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  1. #1

    Default How is reading planned/structured/evaluated in school?

    My youngest will turn 5 mid-year, when she would traditionally start school in NZ. We are going to keep her at her play-based preschool for at least the rest of the year. She does not legally have to start school (or homeschool) until she is 6. However, I am just thinking ahead and planning here. I have to do a lengthy multi-page application to exempt her from the public school system. You have to show that you have a plan for everything, up until how you would ensure they are equipped for whatever they want to pursue after formal schooling, and how you will gauge their progress and so forth. With my older DD's application, it was a bit different. She was in grade 3, already knew how to read, basic math etc. I am from a science background and pretty comfortable with math so can figure out how to write my younger DD's exemption for those areas, but reading and writing are something that I am not sure how it is all meant to progress.

    Any ex-teachers here? What would typically be done in a school environment, and how would you evaluate progress? Because homeschool applications are judged against you providing an education that is at least as good as what they would get in public school. So at a minimum, I need to show we will be achieving the same things, even if we get there a different way.

    At the moment she is very keen to learn to read and has been asking for at least a year, but we have not done anything strictly or regularly. When she wants to, she can do Reading Eggs and Starfall, and I have a series of phonics readers out from the library for her. We only do them when she asks, so we have only got through three of them in about 5 weeks. For writing, I just have some letter tracing sheets that she gets out and practices when she wants to. She also likes to write in blank writing workbooks that she either practices writing things she knows, like her name, or gets me to dot outlines of words for a story (what she calls it) that she can then trace over. These are very basic things like "Bat, cave, dark, scary" or "Fairy, garden, flower, elves". I also have the Bravewriter Jot it Down projects that I was doing with my older DD last year, and the younger one joined in for that too. I will repeat those for her in future.

    Those are the more formal things we do. Otherwise we just do a lot of reading and talking about words, poetry and rhymes and so forth.

    I know for my application that it is all a bit lacking structure for the planning and progress aspect. It might be fine for the how we will do things, but I don't have the why or the how I will evaluate her, and I just can't seem to get my head around that part of it. Part of the problem is my lack of experience in this area, and part of it is also that my oldest DD did not need to be taught how to read. We just read to her lots and talked about words, then she went to school at age 5 and came home the first day reading and was reading chapter books like the Faraway tree before the end of her first 6 months at school. So I have this experience with her of reading just happening and not really needing to be planned or evaluated, but I know that won't be suitable for the application.

    By the time I file for her exemption, she may already be reading, but I would like to understand the general progression so I can say I have evaluated her against that.

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  3. #2


    Oh bureaucracy! I guess you cant just tell them you are just going to progress through a comprehensive phonics program?

    Have you looked at the US Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts? They have a section on reading - foundational skills, conveniently already technobabbled.
    English Language Arts Standards | Common Core State Standards Initiative

    Thats my best guess how to help, because it has a scope and sequence.

    Has NZ checked on your older daughter’s progress at all?
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  4. #3


    Reading evaluations really vary a good bit. I have no clue what's typical in NZ. While a lot more schools are doing phonics or blended approaches, from what I can tell, the evals still rely a lot on sight word recognition and sight words are still drilled a good bit in schools.

    I don't know what NZ's application process is like or what they're looking for. But in these types of things here in the states, typically knowing how schools operate helps, but isn't essential. My guess is that what they're looking for is for you to have a clear plan with some specifics. Not necessarily a minute by minute of the year thing, but to be able to articulate a philosophy and name some of the practices and materials that will fulfill it. The information above is likely the sort of thing they're looking for.

    However, you really are downplaying the things you do in your post here. Brave Writer's Jot It Down IS a "formal thing." With the things you're doing for direct instruction with reading, that's a full curriculum you're doing. You may feel like you're "winging it" or "just rolling along casually" or whatever - but you're instructing and doing things. What you describe above sounds very full for a child that age. It sounds on par or even above and beyond what kids are doing in schools. Different in some ways, yes. But I think you're underplaying it. In your application, don't underplay it. You are doing PLENTY. And just remind yourself of that as you write it up. I'm promising you that this is a lot for a kindergarten/reception aged child. Don't go into it thinking that you're somehow not doing as much or as formally as them.
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  5. #4


    Alexsmom, ha no, they never check. Its like this huge application, and then once its done, you are out and that is it. No longer in the system. Not checked on unless someone files a complaint about your child's education. I guess that is why the application is so intense in what they expect you to put in there. We do have national standards, that are terribly confusing to read. There are all these different levels that your child could be at for a certain age (+ or – 2 levels from their age level. So its really hard to figure out what they want them to know. However, they are being made non-compulsory to teach to/evaluate against from this year. Instead, teachers are expected to make sure and show that all children are progressing based on their own individual learning. Actually, I had never considered the fact that may make my homeschool exemption easier!

    Thanks Farrar. That has given me enough confidence to think I am just to flesh out what we are doing/have done, and hope its enough. If it is not, they will give me a chance to add to the application rather than turning it down. I know it seems like a lot for her to be doing at this age, which is why I only ever do it if she initiates it. However, you are right, I do feel like we are all airy fairy about it. Probably because I have no idea where its going/meant to be going. From starting with some phonics and finishing with good comprehension and fluency and independent reading, the middle is all a bit mystifying to me. She is progressing, not that I am concerned about that as she is so young, but it will be good for the application.

    Edited to add - It probably does not help that my mother, despite coming round to homeschooling since seeing the improvement in my oldest, is the type to say things like "but she has to go to school to learn how to read" or "but who would teach her how to read?" about my youngest.
    Last edited by NZ_Mama; 02-05-2018 at 08:58 PM.

  6. #5
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    Stuff they check at the end of kindergarten:
    Can a child identify uppercase and lowercase letters out of order accurately
    Can they match capital and lowercase letters
    Do they know their letter sounds / can they match sounds with letters / can they produce the sounds accurately
    Do they know short and long vowel sounds
    Can they blend sounds to make a cvc word /c/ /a/ /t/ /caaaaaaaat/ cat
    Can they recognize kindergarten sight words (google a list) - a, the, said, I think we had like 15-20
    Can they write their full name beginning with a capital and the rest lowercase letters
    Can they draw a picture and write a sentence (kindergarten sentences don't have to be correct sentences - they spell phonetically and write letters in the wrong order, but after a while you can kind of tell what they are getting at)
    Can they retell a familiar story in order (3 Pigs, Little Red Hen, Red Riding Hood, etc)
    Can they answer recall questions about a story
    Can they identify book parts - title, tell what an author does, know what an illustrator is, know the front, back, spine, and pages of the book, find a page number
    Can they answer questions about a character - character's name, what the character did, describe the character - i.e. the fox is sneaky, the gingerbread man is funny, the villagers hate rats
    Can they tell a story using pictures
    Can they put pictures in order to tell a story - like how to make a sandwich: get out ingredients, put on bread, put on plate, eat sandwich (correct), put on plate, get out ingredients, eat sandwich, put on bread (incorrect)
    Can they write letters with correct formation (b, d, p, q don't have to be absolute perfection, but they should be able to write a letter if you ask)
    Can they guess at phonetic spellings while writing

    That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Hope that helps.
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  7. #6


    So, you do this application once a year? Or just once and you're done?

    When I first started out, I also had a sort of confusion about language arts as a whole and getting started with it. Knowing the end goals down the line - reading fluently, writing fluently, etc. - and the starting point - ABCDEFG... - didn't really help make the middle understandable. I had taught middle school mostly and I was really familiar with the phonics vs. whole language debates from my education career, but I didn't really understand what happened next.

    Since you're doing Brave Writer, look at it in terms of Julie's stages of writing and I think that helps it be a little clearer. And while some kids just flip the switch and suddenly are readers... it's not like that for most kids. They learn a little and a little more and a little more... it's a long process.
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  8. #7


    Farrar, it is a once and done application. After that they send us a form every six months that we just have to sign to confirm we are still homeschooling at least as well and regularly as public school. It took me about 6 weeks to complete my older daughter's application, which was about 14 pages (single spaced), and about a year to summon up the energy to start. Hence the early prep now for my youngest, I know it will take me a while.

    Thanks for the idea of looking at it in terms of Julie's stages of writing, and the reassurance that I am not the only one who finds the process of learning to read all a bit mysterious. I think my younger one will not be as quick to read as her sister. She really wants to, but it seems to be tiring for her. She has been working on getting one of her phonics readers for a few weeks now. Mostly we just read the title and first page and then she would say she was done. She read it right through for the first time other night and it was very cute to see her understand the story. It was about a pig called Sal and at one point had "Sal has a hot bot", which she thought was hilarious.

  9. #8


    Thanks so much for the list TFZ, that is way clearer than our national standards, which are not written in accessible language.

  10. #9


    Wait, why can't you just copy whole sections of the first one? Surely it's not meant to be that level of personalized? I mean, a school doesn't redo it's curriculum plan every year for every kid.
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  11. #10


    Yep, it is that annoying. Has to be individualized for each child.

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How is reading planned/structured/evaluated in school?