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ADVICE & COUNSEL FROM A HOMESCHOOL EXPERT
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Homeschool Graduations

>> Friday, May 29, 2009

They come in all shapes and sizes ... big and small, in a living room, in a church ... but they all have one thing in common ... their uniqueness! I think this is one of the things I most love about homeschool graduations and graduation parties. They very often are a demonstration of the talents and strengths of the graduate(s).

Tonight we will be attending a graduation "recital" and reception for a friend's daughter. She has been homeschooled all her life and her greatest love has been, and still is, music. She will be putting on a piano recital for us all to enjoy, and then we will share refreshments and an opportunity to encourage her as she heads into a new leg of her life journey.

Another friend will be enjoying the graduation of his son this weekend. 18 homeschooled friends and families will gather together to celebrate and acknowledge their shared accomplishments.

A favorite memory of mine is the homeschool graduation of my daughter's piano teacher. While it took place many years ago, it still sticks with me. The celebration was held in her home with a group of close friends and family watching on. She and her parents had put together a meaningful ceremony of homeschool recollections and a charge from her parents for the life ahead of her. What a special memory for her (and us)!

Our oldest daughter graduated from our homeschool last year. She chose to participate in our state homeschool support group graduation ceremony. She and 120+ other graduates marched into the hall together as friends and family watched. When it came her turn to receive her diploma, her dad and I met her mid-stage to share together in her special moment. We presented her diploma, which seemed very fitting to me since we helped her obtain it!

I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy a homeschool graduation this year. If you've attended one in the past, I'd love to hear some of your favorite memories.

~Judy

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Thoughts about the Internet ...

>> Thursday, May 28, 2009

A friend pointed me to a blog post yesterday that is discussing the effects of the Internet on individuals and society. It was an intriguing, and sometimes guilt-producing read! (I'm real good at the homeschool mom guilt thing)

The author discusses the "sins" of narcissism and waste generated by Internet use and the effect it can have on family relationships.

I need some time to digest what he's written. My first read left me feeling both guilt at what I recognized as myself in some of his statements, and strong disagreement at many other statements. But it did make me wonder what effect the Internet has on *homeschool* families ... particularly moms who are often tied at home 24/7 raising and teaching children. Is it a legitimate resource for "reaching out" when one is primarily at home?

So what are your thoughts? I'd be interested in your reaction to Internetmonk's ideas.

~Judy

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How do I plan for high school?!

>> Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Homeschooling elementary age children is a huge decision. Many of us couldn't imagine teaching someone to read when we started out. But homeschool a high schooler?! No way I'm up to that task!!

When I talk with folks about homeschooling a teenager, two concerns seem to rise to the surface. The first is a perceived inability to teach such hefty subjects as Chemistry and Geometry. The second is a fear of planning and keeping records that will satisfy a future college.

While the first may be "easily" satisfied with all the on-line and computer-based science and math products available, the second seems to be more intimidating. I'd like to offer a couple of thoughts that might make it less so.

For any high school course of study, it is very helpful to create a syllabus. This is as simple as establishing your expectations for your student. Here are a couple of examples ...

AMERICAN HISTORY (Junior Year)
  • Read daily assignments from Core text
  • Maintain a Word document of answers to all questions based on reading assignments
  • Complete one research paper on an individual of your choosing from your American History studies (Length = 2-5 pages dbl spaced, complete bibliography with no fewer than three sources)
Satisfactory completion of these requirements will result in a passing grade.

AMERICAN LITERATURE (Junior Year)
  • Choose 10 titles from the provided book list
  • Complete the associated writing assignment for each literature piece
Satisfactory completion of these requirements will result in a passing grade.

Much like a college course, a syllabus provides a clear understanding between instructor and student as to what is needed to receive a passing grade. Creating a written copy of a syllabus for each course for your student's high school folder/portfolio presents a clear picture of your child's education. It also becomes easy source material for creating your high school transcript.

My final thought is simply this ... yes, *you* are qualified to create the syllabus for each high school course your student undertakes. You are the teacher ... you know your student's abilities ... and you are best able to set reasonable goals for your child's education. A syllabus goes a long way toward removing any subjectivity in the high school record keeping process. If your student completes the expectations outlined in the syllabus to *your* satisfaction, then a 4.0 or A or A+ is automatically entered on their transcript.

Trust your instincts ... just as you were the best one to teach your child to read, you are also the best one to guide that child through the high school process!

~Judy

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Space Shuttle Atlantis

>> Saturday, May 16, 2009

I've been enjoying watching the folks at Atlantis repair the Hubble telescope this week. It's just awe-inspiring to me to watch (in real time) the astronauts leave the relative safety of the shuttle and float, climb and wander around the docked telescope to replace cameras and other technology. Fox has a great Shuttle live feed that I've had playing on my computer this week.

As I watched two of the guys wrestle with a particularly ornery piece of equipment yesterday, it struck me that in my lifetime I watched Neil Armstrong take the first step on the moon ... and now I'm watching live video and audio feed of a floating "service station" in the sky.

I'm choosing not to allow this to make me feel old.

~Judy

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Homeschool Mom Guilt

>> Friday, May 15, 2009

So you want to homeschool your children? OK ... first let's see if you "qualify". Please check all that apply from the following list:

  • You use cloth diapers only
  • You grow all your vegetables (and then can or freeze them for the winter)
  • You bake all your bread (after you've hand-ground the wheat)
  • You sew all your clothes and your husband's and children's too
  • You bake cookies only from scratch, with some of that hand-ground wheat and honey from the bees you keep out back
  • You feed your children only whole milk, straight from the Guernsey you keep out back
  • You play the piano beautifully, sing like an angel, and whistle while you work, in the garden out back
  • You knit beautiful blankets from the wool you spin from the sheep you raise out back
I suspect you know where I'm going with this! A friend recently shared a blog post she read over on WorldMag.com and it got me to thinking about this topic. I suspect that WorldMag article does carry some truth to it. We moms can indeed be cruel to one another. But I wonder where that judgmental attitude really comes from? Maybe because we're not terribly confident in our own choices?

I find myself often guilty of the same behavior ... comparing myself to others and finding myself coming up short. Or I compare myself to my own self-imposed expectations, and once again come up short. Sort of like those Corinthians that Paul had to remind ...
2Cr 10:12

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

2Cr 10:13

We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.


One of the great lessons that God continues to teach me in both my parenting and my homeschooling is that He and He alone sets the standards for my life. I can certainly admire the efforts and accomplishments of others, but ultimately the only plan that matters for my life is the one my Father has assigned.

So what does this mean on a daily basis? Huge boatloads of grace! Grace towards myself, when I fail to reach the expectations *I've* set for myself (or for my spouse or children). Grace towards friends and acquaintances who make different choices from mine. Or put more plainly ... cut myself (and others) a break!

Keep on keeping on ...
~Judy

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Homeschooling and the Economy ...

>> Thursday, May 14, 2009

Having recently spent a weekend at a large homeschool convention, and trying to discern if attendance was up, down or stable, I decided to do a bit of surfing to see what the Web had to say about the effect of the economy on homeschooling today.

I came across an interesting article titled "Number of homeschoolers continues to rise despite the economy". According to the author's research, homeschooling continues to grow at the rate of about 8% per year. Yet another article discusses how the high price of private schooling is forcing some to turn to homeschooling when they can no longer afford tuition.

While I am not an expert on economic or social trends, I am certain that the change in our economy will affect homeschooling as much as it does anything else. Creeping closer and closer to the half-century mark, my experience has been that folks spend their money on their priorities. While homeschooling may require more of a sacrifice this year than it has in the past, I do believe that parents will find creative ways to make this type of education possible if it is a priority. That is certainly *not* to say that those who choose not to homeschool do not see their childrens' education as being important.

Feel free to share your comments about how the economy will affect your homeschooling this year. Perhaps you've come up with some creative ways to make it more affordable ... or perhaps the quality and value of your curriculum materials far outweighs cost and you've chosen to cut back in other areas. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Teaching Science ... Remember HENSA?

>> Wednesday, May 13, 2009

H.E.N.S.A. = Home Educators Neglecting Science Activities. A group that was birthed some time ago on the Sonlight Forums, and continues to exist ... HENSA is reflective of many a homeschool. By the time you get Math and Reading and Language Arts and Writing and History out of the way, who has time for Science?! Especially if you also have to make time for piano lessons, and baseball, and flute lessons, and basketball, and ... well, you get the picture.

When my children were in the K-4 or 5 years, I came up with a solution to my HENSA woes that worked out pretty well in our homeschool. Each quarter of our school year (every 9 weeks), we would take a "week off" from all other subjects (except math!) and enjoy a science week. That science week would focus on a single topic ... perhaps weather, or astronomy, or electricity, etc...

As I planned my school year each summer, I would choose four science topics to enjoy for the coming year. I would then make certain to collect anything I needed for each of these weeks as they drew closer. I usually spent some time on-line during the summer, checking for special Science books or supplies that might round out our topical studies. Then a couple weeks prior to each Science week, I would visit our local library to add to our stack of books for study.

Once each Science week arrived, we would pull out our stacks of books and science materials, each student would grab their Science "notebook" (3-ring binder with lined and unlined paper), and we would begin our adventure. This might involve some reading about the topic on their own, some reading that I would do aloud, and any activities or experiments that might relate to the topic at hand. I usually tried to include one or two Science videos related to the topic as well. I would make sure that we wrote down any new Science "words" in their notebooks, being certain they understood what they meant. We also sketched (or you could take photos of) the experiments we tried. These all made for a wonderful Science notebook.

My primary goal was to ignite an excitement in my children for learning about Science. Since I viewed these weeks as being "discovery" oriented, I wasn't terribly concerned about mastery of the material. At a time when our major focus was on learning to read well and establishing the fundamentals of math, this approach to Science was enjoyable for all of us.

So don't obsess about Science ... and proudly wear your HENSA badge year-round, with the exception of four weeks when you enjoy exploring God's creation with your children!

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'Tis the Season for Testing

>> Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Next to socialization, testing is probably the second most "hot topic" for homeschoolers. Should I or shouldn't I? Do I have to? What am I required to do?

I'm certain most of us realize that not all children test well. There are also students who do better with an "oral" exam as opposed to something on paper. Still others do great with essays, but really suffer when it comes to True/False or multiple choice tests.

Much like anything else in homeschooling, your first step is to decide what works best for your family, and for each student within your family. Your next stop should be your local support group or perhaps the HSLDA web site to find out what your area's homeschool regulations require in the area of testing. Once you have answered both of these questions, you can move on to make decisions about the values of testing, types of testing, and what is available in your area.

A couple of things to consider when deciding whether or not to test your children. Testing sometimes provides an unbiased review for you as the teacher. It helps to point out areas of need and highlights areas where your child excels. I remember one of my kids consistently scored low a couple of years in the area of punctuation and capitalization. I had not seen it during the school year, but the testing showed me an area where we needed a bit of remediation. Seeing areas where your student excels may provide a jumping-off point for extra-curricular activities. Finally, testing may also be good "practice" for your students. If higher education is in your child's future, it's worth having them experience testing while still at home, than to have it be totally unfamiliar when they reach college.

Where to go for testing services? One of the most frequently used options I'm familiar with is the Bob Jones University Testing Service. They primarily provide the Stanford and IOWA tests, and your ability to administer some of their tests will be based on your having a college degree (Bachelors). Seton provides the CAT-E standardized tests for homeschoolers. While I have no experience with these, I know many homeschoolers who use them and are pleased with the results. Their pricing is very reasonable. From the Family Learning Organization you can obtain the California Achievement Tests. Again, I am not personally familiar with this organization, but they are another option.

Whether to test or not is a personal decision ... what is "right" for one family may not be for another. There are many alternatives to testing as well ... probably as many as there are homeschooling families! But we'll leave that to another post.

~Judy

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