Writing Test

During my daughter’s second week in College Composition 1101, the class was given a surprise test.

“Some of you really shouldn’t be in this class. Your writing skills aren’t strong enough,” the professor told them before giving a test that would be used to determine if they really ought to be in the class despite having scored well enough on an entrance exam to sign up for the class.

Understandably, my daughter was very nervous. What if she failed? If you fail a dual enrollment class, you aren’t allowed to take any more. She hadn’t used an intense writing curriculum previously. We didn’t do IEW or any of those. But what we did do, besides doing random writing assignments, including ones where they chose a thesis to write on and then had to rewrite a time or two to polish it up, was to participate in a couple of different Writing Clubs in which they had to write pieces for a group to read. The first one I fashioned after a writer’s group I joined when I was writing my book, “Around the World in a Cement Boat.” I found that kind of writing group polished my writing much more than any class I took, but I’m sure it didn’t seem formal enough to her.

A week later, the tests were returned. They were graded on a scale of 1 to 5, and the professor announced that a number of people had scored too low. Those with top scores were told to leave early while he discussed what happens next with those who didn’t score well. My daughter needn’t have worried. She scored a 5 out of 5 and is staying in the class.

The moral of the story? Don’t feel you have to use some very stressful curriculum to help kids learn writing skills. Having an audience that will push the student to try harder, will offer encouragement for aspects well done and criticism to push improvement in areas that are not as good can be a good curriculum.

Cheryl Trzasko


RIP Documentation

Suggestion: At least once a year, check that you have a clear plan for your homeschooling written up. If your kids are in high school (or doing high-school-level work), make sure you have a transcript and course descriptions for each of their classes that are fairly up-to-date. Perhaps even a plan of what you hope to work on in the near future or goals or such. And keep them in a place that’s fairly easy to find.

Cheryl Trzasko (who took another call from a concerned relative who is suddenly in charge of the education of a child who was homeschooled after the homeschooling parent passed away and isn’t sure what to do)

P.S. If you know you are facing an illness or condition that’s likely to be fatal, tell someone near and dear to you. Give them time to think about how they’ll carry on, an opportunity to ask questions, a chance to help you through it, etc. Don’t leave them more devastated when they have to face additional burdens and challenges while grieving.

Dual Enrollment–Starting College in High School

My teens just signed up for their first college level class through Florida’s dual enrollment program which allows high school students (including those who are in home education programs) to take college courses for free. These courses can be used for credit towards high school graduation as well as college credit. The classes count twice–both for high school and college.

A lot of homeschooled friends have been asking for details on how the dual-enrollment process works. So here is what I’ve learned….The rules regarding admission vary from one college to another. There’s no consistent set of rules. Some allow students to start at a certain age and for others it’s based on their grade level. Other rules vary too–for example, books are free at colleges but those designated as universities may or may not charge fees for books or materials.

Continue reading Dual Enrollment–Starting College in High School

Testing–They Did It!

Testing is such a HUGE thing in public schools these days. The public is told that testing not only determines who passes a grade level or graduates from high school, but it determines teacher pay, school grades, and ultimately funding. Students are tested regularly. They practice testing skills and take practice tests. They take multiple types of tests. And this is in addition to the less formal classroom tests given (and perhaps designed) by individual teachers for their specific classes–the math, spelling, history, and other sorts of tests. Testing seems to take up more than half of the time spent in local public schools.

So when a parent starts to homeschool, most worry Continue reading Testing–They Did It!

Am I Doing Enough?

“Help! I feel like I’m not doing enough, that my child isn’t learning enough. How can I be sure that’s not a legitimate concern?”


I saw this question and thought: A lot of homeschoolers have this worry. Most aren’t professional teachers. Their child isn’t spending nearly as much time on lessons as the public school students do. Lessons aren’t as consistent as the parent would like them to be. The child doesn’t seem to get the lessons as much as he should–he has too many questions, has to re-do too many problems, etc. And no one’s letting us know on a regular basis if the child’s doing well–it’s not like we’re getting weekly progress reports. So of course we worry.
But should we? How can we be reassured? How can we know if there’s really a problem?

Continue reading Am I Doing Enough?

The Mother Who Checked Out

My family and I flew to Detroit and back for the Thanksgiving holiday. On the return trip, I saw a family of three–mom, a boy about 6 years old and a girl about 12 years old. I first noticed them when the boy hopped on a moving sidewalk that was moving in the opposite direction of where they were headed. Mom looked frantic, like she was afraid they would miss their flight, but the boy smiled, tried for a moment to go against the moving sidewalk and then gave up and kept going away from her. She seemed beaten down and not willing to fight him to get him moving in the direction they needed to go.

My attention was elsewhere as I took care of my family, including Continue reading The Mother Who Checked Out

What If the Kids Aren’t Doing Their Work?

I saw this question again today online. Parents debated what to do with homeschooled kids who weren’t doing their work. Could doing chores instead of lessons be the homeschool version of in-school suspension and help get them back on track with lessons? Would it be better to have them write a paper on the reasons for learning and getting an education? Should they be denied fun activities and events until they toe the line?

Sometimes kids don’t want to do Continue reading What If the Kids Aren’t Doing Their Work?

Why We Need Homeschool Support Groups

Fourteen years ago, we joined our first homeschool support group. In those intervening years, I’ve seen many groups come and go. I’ve seen a few moms go a bit crazy and try to wreck groups; sometimes they are successful, while other times they aren’t completely successful but their drama still chases a number of families away. I’ve heard a number of moms say they’d rather avoid homeschool support groups because of such drama. And I’ve seen a lot of newer homeschool moms who feel they don’t need a homeschool support group because

Continue reading Why We Need Homeschool Support Groups

Learning Place Value

A week ago, my husband brought home a dice game called Farkle. The game is simple enough that our 5-year-old was able to play along but the scoring uses big numbers. It takes 10,000 points to win. Which made it perfect for using an abacus for each of us to keep track of our scores. We have simple ones that we made Continue reading Learning Place Value

Kindergarten–week 3

Kindergarten in our house is nothing like the super academic structure of the average modern public school. We don’t do a lot of sitting at desks or tables. I don’t force lesson times. We sometimes go for a couple of days (or more) without any formal lessons.

Does that mean there’s no learning going on? Not at all.

Some peeks at the learning that happened in our homeschool kindergarten today include:
I woke up this morning to our youngest excitedly telling me Continue reading Kindergarten–week 3