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Testing: When Do You Seek Outside Help?

Families have been educating their children at home for years now. Quite a few have begun their educational journey thinking everything would be "normal" in their home schools, only to find out after starting that something wasnít working quite right. Sometimes a parent just "knows" when one of the children isnít learning just like all the others. Sometimes we look for things that arenít there. Sometimes we donít want to look. How are we supposed to know when itís time to look for help? Is there a way to tell when you or your child needs some outside support?

Children grow up individually. They develop individually. They walk and talk at different times and we attribute all those differences to normal development and maturation. Then, they get to be school age, and suddenly, theyíre supposed to be learning the same way at the same time. Everybody should be reading by the time they enter first grade; everybody should be able to sit still in groups for long periods of time; everybody should be able to write without turning letters backwards, right? Wrong. Maturational differences continue throughout childhood and on into the teen years. Many students who arenít ready for a classroom experience at age five begin to mature and be ready for that experience at around age eight. But, they arenít allowed to begin where everybody else began. They should be ready for 3rd grade at that age.

Home schooling allows for those differences. We, as home schoolers, even embrace and encourage the differences! We know that we donít have to worry about grade levels and grades and all that stuff that makes up traditional school. But, we also know that there are learning problems out there. We know that many children learn differently than their age-mates. Many parents see those differences and work with them, but how do you know when those differences become significant? How do you know when to look for help?

It is normal for children to see things from a different perspective than their parents. Our adult brains are fully developed (at least, we hope so!). The human brain continues to develop well past age 20 and is usually fully developed by about age 25. So, why are we so worried about our children who still flip letters around at age 6? Because thatís what the specialists have told us.

As an educational consultant working with children for over 30 years, Iíve seen many children who are just developmentally behind a little. Solution: give it a little time and theyíll get there. Then, Iíve also seen some who really are struggling academically and really do need some help. Here are some things to look for:

If your child is around 9 years of age and still exhibits any of the following, then you may want to seek some educational help:

∑ Canít sequence letters in the alphabet

∑ Has trouble recognizing letters

∑ Has difficulty pairing the sound with the letter or vice-versa

∑ Has difficulty blending sounds in correct order (c-a-t = cat, not tack)

∑ Has trouble distinguishing words, ex. was/saw; in, on, of; where, when, etc.

∑ Canít sit still for periods of about 15 minutes

∑ Has difficulty organizing tasks

∑ Has difficulty understanding facial expressions

∑ Is having difficulty developing peer relationships

∑ Has difficulty communicating because of speech issues

∑ Is inflexible in changing routines

∑ Reverses letters or numbers

∑ Is unable to understand written or oral instructions (within reason).

∑ Has difficulty forming letters with his pencil (barring physical disabilities)

∑ Has difficulty forming sentences, either oral or written

The first step is to do some research on your own. We are blessed to live in this era with the world at our fingertips. The internet is a vast research tool just waiting to be tapped. If you donít have access to this tool, go to the library. Every public library has access to the internet. Use a search engine and check for your childís symptoms. Donít stop there. Just because you find one site doesnít mean youíve conquered the problem. Check some more. Use that library and check out some books. Do the research.

Once youíve determined that your suspicions are well-founded, then you need to pray about this next step. Do you want to have your child evaluated? This type of evaluation will be much more extensive than the usual achievement test your child takes every three years. You will get different results and there will be a wider range of information. Given by a qualified examiner, these results can be quite helpful in planning for your childís education.

How do you find a qualified examiner? Actually, this answer is tricky. There are many people out there who can give the appropriate tests and are qualified to make diagnoses of learning abilities, but most of them have had training and experience in traditional classrooms. Most are not familiar with home schooling methods and materials. Most arenít in favor of home education, even though they realize that the tutorial method used in home schooling is the most effective teaching method available. My suggestion is to ask them their views of home schooling. Also ask if this evaluation will include specific curriculum suggestions and methods for teaching that are appropriate for home education. Ask if this evaluation will be complete Ė you should not have to go to anyone else for further evaluation.

The comprehensive evaluation itself should take at least 3 hours, sometimes in more than one session. It should include, but is not limited to, an evaluation of cognitive ability and several measures to evaluate achievement and any possible learning discrepancies in every academic area. In learning disabilities, these areas include: word analysis, reading comprehension, spelling, handwriting, math computation and reasoning, language expression (oral and written, receptive and expressive). The evaluation may also include instruments that measure social, emotional and behavioral issues. The evaluation should include a written summary of the findings and, preferably, a conference between the parent and the person doing the evaluation. Many times these evaluations are costly and may or may not be covered by insurance. The county in which you home school may provide this service for you, but you must provide family information to them and your child then has a permanent record of this evaluation on file in that county. There are also consultants in private practice who may be of help to you. Just check on their views of home schooling. Costs for evaluations run from approximately $500 to $2500 and up. Hopefully, the expert in the area will become part of your team with the goal of helping your child be successful academically.

Donít be afraid of finding that help. Be willing to change methods or materials, if necessary. If the person doing the evaluation finds no significant problems, donít feel that you wasted money (thatís mostly for you dads out there!). You should be encouraged. Hopefully, you will find the methods and materials that will work best with your child and will begin the next phase of home education with good educational tools.

Ruth Martin, M. Ed. Martin Educational Services

Ruth is an educational consultant in private practice working with children in public, private and home school settings. She home schooled her own children for 22 years until she worked herself out of a job and they all graduated! For more information, please call 678-442-1477 or e-mail Ruth at

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The Association will serve and assist any home schooling family or support group in Georgia, however, GHEA is a Christian organization and the counsel and direction of the organization will be Christian.

GHEA • P.O. Box 229 • Snellville, GA 30078
Phone: (770) 461-3657