Deciding to Homeschool: Five Questions to Consider Before Taking the Plunge


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Deciding to Homeschool is for families that are coming to realize that traditional education just isn't working anymore. It identifies the major questions that parents have when considering their other options for education, particularly homeschooling. This free ebook is not designed to sell you on homeschooling. Rather, it aims to help you re-examine the way you view education and evaluate whether or not homeschooling is right for you.

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  • One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can give your child one on one attention and help. This one on one attention helps you to see how your child is coping with the different subjects. You can also easily see what subjects they need to do extra work on or need help with. Anne
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Deciding to Homeschool: Five Questions to Consider Before Taking the Plunge

  2. 2. Deciding to Homeschool: Five Questions to ConsiderBefore Taking the Plunge© 2012 No Agenda Homeschool, LLCPlease feel free to post this e-book on your blog or email it to whomever you believewould benefit from reading it.121205 page i
  3. 3. CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION Education, in the broadest of truest sense, will make an individual seek to help all people, regardless of race, regardless of color, regardless of condition. ~George Washington Carver Photo credit:
  4. 4. Section 1 You’re starting to get suspicious. There’s this nagging littleCOULD I BE A thought in the back of your mind. It’s been there for a while andHOMESCHOOLER? it’s developing into this all-consuming force that can’t be ignored. MAYBE TRADITIONAL SCHOOL ISN’T RIGHT FOR MY CHILD. Something’s not right. Perhaps something’s going on at school. It could be bullying, a changing social dynamic, a teacher that doesn’t mesh with your child’s style. Perhaps something’s going on with your child, maybe they’re losing their interest in all things academic, getting stressed out over the content or rigor of school, or getting to that age where the cookie cutter model of education just isn’t working anymore. Whatever it is, something’s not right and you need to look for a solution. Have you considered homeschooling? Of course, there are tons of alternatives for parents struggling with their current school. Private school, cyber school, Christian Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as school, military school(!), and so on. These are possible solutions bridges over which they invite their for families that like the idea of groups of same-age kids learning students to cross, then having facilitated together from a professional, with an established curriculum and their crossing, joyfully collapse, traditional classroom environment. Those might be worth a try! (And that’s OK!) encouraging them to create bridges of There’s security in outsourcing your child’s education. There’s a their own. staff of experienced professionals, there’s a level of accountability, ~Nikos Kazantzakis there’s a built-in social network, and there’s simply that extra level of support. There are teachers, administrators, counselors, and page 3
  5. 5. coaches that wor k together to create an all-in-one , homeschooling. These families have different backgrounds, race,comprehensive environment for your child to develop religion, lifestyles, pocketbooks, educational beliefs, and motivationsacademically, socially, and emotionally. that drive them to consider homeschooling. One thing they all have in common is the desire to provide individualized, quality education (Home Educated and Now Adults, Table 3,BUT WHAT IF THAT’S NOT Ray).ENOUGH? Parents who start to think of homeschooling as an option LEARNING DOESN’T HAVE TOoften struggle with the same five questions: HAPPEN IN A SCHOOL. • How will I know what to teach? Todays public school system has only been around for 150 • What will we do all day? years. It was established in a time when a large-scale, factory • Does it work? Really? model was necessary (check out Horace Mann and his now- • Can we financially afford to homeschool? • How do I know I’m doing the right thing? outdated thoughts on universal public education). Standardized and compulsory education was introduced to The homeschooling movement is gaining significant ensure everyone had access to quality education. It started withmomentum and it’s for all kinds of families. In the the rural one-room schoolhouse. This was apast, it seemed there were two extremes of learning environment comprised of multiple agehomeschoolers: the folks who wanted to integrate groups and different abilities working in the samereligion and faith into every aspect of their child’s 2 MILLION room with a young teacher who facilitatedlife and the anti-establishment revolutionaries who CHILDREN ARE learning. Likely, the sole teacher, an unmarriedwanted to grow organic gardens and learn from HOMESCHOOLED woman who had advanced education but didn’tlife. As Mark Twain said, “All generalizations are (2010). necessarily have a degree, covered subjects likefalse.” literacy, penmanship, arithmetic, and etiquette. This SOURCE: NHERI Nothing wrong with either of these extremes, style of education gave rural children thebut homeschooling is becoming much more broad opportunity to learn basic skills that they woulda n d i n c l u s i ve , w i t h a l l k i n d s o f p e o p l e page 4
  6. 6. not naturally have encountered. function is to create the workers we need to fuel our economy, The one-room school house was originally a child’s only we need to change school, because the workers we need haveopportunity to improve their situation and develop a relationship changed as well” (p.11).with an educated adult. The modern world is entirely different. What do you need to know about homeschooling?Now, access to education is abundant and schools, once the solesource of learning and enrichment, no longer have a monopoly onthis. Anyone can design a unique form of education if they know FIRST, IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE.where to look, who to talk to, and have the confidence to trustthemselves. Any veteran homeschooler will say that you’ve definitely got This is exactly what homeschoolers are doing right now (and to want it bad. (Isn’t that what they say about being a musician, ahave been for over 40 years). lawyer, or a priest? If you can imagine yourself doing anything else, They’ve rejected the traditional school model that just doesn’t do that instead.) They’ll also tell you it’s the most rewarding thingseem to work and found a working, viable, and healthy alternative. they’ve ever done. But go into it with open eyes. This book will introduce you to some common questions and concerns that new homeschool parents experience. I’ll provideCOULD HOMESCHOOLING BE my perspective based onRIGHT FOR YOU? field research, interviews with hundreds of The news is peppered with homeschool stories, both positive homeschool parents, andand negative: spelling bee successes, overlooked abuse, nonstop a general knowledge of We need tfield trips, and legal battles in foreign countries. This movement is the homeschool world. school b o changegetting an increasing amount of media time as more parents I’ll also give you some workers ecause the we ndiscover that it’s not just a fringe activity anymore. Homeschooling resources to do some changed eed have asis for parents who want to save their children from a system that more reading if you’re #homes well choolis designed to get students into a factory or a cubicle, not to still on the fence.create happy, self-sufficient, creative adults that are capable of At some point, itlearning without enforcement. Seth Godin writes about this might be nice to know Click&on&the&change in purpose in his ebook, Stop Stealing Dreams. “If school’s why other parents are text&to& tweet&it& page 5
  7. 7. 0 20 40 60 80 and distribute as they see fit. WithPrivate School is Expensive mobile technology and constant Problems with School Common Reasons internet access, the easy answers can Safety of Child to Homeschool be found within a single keyword Guide Socially School Not Challenging *Source: Worldwide Guide search in Google. The real education to Homeschooling Individualize Learning is not what to learn, but how to learn. Learning Environment The real education is how to find Develop Character knowledge, analyze, reason, think Values/World View Better Education critically, and answer your own questions. What better way to provide your child with a real education than to model it yourself? If you’re the kindconsidering homeschool. We’ve all got our reasons, regardless of of parent that’s even thinking aboutwhether or not we actually take the plunge. Hearing the homeschooling, you are also the kind of person that is a problem-motivations of others to homeschool might resonate with you, solver. You probably:reassure you that there are others who have the same fears and • fall into the out-of-the-box thinking in other areas of your lifehold the same desires for their kids. • are a confident individual with a bit of a wild side Here’s the big question: are you ready to be a student again? • like to create, whether it’s starting an herb garden orThat’s right. You’re going to be teaching yourself not only how to figuring out how to change the oil in your carhomeschool, but you will become a math, science, history, English, • get energized by the prospect of spending more time in museums and finding little gems in your town that couldand foreign language facilitator. And you know what? You can do be teaching opportunitiesit! No question in my mind. You’re actually demonstrating theexact role model of what your child needs: learning how tolearn. As we said earlier, access is now abundant. Content isn’tcontained in a classroom for only the privileged and elite to use page 6
  8. 8. This ebook will address the most common questions thatparents have when considering the switch to homeschool.1. How will I know what to teach?2. What will we do all day?3. Does it work? Really?4. Can we financially afford to homeschool?5. How do I know I’m doing the right thing? page 7
  9. 9. CHAPTER 2KNOWING HOWTO TEACH It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. ~Albert Einstein Photo credit:
  10. 10. Section 1 IN THE BEGINNINGHOW DO I DOTHIS? I’m going to answer this question with a question: how did your kids learn to walk, talk, or eat? Were you a part of that? Did you have formal lessons on how to get your child to learn their first language? Some of those super-organized, neurotic planner- type parents may have, but you probably just figured it out through trial and error, right? Maybe you Googled it, talked to some friends, or went to the library and checked out a few books on what a parent should do to get their child talking. SAME THING WITH HOMESCHOOLING. You know your kids and you know what you—and they—are capable of. Teaching a classroom of 30 students (times six classes each day) can be really intimidating and why many people choose not to get into education. Thank goodness there are teachers who actually like that kind of environment because it’s rough, no question. You, on the other hand, don’t have 180 students to teach. Just one. Maybe two. You know what they like (and don’t like), If a child cant learn the way we teach, you know their personalities, and you know their strengths and maybe we should teach the way they struggles. That’s a much greater starting point than your average teacher gets in September every year. So don’t sell yourself short: learn. ~Ignacio Estrada you know more than you think! page 9
  11. 11. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to educate your child, when we needed. This is a prime example of self-directed learning,but it’s certainly not as hard as you think. It requires thinking about with “teachers” and “students” taking on many different faces.learning in a different way. In fact, recently, I was talking with It will take some time to get used to this new role and yoursomeone about professional interests, dabbling in different areas child too will need time to adjust to a parent/teacher hybrid. Thisof alternative education. She said, “Well, why don’t you just go and process, known as deschooling, could take a few weeks or, moreteach?” I burst out laughing. “Absolutely not! Been there and it’s likely, a few months. In this time, you’re not just figuring out hownot for me.” “But you’re interested in education… What else to “start homeschooling,” but also forgetting all that traditionalwould you do besides be in a classroom?” school has instilled, mastering a new schedule, and getting used to Education doesn’t have to happen in a school. It just takes a a change of scenery. Not going to school on the bus every day isnew set of eyes to realize when and how learning takes place. a big change for a child; we’ve been indoctrinated into this systemOnce your viewpoint changes, educating at home takes on a of expectation. Remember Leave it to Beaver? The Cleavers taughtwhole new meaning and becomes much easier to process. us to pack a brown bag lunch, put the kids on the bus, and seeGuerrilla Learning, from the wacky minds of Grace Llewellyn and them for a few hours in the evening when they got back.Amy Silver, charges you to "start to see learning not as the You’re throwing out this standard and setting a new one.province of experts but as the province of the family. Learning Pretty cool, huh?belongs to you, not to schools and government administrators. Itsa function of human wonder and curiosity and love for the world." I got into photography when I was teaching English in Japan.It’s such a photogenic country that even my point-and-shootCanon let me take some beautiful shots! When I got back, I Educati owanted to take quality pictures “on purpose,” so my dad and I have to n doesn’t htook a half-day photography workshop in Washington, DC. The school # appen in a homescinstructor taught us about aperture, shutter speed, lighting, and hoolother basic skills in the gardens of the National Cathedral. Wethen spent the next few hours wandering on our own, inside andoutside, finding those perfect shots, and asking him questions page 10
  12. 12. Section 2 SO HOW DO YOU BEGIN?LEARNINGSTYLES Before you figure out what to teach, take some time to get to know how your child learns. You probably already have a pretty good idea of this. You’ve known your child all their life. That’s not trivial. Learning styles are a hot topic in education right now and proving quite challenging for teachers. Luckily, you don’t need to adopt different teaching styles and methods of interaction for each of your 30 kids. You’ve just got the one. Whew! As a concept, learning styles sound rather overwhelming and for good reason. Everyone has their own opinion about what it means. Does it include personality? How about intelligences? Environment? Depending on who you talk to, these could all be overlapping or completely separate concepts. I’d like to introduce you to the major schools of thought to get you started and if you find yourself more interested, I’ll provide some resources where you can learn more. First off, let’s go over the major learning styles that I refer to as “The Big Three”: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. These are the best terms to know for the new homeschooling parent as they will dictate the optimal way your child will acquire knowledge and demonstrate mastery. Adapting to learning styles is also a Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a unique benefit to homeschooling! When you are in a classroom of fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will 30 kids, there’s no way your child’s teacher can take everyone’s live its whole life believing that it is learning style into account. Try as they may, even the best teacher stupid. ~Albert Einstein will struggle to constantly address their class with all three modes. If your child is a kinesthetic learner, it’s highly unlikely that there page 11
  13. 13. will be the space and Kinesthetic 5% environment for your child to jump, skip, tap, Visual learners learn by SEEING.Auditory and so on while he or 30% she learns. And even if there was enough room, they’d be a distraction Auditory learners learn by HEARING. Visual 65% to other students. Again, this is not the fault of teachers to suppress this form of learning; it’s Kinesthetic learners learn by DOING. the fault of the system that chooses to group students by age instead of learning style or intelligence. No surprises here. Also a word of warning, dont worry about finding that one How do you pinpoint style; most people are some combination of at least two or even your child’s dominant three. The cool thing about homeschooling is you can take the style and how do you time to figure out what style they learn towards and modify your help him learn better? teaching to their optimal way. It might vary by gender, age or even Adaptin #learnin g to subject. Most teachers make an effort to teach things in a multi- g styles a great is sensory way, but few have the time to teach the same thing in advanta of #hom ge different ways. Your child may be a total visual learner in history, eschooli ng and a kinesthetic learner in math. You have the bandwidth to figure these little nuances out! page 12
  14. 14. Let’s start with the Visual learners. These make up the anything they have seen and most schools are quite skilled atmajority of us, which is convenient for a traditional school setting. providing worksheets, textbooks, and supplemental visualAround 65% of Americans consider themselves visual learners, materials for learning (Dunn, Dunn, & Price,1989).which makes us easy to manage in large groups (Bradford, 2011). Does your child...They take written tests well, they easily follow lectures that are • Talk with his hands a lot?supported by board work or Powerpoint presentations, and they • Like to use different colors when drawing or doodling?read well for long(er) stretches of time. Overall, they recall • Use his “mind’s eye” to “see” places from memory, recall information, or give directions? MOVIE 2.1 Learning Through Pictures TIPS FOR THE VISUAL LEARNER • Use maps, timelines, and pictures • Outline everything! • Take notes on reading, videos, etc. • Use color-coding • Highlight/underline words • Diagram when possible (venn diagrams, sentence diagramming) In this TED Talk, Temple Grandin shares her • Flashcards (color cards and/or markers, especially for vocabulary) ability to “think in pictures” and how the world • Use different kinds of charts (pie, needs people who see things differently, noting bar, line, flow) that people on the autism spectrum often • Use educational videos to reinforce lectures, books, or other topics have unique ways of learning and thinking. page 13
  15. 15. Next, the Auditory learners. These learners also make up a Watch this clip from A Beautiful Mind (2001). Notice howhuge chunk of most learners, about 30%. Lectures dont bother John Nash is whispering the letters out loud as his eyes graze overthem because they learn best with their ears. They might visualize the highlighted code? This is an example of a combination visual/the words youre saying and then the next time they see them auditory learner.written, theyll actually "hear" the words they read. They like to Instead of learning a language with a textbook, the auditorydiscuss things in study groups and will read their notes out loud in learner would benefit from CDs like Pimsleur or Living Language.order to hear if they “sound right.” Find lectures on tape and incorporate discussions into any and all Does your child... new content or material. • Talk to himself? • Read lips or follow directions that were given verbally better than those given through a note? • Recall names better than faces? TIPS FOR THE AUDITORY LEARNER MOVIE 2.2 A Beautiful Mind (2001) • Read books aloud when possible • Use word association for facts/dates • Listen to podcasts/recorded lectures • Use videos when appropriate • Discuss subject matter aloud, either in discussion or debate • Create stories out of material • Listen to audiobooks • Read notes aloud and record • Repeat things aloud when possible Mathematician and codebreaker John Nash • Study in groups with discussion demonstrates two types of learning styles in • Turn off television and radio as they’ll interfere with “audio” this brief clip. memory page 14
  16. 16. Last, let’s take a look at the Kinesthetic learners, also In the movie Akeelah and the Bee, Akeelah taps the book toknown as Tactile Learners. They learn best by interacting or recite a large word (and later discovers that jumping rope helpsexperiencing things around them. These learners typically struggle her focus). If you haven’t seen this movie, be sure to check it out.the most in traditional school environments and as they make up Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on engagement, ratherabout 5% of the population, are the most overlooked. than listening to a lecture or reading from a book. They like to act Does your child... things out and use their bodies to remember facts, such as • Use his hands to list, count, or name things? “dialing” a phone number into their hand. Prolonged quiet or • Check if something “feels” right (versus “sounds right” or sitting still will make it very difficult for them to concentrate. “looks right”)? • Use his body (hands, fingers, arms, etc.) to get his point across? TIPS FOR THE MOVIE 2.3 Akeelah and the Bee (2006) KINESTHETIC LEARNER • Take frequent (brief) breaks • Hands-on activities, such as experiments and historical reenactments • Build models • Enroll in multiple classes, such as dance, kickboxing and sports • Emphasize adventure/action books • Incorporate games, construction sets, etc. • Involve role-playing and acting Young Akeelah from LA shows her kinesthetic • Study in groups with frequent breaks learning style while studying for the National • Use flash cards for memory Spelling Bee. page 15
  17. 17. Incorporating projects, manipulatives, and physical engagement as in the classroom. Personally, I’ve discovered that chewing gumincentives, the kinesthetic learner can effectively learn. actually helps me write, but that was never allowed when I was in There’s also plenty of research that supports a multisensory The world won’t change to meet your child’s learning You can consider the best combination of these experiencespreferences, but with homeschooling, you can begin teaching them to help your child learn most effectively. Schools don’t have thishow to learn and systematically integrate other styles. freedom. What if children bring in smelly food? What if there’s a fire drill and 10 kids are sitting in bean bag chairs? How do you schedule a 9am start time for the high schools when elementary
 schools need the school buses? Take these considerations out ofOTHER INFLUENCES ON the equation and focus on what’s best for your child.LEARNING Beyond simply looking at the style of learning, homeschoolersare lucky in that they can consider the other factors that influenceeffective learning. Environment or location: Do they like learning in thedark or in sunlight? A cold room or a hot room? Furniture: Does your child like being at a desk or sitting in abean bag chair? Scheduling: Does 6am feel a little early? Would they learn Schools don’t hbetter if they slept in a little? It doesn’t matter what time you bandwid ave the th to incorpowake up when you homeschool, just that you get enough time for #learnin rate all g styleslearning. system . I’m a of one! Food: Does your child need a little snack mid-morning? Does #edrefo rmthat boost of sugar or even the simple act of eating help themfocus? Most schools have rotating lunch schedules, which attemptto give students a mid-day break. Few schools, if any, allow eating page 16
  18. 18. Section 3 WHICH STYLE MAKES SENSEHOMESCHOOL FOR ME?STYLES So now youve got a pretty good idea of how to start narrowing down your childs learning style. Great! It may take some time, but youll get there, dont worry. Why else do you need to know? What kind of a homeschool style would you like to have? Depending on why youre homeschooling, you will go for a certain feel in your home. Perhaps you want to completely duplicate the traditional school experience, which means your homeschool will be designed with desks, chairs, and a blackboard. Thats fine and many homeschool parents default to that kind of setup because its what they’re familiar with. Some parents say, “Ive never designed a homeschool so Im not sure what its supposed to look like. I have, however, been in a school and feel confident I can make that at home.” The only problem with this default setting is that it may be the exact reason youre taking your child out of school. It is limited thinking and while you may want to delineate the home from the school at the beginning, there may not need to be such a dramatic separation. Until they went off to school, learning and life were If you employed study, thinking, and one and the same. This doesn’t necessarily have to change. John planning time daily, you could develop Holt, one of the founding fathers of homeschooling, asserted, and use the power that can change the “Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically course of your destiny. and happily they are learning a lot, even if we dont always know ~W. Clement Stone what it is.” page 17
  19. 19. With that in mind, take a quick look at some homeschool between" styles. Because the motivations behind homeschooling"rooms" Ive come across. Sometimes its easier to look at are so different (see the earlier section), so are the educationalsomething tangible before moving to the intangible. Do any of pedagogies. I dont think you need to worry exactly about whatthose look like you? your philosophy of education is right now. Rather, this will present itself and evolve as you design your homeschool. As you get more comfortable with homeschooling, the more your homeschool style will develop. Most parents say that they began thinking they were one kind of homeschooler, but grew into something different as they met more homeschoolers like them or homeschoolers that they wanted to be. Either way, this is a natural evolution; the more practice you get at something, the more secure you feel in letting go a little or trying something new. Below is a diagram that summarizes the popular types of homeschool styles that you’ll likely come across. These are balanced across 4 spectra: •structure •independence •driving “force” •traditional My favorite style of homeschooling is Unit Studies. Theyre the perfect blend of child- and parent-driven, The term "homeschool style" means slightly different things, optimizing all the advantages of homeschooling. Unit Studies aredepending on the source. Let’s consider it a combination of lesson plans that are organized by a theme or topic, rather thancurriculum choice and personality. There are dozens of styles that by a subject. They are short, usually four weeks in length. They arehave popped up over the years and many more that are "in easy to tailor to children of other ages and learning styles. And page 18
  20. 20. most of all, they are interesting! You can buy one or two at a time,and constantly modify because theyre only four weeks at a time.Other curricula require you to purchase an entire years worth of Homeschool Styles Diagramcontent in the beginning. That just makes no sense for the newhomeschooler. You cant possibly know where you will be in threemonths, let alone 12. Save your money and go month to month. For more information on Unit Studies, check out No Agenda’swebsite. If you’d like more detailed explanations of eachhomeschool style, I’ve written a book that addresses thesequestions, Homeschooling: A Guide for Regular People, availableon the iTunes Store. #Unit St u Interest dies rock! -led is the be learning learn! # st way to homesc hool page 19
  21. 21. CHAPTER 3KNOWING WHATTO TEACH It wasnt in books. It wasnt in a church. What I needed to know was out there in the world. ~Robert Fulghum Photo credit:
  22. 22. Section 1 ONE DAY AT A TIMEWHAT AM I SUPPOSEDTO TEACH? One of the biggest concerns when starting to homeschool is knowing what to teach. What on earth do I teach them now that theyre with me 24/7?!? Tip from the experts: dont think about the entire year. As I said earlier, you will most likely find that you would like to change your style a few months after you begin, so dont even bother. Plus, you could drown in the worry and stress of planning an entire year at once. Professional educators dont do that; why should you? Start small and simple. Figure out the legal requirements of your state (check out HSLDA) such as required subjects, numbers of hours, and so on (every state is a little different so make sure you are clear on yours). Once you have an idea of what you have to learn, break it down. Remember: your average homeschool day is about 3 hours long. Youre in a small classroom and can be much more efficient with your time—isnt that great? And something else to keep in mind, you only need to be one day ahead of your child. Not 10, not 100. Just one. You can do that, right? Let us think of education as the means of developing Looking at your state’s academic standards will give you a our greatest abilities, because in each of great place to start. They may be called something different, such us there is a private hope and dream as standards of learning, core curriculum, or content standards. which, fulfilled, can be translated into Finding them may take some time, but if anything, a cursory search benefit for everyone and greater with your favorite search engine will certainly produce a starting strength for our nation. ~John F Kennedy point. (For example, enter “California,” “content standards,” and “history.”) Here, your state will tell you exactly what public school page 21
  23. 23. students are studying. You We have Homeschool With Confidence kits available for the most Tip fr don’t need to stick to it popular states for homeschoolers; shoot me an email if you have experts om the : don’t t verbatim, but it will help any questions. about th hink year, jus e entire you develop a framework, chunk! t the fir #homes st a high-level view of the chool k i n d s o f t h i n g s yo u r HOW DO I TEACH THOSE children should study and TOUGH SUBJECTS? master in each grade. These documents, typically Homeschooling doesnt mean that you are now your childs organized by subject and exclusive teacher; it means that now you are responsible for then grade, will provide crafting the best education for your child from as many sources as excr uciatingly clear you need. You’re less a teacher and more a guide. If you happen toguidelines to the content public schools will be introducing. be an expert in nuclear physics, great! But if youre like theDepending on your state, you may choose how closely youd like majority of homeschooling parents, you just need to find the rightto follow these guidelines. How rigorously you choose to follow solution, be it a tutor, software, or community college. Mostyour state’s curriculum depends on whether or not you are parents feel comfortable homeschooling until around 8th grade.required to: Then the subjects get more specialized and parents begin to doubt themselves. • take standardized or state tests • submit quarterly reports documenting the content and A representative from Classical Conversations, a classical your child’s progress education curriculum provider, said they typically see a huge drop • the style in which you’re choosing to homeschool off at the end of the middle school years. Parents who had • your personal educational philosophy or beliefs. confidently homeschooled their children for several years This process can often take a fair amount of time. Mosthomeschool parents say they spend between three and six suddenly became intimidated with teaching the high school years.months deciding to homeschool and figuring out how to get But I barely remember trigonometry. And I never even tookstarted. This can be a helpful discovery process, wading your way chemistry! How do I teach my child these subjects?into this new way of thinking. Alternatively, No Agenda offers Say it again: Im not a teacher. Im not a teacher. You are acomprehensive kits with all that searching already done for you. problem-solver. You are a facilitator. If the “problem” is chemistry, how can you get your child access to the right learning page 22
  24. 24. environment? You find a tutor, a textbook, another homeschoolparent or child, some software, community college class. You findsomething! While you might not know ever ything abouteverything, you certainly can find someone who knows about onething, right? As Joy Hakim, author of A History of US, said at arecent homeschool conference, “The best skill we can develop isto learn how to find out what we don’t know.” Helping someoneelse find it is just as important. Many parents struggle with confidence to teach at home,particularly the more challenging subjects of high school, but onereason for this may be the misdirection of the word “teach.” Thesame way that “homeschool” really isn’t “school, at home,”teaching takes on a new definition too. By choosing to homeschool, you’re not replacing all the I’m not a teacher! I’mteachers in your child’s school; you’re replacing the principal. The just keeping it allprincipal (or administrator) makes sure that students have access together! Done!to all subjects, opportunities to participate in enrichment activitiesand mentorships, support to address problems, and guidance intheir preparation for the years to come. page 23
  25. 25. CHAPTER 4A REAL DAY OFHOMESCHOOL Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. ~Aristotle Photo credit:
  26. 26. Section 1 HOW WILL YOU FILL 8 HOURS,WHAT WILL WE DO EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK?ALL DAY? Wondering what to do all day is probably the scariest part of homeschooling. What are you supposed to do for eight hours a day, 5 days a week? This is the same reason many people fear self- employment: no dictated schedule. You have too much freedom. Someone has always told you what your children should be doing. Now, you have to reverse that mindset and consider what your children would enjoy doing (in addition to what they should be doing). In reality, once you develop a routine, its like anything else; it will become natural. Until then, a framework of training wheels isnt a bad idea. Good news! A homeschooling day is more often three or four hours, not eight. Lets start with what do you teach. How do you identify what is required? What is optional? What would be fun? A unique opportunity now is not only learning what your state tells you to learn, but adding subjects that you would never have the opportunity to study in school, at least not until you enter higher education. You can take as much or as little time with The difference between education and subjects as youd like. Before you begin, take some time to experience? Education is when you read "deschool" yourself, by reminding yourself what learning is and the the fine print. Experience is what you conditions under which it happens. Does it only happen at school? get when you dont. Or did you learn something at the museum last week? How about ~Pete Seeger at dinner last night when you calculated the tip? Identifying learning opportunities will be a critical skill in homeschooling and page 25
  27. 27. one that comes easier than you may think. We get used to ENGLISHthinking that teachers establish what we are supposed to studyand set the contexts in which we learn. 30 minutes of reading every day. This can be reading aloud as a group or reading individually. This mayNOT ANYMORE. include comic books, audio books, Photo credit: paper books, electronic books, poetry, So let’s first look at what you’re supposed to teach those kids photos/starstreak007/3882191947/ plays, newspapers, journals, or articles.all day! Thinking of an entire year at once is overwhelming and These may support the unit you are currently studying or beoften destructive. Start with a week. You want to cover the big unrelated. If you’re in the middle of a unit on Space and your childguys: English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, finds herself interested in Japanese history, take her to the libraryand History. You may also want to incorporate language or a bookstore and pick up some Japanese anime books. 30learning, the arts, physical education/health, and technology. You’ve minutes of reading is actually not that much when you think of allgot plenty of time to work on all of that! How much should you the ways words are presented. This is a suggested schedule,“teach” of each? reading a little each day, particularly for those kids who have lost their love of reading. However, a typical child who enjoys reading Shoot for this: can do an entire week of “required” reading in a single day! If • English/Language Arts: 300 minutes per week (60 minutes, they’re in the zone, continue along with path where there’s 5 times a week) • Mathematics: 200 minutes per week (40 minutes, 5 times interest. a week) 30 minutes of composition, three times a week. • History: 180 minutes per week (60 minutes, 3 times a “Composition” seems like a pretty serious word, evoking images week) of quills, parchment, and long sessions of formulating great works • Science: 180 minutes per week (60 minutes, 3 times a week) of literature. That may certainly be the case in some families. This word also encompasses more everyday pursuits: diary entries, nature journals, poetry, short stories, and book reports. In a given week, your child should spend 90 minutes writing. Writing anything! Send them outside with a journal and a pen. They can page 26
  28. 28. write a response to a section in the book they’re reading, Languagereflections on a news story they just read, or any other type of Arts Descriptionwriting that takes thoughts from their head and puts it on paper. Activities 30 minutes of grammar, two times a week. Take • Games: Scrabble, Boggle, Hangman, Mad Libssome time each week to focus on building Language Arts skills. • Read aloud with family ReadingSentence structure, vocabulary, parts of speech, punctuation, style, Activities • Word searches/ unscrambleand so on. These don’t have to be separate from Composition, • Use your iPad to read short stories and learn new words, using built-in dictionarybut actively dedicating time to it each week ensures you’resystematically building up your child’s writing arsenal. • Take a writing workshop More important than how long you should spend on each Composition • Set writing challengessubject, which of course will vary by your child’s age, aptitude, and Activities • Create a blog • Family newsletterinterest, is changing how you view learning experiences. Here aresome examples of each that would qualify as learning. • Visit birthplace of famous authors • Attend poetry reading Field Trips • Tour local news station • Go to the movies and write a review! • Words of the Day Worksheets/ • Grammar “It is wh Quizzes • Phonics a when yo t you read • Reading Comprehension u to that d dont havewhat yo etermines u wi you can ll be when t he #oscarw lp it.” ilde page 27
  29. 29. MATHEMATICS Math Description 30 minutes of learning math every day. This can be Activitiesfrom a textbook, watching tutorials through online sources like Preparing a meal takes more skill than a parentKhan Academy or YouTube, using software (particularly in the later realizes (you’ve been doing it for years, you’re pretty good by now). This may involve:years), or finding math books at the library that tackle very • Measuring ingredientsspecific elements of math. During this time each day, your child • Planning dinner time based on cook start timeshould be learning something new or building on what they’ve • Buying the groceriesalready learned. Cooking • Changing serving size based on people in the family 10 minutes of math drills every day. This sounds a • Coordinating time so all parts of the meal finish atlittle scar y and potentially against your philosophy as a the same timehomeschool parent, but this just means that your child should This can be a group lesson, or individual (withpractice or apply what they’ve learned in some way. This could be parental supervision), but fun either way!done through cooking, calculating the tip at a restaurant, figuring • Train/Plane arrival/departure timesout how long it will take to get to Grandma’s house, etc. When • Duration of tripyou look at your everyday interactions, there’s actually quite a bit Planning • Budget to complete trip (travel, food, lodging)of math hidden in there. Here are some other math-related vacations • Budget time to accomplish all sightseeingactivities. • Planning when the trip can happen based on family budget Got a kid who’s nuts about basketball? Turn it into a lesson! Points necessary to win a game, what is a Sports certain player’s shooting average, different angles to shoot from, etc. Another opportunity to work on budgeting, layout (shapes), algebra (how many seeds times how many feet), basic chemistry (composting), and developing Gardening timelines (estimation). Building and maintaining a garden is actually a great math unit, with a delicious return on investment! Photo credit: photos/whatleydude/4923405764/ page 28
  30. 30. Also during this time each week, your family should do thingsHISTORY other than read! Watch documentaries, re-enact great battles of 60 minutes of History, three times a week. History is history, learn about inventors and statesmen, or create maps. Allone of those subjects where there is always more to learn. World of these options “count” towards your history minutes per week.History, Ancient History, Religion, Civics, Government, Economics, When you start to think of history in these terms, it becomesMilitary History, Geography and much more. And it doesn’t have easier to weave them with your other subjects. If your daughter isto involve sitting at the kitchen table, systematically reading reading a book by Louisa May Alcott, history during those fewthrough a history book. In fact, the folks at The Lukeion Project weeks can focus on the mid-19th century in New England. Whatrefuse to use textbooks! Regan Barr, who spoke at an unschooling was life like then? What was happening politically in other areas ofconference in August 2011 (and I’m sure many since then), gave a the US at that time? What was happening in other countries atgreat presentation on how textbooks take the most mundane that time? What major inventions came from that part of theparts of history, summarize them, and throw them into a world? How did Alcott’s literature impact other writers? Use yourconsolidated book, with little to no hope of inspiring kids to learn imagination!more. Yet, after learning about the histrionics of Caligula, One technique that helps young readers is to watch thehomeschool parents were reminded that history is, in fact, movie first and then tackle the book. With the basic plot andstranger than fiction! characters in mind, readers get the rich context that isn’t found in With that in mind, you’re welcome to use whichever kinds of the movie version. Watch The Princess Bride and then read thebooks interest you and your children. Susan Wise Bauer, author of book—like many novels, there’s so much more good stuff than inThe Well-Trained Mind, publishes a wonderful series of storybooks the movie!called The Story of the World, where she presents history as a Below are other ideas of activities you may choose to fill yourseries of stories, progressing from early civilizations to the modern weekly history You may choose to spend this time reading “real” books,stories/historical fiction, primary sources such as letters ornewspapers, or religious texts such as the Bible or the Koran.History is not found solely in textbooks, though potentially theyare good idea generators. page 29
  31. 31. History DescriptionActivities • Historical site near your home • Visit state capitol SCIENCE • Archaeological sites • Birthplaces of famous people 60 minutes of Science, Field Trips three times a week. Science • Historic trail hikes • Post office (government) (like math) is a subject that Bonsai tree by • Fire/police station (civics) str ikes fear into the hear ts of many Azuma Makoto • Attend a service or visit a religious facility homeschool parents, particularly in the middle • History/art museums and high school years. The elementary years are the perfect time Museums • Transportation museum to get comfortable teaching (or facilitating) science education! As • Aviation museum a non-science educator told me, “This rampant fear of science is So many options with this! baffling. You get to be outside, dig in the mud, find patterns in • Buy a big map and track places you’ve studied/ nature, and generally examine life around you. How could anyone visited Mapping not like science?” • Make maps of road trips • Use maps to discuss culture, language, and Because science experiments take time to set up and take traditions down, it’s a good idea to set aside 60-minute chunks of time, Read read read! You can study people, countries, rather than breaking it out over more days. During this time, you and events, not just boring lists of dates. Biographies, newspapers, historical fiction, may choose to use a textbook, do research on famous inventors narratives. and their inventions, conduct experiments and observations, or do Reading • Read as a group any other kinds of activities that involve exploration, discovery, and • Read individually • Read plays from parts of history a pursuit of knowledge about the natural, physical, and biological worlds. • Documentaries Watch TV Like other subjects, working from interest will make learning • TV Dramas (a la History Channel)(no, seriously, fun and retention easy! And science is more than sitting in a lab • Historical fiction it’s OK!) • Make your own! with test tubes, goggles, and a Bunsen burner. Science includes page 30
  32. 32. astronomy, marine biology, botany, zoology, medicine, engineering, Science Descriptionmolecular genetics, and computer science. Getting away from the Activitiesdaunting image of the Periodic Table and complex mathematics, • Aquarium or zooscience activities can inspire students to begin exploring the world • Natural History or dinosaur museumaround them. These minutes each week can be spent supporting Museum Trips • Planetarium or space museumthe current unit of study, or harnessing a newfound interest based • Arboretumon a movie they just saw (don’t tell me that first scene in Contact • Roboticswith Jodie Foster didn’t instantly make you want to become an Watching science-themed movies can really bring content to life! After watching a movie (or parts ofastronomer). Using that example, a meteor shower or lunar it), take time to discuss it as a family. This could also Movies/ function as a writing opportunity; take the 30eclipse at 4am on a Tuesday is the perfect time to “schedule” your Documentaries minutes from English composition and write a60-minute lesson time. A trip to the aquarium with your mother- response on the movie (coolest part, scariest part, do you feel different having seen it and how).in-law is another opportunity to learn about marine biology andaquatic life. Taking advantage of these isolated, and often not-so- Take the family for a hike! In this time, your kids should bring their nature journals and documentisolated, learning opportunities is an incredible advantage of things they see along the way: bugs, leaves, trees, Family Hike animals, erosion, pollution, rocks, rivers, caves, etc.homeschool education. They can draw pictures, write poems, anything they’d like to document their trip. Talk to your local hospital and see if observations are allowed. A homeschool parent told me about Hospital going to watch open heart surgery with her daughter! Wow! Dig arou Don’t forget the value of a good, old-fashioned outside, nd, be Experiments chemistry set. ex how cou ploring— • Dairy farm • Greenhouse tour ld NOT like anyone • Factory • Cave/caverns #sci #homes ence? • Observatory • Bird watching chool Field Trips • The ocean • National or State Park • Bakery • Local orchard • Recycling center • Local power plant • Laboratory tour • Animal shelter page 31
  33. 33. CHAPTER 5DOES IT WORK? No man is a failure who enjoys life. ~William Feather Photo credit:
  34. 34. Section 1 Does homeschooling work? Absolutely! Regardless of whatWILL MY KIDS ACTUALLY goal you have in mind, homeschooling has worked for a long timeLISTEN TO ME? and research is showing that it continues to be an effective solution for many families. Are you shooting for success today? In a week? A year? A decade? Are you hoping to rekindle a love of learning? Has an unsafe situation at school caused you to take emergency action? Are you moving around a lot and hoping that homeschooling will be the least disruptive way to educate? There are many definitions of what “success” in a homeschool looks like. Some common criteria that homeschoolers use to define success include: • passion for learning • discovering and developing interests • academic performance (standardized tests) • improved behavior or self-esteem • educational stability • safety • happiness • serving as a bandaid for a problematic school year • private school education at fraction of the cost • more efficient education with time to pursue opportunities It can be any of these or none of these. Success is incredibly subjective, so figure out what that means for you. As you Learning is not attained by chance. It determine whether or not homeschooling is right for you, must be sought for with ardor and consider goals you are hoping that homeschool will help you attended to with diligence. achieve. Now, every child and every family is different, but the kinds of ~Abigail Adams families that are choosing homeschool have been diversifying over page 33
  35. 35. the past 25 years. 25% of homeschoolers are minorities. 25% are Parent’snot homeschooling for religious reasons. 10% are from one-parent Money Spent Level of on Educationhouseholds. Almost 60% live in urban rather than rural settings. Education17% are from religions other than Christianity (Ray, 1997). And research is demonstrating that there isn’t much variabilityin the value homeschooling provides. No Parent as Time Spent Relationship toIT SIMPLY WORKS. Certified Teacher Academic in Formal Education Achievement A child’s academic performance is not dependent on any ofthe following factors: • parent’s level of education • whether or not a parent is a certified teacher • how much money was spent on their education Level of Kind of • how much time was spent in formal education State Curriculum • level of state regulation Regulation Chosen • the kind of curriculum chosen What researchers are finding is that the key components ofhomeschooling include small classrooms, a completely invested complex concepts and practicing new skills, but again, no matter“educator,” and time. With tutoring, where you have a one-to-one how you slice it, you’ve got more time to pursue the things you’dstudent-to-teacher ratio, you can be much more efficient with like.your time. You can accomplish in 2 to 3 hours what it takes 30- Now, the thing that many homeschool families are concernedperson classrooms 8 hours to accomplish. Plus, since you “got the with is those first few weeks. Will my child actually listen to me? Icontent right” the first time, you don’t need to assign homework. can’t tell you the answer to that. You know your kids better thanThis leaves a lot of time to simply explore, think, create. anyone else and this is certainly a change in your relationship. It Yes, it will be busy. Yes, you’ll have to do some work finding the may take some time to mentally adjust from parent/child toright combination of personal and academic pursuits. Yes, as your educator/student, but that may not even be a factor. Manychild gets older, they may need to spend more time learning homeschool parents don’t simply “school at home.” They establish page 34
  36. 36. another kind of relationship entirely. They don’t necessarily choose You want them to have social livesto become an authoritative figure for a few hours and then switch too.hats and become the parent for the remainder of the day. Take Of cour se , all parents aresome time to figure out what this new relationship looks like and concerned about properfind what makes you and your kids comfortable. “socialization.” I hear this word more Another thought: you’ll never know till you try. Maybe this with homeschooling than I ever hearhomeschooling things turns out to be a big, huge mistake. Your with other forms of education. For CLICK ME!kids don’t listen, learn, or benefit from home education. Maybe some reason, administrators don’tyou wanted to try it out for a year as a trial and see how things see drug and alcohol abuse, sexual activity, bullying, weapons, lackwent. This is completely fine and you’ll never be sorry for trying. of respect for elders, and peer pressure as “socializationResearch indicates that even a year or two of homeschooling problems.” They’re school problems. Either way, they’re problems.shows marked results with students performing 10 points higher And perhaps they are one of the reasons you’re consideringon standardized tests (Strengths of Their Own, 1997). homeschooling. It’s understandable to worry that such a change in And from my experience, if you’re seriously thinking about your child’s schedule and learning environment might influencehomeschooling, you probably have the kind of relationship with him for the worse. Will he become a recluse? Will he forget how toyour children that would handle this new dynamic well. Same talk to people? thing with finding Your kids will be who they were meant to be. Surround them social with people of all ages who pique their curiosity, kids who they oppor tunities for have fun with, adults who can teach them something and serve as your kids. If you’re role models. Essentially, do what you did before and just take the #10,000 even wor r ying school out of the equation. They won’t lose social skills unless you hours is magic n the umber f or about it, then actively deprive them of the exposure. mastery . What w you’re not likely to With homeschooling, you have the freedom to modify your your kid ill s do wit that ext h all be the parent who course of action immediately rather than wait to adopt new ra time? quarantines their standards, curriculum, and teacher training for 50 million students children in the and 3 million teachers. It’s a system of one. Any concerns you kitchen for school. have, you can change in an instant. Fear your child is becoming page 35
  37. 37. antisocial? Register him in a few courses and clubs. Your child isn’t What’s the point? Try it! Homeschooling for a year can’tas happy as he was in public school? Talk with him and come up possibly hurt your kids and it could change their lives (and yours!).with a new game plan. He isn’t doing well academically? Figure outif it’s the content, the learning style, or the situation. Perhaps hecan go back to public school for extracurricular activities whichmight charge him up for “academic work” at home. (And asalways, homeschooling doesn’t have to be forever.) You’re going to have fears, doubts, and concerns. That’scompletely normal. Every homeschooling family has felt this tosome degree. But let me reassure you! Research shows that homeschoolkids… • Perform 30 percentile points higher on standardized testing in reading and math (Ray, 2004) • Read at or above grade level (Ray, 1997) • Participate in 5 - 7 activities outside the home (Ray, 2004) • Are more likely to attend college and finish with a higher GPA (Cogan, 2009) • Are more like to say they’re happy (Ray, 2004) YOU • Are more likely to feel capable of changing the world (Ray, 2004) page 36
  38. 38. CHAPTER 6MAKING THEDOWNPAYMENT If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. ~Anonymous Photo credit:
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