Our Family

We’re Back!


I’m proud to say The Rustic Five is back after an almost two month break! 
We’ve been busy and a lot is changing…. 

We welcomed out little “big” guy to the family in Feb, so we are now officially a family of five. 

The hubby took a new job in GR, so we are busy getting things in order to make the trek across state. 

Our plan is to locate some property, build a tiny house, and live out our dream as homesteaders living off the grid! Can you saw “whoa”! Our dreams are coming together. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, we are making the change to becoming a more plant-based eating family. I can’t wait to share my first 30 day results with you in just two weeks! 

My nature-based nursery school is now closed as we begin our journey to moving, but little miss is still hasn’t stopped learning. She continues to grow and prosper at our homeschool preschool. I am hoping to reopen once we get settled in our new location. 
Phew… told you there is A LOT going on here. Keep an eye out for our new blogs and vlogs as our website takes on our new journeys. I can’t wait to share with you! ❤️

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It’s beginning to look a lot like testing season here in Michigan. State-testing begins next month for Michigan’s public school students. This a parent’s guide to M-STEP testing from a teacher’s perspective.

A Parent's Guide to M-Step Testing Title picture
What is the M-STEP?

The M-STEP tests are our yearly state-wide assessment in Michigan that measures how well a child has mastered the common core standards at their grade level. Essentially, the M-STEP is the old MEAP tests you may remember taking if you were in the public system in Michigan.

When does M-STEP testing begin?

Children in grades 3-11 will be given some form of a state assessment. The window for M-STEP testing begins in April and ends in June. The state dictates when each test will be given for each subject and for each grade level. Essentially, tying up a schools technology for the remainder of the school year.

What subjects are covered? 

It truly depends on the child’s grade level. Children are “required” to be tested over English-Language Arts which covers Reading, writing, listening, and research. In grades 5 and 8, there are two parts to the test. There is the computer test and a performance task. Grades 3,4,6, and 7 have just the computer test.

This test is a computer adaptive* test given at grade level. It’s key that you as parents understand this test is NOT given at your child’s individual reading level, but at their grade level. So if your child struggles with reading, this test will be an extra challenge for them. There is ZERO assistance from the teacher. They cannot help the child in anyway. No reading words, very limited help on student questions, and no defining words they don’t understand. Yes, accommodations can be given if they have a 504 Plan OR an IEP, but I will explain more about those later.

*A computer adaptive test will adapt to each individual child’s level. For example, if a child gets so many right, the questions will get harder and the opposite happens if they miss them. The test questions will get easier. Please don’t miss understand this though… the test questions regardless of level will still ONLY remain inside the child’s GRADE level. It will not adapt beyond grade level for children who excel and it will not come down grade levels for children who may be working below their grade level. It still is NOT a true representation of a child’s knowledge.

Children are also tested over math in grades 3-8 and it also is a Computer Adaptive test. It also contains a performance task on the computer which means children are asked to preform a question in order to show what they know. For example: children could be given a number problem and then they need to drag the correct number from a number box and insert it into the problem.

Science tests which are simply online multiple choice questions are given 4th and 7th grades. Social studies are also online multiple choice questions are given in 5th and 8th grades.

Who takes the M-Step?

M-STEP testing is required for students in grades 3-8th grades in public and public charter schools take the tests every spring. Non-public schools can elect to take the M-Step test, so this includes any private schools. Homeschool parents can also elect to take the test, but I’m honestly not sure why you would. I gathered this info from here.

What about High School students?

9th and 10th grade students take the P-Stats and 11th grade students take the MME which includes the SAT and M-STEP math and English Language Arts. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of info on these tests because I have no previous experience at the high school level.

What about Test Results?

First let’s begin by who scores the tests. Well, that seems to be a mystery at least to me. Michigan’s Department of Education’s website offers no links and after a quick google search the only info I seem to be finding is info about how schools preformed on the test. Hmmmm… interesting?

Is it the computer scores the test? If so, who is in charge of double checking the computer is scoring accurately? If not, then who? I know some test companies hire people specifically to score tests because I’ve actually personally have applied for these type of jobs since being home as well as have seen the ad on job search websites. If you have found info on this, drop the link in comments. Personally, as a parent I’d like to do more research on this. As a teacher, we were never actually told, but I do remember having to tell my students to remember they don’t who would be scoring their writing, so be detailed as possible.

When does test scores get released? 

The scores are released much faster now due to the online component. However, they are still released at the END of the year, so how is this really helpful for teachers. In my opinion, it’s not. The teachers won’t be able to adjust their teaching to help each individual student or group them because the year will be over.

What does the test results mean to parents?

Well, let’s look at test scores first. The children are scored on 4 levels. Not Proficient is the lowest score and this means the child is not performing near grade level. Think of this as a D grade. The next level is a Partially Proficient and this would be like a C grade. This means the child is slightly below grade level. The next level is Proficient, so this would be like a A. The child is mastering grade level content.Finally, the last level is advanced and this means the child is excelling past grade level content.

The thing about M-STEP testing results is neither the teachers nor the parents receive the exact questions they missed, so they can help the children with the concepts they missing. This also means we don’t know which ones they preform well on, so we can challenge them more in this area. The only thing both parents and the schools receive are info on the numbers. In fact, if your child takes the test you can be expecting a piece of paper printed with 4 different colors. Yup, in a world where budgets are tight the school will print out one test result paper on color for each parent. This seems like a crazy waste to me… but that’s my opinion.

Test Results for the parent's guide to Mstep testing
How to read test scores from the MDE

What If My Child Has Special Needs?

The M-STEP testing does allow for accommodations such as the computer reading some testing items, multiple day testing, testing in special ed setting, testing in small groups, and many others. This should be outlined in your child’s IEP.

There is also a different version of the test for those who children who are functioning much lower than grade level. This test is called the MI-Access.

However, I would just opt out my child from M-STEP testing altogether.

Can I opt my child out of testing?

YES and YES at least in Michigan! In fact, I highly encourage you to consider opting your child out, but first check with your state and district requirements. We have chosen to opt out our oldest. The process was very simple. Check out our blog on the process here.

The opt-out form for state testing
My best advice to you as a parent is educate yourself about state testing through your own research. Then consider what is best for your child. It’s our job as parents to stay informed and advocate for them.

I would love to hear what other questions you have or what other info I should add to our parent’s guide to M-STEP testing?



A parent's guide to m-step testing title picture

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We recently made the decision to homeschool my kiddos instead of placing them in school. Along with starting my own nursery school in our home, I can make sure my toddler is getting the skills she needs for development. This is our homeschool preschool routine.

Our Homeschool Preschool Routine
We use free play inside and outside along with book time and other explorations. Explorations are planned activities by me, but are not worksheets. They can be anything from painting, exploring the library, hiking at our local conservancy, nature art, play dough, etc. I try to keep the Explorations as open minded as I can.

So here it is….

Our Homeschool Preschool Routine

*This is the homeschool preschool routine of our day and not a ridged schedule. We are pretty flexible with the exact times we do things, but the routine still offers consistency and routine for the little ones.

6-6:30 wake up, meditation, set intentions

7:00- Breakfast, To Do List for the day

Breakfast as part of our homeschool preschool routine
Followed by: Get dressed, brush hair, and brush teeth

Brushing our teeth as part of our homeschool preschool routine
Next is mommy and me yoga

Read books togetherReading books together as part of our homeschool preschool routine
Then comes Free Play Inside (Inside now because it’s winter and it’s usually colder in the mornings. However, outside time in the spring, summer and first part of fall.

Free play as part of our homeschool preschool routine
Inside play time with our PVC pipes


Wash up and snack time around 9:30

Followed by our Exploration…

Some our favorites are coloring, playdough (Check our leaf and playdough exploration here), nature crafts (Check out our homemade bird feeders here) and visits to our library.

11:00 is nap time which allows mama time to prepare lunch and get a little work done.

12:00 is lunch time

Followed by outside time

Outside playtime as part of our homeschool preschool routine

2:00 we come in and get washed up for snack time

2:30- Quiet Time which usually means cartoons.

3:30- Free Play Inside

4:30- Mama prepares dinner while she plays with daddy.

5:00- Dinner Time Together as a Family

6:30- Bath, Get dressed, Brush Hair and Teeth

7:30- Book and off to bed

I included times which usually are rough estimates of when we do things. We don’t keep a set schedule, but live in a flexible routine. Thankfully this works for my daughter.

Our schedule is about to change as I am preparing to head into the hospital to have our son. This means be watching out for a new updated routine, once we are in a new establish routine.

Our Homeschool Preschool Routine

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