Our friend Rebecca Hunter is guest posting for us again. I think the JUMP to “home education” is worth talking about and discussing from every direction possible. It is a jump that hold back many families that would be more successful educating at home.
So, originally you decided to send your child or children to a public
or private school, but now you are considering changing your mind
because something isn’t going well for your child(ren) for whatever
reason. Or perhaps you’ve had a spiritual change of heart.
For whatever reason, you are considering Home Education for your kids,
like I did. It was a long and slow realization process for me and my
husband, it had been on my heart for a while… but I tried not to heed
“the call” for quite a while, largely due to a very difficult pregnancy
that ended in a c-section (which healed very slowly.) My husband also
ignored “the call” for a long while, mostly due to his preconceived
notions and prejudice of home schooling based on the fact that his
step-mother had home-schooled his half-brothers (a lot of family issues
were involved there, as my dear husband was in college when his parents
divorced and the step-mother was seen as an interloper.) AND we had
fallen hook, line and sinker for the socialization myth that public
educators promote, especially to special needs parents. It took some
very horrific things being done to our oldest son, who has autism, by
the school staff and his peers before the blinders fell off and the
socialization myth was BUSTED. (MythBusters is our son’s favorite
educational television show and the analogy is apt.)
*NOT ALL SOCIALIZATION IS GOOD! And which definition of socialization are we using, when we discuss this topic? Are we discussing “social opportunity” such as a group of kids all the same age playing at recess? Or are we discussing the real definition of socialization? The answer is in the question here. Look very closely at the root word of socialization, it is “social“… as in socialist, socialism. What public schools want parents to believe (social opportunity) and what teachers, school administrations and the Depts. of Education from top to bottom are really promoting (socialist indoctrination of minors) two very different things. Many good, well meaning teachers and administrators have bought into the very same myth that they are being required by their districts, teachers’ unions and boards of education to promote to parents, without ever realizing it. There are good teachers and administrations out there, but sadly we are losing them at an alarming rate to retirement, career changes and the same socialist brainwashing our children are being subjected to. What do YOU want your kids learning about with regard to how our Nation should be structured and led?
The social opportunity aspect is the one thing that often prevent parents from deciding to home educate their children, even when the desire to do so is present or the child is having educational issues that make home-schooling a much better fit than public schooling. This need not be. Home educated children can join in community sports
leagues, 4-H Clubs, scouting, religious youth groups, Boys & Girls clubs, etc. just the same as their publicly and privately schooled peers. In fact, home-schooled children usually interact with kids and adults of all ages, rather than an artificially divided peer group of children all the same age, thus forming much more healthy and realistic
social skills than their publicly schooled peers.
Now that we’ve BUSTED that huge myth of “socialization” that hangs over the head of most every home educating parent in the beginning of their journey, let’s move on, shall we?
—–to see my take on Socialization read this —
So, you’ve decided to bring your child or children back home to school them… now what? When should you make that transition? How do you proceed? How do you know where your kid is at educationally?
Let’s look at the first question. Most parents will make the obvious and easiest choice in removing their child from the school setting and bring them home: Summer break. Some parents will choose the next option, winter or spring breaks from school to bring the kids home. Usually because it is easiest to make the transition during a time when
the kids are on a break from school anyway, especially if you are removing a child who’s been bullied by peers or staff… these kids usually need some time to decompress and become themselves again after a very stressful public school experience. If you can give them a week or two or longer if they need it, that can be tremendously helpful.
However, your situation may not end up being one that can wait until a typically scheduled break in the normal school year. Perhaps, your situation, like mine with my oldest, will require decisive action right in the middle of a school term. The beauty of home education is that YOU plan your schedule that works for your individual family. If you want to school year round YOU CAN! If you want to take 3 months off in the
fall rather than in the summer, or take 2 weeks off every season for vacations, YOU CAN!
Whatever choice you make in this, find out the laws in your state and follow them. File any necessary paperwork with your district and or state as per your state law. I also highly recommend you join HSLDA (the Home School Legal Defense Association, go tohttp://www.hslda.org for more details.) If a social worker or truancy officer ever shows up at your door investigating truancy or “educational neglect” complaints,
HSLDA will have your back and their help is well worth the cost of your membership fees.
We ended up removing our oldest son from public school in March, during the 3rd school term. The first few weeks we mainly spent establishing a daily schedule that worked for us and evaluating where he was at in his core subjects (reading, math, phonics/spelling, grammar, science, history/geography), so I could thus determine what the educational needs were and where to begin teaching. This is especially true with students who have special educational needs. (Just an FYI: In most states you can
home school special needs kids and still keep them enrolled in special education/therapy sessions at a public school, if you want to… however there may be strings attached in regards to curriculum you can use to home school, where your child’s social security disabilities benefits are sent if you are choosing to receive this assistance… some schools may require you to participate in SSI Disability… or other issues can arise… be cautious and do your homework as a parent before deciding to
access special needs services via your local public school.) You CAN also contract for special needs services yourself, especially if you have medical insurance. Speech and Occupational therapy and other types of therapy can often be accessed from a private provider via medical insurance. If your child has need of this kind of therapy, check into it and see what is covered by your insurance and work with your provider
to make that work for you. Even if the provider is some distance away, you may be able to work with them to develop monthly or quarterly lesson plans for Speech therapy for example, that you can administer at home and keep track of progress to review at your next appointment.
If you aren’t sure where your child is educationally, you can find and administer a grade leveled placement test or standardized test (particularly good at the end of the public school year) to help determine this for you.
Another method is to get some library books or leveled readers that are at your child’s grade level and have the child read aloud to you (I recommend something they have never seen or read before to eliminate the possibility they have either visually or audio memorized it at school)…if your child breezes through it, try the next grade up, if the child struggles to read it, try the grade below… and so on until you can pinpoint what they can and can’t read. Then pull out some spelling/phonics words from those books and see if they can spell them or not. Quiz them orally in history of various time periods both in world history and American history to figure out what they know a lot
about and their areas needing improvement. Same goes for science knowledge, oral quizzes are great. Give them a journal and ask them to write in it 5-15 minutes a day for 2 weeks (time should be dependent on age… 5 minutes is a long time for a 5 year old… but not long at all for a 13 year old.) This can give you not only insight into your child’s
interests or concerns, but will also help you in evaluating their writing and grammar skills to identify areas needing more work. These should give you a place to work from in selecting your curriculum materials (try to find as many 2nd hand materials/textbooks as you can to minimize the cost if you do happen to make a mistake in your selections that doesn’t work out.) Realize that making a mistake in
curriculum selection is not the end of the world… if it doesn’t work, resell it or give it away to somebody who can make better use of it and move on, or save it for the next child if you have younger ones when they get to that level/subject to see if it works for that one. Your kids are all different and will have different needs, strengths and
areas needing extra work…that’s probably WHY public or private school wasn’t working out in the first place.
Math is another subject altogether. Start by writing out pages of numbers, math facts, etc depending on your child’s age. Think back on what YOU were learning in school at that age and see if they know those things or not… if not work backward from there the various math skills and determine their placement. If they breeze though you might have a child gifted in math on your hands, explore their knowledge of the next
grade level set of skills. Then find a good math textbook at their level and get to work. DON”T LET THEM USE A CALCULATOR FOR THIS! (Unless of course you have a 6th grade or older student who’s doing percentages or “higher math” like graphing equations for algebra.)
Elementary students need to get their math facts down-pat and learn to do multiple digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and division before being allowed to routinely use calculators… regardless of the fact you can buy one for $2 and everybody has one on their cell phone nowadays. Not only do they need to learn what the answer is… they need to learn the mathematical process of how to find the answer. (*After all, what if that weird thing called the electro-magnetic pulse that military experts have warned us our enemies could possibly use, really did happen? IF it did, calculators, computers and cell phones won’t work anymore… learn the process of HOW to find a mathematical answer in their head or on paper and they will be able to figure it out even if all they have is a stick and some dirt to work out the problem.)
Don’t just use the papers that came home from school as a point to determine your child’s curriculum needs. This can be unreliable and cause costly mistakes (voice of experience in this). There are teachers who will give the students all the answers orally in class to make themselves look better and teachers who would give 2nd graders a
calculator to work out their math problems rather than actually teaching
the concept (after all EVERY HOME PROBABLY HAS A CALCULATOR THESE DAYS… and yes, teachers will justify it that way. Many of the teachers are quite bad at math in the elementary grades themselves.)
If you have a struggling reader, buy a strong phonics program. Personally, I highly recommend Alpha-Phonics by Samuel L. Blemenfeld, because it excellent for both the beginning reader and for the student or adult that needs intensive remediation to learn to read better. It is working wonderfully with both of my sons because it works on the
premise of “adding” one sound to the next as well as teaching sounds and letter blends/spelling rules. They have learned already the concept of addition from math and with Alpha-Phonics we can carry that understanding over to a subject they both struggle in. The oldest came out of public school nearly 3 years behind in reading and the younger son is 6 to 8 months behind in reading as well. With an inexpensive
notebook/composition book, an inexpensive “slate” (small chalk or whiteboard & chalk or dry erase markers) you can make Alpha-Phonics work… or you can use a larger “board” if you want to. I decided to spend the $25 or so at Kmart to buy a 20” x 34” whiteboard (I had an old chalkboard approx. the same size, but my boys struggled to see it well because both have some vision issues and the black background was
difficult for them to see writing on cloudy days no matter the color of chalk I used… this is not a necessary item for everybody, it was a personal choice we felt would help us.) We have several slate sized chalk and whiteboards too that I found in the dollar bins at various stores. The first lesson in Mr. Blumenfeld’s book reads: a m am, a n
an, a s as, a t at, & a x ax. When I began teaching this to my boys I wrote it on the board and it looks just slightly confusing to me from the kids’ perspective (even though the concept of addition is there, it wasn’t as clear as I could make it.) So I modified the way I taught it a little bit, by showing each word as a mathematical equation.
#1 a + m = am #2 a + n = an #3 a + s = as #4 a + t = at #5 a + x =
And so on through the lessons that introduce new words. There is also
sentence writing practice included so there is some beginning grammar
lessons in there too for your K & 1st graders who are just starting, or
older kids who don’t know how to write out sentences at all. (Which can
be a real problem with the Pre-K though 12 worksheet based curriculum
model most schools are using these days.)
How you teach depends largely on the number of children you have, their
personal educational levels in each subject, the children’s learning
styles and your preferences as “the teacher”. Many home schooling
parents often recommend grouping or combining your kids into “classes”
for any subject where their educational levels will make this possible…
sometimes just because it saves YOU time and eliminates having to repeat
yourself so much. Science, History, Geography, PE and Music are all
great subjects to try this with if you have more than one child. Think
outside the box. Is there really any “real reason” your Kindergartner
can’t learn American History from the Pioneer Era at the same time as
your 4th grader? NO, of course not. The kindergartner might not “get
everything out of it” that the 4th grader did, but that is WHY you teach
it again in jr. high or high school. Is there any reason that they
can’t learn about dinosaurs, electricity or weather at the same time?
NO. You will get to all of the important topic areas in time, so
combine your kids into subjects where you can and don’t stress yourself
out about it… it will help prevent your laundry room from overflowing
with dirty clothes in the long run.
Reading, spelling/phonics, grammar/English, and math are all subjects
that may have to be taught separately depending on the age and academic
level your children are at. If your children are close in age or
academic level you may be able to combine them for these subjects as
well, as I am doing with some of them. I have 2 boys who are very close
together academically in math and reading. My younger son who has just completed first grade in the public schools is a little behind and is
reading at the same level as his older brother who came out of public
school a few months ago (severely behind in reading), so they are able to do some of their
reading work together, but not all. I still make them do their oral
reading work individually with me, so I can evaluate their progress
individually. The older one is a grade level and a half behind is math
and the younger one is almost ½ a year AHEAD in math because that is his
strong area. The older one I also found out was unable to do simple
math addition and subtraction facts to 9+9= 18 and 18-9= 9 without a
calculator due to his teacher’s practices in the classroom and poor
curriculum at his public school. So, academically both boys are
approximately at the same place in 2nd grade math. In spelling ability
they are also in a similar place, with the younger one actually being a
little advanced of his older brother. English/grammar, they are in the
same grade level but at different places in the same book due to the
older one having better writing skills already.
If you’ve never read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books for
yourself, go back and read “These Happy Golden Years” in which Laura
describes her experiences as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and pay
particular attention to how she decided to evaluate and group her
students into classes for their lessons. Home schooling is essentially
like teaching your own children in a one-room schoolhouse (at your
house). You can pick and choose what curriculum you use, your own
teaching style and where you need to begin based on your child(rens)
individual needs… the Ultimate I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan)…
for each individual student! And those classes you do decide to group
and teach several or all of them at the same time… they learn to work
together (excellent skills for the workplace), become closer as siblings
There are many good books out there on both teaching styles and
learning styles and curriculum types… do some research and find that out
about yourself and your kids, to come up with what will work for your
individual family. Feel free to pick and choose… even take a little of
this and a little of that from different styles and make it all your
Once you get going after finding out where your kids are at
educationally, just keep on keeping-on. It’s necessarily about whether
or not you finished such & such textbook series grade 5 in every subject
by the end of the school year (public school’s school year)… it’s about
did my kid get this concept? Okay, now we are ready to move on to the
next concept. If, not how can we teach this slightly differently until
the child does “get it”. You’ll finish the books by-and-by WHEN your
child gets all the concepts in them. Remember that almost all school
books are geared toward “summer knowledge loss”/ getting the kids who
didn’t get it last year up to speed” and review work usually lasts until
sometime after Thanksgiving! By teaching the concepts thoroughly the
first time and eliminating the bulk of the review, you’ll eventually end
up ahead of schedule several years down the road of this journey. With
my oldest son’s educational delays, my husband and I decided to have a
year round school year with 4 quarters that are 13 weeks long. We will
continue working though the school books we chose, before beginning the
next one even if we finish it in Nov.