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Thinking Outside the Textbook

by Amanda Beaty

I’m a member of several homeschooling groups and email loops, and the most common questions are all related to, “It’s a battle to get my child to do her work. I thought homeschooling would be better for my child, but it’s all tears and yelling. For both of us. I may have to put her back in school.”

The specifics vary, but many parents new to homeschooling are trying to recreate a public school environment in their home and finding that it doesn’t work. It’s not their fault. Most of us went to public school; it’s what we know. We’re taught that this is the only way to get an education. That children won’t learn if we don’t tell them what to learn and force them do so. We shouldn’t be surprised when we find homeschooling not working under these circumstances. Continue reading »

Homeschooling not working? Try thinking outside the textbook. />

Deschooling vs. Unschooling: What’s the Difference?

by Jeanne Faulconer

New homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers sometimes wonder about the word “deschooling” vs. “unschooling”. The prefixes “de” and “un” often mean such similar things. We “de-humidify” and we “un-tie” our shoes — both acts of reversing the meaning of the root word.

And in that sense, the words are related. Both deschooling and unschooling require thinking about the inverse of schooling.

But within the world of homeschooling, the two words deschooling and unschooling have meanings that are, most often, distinct from one another. Continue reading »

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Deschooling vs. Unschooling - What's the Difference? />

Instead of Curriculum: DIY.org

by Jeanne Faulconer

During my busy season helping families meet Virginia’s annual evidence of progress requirement for homeschoolers, I enjoy seeing all the resources parents use to help their children learn. This year, one of the resources a child was most excited about was DIY.org.

At DIY.org, children can choose to complete challenges for different “Skills,” earning both virtual and real embroidered patches (purchasing the patches is optional and is the only cost involved in the program), and developing a portfolio of videos and photos showing when challenges are accomplished. Continue reading »

Instead of Homeschool Curriculum: DIY.org />

Homeschooling at Night: How Nightschooling Can Work for You

by Jeanne Faulconer

Everybody knows that your kids should be up early hitting the books, right? Homeschooling goes better if Mom is organized and has lessons prepared for first thing in the morning. Homeschooling works well when kids focus on academics when they’re fresh, and they get to play when they’ve completed their school work.

Homeschooling at any other time of day is risking disaster.

That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway.

However, sometimes homeschooling at night makes more sense than the conventional wisdom. That can even include “nightschooling” – focusing all or part of your homeschooling efforts during the evening hours. Continue reading »

Homeschooling at Night: How Nightschooling Can Help You />

9 Benefits of Hosting an International Exchange Student

by Jeanne Faulconer

Hosting an international exchange student can be a great experience for homeschooling families. We hosted a student from Ecuador, and while the commitment can seem daunting, having Isaac José with us for a school year enriched our lives.

What are some of the benefits of hosting an international student? Continue reading »

9 Benefits of Homeschoolers Hosting an Exchange Student />

The Homeschool Parent-Teacher Conference

by Jeanne Faulconer

My first t-shirt as a homeschooling parent proclaimed, “Don’t bother me. I’m having a parent-teacher conference.”

This expressed well my initial thoughts about the roles of mother and teacher while homeschooling. I could see my “teacher self” talking to my “mother self,” echoing the familiar adult roles in education that involves public school…

Past my first few months of homeschooling more than a decade and a half ago, I have not separated a “teacher self” from my “mom self.” At the same time, I found it was important for me to set boundaries of time and space that made my family function well. Continue reading »

When mom is also teacher />

The Alphabet Walk: Learning ABCs with Rocks and Trees

by Jeanne Faulconer

Winter is a wonderful time to take Alphabet Walks with your children. In my part of the U.S., this means bundling up for the cold weather, but hunting for the ABCs in nature may be just the thing to get you and the kids moving on darker winter days.

The main object of an Alphabet Walk is to find letters that have been unintentionally formed in the outdoors. Perhaps crossing tree branches form an X against the blue sky, or a cat curved on your deck forms a perfect C. A front door wreath on your neighbor’s house is an O. The brickwork above the windows in an old Main Street building creates a V. Continue reading »

Learning ABCs with rocks and trees />

Interest-Based Groups For Learning & Fun

by Laura Grace Weldon

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 »

Interest-based groups for learning (& fun) />

Contextual Learning: Homeschooling Through Fashion

by Jeanne Faulconer

This year in my role as a homeschool evaluator, I met a number of tweens and teens who are interested in fashion. As we went through their portfolio of work and talked about their year, I was fascinated with the ways they had woven their interest in fashion with their academic studies. Two of the teens I met with had taken their interest in current fashion into the past — studying the typical dress and accessorizing of women and men in earlier periods of history. They also took their fashion interest international — studying the current typical dress of modern-day people in other parts of the world.

Both of these girls (who did not know each other — they had arrived at this independently) had done extensive research to be able to portray the styles of other times and other places, and they could explain how the fashion reflected the culture, religious beliefs, gender roles, classes and roles in society, and daily life. They were articulate about the historical times and geography of the world as they discussed the observations they had made about fashion in these distant centuries and far-off places. Continue reading »

Contextual Learning: Homeschooling Through Fashion />

Free To Learn Is A Transformative Book

by Laura Grace Weldon

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray isn’t just a book, it’s a powerful agent of transformation. I’d like to put a copy in the hands of every parent, teacher, and policy maker. Gray, a research professor in the Continue reading »

Free To Learn by Peter Gray />

How To Raise Vocabulary Geeks

by Laura Grace Weldon

When I tried to throw our dictionary out my oldest threw a fit. This is a very old dictionary. It was owned by my Great Aunt Mildred. The book is huge, with indents along the side for each letter of the alphabet. It’s also not in good shape. Threads are hanging out of a nearly Continue reading »

How To Raise Vocabulary Geeks />

Instead of Curriculum

by Jeanne Faulconer

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 »

TheHomeSchoolMom: What To Use Instead of Curriculum />

Unschooling

by Mary Ann Kelley

The range of homeschoolers claiming the unschool label vary from “radical unschoolers” who disdain any form of curricula or textbooks to those who prefer child-led learning but might also be called eclectic. All homeschooling was originally called unschooling by John Holt, one of the pioneers of the movement. Gradually the term has come to mean those who use no formal curricula but make liberal use of the learning opportunities that present themselves in daily life. Without outside intervention in the form of forced teaching, learning naturally happens. Unschoolers attempt to provide the best environment to allow that natural learning to take place. It is often called child-led learning. Continue reading »

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Talking About Books By Talking About Movies

by Jeanne Faulconer

Elementary age homeschooled kids are often eager book group participants. They’ll describe plot and action and favorite characters, and they are enthusiastic about their recommendations. However, parents sometimes struggle to move their kids to more literary discussion about books as they grow into middle school and early high school years.

One useful idea to smooth this transition is to pair a book with its movie adaptation. I’ve found that kids frequently find films to be more accessible, and creating a scenario where kids will naturally compare the book and the movie is an easy way to create deeper discussion points. Additionally, while homeschooled kids are not known for hiding their smarts by opting out of talking about their reading, movies still do bridge a gap that may exist for some teens–movies simply may be perceived as cooler. Continue reading »

TheHomeSchoolMom: Talking About Books By Talking About Movies />

Get Ready for Spring with Field Guides

by Jeanne Faulconer

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. Our field guides have always been among the most accessible books in our house. Rather than shelving them with other books, I usually keep them stacked — with their spines showing their titles — right on top of a low book shelf or table near the back door. Continue reading »

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Homeschooling for Safety

by THSM Contributor

This morning, my jaw dropped when I heard radio host Dennis Miller repeatedly tell a caller who was upset about the horrendous school shootings in Connecticut that he should consider pulling his young daughter out of school and homeschooling her. Miller was clearly serious.

I’m not used to hearing homeschooling being recommended by people like Dennis Miller, but in the wake of the awful event at Sandy Hook, I can see where shaken parents all over the country are looking at their children and thinking, “How can I protect them?” when dropping them off at school each day no longer looks like a safe thing to do.

I get that, and being as pro-homeschooling as I am, I agree. BUT, please know that homeschooling isn’t something you do impulsively. It requires serious thought. Most importantly, it requires at least one highly committed parent (ideally, two). Continue reading »

TheHomeSchoolMom: Homeschooling for Safety />

Can Creativity Be Taught?

by Living Education Contributor

For thirty years I have been asking these questions, and more: What is the best method for teaching art? Should art only be taught in art classes? Should art classes be discipline-based, process-based, or choice-based? Do certain ages and stages of aesthetic development correspond particularly well with one form of self-expression or another? I have embraced the search for these answers since I first knew that I wanted to be an artist and work with others at making art. While I was a homeschooling parent using Oak Meadow to teach three of my five children, I searched for the best responses to these questions. Now, as an art teacher for Oak Meadow’s high school and as a college professor who teaches others to become art teachers, I continue this quest for understanding how to support creative expression in students. Continue reading »

TheHomeSchoolMom - Can Creativity Be taught? />

Instead of Curriculum: Living Math

by Jeanne Faulconer

Why do some homeschoolers choose not to use one of the many complete math curricula available today? And what do they do instead? To many homeschooling parents, math feels like the one thing that must be taught and learned in a systematic way even for very young children. Even many people who are otherwise attracted to or influenced by a version of interest-based learning or unschooling often say– “except for math.”

Continue reading »

TheHomeSchoolMom - Instead of Curriculum: Living Math />

Guide to Unschooling for Beginners

by THSM Contributor

There’s nothing I get asked about more as a parent than unschooling, and nothing I recommend more to other parents. Continue reading »

The Beginner’s Guide to Unschooling />

The Homeschool Year

by Jeanne Faulconer

The Homeschool Calendar: New homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers frequently wonder about whether the “homeschool year” follows or needs to follow the traditional calendar used by most public and private schools in the United States. Long-term homeschoolers frequently find their answer to that question changes as their children get older. Casual observers of homeschooling might think “of course” homeschooling has to follow a school calendar in order to be legitimate and sufficient.
Continue reading »

TheHomeSchoolMom: The Homeschool Year />