While doing evaluations for your homeschool can be daunting at first, trying to evaluate a child who has special needs can seem like an insurmountable task. It can be discouraging, too.
I am so proud of my kiddos with Down syndrome and all that they learn and accomplish. However, facing an evaluation with traditional “subjects” was dejecting.
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Kids with Down Syndrome are notoriously all over the place in their development. From the way their teeth come in, to verbal and physical development, they do not follow typical patterns. So while one child can only verbalize 40 or so words, she can understand directions and books and songs. And yet another child may have an extensive verbal vocabulary, yet he might have trouble following directions or showing comprehension at more advanced levels. Yet, if he is able to physically walk through steps, he can learn to do tasks and perform them quite competently!
So you see, they are both quite capable of learning. However, thinking in the box of traditional subjects areas, their progress looks bleak. Doing an evaluation can be discouraging when the child:
- Still can’t read
- Can’t add
- Listens to a history story, but can’t narrate or answer questions about it
- Has trouble copying words
Instead of focusing on what the child hasn’t mastered, we must dig down past the typical subject content to realize and record what our children do know, and what they can do!
All learning is valid
The truth is, some kids might not ever be able to tackle some of the traditional school subjects. Every child should be encouraged to advance to their full potential, but for some kids, that potential might be heavily weighted away from traditional school subjects. Still, learning is learning, no matter how untraditional the steps or the “subject”.
I am here today to show you how to organize your child’s out of the mold education into a formal evaluation.
With a little -out of the box- thinking, you can easily fit your child’s accomplishments into the traditional boxes! His learning is valid and with a few tips, his evaluation can reflect that. Then, you can objectively see areas where he needs more support and focus without feeling the overwhelming feelings of failure!
The scope of the evaluation
The trick here is to honestly look at what your child is learning, what skills he is mastering, and then to find what “subject box” that learning and those skills fit into. I’m going to go through each traditional subject here and give some examples of what non-traditional learning can fit into them. Remember though, that for every child the learning experience will be completely different. You will have to keep your eyes open to your own child’s learning. But once you get started, it will be quite easy to spot and you will know instinctively which subject box that skill or concept should fit into!
The nature, form, and purpose of an evaluation
An evaluation is a helpful tool to assess where your child is in his learning. You can do the beginning of the year evaluations as a starting point, and or end of the year evaluations to mark progress. I like to do beginning of the year evaluations to get a good grip on where they are, then end of the year to see progress!
Evaluations are written in the third person:
- Joey reads 10 words
- Joey takes turns in a conversation
- Joey can stay on topic in a conversation
Evaluations are written in a measured language
- Julie reads level 2 readers in the I Can Read series
- Instead of: Julie’s reading is improving
- Bobby can name the primary function of the Post office
- Not: Bobby knows what the Post office is for
As you go through, writing the evaluation of your child, stick to that. You will see areas that you need to focus on and have ideas and goals for future learning. This is not the place for those. However, do keep a notepad handy and jot these ideas down so you will have them at your fingertips when you are doing your planning!
Let’s get down to it!
This broader subject (instead of separate subject headings of English and Reading) is more helpful to us because it can encompass more of your child’s true learning. Sometimes your child is learning things like give and take in conversation instead of what a noun is. Using one broad subject levels the playing field. It includes:
- writing of any kind, from learning to form letters, to creative writing or research papers, writing letters to make grocery lists!
- Reading or Read Aloud
- Memory work
- Verbal skills. More words, enunciation, putting words together
- Interpersonal communication ie. conversation skills, relating to others, appropriate conversation topics, answering questions, eye contact, tone, the cadence of speech, listening skills
- Following directions
- The narration of ideas or events
- Expression of ideas
Again, a broader term fits our needs here, it allows us to focus on our child’s strengths and areas that he can have success in, while at the same the giving opportunity to grow at their own pace in harder areas. Social studies include:
- History, family history
- Cultural studies, including family events, traditions, and celebrations
- Family dynamics and interaction, immediate and extended.
- Community experiences and participation
- Etiquette and manners
- Responsibility and chores. Taking care of and interacting with a pet
- Choosing appropriate clothing
- Maps of all kinds
These are just some ideas. Just because your child has no concept of equations, doesn’t mean he’s not doing math. Math concepts build. They are not limited to equations in a book. If your child can work out concepts with real objects in real life scenarios, that is math!
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
- One to one correspondence
- Time, including daily activities; morning, breakfast, chores, etc.
- Age, including his own age. The number of years, and that it advances.
- Number concepts
The Sciences include a vast array of concepts. Make sure to give your child credit for skills that aren’t so obvious!
- Scientific method
- Observation skills
- Nature study
- Animal husbandry, including pets, farm animals
- Weather, temperature
So far, we’ve covered core curriculum subjects. In my state, we are required to have the bulk of our required homeschool hours be in core curriculum subjects. Every state is different, but if you have similar laws it is helpful to think outside the box in the traditional subject areas. Because your child may not benefit from long periods of time at a desk, or even reading a lot of books, he may come up short in core curriculum areas. If a skill area or activity also has value in a core area, I evaluate it there. Here I have included some of the ways possible to evaluate skills and knowledge from one subject into another
Your child may excel physically. If so, give him credit, and make sure to include areas that aren’t so obvious, like following directions in team sports (communication arts)
If your child does not excel physically, you may be spending hours on P.T. or O.T. You may be spending quantities of time on using scissors or walking down steps, make sure these skills get evaluated under Physical Education!
Some skills to include:
- Team sports ~
- following directions (communication arts)
- Working together (social studies- community)
- Playing with neighborhood kids (social studies)
- Bike riding
- Popping bubbles
- Hula hooping
- Lawn games
- Batting Cages
- Shooting hoops
- Playground skills ~ stairs, balance, swinging etc.
Bible and Faith
Your child may be learning a lot from church and other social settings, don’t forget to record that!
I evaluate as much of these as possible into core curriculum areas.
- Memory work (communication arts)
- Bible stories- history (social studies)
- Bible stories-parables (character, social studies)
- Church – (social studies, arts if needed)
If your child is into crafts or music, or paintings, she will be learning skills and concepts that you don’t want to pass over.
Skills and concepts from:
- Art Projects
- Concerts (social studies)
- Plays or Theatre productions (social studies)
- Composers and masterpieces (social studies)
- Singing (communication arts) ~ helps in verbalization skills
This may be your child’s most important subject! After all, skills that assist you in living a full, productive life shouldn’t be overlooked!
- Cooking- can include science, math, cultural studies, and communication arts!
- Dressing his or herself
- Choosing appropriate clothing- social studies ~ social/cultural appropriateness
- Pet care- social studies, responsibility. Or caring for a pet’s needs- animal husbandry
- Household chores -social studies, responsibility, community contribution
- Safety – social studies
- Construction projects and repairs – science, math
- Cleaning, organizing – social studies
Whew! I know that was a lot! Once you are done you will have a clear picture of where your child is and the progress he has made!
Now that you’ve gotten some great tips and resources about writing evaluations for your special needs child, head over to Our Happy Medium and read about how you can Avoid Homeschool Burnout, and be sure to snag their freebie – The Flexible Homeschool Planner!