Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ready for the New Year?

We are. I just finished packing last year's curriculum and unpacking the new year's. The boys are ready to begin again on Monday. Everything in the dining room is cleaned up and organized and ready to go.

So, do you have your curriculum? Are you ready to dig into it? Are you excited about teaching it, and are your kids excited about studying it? Well, what are you waiting for? There's no time like the present.

As homeschoolers, we have the freedom to arrange our schedule any way we want to. My boys do not enjoy having three months off at one time. Like most kids, they get bored. So, we don't take three months off at one time. We've been off for one month, and now they are ready to begin. So, on Monday, we will begin again. We will have more time off in the summer than we do the rest of the year, but we will do several weeks in July and in August, and then get really serious about it at the end of August. This gives us more freedom and flexibility with our schedule. We can take off other times throughout the year and not be pressured to put our noses to the grindstone to get our 180 days in.

I like to take extra time off at Christmas time, and we may have extra time off here and there between September and November, before the weather gets too cold. When it's winter and really cold outside, we really dig into the schoolwork, and we never have too much trouble finishing up by the end of May. Sometimes we even finish by the beginning of May. We usually do more than the required 180 days too, just because I like to have that cushion and because there may be some loose ends that need to be tied up in one or two subjects.

Some people, plan their whole schedule for school, and if they do year-round like I do, they may do three weeks of school and take a week off and rotate it like that. I don't lay out my whole schedule. I simply keep an attendance sheet that has the days counted and as I mark them off I know where we are. I simply take off when we want to, or sometimes we may need to like if there is a family emergency or something. We have that freedom. So I don't have a rigid schedule. I just make sure that I am counting and that we are staying on track that we won't be pressured in the last month to squeeze a bunch of days in.

Yes, there are those who still feel the desire or need to take the whole summer off and do. There's nothing wrong with that. That's what's so great about homeschooling. There are so many freedoms and opportunities that other children miss out on. I love the flexibility we have. It makes life easier and less stressful.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Famous Homeschooler of the Week

General Douglas MacArther

The career of General Douglas MacArthur is unmatched by any military figure in the 20th century. Join Michael Farris, chairman and general counsel of Home School Legal Defense Association, as he talks about MacArthur’s upbringing, today on Home School Heartbeat.
Michael Farris:Douglas MacArthur was a general’s general. Born in 1880, he led men into combat in World War I, World War II, and the Korean Conflict. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, as well as many other decorations. He came by his military ability quite naturally since his father, Arthur MacArthur, Jr., was also awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor in the Civil War decades earlier.

In his younger years, Douglas MacArthur lived on a succession of army posts. A regular public school education was impossible, so his mother instructed him in reading, writing, and arithmetic. More importantly, she also instilled in him two principles that stayed with him throughout his life: first, to do what was right no matter what the personal sacrifice might be; and second, that our country must always come first. Through the example set by his father, and the books and teachings he received from his mother, Douglas learned about courage and heroism.

MacArthur went on to graduate from West Point with the third highest overall scores in the history of that institution. I pray that the perseverance of today’s homeschool parents will produce yet another generation of leaders who will guide our country back to the principles of honor and freedom held by such men as Douglas MacArthur.

Monday, June 22, 2009

An Incredible Planner

If you want to make planning your homeschool year easier, I have found an incredible planner that will help you do just that. This planner is packed with calendar pages, lesson plan pages for daily, weekly, and monthly. It even has about two recipes for each month if you need a dinner idea. It includes some great lesson plan items that you could use to teach a whole lesson from or use as an aid to add to a lesson. It has a chart of the Latin and Greek roots of words, information on the planets in the solar system, a complete list of the Presidents and their First Ladies, Book lists, a place to keep record of books borrowed, curriculum used. It even includes a page for you to keep a list of books you read, videos you watch or activities you participate in to keep yourself refreshed and encouraged to continue teaching your child(ren)!

You've got to see it to believe it! I think it's more than worth it's money! It's from the Old Schoolhouse magazine and you can download it from any computer. I have a link on the sidebar where you can click to check it out and then to order it, if you choose.

I have mine and can't wait to use it!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

End of the Year Evaluations and Evaluators

We, as teachers, and our children, as students, work hard throughout our required 180 days to teach and learn what we choose and what is required. Most of us (that I know) even put in more than 180 days each year.

Therefore, when it comes time for the end-of-the-year evaluation, you're feeling, (at least I do), like you want someone to let you and your children know that it was worth it, that what you did was of interest to your evaluator and not just something to be glanced off and simply checked off on a check-off sheet. That's what our end-of-the-year evaluations have felt like for the past four years.

Our first two years, we had an evaluator who took her time looking at the portfolios that we presented to her. She took the time to get to know the boys and their strong points and interests. She made suggestions and gave us tips on things the boys may enjoy that would farther enhance those interests. In the end, however, she simply presented us with a check-off sheet that simply checked off that we had me the PA Homeschool requirements. But, we didn't feel too badly about it because of the interest she took in us otherwise.

Unfortunately, after those two years, that evaluator could no longer continue evaluating due to personal unexpected circumstances. So, we found another evaluator. However, this one did not even make sure that she had a slot for us each year. She teaches in a public school and she does homeschool evaluations at the end of each school year. She has a lot of clients and she continues to take on more without guaranteeing those already with her a slot for evaluation each year. She also charges quite a bit of money to simply glance through the portfolio and give you a check-off sheet. She does give advice, from a public school's viewpoint, making it worthless to me and a bit unnerving.

I had heard several horror stories from other people who have dealt with this evaluator as well. Too many people I knew, including me, just weren't happy with her, and it seemed to get worse every year. This year when I contacted her, she didn't even remember how many children I had.

Then a friend called who had just finished her first year homeschooling, and she had just had her first end-of-the-year evaluation. She could not have been happier with her evaluator. So, I got her evaluator's name and number from her, and I contacted this evaluator the next morning. She was even able to schedule me for this year, which I wasn't expecting, but was thrilled about.

So, I cancelled with the evaluator that I was unhappy with, and we went to the new one.

WHAT A BLESSING! She told me right from the beginning, "I am a homeschool mom too, and I am on your side, not the school district's side. No one knows your children better than you do, so I will trust what you tell me." She also told me that she keeps all of her records and she said she will even write the high school transcripts for me and help me figure out how many credits we complete each year. She spoke with both of the boys and asked them what they liked best about this year, what kind of books they like to read and what their favorite book is.

Then she said she would be typing up her letters and she would mail them to me. She doesn't just give a check-off sheet, and she doesn't cost as much as the last evaluator!

So, when it comes to evaluators, make sure you find one that you are comfortable with and that you feel you can trust and who will be willing to help you with any questions or concerns you may have. That will make your homeschooling years much easier and less stressful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Homeschool Graduation

I was blessed to be able to attend two homeschool graduation ceremonies this year. I had attended one a few years ago and it was very similar to one of the ceremonies that I attended this year.

Our area of Pennsylvania has a lot of homeschool families. We have a lot of homeschool groups available to us where we can find co-ops, field trips, special classes, support, etc. One of the things offered is a yearly High School Graduation Ceremony. I thought this was fabulous -- my boys won't miss out on the experience of a graduation ceremony! Yes, this particular ceremony is very much like any other High School Graduation. Of course a couple of things are different. It begins with a few contemporary Christian songs. A student (sometimes more than one) gives a speech. They had a mime team perform to a contemporary Christian song. They had a keynote speaker. We sang a couple more contemporary Christian songs and even a hymn or two. Then the parents present their child with their High School Diploma. The evening ended with a prayer and a benediction. It was a very nice ceremony. There were 89 graduates who participated. I thought of this was great, until...

We attended the second High School Graduation ceremony that we attended this year. One of the girls that is homeschooled and that goes to our church also graduated this year, but she did not want to participate in the large homeschool graduation ceremony. Her parents still wanted to give her accomplishments recognition, so they decided to have their own graduation ceremony and celebration and invite their closest friends and family members. We were blessed to be among the close friends invited. It was really special. Her sister played two hymns on her recorder. The pastor led the congregation in a hymn. Her friend played a song on the piano. Her dad spoke. Her grandfather read a passage from the Bible. She gave a speech. Her dad spoke again. The pastor led the congregation in another hymn and gave the benediction. It lasted about a half-hour but it was so personal and special. She had chosen all of the music herself.

Following the ceremony, they had cake and other goodies, followed by some English country dancing. She read the book Emma by Jane Austen this year, and I think they read Pride and Prejudice also by Jane Austen another year and became very interested in that time period. So, they did some research and learned some English country dances and we all joined in in celebration of Lindsay's graduation.

So, even graduation can be chosen as a homeschooler and can be a lot like everyone else's or something special.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Famous Homeschooler of the Week

Pearl S. Buck

In recent years, families on the mission field have increasingly turned to homeschooling in order to educate their children. Mike Farris, President of Home School Legal Defense Association, tells the story of one famous woman who was the product of home education on the mission field, today on Home School Heartbeat.

Michael Farris:Pearl S. Buck grew up on the mission field in China, and became a famous American author and winner of the 1932 Pulitzer Prize. A lively, precocious child, she pestered her mother with countless questions. Pearl's mother, realizing that her daughter needed a creative outlet, began her education at home. She especially focused on Pearl's skill for writing, and encouraged her to write something every week. At the age of 6, Pearl began writing for missionary magazines. Her writing was also published regularly by the Shanghai Mercury, an English newspaper that offered prizes for the best stories and articles written by children.

It was not surprising when Pearl decided as a young adult to become a novelist. She went on to write more than 65 books, plus hundreds of short stories and essays. She is best known for her books dealing sympathetically with life in China, including her widely acclaimed novel, The Good Earth. In 1938, Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for literature.

Although Pearl received her later education at various schools, her most significant years of academic training were spent at home. It was her mother who recognized her flair for writing and fostered her creative development. Pearl S. Buck is yet another example of the power of parent-directed education.

PA Homeschool Law

Pennsylvania has the second most restrictive homeschool law in the United States; second only to New York. The law requires parents to submit a letter to inform their school district that they will be homeschooling their child(ren), whether the child has already been in public school or not. A child or children can only be homeschooled by a parent or legal guardian or a person who has a court order, signed by a judge, that gives that person guardianship over the child's education.

At the beginning of each school year, homeschool parents must submit a notarized affadavit to their school district informing them of their intent to homeschool, and it must name the supervisor of the homeschool and each child and their age. The first year the homeschool parents must also show proof of their own high school diploma.

At the beginning of each school year, they must also submit a list of objectives, which is a list of what they plan to accomplish in each subject during that school year.

By the end of each school year, homeschooling parents must also prove that the child(ren) are receiving appropriate dental and medical care -- there are particular requirements depending on the child(ren)'s grade level. They must also provide a copy of an Independent Evaluator's Report. This means that at the end of each school year, the homeschool parent must assemble a portfolio for each child they are homeschooling. In the portfolio, they must show something from each subject from the beginning, middle, and end of the school year to show the child's progress in each subject. They also have to have some type of record showing that their child completed 180 days of school (or 900 hours for elementary or 990 hours for high school). They have to take the portfolio and the record of days or hours and their child(ren) to a certified teacher who has been approved by their school district to perform end-of-the-year evaluations for homeschoolers. The evaluator will give you advice, help, suggestions, encouragement and approval of your homeschool. The evaluator will speak to your children and ask them questions about their homeschool year -- things like what they liked best about the year, what their favorite subject(s) is or are, what their least favorite subject is, if they did a special project that they want the evaluator to take notice of. Many evaluators will also ask elementary level students to read a paragraph or two aloud from a book. Then the evaluator will give the homeschool parent a copy of their report about their homeschool and the parent must submit this to the school district with the required medical forms.

Also, some school districts require homeschool parents to hand in their entire portfolio each and every school year. I am blessed because our school district only required that for the first two years.

Finally, homeschool students are required to take standardized testing in grades 3, 5, and 8 and the results of those tests are to be submitted by the end of that particular school year as well.

So, as you can see, those of us who homeschool in Pennsylvania have a lot of requirements to follow. I do not have too much difficulty following the requirements, but there are a few things that I find too restrictive and wish they would change. I know that HSLDA has tried to get things changed to make things a little easier for us but have had no success so far. I also know that there are some states that have no requirements other than that they must be notified when a family decides to begin homeschooling.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More Reasons I Homeschool

I had an interesting conversation with some ladies on Sunday, that really got me to thinking. My friend, Christine, has her daughter in a Christian school, and she told me that her daughter is learning how to use the computer in school. But, she said, they aren't teaching her how to use the keyboard using all of her fingers. She is using just her two pointer fingers! I find this ridiculous! It is so much easier and quicker to use a keyboard when you are taught the typing skills -- using homekeys and learning where the keys are and which of your fingers go on what letter on the homekey row and what each finger can reach to type as well. It makes things quicker and easier because you don't even have to look at the keyboard if you know how to type this way.

Then, my friend, Mrs. Rabe, said that she doesn't think they even make spelling as important as it used to be because of all of the kids texting and misspelling things on purpose to shorten things for texting purposes, as well as the fact that on computers there is spell check.

Finally, my youngest son was in public school for three months several years ago, and they were teaching him to just write words however he felt they should be written if he didn't know how to spell them. This was completely unacceptable to me because he began to believe that his own misspellings were the correct spellings of commonly used words!

It amazes me how some public school teachers that I know have issues with what I'm doing but don't see anything wrong with things like those I listed above. All I know is that I want my boys to learn how to type using all of the keys on the keyboard and I want them to know how to spell correctly. If they cannot spell correctly, how will they be able to read things of importance. Also, if everyone just starts spelling things any way they want, what will happen to our communication?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Update on Jessica Hulcy

Good news! Jessica Hulcy is improving. Her lungs are functioning and are almost completely healed. She is eating well on her own and no longer needs any type of feeding tube. Her thoughts are beginning to clear, but her mental capacity is a big concern right now because she has always been a very intelligent woman. She is going to begin physical therapy.

Please continue to pray for her mental healing. Also pray for her as she begins physical therapy. Finally, continue to pray for the family as they are dealing with their concern for her and taking turns staying at the hospital.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Famous Homeschooler of the Week

I am sorry if I missed posting a famous homeschooler last week. I almost forgot it this week as well, but here it is, your famous homeschooler for this week is:

Patrick Henry

Did you know that many of the men involved in founding our country were the product of at least some home education by their parents?

His most famous words are "Give me liberty or give me death!" Patrick Henry, one of the great leaders of the American Revolution, was willing to die for his beliefs. He used his legendary speaking abilities to persuade others to fight for their God-given freedoms.

Patrick Henry was raised by godly parents who assumed the responsibility for his education. At first, Colonel John Henry sent his son to a common English school. But when Patrick was 10, Colonel Henry pulled him out of school and began to teach him at home. Colonel Henry taught his son enough Latin to read the great Roman classics with ease the rest of his life.

Patrick's parents gave him religious training as well. On the way home from church, his mother would have Patrick recite the text and summarize the sermon. The Henrys attended the church of Samuel Davies, a fiery preacher who fought for religious liberty in early America. Davies' eloquence and theology helped shape the thinking and oratory of young Patrick Henry.

The academic and religious training he received from his parents helped him become a successful lawyer, a leader of the Revolution, the governor of Virginia, and a staunch defender of religious liberty.

Jessica Hulcy Update

Praise the Lord! Jessica Hulcy is out of ICU. She is improving and is able to eat solid food. She is still quite confused and her family is asking for prayers for continued healing and for a clear head for Jessica. She really wants to go home, but is facing a slow process to recovery. Currently they are searching for the right rehabilitation center to send her to. Please keep praying. God is faithful!

A Teacher Who Sought Out Answers

I received a link to this in an email. The link is to a website called CollegePlus. I thought it was worth sharing.

A Teacher Learns the Truth About Education
by Lauren Bleser

In 2002, I graduated with my Master’s degree as a reading specialist after having finished a teaching degree from the State University of New York at Oneonta. I was fast on my way to a full and busy career in the public school system when I was caught off guard by a homeschooling parent who asked if I could explain God’s mind on education. I had never really considered that before, always taking it for granted that we simply go through the system, memorize the information required, and graduate. This challenging question led me on a quest that changed the course of my life.

Questioning the System
What is a real education? After studying it out, I have come to believe that education involves the whole child, not just the mind. It includes character growth, personal disciplines, and manners. Considering each child’s unique talents, interests, natural capacities, strengths and abilities, the end result of education is that they would become effective tools in God’s kingdom. Scripture offers clarity in this regard:

Deuteronomy 6:7 "And thou shalt teach them (God’s commandments) diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

According to the Scriptures, education is primarily the parents’ responsibility and is to be a natural part of everyday life. Education is accomplished through a meaningful trusting relationship. Education is discipleship.
I realized that I had blindly accepted a limited view of education, simply associating it with an academic pursuit of knowledge. Academic instruction, however, is only a small part of God’s plan—a means to an end, not the end in itself.

The Frightening Truth
So where did these distorted ideas come from? Studying the history of compulsory public schooling in America confronted me with ideas that challenged my own “education.” I uncovered disturbing facts about schools, business, government, and politics. All of it related to what was happening in the public school system.
Surprisingly, the National Education Association understands that education cannot be neutral, that ideas do in fact have consequences. They were working hard to train educators to go beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic, but to shape children’s core values as well. The “experts” have been using schooling and teachers as cultural change agents. This quote from Joyce Elmer Morgan, former editor of the Journal of the National Education Association, encapsulates their agenda the best:

“In the struggle to establish an adequate world government, the teacher can do much to prepare the hearts and minds of children for global understanding and cooperation. At the very top of all the agencies which will assure the coming of world government must stand the school, the teacher, and the organized profession.”

For decades now, they have endeavored to strip away the belief in absolutes and biblical morals and usher generations of students into a relativistic secular society. “Values Clarification” has become required as part of the regular state standards. Children were increasingly being expected to use newly taught problem-solving techniques to make moral decisions based on situational ethics and group consensus.
SAT tests, Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind have introduced specific subjective / feelings-based / moral educational requirements and subsequent consequences for not meeting those standards, using new programs with labels like “Outcomes Based Education.” These alleged reforms have given them power to effectively implement new physiological approaches to their moral instruction. Even sincere public school teachers have unwittingly acted as pawns to destructively mold the next generation.

Taking Action
Knowing that I myself could not make such compromises, I decided to teach at a Christian school instead. Although I greatly appreciated being allowed to teach freely from the Bible, and even having a smaller group of students and increased parental support, the classroom setting still proved to be less than ideal for the children, both academically and spiritually.
Additionally, the emphasis on grades has changed the basis of their self-affirmation from internal character to external performance. This naturally led to comparisons and labeling among one another. In order to establish better rank in the pecking order that schools naturally created, many students at my school began to exhibit foolish behavior for attention.
They adapted their personalities to fit into cliques; they grew more peer dependent, and learned to compromise character to increase their popularity, gain approval, and obtain a false sense of importance. All of this distracted them from the very essence of real education – the development of their minds and characters.

Stepping Outside the Box
The classroom setting works directly against God’s design for a child’s personal growth. Effective education involves more than just providing the content, but also providing a healthy context for learning. Education is not a one-size-fits-all package, but must be tailored to the student’s unique multi-faceted nature, reaching beyond the intellect to the heart.
This is best accomplished in the security of family, in response to the parents’ nurturing investment and discipline, and without all the distractions of peers. Only when character and discipline are established is it safe to expand the walls of education.

Lauren Bleser is from upstate New York. She has her BS in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education, and a MS as a reading specialist. She is currently a medical transcriptionist, and also a part-time private tutor for homeschool families. Lauren teaches creative writing workshops for both children and homeschool parents, along with workshops about teaching techniques for the struggling learner. Lauren is currently working on a literature-based creative writing curriculum.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Prayer Request

I mentioned in my last post about Konos curriculum for the Unit Study approach. The lady who created Konos was involved in a serious automobile accident on Memorial Day and needs your prayers. Her name is Jessica Hulcy and she is in the trauma unit in a hospital in Texas. Please pray for her and her family. Both of her lungs had collapsed and she has many broken bones. Last report she had regained full use of one lung and was still having some difficulty with the other one.