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Showing posts with label NFAHM lost files. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NFAHM lost files. Show all posts

Saturday, November 29, 2008

We we started homeschooling (a recap)

This is a recap of why we began homeschooling written for my National Examiner website.

Probably more odd than a homeschooling mom writing about education in general is the fact that I have nothing against public education. In fact, I believe that some children thrive quite well in public schools, and many even excell. Still I have opted to homeschool my children. I have my reasons.


If you go back to my First year lost files, you will find a similar recap.

Read more Notes From a Homeschooling Mom

Visit Me at the Families.com Homeschool Blog

Visit My Education Column at Examiner.com

Saturday, January 19, 2008

How to Homeschool (NFAHM lost files)

The Lost FilesPrologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 2
Chapter 9: A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1
Chapter 9 : A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 2
Chapter 10 : Homeschool Burn-out
Chapter 11 : At Their Own Pace
Chapter 12 : A tailored Education
Chapter 13 :How To Homeschool


If, you have decided to homeschool, or at least are giving it a great deal of consideration. There are many things to deliberate. First, you have to find out about the legalities of homeschooling in your state. Next, you have to decide how you are going to homeschool your child. Lastly, you need to tailor your homeschooling choices to the specific needs and strengths of your children.

Homeschooling is regulated by the state and controlled by local school boards. Many local school boards may give you the impression that you need to ask permission to homeschool, the truth is you do not. Repeatedly, the local school districts have taken steps to approve or deny homeschool letter of intent forms. They do this by calling them "applications". They are not applications. They are letters of intention, simply stating that you intend to homeschool your child. You do not need approval in any state to homeschool. In fact, .homeschooling has always been legal in all 50 states. It has been a bit of a fight to get the various members of the education and social services establishment to accept that fact, but great progress has been made. Currently about two-thirds of the states have specific laws authorizing and regulating homeschooling. In the balance of the states, homeschoolers may legally operate as a small private school or provide .equivalent instruction.. The details vary considerably from state to state and opinions about the law vary from district to district.. (Michael Farris HSLDA.ORG)

Some states are more restrictive than others are. The amount of restrictions vary greatly, from one state just assuming that you are homeschooling if you do not send your children to school, to other states mandating that you form a private school, complete with all the paperwork involved if you choose to homeschool. Currently the least restrictive states are Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Texas. The most Restrictive States to homeschool in are Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. To find out where your state stands on homeschooling rules and regulations you stand you need to do a quick internet search on www.hslda.org or www.homeschool.com .

There are as many ways to homeschool a child as there are children. No two are alike, so no approach is alike. However, there are some basic schools of thought or methods when it comes to homeschooling approaches.

One of these approaches is Classical Education. It is one of the more known and a popular approach for college bound homeschoolers. Based on the Trivium (consisting to three phases), an educational model that used for centuries, Classical education focuses on the learning stages of children as they mature. Because children are particularly adept at memorization during the Grammar Phase, a child learns subjects like history and science through facts. During the next stage, the logic phase, which children usually hit in grades seven through 8th, their propensity for arguing is taken into account, and they take the facts previously learned and order the facts into statements and arguments. This is when children start to think independently. Finally, in the Rhetoric stage, once a student has obtained knowledge of the facts and developed the ability to argue those facts, he then learns the skill of communicating those arguments to others. The most popular and probably the best book available today to get you started on a Classical education is The Well-Trained Mind by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise-Bauer.

There is also the Unit studies approach, which involves teaching all subjects through projects, or units. For example, you might decide to learn about lizards. You would then plan a unit study in which you will pull together all of the information you can find about lizards. From this information you will use, spelling and vocabulary works, biology of lizards, art projects. If you are creative, you may even be able to create a math lesson using lizards. Only your imagination will limit you. Once the unit is complete, you will want to cement the knowledge with a field trip to a lizard exhibit.

Probably the most radical form of homeschooling is unschooling. Unschooling means child led learning. Within the unschooling movement, there are many sub-groups. Unschooling parents supply whatever learning tools a child asks for as they ask for them. This means the child has shown interest and readiness in a subject and is therefore to tackle it. Some unschoolers still teach the child to read and do math, some completely leave the child alone to learn these things for themselves. In the end, I have found, in speaking with children who were unschooled that they all did eventually learn to read, spell correctly, write coherently, and perform math problems on varied levels. To learn more about unschooling, look for books by John Holt.

In addition to these, there are many more forms of homeschooling, but they are all combinations of the three types mentioned above. For example, the Charlotte Mason method is a cross between classical homeschooling and unschooling. Using this method, one would give their child brief daily lessons in addition to uninterrupted free time. This would enable the student to pursue individual, discovery-based learning activities. The premise is learning should be fun, not burdensome, so children can develop a love of learning for its own sake. This approach best describes how my children and I are currently homeschooling. We spend 3 hours a day on music practice, and online learning programs, assigned reading, and writing. Then they have at least 4 afternoons a week to explore their own interests.

As I just mentioned, I use online learning tools and programs instruct my children each morning. We do this because our family enjoys technology. There may be a family interested in a similar homeschooling approach that has philosophical reasons not to use technology, and so has no computer or other electronics in the home. That is fine, they would use books and lesson plans to teach their children instead.


Once you input your own family lifestyle and personality into your homeschool plan, along with allowing for your child.s personal learning styles and needs, you will find that you homeschool unlike any other family you ever meet. Because of this, you should never follow to the law, anyone else.s homeschooling plan. Developing your family.s homeschooling process may be a difficult and sometimes lonely path to follow, but in the end, you will be happy that you did the work yourself.

You should be aware that your homeschool plan will very likely change from the day you start homeschooling to the end of the first year, and will continue to evolve over time. It will very likely change drastically. Personally, I started out the year determined to do unit studies. It did not take me long to figure out that I lacked that kind of organizational skill, and that my children needed an interactive program to hold their attention. Unit studies are a great idea, but they were just not for us. Unfortunately, there is no way for you to know in advance whether an approach will work unless you try it.

I will now pass on the best advice given to me before I started homeschooling. It is to keep your money in your pocket the first year. Homeschool curriculums are expensive, ranging from $500 to $2000+ a year. You would be much better off piecing your curriculum together the first year, until you figure out what will work for you. If you choose to use the internet, you can actually find tons or unit studies, lesson plans, and online learning games for free. Homeschooling does not have to cost a fortune.

Purchasing a pre-made curriculum can make your life easy, but if it does not work for your child, it can also be a very expensive mistake. (I previously wrote this several years ago)

Read more Notes From a Homeschooling Mom

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A tailored Education

The Lost FilesPrologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 2
Chapter 9: A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1
Chapter 9 : A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 2
Chapter 10 : Homeschool Burn-out
Chapter 11 : At Their Own Pace
Chapter 12 : A tailored Education


In giving your child a customized, individualized education, one must realize that allowing the child to progress at his or her own pace is only half of the process. Equally important is allowing the child to focus on an area he or she is especially talented in, or in which they are extremely interested.

If you look at children involved in Hollywood, Broadway, Amateur Sports, or the music industry, you will find that most of these children have one thing in common. They are homeschooled. Many homeschool by necessity, however, homeschooling allows them to have a career while they are still children. I am by no means suggesting homeschoolers push their children into any of these areas prematurely. What I am suggesting, however, is homeschooling parents allow their children to focus in areas in which they are naturally inclined, or for which they have a great deal of passion. I like to call it majoring, to borrow the college term.

My own children for example, major in Piano. It was my son’s desire, two years ago, to play the piano. After school once a week, I would take him and his sister to piano lessons. I chose to take both children because I thought that every child should have some experience with the instrument, and I had heard that music helps to develop your brain mathematically. They both loved it and had no problem catching on. My son Jackson has added the flute as well, and Jordan has now has picked up the ability to play by ear.

At age 8, before he even started homeschooling Jackson had already declared that music would to be his major. As I was sitting outside of his piano lesson one day, I heard Jackson’s teacher tell him that his new books, which he had just received last week were suddenly too easy for him. He already needed a new set of books. Something had clicked, and he his playing had suddenly advanced in a short period. She will be bringing him classical books next week. After his lesson, and while his sister was playing, I questioned him about his feelings and his progress. He informed me that he likes playing instruments and learning to write music more than anything; even sports. He said, when he starts homeschooling, he wants to add flute lessons and to spend more time on music.

He continues to hold interest in these instruments and at this time is trying to decide what instrument to add to his portfolio next. His desire to major in music has heavily influenced my recent decision to enroll him and his sister Jordan in a school for the arts, which they will attend four or more hours a week. I am enrolling both children because Jordan has repeatedly expressed an interest in singing, dancing, and drama, and this school has all of these elements.


After spending an entire day at the local Masters Academy recently, I am confident that starting next August, I will be able to give my children the opportunity to focus more on what they love. The programs consist of Art, Music, and drama, all based on historical times. Therefore, they get the full picture of history instead of just facts. They can also choose elective classes that will allow them to focus on the instruments or discipline of their choice. The school teaches from a biblical perspective, which is also important to us. In addition, I do not have to drive all over town for different extracurricular lessons.

As a college student might switch majors from year to year, young children may very well switch majors from month to month. This does not mean they have wasted a moment’s time pursuing something they would eventually drop. Instead, it means they receive a crash course, and probably a deeper understanding in a subject than they would have received had they taken the course in a more traditional matter.

This is autodidactic learning. An autodidactic learner is self-educated. These self-
learners have an enthusiasm for knowledge, and instead of waiting for the right time to learn something, they dive right into it as soon as the interest arises, even before any so-called pre-requisites. Because the curiosity is there, the person learns enthusiastically. If they had waited until allowed, to they would have surely lost interest in the subject before they got to it. For example, about a month after I had began homeschooling our children, I went away for a few days and my husband stayed home from work to be with the children. When I returned, he and my daughter informed me that she had learned to multiply. .But" I protested, "She has not mastered subtraction yet"! .How does that stop her from learning to multiply?" my husband asked. .I have no idea", was my answer.

You cannot teach all subjects out of order, of course, but interest in a subject certainly makes it much easier to learn. Traditional schooling insists that we wait until we are old enough and have a wide enough range of knowledge before we can make decisions about our future careers. So often, by this point we have forgotten or have not had enough time to pursue subjects that once warmed out hearts. By the time we reach college, we have already learned to make life decisions based on the popular profession of the day or based on the amount of money we can make. An autodidactic learner, instead, studies the subject of their hearts desire, and then figures out how to make money doing it.

Another reason self motivated learning is an asset to homeschooling is that it helps to rule out fields that one might decide they dislike, before investing a lot of time and money. One can avoid this by participating in an internship at a young age. Many homeschooled teenagers, instead of learning from a book about a subject that might interest them, may work as an intern in the field, or even take a money-paying job. When you are working in your chosen field, you have a better chance of determining if this is something you want to do with your life. The job helps to confirm whether they want to pursue the career further. It also allows them to feel comfortable spending money on a degree. In addition, it can lead to an ongoing internship that will lead to a job in the end. For those who decide that the career is not for them, they have saved a great deal of money, and possibly even earned some money in the process, and can now explore other possibilities.


For those children who find their calling, or declare a major early in life and stick to it, you can end up with a child prodigy. Stories of child prodigies are much more common within the homeschooling community than in the traditional schooling community. This might be because homeschooling makes sense for a child that is an over achiever and is, in essence a by-product of such achievement. As homeschooling becomes more and more popular, however, these stories seem to become more and more frequent.

There is a true story about a young man who won the MacArthur Fellowship Award, in 2002. His name is Erik Demaine. His father Martin removed him from school at seven years of age. They traveled the country together on a very meager budget if $5000.00 per year while homeschooling. Martin taught his son from borrowed books, at bookstores and at libraries. His father worked from the theory that the child should spend 1 hour a day on his overall education with the rest of the day dedicated to his own interests.

At 12 years old, with no school records, he joined the computer science department of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as an associate professor. By age 22, the MIT professor whose work fuses art, science, work and play was the recipient of a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the "genius" grant. He was the youngest of the 24 recipients that year.

I am not expecting this kind of genius to be a by-product of homeschooling my children. Erik Demaine was obviously born with this potential already within him. What I am expecting however, it that my children will be able to focus on whatever it is that moves their hearts to the point that they will be able to excel in their chosen field.

As for receiving a well-rounded education, homeschoolers do not neglect all other subjects in lie of studying only the major. I assure you that though some people may not study chemistry, or geometry, or Latin, homeschoolers do receive well-rounded educations. Erik Demaine’s father for example, took one hour a day to make sure his son learned subjects outside of his immediate interests. In most cases, the parent uses their "school" time to focus on reading, and math, especially since these are the subjects on required standardized tests. You would be amazed how much reading and math can be learned in 1 hour when there in only one or two children. As for science, social studies, and other subjects, they are all around us. Trips to Zoos museums and even watching the television gives us more knowledge than we even realize.

In my case, we spend two hours a day learning "subjects". We do four or five days a week. We are not in school waiting for the class to quiet, waiting on lines, or dealing with other distractions. Therefore, every learning hour spent at home easily equals two hours spent in school. In addition, our "school" time does not include physical education (Tae Kwon Do), music lessons, Home economics, health, and a host of many other subjects that occur naturally as a part of daily living.

(reminder: this was written several years ago)

Read more Notes From a Homeschooling Mom

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Friday, January 11, 2008

At Their Own Pace

The Lost FilesPrologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 2
Chapter 9: A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1
Chapter 9 : A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 2
Chapter 10 : Homeschool Burn-out
Chapter 11 : At Their Own Pace


Probably the single most important benefit of homeschooling is the fact that you can give your child a customized, individualized education. By definition alone, homeschooling is an individualized education based on the child’s needs, strengths and weaknesses. Even in the very best of schools, it is just not possible for one child to have such attention placed on them alone, not to mention two children. They are not necessarily able to excel at their own speed, or slow the pace of the program when necessary.

This past year, it was finally clear to me just how personalized homeschooling could be. I grasped the concept early on, but once I actually experienced it, I now realize the full value.

One aspect of a personalized education is that I can make unscheduled changes in the
lesson and go to outside sources for extra help whenever I need to. For example, when my son was working on fractions he scored 70% on the exam at the end of the unit, so I had him redo it. Had he been in school, they would have just recorded his score and moved on to decimals. This is a problem. If you do not master fractions, you cannot begin to understand decimals or anything more difficult. Math will fall apart at this point, as it does for so many children.

Being a typical 9-year-old boy, my son prefers to do his math work independently, but since he was having problems, I decided to observe him more closely as he went through the math exercises. I was able to see that his problem was in reducing fractions and converting whole numbers to fractions before he could subtract. I then went to a different website called edhelper.com, and printed the corresponding worksheets. I printed one for reducing fractions, another for converting mixed fractions and whole numbers, and a third worksheet for adding and subtracting mixed fractions.

By working through these together, we got through the fractions section with a 95%
grade. There was no need to accept a lower grade, and I refuse to as well, because I
know that unless you master certain math skills, you will be weak in all that follow. If for some reason he cannot get through any subject or unit, I am always able to search for new ways, or perhaps a person other than myself to get him through this rough spot.

While it took him a month to get through the fractions section, he did the following four sections within a month.s time. These sections included adding, subtracting, and
multiplying decimals, and percentages, which transitioned into doing the same with
money. The reason he was able to do these next units at an accelerated speed is that he had a firm understanding of fractions, and before that, multiplication. Had I accepted the low grade for the fractions unit, more low grades would have surely followed.

Having the teacher all to oneself, has another great advantage. In the case of a child who is hyperactive, or Attention Deficit, this child is not under as many restrictions as they would have in a classroom. There is no one to complain that this child is disturbing them, and there is no one to steal the attention of an easily distractible child.

Consider this example: One child sits in a classroom, quiet as a mouse and listens as the teacher instructs the class. They receive a .B. average on their report cards. From time to time the child.s mind drifts, but they never utter a word, and when they do have a question to ask, they raise their hand. Sometimes the teacher acknowledges their question, sometimes she does not, and they eventually get tired of holding their hand in the air and gives up. The teacher always describes this child as a joy to have in the classroom, and the parents are happy with the cild's progress.

Another child failed miserably in school. They were a disruption to the teacher and other students. When a teacher asked a question the child would blurt out the answer without raising their hand first, or they would just not pay attention at all. They would rather socialize with the children around them. That child does not go to school anymore. Now they work at a computer at home, usually while standing. When they do use a chair, they are usually on their knees and the chair is on two legs. They stop occasionally to do a little dance, or to run screaming through the house. However, when they find something that engrosses them, they can sit still and quiet for hours. The parents, of this child are often a bit frazzled and worn. However, just knowing the child no longer sees itself as a failure gives the parent-renewed strength. In fact, the child is 5 months ahead of a child in the same grade in the local public school.

I was the first child. Although there were never any complaints from me, or from my
teachers in school, I detested being there. It took years before I was able to figure out the system in order to get better grades. I did not call it cheating; I considered it creative studying, especially in high school. (Creative studying on one history class involved paying previous student of the same teacher for last years tests, as the teacher gave the same tests each year.) I have to admit, although I was at the top of my graduating class, I have managed to retain very little information learned in school.

My daughter is the second child. I do not want her to learn how to play the system in order to please the adults around her. I want her simply to learn. By observing her and evaluating her progress, I have come to find that no child will fail if they are in the right surroundings for them.

You might wonder how a mother with no formal teaching experience can assess her
children progress accurately and without prejudice. Personally, unless I am looking to see where they need extra help, I do not grade their exams myself. I rely on the computer programs and compare information from the local school system to help me make these assessments. Public schools also use the same programs I use to homeschool my children. It has a parental access section that clearly spells out goals and objectives for every unit. To make sure that my children were on the same track as the children in the local public school, I accessed the schools goals and objectives for the year, which are easily available on the internet. By comparing them line item for line item, I found the program I was using matched the local schools program, and seemed to possibly me more intensive. I later found out that it meets "No Child Left Behind" standards.

In the homeschooling community, meeting such standards is not necessarily a desired
goal. It is preferable for the children enjoy learning, and so gain a lifelong love for knowledge. Nevertheless, as a mother new to homeschooling, I was worried that I might damage my children and leave gaps in their education. I needed to be sure I was being thorough. It will probably be a few years before I completely free myself from the compulsive need to compare my children with formally schooled children. Until then I know the information I need is available on the internet, just a few key strokes away.

I do not find fault with schools for falling short in providing individualized education for all children. It is a physical impossibility for a teacher to give each child such individualized attention. Therefore, it is beyond the systems control. In order for each child to be able to learn at their own pace and in their own way, there would have to be an extremely low student teacher ratio, lower than what you would find in 99% of public and private schools.



Read more Notes From a Homeschooling Mom

Visit Free Home Ed. Homeschool For Free!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Homeschool Burn-out

The Lost Files
Prologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 2
Chapter 9: A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1
Chapter 9 : A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 2
Chapter 10 : Homeschool Burn-out


When I began reading and studying about homeschooling, I noticed that every book I read mentioned the possibility of burn out or stress. .What weak-minded individuals., I thought. .How can your own children burn you out?. I thought that preparing to and becoming fully educated before beginning to homeschool, would somehow magically prevent such burn out. I was in for a big surprise!

I will not say that I completely burned out, but I can say I saw it coming. As is usual every winter, right before Christmas, my mood shifted to gloomy. (Even though this happens every year, somehow, I am never prepared for it.) In previous years, I combated this feeling by sleeping a bit more, and cutting back on my workload. Because I was homeschooling this year, I never found the time to take my normal 2:30 nap, and cutting back on my workload this year would mean not teaching my children. I was not willing to do that. Therefore, I had to learn to deal with my stress.

There are days when my kids and I do get sick of each other, from being joined at the hip all day, and I cannot wait for my husband to get home. On some of those days, run for the computer room and shut the door, other times I go for a ride because I am overwhelmed and need a break. There are other days when I have the good sense to say, .let us just stop everything, sit down, and enjoy each other.. Days like this make up for all of the stresses.

Occasionally changing our routine has helped me relieve a lot of stress. On some days, we do social studies in bed. As we snuggle amongst the soft down comforters and fluffy pillows, I read and explain each chapter and we memorize rhymes to our hearts’ content. When they do not understand something, I can draw pictures for them, and that helps them to. Because of this, I have realized that they are visual learners, and my talent for art suddenly has become more useful than I thought. So when the days get too monotonous, and I feel the stress level rising beyond my control, I like to yell out, "History in Bed!" and we race up the stairs to read and learn and rhyme and to be close.

Still there were days when I was unable to shake that gloomy feeling, and find a creative way to get through the day. On those days, I would have an overwhelming need to be alone. Things that would never disturb me on a normal day would annoy me. Offenses like a child asking the same question for the third time, or my son saying, "She.s looking at me again" would cause me to raise my voice for no good reason, or to stay silent when I should have intervened. Fortunately, those days do not happen often.

As a homeschooler there are and will be days when it just seems like torture. This is especially true when you experience a seasonal slump like me. All I can tell you it that this too will pass.. The reward here is that you are spending this time with your children vs. a boss or co-worker who will not care that you are having a bad day. Also instead of just sleeping the days away, the children keep you active and functioning on a higher level than you normally would.

I had many days this past winter when I would have preferred to be sleeping rather than homeschooling. Somehow, I found the energy and drive to keep going, and fortunately, my children knew me well enough to help my moods with silly games and exchanges. They also know when to grab a book, and avoid me completely. It is on these days when I am most keenly aware of the value of my children. I am painfully aware of their constant presence, but I am also aware of how much they need me to take care of myself. Sometimes they even have enough presence of mind to ask me when I had my last pedicure. (Insightful for seven and nine year olds!)

Next winter, I plan to be more purposeful about getting away for some long weekends. I hope it will take some of stresses off all of us.



Read more Notes From a Homeschooling Mom

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Friday, January 04, 2008

A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 2

The Lost Files
Prologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 2
Chapter 9: A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1
Chapter 9 : A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 2

As you can see, (from part one of this post) homeschooling does not necessarily mean that we spend the whole day stuck in the house with our nose in the books. It also does not mean the children automatically become perfect angels. We do a great deal of learning outside the house as well. Here is a journal entry that demonstrates that:

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I used to think that homeschoolers sit in the house all day and struggle over math
problems and various other subjects. I was afraid the parents would eventually become resentful because it is just no fun. I was sure homeschooling was a sacrifice only a saint could handle.

If I could have just had a peek into the kind of day I had today, I would have done
it much sooner.

We got up at 8:00am as usual, did our chores and a few lessons on the computer. Then we got dressed in out Tae Kwon Do outfits and went to class, which lasted 90 minutes... We changed at the school and went directly to lunch. The restaurant we chose gave kids free meals on Tuesdays with an adult’s entree. The adult’s entree was expensive. Nevertheless, it was good food.

We had a long leisurely lunch and spent a good hour working through the puzzles and mazes on the kid’s menus. The menu puzzles where much more sophisticated than they used to be and this restaurant changes them often. Then we went to the local kid’s museum where the children, painted their own faces, dressed up in costumes, worked on computer graphics, experimented with music, saw some great illustrations and read the books to go with them. While we were there, I investigated joining an art class for myself and looked into the arts programs they have for children. We finally left around 3:30 and went to the mall to pick up some much needed items and then spent and hour at the bookstore.

There really is no sacrifice in having a day like that, is there?

Not every day is peaches and cream, of course. The occasional bad day is to be expected. I recently gathered enough nerve to record one such day.

February 16, 2004

I am always hesitant to talk about bad days when homeschooling, so as not to give the wrong impression, but yesterday was just difficult.

It started with me not getting enough sleep the night before. I was especially tired
because Jordan had a hard time going to sleep. At 1:00 AM, I found her in her room under a blanket with her television. There was obviously a bit of disobedience involved and I was at my wits end by that point. After she finally went to sleep, I found myself wide-awake and unable to fall asleep myself.

The next morning through my sleepy haze, I informed her that if she where not ASLEEP tonight by 10 (her bedtime is 9) I would unplug her cable wire, which means that the only thing that would work on her TV was her Karaoke machine. (I did not have to carry through with the threat)

I thought making a nice breakfast would change my mood. I made bacon and eggs, and the kids just picked at it. That did not change my mood at all.

For some unknown reason Jackson was especially cranky and tired as well. I worked on the computer for a little while, as they attempted their chores and lessons. Jackson whined through his entire math lesson. The problem was that he was not following the instructions; he was just trying to do the work blind. He got up after his math lesson, and Jordan sat down to do her work, but she had an awful lot of nervous energy and could not stay even a little focused. At 11:30, I realized that Jackson was missing. He was in his room doing ’nothing’. I demanded he get back on the computer and finish his lessons in his other subjects. He sulked for the next half hour about the difficulties of writing an essay until I walked him, once again, through the steps.

To top it off, our morning schedule was interrupted by an important business errand. It was the third day this week that we were interrupted and I was aggravated. Because I had to rush my children to finish what they where doing, they became even more sullen. Even though the need was urgent, it took us forever to get into the car and my frustration escalated. While I took care of business, my children stayed nearby and played electronic learning games by Leapfrog Company. When the chore was finished and we had McDonald’s for a late lunch and we all felt better.

The children and I went to the grocery store to pick up something to go with the baked beans I had put in my slow cooker in the morning. It was Wednesday, which was a church day, but by the time 7:00 pm rolled around, I was mentally and physically exhausted. The kids where tired too. Therefore, we stayed home.

Thankfully, they went to sleep...But I could not!

I guess the day could have been worse.

I hate it when we are interrupted while homeschooling. I realize it is supposed to allow flexibility, but I have yet to embrace that aspect. I think perhaps, that if my kids had more electronic learning games for the car, it would help. Perhaps someone could design a car PC. Until my husband is able to free himself to work on our family business full time, I see a lot of interrupted mornings which could lead to a lot of stress the children and me.

Homeschooling days do not usually get much worse than that. However, hard days have
to be expected. It seems the biggest factor on us having good day or not is whether our plans are interrupted. That is my own fault because I tend to be rather rigid with plans. With the recent addition of my managing a new business for my husband thrown into the equation, I need to learn how to roll with the punches and adapt to situations. There is no reason why we cannot finish an interrupted lesson later, and reading can just as easily be done in the car. With this in mind, I hope to be more relaxed and hopefully less anxious about our schedule, because I am aware that continued tension on my part will make my children tense as well.

Our homeschooling schedule has changed a bit over the year, for example, as the online program we were using improved, we no longer need to deal with word of the day and spelling bee exercises, and our schedules do not lend well with library visits, which is on the other side of town. I just purchase books online or from bookstores with my homeschooling discount card. I am finding that my children love to read. Therefore, I try to monopolize on that. I try to keep many new books in the house and look for books that teach without them even realizing it. For example, I purchased an anatomy book that with each turned page, teaches about different layers in the body starting with skin, then circulation and things of that nature. In addition, since they were consuming Magic Tree House chapter books, I purchased the study guides that go along with them. They are now more educated about the moon, mummies, storms and many other aspects of history and nature thanks to these clever book companions.

Every now and then I do my best to abandon the schedule for a day( in an attempt to
become more flexible), and I am pleased to report that my children still do activates that can easily be counted as school work. Jackson draws out plans to buildings or various machines, and then he build models from his plans. Both children love to play the piano without prompting. Jordan writes poems and short stories and even illustrates them. In addition, they both read for relaxation, especially at bedtime. I suspect that it is just a matter of time before my children have such an inclination toward natural learning and a love for knowledge that we can abandon the strict schedules altogether. I look forward to that day.

Looking back over what I have written, I can see an important lesson for myself in these Journals. It is evident on days when we have had adequate sleep that we get along well, and have good days. On day when we are over tired, crankiness and short tempers take over the household and the smallest distractions become huge roadblocks. I need to remember in the future that it may be just as well that we stay in bed for an extra hour than to spend and entire day in frustration.


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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1

The Lost FilesPrologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 2
Chapter 9: A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1

When people question me about homeschooling, the thing they ask most is "What is it like?" They want to know if having my children at home makes them better behaved, if we ever have bad days, how many hours a day we homeschool, and if we are able to stick to our schedules. Though there is no such thing as a typical homeschooling day, the following journal entries will give you a peek into our days:

Monday, August 11, 2003

Today is the day public school starts in my part of the country. Therefore, I am considering it our first OFFICIAL of day homeschool.

Here is my plan for the day. I made them go to bed early last night to be sure they will have enough rest. Right now, I am letting them still sleep in because it is going to be a very long day.

First, they will spend time on the Piano and then do three subjects at childu.com, which will only take about an hour. Next, we are having a Veteran homeschooling family come over in order to discuss curriculum and ChildU program. We are then we are going to Tae Kwon Do to get in some extra practice.

We are going to have lunch and do some household chores, including making dinner for tonights pot luck /belt ceremony. At 5 pm, we will be re-taking a section of our belt tests. I hope that at 6pm, we will have done well enough to participate in the belt ceremony.

So what am I doing here?

I have to go wake up the kiddies!

Of course, we did not follow that schedule to the letter; we had to adjust throughout the
day. Here is my post from the next day:

Our first official homeschooling day did not go exactly as planned. It actually went better. Here is what really happened:

Because they went to bed early, they got up in good moods. They played piano (30 minutes) and did their lessons (3 subjects each) without fussing. Because the guests we where planning to have over in the morning cancelled, we went straight to Tae Kwon Do for extra practice. After lunch, the kids continued to practice for their belt tests (as they had not passed the test the Friday before) while I cooked. The make up test was at 5pm, and they did well. The belt ceremony was at six. By the time it was over the kids were too excited from the day to go to bed, and did not fall asleep until 11:00.

They are still sleeping now at 8:30, on our second official day of homeschool, and I have no plans to bother them for the time being. This is an outside activities day with Tae Kwon Do at 11:00 and library either before or after with piano lessons at 3pm. We also plan squeeze in swimming (since our neighborhood pool is empty).

By the way, yesterday was the best day I had with my kids in ages. They behaved so well and were so intent on what they had to do that I had to wonder if I was really dealing with my own kids... I was able to praise them all day!

Homeschooling started with a bang! This "first day" had me very encouraged. The schedule worked well for us, for the most part, though on many days our best schedule is an amended schedule. Here is a day from one month later:

Monday, September 08, 2003

Today we over-slept but it was no big deal, as we were not going anywhere right away, we could deal with a wrinkle in our time schedule.

I lumbered into the shower while I went through our adjusted schedule in my head, when I got out of the shower I remembered it was also laundry day and so I just pulled on old clothes until it was time to leave the house.

I wandered into the hall and called for the children to get to their chores. They had already started. My son was out walking the dogs and my daughter was trying not to feed the cats as she had gotten food into their water last time and now the bowl was very disgusting. By then my son was happily plunking away at the piano keys. He has come a long way. It sounded great!

My daughter finally fed the cat, got breakfast and started on the rest of her chores (putting away shoes and straightening up the living room) as my son got started on his schoolwork, which consists of four Child U lessons of his choosing, the word of the day, and a daily online spelling bee quiz.
I got up from the computer to find my daughter who should have been finished with her chores by now, and found her watching TV. Dr Phil to be exact. I scolded her and turned off the TV. She was not happy but she finished her chores and got on the second computer, where I had been sitting, while my son finished his work on the other computer. She did her lessons and finished with her word of the day while my son and I hunted in the basement for a frame for his artwork for the county fair exhibition. Then they got dressed while I tagged all of the work we
were entering into the competition.

My daughter entered a beaded bracelet. She made the beads from clay.

My son entered a 3D watercolor of a rocket.

We got free fair tickets for entering our work! (Both children got second prize

medals and $4.00 prizes)

We got home from the fair grounds around 2:30 and the kids took the dogs out
while I made them a late lunch, and now after 3:30 I am finishing my lunch while
writing this. The kids are doing their quiet reading.

Our school day is done now unless something interesting comes up for us to
explore. As for right now, the washing machine has been going in the background
all day and I have a mountain of folding to do!


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Monday, December 31, 2007

Choosing Curriculum Part 2

The Lost Files
Prologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1

Math U See combines the concepts of two of the best traditional programs available,
Saxon math and Morteson Manipulatives. Math U See uses a multi-sensory approach to math with manipulatives and systematic review. The reason I like this program is because my youngest child is definitely a visual learner and from the demonstrations I have witnessed, these manipulatives makes the math concepts clear. In addition, the
workbooks give sufficient drill work for the child to master the concept.

Math U see requires the parent to re-learn the math concepts using Math U see methods
before you can teach the child. I may very well purchase this program when my youngest is in 3rd grade level (her 2nd year in home school).

Smart Math is a complete and systematic computer based tutorial program. Designed by a local Georgia company to bring fifth through eighth graders in failing schools up to and beyond grade level in math, it is most widely used to help failing eighth graders to pass standardized tests with excellence. This is the first year it is available to homeschoolers.

Because it allows a child to grasp all fifth through eighth grade concepts in one year's time, fifth grade homeschoolers who get their hands on this program will be ready for high school Algebra by sixth grade.

Smart math needs very little parent intervention and uses the computer, which few math programs do. I would have purchased this curriculum, but there were a few 4th grade concepts my son had not learned yet. They were a prerequisite to using this program, so we had to wait.

Math Games and online resources are what I have decided to use for our first year of
homeschooling. I came upon a great set on math games called Muggins, which
demonstrates and reinforces math concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication,
division and fractions. Muggins is has also been approved by Mensa and thus is a great step toward math genius training. The best part is children barely realize they are learning math as they play. In addition to math games, I have found great free and cheap online sites like math.com, edhelper.com, and Compass Learning Odyssey that provide pages and pages of math practice sheets and in-depth tutorials we can utilize when needed. We felt that this would be sufficient math work for our second and fourth graders first year of homeschool.

It later turned out that writing my own curriculum seemed like a good idea at the time, but I did not know how much work it would take. I found myself spending twice as much time figuring out what I would teach the children, than I actually spent teaching them. This got old, and so my search continued. Of all the math programs I looked at, I decided to use Compass Learning Odyssey (also named childu.com), based on price, and the computer interactive feature. Lucky me, it also happened to cover all other subjects as well.

During the month of June, the kids and I struggled through our math lessons. It was
rough. The purchase of the online homeschool program, childu.com for $19.99 per month, made the same math very easy. I was very glad to admit defeat and spent a few
dollars a month instead of sticking with my original plans. Because the purchase included math, reading, vocabulary, science and social studies, I dropped the unit studies, which were also a struggle, merely observed, and occasionally interjected while they did their lessons.

Because I started teaching in the summer before we officially started homeschooling I
had time to see what would work and what would not work. What would not work at this
point was Mommy trying to explain anything. My children were cynical and seemed to
have trouble believing anything I said. I guess they were already that age where parents are idiots by the time I pulled them out of public school. Fortunately, by purchasing this program, I had a computer to back me up.

One reason I chose childu.com to homeschool my kids is that I did not want to pay a lot of money in the first year, especially in the case that the curriculum turned out to be a bad fit for them. I also knew that I wanted something on the computer and interactive, especially for my younger child who needs tons of interaction. She wears me out quickly.

She and older child as well had been using interactive programs since they were 18
months old, and I knew it would not be too much of a stretch. I also knew that I wanted something that we could access from anywhere in the country and would not have to carry a suitcase of books when we travel, which we plan to do a lot. Online access was absolutely necessary.

By the end of the school year, however, I found my joy over future hopes and plans with the ChildU program would be short lived. It turned out that the school systems have taken to this program, and homeschoolers were no longer a priority. I received the bad news when I placed a call to ask about some changes to the website, only to find out that they where weaning themselves away from the homeschool market, and customizing their product for use within the public schools. I was dumbfounded. The rep went on to tell me that they were no longer accepting new enrollments into the homeschool program, and it would be a matter of time before existing homeschoolers were removed.

ChildU or Compass Learning Odyssey is still through charter schools where a teacher is involved, to allow children to learn at home. However, this will increase the price greatly. I am presently paying just over $200.00 per year, by paying through a charter school, I would have to pay over $500 a year per child, and would have many rules and restrictions imposed as to how we used the program. I am extremely disappointed because this program was a perfect learning tool for my children. It took a full month for me to find programs that began to compare with the program we were using. I guess that is what made it so attractive to public schools.

My original plan after learning that homeschoolers only had the program until June was to continue using it until then. However, we found that with over time, we received less and less access to the website as it often froze and shut down. Because my daughter had already finished the second grade curriculum, I started her on a third grade curriculum with another company. We are now using it on a trial basis. Math and language are accessed over the internet and the other subjects are accessed through learning games on DVD's. I like this game concept as the children learn passively. They feel like they are playing computer games vs. doing schoolwork. This homeschool program is found at www.riverdeep.com and is made by Broderbund, the makers of Reader Rabbit.

Because of the difficulties with the previous site, I moved my son to
www.clickatutor.com, which has complete homeschool curriculums for fourth grade
through twelfth. It is not nearly as animated as what he is used to, it is a lot more cut and dry requiring him to do a great deal of reading. I had him take all the chapter tests as it was not apparent were one curriculum stopped and the other started. He tested well through most of the curriculum leaving a handful of units to tackle for the remainder of the school year. To supplement this program and to make it more fun, we use a site called www.brainpop.com to view animated movies on each subject.

This is where I am right now with curriculum. I miss the ChildU program because it was very user friendly. The children taught themselves. Now I have to give them my utmost attention during the time they are using their new curricula. The timing for such a change is good though, as nearly a year has passed and they are now more willing to accept the fact that I might know a little about education even though I am not a professional teacher. In this time, I have learned to remain flexible and open for something that might work better or at least just as good as, what the children are currently using. I also learned that when it comes to a subscription curriculum, there is not promise that it will still be available to you in a year, or even a month.

(later we ended up spending 2+ years using Time4learning which was the predecessor of ChildU, for homeschoolers)



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Friday, December 28, 2007

Choosing Curriculum Part 1

The Lost Files
Prologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1


In writing about choosing a homeschooling curriculum, I did not do it to promote any
programs I might be using, but to show the amount of thought, work, and flexibility
involved in choosing one. A whole year into the process, I am still not settled completely on the curriculum we will be using in the long run for homeschooling. Though I am comfortable with what I am using right now, I remain prepared to change directions if the need arises.

On Saturday, May 03, 2003, I went to the GHEA (Georgia Homeschool Educational Association) local homeschool curriculum fair. My instructions from other homeschoolers were to buy nothing, but to examine everything. In my mind, I had already planned to do unit studies based on history with religious references, but I had no idea as to what I was going to do with math.

I spent the entire day at the curriculum fair. It was exhausting. I spent most of the time talking to strangers about my children's education. Every vendor needed to know my children's ages and names, strengths and weaknesses so they could better sell me their program or learning tool. A couple did exempt themselves based on the information I gave, as their product was not appropriate for my child. These people were well trained in marketing skills.

Immediately after attending the fair, my train of thought was that I was pretty much on the right track with the idea of writing my own curriculum. The only subject I felt I really need help with was math. I also came across a full kindergarten to 12th grade curriculum that seemed exciting, inexpensive and easy to use called Lighthouse Academy. I filed it away for future consideration. The next thing I had to do was review and sort out all of the information I received today so that I can better compare them.

The curriculum fair was the first time I was in a room full of homeschoolers. As I looked around I realized that some fit the dreaded homeschool stereotype, and some did not.

There where people there who where obviously devoutly religious, people there who
where new age, and even people there for strictly academic reasons. Personally, I came in near the academic side, with a handful of religious reasons for homeschooling as well. I surely talked myself hoarse that day. From competing with other homeschoolers to talk to vendors, to striking up conversations with other homeschoolers, I doubt I ever took a breath. I remember never taking the time to eat. There was so much to observe, and so much to learn.

Being alone in this environment was a blessing. I was able to eavesdrop on curriculum
conversations as well as familial conversations. I observed the children around me as
well, and must admit to the truth of one stereotype. To be a crowd that big, the kids
where handling it very well. I noticed no temper tantrums from kids older than three, and a level of great maturity from those from about age 7 and up. I ended the day by making a couple of purchases at the curriculum fair. I purchased a history book called The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, which I have mentioned earlier and a couple of dictionaries. Other than that, I managed to keep my money in my pocket.
After careful consideration, I decided to take the advice of the homeschoolers I knew, and did not purchase a ready-made curriculum for our first year of homeschooling. The main reason I have decided to compile my own curriculum entirely is the fact that most parents abandon the curriculum they purchase in their first year. I did not want to throw away that kind of money as full curriculums can cost as much as $1000.00 or more.

In compiling information on curriculum for my children, I also decided to write my own lesson plans using the classical method and Core Curriculum What Your __ Grader
Should Know series. I already knew that I this was most likely my plan before I went to the curriculum fair, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something. Before the fair, the only subject I did not know how to approach was math. Afterwards I had the confidence that I can use online resources and purchased manipulatives, to get through the first year intact. This is not to say that many of the programs and curriculums I found were not excellent. At times, I got so excited I could burst!

However, I chose to take the next year to decide if my homemade curriculum works for our children while also deciding what complete ready made curriculum would work ... If any.

Most of the decisions to this date that I made about curriculum had come from reading
books by homeschooling veterans and listening to the advice of my friends. The curriculum fair gave me a chance to test my decisions and theories. At the Homeschool curriculum fair, I had the opportunity to grill several math curriculum providers about their programs. Then I had the task of sorting it all out later when I returned home. The four curriculums I will discuss here are the ones that left an impression on me and that I plan, or hope to use at some point in the future.


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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Leaving the School System Part 2

The Lost Files
Prologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2


My son’s teacher was not exactly elated either when I told her that we would not be returning to school the next year. Her response was that he was doing "well enough".
"Why mess with a good thing?. What she did not understand is how miserable and bored
he was. He was just not the type to act out. He is the type to get depressed. He could easily slip through the cracks and we could end up losing him in any manner of ways. The teacher argued it was wrong to remove one of the better students from the school because it hurt the rest of the students. "But what about this student?" I asked her. She had no answer for me. She knew I was right, and in the end, she gave me all the information I needed to have them completely withdrawn from the school system so I would not have to deal with truant officers in the fall.

I do not blame my children’s teachers for not wanting me to homeschool my children.
First, I believe they actually cared for my kids, I could see it in their eyes, and they where both very affectionate toward my kids. In addition, my deciding to homeschool after the children were in their classes could seem like a direct reflection of their teaching skills.

The major reason for the teachers' objections I believe is that teachers are trained to keep children in the schools at all costs. There are quotas that need to be met concerning the number of children diagnosed with ADD each year, ( especially since the No Child Left Behind Law) so the worst children in every class tend to get labeled whether they have a real disability or not. In addition, loss of children to homeschooling or public schooling means loss of money to the local school for that child. The federal government keeps that money. In addition to teaching, teachers are under pressure to meet these quotas.

To avoid potential drama when withdrawing your children from public schools, I suggest you wait until you are ready to start before you inform the teachers of your plans. Do not do as I did and inform them months before the actual ending date. You will save yourself, the teachers, and administrators a ton of grief.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1

The Lost FilesPrologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1


Perhaps I should not have informed the teachers I planned to pull my children out of school so early in the game. I believe it did more harm than good considering the steps one teacher took to keep my child in the system. This caused a lot of frustration on both my part and the teacher’s.

I was at a conference with my daughter’s teacher when she really got under my skin. She hinted strongly that my daughter needed to be tested for ADHD and medicated. She talked about how she ignored her own son’s problems until it was too late, and how she did not want the same thing to happen to my daughter. She was a sweet woman really, and prefaced every single word with "bless her heeaaaart" when referring to my daughter. Finally she sighed and said; "I don’t know how she will be admitted into second grade without medication." "Fine", I said, "then we’ll homeschool her". This was the end of peace at the school for the remainder of the school year.

Later I received a letter stating there would be a meeting at the school to discuss my daughter. A time had been set without consulting me, and I was livid. I did not agree at this point so late in the year that any intervention was necessary. My daughter was passing 1st grade in spite of behavioral problems, and would not be returning next year. I happened to know my daughters principal so I sent her a note explaining my concerns. My husband went to school the following day to have lunch with our daughter. He ran into her principal, who we happen to know from our previous church. From what he understands after talking with her briefly, is they went ahead and had the "meeting" about our daughter anyway, although we requested it be moved to a time when we could attend. What she directly told my husband was she had received my note, and it seems like I am concerned and upset (understatement) and I should not worry. She did not feel Jordan was a problem. The teacher also missed the meeting because she was tending to a sick
child at home.

I felt a bit relieved by the fact that the principal did not feel she had an ADD problem. The psychologist, and counselor, saw no problems as well, but as a parent, I would have liked to be included in this "meeting". I have to also wonder, if she, the Principal, did not know us and had not actually spent time with us and Jordan, would she have agreed with the teachers’ diagnosis. It had to be difficult to evaluate a child if you only know one aspect of them, like classroom behavior only.

Once we had made it clear we intended to homeschool Jordan the next year and were not
going to let the school test her for learning disabilities, my daughters speech impediment suddenly became a huge issue. I received a call from her teacher informing me that she as this speech impediment, as if I had not picked up on it myself. She went on to inform me that even though she knew I would be homeschooling, I could receive "free" speech therapy from the school next year if I allowed her to get screened now.

At this point, I did not want anything else to do with public schools, but on the other hand her mispronunciation of everything "R" is getting past the cute stage. I informed my husband about the testing and he insisted we give permission. I did as he requested, but in the back of my mind, I had to wonder if this is not the schools ploy to hold onto the stipend they receive for each student who attends the public school,(even if this is a very part time capacity). In addition, I had learned they could use this therapy to gain control over my daughter’s education. I am not normally paranoid about anything, but I have heard some scary stories about the truant officer, the state prosecutors and homeschoolers.

After giving permission to meet for the tests, I had second thoughts and I wrote another letter to the teacher, principal, and therapist voicing my concerns about having a label attached to my daughter. I show up for the "meeting" to talk about speech therapy testing, only to run into the teacher in the hall after it was over (No one in the office could direct me to the meeting location). I was visibly aggravated. The teacher ran to get the "speech therapist" and they ask me to sign a couple of papers for allowing hearing, vision, and speech evaluation. I signed them and noticed they are thanking me and backing away without giving me a copy.

I demanded a copy of the papers. The therapist then signed and dated them and gave me the pink copy. She then said I could email her if I have any questions. I was ever so suspicious. Upon closer examination of the papers (in my car), I noticed that one of the forms was the exact same form I refused to sign for ADD testing. The only difference is that the words hearing, vision and language/speech skills were circled. This was the exact same form and did not read as if there was a multiple choice, pick the intervention type thing. It read that this is an evaluation for ADD. WHO DO THESE PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE? I fumed.

I emailed the teacher and therapist to let them know that I did not agree with the language of the consent form. They both sent me email stating that it was my decision to have her tested and that I could change my mind if I liked and that they would put my emails with my concerns in my folder. They both expressed that diagnosing her with a speech impediment would not give her a Special Ed label, but it would get her a therapist. I finally agreed to have the speech, hearing, and sight tests done, but I kept asking myself why we needed a free speech therapist when I can afford to hire one myself. In addition, just as if I could teach her myself why could I not train her to pronounce the letter "R"? Not wanting to seem like a paranoid parent, (and to hide the possibility I could be overreacting) I went along with the screening, but stayed present during the tests. The speech and hearing tests went as expected. She had no problems with either. As for the speech test, which I also stayed in the room for, the therapist tested my daughter on speech, concentrating on her problem words and then went on the test her on ability to follow instructions and other things that did not seem involved with a speech impediment. I stayed silent until my daughter left the room to return to her class. I then asked the therapist why she evaluated Jordan for anything other that speech. The therapist assured
me that it was just a part of the test, and according to her job instructions, she had to do the entire battery. She also informed me that though Jordan had a problem pronouncing "R’s" that the test showed that she was advanced in the other areas of the test. I then signed some papers stating I was not interested in using a school therapist even though my child’s "disorder" allowed me to use school services as a homeschooler. Signing those papers closed that chapter for us. (I would not have known I could refuse public school assistance had a veteran homeschooler not informed me.)


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Friday, December 21, 2007

I thought I already knew my children! Part 2

The Lost FilesPrologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2


After evaluating myself, I then tested my daughter and she scored right sided on several assessments as well. (These tests consisted of me checking off her traits from a list, and then adding the score.) Then I found a site with a visual test had her take, and though she had previously tested right brained, I could see a struggle where she wanted to answer in
a left brained way though the right brained answer was her first inclination. I had the same struggle when I attempted the test. I assume this struggle we both had is from our attempt to conform to everyone around us.

From looking at all of the checklists and considering my son in all tabulations, it was
clear to me that he is left brained like his father. However, I could not figure how his
artistic ability and musical skill figured into the ratio. He flew through the same visual
exercise that my daughter and I took and easily answered as a right brained person! Now
I was confused. Was he right brained, or left brained, or whole brained (using both sides equally). Therefore, I read on until I came upon a new concept I have never heard before
called divergent thinking. Simple put, it means that he is a creative thinker in addition to being logical! Which side of his brain is more dominant, I am not sure, but the kind of questions he normally asks fits the profile perfectly.

What I have since the seminar is while left brained people are described as logical,
sequential, rational, analytical, objective, and tend to look at things in parts, Right brained people are described as random, intuitive, holistic, synthesizing, subjective, and then to see the whole picture. Institutional education works best for those who are left-brain dominant because such that is the easiest way to teach a room full of children. Public schools cannot allow creative spontaneous experiments, and they cannot allow every child to answer questions until they have a "feel" for the subject. To survive in public school children must be able to memorize disjointed facts instead of forming the whole picture. For many children, they simply cannot memorize, they must continue to ask question until a subject makes sense. This is how I know it worked for me and this is how it works for my daughter. My son however would have no problem in public school, as it seems he uses both sides of his brain equally and in the appropriate situations. For more information on Left- brained, vs. right brained learning, I recommend the book Right-
brained Children in a Left-Brained World: Unlocking the Potential of Your ADD Child by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons.

After speaking with Ms Martin, and doing research on Right Brained children, I had to wonder if ADD was not a disorder, but an excuse to make the minority (the creative right brained child) like the majority (the academic left brained child), by drugging children into conforming, thus making teachers’ jobs easier. I now realize, especially after spending this past year at home with my child that ADD is not a myth, though I feel it can be an excuse. There is impulsively in some children that cause them to act before they think. This can be distressing, and even cause chaos in a classroom, but I still do not think it is necessary to drug all of these children with this condition into submission. These kids believe they are defective and are given drugs to prove it. For many children, ADD is controllable with diet, exercise and rest. I have also learned it takes a certain amount of patience, and an awful lot of love to overcome the frustration that dealing with such an overly impulsive child can create. It helps a lot if that child belongs to you. When
the child is yours, somehow, no matter how much you want to yell scream and stand on your head, you often find yourself doing the opposite.

While I believe my child does have some ADD traits (though I have never had her formally tested), I also believe that she has many right brained traits. Instead of focusing on her "disorder., I focus on her abilities. She is energetic, creative, and quite talented as
well. I encourage her to pursue her interests, and I never ever tell her she has something wrong with her. Instead, I tell her that she is special and unique.




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