Writing Homeschool Learning Outcomes
Homeschooling offers parents the opportunity to craft a wide range of learning experiences and encourage their child’s learning in nontraditional ways. While you should ensure that your child achieves the learning broadly outlined in your state’s learning standards, you may choose to create Homeschool Learning Outcomes (HLOs) to supplement (or in some cases, replace) these standards. You may create HLOs only for specific areas, or, if you choose not to use the learning goals adopted by your state, for all of your child’s subject areas.
In creating HLOs, you may find it useful to familiarize yourself with Bloom’s Taxonomy, a system for categorizing knowledge used by K-12 and college teachers for over 60 years. Bloom’s Taxonomy categorizes the steps people move through as they learn.
This image of Bloom’s Taxonomy shows that beginning learners must first be able to remember and understand before they can move into an intermediate stage of applying and analyzing. Finally, they move to the last stage, mastery, where they are able to evaluate and create things related to their learning. For more on Bloom’s Taxonomy, see here.
HLOs should include a statement of what students can do as a result of their learning, using a verb from the appropriate level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
What Do HLOs Look Like in Practice?
Let’s look at an example. Maggie is homeschooling her 6th grade daughter, Lucy, who wants to learn how to make an animated movie. Maggie decides to create a course on graphic design and movie making for her daughter. Maggie talks with Lucy about her goals, and creates a set of HLOs for the course using verbs from various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Graphic Design & Movie Making
Lucy, grade 6
Homeschool Learning Outcomes
- Understand how animated movies are made.
- Design animation storyboards.
- Categorize animation software according to its features.
- Identify different film types.
- Create a 15-minute animated movie.
Having defined the scope of the course by writing Lucy’s goals first, Maggie can then work backwards to put together the curriculum. Remember, curriculum is the collection of texts, media, and assignments that create the learning outlined in the learning outcomes.
Maggie works with Lucy to identify resources (such as books, YouTube tutorials, and apps); look for local opportunities (they find an animation club for middle schoolers at the local library); and consider ways to showcase Lucy’s final project (they decide on a movie showing for friends and family). Maggie makes a list of the resources they will be using, works with Lucy to craft assignments, and sketches out a basic timeline for the course.
Remember: successful teaching involves working backward from a standard. Once she had worked with her daughter to create learning outcomes, Maggie was able to work backwards to identify resources, experiences, and assignments that would create that learning.
Now let’s look at a second example.
For social studies, Maggie decides to create a course on Native American life and culture to teach to her 6th grade daughter, Lucy, and her 3rd grade son, Liam. While Maggie will tailor the assignments she creates to each child’s level, she creates one set of Homeschool Learning Outcomes. (Parents who homeschool multiple children often teach more than one child together for some subjects, particularly in the arts or social sciences.)
Native American Life and Culture
Lucy, grade 6, and Liam, grade 3
Homeschool Learning Outcomes
- Understand the history of Native Americans from 1492 to the present
- Identify key themes in Native American history
- Compare the cultures of different Native American groups
- Investigate the history of Native American sovereignty in their local area
- Evaluate the impact of Native American history on the present
- Design a poster showcasing important aspects of Native American life and culture
Note that each HLO is measurable — at the end of the year, Lucy and Liam will be able to show examples of assignments where they completed the action described by the HLO. As with Lucy’s course on movie making and animation, these HLOs describe the desired learning outcomes, and not the resources or assignments Maggie will use to build that learning (i.e. the curriculum). The HLOs outline the learning goals, not the learning process.
In some cases, you may use state learning standards to inform your student’s learning even when you have developed your own HLOs. For example, Maggie’s state’s social studies standards for 3rd grade include items like: “Describe how significant people, events, and developments have shaped their own community and region.” For 6th grade, the standards include things like: “Explain multiple causes and effects of historical events.” These are standards that can easily be covered within a course on Native American Life and Culture. In other words, Maggie can create her own HLOs and be informed by state standards at the same time.
Why Write HLOs?
If you asked Maggie, she might tell you that she creates HLOs for two reasons. First, there are times when she wants to create learning that does not align perfectly with existing state standards, such as with Lucy’s interest in movie making. There are also times when Maggie feels strongly about learning that may not be explicitly laid out in any state standard, such as with her Native American Life and Culture study. HLOs give Maggie flexibility.
Second, Maggie creates HLOs because she knows having them will help her stay organized, keep the big picture in mind, and stay on track. HLOs help Maggie remember the specific learning she is trying to create. This prevents frustration and guides her as she designs assignments and activities. Having HLOs also means she has a way to gauge when the learning is complete. At the end of the school year, Maggie includes HLOs in a portfolio showcasing each completed course, and stores this in her records.
If you take away only one thing from this section, let it be this: when you create your own learning experiences rather than using professionally developed curriculum, you should think through and write down the learning you are trying to create.
Individualized education experiences like the ones Maggie created in our examples above are a crucially important part of making homeschooling an innovative, hands-on, child-centered educational method. But as with so many things, organization and planning is key. HLOs help home educators identify the learning they want to create, build experiences to create that learning, and assess whether that learning took place at the end of the course.