Finishing Your Homeschool Year: Testing, Portfolios, and More

Finishing Your Homeschool Year: Testing, Portfolios, and More

If you are approaching the end of your homeschool year, you may be considering how to conclude your lessons and if you will perform any formal or informal testing or evaluations. There are so many ways you can assess your child's progress at the end of the school year! If you are researching the requirements of your state or what type of evaluation — if any you will choose, this blog post is for you.

In this blog post: 

  • Types of year-end assessments
  • My personal choices for testing and assessments in our homeschool
  • Assessment options for young children
  • Charlotte Mason end of end-of-year exams
  • How I compile my annual portfolios for my children
  • Planning for end-of-year assessments

Types of year-end assessments

homeschool end of year testing requirements

If you are a homeschool parent approaching the end of the school year, are wrapping up your curriculum, or want to map out how many days you have left of school, you may be wondering if you should do some sort of assessment to measure your child’s progress over the year.  

Related: Benefits of Year-Round Homeschooling and Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 3rd and 5th Grade

Some families choose to complete year-end evaluations for personal understanding and to guide them into what direction to take next, and others do them because they are a state requirement. 

First, it is important to understand your state’s requirements, as they vary by state. Some states have no requirements for end-of-year assessments, while others may be more rigorous and require specific standardized testing.

The primary types of assessments are:

  • Standardized testing
  • Portfolios
  • In-person evaluation

Standardized testing

standardized test options for homeschool

Standardized testing is an evaluation where all testers are required to answer the same questions and are graded in the same way. Standardized testing is the most objective academic assessment because it is designed to measure material that is considered common knowledge. In some states, this form of assessment is only required in certain subjects, such as reading, language arts, or math. 

One benefit of standardized testing is that it helps determine grade level based on specific subject criteria, and is recognized by academic institutions if your child re-enters a traditional school environment at some point. Others may opt for standardized testing to allow children to become used to test taking as early preparation for college application and testing, such as SAT or ACT exams.

Standardized test scores often use a percentile ranking, which shows how your child ranks compared to other test takers.

Some testing options to consider are: 

  • Iowa AssessmentIowa Assessments are nationally recognized and are among the newest achievement tests available for homeschoolers. They allow for a wider range of grade levels for simultaneous testing. This test is available in pencil and paper format and online. It is available for kindergarten through 12th grade and has additional testing available to determine children’s reasoning skills.
  • Stanford Achievement Test - Stanford Achievement Tests are also nationally recognized. It is a self-paced or untimed test and usually takes several hours over two days. It is available in paper and pencil format and online. It is available for kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • California Achievement Test (TerraNova) - The California Achievement Test (CAT), also known as TerraNova, is another popular standardized test because there are no specific requirements for the testing administrator. Whereas the Iowa Assessment and Stanford Achievement Tests require the administrator to have a bachelor’s degree and register individually, the CAT does not require an application process to administer. This test is available for 4th through 12th grade and focuses on basic academic skills in language arts, reading, and math. We prefer the online, untimed version.
  • NWEA MAP Test - The NWEA MAP Test, or Map Growth, is an assessment for measuring general knowledge, achievement, and progress in kindergarten through 12th grade math, reading, language usage, and science. MAP Growth is a computer-adaptive test, which means every student gets a unique set of test questions based on responses to previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions get harder. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions get easier. By the end of the test, most students will have answered about half the questions correctly, which is a common result.


homeschool portfolio ideas

A portfolio is an assessment that uses a collection of your child’s work to show what was accomplished during the school year. A portfolio may be organized in chronological order to show the progress the child made throughout the year. It could include a list of curriculum, a reading log, educational experiences, subject testing, favorite projects, photos of field trips, or whatever you choose to compile. 

In-person evaluation

Your state may have the option of using an in-person evaluator, who would come to your home and provide a report to the local school district. This may include a portfolio review, in-person testing, or interviews. 

An evaluator is a great option to consider for children who do not test well or follow a non-traditional curriculum. It also may be an avenue to consider if a child started the school year with a learning deficit and you would like to mark the child’s progress. In general, having an assessment performed by an evaluator will have more subjectivity than a standardized test.

My personal choices for testing and assessments in our homeschool

It goes without saying that how you choose to assess your child's learning progress is a personal decision based on your preferences, your individual children, and your state's requirements.

In my homeschool, my children complete standardized testing because it is required in our state. We are required to complete a standardized test each year. We have tried multiple tests and are most comfortable using the California Achievement Test because, for my family, it is the simplest and least stressful. We use the online, untimed version. When we are ready for testing, we dedicate a couple of days to completing it and making it fun with breaks, special snacks, and rewards.

I also compile portfolios of the work they complete throughout the year. Portfolios are a great way to document our homeschool in the event of an audit, but it also a keepsake I love putting together each year! Portfolios take planning and preparation but are a natural part of the end of our curriculum as we document and demonstrate what the children have learned in our homeschool.

To be frank, we do standardized testing primarily because it’s a state requirement. I do not feel it is necessary to do a formal end-of-year assessment, especially a test. I feel confident in what my children understand and where they are in their progress throughout the year because I am constantly evaluating them when I am with them for their lessons and learning alongside them. I consider our daily narrations, notebooking, and book presentations a form of assessing their understanding and progress. We also do periodic informal evaluations, like narrating an entire book after we are finished reading it, or notebooking about an entire concept after studying it for many weeks. 

Related: Notebooking in Your Homeschool: Why and How?

While we do complete the testing process, I don’t lean too much on the results to guide my personal homeschooling goals and approach. I believe that as long as my children are progressing, we don’t need to worry too much about what they are learning at each “grade level.” Though I do not use test results to indicate learning, the testing process is still helpful as it allows me to observe if my children have retained certain skills and concepts that we learned throughout the year.

Assessment options for young children

homeschool testing options young children

Many states do not require standardized testing for children under the age of 8 or before 3rd grade. Many child development experts do not use standardized testing for 5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds for all the reasons you can imagine. Children at these ages often struggle with testing because they do not sit still for long periods, do not follow directions consistently, and are generally at varied developmental stages during these ages. 

Related: Homeschool Preschool: Five Intentions for the Early Years

Still, you may consider doing some form of assessment at these ages to document and determine what has been accomplished over the school year. Determining what they have learned and understanding may help you map out what subjects to explore next, or it may help you make adjustments in your planning for next year.

If standardized testing is not appropriate for your child or your education goals, preparing a portfolio or seeking a third-party evaluation may be a better option.

Charlotte Mason examination methods

charlotte mason exams

Separate from your state’s requirements, you may consider other ways of evaluating your child’s progress as you conclude your school year. In the Charlotte Mason method, which I draw from in many aspects of my homeschool, exams are a natural part of learning. Exams show the child’s progress and effort in each subject  and are traditionally given at the end of every term. Exams include all subjects, like math, history, reading, nature, and any subjects or skills you focus on in your homeschool. Just like immediate narration is a way of demonstrating short memory, end-of-term exams explore long-term memory and what was retained throughout various subjects and curricula.

In the Charlotte Mason philosophy, testing is carried out by asking one or two open-ended questions for each book or study completed throughout the term. Charlotte Mason-style questions may start with prompts like: 

  • Retell the main points in the story of...
  • Describe your favorite facts you learned about...

Questions such as these will relate to the specific subject matter you have studied in your homeschool.

No exam preparation is required in this style of testing. If a child has been engaged and attentive during lessons, this type of evaluation should flow easily from the child. Younger children can answer orally, and older children can write out the answers to questions.

Related: Narration in the Early Stages

How I compile annual portfolios for my children

homeschooling notebooking examples charlotte mason

Apples Week from Treehouse Nature Study: Autumn

In my homeschool, each year I put together a portfolio for each child to show what they have completed and learned over the year. While this is a form of record-keeping and documenting our learning progress, for me it is also a keepsake I cherish.

In our portfolios, I include:

bible notebooking examples homeschool christian
Bible narration and notebooking from An Expectant Easter


notebooking examples science homeschool

Notebooking is a way for children to document what they learn in different subjects. I am a huge proponent of notebooking because I believe the practice is an excellent way for my children to process information, and for me to see my children's learning come to life as we work through our curriculum. Notebooking allows children to collect and document their findings as they learn while fostering skills like hard work, focus, writing, artwork, and more.

For multiple subjects in our homeschool, such as Treehouse Nature Study or Rooted Family Bible Curriculum, we document our subjects in a corresponding notebook as we learn, often with an art component, like drawing or painting. We also use notebooking to write down passages of Scripture, narrations, or observations from nature. 

As we practice notebooking, my children are independently transcribing their findings from our studies, requiring deep thinking, concentration, and the habit of self-education. I believe their notebooks are an excellent way to document our study over the school year, and are such a meaningful keepsake for me.

Related: Tips for Nature Study with Multiple Ages

notebooking geography history examples

Planning for year-end assessments

homeschool planning end of year testing

Once you understand your state's requirements for assessments and have decided which format you will utilize, block out time to prepare for and perform any assessments you plan to do. You can consult with your planner to track when you will complete your school days and set aside the appropriate period for the format you choose.

Related: Homeschool Planning 101

If you opt for standardized testing, it is helpful to explain the purpose of testing and what it will be like in advance. For older children, you may consider using practice materials to prepare for the test you are taking, or even taking a practice test so students know what to expect. 

In my family, I explain to my children what the testing will look like, but I do not overemphasize the achievement level or success I expect them to have. Instead, I explain that the test will demonstrate everything they have learned over the school year and how proud I am of them for the progress they have made and for working so hard.

To prepare for the day of testing, I try to make sure my children are well-rested and have a good breakfast. I also like to schedule testing on a week when our schedule is clear so that we do not have a lot of distractions and can focus on testing. 

When testing is completed, I make sure to plan a celebration to reflect how proud I am. Sometimes we celebrate with a special treat or by planning a unique experience.

How are you planning to conclude the school year in your homeschool? What are your state's requirements for your homeschool? Let me know in the comments below.

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