Homeschooling: Your Questions Answered.

Homeschooling Q&A

On my Facebook page a few weeks ago, I opened up the floor to ask me anything about my homeschooling.  I am not a defensive homeschooler, nor do I think homeschooling is right for everyone.  So whatever you want to know, you’re welcome to ask me, and I’ll answer as well as I can.  If you have questions that weren’t addressed here, please feel free to ask it and I’ll answer it in the comments.

To browse through everything I’ve ever written about homeschooling, go here.

To read the answers from the last time I offered up a Q & A session, go here.

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Michelle asked:  I’m curious how you manage your curriculum. As a Kindergarten teacher, it was all laid out for us. As I look at the all that is involved in curriculum, I think I would be very overwhelmed to try to coordinate everything myself! Do you follow a certain program? Do you look at your state CORE and just try to make sure all of the pieces or covered? Or do you have different method.

This is definitely the hardest part of homeschooling for me personally, because I am not a big fan of open-ended research, and that’s basically what it takes.  Plus, curriculum choices are like blue jeans – they work differently on everyone, so you can’t just copy what another family loves.

Thankfully, CHEF (Christian Home Educator’s Fellowship) does great conventions each year (all over – not just in Alabama, but they have separate websites for each state), and they typically have most of the major curriculum representatives there.  You can look through their books, buy there, and ask questions.

For my curriculum this year, I didn’t make it to the CHEF convention, so I asked my friends, looked at their curriculum, bought What Your First Grader Needs to Know and 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, and did a lot of internet research.  I’ve already documented most of my curriculum choices here.

As far as knowing what needs to be covered, our homeschool cover group will be keeping me accountable to this once we’re official homeschooling age next year (the state of Alabama requires that you be in a cover group once your child is 6 years old.)

 

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Jae asked, In what way is the board of education or state involved in your curriculum or testing? Also, why did you choose to go the homeschooling route? What do you feel you are able to provide your kiddies that public ed can’t?

Regarding your first question, this varies by state.  In Alabama, the only requirement is that we are under a homeschool cover group starting at the age of 6, and that cover group is responsible for requiring records and providing accountability.  Once Ali is a little bit older, she will also take standardized SAT tests once a year.

Your second question is a bit trickier, because I never want my answers to sound like I believe them to be true for every family.  I firmly believe that there is no one best choice for education – every family must choose what is best for them.  But some of the benefits that I see for our family are:

1. One-on-One education tailored to strengths and weaknesses: Because I am able to work individually with Ali, I can easily help her excel far beyond her grade in her areas of strength, while paying special attention to making learning fun in areas of weakness.  I believe that she is less frustrated, more excited, and less bored by this tailored approach.

2. Time efficiency: It is so wonderful to be able to get school done in a short amount of time every day and have no homework.  We are able to do this because of the efficiency created by working only on a one-on-one basis.

3. Christ-Centered Education: I know exactly what my daughter is learning and am able to center that learning around our faith.

4. Family Flexibility: This will especially come into play as the kids get older, but it’s nice to take family vacations when we want to take vacations, have extra-curricular activities when we want to have extra-curricular activities, and plan our school year around major holidays and family events.

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It’s a Dome Life asked, What does homeschooling a toddler look like? so far we just read, name colors, animals, etc. Did you do anything “formal”?

My Mom always told me to just have fun with little ones, and that’s exactly what we did.  I never pushed Ali beyond her desire to “play” school, and tried to teach her what she was interested in at the time.

Ali and I learned letters, colors, and animal sounds first (between 1 – 2 years old), then we learned shapes, states, countries, and presidents (between 2 – 3 years old), then writing letters and numbers (between 3 – 4 years old).

I didn’t do those activities because every three year old needs to know the Presidents – I did it to help her brain to develop, and because she’s a geek and enjoyed it immensely.  Plus, it was very easy for her to memorize them, so it was fun to see how far we could take it.

Noah, however, has zero interest in educational pursuits – he’s almost two and doesn’t know most of his letters, is just starting to figure out his colors, and that’s about it.

(He does love himself some animal sounds, though.)

I’ve recently discovered that Noah is a Kinesthetic learner – for instance, he’s much more interested in and able to learn letters if he’s putting them into a puzzle than if we’re looking at a book.

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Eva asked,  I am the most curious about how you or your mother chose curriculum. there are hundreds of choices and it’s very difficult to make a choice. how do you choose? What do you tell people who are concerned for “socialization?”  What other kind of typical reactions do you get and how do you handle the (mostly ignorant) criticism? What of “overprotecting” our kids, like my husband’s aunt indirectly brought up a couple days ago? yeah, sorry for tough questions :)

Curriculum:  Since I already answered this above, I won’t go into it further, except to say that I’m not sure how Mom chose hers, but I suspect that, like me, a lot of trial and error was involved.  It was also convenient that she ran a homeschool consignment store when I was a kid.

Socialization: I say, “I homeschooled twelve years.  I don’t feel like I am too socially stunted, but you may feel otherwise.”

Typical Reactions: I’ve come to realize that the words “We homeschool” will never bring about a completely unemotional response.  The wide range of reactions is fascinating – shock, excitement, horror, defensiveness, confusion, and awe are a few.  No one ever just says, “Oh – that’s nice.”  I try to go with the flow on the whole thing.

Also, I live in Alabama, so people are typically nice even if they’re horrified, so I don’t have to field too much outright criticism.

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Amy asked, What do you do with the toddler while the kindergartener is schooling? How long do you “do school” each day?

The toddler is a difficult one for sure.  The plan is that he will play by himself nearby while we do school.  Some days he does well, other days he doesn’t.  I also try to entertain him with coloring and stickers, and will play with him while Ali is working independently on assignments.  I have a lot of interruptions, but I figure it’s good for Ali to learn to be flexible.

We do school for two hours a day.

Michele asked, How to enroll, those logistics, etc.

This is completely different with every state.  In Alabama, you have be a part of a cover school, so you have to find one that is accepting new enrollees and find out what their requirements are.  The Homeschool Legal Defense Association has great information for each state.

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Kim asked, how do you motivate the student (you, Ali…) when facing some of the more challenging tasks?

I am certainly no pro at this one, but I try to make it fun when I can.  I give her a lot of choices, which helps her attitude.

(i.e. “Do you want to do handwriting or reading next?”)

I also am a huge believer in rewards, so I have a school reward drawer.  I offer her the opportunity to earn rewards for the tougher tasks.

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Heather asked, I’m interested in reading some linked up blogs on this.. in particular I’d like to hear about different curriculums that are ALL INCLUSIVE (like Sonlight) because at this point that is a major selling point for me – being located in Mozambique and not able to just run out to a craft/book/science/museum store and get all sorts of resources that are needed. I need the schedule, the books, the workbooks, etc and I need them to all come together. :)

I do not use Sonlight or any other all-inclusive curriculum, but I have many friends that do.  They all seem to love it, with the caveat of making sure that you get the appropriate age range for your family.

To anyone who uses an all-inclusive curriculum: will you leave your thoughts in the comments for Heather?  Also – if you’d like to write a whole post about it, please leave the link in the comments!!

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Katie asked,  We’re strongly considering [homeschooling] as well and I’d like more info on how to preview and then choose curriculum. Also how much of a mix of worldly/religious you do (50/50 or???) Then, even though I know a lot of it is location specific, what steps you do to actually enroll w/ state, homeschool group, etc. Oh, and how much of a schedule you follow from day-to-day (read, math, science, etc) and week-to-week (Monday is always library day, etc.) And how much flexibility you have to let Ali decide if she doesn’t want to do math today but do extra math tomorrow. And, unfortunately, how to deal with defending/justifying your choice to others (strangers as well as family) Yeah, just a few questions =) But thanks for doing this and being so open! =)

Phew, Katie!  It sounds like we may just need to have a phone call!  But I’ll do my best..

Curriculum: Already addressed above.

Worldly/Religious: I don’t know that I’m really capable of answering this yet since we’re only in Kindergarten.  I’m sure this will change in various ways as my kids get older, but currently, we have a bible memorization book that we read and learn verses from (and write verses in handwriting), and just recently purchased the What’s in the Bible DVD set by Phil Vischer (of Veggie Tales).  Ali’s history book is from a Christian perspective as well.  However, we get many library books and other supplementary materials that are not necessarily written from a Christian perspective.

Enrolling: This is very location specific, so I can’t answer it.  However, you can check the valuable state information on hslda.org to find out what you need to do.

Schedule: I am a very structured person by nature, so I actually follow a schedule more than I want to.  I am aiming at becoming more varied with fun projects and such, but I would rather just do the same thing every day.

Flexibility: It depends on the attitude in which Ali asks to do something different.  If she’s just being grumpy and difficult, I make her finish what we’re doing.  If she genuinely asks with respect, I will sometimes let her swap subjects.

Defending my choice:  I try to make it as light-hearted as possible.  I hate a debate of any kind, and I also don’t want to sound like I think that I am making some noble or “best” decision.  So I choose my wording very carefully, and often default to the explanation of “I homeschooled for twelve years, so it’s what I understand best” – that is often diffusing, but I know it doesn’t help other people know what to say!

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Kristin asked, I’m curious about structure, schedule, and professional development for you as a teacher. As a teacher, I’ve found one of the most beneficial development opportunities is collaboration and sharing with other teachers. Also, how will you handle subjects in higher grades that are not your area? For instance, I’m not sure I could teach more advanced science or math or foreign languages. Also, are there opportunities for online learning or even future courses in homeschooling? Sorry if my questions are uninformed! I really don’t know much about homeschool. I can say that I had a student a couple of years ago who was a phenomenal writer. I was curious where she went to high school and how she developed her ability. She told me she was homeschooled. I was blown away. The only negative I saw for her was that she had not read some of the works I take for granted students have read ( Macbeth, The Canterbury Tales, are a couple I remember). Do homeschoolers not follow the state curriculum? Sorry my questions all deal with upper grades, but that’s all I know. Being a mom of a kindergartener is blowing my mind. I’m at a loss! On second thought, can I come to your school?

Professional Development: My homeschool support group offers meetings where professionals or seasoned homeschool Moms come in and offer us great wisdom on a different topic each month.  I always come away with a few pointers to add to my strategies.  Also, I discuss homeschooling heavily with my other homeschooling friends, and we learn a lot from each other.  And of course, my Mother is a great resource.

Higher Graded Subjects: I will definitely send them to classes for many of these.  There are many homeschool co-op classes available where they can get hands-on laboratories for science, and professional instruction for higher math.  Also, many private school teachers offer classes or tutoring for homeschoolers after school hours.

State Curriculum required: No, it is not required, at least in Alabama.  This is why the choice to homeschool must be taken seriously – if we choose to be responsible for our children’s education, we must also choose to take on our task with determination and excellence.

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If you’ve made it this far in my Q & A, I’m impressed!!

(I think I lost my own attention back a few hundred words ago.)

Leave any further questions in the comments, or if you’re a homeschool Mom and would like to chime in on any of these questions, please, please please do!!