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!


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A Mama’s Story