Welcome to Part 2 of the Homeschool Glossary! New homeschool parents run into so much lingo that not understanding the terms can be a barrier to feeling confident and capable in teaching your own children. I hope the definitions that follow will clarify the homeschool vocabulary you encounter. In case you missed Part 1, it’s available in the previous issue of Home School Enrichment.

Excuse from Compulsory Education: Legal permission for a child to not attend a school; i.e., a written letter from a public school superintendent which acknowledges a parent’s intent to homeschool that child. Without an Excuse from Compulsory Education, a child is considered truant. This is not a requirement to legally homeschool in all states.

Learning Style: This comes from the idea that people show preferences in how they best receive information. The major learning styles (or preferences) are usually expressed as kinesthetic (doing, hands-on, take apart and put back together); auditory (listening, hearing, read-alouds); visual (being shown how something works or is done); and reading & writing (worksheet learner, learns from a book, sees things for oneself in black and white). In homeschooling, parents can adapt teaching methods and curriculum to their child’s learning style by asking: “When my student is learning something new, would he prefer to touch it? Hear it? Be shown it? Or read about it?”

Nonconsumable: Curriculum that a student will not write in or use up during the school year. Primarily books, textbooks, and DVDs. Nonconsumable homeschool materials are able to be handed down to another child, shared with a friend, or sometimes resold.

Notification: To meet legal requirements in many states, parents must notify their public school district of their intent to homeschool their child(ren) prior to the start of a school year. Notification is usually submitted in writing to the superintendent. A state’s notification law may require personal information, a list of anticipated coursework, and a portfolio assessment or testing results for each child from the previous year.

Online resources/courses: One of many curriculum options available to homeschoolers. The Internet has exploded with potential homeschool resources. Online materials may be free, subscription-based, or a one-time purchase. Online options include live or prerecorded complete classes, virtual study groups, math worksheet generators, foreign language apps, flash cards for rote learning, virtual tours of historical sites/museums, virtual dissections, e-books, and audiobooks.

PSAT/NMSQT: Acronym for the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. A standardized test to assess college readiness, the PSAT is administered bythe  College Board and cosponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Association. High schoolers take the approximately two-hour long test composed of three sections: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing Skills.

The PSAT/NMSQT has a maximum score of 1520, and only juniors’ test results factor into National Merit scholarship criteria.

Portfolio: An annual sampling of a student’s work for record keeping (and sentimental) purposes. Usually kept in a three-ring binder or a lidded box, it may contain sample math worksheets, a list of books read, handwriting samples, science lab notes, artwork, ticket stubs from events attended, participation ribbons and certificates, and photos taken at extracurricular events and field trips. Most homeschoolers keep a sampling of each child’s work for an entire year in separate binders. Portfolios are necessary when homeschoolers attend a portfolio review with a certified teacher for the purposes of annual notification (not legally required in all states) or when building a transcript prior to high school graduation.

Portfolio Review: This is one of the assessment options to fulfill annual legal requirements in many states. Homeschool families may pay a certified teacher to conduct a portfolio review of their child(ren)’s schoolwork for the year. The certified teacher (often a former public school teacher who now homeschools her/his own children) writes a summary that attests to the child’s progress and ability. The parents will include this written narrative in their annual notification to the public school superintendent.

Publisher: In the homeschool realm, a publisher may edit, design, publish, and distribute books and curriculum. Many large publishers of homeschool curriculum sell titles across all subjects, while smaller publishers may specialize in one subject, such as history or math. Many homeschool publishers started out as authors or curriculum writers who then ventured into publishing their own materials. Most Christian homeschool publishers sell titles that align with their worldview or doctrinal outlook. Some publishers sell their materials directly to customers; others sell indirectly through booksellers.

Relaxed Approach: This one is difficult to define! A relaxed approach to education in one homeschool family might not be as relaxed as another family prefers. In the relaxed approach, the schedule might vary from day to day or week to week, but there is a schedule. Curriculum choices might vary from child to child, but there is a curriculum and a plan for each child. Relaxed approach homeschool families would say they’re not a school, but a family. The relaxed approach is not equivalent to unschooling.

SAT: An acronym for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, this is a standardized test used for college admissions. Administered by the College Board, the test is offered to high school juniors and seniors seven times a year. Recently redesigned, the SAT now tests students in Math and Critical Reading (duration is three hours), with an optional written essay (duration is fifty minutes). A perfect score is 1600.

Socialization: In general, this refers to the process of learning the norms, values, and social skills appropriate to society. Homeschooled children are offered socialization opportunities via church, sports, volunteering, co-ops, entrepreneurial ventures, political action, etc. Often, homeschool parents cite the opportunity to direct their child(ren)’s socialization as a primary reason for homeschooling. Yet, socialization is perhaps the aspect of a home-based education most commonly questioned by outsiders: can homeschooled students relate well to society? A different approach to socialization need not be confused with isolation. Studies have shown that homeschooled children relate well to people of all ages and adjust well to society upon graduation.

Special Needs: A student’s unique educational requirements due to learning difficulties, emotional or behavioral challenges, or physical disabilities. The tutorial approach of homeschooling is valuable to students with special needs because their curriculum, setting, schedule, and pace can all be customized at home.

Standardized Test: A test (1) administered to many test takers and (2) scored and analyzed in a “standard” manner to compare the relative performance of students. The types of standardized tests homeschool students might encounter include achievement tests to evaluate knowledge and skills learned to date; aptitude tests to predict ability to succeed in the future; and admission tests to assess academic potential in college. Among homeschoolers, frequently used standardized tests for assessing student achievement include the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Stanford Achievement Test, the California Achievement Test, and the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. Standardized test results are often required in the annual notification to the public school superintendent (where required), as a way to show student progress.

Support Group: Homeschool families who meet regularly for encouragement. Parents gather for prayer and conversation, sometimes based on a preselected topic (such as how to teach spelling, how to homeschool high school, or a curriculum swap). Children also meet each other in support group gatherings.

Textbook: A type of curriculum material, textbooks are often hardbound books. Textbooks can instruct students in any subject, are usually written to target a specific grade level, and are often edited by several contributors. Many homeschoolers use textbooks in their curriculum.

Transcript: A formal document that describes courses a student has taken in high school, the credit earned for each course, and each course’s final grade. Transcripts may also include personal information used for identification purposes, a grade point average (GPA), and a list of the student’s extracurricular activities and outside achievements. Homeschool parents have legal authority to issue a transcript and may do so when the student is graduating or applying for jobs, college, or military service.

Umbrella School: Also known as umbrella program, these schools enroll homeschool children for a fee and in return provide services to parents. These services may include selecting curriculum, grading tests and essays, issuing grades, and providing transcripts. An umbrella school may be local, such as an offshoot of a private Christian school, or distant, such as a correspondence program.

Unit Study: A curricular approach that teaches many subjects around one central topic. For example, a unit study on the US national parks could cover animals and plants located in the parks (natural science), geology (earth science), map skills (geography), park-based literature and writing topics (language arts), the presidents who established each park (history), and drawing and painting famous park scenes (fine arts). Unit studies benefit homeschoolers because siblings of different ages work on the same topic, each at his own ability level.

Unschooling: Sometimes called delight-directed learning, this is an approach to homeschooling where students initiate study of the topics which interest them rather than following a structured curriculum. Homeschool parents who advocate unschooling believe it creates a love of learning because students’ motivation is never lacking. 

This article was published in the September/October 2016 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine.

Melanie Hexter and her husband, Matthew, started their homeschool journey in 1998. With two graduates and four children still at home, they ask the Lord to teach them how to uniquely educate each child. The Hexters love to travel the US, using their Colorado Springs home as a western base. Melanie is working on two books and offers several homeschool curricula, including the U.S. National Parks Unit Study, for download at www.LEMILOEpublishing.com. LEMILOE is their family motto: Live Every Moment In Light Of Eternity.