Monthly Archives: July 2013

Should you Homeschool?

Many parents might be struggling right now with a really big decision. Maybe last year was a tough year, or maybe it was a mediocre year, or maybe your child has some special needs that the school isn’t meeting, or maybe your child would like to dedicate more time to a passion in music  or art or sport, or maybe you would like to travel more – there are a ton of reasons why a parent might consider homeschooling their child. But when it comes down to it, how do you know if you can or should?

I would put money on it, if everyone were allowed to take a trial run at homeschooling (maybe take the month of October off and give it a whirl), our schools would be pretty deserted.

And I believe its safe to say that anyone who wanted to do it could absolutely do it successfully.

I was going to homeschool for a few months during a transition time, and to me that was a crazy decision. But I figured I could do anything for a short while. The big surprise came when I LOVED IT.

Suddenly doors opened for us that I hadn’t even considered. We could travel. We could do all kinds of cool activities during the week. There was so much more time in a day! We were closer as a family (I thought we would be ready to strangle each other after the second week). We never had to worry about having time to eat a meal at the table together in a day. We were all less stressed.

So I have decided to keep on homeschooling. I don’t know if I’ll do it for another year or until they all graduate from high school, but this year we are going to homeschool.

If you are undecided, I would urge you to try it. Give it a year or until Christmas or even Halloween – that’s not such a big commitment, Its the only way you are going to know for sure.

If you do decide to give it a try or if you already did, I would love to hear from you. How did it turn out? Are there more people out there like me who were surprised by what homeschooling really looks like?

For a more in depth look at the pros and cons of homeschooling and help with making the big decision, check out my book Modern Homeschooling!

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Minecraft

Fellow homeschoolers, school at homers, regular schoolers, pretty much anyone who can help me…please sound off about Minecraft. My kids love love love it. And we have struggled with it since February. While it seems to be a great creative exercise (lego online?), it also seems to gobble up time like Cookie Monster gobbles up cookies. It can be all they want to do / think about. We limit the time they are allowed to spend on it and they always want more. They always want to know when they can play it (“if I finish this lesson can I play Minecraft?” “If I do extra chores can I earn more Minecraft time?”).

I am at the point of wanting it out of my house. My kids are super creative, they love to build and imagine and create, and I feel like Minecraft gets all the best of them. Their real legos hardly get touched.

I would love to hear from other families. Is this an issue in your house? Have you embraced Minecraft or banned it?

Homeschool or online school at home?

As I sort through the many very cool choices that are available to homeschoolers, I struggle with one basic question: do I stick with the online school at home format or let go of my security blanket and dive right into a free for all homeschool curriculum?

I sat with my coffee this morning before the kids were up and found so many fun and engaging things they could do – but we are enrolled in an online public school and it really takes up a lot of their time and energy for structured learning.

I love the online public school for many reasons. I love having the teacher and other resources available. I love that, if I change my mind about homeschooling it would be really easy to put them into a regular school – they are already in one for all intents and purposes. I crave the assessments – knowing I’m not slowing my kids down by homeschooling them lets me sleep at night. The online public school is also easy to explain to non-homeschoolers; “we are schooling at home, just until we find what works for them.”

But all the wonderful unschooling and homeschooling options are so enticing. I signed them up for a Lego course, then I found chesskid.com, and yesterday I was perusing Coursera. Not to mention when they just ‘play’. The other day they made up a new game out of a board game we have, sometimes they invent spells to cast on one another, they build forts, create worlds in Lego, research cool stuff online, make amazing art out of poster boards, clay and toilet rolls. Last week they baked a loaf of chocolate zucchini bread ALL BY THEMSELVES.

Its so hard to know what to do. If we unschool or do our own homeschool curriculum will I miss something critical to their future? Will I at some point, for some currently unknown reason, have a need to put them into a regular school, and will they be at a serious disadvantage because of what we have chosen? Will they be denied the future they choose because they can’t test well?

Sigh. I guess until I can come to terms with the answers to those questions we will continue to do our best to walk the line between homeschooling/unschooling and school at home. In my book Modern Homeschooling I discuss the different types of homeschooling available and attempt to help the reader choose which type is right for them. It looks like I need to go back over that chapter and see if I can help myself.

I would love to hear from other homeschoolers who struggle with this decision. How did you finally make a choice?

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Are we being judged or passing judgement?

I read a blog post yesterday by a mom who sends her kids to public school. (Here is the link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-hillestad/why-i-dont-homeschool_b_3060512.html). It was titled “Why I don’t Homeschool”.

Comments were already closed on this blog or I would have commented on it directly, but it was an eye opener. Rachel has a sister in law who homeschools. This has caused Rachel to feel guilty for not homeschooling. Something I have not considered – that people who choose not to homeschool go through the same self-doubt as those of us who choose to homeschool.

As a relatively new homeschool mom, I have already learned to spin our decision to make it more palatable to people who I can sense aren’t going to agree with it. Right now I say that, since my youngest has another year before she starts kindergarten we are taking the other two out to just enjoy the year, spend more time with grandparents and do a little extra traveling. It sounds reasonable, and who is going to say that spending more time with family is a bad idea?

But the truth is, I’m doing it because I feel its the best place for them right now. If public school was where I felt my kiddos would fare the best I’d send them there. I don’t understand why I should feel judged about my decision or why Rachel should feel that way about hers. I definitely don’t think that people who are sending their kids to public school or private school are doing anything wrong, and there are many days I wish that I was in their shoes! When it comes down to it, I suspect it helps people to feel better about their own decision if they can strongly oppose someone who has made a different one.

I truly believe that as a parent you know what’s best for your kids better than anyone else in the world. Whatever you choose for your children you do not have to justify to me.

I also think that homeschooling has changed so much in recent years that it is barely recognizable. In my book Modern Homeschooling, I try to give an honest account of what homeschooling is like today, and how it is becoming more mainstream everyday. Homeschooling really looks more normal today than it ever has. Maybe, just maybe if we can all see that we have more similarities than differences, we can all stop worrying about what other people think and just get on with being the best parents we can be for our children.

Above the Curve

Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Robert Frost were all home schooled? So was Agatha Christie. In fact, it is common for children of above average intellect to not fit into regular schools. Part of the reason that these kids struggle in regular schools is that there is a significant amount of resistance to allocating funding for high achieving kids or to facilitating things like acceleration and grade skipping. People who advocate for gifted or high potential kids are often called elitist and politicians shy away from showing their support to a small segment of the population if it may alienate a larger group. It would be wonderful if our school systems could accommodate every child at every level and every child’s needs could be met. But I suppose that is a tall order for a system strapped for cash. Thank goodness we have homeschooling as an option!

Considering homeschooling but don’t know if its for you? My new book Modern Homeschooling has helped many families figure out what to do!

Quotable quote

“The things we know best are the things we haven’t been taught.” -Vauvenargues

The face of homeschooling is changing

We’ve all seen them. Oddball homeschooling families. The kids are awkward, mom wears grandma jeans, dad is surly…sound familiar? Well its changing. The new face of the homeschooling family is the over achieving student, the soccer mom, the wealthy family who likes to travel, the family who wants to spend more time together or to free up time to explore other interests more intensely. The new face of homeschooling encompasses everyone – and it could be you.

Homeschooling has been a fringe activity in the past. But changes in technology and access to amazing resources are enticing families from all walks of life and all corners of the globe to reconsider. If this is you, I have written a book about Modern Homeschooling and you can purchase it on Amazon here.

The internet and computers have made school at home options literally point and click. My kids (in 3rd and 4th grade) can do an entire day of school on their own – without my help. (Don’t laugh homeschooling moms, I said “can” whether they actually ever will is to be seen!) The academic side of homeschooling has really been made unbelievably easy for anyone to do.  And whether your kids are breezing through school or really struggling to get through it, when you bring it home and they have 1 on 1 learning, they can come leaps and bounds in just a few weeks.

The choices homeschooling families now have are endless. Make your own curriculum, get one free off the internet, unschool them, sign them up for an online school or an online private school – the sky is literally the limit. We have our kids enrolled in an online public school in Arizona. They get boxes and boxes of supplies and books shipped to them each year – text books, work books, science equipment, art supplies, instruments – you name it. They each have a teacher and a class and have the option of joining into virtual lectures/discussions in every subject they are taking. There are counselors, clubs, field trips, after school play dates and much much more. Even though we find ourselves only spending about four hours a day on schoolwork, we don’t have time to take advantage of everything that their school has to offer. And that’s because we are busy doing things like creating our own server, learning to cook, taking swim team to a competitive level, ice skating 4 times a week, and just spending a lot of quality family time together. And I can’t think of anything better than that.

Modern Homeschooling book available on Amazon.com

Modern Homeschooling book available on Amazon.com

From amazing travel and adventure to early entrance to university, has homeschooling finally evolved enough for you to take it seriously?

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