators) who do not believe testing is a valid measure of learning. Many are not willing to have their children tested at all. There are good reasons for concern. Standardized testing has several inherent weaknesses.” David and Laurie Callihan take a look at the problems with standardized testing.

Further Reading
Evaluating for Excellence

Evaluating for Excellence by Teresa Moon
(Originally published as How Do You Know What They Know) Too often we evaluate without knowing where we started. We evaluate using arbitrary evaluation tools that cannot tell us if we have met the goals we were working on. Teresa Moon provides us with a comprehensive and logical approach to evaluation that begins with determining what our child needs. Read our entire review.

Other ideas and reviews.

Additional Resources

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3 (Part 1)
Testing, Testing, 1-2-3 (Part 3)
“Parents are always wanting to know what tests their children need, where to get them, how to give them and when to give them. In the next few columns we will outline the tests recommended at various levels of schooling. We will provide our ideas on how to obtain them, give them and evaluate their results.” Three-part series by David and Laurie Callihan.

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