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Glossary — Terms To Know
The following are words you may come across when reading
homeschool materials or in curriculum. Some may be
familiar, but used in a different context for education.
Please click on the first letter of the word you are looking up.
A     B    C     D    E     F    G

    H    I     J    K     L    M

N    O     P    Q     R    S     T

   U     V    W     X    Y     Z
abstract having to do with general ideas or principles rather than with specific facts and figures
accelerated learning an approach to homeschooling that enables families to design and pace their homeschooling to fit the specific needs and interests of the student; it recognizes that one-on-one learning and self-motivated learning can take less time than the typical public/private school system; it can include special classes (AP classes) and tests (CLEP and Advanced Placement Tests) that allow the high school student to by-pass courses in college or earn college credits; there is a growing trend in homeschooling circles to continue parent-directed learning into college due to costs and negative influences. This approach is often associated with accelerated learning.
accreditation the evaluation and review process designed by an organization or governing body according to certain criteria or standards, for the purpose of rating programs that are acceptable and unacceptable
affective having to do with attitude, tendencies, emotions, behavior, or relationships; affective objectives, for instance, are specific behaviors that involve the display of emotions or feelings and the student’s attitude
analytical refers to a way of thinking and organizing information, which is one component of a child’s learning style; it involves examining information in detail and analyzing each step or component of a topic; analytical students are very detailed-oriented and precise; they often are so focused on the details that they don’t see the overall picture
assessment measuring and evaluating progress; the most common form is structured tests such as multiple-choice; other forms include projects, oral exams, or displaying physical skills (such as throwing a ball a certain distance); curriculum assessments measure the student’s ability to state what the curriculum says rather than measuring a certain skill or knowledge of certain facts; generally speaking, curriculum assessments are more subjective than standardized tests
attribute a quality or physical feature that is characteristic of the item or person; often used in an IEP to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the child, attribute blocks are a type of manipulative used in math and science to help students see differences, similarities, patterns, and shapes
auditory has to do with the sense of hearing; auditory students learn best when they can hear the material read aloud (either by the teacher or themselves); audio books and audio CDs are examples
basal readers these are beginning reading books that are based on a limited set of words that use the sounds a child has learned in a phonics program; the story is based on the words or sounds used, so there is less concern about creating a lively, interesting plot; the child should be able to read just about every word in the story (which is rarely the case when reading “real books”)
baseline skills these are the basic skills or underlying abilities that must be mastered in order for the child to understand the subject; examples are the ability to hear the different consonant and vowel sounds and distinguish the letters of the alphabet in order to read, and learning to count and place value for arithmetic; baseline skills must be mastered before the child can attempt more conceptual topics; for instance, a child must master phonics and the mechanics of reading before making progress in reading comprehension, and a child must have mastered arithmetic operations on whole numbers, fractions, and decimals in order to handle algebra
basic this is used to describe curriculum programs and packages; it refers to the type of information provided, including the amount of teaching material, the nature of the teacher’s guides, and the number of teacher helps or visuals included; basic programs cover less material than comprehensive programs; they focus on the minimum information the child needs to know, but do provide all the key materials and important skills that form the basis of most state standards; teacher guides usually contain answers only; there are few supplemental materials, usually only tests and test answers
benchmark refers to a certain level of development that should be reached within a specified time; these can be academic benchmarks (such as knowing the times tables by heart), physiological (such as being potty trained), mental (such as the ability to process information quickly), and spiritual (such as the ability to operate in one’s giftings); benchmarks are usually given in ranges of what is considered “normal” development
cognitive comes from the word cognition, and has to do with mental or thinking abilities
cognitive development deals with changes that take place in the brain that influence a child’s ability to think and process information; while these changes do follow general age levels, they are not automatically triggered by a calendar year (e.g. child’s chronological age) or school year (e.g. child’s grade level); examples are the ability to process information from both hemispheres of the brain and multi-tasking
comprehensive this is used to describe curriculum programs and packages; it refers to the type of information provided, including the amount of teaching material, the nature of the teacher’s guides, and the number of teacher helps or visuals included; comprehensive programs are more extensive than basic programs; the texts contain much more detail and have more depth and breadth to them; teacher guides are also more extensive, including reduced student pages with answers, teaching tips, learning objectives, and extension activities; these programs tend to have additional teaching resources, including visuals, extension activities, and tests and test answers
concrete if you picture a concrete block, you can get an idea of what this term means – it refers to any object or piece of information that can be observed through the five physical senses (touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell); something that can be observed or measured; in learning, this deals with the facts and figures children learn, as opposed to concepts or ideas; examples are historical dates, locations on a map, physical properties in science, and arithmetic fact families
core courses these are the courses that are required in every state in Science, Math, History/Social Studies, and Language Arts/English
course of study this term is similar to Scope & Sequence and the terms are often used interchangeably; in most cases, however, your course of study is a listing of the classes or subjects to be covered and the teaching materials to be used for each academic year
credits a system of evaluating the amount of work involved in a course, usually at the high school and college level; there are different systems for assigning credit; the most common at the high school level is the Carnegie system where a year course is assigned one credit (150-180 hours of work) and a semester is one-half credit (75-90 hours of work); credits are recorded on the student’s transcript; a student must pass the course in order to earn the credit; each state requires a certain number of credits across specific subject categories in order to graduate
critical thinking this term covers a variety of thinking skills that deal with the ability to evaluate, analyze, and critique (or judge) material; examples are the ability to see patterns or sequences, the ability to identify the underlying assumptions in the material, the ability to see what is similar and what is different in a group of items, the ability to draw conclusions, and the ability to evaluate the validity of an argument; these skills are used in ALL subjects and are essential for learning; different skills are developed at different age levels and are connected to cognitive development; the term critical is used not as something negative (as in always being critical), but because the skills are considered vital or essential to understanding
dictation this is a teaching method whereby the parent reads a sentence, paragraph, or passage aloud and the student records what is said; the length of the material depends on the child’s age and skill level; it is used primarily to train the child to hear and write correct English, including grammar, word usage, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and penmanship
digraph a phonics term used when two letters are written to represent one sound; examples are ph for the f sound in phone and ey for the long a sound in they; the prefix di means two and the root graph means write
diploma a piece of paper or certificate of achievement that shows that a student has successfully completed a certain level of work; in homeschooling the parents award a high school diploma when a student has successfully completed the graduation requirements of the state or the family’s homeschool program; while most colleges and work places require a high school diploma, they usually don’t need to see the award – they only need to know that the work was completed; most colleges require a transcript instead
diphthong a phonics term to describe the sound made by combining two vowels in one syllable, in which both vowels are heard (the sound begins as one vowel and moves toward the other); examples are the oi in coin and the ou in house
dual enrollment many community colleges allow high school students to attend classes at the college (or on-line) and receive both high school credit and college credit
electives additional courses beyond the core courses that are taken by a student; many states require these additional courses, although the specific courses vary; electives can include art, music, drama, debate, and computers; at the high school level, usually one or two electives are required each year, and should be based on the student’s interests and talents
expository intended to explain or describe something; a common assignment in elementary writing courses is an expository paragraph that explains or describes something
fine motor skills these skills have to do with the use of the small muscles in the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes; often identified as dexterity; the development of these skills allows a child to button clothes, use a pencil or pen, and use scissors; these skills usually develop through play during the later toddler years; they usually develop later for boys because they are typically more involved in active games that require the larger muscles; fine motor skills are essential for penmanship, which is why boys generally lag behind or have sloppy handwriting
global refers to a way of thinking and organizing information, which is one component of a child’s learning style; global learners pull information from “all over the globe” so to speak – that is, they take bits of information from a variety of topics and subjects, and combine these bits in new ways; this is what makes them so creative and such good problem-solvers; they tend to think “outside the box”
goals general statements describing what you want to accomplish and the results you want to see; they can be short-term (to be completed in a matter of weeks or months) or long-term (to be completed in a matter of a year or years); in homeschooling, goals refer to the general areas of development you want to see in the student, including academics, social skills, life skills, mental and thinking skills, behavioral skills, and spiritual maturity; goals often have measurable objectives that tell you exactly what actions must be observed and completed successfully in order for the goal to be achieved
graphic organizer a visual way to summarize or organize information; similar to an outline, it helps a student identify the most important information and present it in a way that enables the student to remember the material; examples are timelines, Venn diagrams, cause-effect charts, and story webs; whereas sequential outlines work well with sequential (or left-brain) students, graphic organizers work best for visual and global (right-brain) students
gross motor skills these skills have to do with the use of the large muscles in the arms, legs, and torso; as such, they usually involve moving the whole body as with walking, running, skipping, and jumping; sometimes referred to as “body-in-space-orientation;” these skills also impact learning, although less obviously; examples are the ability to hold the upper body erect and correctly for writing purposes and sitting still and sitting efficiently (so as not to tire easily) in order to listen in a classroom; these skills are developed in infancy and early toddlerhood; since these skills are controlled by the brain, poor development often hinders the development of fine motor skills and often signifies processing problems
hands-on activities projects or activities that help the student understand the material and/or use what has been learned; the activities require the student to use his/her hands, five senses, or whole body to do something with the content or skill; examples are building a clay model, testing soil for pH content, a science fair project, craft project, 3-D display, or taking care of an animal
IEP an Individual Education Plan; usually designed for students with learning disabilities, although the idea has spread to all levels of the education process; several states require an IEP for homeschoolers – meaning they want to see how you plan on educating the child each year; usually includes short-term and long-term goals, measurements of the student’s abilities and/or learning style now; the methods and materials to be used, and any particular programs that deal with specific problems; an IEP can also be designed for gifted students in order to ensure that the child is challenged and maximum use is made of the child’s strengths
incremental refers to curriculum programs that build lessons around bits of skills taken one-at-a-time (Saxon Math is one example); the lessons often skip around from topic to topic and have longer exercises that include lesson practice plus review problems; the idea behind this approach is that some students are overwhelmed by the topic when skills are presented all at once in one unit; by breaking down the skills into smaller increments and providing lots of review, the student tends to get it eventually through sheer repetition; this level of review can be tedious for some students, while others have a hard time with this approach because they never see the overall picture; this approach is often used with remedial students
inferences many intermediate and upper level language arts programs and critical thinking curriculum include lessons on making inferences; this refers to the ability to draw a conclusion or deduce an idea from a passage even though it is not stated directly; it involves the ability to not only recognize what is obvious from the words on the page, but also what the author is implying, the underlying assumptions being made, or any biases that may be present; the student must be able to pull information from what has already been learned to add to the evidence presented on the page or in the lesson
integrative has to do with combining two or more things into one whole; in learning it usually refers to the coordination of the different subjects or topics into one meaningful approach; instead of studying each subject in a isolated manner, attempts are made to tie the subjects together; unit studies are one way to integrate the subjects around a topic; integrative curriculum combines skills across the subjects in a planned manner such as assignments that include writing skills, spelling, thinking skills, research skills, reading passages, drawing from history and science concepts, and organizing a presentation; integrative skills are the current “trend” in educational circles since it is generally recognized that students learn better when skills or concepts are linked together
kinesthetic based on the word kinesiology, which is the study of movement; has to do with learning through movement; often referred to as hands-on learning or learning by doing; curriculum or teaching methods that allow the child to move to learn or require physical involvement on the part of the student; examples are math programs with manipulatives, doing hands-on experiments in science, reenactments in history, building models, using games, and designing crafts to show what has been learned
learning disability a general term that has come to include any situation that inhibits learning; usually refers to a specific physical or cognitive condition; the “condition” exists because it has been identified as being different from a norm, standard, or average; whether or not this comparison is valid is open to debate because it can be difficult to define what is “average” or “normal;” in practice, any time a student learns in a way that does not match the standard or accepted way of teaching, he or she is labeled “disabled;” the condition can be diagnosed through physical and cognitive tests or through observations made by a medical professional, teacher, or parent; there can be various levels of disabilities ranging from nominal problems that slow down learning but don’t inhibit it completely to extreme disabilities that make it impossible for the child to do certain tasks; less intensive problems are usually the result of differences in learning style rather than actual physical or mental deficiencies
learning style refers to the way a child learns naturally or easily; includes several factors that influence learning, such as personality type, the way a child stores and processes information (thinking style), a child’s preferred sense for learning, talents, physical conditions, and environmental conditions; matching the presentation of the material to the child’s style enhances learning; certain subjects favor certain learning styles; whenever a child has to learn something that is the opposite of his/her learning style, it takes longer to master the material and vice versa
living books these are “real books” rather than textbooks; they are written by someone passionate about the subject rather than by a committee of experts; it is hoped that the author’s passion comes through the book, making it more “alive” or interesting to the reader; a living-books-approach to home-schooling uses real books to gather information and then hands-on activities or real-life experiences to ensure learning
manipulatives refers to any concrete objects that students can pick up and use to help them understand abstract concepts or ideas; examples include coins, blocks, geometric shapes, Cheerios for counting, place value columns, timelines, number lines, and flashcards; these tools are especially helpful for “hands-on learners” and are most useful when covering abstract subjects such as math
mission statement a general statement (usually a sentence or paragraph) that describes the purpose of an endeavor or its reason for being; a family mission statement is often used by homeschoolers to describe how a family views education and why they decided to homeschool; also referred to as a purpose statement
mnemonic a tool such as a pattern of letters (acronym), technique, ideas, visual associations, or story that helps the child remember the information; an example is the phrase, “every good boy deserves fun” to learn the musical staff; the best mnemonic is one the child designs since it must make sense to the student; mnemonics are often used to teach global (right-brain) students sequential (left-brain) material such as times tables, science lists/definitions/classifications, spelling rules, and history facts/dates
modality based on the word mode, which is a way of doing or expressing something; in education, it is the way a child prefers learning or which physical sense is used most often; examples are auditory (learning by hearing someone say it), visual (learning by seeing it or having a model), and tactile-kinesthetic (learning by doing or hands-on learning)
modeling a way of teaching that involves someone showing the student how it is done or using a model to show what needs to be learned; particularly useful or necessary with visual learners, it can also help hands-on students learn material when they cannot be involved themselves; examples are step-by-step instruction charts, flow charts, chore charts, role-playing, diagrams, giving examples, physical or scale models, and “showing the work” when doing math problems; used in the To-With-By method of teaching in which the parent shows the skill to the child and then does the skill with the student until he/she can do it by himself/herself
multi-sensory a term used to describe a program or teaching method that encourages the child to use more than one sense to learn the material; a multi-sensory phonics programs uses audio CDs, visual charts, hands-on games, and workbook activities to teach the skills; generally, the more senses used in learning, the greater the effectiveness and the more likely it is that the child will remember the material; some curriculum programs are called multi-sensory even though all they do is use a variety of worksheet activities such as crosswords, word scrambles, fill-in-the-blank, word searches, and use of maps, charts or tables to answer questions
narration a teaching technique that can be used to assess or evaluate what a child is learning; whenever a child can tell you in his or her own words what was read in a book or heard in a presentation, then you know the material has been grasped and moved into long-term memory; having the child narrate back to you is a key teaching tool with auditory students; it may not be as helpful with visual and hands-on students, although if you are giving short instructions such as giving children a task to do, having them tell you or narrate back to you what the task is increases the likelihood that they will remember it long enough to do it!
objectives statements that describe the specific actions, tasks or skills that must be completed; objectives can be measured and observed; it should be obvious when they have been fulfilled; they are usually time-specific, meaning they must be done within a certain time frame; objectives are the specific, concrete steps needed to meet a general goal; objectives are harder to measure when dealing with behaviors or attitudes – you have to think of some action you can observe that shows you that the necessary behavior or attitude adjustments have taken place; unit objectives or learning objectives are often listed in teacher’s guides to show what should be learned in the lesson – think of these as the “bare minimum” that the child must learn
paradigm a technical term used to describe a model, example, or system that serves as a pattern; it is often used in education to describe how something is to be done; the To-With-By Method is a paradigm or systematic way to teach; a paradigm is also a way of thinking, so it is often used when describing worldviews or ways of looking at the world; a paradigm shift is a change in thinking; an example is the paradigm shift that occurred in education when we switched to learning skills for the workplace (as in Goals 2000 or Outcomes-Based Learning) instead of learning a core of information that was considered essential for all people to know
phonics a way of teaching reading that focuses on the sounds of the language and how those sounds are represented by the letters of the alphabet; a phoneme is the sound itself while a phonogram is the how the sound is “written” or the letters used to represent the sound; for example, the long o sound (a phoneme) can be represented by the letter o as in ocean and folk, the letters o and silent e as in rode, and the letters o and a as in boat – all of these different letter combinations are phonograms; most phonics programs recognize around 44 sounds in our English language
portfolio based on the word portion, it is a collection of pages that is representative of what the child has accomplished or has learned; it is a portion of the assignments completed by the student; some states require a portfolio, which should include sample exercises from each subject, a sample writing assignment, test samples, and any standardized test scores; a portfolio is often kept for less traditional subjects or electives such as art, music, dance, drama, journalism, 4H projects, and internships to document the work done or the progress made; the portfolio can consist of written documents, 3-dimensional displays, audio presentations, video presentations, or notebook/memory book
psychomotor skills the development of muscles to work in an organized or coordinated way as directed by the brain in response to some stimulus or command; an example would be the skills needed to play the piano; the ability of the body and brain to work well together is essential for learning; these skills are grouped into broad age categories that signal when a child is ready to attempt a certain task; for example, a child’s vision must be developed enough to allow the child to follow the words on a page from one line to the next in order to read, and a child’s eye-hand coordination and vision must be developed enough for a child to be able to complete a worksheet from top to bottom and from left to right
purpose statement see mission statement
random refers to a way of thinking and organizing information, which is one component of a child’s learning style; random thinkers “file” information in a disconnected way, without necessarily hooking it to related information; this filing system appears to be haphazard and illogical, but it somehow makes sense to the child; it is the opposite of sequential and ordered filing systems; these students do not think in terms of step-by-step instructions (such as outlines) or rules of operation
remedial based on the word remedy, these are resources designed for students who are having learning problems; in some cases they just provide extra practice; in other cases, they present grade-level material that is written at an easier reading level; the term remediation is often used in IEPs – this refers to a program or intervention that is designed to deal with a specific deficiency
rote learning mechanical or habitual repetition in order to commit something to memory; the focus is on memorizing information rather than understanding the reasoning behind it
rubric a term used in education to describe a set way of evaluating an assignment; rubrics were developed to standardize grading and evaluation since so much of the process is subjective (based on opinion and feelings as opposed to concrete measurements); these grading guidelines are often in the form of charts or scales, and are especially useful when grading projects or writing assignments
scope & sequence refers to which subjects, topics, or skills are taught, and in what order or at what grade level they are presented; for example state history may be taught in the 4th, 7th, or 12th grades; world geography may be incorporated into the history courses at each grade level or as a course itself in the 9th grade; in a traditional scope & sequence, the basic skills are covered in the first through third grades, then repeated in greater detail for practice in the fourth and fifth grades, with mastery expected by the sixth grade; the same process is repeated for middle school where the emphasis is on synthesizing skills and information, with mastery expected by the end of high school; each publisher has a scope & sequence for every program; most publishers repeat skills across three years to allow for enough exposure and practice for a classroom of students; this amount of built-in review may or may not be necessary for homeschoolers; the ideal is to provide enough practice to master the skill without over-whelming the student with unnecessary drill or “busywork”
sequential refers to a way of thinking and organizing information, which is one component of a child’s learning style; it has to do with recognizing sequences, patterns and rules, and information that follows a set sequence of skills; sequential subjects are learned line-upon-line, step-by-step, with each level building on the preceding skills; sequential students think in terms of points, rules, and “logical” steps as in an outlines
spiraling a technique used by curriculum designers, it allows key skills to be covered across several grade levels (usually 3 years); it is assumed that one third of the students will get it the first time, another one third will get it the second time it is presented, and the final third will get it the last time it is covered; in some cases, the same skill may be taught, but with slightly more detail added each year; the idea is that the skill builds with each successive year until it is mastered; the majority of structured curriculum programs use the spiraling approach; the spiraling approach means you have some leeway – if your student has the general idea yet has not mastered the material, then you can usually assume that the extra practice provided in the following years should help; but if the child is not “getting it,” then you will want to get supplemental materials that will present the material in a slightly different way and offer additional practice before moving on
standards these are statements that define what skills are to be learned and to what extent; standards are used to ensure that all students are learning the same basic material; each state has standards for every subject; most standards are general statements that resemble goals, although there is now a push for more specific statements that are based on skills needed for passing tests at certain grade levels; for homeschoolers in more regulated states, the curriculum used must cover the topics listed in the standards
standardized tests these are structured tests (usually multiple-choice) that compare the number of correct answers to a national standard or “norm;” statistics are used to evaluate the student’s scores, including placement on the bell curve (stanines), percentile ranking, and grade equivalency; most measure knowledge of facts and skills; the questions are based on a sampling of typical material presented in popular curriculum programs; examples are the SAT and ACT used as college-entrance exams, and the Standford and Iowa Basic Achievement Tests; not all tests administered in a school system or state are standardized tests in the traditional sense of the word; some are assessment tests that evaluate concepts rather than skills – they measure how well a student can repeat the ideas presented in the curriculum rather than showing a specific skills (e.g. spelling) or knowledge of facts (e.g. naming the part of speech, recognizing a complete sentence, or identifying the name of a country)
synthesizing a critical thinking skill; it is the ability to make connections across material and subjects; it pulls information together into a meaningful whole; as such, it tends to focus less on details and more on key principles or ideas; for instance, a high school student should be able to recognize the connections between developments in science and the arts with events in society and history; a middle school student should be able to use spelling skills, language arts skills, and writing skills to create a short story or write an expository essay
tactile refers to the use of touch; tactile learners must interact or “touch” the subject in some way to learn it; examples are science experiments, field trips, and hands-on activities
transcript a document that summarizes what courses the student has taken, how much work was involved in the course, and how well the student completed the course; it lists the name of the course, the credit assigned to it, and the grade the student earned; it is usually listed by semester or year for high school or college; it tells how many credits were earned by category or subject area (e.g. math, science, history, English, and electives), if classes were advanced courses or honors courses, if courses taken were weighted (because of extra assignments or advanced studies), any grading systems other than standard scales, any extra-curricular activities, and any standardized test scores; for homeschoolers, the parents are responsible for designing and recording the transcript
twaddle a term often found in the writings of Charlotte Mason, a 19th century educationalist who proposed a radically different approach to education that saw children as thinking, feeling human beings rather than vessels to be filled with knowledge; twaddle referred to the empty, senseless, silly "busywork” that occupied a student’s day and did little to foster a love of learning
typology literally the study of types, it usually refers to the symbolism used; often used in literature and history courses, it is analyzing the meaning of an object that stands for a type of something
visual has to do with the sense of seeing; visual students learn best when they can see the concept being taught or see the skill being modeled; at the very least, they need to see a poster or some sort of visual, either on a video or computer screen; these students often need to visualize in their mind what they are trying to learn, and actually form a picture of it
whole language a system for teaching reading based on analyzing a word in context and looking at the whole word rather than “sounding out” the individual letters and corresponding sounds; there is more emphasis on reading “real books” and recognizing a word in “connected print” rather than learning phonics rules and reading basal readers
worldview simply put – a way of looking at the world; every person has a worldview, whether or not they realize it; every textbook or curriculum is based on a worldview, whether or not it is stated or obvious at first glance; a worldview is based on what a person values as important and what a person believes about the “big questions” of life; it is the underlying assumptions held by the author(s); a worldview has several parts or components such as theology, philosophy, biology, psychology, sociology, ethics, politics, economics, history, law, and education
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