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
Last night as I lay in bed, surfing Pinterest for the latest pins on Mesopotamia and astronomy (my daughter's current homeschool topics for history and science), I found a couple, then sent them to my wireless printer to print. It's handy, I admit. But for a lot of printing, using up my toner just doesn't float my boat.
This post may contain affiliate links. This links are curated by the author to bring you the best deals to help you succeed in homeschooling. I receive a small commission, at no cost to you, when you click on and purchase using these affiliate links. I thank you for your support.
I know many homeschoolers who are in a similar situation. They buy one curriculum that they intend on using for children in different grades, or download a curriculum they have to print themselves. Spending over $600 on printing costs isn't what they intended when they filled out their Notice of Intent to Homeschool.
As a homeschooler with 15 years' experience in the printing industry, I understand. I also have the knowledge and experience to bargain printing costs down and look for the best sources. It is my desire to help homeschooling families not break the bank when it comes to their printing needs.
With this in mind, I've taken the years of experience in the printing industry, plus my degree in graphic arts / printing management, and years of being a blogger, and morphed all that into this exciting news: Bentley Homeschool Printing.
Bentley Homeschool Printing serves homeschoolers and homeschooling bloggers with their printing needs, from copies to bookmarks, and most everything in between. More products are being added each day, including booklets, manuals, and even shirts with your homeschool name on them, to help you showcase pride in your homeschool! I'm so proud of this endeavor that I put my name on it: "Bentley" is my maiden name, and it's to memorialize my dad, John Bentley, who died in 2005, as well as my uncle, Fred Bentley, who died very recently.
Plus, Bentley Homeschool Printing is proud to debut Quiver & Arrows Homeschool Literary Magazine. This print - and online - literary magazine is for homeschoolers in 11th and 12th grades. Fundamentally a Christian magazine, it features nine total categories: short and long fiction, nonfiction essays, and six categories of poetry: free verse, blank verse (poetry written with a precise meter—almost always iambic pentameter, non-rhyming), rhymed verse, narrative poetry, Haiku, and sonnet. The submission window for the inaugural edition of Quiver & Arrows is December 20-31, 2020. For more information, visit this website.
Searching for printing solutions that understand your needs as a homeschooling family just got a whole lot easier. I hope you will give Bentley Homeschool Printing an opportunity to serve you.
Thank you for your support!
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Homeschooling is more than moving school into your home: it is your opportunity to create a deeper relationship between learning and your child. When done well, teaching and learning becomes a constant guest that fits into your life instead of rudely interrupting it.
Homeschooling will definitely transform your day, but you have much more power over your schedule than you realize. Being creative and flexible with your school hours, days, and weeks, means having more freedom to make choices you might not have thought possible.
A Life of a Homeschooler is a Life in Flux
When the kids were all very small, consistency was the key to keeping us on task. We chose to hold school year round because it fit our needs. As the kids grew older, baseball became a summer occupation for my husband as a coach. We opened a wider stretch of weeks in the summer for a break. Eventually, we followed closely with the public school schedule when our older children first began attending college, as we didn’t want to miss out on the time that they were home with us for the summer.
We flexed our calendar schedule, but our hourly schedule has seen plenty of change too. With multiple children, we schooled in rounds. The younger children get up earlier, so we would begin with the subjects that they needed my hands-on instruction for. When they were excused for a break, the older kids had instruction time. We wrapped up the day with online math and personal reading time.
Last year, I worked away from home two days a week. We again switched back to year round school AND to a four day week. Because of my work schedule we chose to have school on Saturday mornings instead of a traditional “school” day. With homeschooling, it is your school; you decide when and how you will fulfill your state’s required minimum days of school.
With this flexibility parents find that homeschooling might be a more feasible option where they once thought it was impossible. With co-ops, play groups and activities you can still schedule outside activities with another family or share rides to help cover work schedule overlaps.
Thinking Outside of the Norm
Many parents I speak to are intimidated by homeschooling because of the perceived time commitment. Eight hours a day teaching seems like a daunting requirement for anyone, but especially for the person who has to make the same kids dinner and tell them to do their chores.
Homeschooling takes less hours than you think. A school day is not eight hours long. A school teacher’s workday is eight hours, this is to make up the American standard, 40 hour workweek. If you discount time trading classes, settling in, correcting students and reviewing material covered in the previous class, instructional time is less than 30 minutes on average. If the average school day has seven periods, that is roughly three and a half hours of hands on instructional time.
The four hour school day is not as hard to schedule for. At our house we do school from 10am to 2pm; this works for my schedule as a freelance writer. I work best in the early mornings, while the house is still quiet, but in other homeschools, the kids rise early and do any work that takes parental involvement in the morning hours. A parent can work in the afternoon from home while the children move into their own studies, electives, hobbies and chores. Some parents alternate teaching days with their spouse to fit their work schedules, single parents have created similar approaches to shared teaching times if they live where the state allows parents to teach an unrelated students.
Room to Explore and Be Creative
My public, high school class had over six hundred students. I was able to take one art class, it was the only class I looked forward to and I knew I was not going to have the opportunity to have another one. Homeschool students have the opportunity to explore topics that interest them.
I encourage parents to find ways to discover their children’s interests and make them creditable. Do they play a sport? Homeschooling gives the flexibility for offseason training. Do they love games, tech, photography or art? Classes are available in abundance through homeschool curriculum providers or in the same places I learned how to build a website and improve my blog; classes online.
Education is rapidly changing and adults are taking the reins of their skills and turning to sources outside of the traditional college network. Course creators and creative entrepreneurs are taking notice and creating tools to give those with skills a platform to teach. Our students can receive high school credit while under our supervision for learning any number of skills in and outside of “school” hours.
Creating a schedule that fits your life and the needs of your student will give you a homeschool experience that feels natural and compliments your family’s rhythms. With less stress and conflict, student work gets done and learning can begin to be fun again.
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
Many homeschooling groups and organizations are reporting higher-than-ever interest in homeschooling. With the rise of children being pulled from public school to be homeschooled, inevitably, there will be younger siblings who will want to "do school," too.
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The last thing parents want to do is discourage little ones from learning. Preschoolers like to imitate their older brothers and sisters, so foster a love of learning by incorporating them into homeschool too. Here are a few ways to do just that (and help you teach your homeschoolers at the same time).
Maintain a schedule
Most, if not all, children learn best when on a schedule. It doesn't have to be down to the hour or minute, after all, this isn't public school. For homes blessed with preschoolers and older kids, try to get the older kids up first to start their day. For little ones who wake with the sun, get the older kids up, too, and have "morning time." Incorporate a family read-aloud while you eat breakfast. You can include a devotional during this time, too. Make sure that naps for the youngest member of the family are not ignored or rushed, and mealtimes are on a set schedule.
Include reading time
For children learning to read, or to improve on their reading, have them read to the preschooler while other children do different work at the dining table or a dedicated homeschool space. This gives the reader good practice and involves (read: entertains) the youngest.
Reading to children, of all ages, helps them to visualize the words in their minds and learn them. Even older elementary and middle school students enjoy being read to (and so do your high schoolers, though they would never admit it).
Some precocious little ones will want to do their work, too. After all, they see their older siblings with workbooks and books and manipulatives, so why should they have all the fun? You can acquire pre-k workbooks for children so they can do their lessons, too. Age-appropriate puzzles, blocks, and educational toys are all great things to keep on hand.
It's important to remember that before the age of seven, kids learn mainly by playing. Even children in kindergarten need a great deal of play time -- that is how they learn best. So the educational toys, puzzles, and toys that boost the imagination such as puppets, kitchen sets, and dolls aren't just for "playtime" -- they're instrumental in learning.
Music and art
Music and art are crucial to mind development, in all ages. When writing, I often play Christian concentration music in the background to help me focus, and when homeschooling, I do the same thing for my daughter. Playing instrumental music softly in the background helps develop a peaceful atmosphere in which to learn. Preschoolers thrive in homes where music is appreciated.
Buy too-large plain tshirts to use as smocks, and let your preschooler paint with easy-clean paints in the kitchen or outside. Use brushes that are meant for little hands and be sure to display their artwork when dry.
If you can find a music class for little children, by all means, enroll him or her. Or, if you can't find a class, ask around and try to make one. Or, if all else fails, buy some kiddie instruments and teach them how to play. Recorders, drums, and little guitars are easily found.
Homeschool is all about learning
Your older children need to have some one-on-one time as you teach them, and your preschooler needs you too, and cloning can't be done. The best thing is to work with your preschooler's need to be included, and make sure your other kids know that any help they need that requires complete attention will have to wait for naptime. When homeschooling, it doesn't have to be between the hours of 8 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Homeschool and learning can be spread throughout the day. The important thing is to cultivate a love of learning throughout the home and with all the members of the family -- even the youngest ones.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized educational plan for children with -- or without -- special needs. You're not bound by any restraints on time or subjects so the child can move at his or her pace -- actually learning, not regurgitating facts quickly forgotten.
There is a problem with homeschooling special needs children, tweens, and teens, and that is a lack of assistance and encouragement. Parenting a child with special needs is hard enough; homeschooling a child with special needs can be unmercifully brutal. Homeschooling parents of special needs children need to be encouraged and inspired and know they are not alone.
When my oldest son was in the middle of his senior year in public school, in the special needs department because of autism and bipolar disorder, he had some pretty severe behavior issues that were directly related to being bullied. While I didn't officially homeschool him (as in, withdraw and make a homeschool), I did facilitate home-bound studies and teach him much more than was required -- it was my first foray into homeschooling. He walked at graduation that June and received an occupational certificate of completion.
Now, I teach my youngest daughter in our [official] homeschool. She has dyslexia, chronic migraines, and ADHD. Irregardless of the specific special needs, it's impossible to find a homeschool conference dedicated to teaching special needs of all kinds.
As a mom with four special needs children, who is a homeschooler and a homeschool blogger, I am ecstatic to announce the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference. My nine years' worth of event planning has helped me recruit giants in the homeschooling blogging community and special needs advocates such as the renowned Dr. Temple Grandin.
I know, full well, that parents of special needs kiddos have a very difficult time going to in-person conferences -- that's why it's online. I also know that live online conferences are hard, too, because you have to be committed to sit at the computer and watch live sessions. Special needs parents don't have time for that. All the sessions for the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference are pre-recorded, so you can pause, help a child, go to the bathroom, and not miss anything.
The conference brings participants over 19 speakers with over 30 sessions on encouraging and inspiring homeschooling parents of special needs children, tweens, and teens. A few sessions include:
I am so excited to announce the keynotes of the conference. Not only is Durenda Wilson sharing her wisdom in the keynote "Unhurried Homeschooling: Why We Need to Slow Down," and Lee Felix of Like Minded Musings is speaking on "3 Keys to Parenting the Heart of Your Special Needs Child," and Carol Anne Swett of Homeschool Answer Mom is speaking on staying the course and overcoming doubt during your special needs homeschooling journey in her keynote "Homeschooling When You Can't See The Finish Line," but renowned autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin will be sharing her thoughts on teaching special needs children of all ages in a conversation she had with me.
I am so honored to have these incredible men and women -- giants in the homeschool blogging world and special needs advocates -- join me for this first-ever Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference. Participants will receive lifetime access for the sessions, plus a digital swag bag of coupons, printables, and freebies from speakers and sponsors. In addition, participants will have access to a social media group for interaction and community-building, because, you are not alone.
Sponsors of the conference are Homeschooling One Child, BJU Press Homeschool, True North Homeschool Academy, Powerline Productions, and HSLDA.
This conference is just $22. For just $22 you as a homeschooling parent of a special needs child can be encouraged and inspired to keep on homeschooling your precious gifts -- your children. The conference goes live on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, so don't delay! To register for this incredible conference, click here today.
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
You've made the decision to pull your child from public or private school and homeschool. Great! Now what?
Kids and parents who have been part of public schools are used to certain activities and behaviors: school is from 8 or so in the morning to 2, 2:30, or 3 in the afternoon, give or take. There are very few textbooks if at all, and most of the homework is via worksheets, the Internet, or projects. Learning is always judged on what a child has done with said homework, tests, end-of-grade texts, standardized testing, and report cards. Field trips, while a fun part of a school year, are few and far between and may or may not have anything to do with the curriculum. Reading is a chore. Don't get me started on the fundraising.
So you've made the decision, for what ever reason, to go from the above to homeschooling. Perhaps you know some homeschoolers. Perhaps you were once homeschooled yourself. Perhaps you have a pre-conceived idea that you don't have enough children to homeschool as most homeschoolers you know have at least nine kids, a huge 15-passenger van, three goats, and make their own hummus.
There are many homeschoolers who, for whatever reason, only teach one child, have a normal sized-vehicle, own no goats. I don't even like hummus.
Regardless of how or why you came to homeschool, if you pull your children from public or private school to homeschool, you will need to "deschool." Deschooling is a process in which you and your children unlearn behaviors, attitudes, and notions about what school is like, "should" look like, and what it will look like in your own, personalized, special homeschool. It's like an educational detox. So how do you do this?
The first thing to do is to formally register your homeschool with your state, according to your state's requirements, and officially withdraw your children from their schools. You will need the official paperwork from the state with your homeschool's name to withdraw, but it's easy to obtain after your register your homeschool. Always register your homeschool prior to withdrawing your students.
After that, deschooling can begin. Have a conversation with your kids about what they want their homeschool to be like. If they have input, than the homeschool will be more likely to succeed. Look at homeschool catalogs, attend homeschool conferences and conventions, and explore curricula together.
Do some Internet research on area homeschool groups and meetings, and just explore. Many museums and historical sites, plus science centers, have homeschool days or programs. In the days, weeks, and months of deschooling, don't focus on academic work so much as learning in different ways.
That's the beauty of deschooling before you start a formal or eclectic curriculum: learning can happen without worksheets (gasp!). Learning can happen while watching a "How it's Made" television show or documentary, and it can happen with just conversations. You're focusing during the period of deschooling on figuring out what your child's learning style is, so you can teach so that he will learn the best way.
Eventually, especially for high school, you will want to keep grades for the transcript. But don't focus so much energy on the numbers of grades; instead, focus on what the child is learning. If she is really into horses, allow her to learn about the science of horses, the art of horses, and horsemanship. She can study about horses in history -- horses' involvement in World War I would be a great research paper for high school.
Some homeschooling families choose to continue deschooling as a curriculum. With my daughter, we have an eclectic homeschool: we don't have a boxed curriculum; instead, it's a mix-and-match of various resources. We do a good bit of deschooling as we talk a lot, watch documentaries and educational TV, and go on a lot of field trips.
Field trips are incredible learning experiences. We have gone to museums, science centers, historical battlefields, and learned so much about many topics. It makes what you're learning in books real. Recently Laura was learning about colonial North Carolina and how the early colonists used the Great Dismal Swamp to transport goods. We visited my oldest daughter and her husband in Norfolk, Virginia, and passed by the Great Dismal Swamp, even going to the visitor center and learning about it. Going home and studying the swamp's impact on colonial North Carolina and Virginia after that hammered the information in. It's a good idea to gauge if kids are getting anything out of field trips -- download this Field Trip Report and print it out for each child, as an on-the-way home activity to do in the car.
Deschooling will get your and your kids in a different rhythm for homeschool. And, listen -- homeschool does not have to happen between 8 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. It can happen any time, as long as it happens. It's not constricted to Monday-Friday, either. You can take time off for vacations, time off if you need a mental health day, or homeschool on the weekend. It's all up to you and your family. Enjoy this time.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
You've pulled your child out of public school, you've purchased a curriculum for hundreds of dollars, and you've hung a dry erase board on your dining room wall. You've filed all the necessary paperwork and even picked out a name. You're excited to do this school-at-home thing!
The first day went by great, and why shouldn't it? Your child was ecstatic to do school in his pajamas! She was so happy to not have to get up at 6:30 a.m. for the school bus. The second day went okay. By the time the fifth day rolled around, your child was fussing about something, you lost all the dry erase markers, and the cat puked up something indescribable on the new curriculum. You couldn't figure it out.
You had carefully planned out eight hours of instructional time. Sure, they ended the school day at five p.m., but they started at 10 a.m.! And would it be too much to ask if they'd sit at the dining table to do their school work? Is it asking too much for pants to be worn?
Whoa, there, Mama. The real reason your homeschool isn't working is this: comparison. You're comparing your homeschool to public school, or your homeschool of one week to the homeschool veteran of 23 years down the street. You know the one: you had talked with her on your daily break to get the mail. She had asked how it was going and you started sobbing about dry erase markers, cold coffee sitting in the microwave, the dining table looked like it had been ransacked by the entire dwarvan cast of "The Lord of the Rings: The Hobbit," and the week's worth of groceries was gone in 2-1/2 days.
Your homeschool is just that: your homeschool. It's not "school at home." Homeschool is supposed to encompass so much more than building volcanoes, diagramming sentences, or learning one-school philosophy, Socratic-method style.
You stopped reading at "diagramming sentences," didn't you? No, you don't have to teach diagramming sentences...unless you want to.
What works in my homeschool will not work in a homeschool thirty miles from me, or three blocks from me. What works in my homeschool is tailored for my almost-ten year old daughter. We don't teach from a full-box curriculum. It's patchworked-together based on her level and how much she wants (read: needs) to be challenged.
When you pull kids from public school and start homeschooling, you almost need to go through a period of de-schooling. This strategy is for both children and parents: unlearning what it means to "do school." Unlearning what that looks like. For example, instead of doing school sitting at the table, why can't you go to the couch to read about the Spanish-American War? Why can't you write your spelling words laying on the floor in front of the fire? Why must we be physically uncomfortable while learning?
Say you read a novel laying in bed. You enjoy it, don't you? You're warm, comfortable, and you're engaged in the book. Don't you want your kids associating warm, comfortable, engaging thoughts with learning? I know I do. Learning is not relegated to straight-back chairs and dry-erase boards (although I do have -- and use -- a dry erase board, and an old-school chalkboard). Using tools like boards and computers and YouTube on a screen is not a bad idea, and certainly doing schoolwork at a table has benefits too. We almost always do math at the table as we go over problems on the chalkboard. I'm just saying -- comparing your day or how you do homeschool to how it's done in public or private schools, or even other homeschools, robs your family of the joy of the homeschool experience.
How do you de-school? You have a conversation with each other about everyone's expectations are. What do you want your homeschool to look like? Do you want to homeschool in the morning or afternoon? Or throughout the day? Do you work outside the home, maybe switching shifts with your spouse? So maybe the kids split their academic time up. Do you homeschool and work in the home, as I do? So you trade off homeschool and work time in a delicate balancing act. There's no one right -- or wrong -- way to homeschool. You have to do what works for your family and not what the expectation of "school" means.
Listen: homeschool is as much a place of learning as public or private school. It's just a different style and place of learning. And no one has the right to tell you any different. Ultimately, these are your children; you are responsible before God and the State to take care of them, and if you have chosen homeschool as their academic path, well, Grandma and Aunt Millie and Uncle Bob and Brother Don and Sister Lucy have no say at all in the matter. Period. Bam.
It's totally up to you to decide what schedule fits best with your homeschool. In our house, homeschooling doesn't end at 2:30 p.m. In the morning, it's get up by nine, breakfast, meds, get at the dining table by 10 for prayer, Bible, spelling, and math. Then we have a 20-minute break. We grab the history and science books and go to the couch, and read a chapter. We talk about it. We may watch a YouTube video (I make a homeschool list of videos to watch the coming week) on the historical subject we're learning about, and we watch and talk about it together. We then read the chapter in science. A video may or may not be watched for science, too. Then, she goes back to the table to answer questions for history and science. Usually it's time to run errands or go to doctors appointments or clean the kitchen. Laura has chores every day to do: feed and water the cats, unload the dishwasher, pick up the living room, etc. She usually helps with meal prep for dinner. We're trying to get out of the habit of collapsing in a heap on the sofa after dinner to watch television, and instead reading, playing board games, or something as a family. Our homeschool rarely goes past 2 p.m. Our homeschool rarely goes over four hours (and that is totally okay).
(You want to know a secret? With behavior corrections, meetings, assemblies, lunches, specials, working with kids, managing parental communications, and dealing with administration -- a public school day never has eight complete hours of pure instructional time. Never).
The biggest reason your homeschool is not working is you're trying to replicate the public school experience you just pulled your child from. If that had worked, your child most likely would still be at that school. Listen: if your child was bullied, there are no bullies in your school. It's safe. If your child has special needs and the IEP or 504 plans weren't being followed, there are no IEP or 504 plans in your homeschool because homeschool by definition is all about individualized educational plans. Stop comparing and trying to replicate your school and make it into a school where your child will not just succeed, but excel.
If he is interested in trains, by all means let him learn all about trains. That encompasses reading, math, engineering, science, history--everything. If your daughter loves all things horses, then let her learn about horses. Again, reading, math, science, history, even physical education if you can find horseback riding lessons.
A word about reading: if you want to homeschool your pre-K or kindergarten-level child, please know that children are pushed into reading before they are ready, in public schools. It is very much okay if a five year old doesn't read well, doesn't write well, or shapes allude him. Buy some shape toys, colored toys, books, and simply get in the floor and play with her. Build things. Build a fort under the table and get under it with a flashlight and a stack of books, lay on your backs, and read to him. Playing and reading with and to your child will teach him more than worksheets ever will at that age.
Be encouraged, parents! You can do this! Extend grace to yourself, clean off the dining table, and start fresh and new, tomorrow morning. You can do it!
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
My daughter spent two-and-a-half years in public school; she has also spent a total of two years now in homeschool, so I feel like I have a unique perspective on the whole "socialization" debate.
I know that since every child is different, and no two homeschools or public schools are the same, so the experiences that my daughter and I have are unique to Laura and I. So I can only offer what experiences we have had.
I homeschooled Laura the first semester of Kindergarten. Life interrupted, and I had to enroll her in an elementary school near our home due to unforeseen circumstances that were out of our control. She went to public school for the remainder of kindergarten, first grade, and then second grade. We withdrew her from public school and started homeschooling her at the very beginning of third grade. She is now in the fourth grade in homeschool.
During the two-and-a-half years she was in public school, she alternated between being shy during times when it would have been good for her to talk up, and she was talkative when she it was required for her to be quiet. She's imaginative, playful, spirited, and social by nature. She's a born leader, but was shy around adults to the point that she would not ask for help if she needed it. She learned that adults in authority were not to be questioned, which in her mind meant not asking for help. I do not mean to question authority by any means -- I mean, she learned that if a teacher or adult did something, and she didn't understand, she just let it go instead of asking questions. Asking questions, to Laura, meant a child didn't know what was going on so they spent recess inside being tutored instead of out on the playground.
Laura has chronic migraines, ADHD, and dyslexia. She missed about twenty days of school in second grade due to migraines alone, then throw ten days' missed due to back-to-back episodes of Flu Type A and Type B. Her dyslexia required her to go to a special class for reading; during the time she was in the reading class, her teacher would hand out the spelling word lists. Laura never asked for the spelling words and the teacher assumed that she had them. So her spelling tests dove off cliffs into seas of failing grades.
When we learned of the spelling test fiasco, we made it known in a meeting that she is to have her spelling lists. Laura was asked by the teacher, why didn't you get up and get the list out of the cubby? She said, "You said we were to stay seated. I thought I couldn't get up and get them."
This is the socialization that we experienced in public school: sit down, be quiet, no talking, do your work. No wiggling. Walk in straight lines to the cafeteria and library. Stay on the right side of the hallway. Don't question teachers or principals.
Listen: there are things being taught in public schools that should be questioned. History is being re-written and that should be questioned. Biology is being re-written and that should be questioned. When schools do not allow questioning of curriculum or adults who are teaching curriculum that is contrary to nature or historical fact, that is when alarms should go off. When kids are taught from elementary school to not question, they are being set up to blindly accept any and all things being taught by adults in authority--no matter how false they are.
Since Laura has been homeschooled from the beginning of third grade, her self-esteem has increased. Last year, during a children's Christmas program at our church, she read (on grade level!) the Christmas story from Luke 2, in front of the entire congregation. She accidentally bumped the hand-held mic and it fell down; the sound tech was nearby and had to fix it while she stood there, in front of everyone. I thought she was going to cry. But She Who Would Have Cried A Year Before swallowed hard, smiled, and started over at Luke 2:1, with boldness and feeling. I was so proud.
Laura, now, walks up to the librarian at our local library and asks for help to find a book or access to the computer--without me. If she is given information that she doesn't understand, she will ask for clarification. She takes ownership of her homeschool materials and her education.
She walks beside adults, so she can see where she's going and to ask questions, instead of behind them, trusting the route they're going is correct.
This past weekend my husband, Laura, and I were at a wheelchair basketball tournament my husband was playing in. Laura found another child, introduced herself, and created games for the two of them to play while their respective parents were playing or watching basketball. As the other child was younger than her, she led the child and protected him from runaway balls or people in wheelchairs. She shared snacks with him.
This weekend, Laura initiated and talked with people of all ages, skin colors, and abilities. She is not learning that this group of kids can learn this way and that group of kids is learning something else because they are different. Because of homeschooling, she is learning that we all have various abilities, and that kindness goes a long way.
Because of homeschooling, she is learning that if she needs to use the bathroom, she just needs to go. Asking permission to take care of one's bodily functions is the first step toward socialism, and the government is not in charge of my body--or Laura's. She is learning real-world situations and how we deal with them (such as health crises, taking care of elderly loved ones, financial issues, traveling, etc). She is learning that God steers her life's ship.
So what about socialization? Laura interacts with kids of all ages wherever she goes: the park, church, her American Heritage Girls troop, the neighborhood. Life is not divided into age groups; children need to know how to get along with people of all ages, nations, creeds, and colors. She also knows who she is, Whose she is, and what she believes--that is what I want for my daughter.
Last year, she and I were at a grocery store and were wearing our homeschool t-shirts, as we had been on a field trip that day. A stranger in the check-out line noticed the shirts and struck up a conversation with her. Don't you just love it when total strangers feel they have to proctor exams with homeschooled kids in grocery stores?
The stranger asked Laura what grade she was in. She said, "Third." The stranger then asked what she was learning about in homeschool. She said, "The Civil War." The stranger said, "Ohhhh! Can you tell me a reason for the civil war?" I knew what she was fishing for: slavery.
Laura said, "Yes, when the American colonies were first colonized, there were three divisions: northern, middle, and southern. The British discovered more iron and coal in the northern colonies so that made them more industrial, and the middle colonies had little farms, but the southern colonies had huge farms. So right off the bat, that made tensions between the three sections as the southern colonies needed more manpower..."
The stranger's eyes were huge. She then cleared her throat and asked me, "Well, what do you do for socialization?"
Laura didn't hesitate. "Excuse me, ma'am, but...I'm talking with you, aren't I?"
The question of socialization is a moot point. There are plenty of opportunities to get kids together and they will interact. It's important the kids see the parents interact, too--as they learn as much from watching us as they do from curriculum. While we need to protect our kids in this era of "stranger danger," we also need to allow supervised opportunities like the one we had in the grocery store.
(C) 2020 Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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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