Now more than ever, homeschoolers are looking to emerge from their homes and engage with the community around them. Whether you are new to an area, a temporary resident, or a lifelong inhabitant, learning about the place you live can lead to all sorts of new opportunities and adventures in learning. Here are 10 simple ways to start using your community to enliven your life and learning. Continue reading »
Are you looking for something to do outside with the kids during this period of social distancing? Taking them to a cemetery to document graves respects social distancing while providing kids with an opportunity to participate in a "treasure" hunt, use photography skills, enjoy nature, and learn about history. Continue reading »
Many of us homeschoolers are automobile-dependent. Living in rural or suburban areas and in some small and medium size towns and cities, we find that our communities aren't "walkable," and there is no public transportation to speak of. There is certainly no school bus serving our family. Since our kids aren't in the "big box of school" we have to drive to many of the activities and classes our kids participate in. With three kids in a wide age range and with a diversity of interests, over the years I have found myself constantly traveling from one "homeschool thing" to another, also mixing in our regular errands. Continue reading »
We just started homeschooling about a month ago. Our son is in first grade. We purchased the curriculum (here she named a specific well-known Christian curriculum), but it's not going as well as I had hoped. My son really doesn't like the structure of the program. He's a six-year-old boy who loves to be outside. Any encouragement, advice, resources, wisdom, or thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks so much! Continue reading »
A great activity for your homechool group or co-op is a library scavenger hunt. Working with your librarian, plan a gathering for homeschoolers that includes sending the kids throughout the library to find resources, so they'll get to know the library better. If the scavenger hunt is promoted by the library, you might even find some more homeschooling friends in your community if they show up at the scavenger hunt. You can organize the kids into pairs or teams (and have the youngest kids hunt with an adult), and send them out with a list of things for each child to find or do in the library. A sample scavenger list might ... Continue reading »
Everybody knows homeschoolers go on a lot of field trips.
We start them young with trips to the fire department and the water treatment plant. We go to historic farms, art museums, animal shelters, state and national parks, corn mazes, and caverns.
In my state, Virginia, you can study practically all of American history through field trips: Native American sites, Jamestown, Williamsburg, historic grist mills, Frontier Culture Museum, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier, antebellum plantations, Civil War battlefields and museums, memorials of World War I and II, Civil Rights sites, a Vietnam War museum, and more. Continue reading »
The reality is that when you homeschool, it can easily seem like an endless treadmill. Often there aren’t the same demarcations in the school year that public school students experience, as many homeschoolers follow non-traditional schedules and do academics year-round. Moving from one "grade" to another becomes an issue of "in which subject?" and summer "break" can simply be a matter of shifting academics from traditional book work to more experiential learning. Homeschooling, like parenting, never ends while the kids are still at home. Continue reading »
In my family, interest-based groups have been an important part of homeschooling life. We formed a number of these groups over the years. Some, like a history club made up of eager parents and not-so-eager young children, barely lasted long enough for a few meetings. Others have lasted ten years. The most successful has been our boy’s science club. It was started by five families with nine boys between the ages of seven and eleven. When we began it was highly structured. We met regularly at each other’s homes. Parents took turns planning a project or experiment, got the materials, explained the educational principles underlying the activity, and if things didn’t turn out as planned (actually quite frequently) it was usually a parent who searched for answers. Continue reading »
Many experienced homeschoolers have long valued the ability to delay formal academics to create a more holistic early childhood education for their young children, with the understanding that this creates a rich foundation for later academic and life success. Today, parents new to homeschooling are embarking on homeschooling at a time when public schools are emphasizing early formal academics and implementing standardized testing of very young children, despite lack of evidence that these practices enhance educational outcomes for the children.
As David Elkind (author of The Hurried Child and The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally) writes in "Much Too Early" for the website EducationNext, "Why, when we know what is good for young children, do we persist in miseducating them, in putting them at risk for no purpose?" Continue reading »
Schools are pushing standardized testing and formal academics earlier than ever, with today's kindergartners and preschoolers asked to master skills and content that used to be learned in first and second grades.
Stories like this one from New York and this one from Chicago are popping up all over the country -- frequent standardized testing of five year olds (and the accompanying test prep) is becoming the norm in public education. Formal reading, writing, and arithmetic teaching are displacing the time honored traditions of kindergarten -- play, story time, learning to share, and enrichment activities that lead to numeracy and literacy.
Some school reformers see the same thing that many homeschoolers do -- that a loss of play puts academic success at risk. A complete report on this was issued by the Alliance for Childhood, "Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School". Continue reading »
You've heard the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." You've probably also noticed slap backs like, "I've seen the village and it's not raising my kids." Continue reading »
Everyone has a comment on the increasing popularity of homeschooling. When I talk to people about homeschooling, they frequently mention the availability of "so much curriculum these days," as if that is the single most important factor in being able to homeschool. Non-homeschoolers, prospective homeschoolers, and new homeschoolers seem surprised that many homeschoolers use learning materials that are not, strictly speaking, part of a homeschool curriculum. There are many reasons why people use other learning resources instead of curriculum. Continue reading »
Maybe in your home school, children start school back up, after lots of summer breaks and trips and fun, with excitement and delight. Let’s just say that back-to-school doesn’t look anything like that for us. In our household, even though technically we “do school” throughout the summer to some degree, our August/Septemberish get-down-to-serious-business homeschool re-start is a bit bumpy, to say the least. There is always whining and complaining. Frequently a bunch of “I don’t KNOWs”, even over concepts we’ve gone over many times. Very little patience. Sometimes downright fits.
It’s not a pretty sight. Continue reading »
I recently wrote about how homeschooling parents can use a dialogue-based approach to education, which I see as a big potential benefit to home education. While many public schools have been forced into test-prep mania that defines success very narrowly, homeschoolers can use this educational approach to develop critical thinking and evaluate learning.
Scientific American has a recent story that reflects my thoughts on the unfortunate increased emphasis on standardized testing in public education. Continue reading »
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we can continue to help our kids build content during skills lags, customizing what works for each child. Experienced homeschoolers often fall into these techniques over time, but I offer a few of my favorite ways you can help your child get "subject area learning" before his reading and writing skills are developed to an extent that they can be the primary routes to learning. Continue reading »
Why should you attend a homeschooling conference or convention this year? Conferences help you adjust your course and recharge your batteries. If you need to refine your homeschooling style, find new curriculum or resources, or re-consider your children's needs, a homeschooling conference can provide the stimulation you need to help you figure out how to tweak and improve your homeschooling life. You'll also have a chance to re-charge your own batteries; hearing informative speakers and being surrounded by other homeschooling families can inspire and refresh you. Continue reading »
A library of field guides is an important resource for homeschooling families, and with spring just around the corner, it's a great time to make sure you have what you need on hand to help with identification of birds, trees, insects, spiders, snakes, turtles, frogs, toads, and wildflowers. Here are some tips for making sure your field guides are frequently-used. Continue reading »
In the midst of back-to-school sales and school orientations, many homeschoolers are now planning something different for September—a Not Back To School event. Even homeschoolers who don’t organize academic learning by a traditional school calendar enjoy this type gathering, which celebrates the distinctiveness of homeschooling. Continue reading »
Whether you school year 'round or take a break during the summer months, June, July, and August are the ideal time to jazz up your homeschooling with a bit of extra fun. Warm weather, sunshine, and summer breaks from regular-year activities all make the middle of the year perfect for a little excitement! Camps and swimming are pretty par-for-the-course for many families, but there are just so many things that homeschoolers can do to get the most out of summer and make some wonderful memories. Here are 20 fun ideas to get you started: Continue reading »
It's March, and by this point in the winter most homeschoolers have the winter blahs. You know, that "sick of being inside" "tired of the daily homeschool grind" sentiment that leads you and the kids to wish you could be doing anything other than school. Often by this point in the season, the art supplies have been well used, the indoor games have been played, and everyone is in need of a little excitement. Sometimes a dose of creativity and fun can help bridge the gap until Spring breathes a breath of fresh air into homeschooling life. Never fear, there are plenty of great ways to make the waning days of winter worthwhile and educational. Continue reading »