Monday, August 9, 2010


Organization, Organization, Organization! If Location is the mantra of the realtor, then organization is the mantra of the homeschooler. After all, there is no one but you to record, document, and retrieve the important records and information your child will one day need.

Please do not let your heart be troubled, however, if you are not an organizer. I am, in fact, the reigning queen of "Organized Chaos." Welcome to my queendom.

The very first thing you really need to do when planning your homeschooling year once your curriculum is chosen is to make certain you are on track with your state's requirements. Visit the state board of education's website and see if you can find a timeline for learning. That will give you a good idea of what the schools are doing when. Also, HSLDA has information on what records and requirements are mandatory in your state. This is a critical first piece of your organization. You really must know what your state requires you to do.

Next, I highly recommend a lesson plan book for each child. They are easy to find in a school supply store or you can usually order them online at the vendor who offers your homeschooling materials. I have even found them in Barnes and Noble or Having one for each child may seem tedious but it has three pronged advantages.

One, you are forced every week to sit down and really plan what your child will do that week. I usually did mine on Sunday night. This afforded me the opportunity to incorporate any changes in the usual schedule (field trips, doctor's appointments, social activities, etc). It also gives you a tool to go back and see exactly what you have done. Have you spent too much time doing social activities? Has it been a while since you've done a science experiment? These are all questions easily retrieved with a lesson plan.

Two, it gives your child accountability. Children as young as second grade can look on his or her own lesson plan book and know what is to be expected that day. They can also do individual work when you are busy with other children. This is such an important skill. While a stack of books that reaches their waist seems overwhelming, they learn by reading the lesson plan that not all of the books will be required every day. They can see their own progression by checking off each subject as they go along. This can be a very important tool if you have a child who needs to see 'the plan.'

Three, your lesson plans become a documentation of your progress throughout the year. Make sure you document social activities, field trips, parties, tests, science experiments, lessons, sports. I document everything. That way, if you ever did have a question in your homeschooling, you have written proof of what your children do. Whenever someone decided to question my homeschooling, I whipped my lesson plans out and they usually quiet down immediately. Now my mom brags about them! I even decorate my with little stickers according to what is going on at the time (Christmas, snow, Valentine's Day, etc). It may sound silly, but my kids really enjoyed them.

Next, make a general homeschooling folder. In this have copies of your state's requirements, your HSLDA membership information, and all important contacts. You'll put your playgroups, co-op's, various lessons, team rosters, general family schedule, etc. in this folder.

If you have not already, plan out your ideal homeschooling day. I say ideal because it will be unlikely to be able to stick to it every single day, but you really need to have an idea of what your day should look like. I plan to address scheduling on another day, but generally map out your day and your requirements.

Have another binder for each child. This is imperative. In this huge notebook, have page protectors, and dividers. You can organize it however you want, but I have always done professional testing (CAT and Iowa Basic Skills Tests, Intelligence Testing, etc) in the beginning and divided the notebook into subjects after that.

Afterwards, have a place for attendance, grades, and each child's individual course plan (the books, curriculum, etc they are using for the year)
Next, we'll add the work itself.

Every week, I place graded work (much of your work will be in workbooks, but it is important to give weekly quizzes and quarterly exams). Any loose daily work will go by subject in each section.
It is very important to have samples of work ready to offer whoever may request it. While you may never be scrutinized by anyone for your homeschooling endeavors, it has always helped both my confidence in my own homeschooling and anyone else (like my teacher mother) to know that there is a plan and you know what you are doing.

By the end of the year you will have a completed notebook for each child and in it, you will place your lesson plans in it, burn a copy or scan it (in case of some unspeakable disaster) and file it away. I also make notes about the curricula...did I like this book? Was this geometry book too difficult to understand? When you next child comes to that age, you can scan your organized notebook and know what worked and what did not. You'll also have an idea about what you need to do to catch up on any subjects during the summer.

Whether or not you have an organized curriculum that requires that the facility grades your child's work, you need to have an idea where your child is academically at all times. This is why keeping grade point averages is so important. If you do not give him the service of testing (even oral testing) you'll have no idea where he is and what needs to be done to challenge him or catch him up. This is why I always keeps grades. Even if I can only get one weekly grade in a subject, I do it. It just helps you keep on track.

Finally, organize your week. Get a big dry erase calendar and write out what is going on at any given time. It will help you when you are planning your lesson plans to go see it. You can adjust your scheduled lessons. For example, if I know we all have doctor's appointments on one day, I schedule easy work for that day we can do it in the doctor's office. If we are planning a trip to the botanical gardens, I know I need to plan a few botany lessons in science that week. It has been a truly helpful tool in our lives.

I do hope this helps you. When I began my homeschooling, 12 years ago, I went through much trial and more error to figure out this method. I promise if you can organize these few key areas, the rest will fall into place! Please message me if you have a specific question. Happy homeschooling!

Monday, July 26, 2010

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool..That is the Question

For those of you who are already homeschooling, I apologize for the repetitive nature of this entry. However, for those of you courageous adventurers who are thinking about taking the plunge, I have a few words of encouragement..and caution.

Our decision to homeschool came much more out of necessity than desire. I had no particular fondness for the whole philosophy of homeschooling, but rather wanted what was best for my child at the time. What sprung from that decision surprised me. Once a critic of the homeschooling movement, I became an advocate and to this day strongly support homeschoolers around the world.
In my humble opinion, God has given us as parents an innate desire to do what is best for our children. Sometimes that means sending them to public school. Sometimes private schools are needed and sometimes homeschooling is truly the best option for a family.

If you are exploring homeschooling you possess the single most important requirement for homeschooling: a desire to do so. If someone else has suggested it to you but you have a repulsion, you probably do not need to be homeschooling. It is just one of those occupations that require a dedication that does not come from suggestion alone. True, necessity drove me to explore the option, but the concept-once I rid myself to my prejudices- intrigued me. I liked the idea of being with my son all day. That is not to say that the absence of that desire makes you a lesser parent, it just makes you a person who probably shouldn't homeschool. You have to really want to do it. You must love to be around your kids..all the time. If you are the type of parent who enjoys time alone and looks forward to the beginning of school each year, you will need to think long and hard about why you are proceeding.

On the other hand, if you absolutely love being around your kids all the time, it may end up being a good option for you. If you enjoy teaching your child constantly then it may be a good option for you. You will absolutely be around your child all the time! It is a blessing. Perhaps you think you cannot homeschool because you can't teach your child...well, what do you think you are doing for four hours every night when they come home from school with more homework than we had as children in a week? You already are homeschooling!

Don't worry, you are supposed to be nervous! after all, it is not to be taken lightly. You will be the only person responsible for your child's education so it will be necessary for you to be truly committed to this task. Do not, however, be discouraged! You CAN homeschool! If you really want to do it, you absolutely can! Do not allow the naysayers to influence your decision. There is a great deal of ignorance about homeschooling, much of it regarding the reason you are doing it.

There are several good reasons to homeschool:
1. You are in a bad school district
2. Your child is gifted or has a disfluency that is not being addressed at school
3. You have strong religious views and would like to share them with your child
4. You live a transient life and desire continuity of education
5. You would like to have a say in what your child is learning
6. Either you cannot afford a private school or the one you desire is not close to you

The list goes on and on. Contrary to popular belief all homeschoolers are not religious fanatics-even those of us who are homeschooling for religious purposes. Many cannot afford the expensive private schools and find the quality of educational materials to be as sufficient as those one would pay ten times the amount for in the private school systems. There is balance. We do choose to shelter our children to a degree, but we also expose them to many things they have never been exposed to before.

Lame reasons NOT to homeschool:
1. Socialization-since when does any adult you know associate with those in his or her exact age group? Socialization is not only possible, it can be difficult to keep from being too social!
2. You don't think you can teach your own child
3. You are not a many times I have been inhibited by my teaching background!
4. You are not organized enough..organized is a relative term. There is a need for organization, but it doesn't have to be what everyone else thinks it is. You are organized in your own way-you have to be. Just make those skills work for you not against you
5. Your family doesn't want you to..who is raising your child? Besides, when they see how creative, intelligent, and polite your kids are, they will get over their misunderstandings. Alternatively, you can offer them the opportunity to pay for private school--works every time.

Arm yourselves with the facts. Clip articles from the newspaper that make you want to homeschool. They don't all have to be negative. Perhaps you saw a spontaneous paleontologist organize a last minute public dig of Late Cretaceous Period sea life and you wanted your dinosaur loving child to experience it( IT WAS AN AWESOME DAY!). Maybe you clip the new guidelines on sex education that you disagree with. Perhaps the thing that motivates you is the number of homeschoolers getting into Ivy League schools and receiving scholarships. The important thing is to keep in mind always why you are doing it.

Inevitably, a friend, relative or you will question why you made this decision. Think about it. Be aware. Commit and be armed with answers. It will help!

The next thing you need to do is be around some homeschoolers. Decide the kind of homeschool you want to have. There are 'home at school' curricula that you can order and the organization will even grade your child's work. Schools like Seton Home Study School and Kolbe Academy both offer an accredited curriculum and do all the organizing for you and even offer transcripts. Perhaps you like the idea of having more structured materials but do not want to have others grading your child's work or deciding what they will read. Some even 'unschool.' Those who choose this method have a mostly unstructured method of homeschooling that I am not comfortable with so will not address in this blog. I am not saying I disagree with it, but it does go against my nature as a teacher to teach this way so I will not be a good advocate for it.

The next step, after you have decided to homeschool is join an advocacy group. Home Schooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a group that stays on top of the laws regarding homeschooling throughout the United States (and the world, actually). Membership is relatively inexpensive and can be broken down into a monthly payment ($9 with a military discount) but you'll surely be glad of it if someone begins to question your homeschooling. They will defend your just cause against school boards, etc. We have friends who have utilized this very valuable service. Even if you never have to use it, it is not only good to support them but it is also good to know what laws apply in your state.

So now that you have decided whether or not to homeschool, what kind of homeschooler you are, and have armed yourselves with a legal team and knowledge about your endeavor, the next step is organization and I will address that little gem in my next entry.

Happy homeschooling!

Monday, July 19, 2010


First, I would like to congratulate you on your homeschooling endeavors. Whether you are exploring the possibility, searching for some much needed support, or researching the concept because your daughter-in-law has decided to homeschool your grandchildren, I admire your thirst for information.
You see, homeschooling is all about that thirst. There are perceptions of homeschoolers that ignorant people will always conjure when thinking of them. Really, that is what they are: ignorant perceptions. Those of us who homeschool do it for a wide variety of reasons. Some do it for continuity of education. Some do it for the religious aspect (or lack thereof if that is their cup of tea). Perhaps the child has a dis fluency that needs to be addressed. The opportunity for travel and mobility is another valid reason. The important thing to remember is that homeschooling is not a cookie cutter method of educating children. Everyone does it differently and everyone is right.
You see, that is the beauty of this nurturing way of raising children. As the parent, you choose what is best for your family. Allow God's graces to flow upon you and fill you with the tools you need to parent and educate your child. Research can and should be done. Exploration of various curricula should be investigated. Diplomatic explanations to people who know nothing about it must be made, but ultimately, your homeschool is as unique as your child. No two are the same, nor should they be. So take a deep breath, relax and carry on.
As for introductions, we'll keep it short. Having had a BS in Elementary Education and having held a teaching certificate in the state of OK, I had a little more suspicion about homeschoolers than that of a noneducator. After all we were always taught that those who homeschooled had something to hide. I had no idea how erroneous those myths were! So, when my sweet baby four year old was to climb on a bus for forty minutes to attend the public school in Mississippi, I began to have my doubts. The school was at the time very run down. For me to have taught there, I would have brought home a whopping $150 a month after taxes and childcare for my two year old. We looked into private schools but they were no fit for us either. Very carefully I began to look at what the other people were doing on the Air Force Base. Being Army, we didn't know everyone very well, but I began to see the very multicultural group that assembled for field trips and co-op teaching. I was very quickly impressed and decided after much debate with my husband that this is what we needed to do..for now at least. I mean, really, he's only four. How badly can I screw him up at this age? Before I knew it, it was second grade, then seventh! It just flowed.
Now it has not been easy every step of the way. most certainly has not been easy! That is why I am writing this blog...when I sought assistance, guidance, or practical advice I didn't always find what I was looking for. Some were too religious, some were too secular, some were severe in answering discipline questions while some were downright hippies! My apologies to my hippy brethren. So, being a moderate in many areas, I decided to see if I could help other homeschoolers and work out some of my own issues as well.
I have a tenth grader who will be attending school for the first time (well, we tried kindergarten for about three weeks and it didn't work out but that is another whole story) this year and I'll continue to homeschool my 8th grader.
In this blog I hope to address some of the following issues: schedule, curricula, discipline, answering nosey neighbor inquiries, balancing your sanity with their educational needs, separating mom from teacher, and using the world as your classroom.
I hope you will join me on our adventure..but hold is a bumpy ride!