5 Tools to Find and Fix Your Child’s Learning Gaps
Do you ever feel a sense of panic as you realize your children’s education is entirely in your hands? You are not alone! Parents with a background in education and those with no experience in the field share those moments that have them asking, “What on earth am I doing?”
As a veteran homeschool mom of 28 years, who was also educated at home, I can assure you, as I have confided to many parents before you, “You are going to miss things. There will be gaps in their learning. You will not bestow on your children a perfect education. So, let go of your expectations of the perfect homeschool right now. If you don’t, your days will be long and disappointing.”
I quickly go on to also assure these deer-in-the-headlights new homeschooling parents, that it doesn’t matter what school they might choose to send their offspring to, that school will miss things, and leave gaps in their children’s learning. Even the best school in the nation, will be found lacking.
The homeschool parent has something very important that can not be replicated at any school; a deep love that will fuel them to learn all they can to help their children succeed! There are some amazing teachers out there, but none that can truly love your children like you do!
At ShillerLearning we strive to create products and curriculum to help you as the homeschool parent meet the educational needs of your children in ways that fit their personalities and learning styles. We are passionate about helping you inspire a lifelong love of learning in each of your children, which will give them the tools to fill in any knowledge gaps they discover in the future.
One of the tools Larry Shiller has created is the Personal Lesson Plan Builder. This unique tool will help you discover areas of strengths and weaknesses. It will also clearly reveal holes or gaps in their education and give you, as the homeschool parent, an easy and gentle way to fill in these gaps providing your student with a solid foundation to grow from rather than pushing them along with their peers, leaving a base filled with holes and increasing difficulty as they try to understand new concepts before establishing comprehension of the prior one's.
The way all these learning management pieces work together is almost like magic. Let me walk you through the process from start to finish.
1. Diagnostic Tests
We do not want to make assumptions about what a student knows or doesn't know, so we recommend that the educator start each student, regardless of age, at the first test from Book 1, with the introduction: "This should be really easy for you and will take you just one minute to do. Let's have some fun and see if you can get them all right."
Diagnostic tests are included with each math or language arts kit. Additional copies may be printed from your downloads for additional children in the family. Diagnostic testing may also be purchased separately if you are trying to decide between kit levels. If you are unsure where to start, call us, and with a few quick questions we will guide you.
Check the answer key. If the student answers all the questions correctly, praise and move on to the next test. If a question is answered incorrectly, the answer key is prescriptive: it tells you exactly which lesson(s) will fill the hole identified by this question. Best practice is to have the student do those activities before going to the next test (unless you are using the tests to decide between kit levels before selecting a kit).
When the student misses most of the questions on a test, stop testing. You have now identified exactly where he or she needs to be in the lesson book - and you have identified and filled all of the holes in his or her math or language arts foundation utilizing all four learning styles (visual, tactile, auditory, and kinesthetic)!
This can be a fun process and can take place over the course of several days or longer.
2. Lesson Plan Builder
With your child’s scored diagnostic test in hand go to our Lesson Plan Builder. You will find a tab titled, “Homeschool Freebies.” From the dropdown, choose “Lesson Plan Builder.” This takes you to one of my favorite pages. Find the line which corresponds to your child’s first test and simply check the boxes for each incorrect question or ones they struggled with.
Remember, this is not a measure of how well your child is doing; it is simply a guide to help you choose the lessons that they need and will inspire them to learn.
After you have entered the information from all tests you may fill in your student’s name and click “Show Lessons.”
3. Personal Lesson Plan
You can access the Personal Lesson Plans for all of your students in your downloads under see your existing personal lesson plans.
Print your child’s Personal Lesson Plan list (list of lessons in order and lesson names). I suggest putting it in the front of a 3-ring binder. If you have a kit, a binder may have been included. Following the Lesson Plan, I recommend you insert the Completed Worksheet, and the Visual Tracking Sheet. These two record keeping tools will help you keep track as well as provide encouragement and motivation to both you and your student. These sheets can be found in your ShillerLearning Account under “My Downloads.” Scroll down to the Educator Helpers section for these tools and more.
If you purchased a kit, there will also a brand new PDF waiting for each plan with ONLY the lessons needed by that student. It doesn't get any easier than that!
If you don't have a kit yet, you also have the option of purchasing the PDF for the Personal Lesson Plan for $1 a lesson. (Call 888-556-6284 for assistance.)
4. Visual Tracking Sheet
Lay the Visual Tracking Sheet (available in your downloads) next to your child’s lesson plan and place an “X” through each lesson that is not on the lesson plan, giving a visual representation of what they already understand. Each time a lesson is completed your student may color in the box for that lesson. Watch their confidence grow as the chart fills up!
5. Completed Worksheet
This can be found printed on the inside back cover of lesson books, in your binders, or in your downloads.
Each day, note the date, time spent, then list the lessons that you completed with your child and for which they reached competency and closure. If either you or the child thinks a lesson should be revisited, note that lesson in the Lesson to Revisit column. Then in the right hand two columns both you and your child will initial, verifying the completion of the day's work and promoting the child's ownership of their education.
Now here is a piece of the Montessori magic.
One of the goals in Montessori education is for the child to learn to take responsibility for their learning. We emphasize that a child’s play and learning is their work and we want them to learn to initiate work and take pride in their accomplishments.
As the student becomes familiar with the curriculum and can read independently, you will likely discover that they will get out their book, and manipulatives and complete a lesson on their own. They will color in the Visual Tracking Sheet and fill out the Completed Work Sheet initialing their column and then bringing it to you for your initial verifying their progress.
When used in conjunction, as part of a cohesive learning environment, the Diagnostic Tests, the custom Lesson Plan Builder, the Completed Work Sheet, and the Visual Tracking Sheet can help to find and eliminate areas of confusion while building both confidence and a love of learning in your child.
All of the customer service representatives at ShillerLearning are homeschool parents and have personal experience using the curriculum. Please call us at 888-556-6284 with any questions. We love to chat with you and help make your homeschool journey just a little bit easier and more fun!
Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.
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