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Ramblings of a dysfunctional homeschooler

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On Support Groups
A support group is almost necessary in homeschooling. If you live in a neighborhood full of kids, maybe you can get by without one. As a secular homeschooler, take heart; while it may seem that there are no inclusive groups in your area, you'd be surprised what you'll find out just keeping your ears open.

For one thing, the most uptight Christian support groups tend to know all about the 'Satanic' or 'witch' groups. That is...the inclusive groups, who allow all homeschoolers to be members, regardless of religion. So, if that's all you think you can find, hang out with them a while and listen well.

I belonged to a wonderful inclusive group that was once full of liberal Christians and was, when I left it, predominantly pagan. I loved it. A new member complained once about the Christianity bashing she claimed took place at a park day and was told by one of the group's leaders that "our group is open to everyone, even people who bash Christianity." I was so happy there--well, as much as can be expected of an introvert like me.

Groups can be found through a good internet search, either at Yahoo Groups or the parent educator associations in your state. And if you can't find an inclusive group, start one! You will be pleasantly surprised, I assure you. I know I was.

 

Ramblings of a Homeschool Mom
(with links)

Contents:

Adventures in Trash (our community service blog)
Ramblings of a Homeschool Mom (with links)
    update: 2006
    update: 2007
    update: 2009
    update: 2010
    Homeschooling High School Honors: 9th Grade
    Homeschooling High School Honors: 10th Grade
    Update: 2012


Most of the prepared curricula available for homeschoolers is Christian, containing scriptures, references to god's glory and creation, and definitely lacking in any evolutionary theories, except in attempts to debunk them!  Don't buy it!  You may have heard of the following:

A Beka
Alpha-Omega
Bob Jones
School of Tomorrow (Now, Accelerated Christian Education)

Unfortunately, these curricula are so steeped in Christianity that even purchasing individual subjects will not shield you from the onslaught of indoctrination.  Yes, my friend, even mathematics can be related to the glory of god!

Sonlight and KONOS are also Christian curricula but can be taught without the Christian slant.  For example, KONOS is a multi-level teaching guide with suggested activities and readings that can be modified to fit your secular lifestyle.  Sonlight consists mostly of books to read, few of which are decidedly biased in favor of Christianity.  But, as with the other packaged curricula, these are very structured.  Your school day is outlined for you with little room for change.  Sure, you could purchase KONOS to use in any manner you want...but the cost is prohibitive. [Please note that this was written several years ago and these curricula may have changed significantly. If I find more info myself, I'll be sure to note it here.]

If you think you need a packaged curriculum,  Core Curriculum of America offers both a Christian AND a secular package and, even better, will customize packages for your family and student.  They're not cheap, however, but they might be just what the beginning homeschooler needs to ease fears and anxiety about how on earth they can teach their kids at home.

We spent the first several months of our homeschooling experience testing the waters and learning about the methods that might work for us.  We're still doing it!  Don't expect to jump into homeschooling and have everything fall into place.  Homeschooling is a lifestyle that you grow into and may take time.

At our homeschool, we follow the Core Knowledge Sequence put out by the Core Knowledge Foundation(Beware the Core Classics sold on the Core Knowledge website! They are not unabridged, but retold classics. That's a big no-no in our home school.) In the beginning, we followed it very closely with the books by Hirsch, supplementing with library books, experiments not given in the books, and Saxon Math. (Note that now it appears the Core Knowledge Foundation sells many books for each grade level, for teachers and students.

When my children were 10 and 12, we felt they were ready to be self-taught. We began a new adventure loosely modeled on the Robinson Curriculum.

The Robinson Curriculum is Christian-based, make no mistake about that. I can't tell if the materials in it are slanted to Christianity without purchasing them. It sounds as if this curriculum may be used by secular homeschoolers--but, I have been told by a fellow homeschooler that it is "very religious." The package consists of some 22 CDs including the classics that you print out for the kids to read, encyclopedias, etc. 

Mr. Robinson's idea is that kids should learn the basics of reading, writing and math and not start formal science until they've mastered math through calculus. His children are self-taught, spending five hours each day at their own tables with two hours of math, a one-page daily essay, and readings in history and science for the rest of the time. Mr. Robinson is far too strict for my liking (I see no problem with a short break for a snack, we're not schooling six days a week for ten months a year no matter who tells me I should, etc.) but many of his ideas make sense to me. For one, I want my children to stop depending on me to put information into their brains.  It is time they learned how to learn themselves!

I approached the self-taught method with the expectation that my kids would need very little of my input and would work through their lessons on their own...willingly. Right. I didn't "assign" them anything. I went over their books and workbooks with them, explaining about how much they should do daily or weekly to finish in the school year, showed them their "plan" books where they ought to keep track of what they did each day, and left them to become self-motivated. My 10-year-old son could not move from subject to subject without being told to and I frequently found him in his room playing. My 12-year-old was a little better, but typically avoided the subjects he didn't like and spent hours reading on those he enjoyed. 

September of 2002 brought some changes. My 11-year-old is now "assigned" a list of school work to do each day.  When he's in a good mood, he can be done in an hour and a half. I keep thinking I ought to assign more, but his "off" hours are spent journaling, creating character cards similar to Pokemon, writing and illustrating comic books, etc. and these are all very educational pursuits.

My 12/13-year-old was left on his own still, though with a bit more input from me.  Mid-year I realized he wasn't keeping track in his plan book so I took over and now try to get info from him each day regarding where he's at in his books. 

This method is working for us. My children have become more self-motivated, at least in completing the school work they know is expected of them. Getting them to pick up dirty socks, well, that's another thing altogether.

Update 2003: My 13-year-old entered 8th grade in public this year. He was desperate for more kids to hang out with. He's in the top group in his school and it's very challenging for him, mostly because he has to learn to take tests and figure out what the teachers want of him. He's doing well and is happy. He insists that his 12-year-old brother start public school for 7th grade next year.

I had always planned for my kids to go to public high school. My philosophy on schooling is that children ought to remain family-oriented until their teens, when it is natural for them to become more peer-oriented--not totally peer-oriented...but not all-consumed with family either. They must begin to become their own persons and prepare for leaving home. We lived in Denver when the Columbine shootings happened and I spent some time considering home schooling through high school. But I never really gave up the idea of their returning in 9th grade.

My oldest has had some difficulty adjusting in 8th grade where it seems expected that he should know the ropes from the 7th grade experience. High school is much bigger and more challenging than junior high. So, he feels that it will be best for his brother to start next year. We'll see... Our youngest remains in his excellent charter school.

For those unfamiliar with our situation: I have never been fully committed to homeschooling as a philosophy, only to finding the best situation for my children and my family.

Update 2004: My oldest not only survived public middle school, but actually came home on the last day of school saying he couldn't wait for next year. He said that the first few weeks were tough and there were times he wanted to return to home school. But the good outweighed the bad so he persevered and is glad of it.

My middle child is preparing psychologically and emotionally for entrance into public school in the fall for 7th grade. I am very worried. There are times in child rearing when we aren't completely sure what the best course of action is. We are, after all, conducting experiments and our children are the guinea pigs! Part of me would hold this child home through high school. But I can feel in my heart that such a decision isn't based on an objective and reasonable assessment, but instead on my love for him and my fears for him.

I was telling him (while probably trying to convince myself) that what he needed at thirteen was to begin to be his own person, to be out of the house and out from under mother's nose for a while each day, to find some friends other than his neighbors, to expand his mind and his options. "Bad" he said. "True, but bad." And that's about all the acceptance I think I'll get from him.

And so, it appears, for at least another year, my homeschooling experience is ended. Our youngest will enter third grade next year. His charter school is still small and wonderful. He is learning far more than his brothers did in their short public school experiences. However, their chances of getting fourth through sixth grades at the school are looking slim. So, I may be bringing him home for a few years of homeschool. It will be quite a challenge, as this kid thinks he is so much brighter than his mother that I may have to have him schooling me!

Update: 2005: My three sons are doing well in public school and benefiting from it. We enjoyed our homeschooling experience and would recommend it to any parent seriously considering it. But we see the good points of public education as well. Neither choice is wrong; and neither choice is right. The choice must be a personal one for you, your family, and especially your child.

For my part, I'd like to say a few things about parenting and schooling.

1. Homeschooled children are not better behaved than public-schooled children. The same Lord of the Flies mentality exists in both groups. I witnessed homeschoolers teasing, hitting, kicking, alienating and bullying. I witnessed public school children being kind, tolerant, accepting and cooperative. Homeschooling children doesn't make them any less children.

2. All children whose days are filled with too much activity suffer stress. Public school children will suffer more because they spend less time at home and with a parent. Public school children, especially, should have few extra-curricular activities.

3. Elementary public school children need a parent or guardian to come home to. Before and after school care is bad. BAD, BAD, BAD! If you can't parent your children, don't have them.

4. Homeschool parents do not necessarily care about their children more than public school parents. Being with your children all day can be just as selfish an activity as sending them off to school every day. Not everyone who makes these decisions does so with the best interest of his child in mind. So, make your choice, and don't let anyone else make you feel you're doing the wrong thing.

Update 2006: My middle son never really got into public school so, after a couple of weeks in the high school this fall, he came home again. And because I'd always wanted to let our youngest have a taste of homeschooling, I pulled him out of his charter school. The oldest is still fairly happy in high school, but is considering attending college for his final year.

Homeschooling high school is a scary thing. I realize that not all homeschoolers approach schooling as academically as we do and they remain more relaxed. I have no doubt that their children can and will succeed just as well as those more academically inclined because, as I keep reminding myself, learning is a lifelong process. Being filled with certain facts at a certain age isn't necessary. Still, I continue to expect certain academic pursuits of my children. I expect them to do math regularly, read science and history, practice spelling and grammar, and read literature regularly. It's just the way I am.

Because I am still with an umbrella school that issues transcripts, they do have standards for high school courses and I am doing my utmost to ensure that my 9th grader gets a good '9th grade' education. After my earlier experience, I decided this time I'd go with packaged curricula.

Because I pulled the kids out after school began, I was unable to get a reasonable appointment date with Core Curriculum of America, so I ordered packaged curricula from their affiliate, Homeschool Supercenter. I'm very happy with all of it except the math.

The math textbooks are designed for teachers who plan their lessons. You can do that as a homeschooler, of course. You'd have to read each lesson ahead of time and maybe research some of it to understand it well enough to teach it to your student. But there is not enough information in the text book alone for your student and sometimes not enough for you.

I ended up adding Saxon math curricula for both kids. I had to pay extra money, to be sure, but to me it was worth it. Next spring, I will order custom curricula for the boys that includes Saxon math.

Update: 2007
Well, it turned out I didn't care much for the 5th grade history book in the packaged curricula either. This year, I purchased all of our textbooks separately at the Homeschool Supercenter and saved a good deal of money, as well as getting some really great books.

Our oldest pulled out of public high school this year, after about a month. He was finally sick of it. Most of his friends had graduated, so there was little to keep him there. He said only one of his teachers actually taught him anything and he could stay home and read textbooks. So, I found all of his textbooks online and ordered them for him. Only one was expensive, at about $100. He'll be doing mostly AP work and taking the AP exams. And in January, he'll do full-time dual enrollment at the local college.

I'm having to pull teeth to get the 10th grader to do any work beyond music. He writes music and lyrics and plays bass guitar. He's very good at it, but he has to actually do the Algebra 2 and history and science if I'm going to give him a grade. I told him to start with 2 hours of academics a day. I left him with that for a week and came back to see what he'd accomplished. Maybe one page of spelling. Okay. I gave him one more week and told him if he didn't start getting work done, I'd be assigning him daily work. Still nothing. So last week I assigned him a small amount of work on Monday. By Friday, he'd accomplished it. ARGH.

The plan next week is to give him a full week's worth of work on Monday and nag the hell out of him. :)

Update: 2009
Anthony is gearing up for dual enrollment for his senior year next year. Jeffrey is taking a few high school courses this year and plans to start dual enrollment in 10th grade. Danny's at BCC and moving on the UCF.All is well; we'ver relaxed a great deal and seem to have found our pleasant rut.

Update: 2010
After one day in 9th grade at the public high school, Jeffrey has decided to homeschool again. That was fast. I think he made a sound choice and he will still begin dual enrollment in 10th grade. Dual enrollment is much easier in homeschool. You can take classes any time you want, instead of having to get back to the public school for the rest of your classes.

So, this year, we plan to push math to make sure he's ready for college algebra. I've purchased honors curricula to keep him challenged. Wish me luck.

Danny, the oldest, did time at UCF and is moving over to Tampa to finish out his schooling at USF, majoring in mechanical engineering. Anthony is at BCC, not particularly happy with the academic lifestyle, but resigning himself to it; his goals require it, so what can he do?

Update: 2012
I have no idea what happened to 2011. Where'd it go? Here's the atheists honest truth: homeschooling takes up less and less of our lives as our youngest grows older. He's got his high school level books and I make him do some work. He's got his community college classes on which he spends most of his time. And other than that, we don't think about it much anymore. So, I suppose there's just not much to blog about. Jeff will be a junior next year with three college classes. I guess he'll have to take the SAT, we'll get on that. And he's volunteering to get his community service hours for Bright Futures.

Homeschooling High School Honors: 9th Grade

You CAN homeschool your child through high school! The more education you have, the better, it's true. But even if you are lacking in some subjects, there is help available if you need it. And there are many options open to your student.

Florida Virtual School is an online school that appears very open, ie: looks like you can join up at any time. If you feel unqualified to handle some subjects, see what sort of online learning is available in your area. Tutors are another option, if you can afford them. But there's really nothing, in my humble and wacky opinion, more exciting than learning along with your child. As long as you have the answers that go with the questions, you're set!

I'm not sure I'd recommend teaching honors classes to your kids if you don't feel you have the educational background to do so. And by that, I don't mean a "teaching" background. I mean, your own education. You need to feel comfortable with the material. You don't have to know it all, but you have to be confident that you can read a chapter in Honors biology and understand it well enough to help your child understand it. There are a lot of resources to help both of you: the Internet, Dad, a family member, a neighbor, etc. Someone out there must know calculus. And if not, learn it! I imagine you've learned the math and science along with them for their junior high years, so now you just have to keep going with algebra, geometry, and calculus, biology and physics. It can be done!

My children were/are enrolled in a homeschooling umbrella school that is classified as a private school. We have to follow the graduation requirements set out for Florida schools. I imagine that homeschoolers signed up with the school board have to as well, but I'll check on that.

Graduation requirements for Florida schools**:
English:              4 credits
Math:                 4 credits
Science:             3 credits
Social Studies:    3 credits
Personal Fitness: 1 credit
Fine Arts:           1 credit
Electives:          8 credits

English: must include a combination of grammar, composition, and literature.
Math: must include 1 credit in Algebra 1
Science: should include 2 credits which have a lab component if available
Social Studies: must include the following: American Govt. 1/2 credit; World History, 1 credit; American History, 1 credit; Economics, 1/2 credit.
Personal Fitness: can include any sport or training
Fine Arts: can include music, dance, drama, painting, etc.
Electives: just about anything, including more academics

*You MUST search out the graduation requirements for your state, as well as consider the colleges your child may attend--they may want to see certain classes on a transcript.
*As of 2007-2008, for students entering 9th grade in 2007 or later.

So, high school is really not much different from the other grades you taught, unless you want to do honors and AP. Then you have stricter guidelines.

Under the guidelines for our umbrella school, a course is considered Honors if it is so designated by the curriculum, if it's an AP course (also designated by the curriculum), if it's a college level course (again, you'd have to use a college level textbook), any foreign language above level 2, and any course designated honors by the FL DOE on their website.

Well, I don't know about you, but I couldn't find anything on the FL DOE website that listed any guidelines for determining if the books I wanted to use were "honors." So, I went with the honors designation by the curricula themselves. And here is what I am using for Jeffrey in 9th grade:

English Honors: Literature and the Language Arts from The EMC Masterpiece Series: Birch
When I first began purchasing this series it was designated as an honors course by the curricula provider. I can't find that designation now, probably because the series has become so popular that everyone is using it. However, I found a course syllabus online using this particular book for an honors course and printed it out to use both as a guide, and as proof of the honors level. Jeffrey already started using this book last year. But now that he is using it as an honors course, there will be more work to do. He didn't do the summer reading one would expect either, so his reading load will be a bit tougher. I'll try not to injure him.

Additional Reading from 9th grade honors reading lists:
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Algebra 2: Saxon (I love Saxon. I learn right along with the kid!)

Biology Honors: Biology: A Guide to the Natural World by David Krogh
Homeschool Supercenter has it wrong about this book. They are calling the course Biology II. But this book is just the 4th edition of a biology I AP textbook. I have the 3rd edition and debated whether to use it. I decided against it for two reasons: I could not find a designation of honors or AP for the 3rd edition. Of course, once the 4th edition disappears I'll have little proof other than the hope that the text is simply notable for being AP. And second, the new edition has expanded the section on human evolution to an entire chapter.

World History Honors: World History
I don't know anything about this textbook and haven't received it yet from the Homeschool Supercenter. But it was the only one designated honors so it better be good!
Update: It has turned out to be a fabulous textbook! Loving it. But it's just too huge to get through in one year!

Spanish: Rosetta Stone and Asi se dice! Level 1 (available for purchase here)
I haven't yet figured out where Jeff is in Spanish. According to my records, he's in Spanish 3 and already has two high school Spanish credits. But his transcript says something different. I'll be straightening that out next week.
Update: Jeff quit Spanish. So, I had to create another elective for him. "Star Craft and the art of war." (Yes she did!) He played Star Craft II and wrote two papers on it. And he read Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Machiavelli's The Prince.

Film: Make Your Own Damn Movie
Yes, we curse sometimes in our house. Jeff will read this book, write, direct, film, edit, and produce his next movie. He's no novice.

That's it. Six classes. At the public high school, they gave him 7. He got three electives. But two of them were required by the state: HOPE and something about careers and research. HOPE is about health and fitness, I think. And careers? Who the hell knows. One of the advantages for me in having Jeff in public school was Driver's Ed. But they don't offer that anymore, anyway. Luckily for me, I have a Driver's Ed textbook for next year.

So, wish me luck on my last homeschooling adventure. And good luck to you!

Homeschooling High School Honors: 10th Grade

We made it through 9th Grade! Jeff is now enrolled in two classes at Brevard Community College in the Dual Enrollment program. So, his classes this year are:

English II Honors: Literature and the Language Arts from The EMC Masterpiece Series: Willow
Biology II Honors: Same text as last year. Fabulous book!
American History Honors: College level textbook that his brother used at BCC and he will use next term when he takes Am Hist there. American History: A Survey. Love this book. I'm reading it and creating the study guide; remembering all that history I forgot!
Driver's Ed using the Driver Handbook you get at the DMV, and then the online study for the learner's permit, a class with a real teacher, not mom this time, etc.
Spanish II: We thought we already did Spanish II and I'd argue it with my umbrella school, but then what would he take? Might as well just do more Spanish. This year, because he's sick of Rosetta Stone, we're using Spanish for Dummies, and Easy Spanish Step-by-Step, along with the first two Harry Potter novels in Spanish! Woot.
Intermediate Algebra at BCC
Creative Writing at BCC

Next term we plan at least two BCC courses and the year after that at least three. Jeff is on his way!

Update: 2012
I guess the section above was my 2011 update. Last term at BCC, Jeff took intermediate algebra and creative writing as a intro to college. He did very well. This term he took college algebra and American history. He did very well again. So next term, his junior year, we'll go for three classes.

Honestly, at this point, homeschooling takes up less and less of our lives as our youngest grows older. He's got his high school level books and I make him do some work. He's got his community college classes on which he spends most of his time. And other than that, we don't think about it much anymore. So, I suppose there's just not much to blog about. I guess he'll have to take the SAT, we'll get on that. And he's volunteering to get his community service hours for Bright Futures.

 

 

*Please note that CCA is owner of Homeschool Supercenter.
**Run by the Core Knowledge Foundation