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CALL TO ACTION! Homeschooling Summit, Homeschoolers not allowed!

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This is a call to action for all homeschoolers and homeschooling families across the country!

Harvard Summit to Discuss Regulating Homeschool: June 18-19, 2020 at Harvard Law School to discuss “a controversial practice”—homeschooling. “Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform” is the title given to this meeting to discuss homeschooling. It is an invitation-only event and one that is not open to homeschoolers to listen or comment.

While each state controls regulations related to homeschooling in their jurisdiction, some essential rights are protected by the federal government. Some states have very relaxed regulations, some are exceptionally strict. Two things remain pretty much the same across all states: the right to homeschool our children if we so choose, and the right to a religious-based exemption from state regulations.

All families that utilize homeschooling in their household must be familiar with the laws in their state and comply with their local regulations. While I do have some issues with how homeschooling regulations are handled on a legislative and a practical level, I firmly believe that it is our right, as parents, to have as much control over our children’s education as we deem necessary. Parents who homeschool choose to do so for many different reasons, most are deeply personal. It is a huge commitment on the part of the parent to be totally responsible for our children’s educational needs. We undertake a job that schools employ dozens of professionals to do for most parents. We understand the importance of the task, and we utilize a veritable motherlode of resources to ensure the successful completion of our duty to educate our children.

There are always bad apples in every arena, and homeschooling is no different. The problem is those bad apples in homeschooling will have dire consequences in the lives of children. The Turpin Family is a prime example of the bad apples of homeschooling. In a nutshell: This family had 12 children in their household and were “homeschooling” according to the laws of California, under a religious exemption. For those who don’t know what a religious exemption is, my home state of Virginia lists it as: A school board shall excuse from attendance at school any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief, is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school. For purposes of this subdivision, the term bona fide religious training or belief does not include essentially political, sociological or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code. Section 22.1-254(H)(5) states that children who are excused under the religious exemption above are excused from all provisions of the compulsory attendance law, including the homeschool requirements of §22.1-254.1. Families who are excused need not file an annual notice of intent or a year-end assessment. So parents who can sufficiently prove a religious exemption status for their family has pretty much zero oversight when it comes to homeschooling their children. The Turpin Family abused a similar law in California and was found to have committed heinous acts of abuse and neglect after one of the children escaped and reported their parents to the authorities. The parents were each sentenced to 25 years of prison after their children testified about the years of torture they endured.

So where do we draw the line? How do we protect citizen rights to homeschool while protecting children’s rights to safety and education? Under normal circumstances, that is accomplished through a certain level of supervision by the local Board of Education for the county’s school district. Some states and districts have more strict supervision than others. On average, most parents must submit a letter to their local school district of their notice of intent to homeschool their children for each school year. We call it our NOI (“Notice of Intent” letter). Often times, the NOI will include the parent’s name(s), children’s name(s) and grade level(s), subjects that will be taught in that year, and the instructing parent’s credentials (usually a copy of their diploma or university degree, teaching license, etc). In addition to our NOI, most parents must also submit proof of academic achievement for their children or an evaluation of their children by a licensed teacher. While this may not seem like a lot of supervision, it does stand to prove that the parent is either administering state-approved standardized testing on an annual basis or having a licensed teacher evaluate their kids. Any licensed teacher worth their salt will keep an eye out for anything that isn’t quite right, and report it. Personally, I elect to have a teacher I know to evaluate my child annually, and she also submits suggestions to me after her evaluation to help me to be a more effective instructor. That being said, I also know plenty of parents who administer standardized tests to their kids.

I have always felt that the religious exemption clauses were a little off. I don’t discuss religious or political things very often on this site but as a pagan homeschooler, it really burns me up that unless you are Christian you can forget being approved for a religious exemption. Call me crazy, but the whole “Freedom of Religion” coupled with the separation of church and state makes me feel that ANY religious belief should be able to qualify for a religious exemption, not just the majority Christian followers.

We all have our flaws and but everyone I know has always told me that I am a great mother. I always think of my child first and try to do what is best for him in every situation. Plainly, he comes before me. His needs come before my own. To me, that is just natural instinct for any parent. But, I also know that isn’t always the case. It makes me so sad (and sometimes very mad!) when parents just don’t… parent. I know that is probably going to be brought up more than once at this so-called “Summit”, and the suggestion that all of us homeschoolers should face tougher restrictions, requirements, or that homeschooling be banned entirely.

While I agree that something should be done about the abuse of the religious exemption, I don’t think that all homeschoolers should pay for something done only a very tiny fraction of our number. I am no legislator, and I have no solutions to offer. Religious exemptions could possibly be subject to some type of supervision as the rest of us are, to ensure the welfare of the children. At the same time, religious exemptions should also specifically be opened up to non-Christian homeschooling families. I homeschool my child for many different reasons, one of which is religious, yet I can not get a religious exemption because of religious bias in the school system… which just reinforces a different reason that I homeschool: they don’t teach American Indian values and culture while we do at home. So, let’s hope that our legislators can see the light when this topic reaches them because, honestly, the ones making the suggestions to the legislators don’t seem to want our input at all. Why else would we not be able to listen, attend or submit questions to the “summit”? Leave a comment below to voice your opinion or share your stories! I read each and every one!


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COVID-19 and Schools: We’re All Homeschoolers Now

child, girl, young

As a family, we have been homeschooling for years now. In fact, our son has never attended classes at a public school! Now that the public health crisis due to COVID-19 is unfolding, many schools are closed for the immediate future. I am getting a lot of messages from friends who have kids that do go to schools, asking what to do now and how to handle their kids’ education needs at home. I totally get it- this is untested waters for many of you! It can be intimidating to us grown-ups when we face the fact that our kid’s education is now 100% dependant on us, even though we have no experience in teaching or even know where to start! So, let me start at the beginning.

1. You Need To Determine Your Child’s Learning Style

I generally find that most kids can fall somewhere into one of three categories. Most actually cross-category a lot, a highly structured learner can also be a slightly structured learner in some subjects. A slightly structured learner can also be a great freestyle learner in certain subjects! It really takes some attentive observation on your part, and trial and error until you find what works best for them. Talk to your child and explain the “experiment” that you are doing to find what way they learn best and let them have a hand in it. Some kids will just tell you plainly what works best for them, others are more open to experimenting and finding their “zen learner” place. Just try to keep the frustration to a minimum. If you are both getting frustrated, it’s a good chance that you just need to try a different approach or change subjects for a while or for the day. It’s okay. You’ll get it.

Highly Structured: These kids do great with highly structured, classroom-style learning. They thrive on lesson plans, syllabuses, testing, and exams. This involves early morning to afternoon lessons and classroom style “periods”, breaks, lunches, the whole shebang. As a homeschooling parent, I find this to be the hardest to accommodate, to be honest. Homeschooling a child who needs such highly structured lessons means homeschooling is a full-blown full-time job. Don’t expect to do housework and cooking while your kid is doing lessons because they need your full attention the entire time. If your highly structured learning kid is staying at home due to school closures, you will either need to just keep them busy until school resumes or dive in feet-first and become a full-time teacher. There really isn’t any middle room here. If you have a lot of books on various subjects that your child enjoys reading or a kindle, that could be a very good way to keep their brain engaged during this downtime and keep them out of your hair so you can get other stuff done. Most cable providers have started offering free educational programs for kids who are stuck at home if you don’t mind letting them watch a little more TV than normal. Check out below for some resources I regularly use!

Slightly Structured: Other kids don’t do so great with highly structured learning. They need a little more help, or more freeform activities to express themselves and learn in a slightly more abstract way. These kids are pretty easy to educate at home, only needing a little guidance and help with things they have the most trouble with. For these kids, set out a daily routine that includes learning and subjects to complete in the day. Give them simple assignments in each subject and the resources to complete those assignments. My son is a slightly structured learner and it is fairly easy for me to give him the guidance and help he needs, while still being able to get most of my housework done (but not usually all of it). Sometimes you just need to sit nearby and oversee their progress to keep them on track, but you would still be able to do simple things for yourself, like check your email or do basic work from home, while they do their educational tasks. Keep in mind that even though they can handle a more freestyle home education, they still need plenty of hands-on learning. Research on some printable coloring sheets, word searches, craft and science projects that they can do in addition to their basic lessons to further enhance their home education experience.

Freestyle/Unschoolers: These guys are amazingly open to learning all kinds of different things, all the time! What makes this the easiest type of kid to homeschool is that their drive to learn can totally take over. Let them learn what they are interested in learning and just keep tabs on their basics: Mathematics, Language Arts, Sciences, etc. When you feel they are falling behind in one or more topics, gently encourage them and guide them to explore those specific topics. It usually only takes a reminder of something they would actually enjoy on that subject and let them at it!

2. Expect Crossover Learning Styles

Most kids don’t stick to one learning style for all subjects. Even though my son is mostly a slightly-structured learner, he crosses over into freestyle learning quite often. His journey into learning to read was a disaster until I gave up for a while out of sheer frustration. I started watching the local news at 3 pm every day and, since my son was also interested in the current affairs, I read the ticker off on the bottom of the screen to him. One day, about two weeks into doing this, he stopped me and started reading it off to me instead! WOW! He had learned to read that fast, with a totally off-the-wall approach that I hadn’t taken as a means to teach him to read! He still reads mostly freestyle, though I do have to administer some reading comprehension exercises every so often to make sure I know the level he is reading at. So far, my 10-year-old is reading at an 11th-grade level. On his own. But he needs structured math lessons. It is totally okay if you don’t yet know what type of learner your child is, or where they need crossover style-learning. Figuring these things out can be a journey that takes time and patience.

3. Resources For Home Education

Personally, I love History Vault and Curiosity Stream as additions & resources for subjects! I have monthly subscriptions to both and regularly incorporate their materials into my daily lessons. I regularly guide my son to check their streaming services for something he is interested in under a certain topic and let him watch what he wants. I know it’s educational and that he is learning something he is interested in. Curiosity Stream, in particular, has topics to explore that make it super easy for him to find something good to watch under one of those topics. They have a good number of videos targetted to younger audiences and some especially for small children.

I use Khan Academy for my own son’s structured learning lessons. It is totally free and fairly easy to learn to use as a parent-educator to set up assignments, lesson plans and subjects for him. He enjoys the instructors in most of the subjects and finds them to be very entertaining, and he loves soaking up all that witty and funny education.

Twinkl is a great online educational resource that is offering free premium membership for a month while we have so many kids out of school. They have a TON of printables on a wide variety of subjects for all grade levels! They also have PowerPoints with talking points, videos, educational games and more. I use their resources very often and encourage you to do the same! After the free premium membership ends, your account will just revert to a free access account, so don’t worry about getting charged later for it. For new accounts, go to www.twinkl.com/offer and enter the following offer code: USATWINKLHELPS (This code will only work for new memberships.) For existing members, go to www.twinkl.co.uk/offer and enter the code PARENTSTWINKLHELPS at the login space. You will be able to download all the resources you should ever need, or save them to your Google Drive to print later.

In addition, I regularly google up random things he asks about and we read articles together or watch YouTube videos that are more educational. This can be anything from the dates of Alexander The Great’s reign to the tactics used by Gengis Khan, from astronomical facts to the history of the Abacus (which is what he initially learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on!), from WWI info to the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy, from the moon landings to tutorials for learning languages. There’s a wealth of information online, we just have to learn how to effectively search and filter through results to find what we are looking for, and teach our kids to do the same.

The big thing to remember is that home education is a team sport! You may be great with one or two subjects, your spouse is better than you on a few subjects so you work together to give your child the best education that you can. If a friend is really great at something in particular and agrees to jump in and give you a hand with that subject, that’s GREAT! The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is really one to keep in mind. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help on subjects where you aren’t so strong. It might surprise you to see how many people are willing to step up and do their part to make the next generation become the brightest generation ever! A friend of mine, who has been a teacher in both public and private schools for many years now, gave me the best advice ever. I’m going to pass it along to you here:

“The best way to teach your child at home is to teach him how to learn. Once you do that, the rest pretty much takes care of itself!”

Barbara Carnell, Educator and Early Literacy Specialist

In closing, please remember that home education doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be fun for both of you, and you might actually end up learning a bit along with your kids! We are all in this together. Find some Facebook homeschooling groups to join and keep on researching, keep on learning, and keep on teaching! It does take patience. It will take some trial and error, and it might be frustrating sometimes but our kids are worth it!

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SC Dumps Common Core!

SC Dumps Common Core!

Great going, SC! They have dropped the Common Core and opted for traditional educational standards. I hope this leads the way for many more states!

>> SC Dumps Common Core <<

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Fun Arts & Crafts: Suncatchers!

Heart Shaped SuncatcherWe made gorgeous suncatchers, Matoskah had a blast and I had a good time as well! This is a simple, low cost and very fun craft to enjoy with your little ones!

 

 

 

Supplies for SuncatchersYou Will Need:

  • Glue, we used clear-drying Elmer’s School Glue. We tried both the white and clear versions. While the clear version produced a very nice looking sun catcher, it was flimsy and doesn’t last near as long as the thicker and more sturdy white glue.
  • Food Coloring
  • Toothpicks
  • Container lids, we used lids from margarine containers and coffee cans.

 

Making SuncatchersFirst, make sure your container lids are clean and free from lint and fur if you have animals around. Pour glue into the lids to make a nice, thick and even coating on the bottom of the lid.

Have your child drip drops of food coloring into the glue. Remember, less is more! Too much food coloring will end up with a blotched, brown mess! A drop here and there will be plenty, but kids usually seem to need to learn this on their own 😉

Swirling!Allow your child to use a toothpick to swirl the colors around in the glue. Encourage imagination and creativity! Pretty spirals and grid patterns are great for building dexterity and learning to blend colors.

Set the lids aside where they can remain undisturbed to dry. This can take anywhere from a day to a week, depending on the temperature, humidity and thickness of the glue.Swirling 2!

When the glue is completely dry, carefully pry up one edge from the container. Once you have one edge free, the rest will come off pretty easily. Then, you can punch or cut a hole in the top for hanging, or trim it into shapes like the heart shape above. You will probably want to trim the edge smooth with a pair of sharp scissors for your child, then invite them to help hang it. Enjoy!

 

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Building the Machine: Common Core Education

Building the Machine: Common Core Education

What do you know about the Common Core Initiative? Do you really know what your kids are being taught in school? I’ll give you a hint: the new Common Core standards are NOTHING like it was when we were in school, folks! And, while Common Core is being taught in schools, my child will never attend a public school. I do not agree with it, with it’s corporate sponsorship and corporate interest in our CHILDREN, nor with it’s age inappropriate agendas. Please, people, watch this short movie and spread the word far and wide: FIGHT THE COMMON CORE! Just because we choose to home school our children, that does not mean they are not affected by Common Core. We still must test our kids and keep/submit their scores to the state in many states (mine included), and those tests are Common Core Aligned. Do you want your home schooled child to be able and eligible to go to college? Entrance exams are Common Core Aligned as well. Learn the facts and how to fight this initiative in your home!

>> Building the Machine: Common Core Education <<

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Printable Emergent Reader Books

This is a resource from The Measured Mom, who has a TON of wonderful resources on her site. I highly recommend giving her site a good long browse 🙂

My #1 resource that came from her site, in the stage that my son is in now, is her free printable Emergent Readers. Simply print, cut and staple, then your kiddo has their own little book that they can read on their own! My boy loves his letter “a” set, give them a try! 🙂

 

Free Emergent Readers