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My Quest for the Perfect Cirriculum

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in Homeschooling 101 | Comments Off on My Quest for the Perfect Cirriculum

My Quest for the Perfect Cirriculum

  When I first set out to homeschool, I thought choosing curriculum would be simple. First, you figure out the subject you want to teach.  Then you find some textbooks.  Then you purchase the textbooks… done!.  After all, I was the product of a public school education.  All we had were textbooks.  In elementary school, we received workbooks and maybe a few textbooks in the later grades.  In middle and high school we received a textbook for almost every class (art, music, and PE were the exceptions). Every year on the first day of school, my teacher’s would dole out these archaic and out-of-date (and often out of print) books.  Then upon my return home, my mother would create these magnificent brown paper bag textbook covers (thus preserving the book for future students).   The publishers of these books were almost always the same McGraw-Hill, Pretence Hall or Houghton Mifflin. To my amazement, my homeschooling curriculum options were not limited to three publishers but hundreds.  Very quickly, I became inundated with resources and materials. It was overwhelming.  There were secular homeschooling materials, religious materials, materials that were workbook based and other programs that centered upon hands-on learning and manipulatives. You could learn science from reading a book or from doing a different experiment every day of the year!  I remember thinking that it was all too much for me and that I needed help from an expert.  With this in mind, I signed up for my first homeschooling conference. I attended, hoping to have my question answered: What curriculum was the best?  I wanted a curriculum that would be easy to teach and easy for students to follow.  I wanted books and programs that were all inclusive; I didn’t want my daughter to miss out on anything.  I wanted to know the best reading, writing, grammar, spelling, science, math, and foreign language programs.  I figured that if anyone could help me in this endeavor, it would be veteran, homeschooling moms. Although the conference was a success, I did not get a simple answer to my question. I remember listening to these experienced homeschooling mother’s talk about their curriculum experience: how they had used one language arts program one year and then switched to another for a year or two and then to another program after that.  They curriculum hopped more than a child does who’s suffering from a severe Halloween sugar rush.  When asked if they could name their favorite science program, they rattled off five.  For reading programs, they rattled off fifteen. Mathematics programs were by far the worse, no two parents ever named the same math program; everyone used something different. I remember thinking that all of these resources must have been absolutely terrible.  If they were so great, why were parents constantly switching publishers, textbooks, and learning programs? Thankfully this is not the case, as I soon discovered at the used curriculum fair.  Feeling hopeless I wondered into the fair.  Used and new educational materials covered table after table, in the church’s small social hall.  The books, textbooks, workbooks, CD’s, DVD’s and other learning programs looked nothing like the material I had seen online or at my local bookstore.  This curriculum was fun, engaging and highly educational.  I soon realized that my quest to find the perfect...

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Homeschooling 101: How to Begin Homeschooling

Posted by on Mar 18, 2015 in Favorites, Getting Started, Homeschooling, Homeschooling 101 | Comments Off on Homeschooling 101: How to Begin Homeschooling

Homeschooling 101:  How to Begin Homeschooling

  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,...

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What is Homeschooling?

Posted by on Mar 17, 2015 in Favorites, Getting Started, Homeschooling, Homeschooling 101 | Comments Off on What is Homeschooling?

What is Homeschooling?

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...

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The Socialization Myth

Posted by on Mar 17, 2015 in Favorites, Homeschooling 101 | Comments Off on The Socialization Myth

The Socialization Myth

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...

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Review: Homeschooling with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association)

Posted by on Feb 25, 2015 in Homeschooling 101, Homeschooling Laws | Comments Off on Review: Homeschooling with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association)

Review: Homeschooling with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association)

“Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children and to protect family freedoms. We provide homeschooling-related legal advice and representation to our 84,000+ member families, promote homeschool-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels, and offer information and resources to encourage and support all homeschoolers.” Taken From: About HSLDA Translation:  HSLDA is a longstanding (established in 1983) Christian legal organization for homeschoolers. They help decipher state laws for all of us non-lawyers out there and will provide members with legal assistance and legal representation if necessary.     Homeschooling laws were the very first thing I researched when I first considered homeschooling our daughter back in 2011 (after all, I wasn’t going to homeschool my child if it was illegal!).  What I discovered was that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.  However, homeschooling is regulated at a state level, so homeschooling policies and laws differ from state to state.  Some states have more regulations than others and it is up to the homeschooling parents to comply.  Of course, you only need to know the laws governing the state you currently live in (if you move, make sure you research your new state’s homeschooling laws, what is expected of you very well might change). Once I knew that homeschooling was legal, I went to HSLDA’s (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) website and researched my own state laws, New York.  The compulsory attendance law in New York State requires children between the ages of 6 and 16 to attend some type of school, either public or elsewhere.  Since my daughter was four, it was unnecessary for me to fill out homeschooling paperwork (letter of intent etc.) or worry about state standards and regulations. A year later, when we finally did decide to homeschool kindergarten (my daughter was five), we joined HSLDA (even though we did not technically need HSLDA).  It was an easy decision to make and one that I’ve never regretted. My husband and I like to think of HSLDA as our homeschooling insurance policy; I wouldn’t drive a car without car insurance, and I wouldn’t homeschool without HSLDA. Being a homeschooler is difficult enough without having to worry about legal issues.  We have since contacted HSLDA with a variety of questions including attendance and compulsory age questions, and questions regarding our out of state move.  I like knowing that whatever occurs, legal experts at HSLDA are just a phone call away.  The peace of mind that this gives me, from being a member of HSLDA, is priceless. Last year we finally purchased a lifetime membership (after two years of purchasing yearly memberships).  We figured that even if we decided to send our children to public or private school someday, HSLDA was still an organization that we wanted to support, in the long run. Although there are many benefits to being a member of HSLDA (these are listed below), there is also a wealth of free homeschooling and legal information on their website.   Free Resources from HSLDA The following resources are free for all homeschoolers: HSLDA’s website, which includes: news, legal information, research, teacher discount list,  teaching ideas, homeschooling information and more. Events Page, which lists upcoming homeschooling conferences and more. (This is a partial list, but still very helpful.)...

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Homeschooling Doubts: Parents as Teachers

Posted by on Feb 17, 2015 in Homeschooling 101 | Comments Off on Homeschooling Doubts: Parents as Teachers

Homeschooling Doubts:  Parents as Teachers

I never doubted that homeschooling was a great educational option.  By the time we were ready to homeschool I had done extensive research and was convinced that it was the best option for my daughter and the perfect option for our family.  What I experienced just before the school year began was a brief spell of self doubt.  This is perfectly normal (at least for me anyway) and within two or three weeks all of my doubts were completely gone.  If you too are experiencing doubts, hang tight and don’t lose hope, just know that you can homeschool your child.  It is only human to have doubts, especially when one is venturing into unknown territory.  When I took my first real programming class and had to program in C, I had doubts as to whether it would compile, let alone even run.  When I trained for my first marathon, I had doubts whether I’d ever be able to complete 26 miles (the mere thought of it make my knees weak).  When I baked my first loaf of gluten free bread, I had doubts as to whether it would be edible (it was… just barely).  I have had doubts about completing my first mural, taking my first “real” job, highlighting my hair blond, etc..  Of course my first computer program did run.  I did complete my first marathon (and went on to run two more).  I was able to (eventually) bake a delicious loaf of gluten-free bread.  My first mural came out beautifully.  My first “real” job turned out to be great and the blond highlights, well that was a mistake, but one haircut later (and a box of hair color) remedied the mistake instantly. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when I started doubting whether or not I could successfully homeschool my daughter. My daughter was four years old and my husband and I had just decided that we would teach her preschool at home.  I didn’t worry about socialization.  My daughter was involved in more than enough activities and had plenty of playmates.  I didn’t worry about support. My husband, family and friends were all very supportive.  I didn’t worry about curriculum.  I had already done plenty of research on the topic and I was more than confident that I could put together, both a highly educational yet fun curriculum (which I did). What I doubted was whether I could be both, a good parent and a good teacher. Could I effectively teach my own daughter? Did I want to homeschool?       Would I be a good teacher and more importantly would she learn from me? I do not hold any teaching degrees.  I have a B.S. in computer science and mathematics.  I have a minor in art.  I have a master’s degree in library and information science.  I can track down a rare manuscript, write a small java program or paint a mural, but could I teach my own child?  As I sit here now, almost four years later, I can tell you most definitely YES!  Yes, I can teach my child.  However, four years ago, I wasn’t so sure.  After all, I wasn’t a board certified teacher. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I was certain that I could homeschool my daughter successfully....

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