Chicken Fried Vogue

For 15 years and most of her adult life, Bubblez lived in the suburbs of a major metropolitan city. She enjoyed taking her children to museums, parks, and dates at Starbucks. Then Bubblez moved to the country and her En Vogue attitude got chicken fried. Her yard is a park where the neighbor's rooster won't stop crowing, Starbucks is almost an hour away, and her large collection of fancy shoes is worthless. But, living in the acres of green has presented more opportunities for living "green" as Bubblez travels the path toward self-sufficiency (and bitches ((and prays)) along the way).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Homeschooling Part 4: Getting Started

Straight out of the gate, I want you to take care of a couple of practical matters. Number one is to find out what your state's laws are regarding homeschooling. It is very important that you know and abide by these laws. Some states require that you submit forms to your local superintendent's office which will state your intention to homeschool, the names and ages of your children, immunization records, birth certificates, a copy of your high school and/or college diploma (if you have one), a copy of your school calendar and curriculum (which may be governed), and regular grade reports. They may also require supervised standardized testing, regular professional in home visits, and mentoring. Other states, like Indiana, have a total hands off policy and require absolutely nothing from you as an educator. Check with your local superintendent's office as well as the State Department of Education. Some districts offer resources that can help enhance the homeschooled child's learning experience.

Occasionally, local school districts have rules that exceed state mandates, which is illegal, by the way. You may find yourself jumping into a court battle if you're not careful. Sometimes, it's just easier to comply with their unnecessary rules, but not always. The Home School Legal Defense Association has been fighting for the rights of home educators for years. You may find it in your interest to align yourself with them. Many (or possibly all) states also have similar organizations who work to encourage homeschool friendly legislation on the state level and often offer valuable educational tips and resources to use inside the home. Examples of these groups include the Indiana Association of Home Educators and the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators. Indiana and Minnesota are the two states in which I, personally, have experienced home educating, and where Indiana interferes less in the home, Minnesota offers more in the way of help.

The first thing that I did when I was ready to learn more about homeschooling was to hit the local library. There are wonderful people who have written whole books on how to educate your children at home. One that I found helpful was called, So You're Thinking About Homeschooling and was written by Lisa Whelchel, who is most famous for having played Blaire in the TV series The Facts Of Life.

In her book, Blaire, I mean Lisa, walks you through 15 different homeschooling lifestyles, each one following a different educational model. You've probably heard of the Montessori method of education which is commonly used in pre-schools and many private grade schools. Unschooling is a learning style that has caught the attention of the media, lately, and one that seems to be growing in popularity, even though the method faces some opposition. There's also the Robinson method, which focuses on self-teaching and a simple, low cost curriculum, or the Greek based Classical method, or the Charlotte Mason literature based method, or... you get the idea: there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Because homeschooling is a lifestyle, you are free to embrace your own educational philosophy. If you thought juggling a stack of textbooks was the only way to learn, you thought wrong, although, there is always that option, too. As you can see from all of the links listed above, a little digging around the internet can provide you with just about any bit of information you are going to need when it comes to choosing your educational model and finding the appropriate supplies, but I still find books helpful in getting started because of the way the information is presented. Besides, at this point, you barely even know what to ask Google to look for. 

Unfortunately, (and no I don't get anything from her for the endorsement) Lisa's book is the only book from my time at the library that I can remember the title of. I do, however, remember some of the other things I read in between the covers of those books, one such thing being the importance of understanding learning styles. Your learning style has to do with how your brain takes in and interprets information. All people are either visual, auditory, or kinetic (that means physical) learners, and you will find it valuable to know both your own style, because that will be your natural bend when teaching, as well as the learning styles of your children. 

The Department of Education offers a free online assessment for you to determine your own learning style. You can use Scholastic's free assessment to help you determine the learning style of your child. If your child is old enough, you may want to rephrase the questions so that he or she can answer for themselves. For example, changing "when your child is at the library do they" to "when we go to the library, do you." I found that having my kids answer those questions gave me a broader perspective on how they think. Also, you can watch them for cues (closing their eyes or fidgeting) while they are thinking of the answers.

Once you know what you are planning to do and how you are planning to do it, you will need to obtain supplies. There are a few ways to handle this. You can do an internet search for whatever educational model you are using while adding the word "curriculum" to your search, and choose a package based on those results. If you are looking for complete textbook packages, you can find a list of "whole" curriculum publishers, here. You can also do an internet search for home education catalogs, supplies, or materials, and then look within those search results for materials by subject (math, phonics, geography, etc). A great idea is to contact your state's homeschooling organization to see if there is a conference or book fair that you can attend. Conferences usually take place in the spring, and I highly recommend them, both for the great seminars and for the knowledgeable retailers who will be invited to set up shop in a ballroom, somewhere. Once you know what you're doing, look for used book sales within school districts or neighborhoods and on Ebay.

After our first year or two of homeschooling, I started ordering books and supplies from Amazon.com, OrientalTradingCompany.com, and my favorite (for fun stuff like games and toys as well as books and science kits) RainbowResource.com. I also shopped at Barnes and Noble and small, local teacher supply stores.

So, you've figured out your method, you've got all your stuff, and you are ready to go. How do you get your kids to cooperate?

If you have the space (and if it agrees with your model), I highly recommend turning one room of your house into a school room. You will find that, over time, you accumulate a lot of materials, and it's nice if you can keep them organized in one place. A room full of bookcases, filing cabinets, dresser drawers (for art supplies), and wall space for maps and white boards can be a dream come true. Chances are, though, that you honestly are not going to have that space available. (Or you might until another baby comes along.) Maybe start thinking about what you could turn into a supply closet. Life will be easier if you are organized and know where all of your "stuff" is.

Next, outline your daily and weekly schedules. Let your kids know what you expect from them by telling them how you hope the day will go. OR just grab them first thing in the morning and get started! How rigid you want to be really depends on the atmosphere of your home, but it is helpful for you, at least, if you know what direction you want your activities to flow. You may find that you need to make adjustments to your schedule as time progresses. My kids went through a phase where they wanted to sleep in really late, read or play for most of the day, and put off school work until early evening, which I absolutely could not do. My brain tends to shut down around 4:00. I like to offer my kids the freedom to determine their own schedules (they each have daily assignments which must be completed), but I had to make a rule that if school work wasn't finished by 4 PM and they wanted my help, it would have to be caught up, which meant doing double, later.

It is helpful if you get rid of outside distractions that can make both you and the kids want to neglect the task at hand. In my house, that mostly means anything that comes with a viewing screen -TV, computer, Kindle, iphone. Our rule is, "no screens 'til the work is done," and it applies to all of us -with the exception of Mom's "Facebook and coffee hour" first thing in the morning and any time we use screens for viewing educational material or for writing.

From here, it's up to you. Find or form a support group (local or online) where you can bounce ideas around, gain encouragement, and keep your batteries charged. Make sure you get regular amounts of "me" time, and have fun. You're going to love this.

I'm so proud of you!

                                --Bubblez

                                   BloggerBubbz@gmail.com

Homeschooling Part 1: Our Story
Homeschooling Part 2: Is Homeschooling WRONG for you?
Homeschooling Part 3: So, What's so great about it?

More online resources you may find helpful:

Why Homeschool?
HomeEducator.com

Education Models
Home School Curriculum Advisor

Learning Styles
A2Z Home'sCool
School Family
My Homeschoolingweb.com

Other
25 Bad Ass Ways To Say No
Support Groups
More Tips Than You Can Use

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