A No-Nonsense Guide to Homeschooling

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Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Deciding to homeschool for the first time can be a scary thing. Whether you’ve decided before your children have ever set foot in a school or have resolved to pull your children from their current schools, the world of home education can seem like an intimidating and confusing situation to find yourself in. In the past year, I’ve had quite a few frazzled mothers ask me the question, “How do I homeschool?”

That question in itself can be answered in so many different ways because there are so many different ways to homeschool, so I’ve narrowed it down to, “What should I do as a new homeschooler?”

That question is a bit simpler and a bit more relevant for those new to the journey. Let me start to answer this query by telling you what not to do.

If I was only given the opportunity to tell you one thing about homeschooling, it would be this: Do not plunge head-first into a school-at-home routine from the very beginning. Just don’t do it. Seriously. I promise you, it will bring you more heartache than joy.

Let me emphasize that I said, “…from the very beginning.” After finding out more about how your children like to learn, you may well decide that this is the best method for you. But I implore you, please do not do it by default using the reasoning that “this is how it’s done in government schools.” Think about it. Why would you try to reproduce something that isn’t working?

The second thing I would tell you not to do is to run out and spend a ton of money on curriculum. If you are new to this, you probably aren’t familiar with how your children prefer to approach things. Watch them. Observe them. Interact with them. Once you’ve spent some time intentionally paying attention to the way in which your kids do things, you will have a much better idea of what will benefit them the most.

So what should you do? Live a full life with them. Go to the library often. Enjoy the park, the bike trail, and the creek down the street. Read to them. Take them with you on your errands and explain to them what you’re doing and why. Bake cookies for the elderly neighbor or the librarians who, more than likely, will soon become indispensible to you.

Keep your eyes open for resources that sometimes seemingly fall into your lap. When we first began homeschooling, I used everything from pamphlets from the electric company (science and safety) to newspapers (current events) to keep my children engaged until we had a more concrete plan in place.

Find out what they’re interested in and provide opportunities for your children to pursue them. If they like to cook, cook with them. If they’re natural artists, buy some good quality art supplies and/or look into a local art class. (The art school that my children attended actually have a class specifically for homeschoolers.) If reptiles are their thing, visit a reptile house or check out one of many awesome documentaries on Netflix or YouTube. Use your imagination to come up with ways to support your children’s hobbies. With the internet and the library as resources, you can literally find information on anything.

And while you’re accomplishing all of this for your kids, spend some time reading about and researching learning styles, and homeschool approaches and philosophies. Check the end of this post for a list of great resources I’ve used.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

If there is anything I would recommend that you purchase from the get-go, it would be:

-lots of paper, writing utensils, and arts and crafts supplies

-a deck of cards, a pack of dice, and some board games

-a map or a globe

-a library card (this is free, but it’s a must-have)

-and, if it really bothers you that your kids aren’t doing “schoolwork,” some spelling/phonics and math workbooks at Barnes and Noble (make sure you apply for the educator’s discount!), Five Below, or, depending on the ages of your kids, Dollar Tree.

Some people begin their homeschool journey doing activities like these and find that it is enough for them and continue to do so. Others, over time, may transition towards other types of learning methods that appeal to them and are very successful with them.

What’s most important is to ease into this lifestyle. Homeschooling can be a rewarding and exhilarating way of life, so remember to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

 

Homeschool Resources

Learning All the Time

Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything

The Homeschooling Handbook

Teach Your Own- The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

 

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Exploring the Truth Behind Homeschool Myths

Yep. It’s time to address those pesky homeschool myths again.

myths
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In this day and age, homeschooling, while certainly not considered to be mainstream, has gained some ground in credibility and acceptance with the general public. Despite this fact, however, there are still some pesky myths about homeschooling that just don’t seem to go away. Unfortunately, some of these myths are being perpetuated by well-meaning friends and family members. This is one homeschooler’s attempt to put these rumors to rest- for good.

-‘Homeschoolers can’t go to college.’– Yes, this rumor is still making rounds. In fact, the mother of one of my daughter’s friends decided to tell my daughter this was so. I assured my daughter that quite the opposite is true. Colleges are actively recruiting homeschoolers, and not just any colleges, but Ivy League colleges. While students in traditional schools have been learning how to follow directions and do what they’re told for 12+ years, homeschoolers have been busy learning how to think for themselves through self-directed learning, apprenticeships, and even entrepreneurship.

-‘Homeschooled kids don’t learn right.’– This is actually a direct quote from a family member to, again, my daughter. (Poor girl. People always seem to pick her to unload their grievances about homeschooling on. Interestingly, the relative who made that statement didn’t say it in front of my mother or myself.) I don’t really even know what this is supposed to mean. ‘Don’t learn right?’ Is there one right way to learn? If there is, let me in on it, because I’ll start training my kids on it stat. 😉 Whatever was meant, the notion that homeschooled kids aren’t getting a proper education is still quite common, despite all the evidence to the contrary. For example, my kids always used to sit outside and read to each other at our old house. Our neighbors would often be in their yard at the same time. This didn’t stop the husband from one day questioning my 12-yr.-old daughter about whether or not she could read. I’m not kidding. When she told him that she could, he went in his house, brought out a book, and told her to take it home and read it because he would be questioning her about it when he saw her again. We had a good laugh about it when she got inside, and we never really interacted much with him again. And she did NOT read the book.

It boggles my mind that people are so preoccupied with bashing the education that children receive at home. Just today, someone followed me on Twitter who seems to focus solely on criticizing homeschool parents and advocating for more state regulation of homeschooling. Sorry, buddy. I didn’t follow you back. The school district that we live in has teens graduating with a 7th grade-sometimes lower- reading level. Maybe people should start focusing more on that. As it stands, the logical conclusion is, if Ivy League schools are seeking homeschoolers, then we must be doing something right.

‘Homeschooled kids don’t know how to act around other people.’– I have to laugh out loud at this one. If you have any questions about the social interactions of homeschoolers, I invite you to come to my house at 7:30am and observe the kids walking to the school up the street. Bad language? Check. Fighting? Check. Screaming and carrying on? Check. Holding up traffic? Check. Inappropriate behavior? Check. Hmm…maybe they were talking about public school kids. Yeah, that must be it.

‘Homeschooled kids won’t know how to live in the real world.’– Newsflash: They are living in the real world. While most kids are learning about the world from textbooks while being confined between four walls, homeschoolers are learning about the real world by being in it. They don’t need to count money on a worksheet. They’re counting, and using, real money. Instead of learning about banking, they’re going to the bank. Instead of completing a reproducible about reptiles and amphibians, they’re going to the creek and finding the real thing. I could continue like this all night. Suffice it to say, if the real world is going to be a shock to anyone- and it often is- it will be a shock to those kids who only know about it through books and power points.

-‘Parents aren’t qualified to teach their kids.’- If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that…Actually, some people have gone so far as to call parents who choose to homeschool their children “pompous” for assuming they can do the job that teachers are trained for. People who take this stance simply don’t understand how children learn, and they clearly haven’t been versed on the history of compulsory school. The routines and methods practiced by public school teachers are simply not necessary in a home environment. As many a teacher with an education degree will tell you, they were mainly trained in classroom management and how to follow the script of a curriculum. Unless you are the parent of 20 children who are all the same age, this won’t be necessary.

Parents can be very resourceful when it comes to educating their children. If there is one thing that homeschool parents have that teachers don’t, it is love for their children, and that is the most important asset one can have, because love is the strongest motivation to strive for the best.

 

As the homeschool movement grows, it will become less and less of an oddity and will eventually be seen for the advantage that it is. Until then, however, it is up to us to lay these false notions to rest, and now is a great time to start. 🙂

 

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Calling All Homeschoolers!

I need your help!

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Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As many of you know, I’m currently writing a book about the practicalities of homeschooling. I am looking for people who are either homeschooling or have homeschooled in the past who would be willing to write an anecdote about what a “typical day” entails at your house. If you are interested, please leave a comment, and I will be happy to get back to you via email. You do not need to leave your email address in the comment. Thank you so much!

 

 

 

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Why Should We Homeschool?- Part 4- Freedom of Choice

Join me for another installment of Why Should We Homeschool? Today I’ll be talking about the ten choices which are exclusive to homeschooling.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So far in this series, I’ve covered safety, personalized learning, and values. Today I’ll be discussing the freedom homeschoolers have to choose.

Choose what?, you may ask. I’m getting to that. 🙂 Since there are so many points to be covered today, I’ve decided to compile a list of:

Ten Choices Exclusive to Homeschooling

1. One of the greatest choices afforded to homeschoolers is when to school. While traditional school students are bound by the established school schedule, homeschoolers have the opportunity to arrange their days and years around their family’s schedules, or their own personal preferences. Most government and private schools operate around a late summer to late spring schedule (September to June) with a 12-week summer vacation. There are a great many homeschoolers who follow this schedule. My older children prefer to. But what of those families who cringe at the thought of so many months of school with so few breaks, followed by an extremely long summer break? They get creative! Some will operate around a 6-week on, 1-week off schedule with 6-week breaks at Thanksgiving/Christmas and spring/summer, as my younger children do.  Others may do 3- or 4-weeks on and 1-week off. Still others may not even do an official count of school days because, technically, homeschooled children are “in school” everyday!

Determining what time of the day is also a benefit to homeschoolers. Study upon study has shown that many children, especially older children, do not function well early in the morning. How have most schools reacted to this? By making school even earlier! High school students in our district must be in school by around 7:30 am, whereas when I was in school, our day officially started at 8:25. There was a recommendation for our schools to begin later, but most of the teachers protested because they didn’t want to get done at a later time.

As the primary facilitators of our children’s education, we are granted the sovereignty to determine when our days will begin and end. My younger children don’t start school work until mid-morning, followed by our older children who begin about 30 minutes to an hour before lunch. We then take a two hour lunch/chores break until 2pm, when it is time to read a devotional with my teens, who up until this time, haven’t even thought of their assignments yet. After the devotional I finish up any work the older children haven’t completed. My teens don’t even start their school work until about 8pm; sometimes much later than that. Since they are night owls, this is what works for them, so it works for me. You can read more on a detailed plan of our day here.

2. As the facilitators, we have the choice of what curriculum to use, or even whether to use one at all. Traditional schools have hundreds, sometimes thousands of children to educate. As such, they’ll typically choose whatever curriculum is cheapest and most efficient, no matter how it will resonate with the students. As parents, it’s easy for us to see that what works for one child may not work for another. There is such a vast array of homeschooling resources out there, that it can be overwhelming to a new homeschooler, but all the same, it is such a huge blessing, because brick-and-mortar school students do not have that luxury. There, if a student has difficulty with the learning style catered to in the text, they’re out of luck and have to deal with it. As the primary educators of our kids, we want our children to be genuinely interested in what they’re learning. We all know what happens when there is no desire to learn about something- it is quickly forgotten. The curriculum our family’s decide upon are those that will best meet our family’s needs, even if that means each child uses resources from different publishers.

3. Just as we choose the curriculum, we also choose whether or not to change it if it is not working. Similarly to #2, where I discussed the plight of a school student who does not mesh with the mandated curriculum, homeschoolers sometimes find that, while it may have seemed like the perfect fit at first, the chosen curriculum may not be the one for them, after all. Unlike the average student, homeschoolers are free to change resources anytime they choose to- the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, sometimes even the end of the year. In the end, our child’s education matters more than what books we use.

4. The homeschooling methods we choose are completely up to us. Traditional schools are acclimated to the auditory learner. Surprise, surprise- some children are not auditory learners. The only way public schools can deal with this is to place them in “special classes,” which often produces a stigma a child carries with them for the rest of their lives. There are just as many different ways to homeschool as there are families. Homeschooling will look different in each household because each family utilizes the methods and routines that work best for them. Some prefer a more structured, schoolish atmosphere. Others rely on reading good literature and real-world math or unit studies to fulfill their learning requirements. And still others may use life as their curriculum and not separate their everyday lives from their education at all. I’d wager, though, that the vast majority of families are like us, and use a giant mish-mosh of each of these. Again, our goal is to meet the needs of our children. And that’s what we do.

5. The topics covered in our children’s homeschooling endeavors are our choice. Conventional schools have set syllabuses for each year- certain subjects and skills are to be covered in certain years. Not so with homeschoolers. We have the freedom to allow our children who might have no interest in reading at the age of 5 to blossom and develop before forcing something on them they are not ready for. Or maybe our middle schooler has a passionate fervor for biology. Who says they have to wait for high school? To the flexible homeschooler, the answer to that is no one! Each child can learn about something when they are ready, and not a moment sooner.

We also have the option of taking the interests of our children and planning lessons around them. As I said before, children learn best when they are interested. Take advantage of it. My oldest daughter loves Japanes manga and anime. Allowing her the freedom to pursue her interest in that has led to:

– drawing and painting anime style characters of her own design using mediums
such as watercolor, chalk and oil pastels, acrylics, and gel pens

– taking flash animation, narrative illustration, and drawing and painting classes at
the local art school

– learning to sew in order to make her own costumes for the various conventions
she attends

– learning the Japanese language through Rosetta Stone, anime, and online
websites

– learning both styles of Japanese writing characters

– researching Japanese culture and geography

– creating a storyline for her own future online webcomic

I don’t think anyone could sufficiently argue that no learning happened there. 🙂

6. Homeschoolers have the choice of dropping everything for the day in order to pursue something other than school work. This could be anything from taking a walk to the playground to visiting a museum to even vegging out on the couch for a movie day. When you’re a homeschooling family, the world is at your feet.

*These last four are suggestions from my oldest daughters, so here’s their input!*

7. Homeschoolers can eat whatever they want, whenever they want. The current school system has classes packed in so tightly now that most students have to practically inhale thier food before the bell rings. Our lunch break at home is two hours long, and as for school lunches…need I say more??

8. Homeschoolers have the option of doing school in their pajamas. We often do. Looking out the window in the morning and seeing all the kids walking to school in their uncomfortable uniforms makes us love our jammie pants all the more!

9. Homeschoolers can decide where to do their work. No need to sit at cramped desks all day. Homeschoolers can do their assignments on the couch, at the table, in the yard, on the porch, at the park, at Grandma’s house- anywhere!

10. Homeschooled students have the option of working at their own pace. If something doesn’t make sense or just isn’t clicking, there’s no need to move on to the next chapter. There is no law stating that each textbook must be completed. As a matter of fact, there’s no law stating that we have to use textbooks at all. At home, we have the option of moving slowly through a difficult area and not surmising that our children are behind, simply because they took a week to learn something, rather than a day.

I know this post was super long today, and I thank you if you made it to the end! I’m just so passionate about encouraging future and current homeschoolers because, for every difficulty you may face, multiply that times ten and you’ll receive that many blessings! Remember to tune in next week, as I discuss how homeschooling emphasizes the centrality of the family.

 

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The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton- A Parody, by John Moe

Ready to get the inside scoop on those emails?

Browse through any recent news headlines, and you’re bound to see a story or two on the infamous emails of Hillary Clinton. Ever wonder what was actually in those emails? Well, you’re about to find out! (Not really. But really. Just kidding.)

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started to read The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton. Was it going to be poking fun at conservatives? Liberals? The answer to that is- yes!

I am not exaggerating when I say that this was the funniest book I’ve ever read. Ever. Despite living in a house with ten children running around, I was able to get through this title in one day because I couldn’t put it down. In fact, my older children had to put up with me calling them every five minutes to read them another section that I found to be particularly hilarious.

Besides the tear-inducing humor, I was also really impressed with the fact that the author, John Moe, was able to take such a politically sensitive issue as this and make it so unpolitical, if that’s even possible. Hillary Clinton herself could probably get a good laugh out of this book were she ever to read it. (During her breaks from Call of Duty: Black Ops, of course.) Don’t know what I’m referring to? Read the book! I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are completely my own.*

 

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Lazy Day Links- 5/7/16

It’s that time again! Here are this week’s recommended links and books. Enjoy!

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Image courtesy of porbital at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links.)

Wow, this week went quickly! One of the books I’ll be featuring today, The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton- A Parodycomes highly recommended by Yours Truly :). I just got this book yesterday and already finished it a few hours ago, despite the fact that I have ten kids at home. It is, by far, the funniest book I’ve ever read. Ever. Look for a review of it in the next few days. I promise you, you won’t be sorry if you buy it. Now on to my links!

Favorite Blog Posts:

5 Advantages to Creating Your Own Homeschool Unit Study– Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus!

Why the Gender Identity Debate Is Symptomatic of a Much Bigger Issue for Christians– Natasha Crain

5 Ideas for Better Read-Aloud Time– BookShark

Simple Steps to Teaching Reading– Classically Homeschooling

Hope When Mother’s Day Is Hard– Holley Gerth

 

My Older Posts:

My Hands-Off Approach to Teaching Reading

Considering Homeschooling? Ten Things You Need to Know

Welcome to Strewing Central!

When God Answers…Make Sure You’re Listening

Navigating the Red Tape- Part 2: How Do I Comply?

 

Books Worth Reading:

The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton- A Parody– John Moe

The Oath– Frank Peretti

Deadline– Randy Alcorn

Infernal Devices Series– Cassandra Clare

23 Minutes in Hell– Bill Wiese

 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Enjoy!

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A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers- Spiders and Squirrels and Snakes, Oh My!

The end of the school year is in sight, and the great outdoors are calling! (If the rain ever stops ;P) Join me for another week of highlights from There’s No Place Like Home!

oh my

Well, we’ve now just completed the second last week of school for the Littles and the Big Kids. The Teens have another three weeks to go because they follow a more traditional school schedule. The end of the school year is a bit bittersweet for me because, while I love the summer, I do not enjoy the lack of structure from not doing our school routine everyday. Besides that, I really do enjoy our school routine, so I know that I’m going to be bored out of my mind without the hustle and bustle of the school day. Oh, well. Just plan on me posting lots of new unit studies because that’s what I usually spend my time doing when boredom sets in. I will admit, however that I am looking forward to the deep cleaning we always do the first few days of summer break because this house is a wreck.

This week was very similar to last week in that it’s been cold and, once again, I had to take five children to the dentist. Fun. No cavities this week, but one does need to see an orthodontist. Joy. Other than that, it’s been a pretty laid back week- as far as a household of twelve people can be laid back. 🙂 Now on to our week:

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.)

The Littles

This week we started reading Madeline, which the kids have enjoyed so far. We found France, where the story takes place, on our world map and each child got their own map to place a story disk on. They also colored their own French flags, and we discussed so many different topics while reading, such as appendixes, hospital visits, steamboats, land line telephones (who would’ve thought they would be considered history in our lifetime!?), and the Eiffel Tower.

I’m going to confess that we spent a lot of time vegging out in front of the TV because it’s just been a cold, rainy week, and we really didn’t feel like venturing outside.

The Big Kids

The older kids are still working on their research/reference unit and will probably do so until the end of next week when they finish school. We read about Noah Webster and each child has been busy compiling a list of words they don’t know from our read-alouds and their silent reading selections (which, incidentally, are all the same as last week) to author their own dictionaries. Today they got to decorate the covers.

Caollin (11) did get to spend some time at the creek with Dillon (16), and she had a blast finding salamanders, crayfish, and a newt. Otherwise, they, too, have just been relaxing in the house, waiting for the sun to finally come out again.

The Teens

Schoolwork-wise, it’s really just been business as usual with these three.

Arianna (14) has been busy reading and helping with the younger kids during school time this week. On Sunday she went to see a local theater group’s performance of “Mary Poppins” with my mother. She really enjoyed it and hopes to see some more shows like it. (She recently saw “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” as well).

Dillon is still having the time of his life taking photographs and has even ventured out in this dreary weather to hone his photography skills. Here’s a sampling of what he did this week:

A few days ago he created a Facebook page for his photography, and he’s really been working hard at perfecting his skills.

Devin (17) has, once again, spent a lot of time with our oldest son this week. She’s looking forward to next month’s anime convention in Atlantic City and is busying herself with the details of what characters she’s going to cosplay. She also wants a job in the worst way, but I just haven’t gotten around to getting her a photo ID just yet.

Unfortunately, our school district does not issue school IDs to homeschoolers, which makes everything from getting a job to attending after-school events to taking SATs that much harder. I honestly believe they should begin issuing them to homeschoolers, since we do have to report to them yearly, so our kids are, technically, still students in the district, but what are you gonna do?

Anyway, this has been our week! What’s yours looked like?

 

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Sometimes the Best Teachers Don’t Need a Degree

Worried about your qualifications as a homeschool, or future homeschool, parent? Join me as I discuss the characteristics of great homeschool parents!

teacher
Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Two years ago when my daughter was seeking a scholarship for a local art school, I had a somewhat uncomfortable conversation. In the midst of the interview, the subject of homeschooling came up. The registrar looked at me quizzingly and asked, “Do you have an education degree?” I replied that I did not; they aren’t necessary for homeschooling in PA. She grew completely perplexed and replied, “But how do you teach things you don’t know?”

This question caught me rather off-guard for two reasons:

  1. I had honestly never even thought about it, and
  2. Does having a degree automatically mean you know how to do everything?

The registrar is not alone in asking this question. In fact, the idea of a parent not being qualified to teach his or her children has crossed the minds of many would-be homeschoolers and scared them away from ever going through with their dreams of homeschooling.

Realistically, however, most homeschool routines don’t even remotely resemble a typical school day, so the qualifications needed in a traditional classroom are somewhat different than those necessary in an at-home setting.

My hope here is to encourage those of you who are doubting your ability to homeschool by listing the characteristics of a successful homeschool parent because, as you will see, they are probably nothing at all like the typical idea of what an average teacher looks like.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.)

A great homeschool teacher will:

1.Receive questions with open arms. Unlike traditional school teachers who must often stick to a script, homeschoolers have the freedom of drifting away from a discussion or lesson if more intriguing ponderings arise. Just today I was reading Madeline with my younger children. A book that would normally take five minutes turned into a twenty minute discussion about Paris, old telephones, appendixes, scars, nuns, steamboats, and- my children’s favorite- retellings of their own experiences with hospital visits. A discussion like this would most likely not have happened within a school setting because of, among other things, time constraints, but at home we have the freedom to explore ideas with our kids as they arise. Questions are a blessing. Delight in inquisitiveness!

2.Encourage their children to learn how to discover answers for themselves. While it is, of course, necessary to help your children when the need arises, it is also so important to help children learn where and how to find resources for themselves. Although my children and I visit the library regularly, the other week I took them there for the main purpose of explaining the Dewey Decimal System to them and taking them on a tour of where to find specific types of books. Giving them opportunities to research online is also something that is necessary in this day and age. I know that many parents have mixed feelings about Google, but I consider it to be hugely beneficial to our learning endeavors.

3.Give their children plenty of time for exploring interests. Some of the most crucial and most important learning does not come from books, but from life. Learn to see the world through your children’s eyes, instead of through the schoolish lenses most of us possess, and you will find value in just about everything your children do. Keep in mind that the hobbies of your children now may well be training for their future. Kids who like to play school may become teachers, and those who insist on taking everything apart to see how it works are likely to be budding engineers. If your children are actively exploring life, there is no such thing as wasted time.

4.Have a plan for those occasions when they don’t know how to help with a certain subject. As the saying goes, the world is our oyster when it comes to information and resources in this day and age. The most common piece of advice for situations like this is to hire a tutor, but many one-income (and some two-income families!) simply cannot afford it. Thankfully, there are plenty of other options for getting help with those difficult areas. A short sampling would be:

-the library

-friends, neighbors, and family members

Khan Academy

-the good, old internet

YouTube

The options are really endless. Just keep an open mind about how learning happens, and you’d be amazed where the help can come from!

5.Let their children have a say in what they’re learning about. Think about it. Can you concentrate on something you have no interest in and no need for? Me neither. My older children all give input on what their learning plan will consist of. My oldest daughter loves psychology and will be taking it for a third time next year (her senior year). This could never have happened at our public high school, as they only offer one half-year course on it. Why force her to take a Social Studies credit that she’s never going to need in real life? It just doesn’t make sense. I guarantee your kids will put more effort into work they consider to be useful and interesting.

6.Know when something isn’t working and be willing to change it. Sometimes a particular curriculum may look phenomenal to us parents, but when our children set out to doing it, they don’t feel the same way. If your child is struggling to the point of tears or complete apathy, it’s time to ditch the book and move on. This is one of those other areas that homeschoolers have the advantage. Since public schools have limited budgets and slews of students to purchase textbooks for, they don’t have the option of doing this. While I certainly do remember trudging through those dry textbooks in high school, I don’t remember one important thing out of any of them. I know sometimes it may seem like a waste to discontinue something you paid for, but it is so much more important that your children can learn well. Unused curriculum can easily be saved for younger siblings (maybe they’ll like it!), sold to other homeschoolers, or even given away for free to a family with a limited income.

7.Drop everything they know about “school” and design a plan that works for their family. I want you to close your eyes and remember what your school days were like. Crowded hallways. Cramped desks. Bathroom passes. Ringing bells. Do you have a clear picture? Now, push that picture out of your head because homeschooling does not have to be like that. Observe your children. Take notice to how they do things and what they spend the most time on. Only you can decide what is right for your family. And I’m here to tell you that you may not get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the third. 🙂 All kidding aside, you will figure it out, and your children will thank you for it.

I was going to title this post “What Makes a Great Homeschool Teacher” but decided against it because, to many of us, homeschooling doesn’t feel like teaching. It feels like life. It feels like family. It feels like love. That is what it takes to make a great homeschool parent. Are you qualified?

 

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An Obliteration of Childhood

Five hard truths about the unintentional obliteration of childhood

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Image courtesy of Poulsen Photo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently overheard a conversation between two young mothers. One of them was complaining about the day care her three yr old attends. Her complaint? They play and do art projects all day, instead  of teaching the kids their letters and numbers.

I was taken aback. What exactly is wrong with that? That sounds like the perfect day for a child that age. But then she got down to the crux of the issue- the parents at that daycare expect their children- their very young children- to receive school-type lessons at this facility.

Which got me thinking…aren’t we parents the ones who notoriously lament how children grow up too fast? Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the issue and explore why this is.

Five Hard Truths about the Unintentional Obliteration of Childhood

We school our children too early. Everywhere you turn, you will hear people talking about the importance of Early Childhood Education, but just how important is it? Is it really necessary that children as young as three should be expected to sit down at a desk for several hours a day tracing letters and numbers? I don’t know about your children, but mine copy letters and words off of books, their siblings’ papers, and anything else they lay their eyes on without any prompting from me. They think it’s fun! In fact, my now six-year-old learned basic addition and several sight words at the age of four simply by being around the older children when they were doing their school work.

I realize that many preschools and Kindergarten classes do include fun hands-on learning activities, but, again, is it really necessary for this to happen in a classroom setting? Young children are superstars when it comes to investigating and exploring the world. As John Holt used to say, children are natural scientists. They do perfectly well at learning about the world when they are given the time, freedom, and opportunity to do so. If there is any way to quash their fascination with the world and their innocent wonder, it is by sending them to school where, instead of finding interesting things to do themselves, they begin to be told by someone else (presumably the teacher) what is important to know about. This eventually results in children who are apathetic, lethargic, and lack imagination because they, in essence, forget how to play and are used to doing nothing but sitting all day.

 

We overschedule our childrenAs if it isn’t bad enough for them to be shut inside a building for six hours a day, many children participate in after-school activities at the schools themselves, or they are kept busy with organized sports or other various engagements. Obviously, extracurriculars can be a good thing. It is when they get to the point of taking over your child’s life that it is time to take a step back and rethink things.

Schools are very good at organizing after-school programs, and many of them are wonderful, but again- how much is too much? Students are in school for a mandatory six to seven hours a day, and yet, many parents sign them up for these clubs and activities which will keep them confined in the school building even longer.

Let me be clear that I do not have a holier-than-thou attitude of someone who has never been there. When my kids were in school, I was one of the parents who signed my children up for every single activity I could because I thought it would be good for them. It wasn’t. It resulted in kids who no longer had time to be kids.

Studies show that children today are beginning to feel the same effects of anxiety as adults because of this culture of being able to “do it all.” Is it really worth it?

 

The peer influences in school are less than desirable. No matter how you raise your children, in school they are going to be around other children from homes with different moral standings than you. You may be able to shut off the cable at home, but I assure you that at school they will be exposed to everything you try to protect them from. They will see girls in short skirts who idolize the likes of Beyonce and Katy Perry. They will be around boys who, in their quest to be “grown-up,” will introduce your children to words and concepts their young ears are not prepared to hear. And if your child shows any signs of vulnerability or innocence, they may well be singled out and teased for upholding the standards you’ve tried so hard to teach them.

I recently had to stop allowing my children to play alone with a sixth grade neighbor boy who asked my fourth grade daughter if she wanted to “make out.” Kidding or not, these are NOT the influences I want my children to have. There will be plenty of time for them to deal with these issues when they are older. Right now, my hope for them is to allow them to enjoy being children.

 

-And don’t even get me started on technology! I get it. Technology is a wonderful thing, but is it really necessary for five- and six- year old children to own their own cell phones? I do let my younger children each have a one hour turn on my phone on the weekends, and even that often takes them away from opportunities to play outside or with friends.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to a party or picnic where all of the kids sat in the house with their heads buried in their phones or tablets the entire time. Just last week my kids came home from a neighbor’s house and told me that the entire time they were in his yard jumping on the trampoline, he was in his house playing on his tablet.

Technology may be great for the economy, but it steals away childhood merriment and replaces them with inanimate pixels.

 

Sometimes we are as much to blame as anyone or anything elseHow many times have we scolded our children for simply doing childish things? Things that weren’t necessarily bad but, maybe, were loud or were interrupting our quiet time? By no means am I advocating to let children run wild. I’m simply pointing out (to myself as much as everyone else) that sometimes we have unrealistic expectations.

By the same token, how many times have we told our daughters that they might look nicer with just a little makeup? Or tried to push a more mature looking outfit on them? My daughter’s friend’s mother regularly buys her push-up bras and crop tops. I’m not suggesting anyone reading this might go that far, but it’s a great illustration in how far parents will go to “help their children mature.” Is it really so terrible if our daughters continue to play with dolls throughout middle school, or our sons are fascinated with Pokemon cards, instead of cars?

And is it reasonable to expect our preschoolers to play quietly all day with nary a shriek or whimper? Is it really so bad to have a house that may be noisy but is noisy with joyful laughter?  One thing that I need to remind myself (and my husband) of daily is that our children are children- not little adults.

 

If there is anything at all you take away from this post, let it be this:

Hold your children close. Cherish them. Protect them. Guide them. And most of all- don’t rush them into adulthood. It will come too quickly without your help.

 

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Just Let Your Kids Play, Already!

This was originally posted in March 2014, but it’s a nice prelude to my next scheduled post. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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There's No Place Like Home

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There’s a disturbing trend happening in our culture today. In a world constantly chasing fame and fortune, parents have begun to prepare their children for this lifestyle at earlier and earlier ages. Gone are the days of teaching 4-year-olds how to tie their shoes and play with their dolls. The good ol’ days of letting your children run, explore, and use their imaginations is almost a thing of the past. We have now entered the Age of Overeducating Your Kids.

It’s a well-known fact that children are maturing at faster and faster rates these days, and adults everywhere solemnly shake their heads and click their tongues in despair because of this. But let’s take a look at one possible reason why this is happening.

Just a few generations ago, children were able to run and play and, well…be kids. Games of Kick the Can and street hockey were to be…

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