The year 2020 has wrecked havoc on the whole society, but none more so than public school kids and their parents. In the spring they found themselves thrust into doing school at home, away from everything they knew. This also gave parents who were considering homeschooling a test drive without the legalities of actually withdrawing their children.
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Now, it's the start of a new school year. Some public schools are going back in a mish-mash of at-school / virtual learning / hybrid concoctions that confuse even homeschoolers who don't have a child in the school. As someone who's in a couple of homeschooling groups for her state, I've seen the number of people in the group jump over the last six months as people who have kids in virtual public school think they're "homeschooling."
No. Virtual public school is not homeschooling. There are many differences between homeschool and virtual public school (done at home) -- and they are not alike.
Parents do not choose the curriculum for their kids in virtual public school. It's what is assigned by a teacher. With parents now aware of what is being taught in public schools, or told to not listen in, or buy their children earbuds so only they can hear what's being taught -- more and more parents are calling foul.
With true homeschool, parents choose what their children learn. Many parents, especially with middle and high school kids, talk with their children on subjects they want to learn. I asked my fifth grade daughter what she wanted to learn about in science this year, and she chose astronomy. She would not have had that choice in public school.
Public schools' curriculum is dictated by a standard course of study by each state's Department of Education. This curriculum is often heavily influenced by politics, social justice, and causes that are not necessarily good things. Often, these curricula have a great deal to do with sex education and come with the inability for parents to opt-out their children, if the curriculum goes against the parents' worldview.
In homeschool, parents set the standards of what their children learn. They choose the curriculum, based on their worldviews and what they want to teach their kids. Often, in homeschool, kids are exposed to a wide range of philosophies that they can compare and contrast. Many public school systems, especially in more liberal states, have teachers and curriculums that are taught to the kids that emphasize one philosophy or religion over another and downplays the largest religion in the world. For example, some school systems encourage kids to learn about Islam but not Christianity, eliminating teaching whole thought.
While browsing in a homeschooling group I'm in for my state, I saw a post by someone who made the comment they're homeschooling now until schools reopen like they were in the past, so their kids can go to normal school. While I get what this person was saying, it sound awfully disparaging. My daughter has learned more in the last three and a half years of homeschool than she did in the two and a half years she spent in public school, simply because the curriculum was taught in ways that she learns best. Our homeschool is best for her, but it is not inferior to an education she would receive if she were in public school. In fact, based on what she learns -- cursive writing, grammar, how to write paragraphs, Bible, math that makes sense -- her education, I believe, is superior to that of kids her own age and grade level.
For my daughter, getting up at seven o'clock and rushing to eat breakfast, get dressed, drive to school, then do all the school things was incredibly stressful. All that, plus the anxiety that came with being bullied due to having dyslexia, was just too much for her. She has chronic migraines, diagnosed at four years old, and she would have upwards of 15 migraines a month while she was in a public school setting.
Since she's been in homeschool, she gets up between eight and nine in the morning, has breakfast and takes her meds, then eases into the school day with Morning Basket time. During Morning Basket, we cuddle on the couch and I read pages from two books: Bible Stories for Courageous Girls and The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Easing into the day by reading these books that encourage her in her faith and tell a story about the period of history she's studying reinforces key concepts and starts the day off on the right foot.
Since we've been homeschooling and incorporating relaxed themes, she has had maybe five migraines in three years. Eliminating stressors have helped her anxiety a great deal.
Homeschooling on our schedule enables us to incorporate learning into family trips. My husband plays wheelchair basketball, and last year we had the opportunity to travel to Wichita, Kansas for the championship games. Along the way, we incorporated homeschool into the trip by spending time at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in Mansfield, Missouri; the Ulysses S. Grant Home and the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri; and walking along the Mississippi River. We listened to Little House series on audio books all the way there, and all the way back. Visiting the Wilder homestead and museum after listening to her books really made the artifacts in the museum come alive. We would not have had this amazing experience if we did not homeschool.
Kids in virtual public school spend about six to seven hours in front of the computer with instructional time. In the in-person school setting, they don't get that much instructional time on a good day. No wonder kids are fidgeting and their attention span is out the window! That much screen time isn't good for anyone.
For Laura, my daughter, 5th grade homeschool lasts about 3-4 hours at most. She does her book work, practices the ukulele, and we call it a day. A regular day in public school is filled with crowd control, walking to the library, art, cafeteria, recess, etc. There's so much time that's wasted on behavior modification that the teachers cannot possibly teach in the way that her students learn. When you homeschool, you can customize lessons for each child in the way he or she learns. You get the work done, learn it, and move on.
In the days before schools shut down, most students would only go on 3-4 field trips a year. We purposely plan our homeschool weeks to do academics Monday through Thursday, and leave Friday open for field trips. These field trips may entail going to a museum: I've planned such field trips to coincide on the curriculum. We visit exhibits that are curated to dovetail what Laura is learning in school.
These field trips may entail a trip to the library, or a park. They may be a visit to a national or state park that has some relevance to what we're studying. The point is, nearly every Friday we go on a field trip that supplements what she's learning in school. She could not possibly get that level of supplemental learning experiences in public school.
Don't Give Up
If you have chosen to homeschool instead of doing virtual public school, don't decide to send your kids into the same environment you removed them, just because it's hard. Homeschool is hard -- most things that are the most rewarding are difficult. Give it a couple years, make it your own, and watch your kids flourish. Homeschoolers can graduate high school, walk in graduation ceremonies, and go on to college -- and thrive doing so, often stand out with their abilities to reason and write. Don't give up! Don't say you're going to try this for six months and then put your kids back in public school, hoping "they won't be too far behind." Homeschool, done right, will put your kids further ahead than you could possibly dream -- if you, as the parents, are willing to do the work with your kids and stick to it.
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(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
I started homeschooling my daughter when she started kindergarten, after homeschooling my oldest son, who has autism, the last semester of his senior year in public high school. Halfway into Laura’s kindergarten year, a tragic event stopped us cold in our tracks – my husband was shot and paralyzed in an attempted armed robbery.
As his caregiver, I felt (at the time) like I couldn’t give him 100% and homeschooling 100%, so Laura was enrolled in the local public school for the remainder of kindergarten, and for the next two years. A double-whammy diagnosis of dyslexia and ADHD, coupled with chronic migraines, re-opened our homeschool almost three years ago.
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Laura has thrived in homeschool for third and fourth grades. Yes, she could have done better on tests, but homeschool is where she thrives (and her migraines went from 15 a month in public school down to about four a year).
When I started homeschooling, I had tons of questions: curriculum? Dedicated homeschool space? Socialization? Do I follow my state’s course of study?
Because of recent events in our nation, there is an unprecedented rise in the number of homeschooling families. This post serves to answer some questions I had as a new homeschooler and provide some resources.
What about socialization?
With public schools’ mandated masks, six-feet-apart, have lunch and PE and specials in classrooms, not to mention library, the socialization question is now moot. If homeschoolers have other homeschooling friends over to play, do seatwork together, or work on joint projects, they will have more socialization than kids in public school. With my daughter, because she is with adults most of the day, she can carry on conversations with adults and kids alike with confidence. Don’t worry about this.
Dedicated homeschool space?
If you are blessed to have a space in your home that can be a dedicated homeschool space, by all means, go for it. I live in a three-bedroom, two-bath house where the “open concept” is alive and well, and the living room/dining area/kitchen are all open to one another. Now, the smallest bedroom doubles as a guest room/office, so I still don’t have a dedicated homeschool space, and continue to use the dining area.
The dining area is right off the kitchen (again, open floor plan) and I really like this. Laura can do seat work while I put something in the slow cooker for dinner, or wash dishes. I’m right there within earshot and sight line if she has a question or wants to talk through the lesson.
We have a small shelf in the dining area that holds this year’s curriculum so we don’t have to dig for it. We have another cabinet that holds resource books and things we don’t use all the time but still need to have handy. A chalkboard and dry erase board on the wall complete the ensemble. When we read books together, whether it’s literature, history, or science, we go to the sofa to read as it’s more comfortable and we can both read along in the same book. When we watch a YouTube video to explain a concept, we watch it from the sofa.
Our entire home is meant for learning – we have science experiments in the kitchen, large craft or art projects strewn on the living room floor, and the dining table is for seat work. This works for our family.
There are many choices for curriculum. You can do an all online curriculum, or buy printed, all-inclusive curriculum. You can do what I do and put together an eclectic curriculum based on your child’s needs and where they’re at academically. Or, you can do all three. The most important thing is to do what is best for your child, even if you have multiple children – each child is an individual with individual needs. Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized educational plan.
The beauty of homeschool is that you as the parent choose the course of study. You don't have to follow a set course of study from any state. With high school, if your child is interested in going to college, have him choose two or three colleges or universities that he's interested in applying to, and work with your teenager to develop a high school course of study based on those college/university requirements.
Budget is also a consideration. You can have a completely wonderful and acceptable homeschooling curriculum without spending a lot. Or anything. Just because someone buys a $500 curriculum doesn’t mean that any better – or worse – than someone who spends $20 on curriculum.
I like old-school textbooks that existed before common core was common. So, for the third year in a row, I have purchased some textbooks for my daughter on EBay. Her math, science, and English textbooks for 5th grade have all been purchased, and I spent less than $20 on the entire lot.
For spelling, I find spelling lists for her grade level on Pinterest, and create activities for them. A good dictionary book (not the Internet) provides definitions which she writes down. For cursive writing and spelling practice, I use this website to create cursive writing worksheets that are her spelling words. I use this website to create word finds and crossword puzzles. Playing board and card games and Hangman using her spelling words helps her learn them, too.
Laura will have some new subjects this coming year, such as Spanish. I utilize Schoolhouse Teachers for her Spanish class, and as supplemental material on other subjects such as history, unit studies, and grammar. Schoolhouse Teachers is wonderful because they mail a quarterly magazine, included with your membership, about homeschooling that is rich with ideas and encouragement.
For set curricula, I like to buy from a website where I can browse and read about each product, such as Christianbook.com. For some subjects or as supplemental material, I use Evan-Moor workbooks which are an incredible resource for all grade levels.
When Laura reaches high school levels, I’ll use 7 Sisters Homeschool, which has no-busy-work curricula and is all PDF based. They host a wide variety of subjects written by veteran homeschooling moms.
As you can gather from my daughter’s diagnoses, special needs is a thing in our house. Actually, all four of my children have special needs, though the three oldest are adults and have moved on to their own houses (and, one got married!). It can be downright exhausting to parent special needs children, let alone homeschool them.
I have found that my daughter thrives at home, where there is less stress and zero bullying. Still, parents who are homeschooling children with special needs require encouragement and inspiration. That is why, with the Lord’s incredible help, I’ve developed the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference, the first of its kind in the nation. Featuring over 20 speakers presenting over 30 sessions on homeschooling special needs, including the incredible Temple Grandin in a keynote. The conference boasts all pre-recorded videos for your convenience, and lifetime access to boot, for just $22. For more information, click here. To register, click here.
In public school, kids have “specials” – library, PE, music, art. Homeschoolers have these things, too. We go to the public library once a week, Laura is constantly making art projects that tie into what she’s learning in history or science, and she goes outside to play, and play hard, for PE. We’ve also been known to incorporate health lessons in “physical education.” She also learns life skills, such as doing her own laundry, cooking (she loves making eggs for her own breakfast in the morning), and baking. Just today she finally (!!!) chose an instrument to learn, as we told her she needed to choose one for the fifth grade. She chose the ukulele!
For attendance, we use the AppleCore online attendance that is a perk of membership with Schoolhouse Teachers. When Laura starts ninth grade, it will be used to house her grades, too. The AppleCore program then takes her grades and generates an official high school transcript. I tell you, the annual membership for Schoolhouse Teachers is one of my most favorite -- and utilized -- resources.
Homeschooling can be a delightful time, if you relax and allow learning to happen, at any time. For us, homeschooling is not between the hours of 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. It is 24 hours a day. We focus less on education and more on learning. Every experience can be a learning experience, and that is the attitude we choose to adopt.
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I wish you all the best!
© 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
My daughter, Laura, loves science. Because of her love of science and her short -- uhm, developing, attention span, I've had to get a little creative when looking for science resources. Because we're a Christian family, it's very important that any science resources also support a creationist worldview.
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Home Science Tools
When I taught a Science of Slime event at homeschool group, I bought some beakers, droppers, and test tubes from Home Science Tools. They were a resounding success, and many of the children asked if they could take them home to use for their own homeschool science labs. They have so many cool science-related tools, labs kits, and supplemental curriculum material -- you get ideas just from their catalogs!
Right now, in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, one way to help your kids understand the virus is through Home Science Tools' Coronavirus Education Kit. This kit, made for grades seven and up, is an excellent educational tool to better understand virus transmission & response. It includes six hands-on activities.
Schoolhouse Teachers' website has phenomenal science courses for all grades. The courses range from animals, biology, botany, Charlotte Mason preschool science, dinosaurs and the Bible, to a great deal of in-depth, video chemistry courses. I am using their "Experiencing Weather" course to supplement my daughter's science unit on weather--so they can be stand-alone science curricula, or used as supplemental material.
With Earth Day coming up, it's a great opportunity to teach your kids about conservation, recycling, and animals with a 32-page ebook from Evan Moor. This "Theme Pockets: Celebrate Earth Day" printable ebook, for grades 1st - 3rd grades, has three pocket projects that help your students celebrate Earth Day while they practice basic skills. Activities are designed to help students connect information about conservation of resources, recycling, and endangered animals with their own lives. While you're on the link, check out all of Evan Moor's products. Again, just browsing will give you some food for thought for future studies.
Year Round Homeschooling with Misty Leask
Year Round Homeschooling, owned and created by homeschooling blogger Misty Leask, offers a wealth of lap books, unit studies, and other materials on most subjects, including science. Her science studies are great and fun ways to incorporate science into your homeschool, such as "Ocean Explorers: A Unit Study on Oceans." Misty's "Living Healthy: A Middle School Health Curriculum" will definitely be a unit study for my daughter next year when she's in fifth grade. It goes over such sensitive subjects as personal hygiene, nutrition, fitness, puberty, emotions, and safety.
Kristin Moon Science
Dr. Kristin Moon is a scientist by training who left the lab to be a stay-at-home mom, and discovered homeschooling along the way. She has homeschooled her two sons from birth through high school graduation, and has an incredible website called Kristin Moon Science. On her website, she offers online classes in which "students proceed at their own pace through the material. Videos, experiments, hands-on activities, and links to additional information are included to enhance the learning experience. Periodic quizzes ensure that material is mastered before moving from one topic to the next," according to her website. She also provides a science shop, live, online classes and tutoring (!!!), and a science simplified blog. Her Facebook page is a fun follow, full of information that you'd want to share with your kids.
NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is not just a government website about the space program. It offers first-rate science and STEM resources, too, for all grade levels. The NASA At Home program enables you to watch videos taken from space, virtual tours and apps, and even the "Be a Scientist" program, in which there are "opportunities for citizen scientists to contribute to ongoing research," according to the site. Opportunities include searching for brown dwarf stars and planets, tracking changes in climate research, and searching for particles of interstellar material. Sounds very cool!
I hope you can check out these six science resources. Science is all around us -- it's a joy to see that awareness awaken in my daughter, as a way to give God the glory for His creation.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Learning a tough subject is made easier with a great teacher that helps make the subject interesting. Anatomy and Physiology is no different.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by College Prep Science. Copyright 2020 by Greg Landry.
Greg Landry’s online homeschool Anatomy & Physiology Curriculum Class offers a full year (two-semester) option for 9th – 12th grade homeschooled students and a half school year (one semester) options for 6th – 9th grade homeschooled students.
Professor Landry is a former college professor – he designed and ran a gross anatomy (cadaver) lab for junior-level pre-med college students. Over the past 20+ years, he has taught science to thousands of homeschooled students. His students love his online classes that are filled with teaching and stories from the trenches (cadaver tanks) that make anatomy and physiology come to life! The classes cover the anatomy and physiology of all human systems plus the insight that can only come from working with cadavers. His online classes also include time in his virtual anatomy and physiology lab to perform experiments and write lab reports.
Anatomy and physiology is interesting to most students because they’re learning about themselves but it tends to most interesting to students who are leaning towards fields such as: medicine (medical doctor), nursing, athletic training, chiropractic, physician’s assistant, pharmacy, nurse practitioner, exercise science, massage therapy, sports medicine, physical therapy, etc. Professor Landry believes that studying human anatomy and physiology is illuminating God’s Creation and that it reveals His glory.
- Human Anatomy & Physiology (9th-12th) - Two Semester Class
- Pre-Anatomy & Physiology (6th-9th) - One Semester Class
In the words of a homeschool parent…
"Greg, ...what you did for our daughter will have far-reaching effects. You showed her that learning can be enjoyable..."
Thankful in Indiana
Professor Landry also offers homeschool anatomy and physiology/biology in-person two-day lab intensives at 15 locations throughout the U.S. These intensives enable students to complete a full year of anatomy and physiology/biology labs in just two days – while enjoying the process!
Homeschool dad, scientist, and former college professor, Greg Landry, offers live, online homeschool science classes, Homeschool ACT Prep Bootcamp, the Homeschool Mom’s Science Podcast, in-person two-day science lab intensives nationwide, freebies for homeschool moms, and student-produced homeschool print publications.
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her daughter. In the past, she also briefly homeschooled her son, who has autism.
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