Several years ago, our daughter, Ali, an adorable red-head with freckles, was bullied relentlessly in middle school. After several meetings with school employees, they decided that the solution to the lunchtime bullying was to isolate our daughter in a classroom by herself to eat her lunch. They didn’t offer to “isolate” the bullies. So, our daughter was being punished yet the bullies were not. We were livid! We met with the principal and other employees yet again, and were told we “needed to call the police” because “there was nothing more they could to to protect our daughter.”
We told them to get our daughter out of class. They did. We then took her by the hands, walked out the door, and never returned. By the next morning, she was enrolled in a local private school, which she loved. A year later, we bought an RV. On the way home from the dealership, I sort-of-jokingly said to Richard, “I bet you’d love it if we took the kids out of school, and hit the road.”
His eyes opened wide, he smiled so big, and he then replied, “Can we?!”
Only two weeks later (after several late nights of researching homeschooling), with the full agreement of our second and third children, Frank and Ali, (our oldest, Zach, was about to graduate), we hit the road in the RV with the children AND our business on board.
When we made this major lifestyle change, some of our relatives, which I will not name here, were NOT supportive. We were called “hippies.” We were told our children would not learn as much as they would in public school (but their words were more harsh than that). It was very insulting but, well, you know how family is. We have since proven them all wrong. In fact, other relatives have since homeschooled their children as well. We’ve heard stories about other homeschooling families encountering the same resistance from their family members.
We enrolled Frank and Ali in a fully accredited online private school that was based in Vermont, OakMeadow.com , and, in between field trips and other educational stops, they were happily doing their lessons online, and submitting them to their Oak Meadow teachers, who graded their work by email.
The curriculum was good but there was some repetition that they didn’t always need and they occasionally got bored. They stuck with it and, over the next couple of years, they visited battlegrounds (instead of reading about them) and they got to study and see science and social studies lessons up close and personal (instead of looking at pictures in books). From aquariums to museums to cultural events, they were immersed in an amazing educational experience!
When Frank was a freshman and Ali was a sophomore, they decided they wanted to go back to school, and be with their friends. So, we put our travels on hold to allow them to do that. Their homeschooling had gone very well and they were ahead of their peers. Throughout high school, they were both honor students and we never had to hound them to get their work done. We simply told them if they didn’t get all A’s and B’s on their report cards, they’d be grounded until the next report card came out. It worked! They were more than capable of doing the work, and of excelling at it. No homework reminders were ever needed and we never had to run to the drugstore at closing time for poster board for a project due the next day. The homeschooling experience had taught them how to organize their lessons, and get them finished on time. And, Oak Meadow’s curriculum had been very good at teaching children how to teach themselves.
Today, Ali is a pastry chef with two degrees and Frank is a pre-med student, excelling in all his college courses.
During those early homeschooling years, we had two more children. Of course, we knew we’d be homeschooling them from day one. I taught Max (now 14) and Mason (who just turned 10) how to read before Kindergarten. For peace of mind early on, we supplemented Max’s homeschooling with twice-weekly visits to Sylvan Learning Center. Mason was still a baby at the time. Sylvan was very good, but also very expensive. After moving to Florida, both Max and Mason attended Kumon (which was, in our opinion, a waste of money) for extra help with math. Most recently, we hired a private math tutor for them both because, well, it’s math! I am, admittedly, math-challenged so we are happy to let a professional take control of that now, especially since they’re getting older.
Max and Mason have never used the Oak Meadow curriculum. It, too, was very expensive. Over the past few years, we’ve been creating our own curriculum, designed around their specific interests. We practice what’s known as “un-schooling,” but not to the extent some parents do. We allow the children to guide us in what they’re interested in but they are still required to choose specific topics, and to study them. For social studies, we might let them choose which war we’re going to study this month, or let them choose a specific historic figure to research and write about (Max recently researched, and wrote about Galileo). For science, we will let them choose from a list of subjects. If they have a hand in choosing their own education subjects, they enjoy it so much more!
We don’t force them to learn the subjects in just one book, cover to cover, in a specific order. Why read a chapter on sea creatures when you can visit the beach, find some, take pictures, look them up in the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures, and then write a report about your exciting seaside treasure hunt? They’ll ALWAYS remember that day at the beach hunting “treasure” with Mom and Dad while they probably WON’T remember that boring chapter on a specific species of fish living in the Amazon River Basin.
Good homeschooling parents always worry that they might be skipping something imperative, or that their children aren’t going to get a complete education. They bend over backwards to educate their children on every reasonable topic possible. Every moment of every day is an opportunity to teach a child something new.
When we moved last month, we decided to enroll the boys in a new online school. We chose the “Accelerate Curriculum” at Global Student Network.com . That site provides access to several different online education options. The option we chose still allows us the “unschooling” education method we have found so successful, but also gives us peace of mind that we’re not skipping anything important (dangling participles, digressions, compound possession, ack!).
When we registered at Global Student Network, we signed up for their educational assessments, which tested the boys in language arts and math. Today, we received Mason’s test scores. He tested higher than we expected in math, even slightly above his grade level in “algebra,” which is odd because he hasn’t even studied algebra yet. But, he’s good a deductive reasoning. He can, for example, look at a problem he doesn’t understand, and, in some cases, he can guess the answer using what limited math skills he does have.
He has never had any professional tutoring or “classes” in language arts. That’s been all us for language arts since Kindergarten. I’m thrilled to share his results with you. Mason just officially finished the 4th grade.
High Frequency Words: 100% correct (no grade level given)
Word Recognition: 12th grade level
Phonics: 100% correct (no grade level given)
Spelling: 7th grade level
Oral Vocabulary: 11th grade level
Reading Comprehension: 8th grade level
Of course, a passionate teacher is important but I can tell you this is all Mason! He’s as smart as a whip and, as you can see from his scores, he LOVES reading! If he’s not online or playing a computer game, his nose is buried in a real book. Neither one of the boys is fond of ebooks.
We haven’t received Max’s results yet but he was, of course, given different tests because of his age.
Their new tutor is a fantastic, passionate educator (a certified Florida teacher, of course) who owns her own business, writing and selling curriculum items to other teachers online. She is creating individual lesson plans for Max and Mason to get them ahead of their peers in math. As a plus, she can sell those lesson plans online, too. We found her through wyzant.com. She comes to our place twice a week, for two hours each time. And, of course, she leaves work for them to do when she’s not here.
The boys ARE on “summer break” right now but, even on break, they must still do an hour of math and an hour of reading each day. It’s always been that way. The reading is “free time” for them. The math…not so much. 😉
Other benefits of homeschooling:
– No expensive shopping trips for “cool” clothes…and no pricey school uniforms! The boys usually “do school” in shorts and t-shirts with no shoes (it is Florida, after all). They may do school inside, or outside, at home, or on the road – anywhere at all. They aren’t confined to a small desk with a hard plastic chair. And, reading time is usually done stretched out on the sofa.
– No getting up at o-dark-thirty to get them fed, dressed, and out the door for the bus.
– No ridiculous, ongoing, federally-enforced testing. Our children are learning real lessons; not just learning how to pass standardized tests.
– Having their portfolio reviewed annually by a certified teacher is EASY! Many teachers offer this service online for a very low price (usually $25-$50 per child). That and a phone or in-person interview between the teacher and the child is all that’s required by the state of Florida. You can find info. on each state’s reporting requirements for homeschoolers HERE.
– A day of homeschooling takes FAR less time than a day of regular school! The homeschooled child doesn’t have to wait while the teacher helps other students (or reprimands the naughty kids), talks or texts on her cell phone, or gossips with other teachers. They also don’t waste time walking from one class to another, nor waiting for a bus to pick them up and transport them (or traveling back home). We can cover all subjects at home in half the time a child spends at public school during the day. This was the single biggest surprise we experienced with homeschooling. The way public schools are operated naturally results in tons of wasted time for students, and for teachers.
– No worrying about your child being bullied, improperly influenced (drugs, etc.), molested by staff (yes, that happens!), bullied or singled out by certain bad teachers (yes, that happens, too!), school shootings, gangs, etc., etc.
– No special permission needed for vacations and no need to get them “excused” for medical appointments. The amount of freedom homeschooling families have is awesome!
– No more parent/teacher conferences, no more PTA meetings, and no more begging your co-workers to buy wrapping paper or chocolate bars to fund your children’s school! Whoop!!
– Your child can STILL participate in public school sports and other extra-curricular! In most states, schools are required to allow homeschooled children to participate. Why? Because their parents are still paying school taxes!
– You’ll have lots more time to teach your children REAL life lessons that public schools aren’t going to include in regular classes – like how to change a tire, how to shop and cook on a budget, how to dress for and behave in specific social situations, how to create a resume and how to perform well on a job interview, etc. I’m not kidding. Some kids in public schools are NOT taught these subjects at home and the schools don’t go there, either. And, then there are other lessons that should be taught, but are not, like how to start a fire with two sticks, how to grow your own food successfully (from soil preparation and seed choice to harvest, and all the imperative steps in between), and how to protect or defend yourself and/or your family in specific situations (from natural disasters to violent situations). I could go on and on. Needless to say, many homeschooling children start their adult lives far better equipped to handle life’s struggles than children in public schools whose parents think it’s the government’s responsibility to teach them everything they need to succeed, and survive, as adults.
If any of you have any questions about homeschooling, or if you’re just curious, contact me here. I’ll be happy to help if I can! I have a ton of resources! Richard and I both work more-than-full-time and we have also managed to successfully homeschool our two youngest children for over a decade at the same time. If you work at home, and if you’re dedicated to your child’s success, we have no doubt that you can do it, too!
Oh, and if you want to publish a book, please consider our firm, BookLocker.com…because we will NOT be homeschooling the boys through college! 😉
The Boys – from left to right – Zach (a fantastic golfer who’s currently taking classes to become a PGA golf pro), Matt (an actuary with a Master’s degree from Columbia), Richard (my hubby!), Mason (wants to be an actor – gulp!), Max (wants to be an engineer, and design film sets), and Frank (pre-med; wants to be a surgeon).
The Working Parent's Guide To Homeschooling
Dissatisfaction with public and private schools continues to grow, and with more and more acceptance of homeschoolers at colleges and universities, now is the time to encourage all those who are ready and willing, that they are able and qualified to teach their children, even and especially if they must continue working. The Working Parent’s Guide to Homeschooling answers questions such as, “How can I work and homeschool?” by showing the reader how to find what works for them.
Hugs to all,
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