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Homeschooling: Special Needs
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April 2018 Subscribe to the Struggling Learner newsletter >>

The Rubric: A Tool that Could Transform Your Homeschool


Joyce Blankenship

Join Us at Our Upcoming Speaking Engagements

April 13-14, 2018: MACHE (Rochester, MN)—Krisa Winn

April 26-8, 2018: CHEC (Redmond, WA)—Faith Berens

May 31-June 2, 2018: Homeschool Iowa (Coralville, IA)—Faith Berens

By Joyce Blankenship
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

Why is it valuable to keep good records of your child’s progress throughout the year? First, it shows how you as the parent/ homeschool teacher are meeting your child’s needs. Second, it equips you (and anyone else on your child’s educational or medical team) to evaluate at a glance how your child is progressing in any given area. Third, this information helps you know what your child needs to learn next, and fourth, our legal team recommends it as one of the steps to protect your homeschool.

You may be wondering, How do I assess progress? Are there tools to help me?

The answer is yes! In addition to traditional formal evaluations such as standardized tests, there are many informal evaluation tools that can be helpful to the homeschool teacher. Portfolios, teacher observation, checklists, student interview, chapter tests and quizzes, and rubrics are just some examples of many available informal evaluation tools. For more tools and tips, see “Documenting Your Child’s Progress Over Time” by Faith Berens.

In this article, I would like to focus on the often-overlooked rubric, which can guide your instruction, provide ways for your student to reflect on their work, and help you assess your student’s performance.

What is a rubric?

A rubric is a scoring tool that lists criteria for projects, assignments, or other pieces of work. It defines in writing what is expected of the student to achieve a particular grade. Your student can check their work against the rubric before turning it in and make any needed improvements. Not only is your student practicing the important executive function skill of self-monitoring, but they are also learning to accept responsibility for the end product.

A rubric should also describe levels of quality for each of the criteria. These levels of performance may be written as numerical scores (ex. 4, 3, 2, 1) or different ratings (ex. Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor).

How can a rubric help my student and me?

You can use a rubric to assess your student’s performance in writing essays and reports, making a speech, doing map work, reading aloud, creating a model of an atom, painting a watercolor piece, or conducting a science experiment. About the only kind of schoolwork that doesn’t function well with rubrics are questions with right or wrong answers.

Research has shown that using hands-on experiences increases student performance and motivation. Since many kids with special needs thrive in a learning environment that uses hands-on activities and projects, use of a rubric can give you, as a homeschooling teacher, a clear and objective way to evaluate your student’s work.

How does a rubric work in real life?

I spoke last week with a mother who homeschools her two sons, ages 13 and 16, who are each challenged with learning and focus/attention difficulties. The mother explained to me how her boys were learning through real-life activities, such as constructing a wooden kitchen table and rebuilding their car’s engine. She asked how she could count these learning experiences in their homeschooling. I was delighted to share with how a rubric could work perfectly in her situation.

To evaluate her sons’ performance in constructing the kitchen table, this mother could use a rubric that includes grading categories such as measurement, cuts/joints, accuracy, assembly, safety, and craftsmanship. Under measurement, the rubric might define the lowest level of performance as “No attention to measurements and very little accuracy in following plans” and the highest level as “Measures are accurate and plans are followed.”

Before beginning the woodworking project, this mother would review the expectations in each category with her sons. She would make sure they understand that the rubric is something they can use to reflect on their work throughout their project, as well as after they complete it.

Getting started with rubrics

I encourage you to take time to learn how to use this versatile tool called the rubric. Customize it to the individual needs of your student and your homeschool program. Be confident that you now have at your disposal a clear and objective way to evaluate your student’s work, including real-life projects and other outside-the-box learning experiences. You may find that you are homeschooling a more motivated and happy student which makes for a peaceful, less stressful homeschool journey for all!

A simple Google search can provide samples of several types of rubrics. Here are a few to get you started:

Free Sample Rubrics

More In-Depth Rubric Resources


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