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Recording and Evaluation: The Role of Observation and Reflection

© Beverley Paine

There are two main elements to evaluation: observation and reflection.

Observation is at the heart of any educational program. As a parent you have continuously relied on your observation skills since your children were born. This on-going observation of their actions and reactions, their temperaments and developing personalities, allows you to build relationships with them to ensure successful learning in all areas of their lives.

Evaluation also requires the conscious reflection on the usefulness, the appropriateness, and the outcomes (products and results) of your children's activities. When thinking about evaluation it is useful to set what can be considered as 'indicators' of success. These help you to know how progress has occurred. Evaluation should be looked at positively, as ways in which success and improvement can be celebrated and built on. To be most effective evaluation must be a constructive process.

The process of evaluation can include assessment, but involves much more than simply tests and exams. It requires a continuous, conscious thought process about what you are hoping to achieve, whether your methods are appropriate and how things may have been done differently. Assessment is only one way to do this. There are many different ways to evaluate, and these are usually related to which aspect of the event you are evaluating.

Recording in an organised way your observations and evaluation comments of your children's learning activities will help you to plan your children's education to suit their learning needs. It also plays an important part in building your confidence in your role as a home educating parent.

The following is an excerpt from Getting Started with Homeschooling Practical Considerations, by Beverley Paine, and shows an example of a monthly evaluation of her children's learning programs.

We didn't manage to read papers or magazine. Loved the Never Ending Story - compared it to movie and sequel. Lots of discussing on various topics. Attended a lecture and slide presentation - children asked questions, Thomas still very shy at these times. Happy with with progress with writing. Thom writing more, asking for spellings instead of me scribing. Need to offer more opportunities to record/need for writing practice in real situations. Roger spelling showing definite improvement - consistency developing. Continue with LCWC approach

LOTE - Indonesian:
The shadow puppets were challenging and took more effort and time than anticipated. Everybody helped with meal - huge success. Have decided to eat more Indonesian food. Met some people who have been to Indonesia, spent some time with them which was good for April to practice some language conversation (minimal) and Roger began to pick up days of week and numbers easily. April had a good camp -dancing, conversation, cooking, shopping, games. Isn't do word cards - will pick up again next month.

Thomas has been focussing on practical activities and resisting "book work". Didn't push learning to read clock - later. Been doing a lot of measuring - working with solids, weights, money. April is working steadily - finding materials generally easy but still interesting - not doing all sums in book. Loves puzzles books. Roger is enjoying the format of this text book. Likes to look up answers and self check. All the children have been demonstrating their math skills in building projects lately with minimal help.

Health and Personal Development:
In addition to "Myself Books" we did read other health oriented books relating to clothing, seasons and occupations. Also made books about events in children lives using photos. Children enjoyed the activities. Thom made board game. Working on diet was patchy but awareness of need heightened, more personal responsibility needed. More co-operation won with food preparation. Lots of physical activity - walking, cycling, swimming, cubby building, tree planting. Spent time examining in depth Anatomy Colouring Book.

xperiments - sugar crystals, growing copper sulphate crystals, working with pendulums. Rock collecting, classifying and sorting collections of rocks, fossicking and identifying rocks. Jewellery making. Roger study on mice, made cage out of glass. Thomas project on fish and setting up of aquarium. Thomas built a chair with help. April made a photoframe and key ring in plastics. Enjoyed discussing aspects of famous scientist lives. Watched a lot of documentaries which generated discussion. Discussed erosion effects.

Society & Environment:
Our focus in the environment and recycling has led to lots of building and making activities and included a trip to the dump and walks in areas of degradation and pollution. Lots of discussion. Enjoyed days out. Looked up the way the media looks at the Green issue and discussed how the media could do more to promote environmental and conservation issues. Visited Landcare site and discussed history of the movement. Visualised local area before European settlement, especially beach area.

The Arts:
Did some vocalization, using voice with percussion instruments creatively! Took part in solstice ceremony group singing and chanting and playing of instruments. Visited Art Show, children attentive and critical in their appreciation of visual art. Spontaneous art and craft, mostly related to projects or games underway. Also focussed on display for Recycle Craft Day at school - children enjoyed this activity immensely and helped in setting up display. Circus skills are improving - practicing for show. Thomas now stilt walking.

General Comments:
We had a full month with an emphasis on activities rather than "bookwork". We have been busy pursuing family interest of rock collecting which has spawned many "curricula" type activities.. Pets have also played a large part - fish, mice and guinea pigs. Spent a lot of time outside (which is good for before winter). Although being this busy is challenging and stimulating, the children are missing the opportunity to just play with their toys! I'd like to focus more evening time on games together (and not just TV) Robin is m\participating more in the educational stuff which has been great for me and the kids. Happy with daily routine at the moment (or more particularly the lack of it!0 as it is very flexible and based on family and individual needs. Have begun to eat breakfast together to conference on days activities and to plan in jobs, chores, bookwork, and other stuff. Working well so far. Ideas are recorded and some of us are ticking off completed things. Would like to devise more activities in maths and language not out of text type books and more meaningful to children's lives. Perhaps look at toys and craft more.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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Welcome to the World of Home Education
and Learning without School!

We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine


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