Jen in Connecticut has a question. She asks: I have a special needs teen in 9th grade. Is it necessary to give him a final if he is being homeschooled? This is to have some type of record for the transcript for college. I know that a transcript need to be provided to enter college, but the finals are difficult for him. What advice can you share? Should I test my special needs homeschooler?
More Than One Way to Climb a Tree
Jen, there is no one right way to homeschool. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to create whatever learning experience and environment our children need. Kudos for recognizing that testing is causing distress in your child. I do have some advice that I hope will be helpful for you.
Where to Begin
First is to make sure you have checked your states homeschool laws. Every state is different and has different laws surrounding highschool and graduation requirements. Some states have a certain number of credits required and others have courses that must be taken. Be sure you have complied with the state guidelines and then work your way through highschool planning from there.
Some colleges don’t require transcripts. Start that exploring colleges early that your child may be interested in and see what the criteria for entry is. Some colleges may want your child to test in, which math, english or other areas to test college readiness and placement. Other colleges may want a portfolio, or work samples to gain entry. Depending on your child’s chosen major, the college may ask for a specific portfolio of work, like an art or writing portfolio. Start gathering that material during the freshman year.
You can create the transcript anyway you want. That doesn’t have to include testing, and can include an overall grade for the subject or class. You can assign weighted classes or testing, or none at all. The choice is yours. Remember that a failed test doesn’t mean your child hasn’t learned. A passed test doesn’t necessarily indicate learning either.
Don’t forget about my other blog post on homeschooling through highschool. It has all the information you need to start homeschooling highschool successfully.
Connect with Colleges Early
Connect with colleges early if you have concerns about your special needs child performing well in college. Many colleges have additional resources, counselors, tutoring, and extra help for kids with special needs and those that need more help. Colleges want your child to succeed just like you do.
Start your transcript in 8th grade! Or at least begin thinking about your 4-year plan. The earlier you prepare, the more in control you will feel and the less anxiety producing it will be for everyone.
You Know Your Child Best
When you homeschool, you are with your child all day and know when learning has happened. A test may or may not be beneficial in determining if learning occured. Testing homeschoolers with special needs must be an individualized process. Shoot for engagement, not the end result. I want my child to ask more questions to indicate learning; not just answer the questions from memory.
Is he inspired by what he learned?
Does he want to dig deeper and learn more?
Is he asking critical thinking questions that would indicate mastery of the subject?
Consider working on testing if your child is college bound. Inevitably, there will be testing, so starting the process to master testing is imperative.
If your child is experiencing test anxiety, dig in deep to find the source of the anxiety.
- What induces the anxiety? Is it experiences from public school, fear of failure? Is it more the type of test-multiple choice, word problems, essays, timed testing? It may be one or two aspects that are causing the resistance or poor performance and the test in its entirety. Work on the areas where your child is struggling.
- Give opportunity to correct the test, at least at first. This builds confidence and skills without making it seem such a final outcome.
- End of chapter tests can be used as just another assignment. If your child needs more help or work on a topic or subject, feel free to use the test for extra practice.
- Find a tutor to help. Homeschooling is not a one teacher journey. It takes a village. Call for help when you need it.
Find Alternative Ways to Determine Learning
Think about alternative learning experiences besides tests that will help them dig deeper and help you determine if learning has occured. Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. You can try the following alternate learning methods as ways to enhance your child’s homeschool experience.
- YouTube videos.
- Oral reports, projects, dioramas!
- Apprenticeships or internships.
- Outside classes/other teachers.
- Trips, family vacations.
Having a special needs child really is no different than a child who follows the traditional path of learning. What it does is help the parent to see and really learn WHAT is needed to help their child. Once you know the what, the how will make itself known. A child who doesn’t test well today, may test well tomorrow. Teens grow and change at lightening speed. Don’t get stuck in the cant’s. Focus on what your child can do and it will be amazing.