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

How I keep the daily logs, portfolios, and how we will prepare for standardized tests


     Okay…it’s confession time. After watching my kids do seemingly nothing today other than petting the cats and arguing until I intervened and made them find something to do, I was feeling pretty panicky. I mean, even though I know they’re learning, I really don’t think the school district is going to accept ”If they’re living, they’re learning” as proof of adequate progress, so that old (okay…not that old) anxiety came creeping back today.
     I can’t tell you enough what a treasure trove of information is over at FIMBY, so once again I turned there for inspiration and some much needed advice directly from Renee Tougas, and, as always, her wisdom has grounded me again. (I highly recommend her blog to you. If you’ve never visited it, trust me. You’ll be glad you did.)
     So now that I’m feeling rejuvenated again, let’s get on with this post. Today I’m writing about how I’ve been keeping the state-required daily log and portfolio and how I plan on preparing for standardized tests.

Daily Logs

– In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about how I break down each of my children’s activities into subjects. This is where this categorization would apply.
     I bought several teacher plan books at a teacher supply store and labeled each subject on the pages (English, Math, Social Studies, Science, Health/Safety, Art/Music/Phys. Ed., and Consumer Science aka Life Skills). Along with writing the date for each logged entry, I also write what number school day we are at. (Example- Today Arianna completed her 139th day of school, so under today’s date, I’ll just write 139.)
     Around 8pm every night, the kids will journal about everything they’ve done that day, and then give it to me. Either that night or the following morning, I will use the journals to log in what they did. Sometimes this takes some creativity, as the school district would probably sneer at Dillon’s phrase ”played military”, so some rewording is necessary. In this case, ”played military” became ”military strategy activity.” The journal is probably the easiest part of the requirements, although it’s very time consuming.


– I have a feeling portfolios are going to prove to be much trickier now than when we were completing more seatwork. In prior years, I had no problem submitting portfolios as thick as phone books. That won’t be so this year, as most of our activities are hands-on projects that you can’t very well put in a binder.
     This is why I must be creative this year. While I can always ask the children to write summaries of their activities, I find myself really liking the idea of taking pictures- and lots of them. There’s something about seeing the actual project or experiment in color versus just getting a written account. I feel it brings more life to their activities. Another great asset to record-keeping requirements is this blog. It’s like a diary of our homeschooling journey, and I’d be more than happy to share it, if needed.

Standardized Tests

– Aah…the lovely standardized test- a thorn in the side of students everywhere- homeschool and public school, alike.
     My state requires that standardized tests be taken in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade, which means that I will have anywhere from 1-3 kids taking them every year in the foreseeable future. Sigh. Only reading and math tests are required, but I did notice that the test that we use does throw in some grammar and punctuation.
     The main thing that worries me the most is that, since we’ve changed homeschooling styles, I’m a little fretful their test scores may drop a little, as they were testing anywhere from 2-4 grade levels above where they were at.
     I have a feeling that Khan Academy will be our friend this year. Dillon is the only one taking it this year, so starting a week before I plan on doing his test, he’ll go through an intense math review by watching these videos. My kids actually really enjoy this website. (They like the colored markers…it’s the little things…) I’m not too concerned with the reading portion, as reading is a large part of our lives.
     I used to have to take the kids to the nearest school to take the test there, or I had to find a homeschool group who would administer the test for a fee. Last year, however, I learned about the online California Achievement Test through Christian Liberty Press, and it was truly a godsend. This test is taken at home, and you can take however long you want to complete it, although it is a timed test. You can just take however long or short of a break between sections as you want. The results are then emailed to you within five minutes of completion of the test.

     So, there you have it. Again, I’m still a newbie at this whole natural learning thing, so if I hit any roadblocks or have second thoughts about any of this, I’ll be sure to write about it.

Any questions, thoughts, or suggestions? I would love to hear from you!


The Top Ten Reasons I Homeschool

How our experience with public school affected our decision to homeschool

I know that “Reasons Why I Homeschool” posts are a dime a dozen, but this particular list will refer specifically to how our experience with public school affected this decision. I could probably list more than ten reasons, but for the sake of time I’m going to limit myself.


1. My children can learn about what interests them, and God is never a taboo subject at home.

When Arianna was in 2nd grade, her teacher asked the children for examples of authority figures. One child answered ”God” and was told that since not everyone believes in God, she couldn’t include Him as an authority figure.

What kind of a message is that to children being raised in Christian homes? At home they’re taught about the sovereignty of God, and at school they’re taught (often by teachers that they assume know everything) that God has no position of authority.

2. We don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn and rush around to get ten children dressed and ready for school.

I know what you’re thinking…get everything ready the night before! In theory, this sounds wonderful, but in practice, it’s laughable. Have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law- if anything can go wrong, it will? Yeah, well, my house is a prime example to the validity of that. I could have all the clothes, shoes, and backpacks neatly lined up and ready, and without fail, something would still be missing when it was time to leave!

3. We don’t have to walk to and from school in inclement weather.

We’re a one-car family, so every morning I would have to bundle up a baby and two toddlers to walk the other children to school in all kinds of weather- heavy rain, snow, freezing temperatures…you name it.

4. I don’t have to report to anyone when one (or all) of my children is sick.

I understand the concept behind this…I really do, but when I’ve got eight kids throwing up, the last thing I’m thinking of is calling the attendance office.

5. I don’t have to worry about unexcused absences.

When Caollin was in kindergarten, I was pregnant with Ireland. At the end of my pregnancy, I had to go in for non-stress tests 2-3 times a week. I would often take her with me and then drop her off at afternoon kindergarten. The one day, the doctor was concerned and had me stay on the monitor longer because the baby wasn’t very reactive. I called the school to tell them that Caollin wouldn’t be at school that day. I explained the situation and the fact that Caollin was with me, and I couldn’t leave. The secretary then proceeded to tell me this would be an unexcused absence because it wasn’t Caollin’s appointment!

6. There is no crazy time when the kids all arrive home.

I love my kids to death, but I used to dread when they would all come home from school because they would act completely nuts! There would be screaming, fighting, backpacks and jackets thrown everywhere, papers strewn all over the place…it was bad.

7. There is no homework.

I know that technically, everything in homeschool, even play, is considered home work, but this is different. The kids used to all approach me for homework help at the same – and it was frustrating because I would have no idea what they had learned all day. Algebra homework was the worst with my daughter because, I swear, the school must have bought the cheapest textbooks available because her book had no explanation of how to do anything! The teacher didn’t help matters, either, because she would only check to see if the students did their homework (they probably could have written anything); she never went over anything!

8. There are no unexpected, um, friends visiting our house.

I’m not referring to human friends; I’m referring to those little friends that are too small to see. Colds, the flu, viruses, and the absolute worst- lice- used to make unexpected appearances in our home. To make matters worse, the school’s lice policy was terrible. They wouldn’t even inform the parents when a classmate was found to have lice because, and I quote, ”It’s not a health issue; it’s a social issue.” Yeah. Try telling that to the mom who has to treat a dozen people and rewash everything in the house. I’m guessing you can tell this is a sore spot with me.

9. I don’t have a million papers being thrust at me every day.

Fundraisers, school pictures, permission slips, PTA notices…oh my word. There were days I honestly used to feel like I was going to have a panic attack. If you think I’m exaggerating, think about it. Take a look at all the papers accumulated for one child multiplied by 10!

10. We can follow our own schedule.

It just makes more sense for our family to learn year-round. A 12 week break can’t be very good for retention. Beyond that, my children need the structure. Even though we have started unschooling, we still have a basic schedule that we follow, and it’s a lifesaver!

We are so blessed to live in a country where we have the opportunity to homeschool our kids. Reasons for this decision may vary, but never forget to take advantage of the freedom that accompanies homeschooling.

Do you homeschool? What were your deciding factors?




Navigating the Red Tape- Part 1: How Do I Know What My Kids Are Learning?

This is how I’ve broken down my children’s activities into subjects.

 That title’s a mouthful, isn’t it? 🙂  My apologies; I couldn’t think of another way to convey my complete thought.

 Anyway, living in a state which requires keeping records of each subject completed when you don’t approach learning with such rigid boundaries can be tricky. It requires looking closely at exactly what your children are doing in a whole new way.
Thanks to John Holt, author of Learning All the Time, and Renee Tougas, probably one of the most inspiring bloggers I’ve ever read, (over at FIMBY) I can see value in pretty much everything my children do.
In order to demonstrate how I keep a record of our unschooling days, I’m going to break down some of what my children did last week, subject by subject. I’ll only be including the activities of my children in 4th through 8th grades because I do not keep records of my younger children because it is not required until they reach 3rd grade. I’m also not including anything by my oldest daughter because I treat high school differently and will discuss that in Part 3 of this series. Keep in mind that, for this post, I’m only separating by subject- not by child- so if I write something like ”playing house,” please realize that I’m not referring to my 8th grade son. 😉

Subject breakdown for daily logs:

English- silent and shared reading, reading aloud to siblings, writing, proofreading, and editing blog posts, writing and illustrating ”readers” for younger siblings, visiting the library, writing captions for pictures, journaling, games on tablet- Ruzzle, Scribblenauts, creating new tablet ”apps”- Brave Writer

Math- Lifepac workbooks, Minecraft math (area, perimeter, symmetry, etc.), strategy games like World of Warcraft (problem solving), geometric patterns, grocery shopping (price comparison, budgeting, mental math)

Social Studies- Little House on the Prairie (watching miniseries, family read-aloud, pioneer times, Native American attire and customs), biblical history- Book of Matthew, field trip to accountant, Minecraft project (building an entire town, researching what businesses and institutions are necessary for a town to thrive- fire and police stations, hospitals, stores, churches, post office, etc.)

Science- going to nearby creek and exploring the frozen surroundings, listening to different sound waves created by throwing different size rocks onto frozen pond, Little House on the Prairie science (how a well is dug, how to test underground for noxious gases), learning how oxygen feeds fire by putting lids on candles, YouTube science experiment- how a flame in a bottle can create a vacuum strong to suck in an entire egg, reading about cryptids, fake lung activity, how lungs work, creating mythical animals and describing what they eat

Health/Safety- fire safety while experimenting with candles, a visit to the eye doctor, how lungs work, the effects of noxious gases (Little House), checking thickness of ice on pond before getting too close

Art/Music/Gym- drawing, makeup tutorials, applying theatrical makeup, clay and play dough creations, sewing, making posters and murals, Minecraft (architecture, interior decorating), illustrating books, foam collages and mosaics, listening to music while playing, worship music, singing, playing in the snow, going for walks, skateboarding, shoveling snow.

Life Skills- cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, washing laundry and putting it away, meal preparation, grocery shopping, driving simulator game, helping with baby, pet care, making beds, game- Burger Maker

So, this is how I’ve broken down my children’s activities into subjects. It’s something I, honestly, find very tedious and, well, pointless, but it is so important that we homeschoolers comply with our state laws to protect this awesome privilege right that we are blessed to have.

What about you? What are your state requirements?


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Navigating the Red Tape

Unschooling in a highly regulated state can be a tricky thing.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

     Unschooling in highly regulated states can be a tricky thing. As I mentioned in previous posts, I researched natural learning for about a year before I was comfortable enough to make the change. Admittedly, I’m still nervous about this, but I’m confident that it will be possible.
     I live in a state which requires you to keep a log of your ”school” for 180 days and a portfolio with work samples. A homeschool evaluator must then make sure adequate yearly progress was made and type up a letter stating so. Our state also requires standardized testing in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade, the results of which must be included in the portfolio.




Then, the portfolio, log, standardized test scores, and letter of evaluation must all be submitted to the school district by June 30.
     These strict legalities can seem daunting enough with a traditional homeschool approach, let alone with an interest-led approach in which there is just as much learning, but often less of a paper trail because there is more hands-on learning and much less seatwork.
     I’ve been working through how I will handle this and am confident that I can do this- it will just take more creativity and thought than it used to.
     When I was still just researching unschooling, I had a really hard time finding any information about how to comply with state homeschool laws. I don’t know how many different search terms I used for this, but it was a lot and still…nothing.
     So, as I navigate my way through the red tape, I’ve decided to write a three part series on my plans for successfully unschooling while still complying with state laws. I can’t tell you how much I wish I would have found at least some information on this subject, but I didn’t. So, hopefully, this series will help anyone with the same questions I had (and still have).
     The first part will be about how to categorize your children’s activities into the proper subjects. Some, such as math are easy. Others, such as Minecraft, are less clear.
     The second part will include how to keep a daily log, get creative with the portfolio, and how I intend to handle standardized tests, which I’m still a little anxious about. I’ll get more into that in that post.
     The third, and last, part will demonstrate how I plan to comply with my daughter’s diploma program. This accredited diploma is approved by PHEAA and is well-received by colleges, so it is a very vigorous, somewhat demanding program, so we must be very intentional in her approach to learning.
     Join me in this series as I share (and sometimes still work out) our plans on how to get through all this red tape.

If you live in a state like mine and are unschooling, I would love to hear how you do it! If you don’t but still have suggestions, I would love to hear from you, too!


Linking up with

A Mama’s Story



Five Random Things from Our Homeschool This Week

Five random things

I’m linking up with Random 5 on Friday over at The Pebble Pond today. Enjoy!


My kids have been teaching themselves how to sew because I can’t sew a lick!


We made a really cool fake lung, thanks to Dot-to-Dot Connections.


My kids made an underwater mural. They all love to draw.


Dillon just finished Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and has now started Cryptid Hunters, which he bought at the library bookstore. It’s actually really good; I read it while he was at his grandma’s.


I’m teaching Devin how to cook…sort of. Hey, you have to start somewhere!

What are five random things you’ve been up to?


Weekend Review- Kenzie Is Mobile!!

Kenzie is crawling!

     It has been an exciting week here at the Sangrey house! Kenzie is crawling!


This is a bittersweet moment for me. Sweet because she’s much happier and less clingy now that she has some freedom, but bitter in that she’ll be my last baby, and I’ll never get to witness this process in my own children again. Anyway, on to our week.
     On Monday, Devin, Dillon, and Arianna walked to the library and borrowed the Disney ”Little House on the Prairie” miniseries, so we watched the whole thing in one day. This is the second time we’ve borrowed it, but the first time we watched it, we were still reading Little House in the Big Woods. Now that we’re actually reading Little House on the Prairie, it’s neat to see the stories come to life. It’s also a great way to see how much the kids have been paying attention by noting any discrepancies. Dillon and Arianna went to a pond near our house and were busy experimenting with sound waves by throwing different size rocks on the ice. They have also kept themselves busy with their new blogs and Caollin and London have been sewing, which, unfortunately, I can’t help them with because, well, I don’t know how to sew.


     Tuesday it snowed, so Devin’s flash animation class was canceled, but we had a fun day indoors. (The wind chill was -15, so we were not going to go outside.) We did a neat activity from Brave Writer in which the kids were supposed to write captions on sticky notes for the pictures on our walls. Since it’s always either all or nothing with this crew they went all out and captioned a lot more than pictures!



     On Wednesday we repeated an experiment that we tried the other week, which worked but would have worked better with a smaller egg. So I bought some, and we tried it again. The object is to demonstrate how a flame in a bottle can create a vacuum strong enough to suck an egg into a bottle.
It worked much better this time. The rest of the day was spent running errands- picking up Caollin’s new glasses, an appointment, and grocery shopping. Afterwards, our day looked like this






     Thursday was actually a really productive day. I’ve been slacking off a bit in the laundry department, so I did a lot of catch up work there.


Then, I corrected math work, which I’ve also been neglecting the past couple of days.


We also made a really cool fake lung, thanks to Dot-to-Dot Connections. This is definitely worth checking out.


Dillon is quite the character, isn’t he?

Devin helped make dinner today.


Boxed fried chicken, instant mashed potatoes, and canned vegetables. Stop laughing. This is the same girl who asked me a few months ago how to turn the oven on. This is progress.


This picture has nothing to do with what I’ve been writing about, but Luke is as elusive as Bigfoot, so if I can get a picture of him, I’m posting it!

     Our plans for Friday include a plate tectonics activity using Graham crackers and whipped cream. (I guess you’ve realized why my kids want to do this.) Beyond that, we’ll just go with the flow. Happy weekend!

What are some highlights of your week?


Linking up with
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

A Mama’s Story



Caption This!

…my kids were writing and having fun with it!

     I’m always on the lookout for creative ways to get my kids interested in writing, so every time I get my daily writing tip from Brave Writer, I get excited. A few days ago, the tip was to use sticky notes to put captions on the photos around the house. I suggested the activity to my kids, and they jumped on it!


This says, ”Brendan pees like a girl.” because he’s squatting. Sometimes my kids’ senses of humor are…um…questionable.


I believe this one said, ”I like trucks…and steak.” Again, what I said before…

     These captions may have been a little goofy, but I’ll take it because my kids were writing and having fun with it!
     And, trust me, they went beyond writing captions for just pictures.



This is a caption on our TV that says, ”TV rots your brain.”


Yes, that’s a sticky note on Luke’s head. It says, ”Luke has Q-Tip hair.”

     Finding writing ideas that get my children excited are few and far between, but this one was definitely a hit!

Do you have any good writing ideas? What’s gotten your kids excited?


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Our Busy Homeschool



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My Word for 2014 (Even Though I Had No Plans to Jump on the Bandwagon)

God will act. Now that’s something worth trusting in.

     I live a pretty sheltered life. Between having such a large family and homeschooling, getting out and about is much more difficult for me than for most people. Church and grocery shopping are about the most socialization I get (and they call homeschooled kids unsocialized), and I don’t do social networking, so I’m not exactly up on the latest things. So when I started constantly hearing references to ”choosing a 2014 word,” I honestly had no clue what people were talking about. After a while, I figured it out, and I really wasn’t interested. Just a new way to say ”New Year’s resolution” which I always inevitably break anyway.
     Imagine my surprise when, as I was reading yet another post about this subject, a word clearly popped into my head. Trust. Immediately thoughts began to flood my mind. Trust that God is in control. Trust in His provision. Trust that your children will learn what they need to learn. Just trust.
     Being the Type A personality that I am, this was a little scary. Unfortunately, this has been a problem for me. I do trust in God. I do. He has come through for me in amazing ways many, many times. I also trust my children to learn. I see it happening all the time. I’m just so used to being in control of things. This is a sin, I know. I’m working on it.
     So back to the trust…I’ve been reminding myself daily that this is what I need to do. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. And I’ve felt more peace than I have in a long time…but I still felt that something was missing.
     Until last Sunday.


My pastor was preaching the message and referred to these verses- Commit your way to the Lord, Trust in Him, For He will act. – Psalm 37:5-6. And then it hit me… I was trying and trying to trust in the Lord, but it was still all about me. Do you see it? I was trying to trust so that I would have the peace that surpasses all understanding… I was counting on my trust to bring these things to fruition. I was still counting on myself, not God.
     That’s why these verses hit me so hard…” …For He will act.” The Lord will act…my trust is not the be all and end all of this process- what God does through me is. And it doesn’t say He can act, and it doesn’t say He may act. It says He will act. There’s no question about it.
     God will act. Now that’s something worth trusting in.



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Raising Homemakers Homemaking Link-Up



Lessons from an 8-Month-Old- An Illustration of Natural Learning

This is how God wired them to learn- naturally.

My youngest child, Kenzie, is learning to crawl.

I sat for a while watching her, joyful, but also a little sad, when I started to think about her journey up until this point. Sitting. Rolling over. Laughing. Crawling. My point? She did all this on her own. I didn’t teach her how to do these things. I didn’t hold classes, ringing a little school bell saying, “Kenzie! Time for crawling lessons! Put your blocks away! It’s time for school!”

Absurd, right? But isn’t that what happens to kids everyday? They’re pulled away from enjoyable, often educational, activities to learn something they would have eventually learned on their own.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking. Some babies don’t do this on their own. Some have to have therapists come in and help them. I know. Three of my children had physical therapy because they were delayed because of low muscle tone. Did you catch that word? Delayed. Meaning, they’re not following a neat little chart stating what children should do when. I realize that some children truly do need this help, and I’m grateful it’s available to them. But the vast majority, including my children, would have eventually accomplished this themselves in their own time.

This is what happens in so many schools. Children are learning at a different time-table than what is expected, so they’re labeled as ”special needs, ” a label which often stigmatizes them, when there really is no problem. I can’t read the mind of God, but I’m pretty sure He created us as individuals- not as mindless robots programmed to all progress at the same speed in every area of life.

Children are individuals. They need to be given the opportunity to learn what they want/need to know when they need to learn it.


Another example of this theory is language. In her travels around the floor, Kenzie found the TV remote. I told her sister to take it from her before she put it in her mouth. Kenzie heard me say this. She looked at me, dropped the remote, and started to cry. She understood me!

She understood me without flash cards, and workbooks, and Mango Languages for Babies. She learned herself by being exposed to language all the time. This is how children learn best! This is how God wired them to learn- naturally.

Am I saying you should never expose children to new things they would otherwise have never known about? Absolutely not. We should provide a stimulating environment in which they should be able to learn, explore, and be the little scientists they are!

So the next time you’re ready to make your kids put their playdough away to ”do school,” reconsider. They’re already learning everyday.