Are You Concerned About Standardized Testing for Homeschool Reading Programs?

Perhaps a bit unfairly, the parents of homeschooled children sometimes discover that the success of their children’s reading achievement is often evaluated differently than it is for traditionally-schooled children.

Traditionally-schooled children are tested regularly on their reading skills because the traditional teaching methods rely so heavily on children’s reading ability as a way for them to learn other subject matter. The teaching reading is so significant for the traditionally-schooled child that they seldom achieve academic success without first mastering fundamental reading skills.

Developmental Readiness vs Early Reading Skills

The story of teaching reading in the homeschool has evolved somewhat differently. Home schooled children have many opportunities and advantages that enable the development of their reading skills less stressful than they are for traditionally-schooled children. Some homeschooling authorities insist that there is really no need to worry about forcing the development of reading skills in homeschooled children because many homeschooled children don’t master reading until several years after the traditionally-schooled child. Many homeschooling educators believe that teaching reading is something that happens naturally.

Because they are taught in different ways than traditionally-schooled children, homeschooled children may not require mastery of reading skills at the earliest possible age. The traditionally-schooled child must adhere to a set standard that is designed to ensure that all children develop at the relatively same (fairly slow) pace. Teaching dozens of children the same material requires that those children be at the same basic level of preparation. A public school teacher faced with teaching ten, twenty, or even thirty children at varying learning stages is likely to be unsuccessful at such an endeavor. Ensuring that children learn certain skills by a certain age simply makes teaching large groups of students more efficient.

The Influence of Maria Montessori on Reading Instruction

The work of Maria Montessori changed the face of teaching reading and opened the door to a new home schooling movement. Dr. Montessori challenged traditional teaching theories and methods by presenting research that children learn at varying rates and that hands-on activities enable children to learn better and more completely than traditional rote memorization teaching techniques. Her pioneering work in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s made dramatically clear that having multiple learning levels in the same classroom generally provides surprisingly unexpected benefits. Regardless of age, children learn from each other. Older children teach younger children without even realizing it. And, younger children give older children the opportunity to learn by experience. However, because the Montessori classroom relies on individualizing teaching methods to each student, employing this method in the public school environment is seldom. More about Dr. Montessori’s work can be found at

Intentionally or unintentionally, homeschooling is rather Montessori-like in the practical application of homeschooling teaching methods. Like Maria Montessori’s theories, homeschooling today emphasizes the specific learning style of the individual student over the need to teach certain skills by the time a child reaches a certain age. The child who is a weak reader might be verbally advanced and a verbally weak student may be a good reader. This suggests  that the homeschool teaching partner plays on each child’s strengths to teach each individual child. This format is far easier to implement within the homeschooling environment than it is in the traditional school setting.

Standardized Assessments Encourage Early Reading Skills

The movement towards assessing student progress has invaded what was once a rather freestyle homeschooling environment. Students nationwide are now expected to perform at certain levels based on their age and academic grade. And, even though standardized assessments can be good indicators of overall performance, they are somewhat constraing to homeschooling enthusiasts because they fail to consider the different learning styles and speeds of individual students. Essentially, periodic standardized assessments, which are now required of many homeschooled children, are ultimately forcing homeschooling educators to ensure that their students learn academic skills at roughly the same pace as their traditionally-schooled peers. This means that teaching reading has recently become more important within the homeschool environment.

Many educators, homeschooling and traditional, strongly dislike standardized testing. Still, it looks like it’s here to stay, at least for the moment. And, for the homeschooled child to meet the expected standards and to stay on track, that child has to have mastered certain skills, especially reading, by a comparatively early age. In situations where standardized testing is an important assessment tool, children who fail to develop early reading skills are likely to be incorrectly assessed. And, an incorrect assessment is dangerous to both the child and the homeschooling program. For this reason, it is important for homeschooling educators to emphasize reading skills as a learning tool and that they emphasize teaching reading.

Reading as More Than an Ordinary Skill

Teaching reading to children as early as possible does not have to be a perceived slight to the homeschooling approach. Although, like Maria Montessori, many homeschooling educators take issue with forcing children to learn any skill before they are developmentally ready, there is no credible research that indicates that teaching children to read early see their future development harmed in any way. As a result, apart from the obvious difficulties associated with teaching children skills that they may not be prepared to learn, early reading development probably still is a worthwhile endeavor.

The benefits of reading are well-documented. Reading is fun, opens doors to new subjects and adventures, and helps prepare children to think critically and embrace information that is both educational and entertaining. Reading is so important to today’s teaching methods that its importance spills over into the areas of mathematics, social studies, science, and other academic areas. The student who is interested in reading develops faster in many academic areas than peers who are unprepared with basic reading skills.

Homeschool parents and home school providers have a large basket of tools available to encourage their child’s early reading skills. Some reading experts insist that the first ten years are crucial for reading development and that teaching reading and a love of reading before the age of ten sets the stage for a lifetime of reading enjoyment. Many theories adhere to the belief that reading to young children helps them develop a love for reading. When young children then express a desire to learn to read on their own, they then practice reading by doing, and ultimately read for their own satisfaction and/or pleasure. Children who have become regular readers and who truly enjoy reading live in a world that is forever enriched and expanded by this one simple skill — reading.

Michael Levy has published more than 250 articles and books on learning and memory. Recently, he developed Reading Buddy 2.0 to teach children to learn to read English using a remarkably easy and effective syllabics method. Would you like a free copy of this innovative computer program to teach your child to read using this modern method? Claim your free copy of Reading Buddy 2.0.

avatar Michael Levy (11 Posts)

C. Michael Levy, PhD, is professor emeritus at the University of Florida, where his teaching and research focused on human cognitive functioning, particularly information processing, learning, memory, and writing. Dr. Levy was an innovator in the development of interactive tutorials for teaching complex concepts (such as those embodied in Reading Buddy 2.0) and has published 12 books and nearly 200 articles and book chapters.

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