Things I Want To Shout From The Rooftops!

My homeschool philosophy or
Things I want to shout from the rooftops or
Things I seem to say over and over….by Kim McIntyre

1. If you’ve decided to embark on the homeschool journey, good for you! If YOU call yourself a homeschooler, I will too. Who am I to say otherwise? And being a homeschooler does NOT mean I am anti other schooling. Thank goodness we have choices.

2. There is no right or perfect way to do it. There are tons of methods, resources, curricula etc. Chances are what works for one kid won’t work for another. (Maybe even the other kids in your family!) Thankfully, whatever you choose only has to work for your kid. And it only has to work today. It might not work tomorrow and that’s okay because there are tons of methods, resources, curricula, etc.

3. Kids learn ALL the time. Even if it doesn’t really look like it. Even if it doesn’t look like you want it to. Kids often learn in spite of us. Kids’ learning often looks a lot like play and like a lot of fun. Join in! You just might learn a thing or two.

4. You WILL miss things! It’s impossible to teach EVERYTHING. Instead focus on basics (reading, writing & arithmetic), help them figure out their learning style, how to find information and to think critically. Hopefully, you can demonstrate that even adults still need and want to learn things. Hopefully, they will LOVE learning. There is no rush! They have their entire life.

5. High school is just a continuation of what you’ve been doing. Or maybe you are just starting…if so, good for you (see #1)! In some ways it is easier because the kids already know the basics and can clearly express their interests and preferences. (Oops, sometimes that makes it harder!) It’s really great when they can drive themselves to lessons, classes, and activities. You CAN give them a diploma and transcripts (the important part) are not that hard!

6. Going to college is no more of a challenge for homeschooled students than any others. Colleges have DECADES of experience with homeschoolers! Research and prepare but DO NOT WORRY!

7. Savor this moment because it will not last. If it’s a bad one, it will soon pass. If it’s a good one, it will soon pass. Be kind to your kids. Be kind to yourself. It’s a journey…don’t forget to look at the scenery along the way.

Kim McIntyre is a veteran homeschooler with 17+ years behind her. Her youngest graduated from home in the spring of 2014. She has two degrees from the University of Michigan. Currently living in Great Falls, MT and substitute teaching. Quirky fact: She has lived in four different states, all beginning with the letter M. Wonder what the other two are? 

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A Public School Teacher Speaks from the Heart to You ~ the Homeschooler

Mark Twain has famously said, or has been said to have said, something along the lines of, you should not let school get in the way of your education.

quote-Mark-Twain-i-have-never-let-my-schooling-interfere-100661_1 I was blessed to have been born into a family which held this attitude. Also, I was fortunate to have lived in places, where outside of school, there were a plethora of educational opportunities. My parents took me in and out of school to allow me adventures and opportunities that sitting in a classroom would never have allowed. The schools were fine with this. There was a time when there was some mutual respect between parents and school, but in the age of accountability, much of that has gone away. Restrictive absence regulations are in place. Why? Every minute your child spends in a hard plastic chair equals a modicum of progress in the educational Holy Grail – the end of grade tests. I have a passion for what I do; I am a public middle school teacher. I do believe that what I do makes a difference.

However, I know I am working within a flawed system. Hundreds of articles by other teachers attest to the fact that many teachers feel the same way. Until education reform is based on a philosophy that holds the child above all else, rather than on political agendas, this will be the case. As a teacher, I can say that what public schools and most private schools are good at is educating a large population at one time. The hitch is this means there is little room to recognize or sculpt curriculum to a child’s individual needs. If your child has no individual needs, public school is a great place for him. Oh, wait! All children have individual needs. This is why, as a public middle school teacher, I make every attempt to find out my children’s talents and interests, but in a class of 25 plus, I would be lying if I told you that I could really build on those each and every minute they are in my class.

If I discover your child has a passion for nature photography, I can’t haul the entire class out to the Arboretum to help cultivate that passion, while linking it to lessons in optics, botany, biology and writing, then have them all back at school in an hour for their next class. These limitations are the main reasons that I think homeschool parents should feel good about the choices they are making for their child’s education. Yet, there are others. Public school education, even at the lowest grade levels allows for very little physical activity. Recess time has been whittled down to allow more time in class to allow for higher test scores. From this arises a whole host of problems for children such as over diagnosing of hyperactivity and attention disorders, emotional disorders, and to me the worse, children hating school — hating learning. Learning, the great joy of many of our lives, made a hated thing?

Perhaps one of the most hurtful policies is the pushing of advance learning goals to lower and lower grades. For instance, reading in pre-K. Most children are not ready to read for many years after that. Boys especially may not be ready to read until they are seven or eight. My own father never really read until he was ten. When he did begin to read his love of reading and his skill was a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, my son read at two. He was the unique one though, not like my father and his slower progress. These years of non-reading garnered my father shame and scorn. He thought he was stupid. This is a situation that more children are facing now because of the reading standards are pushed even lower.

In our test crazed system, children are expected to progress according to the standards, not their own unique timetable. However, these standards are not compatible with child development. As I said before, I try to get to know my students and what drives them. I must admit that I can do little with this knowledge and the knowledge I gain is imperfect. You, the parent, KNOW your child. You know what is best for them. If you have misgivings about your choice to homeschool or unschool, this incontrovertible fact should give you heart. You know your child. You know what is best for him or her.

As a final salve let us list some people who were homeschooled and did okay: Thomas Jefferson, Louisa May Alcott, Teddy Roosevelt…feel free to continue the list.

Lisa Hope Vierra-Moore

I have always thought of myself as a homeschooler who sent her children to school. In my upbringing as an “Army Brat,” I have experienced just about any educational environment you can think of. The good, the bad, and the train wrecks. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany in the early sixties and moved often from that point on. As a teacher I have taught high school English, psychology, world history and philosophy. For the last 10 years I have taught 7th grade English Language Arts. I received my undergraduate degree from Presbyterian College. I am a great lover of literature and the arts. Creating whimsical art from found objects, painting, cooking and family fun fill up my non-work time.

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5 Purely Random Meditations on Homeschooling

I came into homeschooling by chance. It was by chance that my second child was born with a learning difference. It was also by chance that, in the third grade, he landed one exceptionally bad teacher in an otherwise exceptionally good school. So it happened that one warm, sunny April afternoon, without having any previous notion I would be homeschooling ANY of my children, he and I sat looking at each other in shock and disbelief. I think we were both wondering if I had just really told the principal he wouldn’t be returning the next day, or any other day for that matter.

I remember everything feeling very surreal as I drove directly to the public library, and checked out all they had on homeschooling (3 books). We went home like any other afternoon, except that the largest shift ever, in our family dynamic, had just occurred. It rumbled up from the earth and shook us from our roots, through our core, to our tiny budding leaves.

Fast forward a few years; now that I’m a veteran homeschooler of exactly 1 child, I can reflect on the new life that has emerged for us. As a result, I have strung together 5 seemingly unrelated, but nonetheless profound ~ to me ~ meditations on homeschooling. Maybe, some of these are familiar to you too.

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhots.net

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhots.net

1. Those fears I had about homeschooling were unfounded.

Anyone who has considered homeschooling, even if it was just a fleeting thought, has had these fears: I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know if my child will learn, I’m afraid I will leave something out, I’m afraid my child and I won’t get along or he/she won’t listen to me, I’m not smart enough, I suck at math (or science, or grammar, or whatever).

I’m relieved to report that I found all of this to be untrue; this doesn’t mean I don’t have to chase away the doubt monster which is always creeping in – but no matter what, when I look at my (mostly) happy, (definitely) thriving child, I know my fears were unfounded. It’s not just test scores that say it. Actually, the test scores are the least important indicator to me that this is working.

It’s the feedback from him in a thousand tangible and intangible ways that let me know those things I was so scared of, on the way to the library that day, were unfounded. It’s also feedback from those around him: his friends, his friends’ parents, the folks at the science center, the youth leaders at the Y, his art teacher, the cashier at the grocery store, other family members, etc. The interactions he has with friends, family, and community put my mind at ease. We can do this. My child is learning. If we discover a hole in our curriculum (geography!), we can pick it up any time. We can get along (almost every day).

I’m no genius, but I am smart enough to facilitate my child’s learning – which is an innate drive within him, as a human being. I am not the vessel of all knowledge that must be poured into his brain. I might suck at math, but I’m excellent at seeking out a curriculum that works for him, and takes the stress off of me – which for us is Teaching Textbooks, at least this year.

2. Except One – Homeschoolers are weirdos.

It’s the most common misconception, right? “Homeschool weirdo” is an actual term. I’m sure it’s in a dictionary somewhere. In my naïve homeschooling infancy, this was one of my fears too. My kid was going to be a homeschool weirdo. But unlike the previous point, this one turned out to be true.

My kid is a total homeschool weirdo.

Because homeschoolers are weird. Just like public schoolers. Because kids are weird, and people are weird, and that’s just a straight up fact.

The first homeschool group function I went to, I looked around at everyone, very carefully evaluating their weirdness. Just as I suspected, it was a strange bunch, and I was fascinated. There were a few religious zealots. There was also the kid who arrived on the back of his mom’s Harley. There were a couple of radicals, who felt all word problems were created by the liberal left, and the ones who had never had a haircut their entire lives. There were the brainy ones, who answered all the questions before the teacher even asked them, and the awkward ones, who shuffled off to the side and didn’t want to interact. There were also the ones that appeared “normal” on the outside, whose eccentricities were below the surface, but were no less real. It didn’t take me long to realize that homeschool kids are weird, just as weird as the tribe of public school kids that we had long been a part of.

3. I love Nickelback.

There. Now it’s out there. Let the internet flames rain upon me. I love the one band everyone in the world seems to agree sucks. But, I have a semi-reasonable justification for it.

With my son at home, I’ve had many more opportunities to experience his evolving person. The way I loved The Wiggles when he was 18 months old, and he would dance and sing along to them like they were gospel – that’s the way I love Nickelback now. To see how he sings every (god awful) word while he sketches. Or watch him put “Photograph” on repeat and jam while he cleans up one million Legos for the one millionth time. I love it. Seriously. I love it because he loves it. If I am in the car, and Nickelback comes on the radio, I turn that sucker up. It’s my way of giving thanks for this parenting opportunity that I might have otherwise missed out on.

4. Child labor is a good thing!

I remember watching Michelle Duggar of reality TV fame, and thinking rather judgmentally that she was running a child labor camp. Every kid had what seemed like an endless list of “jurisdictions” or chores they were responsible for, and most of them involved meetings the needs of younger siblings. I’m not the only person out there who criticized her delegation of duties; it seemed the kids were all mini parents of one another. After becoming a homeschool veteran (smirk), I can say one thing: Mama Duggar was on to something. I’m not about to sprout a quiver-full of kids, though some would argue that my 4 already are, but I will readily admit my opinion has changed.

Here’s the deal. When my son was in school, I felt bad asking him to do any chores at home. He had already been cooped up all day, he had homework to do, and I wanted him to be able to spend time being a kid. Simple chores that he would have been entirely capable of (and benefited from) were left to me or his father. But remember that shift in our family dynamic I mentioned? This was a biggie for me. One of the best things about homeschool is the labor I get out of him. Trash? Done. Bathrooms? Working on it. Dishes, laundry, prepping dinner? He is part of it all. And perhaps the pot of gold at the end of the jurisdiction rainbow – childcare. He helps meet the needs of his younger siblings. He can give baths, read books, change clothes, feed snacks, even play dollhouse if I really need him to. He has successfully calmed a feverish and vomiting toddler when I was unable to get to him. This may have literally been the moment I was most proud of my 11-year-old ~ to see him calmly comforting his little brother, on his lap, while they both sat covered in puke. I just felt like “Hey, this guy is fantastic, and he is gonna grow into an exceptional adult.” He has the opportunity to contribute to our family, and nurture other people in a way he never would have before. I am trying to come up with an academic skill more important than that, and I can’t. Just can’t.

So Michelle Duggar ~ if you are out there. I was wrong. You knew something I didn’t. I admit it!

5. I could totally be Secretary of State.

Actually, I think this one might be true for any parent, but homeschooling just underscored it for me personally.

One day I was a mother of two public school boys, and in a matter of hours I became a homeschooler. I had zero preparation, zero forethought, and very little grasp of what I was getting myself into. That first afternoon, I felt I was sinking. But damn, if I didn’t get a grip on myself and put my big girl panties on, as they say. It was rocky at first, but I figured this gig out. I know I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination; worries and doubts cloud my thoughts on a daily basis. But, I went from being completely overwhelmed by what I thought was an unimaginably tall task, to feeling ever so slightly ahead of the 8-ball. Frankly, I believe that the doubt I feel helps keep me accountable to this task. I can always do better.

I’ve had opportunities to gain confidence in my adult life: graduation from college and grad school, accolades and promotions in my professional life, childbirth, maneuvering marriage and family, like we all do. This undertaking though, has given me confidence in ways nothing else has. And I am not kidding when I say that if I woke up tomorrow, to find some apocalyptic circumstance in which I was appointed Secretary of State, I could figure that gig out too.

– A.A.

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Anne Alloway is a homeschooling mother of four who gave up personal space a very long time ago.

Honoring Women in History the Homeschool Way

March is designated as Women’s History Month and today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate “the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.”

When I talk with people interested in homeschooling, one of the questions they often ask is, “How can I possibly teach my children things I don’t know myself?” This is a great question, because none of us can possibly know everything. We can’t be experts on every field of science, all of mathematics, the entirety of world history, or the vastness of literature. The answer I usually give to this question has many parts, but one of the most important in my own life, is the idea that as a homeschooling parent, I am my children’s partner in learning. I don’t need to be an expert who can answer every question; I just need to be interested in exploring the answers with them. 

Every day, I come across things I don’t know. Today, Women’s History Month is making me aware of the gaps in my own understanding. I love the idea of Women’s History Month, because I want my kids to know about the important contributions of women to our society. And yet, when I look at the way women are portrayed in history, it so often seems to be as an adjunct to men. How Sacajawea helped an essentially male project conceived by President Jefferson and led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. How Sibyl Ludington aided in Paul Revere’s efforts to notify the patriots. How American women facilitated the male-led war effort in the 1940’s by building airplanes and acting as nurses.

I have this nagging suspicion that there’s something wrong with a view of history in which nearly everything important was done by men. Where the main narrative is a kind of framework of names and dates, of conquest and treaties and political developments accomplished by men. Where those few women we learn about are outliers who overcame their nature as keepers of the hearth to act on a broader, male stage. I don’t really know what to do about that, and yet, having identified it as a problem, I have time to work on it.

I am my children’s teacher today, and I’ll also be their teacher for years to come. If I realize two years from now that I should have explained something differently this week, I will still be able to do that. If we visit Seneca Falls three years from now, I’ll be able to help my children make connections between the historical site of the first women’s rights convention in 1848, and things we’ve learned together this year. I have time to find books and articles that will help me see this issue of women’s history more clearly. In the meantime, I can do my best with what I know today. I can choose books to read with my children as thoughtfully as I can, and have discussions at the dinner table based on what we all understand now.

This week, my daughter is loving a book she picked up at the library, Girls Who Rocked the World by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelie Welden. I’m reading aloud a chapter about women in early America from Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States to both of my kids. For myself, I’m reading the inspiring stories of this year’s National Women’s History Month honorees at the National Women’s History Project website.

That’s good enough for right now. The future will take care of itself as we learn together as a family.

— Sonja

Sonja Kueppers is a homeschooling parent of two children, aged 10 and 8, who have never been to school. She is an enthusiastic lifelong learner with an eclectic academic background. In addition to homeschooling her children, she works part-time in the IT field and enjoys playing board games. She has been married for over 20 years to her college sweetheart, a dedicated co-parent who also finds time to bake all of the family’s birthday cakes.

Download Our Teleconferences! Listen Anytime, Anywhere!

We, here at N.A.S.H., are pleased to provide downloadable mp3 versions of the 5 teleconferences we hosted during National School Choice Week, January 26-30, 2015.

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1) How to Start Homeschooling

Making the decision to homeschool your child(ren) is exciting but it can be a bit overwhelming. N.A.S.H. offered some helpful suggestions in getting started, during our National School Choice Week teleconference recording, “How To Start Homeschooling” from January, 26, 2015.

2) All About Secular Curricula

The topic of this teleconference, recorded on January 27, 2015, during National School Choice Week, is secular academic homeschool curricula and programs. This includes curriculum, co-ops, and live and online programs. One of the most challenging issues for homeschoolers is choosing curriculum and programs for their kids. For those of us who want secular academics, finding curriculum and programs that we like, and that also work for our children, can be extremely challenging. This hour-long discussion includes some practical tips for finding secular academic materials, a discussion of some common misconceptions about these materials, and a thought provoking discussion about why it is important to find and use academic materials of a secular nature.

3) Demystifying Homeschool Methods

Did you know there are many different ways to homeschool? Do you ever wonder what homeschooling style would work best for your family? In the Methods of Homeschooling Teleconference, recorded on January 28, 2015, for National School Choice Week, our panel of homeschoolers discussed how their unique homeschooling styles works for their families. The panel included unschooling father, Dennis Wolf, eclectic homeschooling mom, Beth Suitt, curricula­-based homeschooling mom, Jill Harper, and roadschooling mom, Larah Ritchie. These speakers along with the moderator, Jai Cook, the Programs and Services Senior Director for N.A.S.H., will help you demystify the various methods of homeschooling.

4) Homeschooling High School

Homeschooling comes with a lot of questions and uncertainties, and one of those is our ability to homeschool our children through high school. Many misconceptions surround homeschooling high school and many parents have questions and feel insecure about their ability to homeschool grades 9-12. As a result, this seems to be the prime time in which parents decide to send their children to school, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Fortunately, the passage before you has been walked. Two people who have navigated this path, Blair Lee and Jaime Cook, are here to help you. Along with Meg Grooms who moderated the Homeschooling High School Teleconference, recorded on January 29, during National School Choice Week.

5) The Dreaded “S” Word ~ Socialization

One thing that new homeschooling families often worry about is the dreaded “S” word ~ Socialization. They worry their child(ren) will grow up to be odd or anti-social because they’re missing out on the social aspects of public schooling. The National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers (N.A.S.H.) invited three women to come and discuss their thoughts on socialization during a teleconference recorded on January 30, 2015, during National School Choice Week.

The Dreaded “S” Word ~ Socialization

One thing that new homeschooling families often worry about is the dreaded “S” word ~ Socialization. They worry their child(ren) will grow up to be odd or anti-social because they’re missing out on the social aspects of public schooling. The National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers (N.A.S.H.) invited three women to come and discuss their thoughts on socialization during a teleconference recorded on January 30, 2015, during National School Choice Week.

Mari Beth Buckroth, The Inappropriate Homeschooler and founder of N.A.S.H., was joined by Beckie Tetrault and Tina Smith, co-hosts of The Savvy Homeschool Moms Podcast. Tina also blogs on The Homeschool Realm.

In order to discuss socialization, one must first define exactly what is being asked. Is the person concerned with their child’s ability to interact with other people outside of their family? No worries! Of course, your child will be able to interact with other humans. They’re learning how to make their way through the world everyday by interacting with you, and the other people that pass through their lives. Another question may be, will my child have friends, will they have a social life? And again, the answer is most likely yes. Homeschooling will not drastically change the basic personality of your child. If your child is shy at school, there is a pretty good chance that they will continue to be shy, homeschooling or not. If your kid is a little quirky, most likely they will continue to be on the quirky side. During the teleconference, the audience was able to ask the panel questions. These questions may be some of the same ones you have. Examples of their inquiries are:

  • How does one go about starting a local homeschool group?
  • How do you deal with having children of differing personalities? Such as one and introvert and one an extrovert.
  • What is your opinion on online socializing for kids, tweens, and teens when you live in an area with few homeschool group options?

Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Homeschooling High School

Homeschooling comes with a lot of questions and uncertainties, and one of those is our ability to homeschool our children through high school. Many misconceptions surround homeschooling high school and many parents have questions and feel insecure about their ability to homeschool grades 9-12. As a result, this seems to be the prime time in which parents decide to send their children to school, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Fortunately, the passage before you has been walked. Two people who have navigated this path, Blair Lee and Jaime Cook, are here to help you. Along with Meg Grooms who moderated the Homeschooling High School Teleconference, recorded on January 29, during National School Choice Week.

Questions addressed in this session include:

  • How do I plan for high school?
  • Can homeschooled kids go to college?
  • What about prom?
  • How do I keep my teen on track?

It’s our sincerest hope that this discussion helps ease your mind and gives you courage. You, too, can homeschool the high school years!

Additional links:

Homeschool Gameschool (Meg Grooms)

Blair Lee Blog

Pandia Press

National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers (N.A.S.H.)

Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net