ALSO visit us at EvaluationStation.Com View our power-point, "How to Prepare for a Portfolio Evaluation, without losing your mind!" Download our helpful "Homeschool Portfolio Checklist". Read client testimonies, find great resources, and be encouraged on our Laugh page! We do in-person and online portfolio evaluations, and give you feedback that can REALLY make your homeschooling more effective. Remember to tell us how you feel on our POLL at the bottom of THIS page before you go, and visit our ONLINE STORE!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Portfolios... Practically Perfect in Every Way!

    While the beginning of the homeschool year can be filled with excitement and anticipation, the end of the year can be stressful as evaluation time draws near... IF we're not prepared. Every homeschooler (in Florida) is required by law to maintain a portfolio (and keep it for at least two years), but nobody said we couldn't have FUN with it! For those of us who prefer to share our child's portfolio with a certified teacher in order to meet our end of the year evaluation requirement, here are a few tips that will have you so prepared, you'll shout, "We can't wait to show off our portfolio!"
    There have been a couple of really exciting options that have developed this year in the realm of portfolio evaluations. Many people are enjoying the ease and convenience of online, or "cyber" evaluations. This is accomplished by connecting to your evaluator using Skype or video iChat for a brief meeting. The portfolio is shared electronically prior to the meeting, and the Certificate of Review is received by the county liaison seconds after a successful evaluation! "That was easy!"
    We have some pretty smart parents out there who have been creating private blog portfolios (only open to a select few, not the general public). Even those among us who are less computer savvy are finding they can put together a simple blog with the help of a user friendly site such as Blogspot.Com. You can include student work samples, videos, and photos. When you are done, just send the link to your evaluator and schedule your online meeting.
    Now for a few technical tips...One of the most important things your evaluator needs to see is work samples. Some subjects are difficult to capture on paper. Maybe you do a lot of hands-on activities for science or history. Keep that camera handy and download those photos as work samples for those subjects. Take video of your child showing off their lap-book, or playing that song on their guitar. Most subjects are easily documented on paper.
    Since the evaluator must determine if the child has progressed during that school year, most require a minimum of three work samples from each subject area taught. It is no fun to frantically sort through piles of work at the end of the year. Mark three dates on your calendar. One a couple of weeks into your school year, one in the middle of the year, and one near the end. When those special days arrive, pull aside one sample of work from each subject area and tuck them away in your portfolio (if you plan on meeting with your evaluator in person,) or scan the work samples into your private blog or a file on your desk top. 
    Another required element that your evaluator will need to see is samples of your Daily Log. This is very easy to do and will actually help you to have a better homeschool experience. You can see a great example of a simple to use template, all filled out, when you view my power-point, "How to Prepare for a Portfolio Evaluation, without losing your mind!" which can be found on the "Services" page of my site: EvaluationStation.Com  The Daily Log is not something that can be thrown together a week before a portfolio review, so it's good to learn how to do this now. Take time to fill out your plan at the beginning of each week (but no further in advance than that.) Write just enough, but not too much, for each subject. Here is a great Daily Log Template you can use brought to you by EvaluationStation.Com!
    There are a couple of other required elements that portfolios must have, and some things that just help us to be more organized homeschoolers. Be sure to visit my site for this additional information, and some encouragement as well! We can even set up an automatic email reminder for you so you will be notified when it's time to schedule the appointment for your evaluation! Just email me with your evaluation date (which can be found on the confirmation letter you received from the county when you declared you were going to homeschool.) Then you won't have to worry about being late.
    Knowing what is expected of us is always so comforting. Being prepared reduces stress and helps us to focus on what's really important... enjoying every minute of this wonderful journey called, "homeschooling!" I can't wait to see those wonderful portfolios and all the marvelous things your children will be learning this year. Please contact me with any questions you have, and remember... "Evaluation time does NOT have to be stressful!"

Serving all of Florida and our Risen Savior, Jesus Christ,

Carleen Galiardo

Homeschooling Mom
Certified Educational Evaluator
Twitter: @ThatEvalGal

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Assessing Your Homeschool Year

     The only thing consistent about homeschooling is that it varies from one family to the next! And even within those families, it varies from one child to the next. Unlike public schools which generally provide education in the style of mass production and then assess everyone with the same standardized test, we homeschoolers have yet to find a test that is specifically designed around the way we teach or what we have taught.

     I often wonder why some of us pull our children out of public school, choose teaching methods and curriculum that is best suited to our children, and then try to measure them with a standardized test used by the very school system from which we pulled them out.

     We have been called out of the norm. Why then do we seek to be measured against its terms instead of our own? Why are we so afraid that our children won't measure up to a standard we didn't like in the first place? There are times when standardized testing has value and / or is necessary (i.e. the SAT, ACT, or CPT) in order to achieve certain goals such as entry into college or achieving a scholarship.  Eventually, nearly everyone is going to have to take one. But should that be the way we measure the success of our homeschooling? Homeschooling is so much more. Our assessment process has to allow for that.

    Just as we had to change our ideas about what "schooling" ought to be, we might also reconsider our assessment choices. We need assessment that fits into what WE are doing, not assessment that makes us fit into some preconceived mold. There are a lot of creative ways to assess a single assignment, so also are there many ways to express and demonstrate the progress of a student within a homeschool year.  The portfolio gives us many options and can really tell much more about a student's character, goals, strengths, and educational journey than one might be able to decipher with a standardized test.

     Although there are some elements that are legally required to be in a homeschool portfolio, there is also a lot of room for creativity. (If you'd like to know what those legally required elements are (for FL), view my power-point, "How to Prepare for a Portfolio Evaluation, without losing your mind!" at EvaluationStation.Org) A portfolio is a sampling of an entire year of homeschooling and can include photos and DVDs of projects, trips, and presentations. It will contain several work samples from each academic area, and may also have actual samples of projects. It can contain student logs of trips taken, books read, things learned. It has detailed information of the curriculum used and other supplementary reading that was enjoyed.

     Some portfolios are very business-like in their form and some take on the character of a treasured scrapbook. I personally enjoy those that fall somewhere in-between. As an evaluator, I really LOVE to review portfolios! I have met some amazing homeschooling families and have felt very proud of them after reviewing their portfolios. There are some dedicated people out there doing an excellent job of educating and raising their children. It makes me proud to be a homeschool mom.

     I'm sure many homeschoolers just feel more comfortable having their child take a standardized test at the end of their homeschool year. Choice is a large part of what makes homeschooling what it is. If you choose the testing option, I will caution you on three points:

     1. Remember, by (FL) law, everyone has to have a current portfolio (and keep it on hand for two years.) Whether or not you choose to use it to meet your end of the year evaluation requirement is up to you. Your portfolio needs to be produced within 15 days, if called for by the superintendent. It's a good idea to maintain it on a regular basis.

     2. IF you do choose to go with a standardized testing option, the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) advises that you still send into your public school county liaison only the simple letter ( the "Certificate of Review") from the certified teacher who administered the test which has the "magic words" the county needs to hear in order for you to continue homeschooling another year. The test scores you receive are for your benefit alone. Providing more information than needed sometimes encourages more control.

     3., Make sure the person administering the test is a certified teacher. If not, the test results will not be considered valid. You can check their validity of their certification by just putting in their name at:  I'm sure other states have similar sites.

     Whether you choose a standardized test, a portfolio eval, or one of the other allowable assessment options, I want to encourage you to allow yourself to sit back and conduct your own personal assessment of your homeschool year. Did your children learn? Were they excited about some of the things you put before them? Were they challenged... but not too much? Did you enjoy some memorable family times? Did you overcome some disappointments together? Make adjustments as you went along? Take the time to celebrate successes? Manage to accomplish most of your goals? Effective homeschoolers are constantly reassessing themselves and fine tuning their program. If you can feel reasonably satisfied with your answers to questions like these when assessing your homeschooling year, you should be very pleased indeed, and consider yourself a successful homeschooling family.  2 Timothy 2:15

Carleen Galiardo

Homeschool Mom
Certified Educational Evaluator

Monday, April 11, 2011

Henle's Not So Bad!

     When you really look at it, Henle got a bad rap.  There are a lot of homeschool moms who shy away from using Henle Latin because it has a reputation for being the best, and it is assumed it is more difficult.  Other Latin curriculums have ridden that wave all the way in insisting that you need their program before going on to something as advanced as Henle. I totally disagree! Henle is a lamb in a lion's clothing.  It begins as easy as they come... from the beginning with no prior Latin knowledge required. Even elementary aged children have used Henle Latin with complete success. The secret is in the pacing. (I have known some programs that try to shove an awful lot of instruction into just 30 weeks and then wonder why the students don't achieve success.) If you proceed at a pace that is comfortable, yet challenging for your student, s/he will learn Latin with this program exceptionally well.
     Henle, unlike "Latin's Not So Tough," does not leave you guessing about which grammar rule you are supposed to be learning. Everything is very clearly explained and practiced before the student is required to complete the exercise. (I personally very much dislike "Latin's Not So Tough" and found Henle only because I was trying to find a logical explanation for something while teaching a class which was using LNST. I quickly realized... Latin does NOT have to be so tough! I have been "sold" on Henle ever since.)
     Another nice benefit of using Henle Latin is that it is totally affordable. Much less expensive than the other programs on the market. It's very unusual for the best thing to be the least expensive, but in this case, although prices vary, that is usually true.
     The one feature that might be of any concern to those of us who would describe ourselves as being "Protestant," is that Henle is written from a decidedly Catholic point of view. (Leave it to those priests to know their Latin!) But if you don't mind a few references to dear Mary, the mother of our Lord, then you should be more than able to avail yourself of this truly wonderful curriculum.
     I have not reviewed or had experience with every Latin curriculum out there, but I do know this... Henle Latin has a reputation for being the best. Scholars across the board recognize and have great respect for the program. It actually has gained a bit of upper crust snob appeal! But don't let that scare you into thinking the program is difficult. With controlled pacing, it is possible for even younger students to "Carpe diem!"
(Feel free to purchase Henle Latin texts from our online store!)


Carleen Galiardo

Homeschooling Mom
Certified Educational Evaluator

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Will All Those Who Are TOO BUSY Please SIT DOWN!

Sometimes the solution to a problem is so simple, we can't see it. We know it's there, but we don't choose it. We're just too busy. No... I mean it. We are just too busy! And that IS the problem. The days fly by. We blink, and our children are grown. (Just ask anyone who has a graduated or married child.) "Teach us to number our days" begs the wise Psalmist.

I often see moms who, in selflessly trying to provide a well rounded life for their child, fill their schedule with sports, clubs, co-ops, music lessons, martial arts, play-dates, dance class, art class, and youth group activities. The list goes on. It's not to say that each of these things does not have their own merit. (There's just no way I would pull my kids out of their church related activities!) But we have to be careful, especially as homeschooling parents, to teach our children-not just academics-but also how to maintain a balanced life. Do we really want our children to grow up and pack their lives SO full of activities that they don't know how to just curl up with their family and read a book?

While these activities have a variety of different costs, none of them is really "free." Each one brings with it its own expectations of some level of performance and huge demands of time. And each additional activity added into the schedule means less time for other things... like basic academics, or just good ole "down time." There are plenty of studies that directly link poor health to the stress of an overly busy and pressure filled life. And none of these activities guarantee that your child will come out on top academically, socially, or any other _______ly!

I'm not suggesting that you should put the "kabosh" on ANY extra activities. There are many benefits that can be realized by participating in an extra-curricular activity. A hard working child may really need a diversion, a creative outlet, or some social time with peers. But there have to be limits.

As homeschoolers, we have been given a HUGE gift. It's called, "flexibility." Most of us can build our schedule around our own desires and not around someone else's schedule. WE can choose what is best for our child. Isn't that one of the main reasons why we do this? We have a legal and God-given right and responsibility to raise our children as we feel is best. But this doesn't mean packing in as much extra-curricular as we can before our birdies leave the nest. Our children have their whole lives in front of them. There ARE music lessons, dance classes, and Tae Kwon Do for those over the age of 18... and sometimes, the level of enjoyment and accomplishment soars as maturity takes root. We often act as though we don't want them to miss out, but those diversions... and more, will always be with us.

The one thing that WON'T always be with us are those wonderful, peaceful, and sometimes crazy fun family times. The "we don't have to go anywhere today" times. The "let's begin school with Bible study" days that show our children what is really important in life. Faith, Family, Fun!

I pray that each of you will give yourself PERMISSION to examine your homeschool schedules. Choose to trade "La Vida Loca" for more quality time with your family. Dare to NOT resemble those who are caught up in the colloquial "Rat Race." Teach your family to enjoy each other and savor these moments in the comfort of your own home instead of spending time and gas racing from one activity to the other. This is a priceless and irreplaceable gift you can give your entire family.

Is your family TOO BUSY? It's time to have a seat and make some changes. It's time to revisit the question, "Why do we homeschool?" Is it just to avoid public school, or are we hoping for something really extraordinary?


Carleen Galiardo

Homeschooling Mom
Certified Educational Evaluator

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Trouble with MATH? Welcome to the KHAN ACADEMY!

     Being the "math whiz" that I am,  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I discovered the KHAN ACADEMY,  a FREE,  online math site developed by Sal Khan. What began as a long distance effort to help his cousin using a few little algebra videos, has become a world-wide sensation.  Sal's site now houses over 2,100 videos and hundreds of self-paced exercises (not just in math, but he also has some science, history, and other things as well. However, since I have other curriculum I highly recommend in those other subject areas, I will restrict my Pick of the Week to Sal's math achievements.) Thousands of people all over the world log on every day to learn everything from 2+2 to Trigonometry.  Many claim Sal is their favorite teacher, including Bill Gates!
     Anyone can utilize the Khan Academy site.  As a visitor, you can search for the area in which you are having difficulty and view a helpful video, or you can log onto the site (either through a Facebook or Google account) and establish your own account.
     This second option provides many advantages, one of which is TRACKING!  Once you have an established account, parents (and students) can check progress at any time and see how many minutes were spent on each exercise, what exercises were accomplished, what videos were viewed and for how long, and what awards were achieved! You can also check your outer-space themed chart to see what things you can choose to work on next (no one is allowed to work out of his/her skill area.)
     One of the features of the program is that EVERYONE who has an established account MUST begin at 2 + 2.  While this might be discouraging for some of the older students, there are advantages to simple beginnings.  Review is always great and success adds confidence!  If there DOES happen to be an element that was missed in instruction, this is a great way to catch it.  The ladder of success can be quickly climbed by achieving a string of correct answers.  Most students see it as very much like a game and have a lot of fun whizzing through the easy parts.
     Once the equations become more of a challenge, you know your student is at his/ her level of learning. Sal has incorporated a "HINT" button. If a student becomes stuck, hitting the button reveals the next part of the solution.  If they are still confused, they can hit the video button and let Sal help them with a series of colorful and enlightening demonstrations.
     Reviews are sometimes required of the students before they are allowed to proceed to the next level. But the beauty of this is that EACH student progresses at his/ her own level after achieving proficiency skill by skill. That means your first grader can use this program as effectively as your high schooler (although, I would still get out those manipulatives with my first grader!)
     As you can see, I am really excited about this! If you are one of those who could use a little help teaching math, like me, take a few minutes and view these links. Soon, you will be telling your students, "Welcome to the Khan Academy!"

YouTube overview (site is updated since this was made but it still gives you a good overview):

This is a peek at the types of tracking pages you will have available to you:

Official Website: KhanAcademy.Org

Please visit the bottom of our Blog page and join in our recent POLL, 
"What is the area in which you feel you need the most help?"


Carleen Galiardo

Homeschooling Mom
Certified Educational Evaluator

Friday, March 4, 2011

Online Evals, A Twenty-First Century Option!

     Online Evals (also known as "cyber" evals) are one of the benefits of
modern day technology. Now, instead of piling all your kids in the car,
fighting traffic, blowing money on gas, and lugging your portfolios half
across town, you can sit in the comfort of your own home and video
conference with your favorite certified evaluator who has already reviewed your portfolio WITHOUT you having to sit there and wait. 

            Will someone please pinch me. I must be dreaming!

     Preparing for an online interview is as easy as 1, 2, 3...
1. You must have access to a computer with a built in camera or web-cam OR an iPhone which has FaceTime.
 2. You must be able to use Skype, iChat video (or FaceTime on your iPhone) to connect with the evaluator at the appointed time. You CAN do this!
 3. Read the center of the Services page of EvaluationStation.Com to find out the best way to transmit the "items required by law" to your evaluator. This needs to be done several days in advance of your online interview.

     It's a pretty easy process, even for those of us who claim to be, "Technologically Challenged." (If you have any difficulty... just ask your kids to help you!)

     Most computers have built in cameras. If yours doesn't, you can pick up an inexpensive web-cam at your local tech store. (Most families enjoy using these to video chat with friends and relatives far away.) If you can't do this, there is a great chance that someone you know will let you use their computer for this interview.

     Set up an account with Skype or connect with iChat and you are ready to roll! These services are usually cheap or free.

     Next, scan the selected pages of your portfolio that your evaluator needs to see and transmit them using SkyDrive.Com (may favorite!) or DropBox . (No scanner/copier?  Very close photos using a digital camera will often work.) OR you can set a free private blog that you can use all year long to update your portfolio and capture special moments. You can see a sample HERE.

     "Which pages do I email to my evaluator?" Visit my website: www.EvaluationStation.Com and view our power point, "How to Prepare for a Portfolio Evaluation, without losing your mind!"  This will help you feel confident that you have all the necessary (legal) elements that the state requires. You can also download our helpful  "Homeschool Portfolio Checklist."

     The BEST thing to do if you know you will be planning to schedule an online evaluation in the future, is to scan the work samples (one from each subject taught) into a blog or a file three times throughout the year, once in the beginning of the year, once in the middle of the year, and once again towards the end. This will, of course, help you to have much less to do when evaluation time rolls around.

     Besides saving gas, time, and traffic aggravation... what are the advantages of an online eval???

     As a certified evaluator, I can tell you that, although I'd LOVE to share a cup of cappuccino with you at Panera while I interview your children and we go through your portfolios, I would rather take my time looking carefully at your program and the things your children have accomplished BEFORE I conference with you and your children.

     Having all the paperwork and website links to the curriculum you are using, etc. a few days prior to our meeting helps me give you a more in-depth assessment of your children and your entire program. It gives me a chance to research some ideas and resources that might improve your homeschooling experience, and helps me to offer you more valuable feedback.

     By the time we connect online, most of the work is already done... and you didn't have to wait. This makes the actual online meeting go very quickly and efficiently.

     Some other advantages of going the online route... Payment for this service can be immediately received through PayPal (one of the newest, exciting features on my website!) Results of a successful portfolio evaluation will be instantly emailed to you AND your county liaison.

     I hope this information has given you the courage to explore this exciting new evaluation option! Please visit our site for more information and read testimonies from our clients who have used this option. They have found it to be just as personal as a face to face meeting! Remember, "Evaluation time does NOT have to be stressful!"


Carleen Galiardo

Homeschooling Mom
Certified Educational Evaluator