In the world of education, the Common Core State Standards dominate the conversation. Homeschoolers have also begun to talk about the Common Core, but instead of discussing how to implement the standards, the conversation centers around whether homeschooling families should include the standards at all. For families who do decide to include the Common Core – and even those who don’t – the standards themselves could lead to big changes in the materials they use, the way their kids’ skills are tested, and the way they teach.
Homeschooling Materials and the Common Core
Even if families opt not to include the Common Core as part of their homeschooling curriculum, they may find themselves using a curriculum that aligns with the standards. Many of the major homeschooling curriculum providers, such as Saxon and Capstone, have aligned their curriculums to the Common Core to appear to a wider audience and stay on top of national testing requirements. The Educational Freedom Coalition offers a database that explains which materials have been aligned to the Common Core and which remain independent.
Families who do not wish to incorporate the Common Core into their curriculum should search for independent publishers and resources or those that are coincidentally correlated, rather than deliberately correlated, to the standards. Those who do wish to incorporate the Common Core should look for materials explicitly aligned to the standards, particularly if they are concerned about covering all of the standards.
Homeschooling Instruction and the Common Core
While the idea of having to cover specific standards and changing the way children develop basic math and grammar skills may have a major impact on the way parents who choose to adopt the Common Core teach their children, the good news is the general idea of the Common Core aligns with many of the core ideas of homeschooling. The Common Core State Standards promote critical thinking, problem solving, real-life skills and hands-on activities. They encourage analysis, reflection and going beyond simply answering questions on worksheets, which are all things many homeschooling families also encourage.
Instead of feeling their instruction has to change or be limited by the Common Core, many homeschooling parents may find that their instruction actually goes above and beyond what is required by the Common Core. Homeschooling children have an opportunity to participate in unique learning experiences and apply their learning in ways students in public school do not always have access to.
Homeschooling and Common Core-Aligned Assessments
Families who home school may find that many of the ways they choose to assess their children have now been aligned to the Common Core State Standards. This includes tests such as the Stanford Achievement Test or Iowa Test of Basic Skills. While the format of the tests may eventually be based on a computer and change to more performance-based tasks, parents should not worry about their children’s performance. Because of all of the unique and personalized learning opportunities homeschool children have, their understanding of the standards and skills becomes more thorough, improving their performance on standards-aligned assessments, even those based on performance-based tasks.
Because the format is new, parents may have to spend a little time helping their children understand the format of the test or teach them to apply their knowledge within time limits. This practice serves as an opportunity to build children’s confidence in their knowledge and help them more readily apply what they know. Online games, such as those found at Word Game Time, may be one way to incorporate these new test-taking skills while still letting kids have fun.
In most states, homeschooling parents do not have to adapt their curriculum to incorporate the Common Core, but they do not have to completely reject the Common Core either. While schools may have trouble implementing the Common Core, homeschooling families may find that a lot of what they already do aligns perfectly with the Common Core State Standards and that their children are already building the higher-order thinking, problem-solving and real-life skills that the Common Core promotes.