Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Homeschooling Curriculum

If you are just starting to look into homeschooling, you may have run across the
term "homeschooling curriculum" on Websites selling curriculum or in articles about the virtues of one curriculum over another. Many of these don't exactly define this term, especially not in a neutral manner. So, what exactly is a homeschool curriculum?

In standard educational terms, a curriculum is an integrated course of study that the teacher follows when preparing lessons for her class. In homeschooling terms, it can mean the same if you are planning your own curriculum; however many curriculum-based homeschooling methods (opposed to unschooling, which is child led rather than curriculum led) make use of pre-packaged curriculum.

This pre-package curriculum often includes everything from an outline of each course to teaching guides, student's texts, worksheets, and testing materials. Of course you can always modify or supplement a pre-packaged curriculum to fit your child's interests and learning style.

Whether using purchased curriculum or your own, you may need to be making sure it fits the state's requirements. If due to an oppressive state homeschooling law, you must be in sync with the public school's curriculum, you can do so rather easily. Your state's department of education probably has a Website where it posts its curriculum for the appropriate grade levels. If not, call your district office and request a copy. Then look at the objectives and goals for each subject and build your curriculum to include them.

In some instances, you may even want school textbooks. Many districts will loan these to homeschooling families, especially if it is one that requires you register your child as homeschooled, because they are likely receiving some funding for homeschooled children.

You can also pick up free textbooks from schools that have changed to a new text. Remember, the "obsolete" stamp on these books generally doesn't mean the text is not a good one. In our old district, they changed from a math program to a "modern" and highly controversial one because a respected school district in another state did so (peer pressure at the administrative level!).

The library is a wonderful, never-ending resource. Also check with your homeschool group for book exchanges. Other resources for curriculum include local bookstores that cater to homeschooling families or teachers. Homeschooling events such as conventions are another resource.

Once you seriously start looking for homeschooling curriculum, you may get overwhelmed. To make decisions easier, first spend some time contemplating your homeschooling goals and looking into state requirements.

Remember that one of the beauties of homeschooling (unless squelched by your particular state law) is that you can choose the curriculum that best fits the needs, learning style and interests of your child as well as your values and even your schedule.

About.com has a page with links to curriculum resources, including a forum where parents discuss and trade curriculum:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Homeschooling - Balancing School with Life

For the homeschooling family, balancing school with life is a cinch compared to trying to
balance a child's formal school day and homework with family life, friends and personal interests.

If you are just starting to think about homeschooling, the question of how to balance this with life may be a big question mark. After all, if your children have been in public or private school then the school has laid out the schedule, and your task, difficult as it can be, is one that you are accustomed to – squeezing in the other aspects of your child's life wherever you can.

Or, perhaps you've been homeschooling a while and are finding that too much of your child's day (and yours) is consumed by schoolwork. It can happen, but the good news is that you have control of this time. If you happen to be unlucky enough to live in a state that makes strict demands on homeschooling families (such as requiring mastery of specific subjects at certain ages), you may want to consider making some changes – either in where you live or by seeking legal counsel to fight for your homeschooling rights.

That said, in most cases there is a great deal of freedom in how you can balance school and life, and even if you are under the thumb of a restrictive state, you still have the say in how you plan your days.

If you're new to homeschooling, then you may be overwhelmed just thinking about how on earth you can teach for 8 hours a day, spend time lesson planning and assessing your child's work, and even have time for life!

Let's set those worries to rest. First of all, you will not need to mimic the school's hours. It's no secret the time it takes to learn at home is far less than the time it takes to learn at school. Even teachers are told in their education courses that they will spend very little time actually teaching. Most of the time is spent on "off task" matters such as getting the class to settle down at the beginning of a day, transitioning from activity to another, getting the class to settle down after recesses and lunch, dealing with numerous interruptions, doing busy work for nothing more than the sake of order in the classroom, and then after every long vacation, spending days settling down again and days to weeks in review because retention was lost.

It's estimated only 1/2 hour to 2 hours is spent on task in school. This goes along with the estimate that on average, a child can do 8 hours of school work in 2 hours when done at home.

You will also have the huge advantage of knowing your child's strengths and weaknesses and learning style. This means that when you child is stuck on a problem you will be much more able to effectively help your child figure it out then a teacher who doesn't know your child very well, if at all. This is of course another big time saver.

Given that your child may spend a couple hours a day on formal school work,
Monday through Friday, even with vacations. You may spend, depending on the curriculum used, around 1/2 to one hour daily, Monday through Friday on lesson planning, assessing, etc. If your child enjoys learning and wants to do more, then you can adjust for this.

As you can see, this leaves plenty of time for the rest of life. With many activities out there that your child may want to explore from dance to martial arts classes, just be sure that your child (and you) has plenty of free time – just for thinking, daydreaming, and just being.

If you are looking for a science project to use you can have a look at my Hub: 

Science Fair Projects, Grade One To Seven

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Holidays, Seasons and Homeschooling

One the few things that new homeschooling families may fear they will miss is the array of
traditional school celebrations of holidays and seasonal changes. As you will see though, when you join a homeschool group, subscribe to a homeschooling magazine and/or peruse some of the homeschooling sites online, the traditional holiday and seasonal related school events can be easily replaced with just as special activities you create or find in the community.

Remember, homeschooling means more time to build upon and create family traditions, and it also means that you can be more creative in finding ways to celebrate the special times of year with others.

For example, say one of your family's Christmas highlights was the school's Christmas (or winter festival) program where the children performed carols. An alternative, and a charitable one at that, could be getting together with a few other homeschooling families for caroling at a local nursing home or pediatrics unit. If you have budding actors in the family or homeschool group, you could even put together a play or skit to perform as well. Or your family could join up with others for some old-fashioned neighborhood caroling. Churches also provide many opportunities along these lines as well.

Other Christmas activities could include crafts, making felt applique stockings and making and selling wreaths to earn money for a special holiday outing or charity, collecting toys for less fortunate children, etc. These can be family activities or ones you do with other families, clubs or a church group. The same would go for any holiday. Other holiday traditions like making Mother's Day and Father's Day cards at school can be done at home with the help of the other parent or a sibling.

Homeschooling groups are great for organizing activities like this. One holiday that is probably more painful than fun for many kids in formal school settings is Valentine's Day. It's great for kids who are popular and get their Valentine's bags filled with cards from their classmates, but it can be crushing for the child who doesn't get many cards. Many teachers now require everyone gets a card, but then that has its problems too. Valentine's Day is a great day for building your own family traditions. One fun activity is to pick up some old-fashioned valentine making supplies (such as doilies and pink construction paper) and make Valentine's to mail to friends and relatives. Trust me; these will be much more treasured than an email greeting.

Celebrating holidays without the constrictions of the school also means you can celebrate them in ways that reflect your family's values, not school regulations. You can also integrate holidays into the children's lessons with both fun, hands-on activities as well as researching, at the library and/or online, aspects such as history and worldwide traditions.

The changing seasons lend themselves to fun activities for homeschooling families, and again you will find a treasure trove of information at the library and online. When autumn approaches, for example, do a search for children's fall activities or leaf crafts. Then, go for a fall family hike and collect leaves and items to use in your craft. Seasonal changes can easily become part of lessons. Actually you can integrate seasons and holidays for that matter into just about any subject, from history, literature and math to writing, science and music.

But what about the long-standing tradition of summer vacation? Homeschooling doesn't have to be year round, although you may not want to take three months off from learning. Summer's still a great time to take things slower and to enjoy nature outings like camping, river rafting or day trips to the beach. There's no rule about when or how you celebrate summer. Some families like to declare a vacation from school work for two or three weeks (or more), and then just spend a little less time on school for the rest of the season, while savoring the delights of summer.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dealing with Opposition from Those Against Homeschooling

With at least 2 million children being homeschooled today, we don't hear half as
much opposition as back when the movement was new, but still, many do question the validity of homeschooling as a respectable alternative to formal education, and worse yet, some will point fingers and claim you are doing your children a disservice.

When the criticism comes from a stranger, it is fairly easy to ignore, depending on how confident you feel about your choice. If the criticism isn't easy to ignore then you probably should read some of the better books about homeschooling and check in with your homeschooling support group. You will feel better and the next time criticism comes, you may just have a question for the finger pointer, such as "Why do you think that public schools do a good job of socializing children?" Regardless of whether you have a comeback or not, once you are confident in your choice, the criticism from the typical nay saying strangers and acquaintances will run off you like water off a duck.

However, when those against your homeschooling are friends or family, the opposition is much more difficult to deal with because you can't just walk away, end of subject. Often times it's just that they don't know even a small percent of what you know about homeschooling. You may just need to provide some literature to assuage their fears. Be sure to include articles that dispel myths, such as "homeschoolers can't get into college" or "homeschoolers miss out socializing."

Give them fact sheets that exemplify homeschooling success. You can create these by putting together facts you have uncovered in your homeschooling research. Fact sheets will more likely be read than a stack full of printed out articles.

Remind the doubters that homeschoolers are accepted into colleges, many colleges, including Harvard, and that on average homeschoolers do better on
college entrance exams.

Also include on your fact sheets results of studies, such as ones that point to homeschooled children's emotional and social happiness. On the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, for example, half of the children attending public or private schools scored at or below the 50th percentile in self-concept, while only 10 percent of the home-schooling children did so.

With the help of Google put together a list of famous homeschoolers, like Thomas Edison and children who win essay and spelling contests.

If you live in a state that requires periodic testing, show them the scores. Even if testing isn't required, you may want to do this just to have in your homeschooling file. While some of us feel that too much weight is given to test scores, many are more convinced by homeschooler's test scores than anything else. If your children perform well on tests, then those scores and the fact that the children appear happy and busy with outside activities will likely carry enough weight to put worries to rest.

Should the criticism still continue, just chalk the homeschooling issue up to a scapegoat for the criticizer's own issues, and refuse to discuss the matter any further. Then relax in the confidence of knowing you are giving your children a wonderful gift.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Is Homeschooling Right for my Family?.

This is a good question to ask, especially with the emphasis on "family," because
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homeschooling can impact a family's life in so many ways.

The financial impact can be a major factor when it means one parent giving up a job and income. After all, with most mothers (and fathers) working outside the home, the public school system also serves as childcare.

Most who homeschool are mothers in two parent families, where the couple has decided that it's in the child's best interests to do without the extra income in order to homeschool their children. However, more and more parents are finding ways to work at home, making homeschooling a very possible reality for families that require two incomes and for single parents.

A parent who does work at home and wants to homeschool must still ask the question, "Is homeschooling right for my family?" because achieving a balance between a home business or telecommuting job and child rearing and schooling can be challenging.

However, for many homeschooling families, the rewards far exceed the stresses. Also, the stresses can be eased with a good support team, such as a local homeschooling group where parents may form a teaching and/or childcare coop of sorts. Others have help from grandparents or older siblings. Some may just need short breaks and find that time when the child is at a supervised activity outside the home (many homeschooled children are involved in outside activities such as special interest classes and clubs).

Still other families find that balance of work and homeschooling through running a family business where children can take part, such as one family who ran a board game store where their kids had lots of fun playing the sample games with other kids as well as helping out at the register and with stock.

When asking yourself if homeschooling is right for your family, do keep in mind that your business may not be of interest to your child. The key is finding a balance that allows your homeschooled child to thrive in a loving and accepting home while reaching his or her intellectual potential and having his or her social, emotional and spiritual needs met.

Sometimes out of determination to homeschool, parents will change their own career course and find that they are much happier too.

Another important area to look at when considering if homeschooling is right for your family will be the reasons you want to homeschool and how your child feels about it. For example, if your 7th grader is doing fine in school and enjoying school, then it's probably best not to force homeschooling. However if your child is open to homeschooling (and if the child understands that homeschooling doesn't mean being cut off from friends), and you want to homeschool, then it’s probably going to be a positive experience.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting Started with Homeschooling

Congratulations on choosing to homeschool! You are embarking on a wonderful adventure.
Getting started with homeschooling brings a great feeling of liberation to parents and children and is an exciting time. Of course there will also be some bumps in the road as everyone adjusts. Here are some suggestions to help pave the road, making your entry into the world of homeschooling a smoother ride.

One of the first things to do is to consider your homeschooling goals. For example, do you want to include Bible studies in the basic lessons of reading, writing and arithmetic? Or, are you choosing to homeschool because you have a child who is simply not challenged intellectually by the system? Perhaps you love the idea of the more natural and holistic approach to education and child rearing known as unschooling.

It may help to journal a bit about your homeschooling goals. Writing is a wonderful way to clarify thoughts, and your homeschooling journal entries such as this will be good to read down the road.

Once you are clear about your homeschooling goals, the next step is to check with the legal issues surrounding homeschooling in your state or country. Some states have none or very few restrictions regarding homeschooling, while others have far more homeschooling laws you have to be aware of. It is a good time to connect with a local or state-wide homeschooling group, these groups will give you valuable advice. Veteran members may be able to help you figure out how to both achieve the homeschooling experience you want while jumping through any necessary hoops.

Many homeschoolers feel very strongly about their constitutional right to homeschool without interference and can show you how they have managed. Some simply ignore restrictions and don't register their children at all; however they are taking the risk of legal problems, even jail time and CPS involvement. If there is any concern, do seek legal counsel. You don't want to cross any lines that could result in being separated from your children.

Many states have pretty easy to follow guidelines. If the other parent's job or yours (if you are a single parent homeschooler) allows for relocation, do an Internet search for homeschool laws by state or country, and then take it form there. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) http://www.hslda.org/laws/ is one of the Websites that lists the state laws. This fundamental Christian based homeschool organization is somewhat controversial among homeschoolers for some of the state laws that have come to pass as a result of their litigation; however, no matter your religious beliefs, you can find helpful legal information on their site. Once you've narrowed your search down to some specific places, check their department of education's Websites and make phone calls, making sure the information you collected is up to date. If seriously considering relocating, I would also join online homeschool groups that serve homescoolers in those areas just to get their take, and then of course research the neighborhoods (and job situations) you are considering; making sure it is a good move for your family.

The rest of the process of getting started with homeschooling will fall into place fairly easily once you've accomplished these first two steps. You can then work on curriculum that supports your homeschooling philosophy and your children's' individual learning styles, strengths and interests. Some homeschooling parents write their own curriculum but many find curriculum packages that suit their needs.

Joining a local homeschooling group will provide you with a support system and a way for you and your family to get together with other homeschooling families on outings and such. One more thing you may want to do while getting started with homeschooling – celebrate you and your family's newfound freedom! 

If you are looking for crafts to do with your homeschooler you can have a look at: No Sew Fleece Crafts