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Homeschooling 101: How to Begin Homeschooling

Posted by on Mar 18, 2015

  If you are contemplating home schooling or have recently made the decision to homeschool, you probably have many questions regarding this important decision. Deciding to take complete responsibility for your child or children’s education is a huge undertaking, but fear not, it can be done and it’s not as complicated as some individuals may suggest.  You may be wondering how to withdraw your child from public school or how to notify the local school district about your decision.  Perhaps you have questions regarding the legalities involved with homeschooling in the state you reside, how to select the best curricula that meets your child’s needs, where to locate learning activities, and much more.  If this sounds like you, and you aren’t sure where to begin, I’ve outlined below my top tips for transitioning to homeschooling. Legalities of Homeschooling  The first place to start is with the law.  Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, though each state has different laws and regulations.  States vary with their regulations with some like Massachusetts and New York requiring more from homeschool families (i.e., in New York, you must file a letter of intent, homeschool for 180 days, file quarterly progress reports, teach specific required subjects, submit an annual assessment) vs states like Michigan (No notice of intent required along with end of year tests or number of days mandated.).  Before you do anything else, you will need to understand your state laws well.  Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has outlined the laws for your state here: https://www.hslda.org/laws/ Essential Homeschooling Laws The following are some of the questions you will need to address before beginning homeschooling: What are the homeschooling laws in your state? Does your state require a letter of intent? When is this letter due and where do you send it?  (If you join HSLDA, they will walk you through this and provide you with a form letter to give to your school district). What qualifications are necessary to teach your child?  Do you need a B.S., high school diploma, etc.? Does your state offer religious exemptions and is this something your family should pursue? Does your state require proof of progress in the form of standardized tests, a portfolio of your child’s work, or a professional evaluation? Does your state require attendance records or a certain number of homeschooling instructional hours per year? What is the required attendance age (usually six but can be five) for starting school? What subjects are you required to teach? If applicable, are there any regulations regarding homeschooling a special needs child? All of these questions can be examined by studying your state laws.   Sometimes a quarterly report is a simple compliance like submitting a basic progress report and although your state may require you to teach certain subjects, you can choose the curriculum that best meets your child’s learning styles and or needs.  If you choose to join HSLDA, members enjoy guidance with 24/7 legal assistance ranging from answering small issues like how best to send in a letter of intent (If you are a member, they can provide you with a form letter on HSLDA letterhead for you to fill out and send notifying your district),  an attendance issue or what types of proof of progress (i.e. professional evaluation, types of standardized tests, acceptable scores, etc.) and any other legal question or issue you may...

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What is Homeschooling?

Posted by on Mar 17, 2015

What is homeschooling? Homeschooling is teaching your child at home instead of sending them to a traditional public or private school.  This can be accomplished in a number of different ways.  Parents can teach their own children or they can learn from other parents/instructors (co-ops, outside classes, educational software, long distance learning, etc.), or through online accredited school programs. It sounds simple enough, but it can be a big undertaking, especially in the beginning. The decision itself can be daunting and overwhelming, however, I can assure you that it does get easier over time. The more you homeschool, the greater confidence you’ll have, which will, in turn, make you a better teacher thus making homeschooling easier for you and your child. The quick legal facts: Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. You do not need a teaching degree or certificate to home school. It is legal to homeschool your child with special needs. It is possible to homeschool a high schooler (Online courses are available for classes such as calculus, physics, and other challenging coursework). HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) is available to help you with both basic and more advanced legal questions (along with legal assistance and legal representation if you become a member) Reasons families consider homeschooling: Provide a better education for their child. Family lifestyle: Homeschooling works better for some parent’s work schedule, certain military families that want continuity, or parent’s who travel frequently and would like to bring their kids along. Parents feel their home is a safer place for the child. Family values: Parents choose to homeschool so that they can pass on their family values to their children. Their child is having difficulties in school: Learning problems, behavior problems, experiencing boredom, hyperactivity issues, concentration problems, bullying issues, etc. Public school is not working for the child and private school is too expensive. Religious reasons: Homeschooling allows the family to preserve their religious values. Their child has diagnosed medical problems that coincide with the school’s attendance policy and they may be falling behind in school or too medically fragile to attend school. Some food allergies or intolerances may make attending regular school challenging. A family moves around frequently and wants to maintain consistency in their children’s education. Homeschooling is a better for the child. It fits better with their personally and individual learning style. Our top reasons for homeschooling are better education, better fit for our children, and a better fit with our family values and lifestyle.  I’ve also met a variety of other parents who choose to homeschooling for some of the other reasons listed above. Since we’ve been homeschooling I’ve met parents whose first and only choice has been to homeschool. They hope to educate their children from prekindergarten all the way through high school. They dream of possibly living abroad for a few years, or at the very least taking a few long trips overseas. Others have turned to homeschooling because of religious reasons, food allergies, it’s a safer environment, or because private schools are too expensive. And then there are some parents who have been pushed into homeschooling because their child has a medical or behavioral issue that the school can not ultimately accommodate. No matter what your reason is for thinking about homeschooling, rest assured you are not alone!   Deciding to Homeschool The decision to homeschool can...

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The Socialization Myth

Posted by on Mar 17, 2015

Many non-homeschoolers believe that kids need to be in school in order to be “socialized”. I have always found this to be utterly ridiculous. Neither I nor my children live in a cocoon. We are always encountering other adults and children from a variety of ethnic, racial, socio-economic and religious backgrounds. We socialize with older people, young people, people in our neighborhood, at the YMCA, church, stores, parks, playgrounds, family get-togethers, at the pool etc.. My children have and will always be social, so this isn’t something I am worried about. Our routine varies from week to week, but generally my children “socialize” with children their own age five to six times a week and frequently, multiple times a day. These are some of the activities we are usually involved in: Our Homeschooling Group: We are not alone in homeschooling. In the last few years homeschooling has been on the rise. More and more parents are opting to teach their children at home and consequently there are more and more homeschooling groups. Some groups meet at local parks, others form co-ops and still others do anything and everything related to education (community service, nature hikes, zoo visits, fire safety etc.). The group we belong to falls into the latter category, they do everything and anything related to education. Some of our best homeschooling memories have resulted from their field trips. Our favorites include trips to the firehouse, MOHAI in Seattle (a Seattle museum), the Museum of Flight (another museum in Seattle), and vegetable and fruit picking. Sunday School & Church: My children are involved in weekly Sunday School classes and other related youth events at our church. Our Local YMCA Athletic Classes: The YMCA offers countless classes on ballet, rock climbing, basketball, soccer, swimming, gymnastics and martial arts. The classes our children participate in varies greatly and depends a lot on what my children are in the mood for. However ballet and swimming classes are constants in our ever-changing line-up of activities. Local Classes for Homeschoolers: They also have a great program for homeschooled children called HomeZone. A class of 10 -20 children meet once a week for two hours. Each week they attend a half hour art class, a half hour physical education class (they play football, soccer, tag, etc.), a half hour of instructional swim lessons and a half hour of free swim. As you can imagine, this is one of their favorite activities! Adventure Zone at our local YMCA: As members of the YMCA we are entitled to two hours of babysitting daily. As it so happens, the babysitting area is amazing. Along with a toy area, a reading corner and an arts and crafts center, there is also a gigantic play structure making this room, truly an adventure zone. On any given evening, this room is filled with dozens of five to nine-year-olds running, climbing, sliding. and playing. You can only imagine how much fun my kids have here. This is another activity that is not only welcomed by our entire family, it’s become a family favorite.The Adventure Zone at our Local YMCA If you then take into account the 10-15 hours a week we spend at parks and playgrounds, the countless hours we spend at our community pool during the summer, play dates, church functions, festivals, etc… It is easy to see that homeschooled...

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Using American Express Premier Rewards for Decorating

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015

Decorating Your Home with American Express Premier Rewards Card   American Express Premiere Rewards Gold Card  Who doesn’t love to decorate?  Okay, yes, there are some people out there that really despise the task (I live with one of them).  However, if you can earn points with a charge card for items you would buy anyway, and subsequently use them for purchases to improve your living — why not?  Ironically, my husband introduced me to this card a few years back.  For a while I only used my points for restaurants and clothes until one day I realized I would much prefer items that would last longer than a meal or season.   The possibilities were endless:  A new set of dishes or knives from Williams Sonoma?  A Restoration Hardware floor lamp or linen drapes for the family room from Pottery Barn?  Bright, colorful PB Kids bedding for one of the children’s rooms?  A near-perfect crystal vase or bowl from Tiffany’s?  Too many purchasing choices, and not enough points! Soon I was using my card for tedious purchases I had to make anyway, like paying for groceries, plumbing repairs or a new hybrid heat pump for our home that yields nothing to the aesthetics of decorating, yet one of those essential Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that can’t be ignored.  Previously I paid cash for everything, and although it doesn’t create any credit card debt, I need to spend the money anyway on our everyday necessary expenses, so it’s better to benefit from the purchases with points and gift cards then just paying cash and receiving nothing more. The American Express Premier Rewards charge card is not a credit card and there are no interest charges because you pay your bill in full every month.  That aside, there is an annual fee of $175 with this card for the first user and $35 for each additional family member, up to five people.  So, it’s only worth it if you are going to use it and reap lots of rewards.     How You Earn Points You can use your card for everyday purchases.  The values assigned to purchases are the following: 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines 2x points at US gas stations 2X points at US supermarkets 1x points for all other purchase 10,000 points equals one $100 gift card, unless it’s on sale (different cards go on sale throughout the year). Points have no expiration date Card has other benefits that can be found here: Premier Rewards Gold Card Note:   Amex will change their points June 1, 2015 so that dining earns 2x points.  They are also adding a $100 incidental airline credit that may be used for baggage fees, on-flight meals and other incidentals.  (The fee is increasing by $20 in June to $195).     American Express Premier Gold Card offers the following gift cards for decorating: Saks Fifth Avenue Pottery Barn Pottery Barn Kids Pottery Barn Teens Williams Sonoma (Can be used at Williams-Sonoma Home) Restoration Hardware Home Depot Crate & Barrel Neiman Marcus One Kings Lane Tiffany & Co West Elm American Express Visa (can be used most anywhere).   Electronic E-Gift Cards or Traditional Gift Cards Available You usually receive your eGift Card within a few minutes, though American Express states it can take up to 3 hours If you choose an...

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Audiobooks: Build an Audio Library using Audible© Sales & Promotions

Posted by on Feb 22, 2015

  When I can’t find it for free through Overdrive, ClickIt or Hoopla Digital (three online digital subscription services I use with my library card), or I want to own a copy for myself, I turn to Audible. Last year we went searching for an audiobook at our local library and when they didn’t own it, I turned to Amazon and discovered Audible.  Previously we used our local library as our only resource for all of our audiobook needs.  Audiobooks are expensive, and we were interesting in purchasing them for reasonable prices.  Since we are frequent Amazon customers and Audible is an Amazon company, when I noticed the three month free Audible trial, I immediately signed up.  Here is what we discovered: What is Audible? Audible is a subscription service for audiobooks, audio magazines, newspapers, radio and TV programs.  They have over 150K titles as part of their collection.   How Audible Works:   Audible offers several different types of plans: Audible Listener Gold: 1 credit per month.  Cost:  $14.95 per month. Audible Listener Platinum: 2 credits per month.  Cost:  $22.95 a month. Audible Silver Plan:  This plan is bi-monthly. Cost: $14.95 every other month and receive one credit bi-monthly. Audible Listener Gold Annual:  12 credits all at once for $149.50.  No monthly charges, though you are still a member, until one year from when you began this membership. How Credits and Membership Discounts Work: Nearly every book on Audible is worth “one credit” with a few exceptions.  A rare number of Audible’s books are 2, 3, 4 or 5 credits.  These mostly consist of book compilations or courses. An example of this is a German Language course:  “German Phase 2, Units 1-30:  Learn to Speak and Understand German with Pimsleur Language Programs.”  In comparison, the shorter courses consisting of 1-2 units are one credit. Audible Does Not Determine Credits Based On the Length of the Book.  One Credit Books Include:  “War and Peace”by Leo Tolstoy (61 hours and 8 minutes). “Complete Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (70 hours) “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkein (19 hours) “Watership Down” by Richard Adams (15 hours and 51 minutes) “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway  (2 hours and  30 minutes).   Acquiring Audible Credits: Upon enrolling in a plan you receive at least one credit (more depending on your plan) and are eligible to purchase books at the membership discount price.  You may also take advantage of their promotional sales. Depending on the plan you select, you receive at least one credit every other month (silver), one every month (gold), two a month (platinum) or 12 credits all at once (Gold Annual)(For Gold Annual you are given your credits and billed at the same time for the entire year — you are not billed again nor do you receive credits again until the following year).  Since one credit is worth the same as a book that costs $0.48 or one that is $48.95, it makes the most sense to always use your credits for the most expensive books. Choose A Device to listen to Audible: You can listen to your audiobooks via Audible’s free app on your smarthpone, Kindle, Nook, tablet, computer, mp3, or other device.  Once you’ve made your purchase, tell Audible where to send it and begin listening to your audiobook on your...

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