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In this episode of the Your Morning Basket podcast, host Pam Barnhill discusses how to assess learning in your homeschool Morning Time. She explains the importance of setting goals, self-assessment, parent observation, and real-world application in evaluating your children’s progress. In this episode of the Your Morning Basket podcast, host Pam Barnhill discusses how to assess learning in your homeschool Morning Time.

However, she emphasizes that non-traditional methods of assessment, such as building relationships and fostering a love for learning, are just as important in evaluating the success of your morning time routine. If you’re looking for ways to measure your homeschooling progress beyond traditional tests and grades, be sure to tune in to this insightful episode!

Pam: Welcome to episode 135 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill. So happy you’re here today. And today we’re gonna be talking about something a little bit different. We’re gonna be talking about how can we measure our success with homeschooling, especially if we’re using a practice like Morning Time where we’re not exactly giving grades to our kids. How do we know that this is working? And we’re gonna break this down in a few different ways today.
So homeschooling it can be rather non-traditional and there are a lot of homeschoolers who don’t give grades, and there are a lot of reasons for that. I actually have a 10 Minutes to a Better Homeschool podcast. I’ll link for you about why grades are not really the best way to measure your homeschooling efforts, and certainly with something like Morning Time, you know, I don’t see you putting Morning Time on a transcript and actually putting a grade label on that for one thing. A lot of people aren’t gonna know what you’re talking about, and I can even talk a little bit later in this podcast about how you might use some of the things that you’re doing in Morning Time on your transcript.

But the very first thing is, let’s talk about goals. So one of the ways to measure the success of your homeschooling through Morning Time is by setting some goals. And you can either do individual goals for each of your children, like this child is going to memorize this many poems or something of that nature.

Now, even with memorizing poetry, my family does this together, so I would even make family learning goals. So Morning Time might be a place instead of doing individual goals for each child, you do some family learning goals and you say, as a family, we are going to memorize. 15 poems this year. Now, why would we do that?

Because we’re not memorizing poetry just to, for the sake of memorizing poetry or as a parlor trick or to show off for the grandparents. But instead, we’re memorizing that poetry because of that sophisticated language patterns that we want to internalize and then be able to use in our writing. And Andrew Pudewa talks about that in his building Competent Communicators Talk, and I’ll link that one for you.

So we have a reason. This is the reason we want to build sophisticated language patterns. One of the ways we do that is through poetry. How can we move ourselves forward and have an understanding that we’re making progress with this? And that is through memorizing poems. And we want to be sure that we don’t kind of languish and get stuck.

So we’re going to set a goal to memorize. 10 to 15 poems this year and see if we can meet that goal. That’s how we’re measuring our success in this instance. Now we can always dive deeper and look at different things in different ways through parent observation.

So this would be the next step. So our goal is to memorize 10 to 15 poems this year. We know we’re doing that. We’re focusing on the behavior. We’re focusing on something we can control. And if you’re like Pam, there’s no way my kids can memorize 10 poems. We’ve got two or three podcasts on memory work. They totally can. Don’t make it drill and kill. Make it a lot of fun. Don’t make ’em really long poems, and you will be memorizing 10 to 15 poems in a year. So that is the goal. And focusing on the behavior, what we’re doing. Then you could take a step back and you can look at observing as the parent.

You are making observations about your child and you are observing their growth. And so let’s go back to those sophisticated language patterns. Are you noticing that your child is using some of those language patterns in their writing? Can you take a piece of writing from the beginning of the year and a piece of their current writing and look and see a difference in how they’re expressing themselves through words?

Have you noticed a difference in their vocabulary and the way they’re talking to you? So those are two questions that you might ask yourself and just jot down in a journal. Are you observing that? Now, I don’t get hyper vigilant about this. I don’t like stress about this all the time. Like, oh, are you know, have they used five new words this week?

Or do I notice a difference in the patterns of their writing? This is really something that happens over time and you know, I’ve noticed with my kids before, it’s like, wow, where did that vocabulary come from? Like this is a kid who does not like to read and they come up with some of the most amazing word usages, and I’m like, where did that kid get that word? And it’s, it’s from the poetry. It’s from the poetry that I’ve made him memorize that he’s not always happy about memorizing. He never complained when he was younger, but now that he’s 16, he’s decided, oh wait, I ratted him out. He’s decided that, you know, it’s not quite as important to memorize poetry. What he doesn’t realize is that I can totally see the difference in his vocabulary and how well spoken he is because of the fact that he has spent so much time immersed in all of this poetry, and that comes from parent observation.

Now, you can also observe about so many things, and then one offshoot of parent observation is actually having conversations; having conversations about the things that you’re learning in Morning Time. And so this is a form of that parent observation. So as you’re reading a book to your child you know, the first thing you can do is have them narrate to you, but you can then also have a conversation about what you’ve read.

That is not the same as narration. We have a great podcast with Sonya Schaffer on what narration is, but discussion, or conversation is a different thing. Conversation’s easy to have, and I find that a lot of times kids want to talk about things. They want to talk about these big, meaty subjects. So over the past few months, my kids and I have been studying World War II.

We’re reading Lois Lowry’s, Number the Stars, and talking about some of the things that are going on in that book. And then we’re also reading the book Bomb, which was about the Manhattan Project. Talking about some of the things in that book and so just by having these interesting conversations, even conversations that are surface level about, “oh, I wonder why he did that and what happened next?” and those kinds of things. But then also deeper conversations like, “Oh, what was the motivation for spying? Why? Why do you think he did that? Oh, how do you feel about that?” Then I know from those conversations that they are engaged with the reading material. They’re interested in what’s going on and through the answers that they’re giving me and the questions that they’re raising, cuz this is not just me questioning them, but also like having a real, legit conversation and them questioning as well, I know that they have a deep understanding of the material in that book and they are engaging with it. So that is a wonderful way. Never underestimate the power of conversation and assessing whether or not your child is learning material and developing as a whole human being.

So the next thing you could do is look for ways to apply what you’re doing in the real world. Now, some of this might be conversations that they have with other people. Can they engage with somebody else and have a conversation about what you’ve been learning about? So that’s not a conversation that you’re having to assess their learning directly, but you’re observing this to see if out in the real world they can talk intelligently about some of the things that you’ve been studying in your Morning Time. Those instances can sometimes be rare, sometimes not. Like I’ve had my daughter lean over in the middle of the pastors sermon at church and whisper, I remember this, you know, because it’s something that we’ve learned about at home and so these situations do come up now when we do things like read Life of Fred in our Morning Time or study a sentence a day in our Morning Time. Those are definite situations where I can see the real world application of our learning. I can see that they’ve taken the concept that we’ve read about in Life of Fred and that they’re then able to apply it to a situation somewhere else, or the same with the grammar.

They’ve taken a concept that we’ve talked. In our grammar with our sentence a day, and they’re able then to use that grammar concept in the real world and in their writing. So it’s always I think, a little easier with those skill-based subjects.

So, so far we’ve talked about goals, either individual goals or family goals. We’ve talked about observation, we’ve talked about discussion, and then we’ve talked about a real world application.

So the next thing I wanna talk about is self-assessment. Can you encourage your child to reflect on their own learning experiences? Can they point out what they’ve learned, places where they might wanna learn more and any goals that they have for the future? And so part of this comes in the planning process. And then part of this comes just at, you know, wrapping up at the end of the year. So can you talk to them? And this does not have to be like a big formal thing. This can be when you finish a book. So if you finished reading aloud a book, and you’ve closed the book on the last day, can you ask them just to reflect out loud, this doesn’t have to be a formal writing assignment. Ask them what they’ve learned from the book. Did it spark their curiosity to learn anything else?

And the same thing goes for something skill-based, like a Life of Fred or grammar sentences, or even learning a foreign language. After a certain amount of time, ask them like, where do you think you’re going well, with this? Where do you think you need to improve? Do we need to get some other resources to help you understand better?

And this kind of self-assessment that kids do through practice, they’re not gonna be great at it to begin with just like we are not necessarily gonna be great at writing individualized learning goals or you know, keeping track of all of our observations to begin with. They’re not gonna be great at it to begin with, but over time they get better at it, the more they practice.

And this self assessment skill is a skill that they can take well into their life. I mean, it is always something that you can use to reflect on your learning experiences, think about what you’ve learned, what you need to improve on, and then set yourself some goals for the future as human beings, as learning human beings, as lifelong learners. This is something that we really should be doing quite often for ourselves. It is a skillset. It is something that we’re going to want to. Our children to do. And so by having these informal conversations in our Morning Time about things that they’ve. And what they want to improve and maybe what else they want to learn about next you’re modeling for them and teaching for them the process of this self-assessment that they can use later. So don’t forget that self-assessment is a very important part of what you can do to assess how your kids are doing in Morning Time.

And it’s their self-assessment, but there’s also a bit of your self-assessment, like your self-assessment as the leader of their Morning Time as well. So just doing an assessment of your Morning Time periodically, maybe every three months, and follow that same process. What learning experiences have you had in your Morning Time? What have you taught the children? What have you presented to them? What have you learned with them? Identify those things. Think about areas where maybe your Morning Time is going a little bit off the rails and needs to improve a little bit, or, you know, think about the observations you’ve made. Are there some subjects that your kids would really enjoy adding to Morning Time?

And then create a few goals for the next three months of your Morning Time. So this totally works for your self-assessment of your Morning Time as a whole, and that is another way that you can assess what learning is going on and happening in your homeschool.

Finally, I said I would talk about what are some of the ways that you can use the things that you do in Morning Time in a more traditional assessment model, and that would be like issuing a transcript to a high schooler. So one of the things that we do in Morning Time is we spend about, and now it’s about 10 minutes. It used to be about 15 minutes, but we spend about 10 minutes a day working on our poetry memory work. And I spoke earlier about why that we felt that’s important. This is part of their language arts. And so one of the things that I do is add up an estimate of the number of minutes that we have spent on our poetry memory work over the course of the year, and that time estimate counts towards their English language Arts credit for the school year.

And so that is part of their grade now, they’re always getting an A for this part of their grade because they’re always mastering the material. I find it as virtually impossible, we’ve found one or two pieces of memory work where we’ve struggled, but it’s virtually impossible for us to say the same piece over and over and over again every single day and not master the material.

And I don’t pin my kids down with the stare and force them to perform and say the poem by themselves. But I can hear them all saying the poem and I know that they are able to do it and they’ve mastered the material so they get an A for that portion and that, you know over, if you’re doing 10 minutes a day, five days a week, you’ve got about 50 minutes a week of poetry.

And it adds up over the course of the year and then you have so many hours to put towards their 160 hour language arts credit. The same thing goes with reading aloud. So if you are reading. Some literature books with your high schoolers, if you’re reading aloud some history books with your high schoolers.

The way you count this in a more traditional assessment model is you add the number of minutes together and you count that towards the hours for their credit. Now, let’s say you’ve already done that for the year. You’ve already read a book aloud and you forgot to add up the number of minutes that you were reading.

No worries. Simply pull up an audio book version of the book and see how many hours. Was that audiobook, because it took you about the same amount of time to read it aloud as did the the person who read the audiobook. So that is a great rule of thumb. Jamie Martin from Simple Homeschool taught me that little hack and so that would be the number of hours that would count towards your 160 hours of credit. Now then what grade are you going to give them for that book you’ve read aloud? Well, that can, you can do based on observation. Were they attentive? Did they have good discussions about the material? You could simply give them a pass fail kind of grade.

But I don’t think there’s any problem with a child who is listening and engaged with the material and willing to talk about it they get an A for that one in my book for that portion of their language arts credit or their history credit. And then you probably have some other methods of assessment for other portions.

But that is the way that you can use what you’re doing in Morning Time and more traditionally measure success, especially when you get to those high school years and you. You want for one thing, their time and Morning Time to count and be worth it. But also you want, you want it to count for you, like you, you know, it counts deep down in your heart, but you also, like, you only have so many hours in your day as well. So if you’re gonna sit there and read aloud to your kids for an hour each day. You kind of want it to count as well as them wanting it to count, and so that’s a way to make it count.

I think as more and more people begin to lean into the idea of a homeschool lifestyle, more and more people are going to realize that grades and traditional methods of assessment are not the only way to make sure that your kids are learning and I really believe that these non-traditional methods of assessment that we would use, not only in our Morning Time, but also all throughout the day, are great ways to be sure that your kids are learning and in some ways far superior to taking a test, especially a multiple choice test. Because that really just becomes a logic game as opposed to a true measure of learning and, and really leaning into and knowing whether or not your kids are learning the material. I actually think these methods are superior to some of the traditional methods that they have to use in a K through 12 classroom or a college classroom because they have a large number of children that they’re trying to assess all at once, whereas you are only assessing the children in your family.

I would just encourage you though, that some of these things may not come easy to you as you get started with them. These might not be things that you intuitively know how to do. That’s okay because they’re skills and you’re gonna begin practicing these skills and then you’re going to get better at them as you go on.

One of the first things you might need to do is set aside some time to actually practice these skills because it might not be intuitive to you. It might not be something that you think about doing naturally. So when it comes to setting goals, this is a great thing to do at the beginning of a school year or the beginning of a semester or once a quarter. So go ahead and note some time down in your calendar

With our, Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot planning course. We always do this at the beginning of the school year, and then we have a periodic review set up about four times a year. Where parents are encouraged to go back through and set some more goals. So set aside time on your calendar to do that, and then if you would like help learning how to write goals that are gonna serve you and your family, we cover that in depth and Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot.

Self-assessment time and parent observation time might be something that you go ahead and put on your calendar to do periodically as well. And then real world application is going to be basically things that you notice as you, as you are out and about, but you will learn to notice those things and say, “Hey, I think I am actually seeing that.” Those tend to sneak up on me more than anything else. Seeing that little kind of real world application, I’ll be like, oh yeah, that came from something that we read or did in Morning Time. But certainly the self-assessment and the parent observation, you can go ahead and schedule into your calendar at a regular basis. So maybe once a month, once every six weeks, you’re gonna talk to the kids, you’re gonna have them self-assess, you are gonna assess your role in Morning Time as the planner of Morning Time and the co-learner.

Now something like discussion that is going to be happening on a much more regular basis. So that’s gonna be something that you’re quite possibly doing every single day, but you could also plan for it once a week. So yeah, I talked about finishing the book, closing the book, and then having a discussion if you want to discuss a little more often, because sometimes these books get a little bit lengthy.

Make a note in your calendar for a day that you are less busy. And you could say, this is the day that I’m going to have a few questions that I can ask about this book so we can talk about it and have some good, meaty conversations about this book. So put it in your Morning Time plan. For a day that, you know, you don’t have a lot of extra things going on and write out a couple of discussion questions that you can use to talk to the kids about that particular story.

And so that way it doesn’t get pushed aside, you don’t forget it. You can, you can certainly see it. In your plans and know that that is something that you’re going to do. But with a little bit of practice, you can build all of these skills and you can build the awareness to do them on a regular basis and really feel confident that what you are doing in your Morning Time is making a difference in your children’s education.

Now, I want to close this by talking about one of the important purposes of Morning Time is to fill their cups, to fill the cups of your children before you ask them to produce for you. And if you, we have an episode of the podcast called Why Morning Time? I don’t remember the number. I’ll link it for you.

But that is one of the purposes of Morning Time, and that is not quantitative. You’re not gonna be able to measure that one, and you don’t necessarily. Need to assess it other than the fact that everyone should be delighting somewhat in Morning Time. Now, everybody will not be delighting in every minute of Morning Time. That’s just not the way that works. There are gonna be grumpy Morning Times. There are gonna be Morning Times where nobody’s having any fun, but as a whole, for the most part, Morning Time should be this delightful time where you’re enjoying each other and you’re enjoying that the content that you’re coming in contact with.

This is really difficult to measure other than the smiles that are on the faces around you. And it’s not necessarily something that colleges or cover schools are interested in, they’re not like, they’re not like, how much are you enjoying your homeschool experience? So that’s not something that necessarily has value to the world at large, but it’s very important to me.

And so to me, that enjoyment, that delight, those relationships trump anything else that we are doing in our Morning Time. So if we, if, if we’re not getting a lot of things done that I can assess and put on a transcript and that is just not as important to me as the relationships that I am building with my children. That by far comes first in what we’re doing together.

All right, so I hope that there was something here that was helpful to you. I mentioned a lot of things. Now I’ve gotta go back and listen for ’em and drop all the links for you. So do be sure to come over and check out the show notes. You can find them in the podcast description down below or 1 35 and hey, let me know. How are you measuring the success of your Morning Time? How are you assessing the education that your kids are getting from it?

Links and Resources from Today’s Show

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous WeaponBomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous WeaponNumber the Stars: A Newbery Award WinnerNumber the Stars: A Newbery Award WinnerLife of Fred Decimals and PercentsLife of Fred Decimals and Percents


Key Ideas about Measuring Homeschool Success

  • Morning time is a valuable opportunity to create meaningful and enjoyable learning experiences with your children.
  • Non-traditional methods of assessment, such as self-assessment, parent observation, and real-world application, can be effective ways to measure your children’s learning in Morning Time.
  • The primary purpose of morning time is to fill your children’s cups before asking them to produce for you, and fostering enjoyment and relationships is more important than measurable outcomes.
  • Practicing skills such as setting goals, self-assessment, and observation may not come naturally at first, but with practice, you can become more proficient in these areas.
  • Morning time can provide a foundation for your children’s education that can benefit them throughout their lives.

Find What you Want to Hear

  • [1:37] Setting Goals
  • [6:05] Using discussion to evaluate understanding
  • [8:00] Applying concepts in the real world
  • [10:22] The value of self-assessment
  • [13:53] Using Morning time for transcript credit
  • [18:50] Practical application of these ideas
  • [22:30] Relationships and joy matter too

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