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Homeschool Fact:
Homeschoolers perform 34-39% above the national average in standardized tests. The national average, by definition, is 50%. Homeschoolers test at 84-89% in subject by subject standardized test scores, well above the national average.

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How do you know what to teach?

When you begin to homeschool, your first goal needs to be getting to know your child. Ask him to read to you. Have him write for you on whatever level is comfortable for him - a word, a sentence or a paragraph. Do some simple math with him - adding, subtracting or multiplying. Find out for yourself what your child knows. For some time, you may have been taking someone else's word for what your child can or cannot do. Spend some time with your child getting to know what he likes to do and what comes easily. Find out what is difficult for him. Before you buy curriculum or have him evaluated or assessed by someone else, get some firsthand knowledge of where he is. You will be able to ask much better questions later, or decide what curriculum to choose based on what you have seen your child do. Informal assessments and observations like these are the beginning of your educational expertise on your child.

Once you have gotten to know some of your child's abilities, now you can seek out guides that tell you what typical children do and when they do it. Remember that books that list skills accomplished at certain grade levels are only guides - some children will complete certain skills ahead of the prescribed schedule and some later. The most important goal for you as a homeschooler is to find out what level your child needs to work at. There are simple guides, such as one put out by World Book that lists skills for every grade level. More exhaustive guides are available such as What Every Child Needs to Know When by Robin Sampson or Teaching Children by Diane Lopez. E.D. Hirsch's guides for what children need to know at every grade level are also readily available from bookstores and libraries. Also, most states have specific grade level guidelines available from their Department of Education. These can usually be obtained by going online.

Remember that success is the best way to motivate students, so begin with a review of things you think your child might already know and then begin to introduce new concepts. When your child seems frustrated, slow down and find out what the problem is before moving on. As a homeschooler, you have the opportunity to practice mastery learning. That is the idea that a student doesn't move on until he has actually obtained the skills you are teaching, rather than moving on with a minimum or below average level of achievement.

Homeschool girl reading