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Posts Tagged ‘homeschooling’


Ah yes….. the “S” word, as we often call it.  Have you been waiting with bated breath for this one?  😀

Hands down, the single question I hear the most is about socialization: “How will they get it?  I mean, after all, if they are just shut up at home doing school work, how will they ever relate to other human beings?”

I will admit that initially, I didn’t have an answer to that.  At least one that I thought people would accept. 😆  My instinct was to reply, “What do you call what they’ve been doing the first 5 years of their lives?  Aren’t we people?  Aren’t they interacting with us? Isn’t that socialization?” Yep, these are all questions as opposed to answers. 😆 And that is where I started my travels: what is socialization?

To keep us on the same page, let’s define socialization. The most basic way to define this term is this: it’s the process by which people of all ages interact in the community at large.

Huh?  😆

Most people, though, boil this down to interacting with others. Which again, bought up my question, “What have they been doing for the first 5 years of their lives?”

Stop and think about this for a minute. *Really* think about this. One disturbing trend I have seen more and more is parents who feel like they need to send their kids to daycare/preschool at very young ages, lest they short change them out of a “proper learning environment.”  (can you see my eyes crossing?!)

When did we as a society start thinking so poorly of ourselves?  I personally think this mindset feeds right into medical childbirth (after all, our bodies don’t know what they are doing, do they? Oh no, we “have” to have constant medical monitoring and intervention, because otherwise that baby will never come out) and artificial baby feeding (because goodness knows, our bodies could never manufacture optimal nutrition for an infant because, doncha know, we don’t really understand it all and can’t replicate breast milk scientifically; therefore it must be inferior {more eye rolling}) and continues into childhood.

This article, from The Sojournal: A New Media Journal of Sociology and Society summarized socialization this way: “Socialization is the process by which the social order[1] is involuntarily and (if necessary) coercively transferred onto a clean and shiny newborn baby body and mind.” Another gem is this statement: “At approximately the age of five, children are moved out of the home into “schools” where teachers then begin the twelve step process of “educating” (read enforcing) the social order.”

People in general are taught to believe that unless they have “properly” done “x” – which is always determined by some “expert” in some field – they are not “qualified” to do “z.” Can you tell this is a hot button of mine?  🙂

And parents generally want to do what is “best” for their children.  They want to afford them every opportunity and help them get every advantage possible. Let’s not argue about the semantics of that phrase, because we’ll probably not agree. (For example, I don’t believe that we should hand things to our kids on silver platters or not make them do chores just because we can….)

The bottom line is, we’re losing our ability to think for ourselves; to evaluate and interpret data, and to make conclusions based on that information. Sometimes, it’s not because we don’t want to; it’s a matter of having been threatened by outside forces. (For example, if you don’t do what the doctor tells you {however absurd that may be}, you will be turned in to social services and have your kids taken away- yes, this really happens, and a LOT more frequently than most people think.)

How does any of that relate to socialization?  😆

Somewhere along the line, people were fed the line of baloney about socialization and school. As in, a child can’t become adequately socialized if they don’t go to school, and because of that, we are doing them not just a disservice, but “harm” if we homeschool them.

I admit, when we moved here and came to understand the education system here, we knew homeschooling might be something we would have to consider. We did kindergarten and first grade, mostly to give it a try and make sure we weren’t making any hasty decisions. By that point and time, our concern had grown from just the educational standpoint to now also include socialization.

There are those who will tell you everything they learned about how to deal with people they learned in school (and that’s when I wonder, maybe that’s what wrong with society!). There are those who will tell you that kids will be kids, and they need to learn how to deal with bullying and other situations at school on their own, because otherwise they will never make it in the “real world.” Or, they will tell you, “I survived school and I turned out just fine.  It’s a rite of passage.”

Really?! I don’t want my kids to survive. I want them to thrive. I want them to be able to express empathy and kindness without repercussion and teasing- and to be recipients of those acts as well.

Let’s get back to thinking about socialization. My definition of socialization means being able to deal with people; people of all ages; people of all capabilities and interests. This leads quite naturally to my perspective on school:

Nowhere in the real world are people thrown together simply because they are the same age. Nowhere.

How then, CAN my child learn real socialization if that’s the only environment that is permitted in school? Yes, as they get older, there may be programs (like the “gifted” program) that allow kids of different ages to be in the same class; depending on the school. No, the playground before school doesn’t count.

This is the actual concept that got me thinking about what socialization meant to me, and what we wanted in this regard for our kids. And then, I started watching for ways that other homeschoolers I knew were socializing.  What I learned was surprising.

Many homeschoolers are incredibly busy!  In fact, a big complaint from the homeschooling moms I knew (remember, I was on an email list with like-minded homeschooling mothers all around the world, literally, although the majority of them were state-side) was that they were rarely home!

“How can that be?” I wondered. “How can you homeschool if you aren’t home?” This- the “where does homeschooling happen”- is a critical component to our homeschooling philosophy, and how our perspectives changed from schooling at home to homeschooling. Whichever approach a family chooses to take, the socialization issues, in my opinion, is moot. 

Do your kids have grandparents? Cousins? Siblings?  That’s socialization.

Do you go to church? That’s socialization.

Do you have neighbors (kids or adults) that your kids interact with? That’s socialization.

Do your kids participate in any kind of activities where they come into contact with other people (kids or adults)? That’s socialization.

Do your kids go to the grocery store with you? That’s socialization.

Did you ever sit in school and hear a teacher say, “We’re not here to socialize,”? 😉

If you feel the need for “evidence” that homeschooled kids do just fine socially in the real world, here are some resources to start with (scroll to the bottom of the list for a website that lists famous people who were homeschooled, including Whoopie Goldberg, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Venus and Serena Williams and famous homeschooling parents like Will and Jada (Pinkett) Smith, Chuck Norris, and Garth Brooks, etc etc):

From the National Home Education Research Institute‘s page of Research Facts on Homeschooling

Social, Emotional, and Psychological Development

  • The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.
  • Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work”

HomeSchool Association of California: Socialization and the Homeschooled Student

Home School Legal Defense Association collection of articles regarding socialization

The Washington Times: Home-Schooling: Socialization not a problem

Homeschoolers and Socialization By Dan Hammes

Successful Homeschooling: Homeschooling and Socialization

Website listing famous people by category who were homeschooled– this is a neat list of people who are famous; including entertainers, politicians, athletes, artists and more!

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Believe it or not, I have actually talked to people who wouldn’t consider homeschooling because they “knew their kids wouldn’t be able to play sports and do extracurricular stuff in high school.”  Yes, really.  True story.

I admit, this is one of those comments that usually results in me not even bothering to comment and walking away. It’s one thing to have questions and not know how to go about researching and getting answers.  It’s another thing entirely to make broad assumptions and erroneous conclusions based on something (like extra curricular activities) that your child may not even be interested in years down the road.

“Um, you know they are *extra* curricular, as in EXTRA; like, beyond or more than what is usual or expected; or more than what is *necessary* or needed?  You know, EXTRA, as in, not essential?”

Come to find out, the bit about being essential is actually a sticking point for some folks, who feel that without those things, school just isn’t worth it.  Certainly, my own recollections of high school reflect that the only things that made that time tolerable for me was all the extra curricular stuff I was doing.

I’ve heard people say, “They are only kids once.  They have their whole lives to work and be responsible and unhappy.”(yes, really!) “At least they can look back with fond memories of their time in school, when they played football/basketball/baseball or were cheerleaders. I loved high school.  If I could go back in time and stay in once place, it would be high school.” “If I could do one time in my life over, knowing then what I know now, it would be high school.  I’d have soooooo much fun!”

{blink} {blink}

Is that what’s wrong with us as a society? It makes me wonder. What if we could encourage our kids to find their natural paths; to pursue the kind of learning they are passionate about and interested in, instead of forcing them to focus on testing and taking subjects they won’t retain, just because some strangers somewhere decided “x,y, and z” would make Johnny a well-rounded individual?

What’s wrong with being focused and passionate about a few things? I was well-rounded and exposed to all kinds of things.  As an adult, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.  What would have happened had I been allowed to pursue full-force the things that really interested me?

Some will argue that if kids aren’t exposed to all kinds of things that they will never know all the opportunities in the world available to them. I think we can hand the world (and all those opportunities) to our kids on a silver platter and they still might not find their niche. Why?  Because if we don’t allow them to immerse themselves in their interests, and give them the space to pursue those things, they may not find out for themselves how far they want to take it. Who says we can only discover our interests (or do extra curricular activities) in a school setting?

And what on earth *does* that have to do with extra curricular activities?  😆

I believe that it’s never a good idea to think that we are the only ones who know what’s best for our kids. Maybe our kids know what is best.  Maybe they don’t know it now, but if we give them the chance, they CAN figure it out, so long as we don’t stand in their way.

Believe it or not, just because a child is homeschooled, that may not preclude him/her from participating in public school extra curricular activities.  I know that may be a shock, so I’ll say it again.  Even if you homeschool, your child may be able to participate in extra curricular activities in the local public high school.

In fact, many states have regulations that are clearly defined allowing homeschooled students the option to participate in team sports and other extra curricular activities.  Are you surprised?  I know I was!

Depending on where you live, your kids may be able to legally participate in sports and other extra curricular activities, like band/orchestra.

State Laws Concerning Participation of Homeschool Students in Public School Activities is a good place to start.  Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll need to contact your local school district if you choose to take advantage of the opportunities available to you.  In many cases, the people who you come into contact within your local schools won’t know state regulations, particularly the newer ones. You’ll want to make sure you have information with statute numbers, so if it’s called into question, you are the one providing the (current) information and not the other way around.

It took me literally minutes, and I was able to find an update to my state’s law concerning homeschooling and extracurricular activities.  Instead of only being eligible to participate in three athletic activities, homeschoolers are now able to participate in all public school activities governed by my state’s activities association.  Nice, huh?  🙂

Schools can (and usually do) have requirements for student participation in activities, particularly sports, so it’s important to know what those are as well, in addition to knowing your state regulations. Another point to consider is that many schools participate in athletic associations, which are usually free to make their own rules and regulations, and it may be *these* regulations (instead of school/district policy) that prohibit participation of those not enrolled full-time in public school.

For more information on the discussion of equal access, a good place to start is here. To learn more about the variables in this debate, read these articles:

Why the Question of Homeschoolers’ Playing Public School Sports Affects All Homeschoolers – Larry and Susan Kaseman

Can Homeschoolers Participate In Public School Programs?

I fall firmly in the camp of believing in low regulation of homeschoolers, and I believe that regulating any aspect of homeschooling (like whether or not homeschoolers can participate in public school athletics, for example) opens the door for additional regulations. Without opening that can of worms, let me just say that I/we believe in freedom and that the government has gotten too involved in our lives in general.  😉

If you happen to live in a state where homeschoolers aren’t eligible to participate in any school activities, don’t despair! There are other options, even for team sports.  At the younger (read: non high school) ages, opportunities are numerous for team sports.  There are all kinds of community team activities people (including kids) of all ages can participate in, so don’t be afraid to do some digging while you think outside the box!

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Yes, really.  Doncha just hate that?  😆

This is the year of oppressive heat; the heat that will not stop.  Whilst we’re still about 10 degrees above normal (at 105), we lucky people are not under the heat advisory.

Why not? I can only assume it’s because you don’t give heat advisories in Hell.  :lol:What would be the point? Seriously, though, it’s because (and again, I assume) the heat we’re getting is not too far out of the norm that it qualifies as being something to take under advisory for us here.

And it’s been buggy.  The one (little) bit of rain we got a few weeks ago must have been enough to get the mosquitos to hatch.  The flies are still all over, too (which is how one landed in my tea), and showing no signs of slowing down.

Last night, even after 7 pm, it was hot enough that my chickies (heat tolerant breeds) didn’t want to roam much; hunkering down in the grass, wings spread, and panting.  Poor babies!

I am so sick of the climate here I can’t see straight.  I need some green.  I need some water.  I need some lower temps!

(/ )

With schooling starting next week, I am hoping to get more of the homeschooling series wrapped up.  No promises, though, because it’s going to be a madhouse around here just trying to get organized.

One of the best things about homeschooling is not being bound to taking vacations on the school schedule.  And I need one!

If we don’t need to go to Tulsa soon, I’m eyeing Colorado…….

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Although you’re not completely convinced yet that you can “teach” your kids, you are pretty sure you can figure out your children’s learning styles, and thus, be able to provide an environment at home that is conducive to their learning.  Or, maybe you don’t have a clue how he/she/they learn(s) best, but you’re pretty sure you can figure it out. 🙂

You also have a good idea of what is required in your state, so you’re starting to get more comfortable (aka “not totally freaked out”) with looking at and exploring your options. You’re working on finding support- after all, if you decide to take the plunge, you know you are going to need it.

One of my biggest worries was would they be able to keep up with their classmates?  After all, we were only going to do this for a year or two, before, you know, we realized it was too hard and should be left to the professionals. If the time came and we put them back in school, where would they land?  Would they be on track with the rest of the kids in their grades?

While I don’t live in a state where there is mandatory testing, you may find yourself in that situation.  Truly, there are all kinds of places and resources for standardized testing preparation. Fortunately, this was also covered by Clonlara.

In my Why Homeschool? post, I shared my observations in regard to testing. This article summarizes pretty well how I view testing in (public) schools. It also has links to sites that will help you with the testing. This article, Standardized Testing and Its Victims, while older, goes into detail about how I feel about standardized testing. 

There are lots of homeschooling parents that feel standardized testing is a “must,” and is one of the best ways to gauge their child’s learning. Because you know that we primarily unschool, you’ve probably guessed that our thinking is a little bit different in this regard. While test-taking is a skill that should be addressed at some point, especially if your child is interested in college, for example, let’s just say I’m not a fan. 😀

Here’s a list of state achievement tests. Another list can be found here.  If you need to know what your state requires for testing, your best bet is to find that information on the Department of Education website for your state. Chances are good that you already know where to find it, because you’ve been gathering information on your state’s laws on homeschooling. Many states accept the CAT (California Achievement Test) or TerraNova Test, and you can do a web search using those terms and find a lot of resources for that testing. 

I won’t give a ton of links because states each have their own requirements; here are more resources for standardized testing:

Family Learning Organization

Bayside School Services

If you live in a state where standardized testing is mandatory, you may think about using a cover or umbrella school.  A cover or umbrella school is a “school” that oversees your child’s home education to help you meet your state’s education requirements.  If you live in Alabama, for example, the only way you can homeschool is via using a church-based cover/umbrella school unless you have a teaching certificate.

This site has several resource links (*I have not checked them all to see if they are current*). Here’s a state-by-state guide to umbrella/cover schools.  The perk to using a cover or umbrella school is that many offer ala carte services, including (but not limited to) transcripts, portfolio help, testing, report cards, attendance records, field trips, and standardized testing. Some are inclusive only, and doing your research and asking questions will help you find a good fit for your needs. 

Back to the issue- How will my homeschooled kids compare to traditionally schooled kids?  Will they be able to keep up?

The short answer is yes, they will be able to keep up, and in fact, studies show that homeschooled kids actually excelled academically (but we all knew that already, right?  :lol:) compared to their traditionally schooled counterparts. Homeschooled Students Excel in College and Can Homeschoolers Do Well in College? have statistics worth checking out.  I take issue with a statement in the second article, but the comments are worth the read.  🙂  Even if your child is not college-bound, he/she still has the opportunity to excel in whatever learning opportunities are pursued.

How will they compare to their traditionally schooled counterparts? That will depend entirely on what you are comparing.  😆  I think comparison, by-in-large, doesn’t do anyone- particulary your child- any favors. Each child has his/her own strengths and weaknesses. Homeschooling affords you, the parent, the ability to hone those strengths and address any weaknesses in a manner that is best for your child; based on the child.

Bottom line: homeschooling allows your child to live up to his/her maximum potential, without the confines or constraints of “the system.” My kids are excelling, not only academically, but socially, too, BECAUSE we homeschool.

There really is no comparison!  😀


 

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You’ve been reading and have been learning a little bit about homeschooling. You’ve learned how to find your state’s laws regarding homeschooling, which, in turn, has given you a basic idea of your options.  You’ve also learned some lingo, which is important as you begin to weigh the variables in approaching homeschooling.  For example, now that you know what your state requires and you have a better understanding of the language, you are better equipped to research the answers to some of those lingering questions.

The particulars of some of these questions we’ll address in the future posts. Today, though, we’re going to tackle one of the first questions a parent asks him/herself when the issue of homeschooling enters his/her minds: Am I qualified to teach my child?

One comment I hear frequently (this is actually one of the most common comments I hear) is, “Oh wow.  I could never teach my kids.” There are lots of ways to respond to this statement. Here are some of my more routine answers:

“Why do you say that?” (I only go here if I have time to talk and have a conversation about this topic.)

“You might be surprised!” (This is another response that is saved for situations when I have time for a conversation.)

“Ya, me neither.” 😆 This is my typical answer, and it usually leaves people wondering.

The short answer to this question is: Children are going to learn, despite our best efforts.  🙂 Our jobs as parents is to provide the right material to learn, because they are going to absorb what is around them. 

Have you ever wondered why it is that a child can hear a swear word once and then start repeating it?  😆  This is part of that rule: They are going to absorb what is around them.  If we offer them the opportunities to learn, they are GOING to (learn).

I admit to being jaded.  There are few situations, I’ve found, where people are genuinely interested in learning about homeschooling.  Usually, they already have formed opinions, and nothing I can say (believe me, I have tried, to no avail) is going to change their minds. It is usually easier for me to make a statement that doesn’t leave the door open to conversation unless they want to walk through it, and one that doesn’t open the door (although it sometimes does anyhow) to people making judgments.

As I have gotten older, I have gotten better with not feeling the need to explain or defend our decision to homeschool. In many ways, this approach is an extension of breastfeeding and other parenting decisions.

I just didn’t know that when we started homeschooling.  🙂

The first two years, we paid to enroll the kids in Clonlara. We were provided a contact teacher and a Comprehensive Skills Guidebook.  In those days, I don’t remember being required to submit progress reports, but it’s possible I did in the form of emails to our contact teacher, who was a friend of the family.

My biggest fear, of course, was teaching the kids and doing what I could to ensure that they didn’t get “behind.”  I chuckle now, because, of course, as part of our overall parenting philosophy, there really is no such term as it applies to productivity and actual well-being of a child.

Without going down the whole rabbit trail, let me just summarize my feelings on the topic:  Children (and people, too) learn and grow at their own pace, in what is the biological norm for the individual. Yes, sometimes kids are ahead of the curve; sometimes they’re not. Sometimes there are issues of actual developmental delays, but I believe, by-in-large, MOST of what gets labeled by others are really just variations of the biological norm. BUT, because we as a society are eager to get all those round pegs into square holes, we label kids (and adults, too) as a means of quantifying them.

With my own kids, crawling and walking was an issue for others.  Only one of my kids actually crawled, and hers was more of a commando crawl than actual crawl, which she did for about a week before she started creeping 90% of the time. The other 3 all scooted, like I had done. I, myself, was a “late” walker, scooting, never crawling, and then finally walking when I was around 2.

For those of you with kids, you know how this goes: when you take your baby into the doctor’s office for all those well-baby visit, you are bombarded with questions.  “Is your baby doing “x, y, z?”  Even if your baby is “on track” according to the checklist, parents come away with a heightened sense of fear that their child may not be doing”x” when “they are supposed to.”

Even as an experienced parent, I dreaded those visits. Finally, with my last 2 kids (although earlier on with the youngest) I put my foot down and refused to answer the questions.  Why?  As a mother who went to those visits with all the other children in tow, they could see that they were alive and obviously not maltreated.

I mean, really?  How many times do I have to answer, “Yes, I have a smoke detector.  Yes, we have door locks on the cabinets.  Yes, we have a toilet lid locks.  Yes, we would have a baby gate for stairs, if we had them. No, I do not chart and keep track of every morsel that passes her lips.” With the last one, it was only a few visits in when I told the nurse, “I will NOT answer any more of these questions.  It is none of your business. You can see with your own eyes that there is nothing wrong with any of my four children, and I’ll not allow you the opportunity to label any one them as being *anything.*”

While that didn’t score me any points at the time, things being as they are, my ped’s office doesn’t even have records on-site for any of my kids, because they haven’t been there in the last 5 years.  Yes, really.  I don’t need to pay money to have a stranger tell me my kids are healthy and “normal.”

So what does this have to do with teaching your kids at home?

People are afraid they are going to mess up their kids by having them home and schooling. We are taught early on, from the time we are in labor and enter the hospital (unless you are lucky enough to have other options) that we need the “help” of professionals; that we are somehow incapable of doing anything right without their direction.

I cry foul.

We’ll talk more about learning styles later, but how many children have been labeled as ADD/ADHD because they don’t want to sit still in class?  Could it be that the child is a kinesthetic learner?  What about a child who is a reluctant reader? Could it be that this child is an auditory learner?

Why are we trying to force children into set- and often unnatural- learning parameters?

The short and easy answer is, of course, that the system (formal school) doesn’t have the means to allow for a variety of learning styles.  There is a method that is applied to all children, and if your child doesn’t fit into that mold, the child is labeled. One thing to understand is that this really is a logistical necessity for formal educational settings, based primarily on class size and student to teacher ratio.

If left to their own devices, children are going to learn from their environment. Instead of wondering “Am I qualified to teach my child?” and “Can I teach my child?” we should be asking, “What kind of learning environment is best for my child?”

This question leads naturally to, “Can I provide that learning environment at home?” In case if you have any doubt, let me just say it out loud: Yes, you can! 😀

Before moving on to learning styles (which will help you identify your child’s learning style), we’re going to answer more of the questions from the Why Homeschool? post.

Do you have a question you want to me write about? Please leave me a comment!

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After spending two miserable years in the public school system and watching our son’s personality start to change in addition to his enthusiasm for learning grind to a halt, it hadn’t taken a lot for us to realize that something needed to change. We thought about private school, of course, and while budgetary concerns were on the list, I had come to realize that “this kind” of education- sitting at a desk, being forced to do everything on someone else’s time-table, etc- was just not going to mesh.  Not only was it not meshing with our son, it wasn’t meshing with *us* and our philosophy about life in general. (Side note: While my husband’s feeling on the school situation was in complete agreement with mine, we weren’t completely on the same page with homeschooling philosophy.  We’ll talk about communicating and coming to a place of agreement with partners in a later post.)

As parents, we had spent the early years basically Attachment Parenting. We were not directly involved with the organization, but nonetheless, our philosophy and theirs was agreeable.  Without going down that rabbit trail, in a nutshell, attachment parenting in its most basic form is about understanding and responding to the needs of your child.  All you API folks know there is more to it, but at its most basic, this about sums it up.

We spent all those early years responding to cues, and nurturing accordingly.  We spent those early years encouraging and supporting interests. Now we’re in school, and everything is done not based on the child, but based on the adults there and what they deem “important.”  You, the parent, who to this point knew your child best, suddenly doesn’t know spit.  And you have to shut up and obey, too, because after all, the professionals know what is best.

Obviously, I could rant on this for a really long time.  😆  I will say that even today, I know good people who are good teachers, siblings included.  I am friends with a good number of very good teachers.

I am, however, glad to live in a country where we have options. 😀

Those of you who have been reading along (or know me) know that I research things.  Some would say I research obsessively.  😆  I say I research until I get to the point where I feel that I know enough to make an educated, informed decision. I admire all those folks I know that have gone before me on the homeschooling quest without the benefit of computers.  😆  I don’t know that I would have had enough courage otherwise.

When we started kicking around the idea of homeschooling, I heard all kinds of things.  One of those things was “If you aren’t a licensed teacher, you aren’t allowed to homeschool.”  This didn’t ring true, and off I went to gather information.

One thing I learned on this particular quest was that laws pertaining to homeschooling are different in every state. Since I had been on a large homeschooling email list, I knew that people were doing all kinds of things for homeschooling- some had portfolios to submit; some had to meet with the school district to get their curriculum approved, etc.

This got me wondering- if you are having to do all the same things as the school does, what is the benefit of homeschooling?  I mean, why bother? I’ll address that in another post later, because it is a valid question in its own right.

On my quest for knowledge (and yes, I’m thinking a Monty Python type of quest here), I learned that in addition to every state having its own laws on homeschooling, not all homeschooling is the same. That’s right.  Let me say it again:  Not all homeschooling is the same.

Before I go into the details on some homeschooling terminology in my next post, let’s talk about the homeschooling laws.  Because each state has its own laws and requirements regarding homeschooling, these laws do (and probably should) affect your approach to home-based learning.

Why?

For example, in Pennsylvania, some of the regulations read like this:

“3. Parent/supervisor must annually maintain and provide the superintendent with “certain documentation. This is due by June 30th:”

a. A portfolio of records and materials. This includes a “log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used, samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student.” § 13-1327.1(e)(1);

b. “An annual written evaluation of the student’s educational progress” by (1) a licensed psychologist, (2) or a teacher certified by the state (with two years of teaching experience), (3) or a nonpublic school teacher or administrator (who must have at least two years teaching experience in the last ten years in public or nonpublic schools). At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the local superintendent. The evaluation shall be based on an interview and review of the portfolio and it “shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring.” § 13-1327.1(e)(2); “

And that’s one of the ways to homeschool in Pennsylvania. There are 5 options for homeschooling in Pa, each with their own set of rules and regulations. In New York, parents have to submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) for each child. In addition, there are rules for mandatory testing, annual assessments and quarterly reports. These states are considered “high regulation” states, and for good reason.

I’m glad I don’t live in Pa or NY!

In Texas, for example, “homeschools do not have to initiate contact with a school district, submit to home visits, have curriculum approved or have any specific teacher certification.”

In Oklahoma, along with no notice required to homeschool, “it is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to home school.“

I happen to live in a state where homeschooling regulations are low. We have to notify the state each year, but there is no mandatory testing or submission of anything to anyone.

Knowing your homeschooling laws is important. Knowing what you have to do or don’t have to do can have a huge impact on the approach you take to homeschooling your kids. Early on, I stumbled across the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website. Hands down, this site has the best overview of state laws I have found anywhere. One of the things I appreciate most is that non-members (like me) can still access most of the information.

Thanks to Google and other search engines, you will be amazed at the resources you can find to connect to people who are or are interested in homeschooling. Finding and connecting with people in your state/area who are homeschooling can be a really important part of taking the homeschooling plunge, because, let’s face it, sometimes wading through the information on the state website can be daunting, overwhelming, and downright discouraging.

Do schools want you homeschooling? My feeling is “Of course not!” Schools get money based on attendance. If you homeschool your children, your school district doesn’t get federal or state funding for your child. Another issue is about control and losing the ability to have sovereignty where your kids are concerned. Some people would rather not have to be responsible for their children, and while I could write a book on my feelings about that, I’ll spare you for now. 😉

One example of confusing or discouraging information comes from the California Department of Education (CDE) website’s section on homeschooling. It says,Is schooling at home recognized in California as exempting a student from public school attendance?

California statutes do not explicitly authorize home schooling. Whether a home schooled child is attending a private school, and therefore is exempt from public school attendance, is a decision made by local school districts and law enforcement authorities.”

Well gee. I guess that solves that question, doesn’t it? If California doesn’t authorize homeschooling, and I can’t afford private school, I guess that means I can’t homeschool in California.  Right?

Not so fast. In reality, what this means is that those wanting to homeschool who aren’t otherwise affiliated with a home education program would have to register as a “private school.” As someone who was considering homeschooling and looking at options, without having a good support system in place, this might have been a deal-breaker for me.  I don’t have the inclination to start a business and find the regulations to start a school.  I really just want my kids home and learning.

But what does it really mean?  It means that you register as a private school.  While it sounds overwhelming, once you do the research, you learn that it’s actually not very hard.  A look through the Private School Affidavit will show you that it’s really more bark than bite. A good guide to starting homeschooling in Ca can be found here.

So, know your state laws. Find support. Connect with others who are homeschooling in your state/area and can help walk you through your options if you want to learn from those who are doing it. Research is critical to understanding options, but there is no replacing the support you can get from those who have been there and are doing (or have done) it. Once you understand what homeschooling options are available to you, you can start to sort through and work out a plan for what you’d like to start with.

Next in this series, we’re going to take a look at homeschooling terminology/jargon. It can be hard not to get overwhelmed with the language. When we first started, I had in mind that everyone was using curriculum and that “homeschooling was homeschooling was homeschooling.” You may be surprised at what I’ve learned!

Stay tuned….tomorrow we are going to Wade Through the Jargon! 🙂

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The beginning of this series is Why Homeschool? You can find all the articles in this series along with resource links on the Homeschooling page.

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When we moved here nearly 16 years ago, our oldest was a bun in the oven.  We had heard that schools here were not the best, but that was not really a huge consideration for us, because, after all, we were only going to be here for 2 years max.  (snort)  (Really, you can stop laughing now.  :D)

By the time the our son was ready for kindergarten, our oldest daughter was 3, and daughter #2 was baking.  One of the things I’ll never forget was going into my son’s kindergarten class and watching plane hit the World Trade Center’s Tower #2.  We didn’t have a home computer then, and we didn’t watch tv in the morning.  So, that event was news to me.

The terrorist attack wasn’t the reason we ended up homeschooling.

Kindergarten was by-in-large relatively uneventful.  Sure, we had the normal kid stuff and the attempted labeling of our child by the school district.  After all, if they get their hands sticky at that age, they aren’t supposed to want to stop the activity to clean their hands, right?  The desire to have clean hands surely signaled something was wrong with him, of course (can you hear my sarcasm?).

First grade came, along with the playground bullying, and along with a teacher selected with help of the kindergarten teacher, as a means of attempting to match as best as possible a teacher to my child whereby personalities would mesh.  One of the defining criteria was her approach to homework; in that she didn’t believe that 1st graders should have regular homework.

Let me back up a minute.  I grew up in a public school home.  My father started out as an elementary school teacher; worked his way into Elementary School Principal, and eventually Superintendent of Schools.  When he retired a few years ago, he had spent 40 years in the same district; 36 of those (iir) as Superintendent.

As of this writing, my oldest brother is also the Superintendent of Schools in a district, and 3 of my other siblings are certified teachers.

I am no stranger to public schools, and have a lot of knowledge of child development myself. When my dad started teaching, the big debate was over whether or not to introduce pencils in kindergarten (yes, really). Fast forward 30 years, and the debate in my mind was whether or not regular homework was necessary in 1st grade. I clearly fell on the side of homework at this age being ridiculous.

I was pleased, of course, to have found a teacher who had a similar philosophy.  We had zone-exempted to this school (this means that because this school was not the school we were zoned for, we had to get special permission to have our kid(s) enrolled, and there was no bus service available to us), and one of the reasons we chose to pursue this school was because of a more relaxed approach to matching students to teachers.  Or at least that was our understanding.

As a mother who was determined to be involved, I was at school for several hours, several times a week.  I packed up my two girls, snacks and activities for them to do, and off we went.

From the beginning of school, I was watchful.  I was aware of things going on that I wasn’t keen on, but tried to suspend judgment in favor of letting the professionals do their jobs.  I noticed a huge emphasis on testing, as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Early on, I was struck by the irony. I had spent the bulk of my youth waiting to grow up and get away from school, so I could be independent and set my own schedule. It didn’t take a rocket scientists to make me aware that here I was, as an adult, being told again by the school what I could do and when I could do it. There was no freedom in anything. There was no freedom to take vacations that actually worked with my husband’s schedule. Sleeping in wasn’t a big deal, but taking naps was pretty essential, first when having babies, and then as chronic illness hit.

Sleep wasn’t the point. Freedom was the point. Ability to have actual parental sovereignty was the point.

Any kind of schedule had to revolve around the school and what it told us we must do. Child is sick? Too bad. Unless you have a doctor’s note (and who needs one for a cold that incapacitates you? I mean, really? You don’t need antibiotics for a virus-it won’t help you anyway. What you do need, though, is rest!), you can’t miss more than 3 days of school (and a regular cold runs at least 7 days) without one, or else you get marked truant for those days. At the time, kids were allowed 10 days of missed school a year. Any more than that, and you would be subject to court, and the possibility that CYFD(Child, Youth, and Family Department) could actually come and take custody of your children. WTH???

We spent both of those years being sick, all of us. Apparently, we hadn’t been exposed to as many germs as we needed to be, and since parents had to send their kids to school sick, every one else got it, too. The threat of having my children removed from the home for missing school too many times ensured that we continued the vicious cycle of sending kids to school sick.

After a lunchroom incident at some point in the year, I was pretty well convinced it was time to start homeschooling.  By this time, we had our own personal home computer, and through my volunteer work, I was in contact with a group of mothers around the country (and even a few in other countries) who were homeschooling.  I signed up for the list several months before the new school year, so I could ask questions and learn. 

I think it helped, too, that my good friend at time (who used to live across the street from us before we moved) had been homeschooling her kids from the beginning, and they were about 5 years older than my kids.  Her youngest daughter and my oldest daughter are just a few months apart, and remain best friends, even though we now live over an hour away from each other.  She loaned me some books, and a friend of my mother’s, actually, mailed me some materials on home education.

The first two years, although my state didn’t require it, we chose to go with Clonlara, a program in Ann Arbor, Mi, that also had a physical campus. This friend had used Clonlara for years and years, and another friend of my mother’s was one of the contact teachers, and was also involved with the same volunteer organization.  We were able to choose her as our contact teacher, and I finally felt comfortable, knowing she would “get” our parenting style and our philosophys, particular as they pertained to child development.

Clonlara offered the kind of support we (well,*I*) needed at the time. They provided us with a contact teacher and a skills guide. The “Why Choose Clonlara” page does a good job of explaining how they support parents. If I recall, we started that first year enrolling one as a second grader and starting our oldest daughter in kindgarten.

As a new homeschooling family, the pressure is immense. There is pressure you have from others (including but not limited to: family, friends, people you know from school, and comments you get while doing your grocery and other shopping with children in tow) and pressure you feel as the weight of the responsibility hits you.

You worry about all kinds of things- you worry about the education they will get- will they be able to keep up?  Can they learn to read without being taught in school?  Will they have the opportunity to learn all the same stuff like they would get in school?  What about socialization (as in, how on earth will they do it if  they aren’t around kids their own ages?)? Am I qualified to teach my kids?

I won’t go into answering those questions now, because I believe they are entitled to their own posts.  Since this will be our 9th year homeschooling, you might even be able to guess the answer to the last question.  😆  Or maybe the post on that topic will surprise you!

Fears and questions aside, for us, the perks faaaaaaaaaaar outweigh any kind of reasoning to send our kids to formal school of any kind. I won’t lie and tell you it’s been a piece of cake.  I won’t tell you there aren’t times when I want to pull my hair out.  I won’t tell you there aren’t times (when, in fact, usually every year around January/February we hit this point) when I wonder why I’m doing it, and whether or not it would be better to have a house that is cleaner and less attitude from the kids (because yes, the house would be cleaner, but the kids are still going to have attitude, and probably more, with the stress of the school environment combined with extra work, etc).

The thing is, as parents, we are going to have these moments regardless.  Well, we will if we’re conscientious.  We’re going to be evaluating and re-evaluating.  At least when you are actually in charge, you have the option to change course if something isn’t working the way you had hoped.

There is nothing better than having the ability to research something and then have the ability to drive the boat; getting to where you want to go, and making course corrections and taking side trips along the way as you see fit.

Check out the Homeschooling page for the upcoming collection of posts and resources!

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