Community Bible Study in Palm Desert

The coordinator of this bible study contacted me because she was told that homeschoolers might want to join them! She asked if I could pass along the invitation to my readers and I told her that I’d love to!

The class starts on September 26, so be sure to call or email about signing up ASAP!

The contact is Bina Isaac and you can email her at
binasiasaac@gmail.com or call 760-218-5441

Private Does Not Have to Mean Expensive

I have to get something off my chest. It’s about what education is and what makes home education work. It starts with money. Education is not about buying the right stuff. A good education is not expensive. I’ll admit that in the past, people were limited educationally because they couldn’t get their hands on books or see outside their own farm or neighborhood, but that just isn’t the case in the United States today. We have public libraries in every city and an internet connection is a must in every home. Yes, there may be exceptions, but I’m talking generalities here.

The most important thing you need to educate your own kids is to be able to be at home with them. If you have a partner that can support you and the kids while they are young, you have a huge advantage over any expensive education system. If you have a vehicle and gas to get you around, you’re sitting pretty!

How can you give your kids a practically free education? Again, it starts with you. Educate yourself and take your young children along for the ride. That doesn’t mean go back to college! It means read an article online, open a book, visit a museum, watch a movie, or have a discussion. Create and cultivate in yourself the life long learner first. Do it right in front of your family. Your kids will follow suit in their own way.

Go to the library and check out any books you and the kids like and read them. Don’t study them, just read them! Go the park and explore. Walk around your neighborhood. The grocery store, the post office, the bank, etc. are all potential field trips when you look at them like a child would. Instead of rushing through the grocery store with your list, involve the kids with making the meal plan, the list, and the budget. A couple of dollars of their own to spend at the grocery store or save for the future is a lesson plan all of itself. Actually working with money goes a lot farther than talking about it. Go through the store and answer all the questions they have, have them find things, substitute things, and explore the store like you’ve never been there.

When we allow our kids to explore their world, if we can be patient and quiet while they do so, they get so much out of it. They become more interesting people. And we can see the world in a whole new way. We can do this everywhere we go.

When my boys were very little, the regional park was amazing to them. We spent hours there every week. We loved amusement parks but rarely went inside. They thought the shopping area, pond, and Independence Hall was Knott’s Berry Farm. And Downtown Disney, its fountains, people, shops, and hotels was the best part of Disneyland. We went to beaches, parks, free museum days, all over Southern California. Small local museums are usually only a couple of dollars donation and we always brought a picnic lunch for all of us. My sons wanted lunch boxes like school kids, so they each had one with their name on it and a backpack to carry it in.

My point is that you don’t need a packaged curriculum, the monthly craft/science box, the big organized field trips, or extra-curricular classes to give your kids a great education. You just need to be with them, be patient, and help them explore the world around them safely. We unschooled the whole time, but even if you want to home educate in a more traditional way, there are tons of free resources on the internet. You may have to piece it together and you may have to open your mind to some unconventional ways of doing things (i.e. Mad Libs instead of grammar workbooks), but it is very possible to do this on your own without the state school system breathing down your neck.

I always see private home education as an entrepreneurial thing, a do-it-yourself, be your own boss, kind of thing. What are the benefits of private education? No state standards to keep up with, no grade levels, no mandatory number of days, no testing. That’s just the start. To me, the best thing I got out of it was a sense of self-reliance. I second guessed myself all the time, especially when my sons weren’t behaving the way I thought they should. I’m lucky I had an amazing partner that could see outside my day to day life and remind me that many of my perceived “problems” were just parenting/relationship adjustments. It had nothing to do with school.

I don’t begrudge people the choice to use the public charters to homeschool. If the education the public schools are giving is what you want, without the crowd control and classroom bullies, then charters would be fine for you. But if you want something different, if you want the education outcome to be different than the seniors graduating this year, then there are other options out there.  Private education is feasible, even on a tight budget.

Printers Fair

Traveling to events is what homeschooling is all about, right?! This one is in Carson, California, only 130 miles from Yucca Valley. Ok, maybe it’s a bit far, but it looks SO interesting! The Printers Fair isn’t until October 13-14, so you have plenty of time to make a plan.

Check out their website HERE for details. A day like this is a lot of learning packed into one family outing. History, science, language arts, social studies, and fine arts. Get the kids involved in planning out the trip, mapping, and managing the cost, you’ve got just about every school subject covered in one fell swoop!

Not Back to School!

It’s that time of year again! Social Media posts, online articles, commercials, and news clips all focus on that annual tradition: the great migration back to school. Most parents are posting sniffling bits about their little ones growing up and moving away from them. Some are elated that summer vacation is over and they don’t have to figure out what to do with their kids for eight ours of each day. Bloggers and Social Media gurus are posting about how you can get your kids into the routine of the daily grind.

If you’ve chose homeschooling privately, it’s a totally different story! It’s a much more positive one filled with hope and a bit of anxiety. The park, amusement centers, museums, and theater’s have fewer families there, leaving it the homeschoolers and retirees! For those that live in warmer climates like ours, weekly park days start to meet again as the weather cools. Field trips are planned, libraries are revisited in peace and quiet. It’s an exciting time for us, but not always for our kids.

We’re different. We aren’t part of the norm. Our kids aren’t going “Back to School.” They’ve been there all summer. Our kids see the TV shows and the commercials. They hear other kids talk about “Back to School” clothes and supplies. They may feel left out. How can we make ourselves feel a part of the excitement in our own way? Our family has some traditions we’ve built over the years and I’d love to share them with you and encourage you to build your own.

Since our family chose Radical Unschooling, we didn’t have new curriculum to start on or classes we were planning our lives around. We didn’t really have a “start” or “end” of school year at all, but just like someone who doesn’t celebrate the birth of Christ knows that Christmas is on its way, we could see the signs and sense the excitement that comes in August. When my boys were little, the school bus went down our street and the first day they saw it was what we called “First Day”. We had big plans for that day that preempted any other plans. We dropped everything and usually went to an amusement park!

There were other things we did that day over the years though. We had a long day of hiking in the mountains, a short camping trip, a beach day. We went to a museum and a realy restaurant for lunch or dinner. The possibilities are endless in Southern California, but the idea was to make a big deal out of anything we decided to do. Once all we did was walk as far as we could away from the house and had Dad pick us up when we couldn’t take another step. You’d have thought we were traveling the jungles of India the way the boys acted!

We started the season getting our “Adventure Packs” together instead of “Back to School” supplies. We got new backpacks if they wanted them and we filled those packs with anything we might need on a local adventure. We filled them with, oddly enough, mostly school supplies: a pencil box with pens, pencils, erasers, a compass, a ruler, etc. We went to Target and picked out cool things to add. They also had a pocket knife, a compass, a bandana, a map, a magnifying glass, and a notebook. Those backpacks were the first thing they grabbed when we were going anywhere. I always added a bottle of water, a snack, and a couple dollars in case they needed to buy something. They were always so proud to carry those packs!

Our local group sometimes has a “Not Back to School” party or there was a “Not Back to School” something, somewhere. If you google “Not Back to School,” you’ll find all kinds of ideas for homeschoolers. A great place to start making one of your own is A to Z Homeschooling’s Field Trip Ideas. Don’t limit yourself to your own area if you don’t have to! This is an adventure!

All that being said there is some “work” to be done this time of year for private homeschoolers. We need to be sure all our ducks are in a row for the year.

If you are brand new to homeschooling this year, I’m sure you are having some anxiety about whether or not you are doing the right thing for your child and if you are doing it legally. Rest assured, you are doing something wonderful for your kids! It’s scary, yes, but you’re starting on something that will change your lives. As to the legal, let’s go over that. Everything you need can be found at CHN’s website. They have two documents you can print and note up as much as you like. “Just the Facts” and “Private School Guide” are invaluable resources and can be found on the top right hand side of their home page. If you find them useful or not, consider becoming a member! CHN has been a great resource for homeschoolers for years and they are active in keeping your right to homeschool protected. Membership helps them keep up the work that they do and shows legislators that homeschoolers are not a fringe movement!

Brand new private homeschooler? Kids never been in another school?

-Have you created your school?

-Have you enrolled your student?

Then you’re good to go!

Brand new private homeschooler? Kids are transferring from another school? Same thing plus two.

-Have you created your school? Enrolled your student?

-Have you unenrolled your student from their old school? This needs to be done right away. The school should not be looking for your child come the first day of school. Call or go over there, tell them that your child will be attending another school this year and that you need to unenroll them. They will ask for the new school’s (your school’s) name and address.

-Have you sent a letter (as the school admin) requesting the cumulative file for your new student?

You’re good to go, too! Go have some fun learning in the real world!

Returning private homeschooler?

-Go over your previous year’s files.

-Create your Course of Study for the current year.

-Create your attendance record for the year.

And you’re good for the year as well!

The next thing we all need to do officially is file the private school affidavit in October with all the other private schools in California. I’ll have another post about that in the future. For now, enjoy your freedom!

Homeschooling Thru High School

We homeschooled all the way through high school! Yep. We did it.

I’m not surprised that we continued to homeschool through high school. It was the plan from the start really. I was open to changes along the way and we did make some adjustments over the years, but whether the road was rough or smooth, whenever we looked at another road, the road that formal school was on, just didn’t seem to fit. What has really struck me is how early and quickly my sons have moved toward independence.

Let me start by saying we have used an eclectic style that started with “attachment parenting” and moved into a leadership education model. The leadership education model was really for me. It’s what I’ve been doing for myself the last twelve years and my children benefitted from my personal education journey by getting to hear my stories, hear me read books aloud, and knowing first hand what a love of learning looked like. I didn’t “teach” them when they were younger. We decided to delay any academics and allow them to be children. We helped them with the projects they took on, took them places that looked interesting, spent lots of days exploring the world. It was a magical time and I only wish I was aware of how short that time would be while I was in it.

As they grew, we took more of a “radical unschooling” approach. Our home had no hard and fast rules. We used no formal curriculum. We spent our days much like we would if the kids were on vacation. We went places like zoos, museums, and camping trips. We read books, watched tv, went to the movies, and played video games. We met with other homeschool friends and had parties.

The traditional “school subjects” were “offered” as required by our state, but we offered them in very different ways and they weren’t required to study them. Language Arts was offered through books and games. Science through museums, experiments, and videos. History through movies, tv, and historical sites. Math through cooking, games, and other adventures that needed basic math skills. Once my sons hit their teens they took on a new sport, motocross. They bought old bikes, fixed them up, found out about race tracks, and we’ve been supporting them through that for the last four years. Most of their “education” has been centered on that sport since then.

All of this has been pretty expected and a slow and steady progression for all of us. And then they turned sixteen!

At fifteen and half they were both chomping at the bit to get a driver’s license. They took the online class and the behind the wheel training through a private company in town, made an appointment one day after their sixteenth birthday and came home with a license. That was the first test they ever took.

At sixteen they began looking for work. The oldest lucked out when a restaurant opened in town and they had a mass hire. He worked there for about six months and saved most of the money. He had a plan to visit Europe when he turned seventeen and nothing was going to stop him. The week before his seventeenth birthday he took off for a two-week trip on his own. I’ve never been so terrified. The boy had never spent the night away from home! But he had the whole thing planned out, the ticket, a place to stay, a cell phone that would work. Long story short, he ended up volunteering on a farm, deciding to stay a year, and going through immigration for a work permit. I made him a diploma from our own high school and emailed a “permission slip” for his immigration papers. At the time I write this, he’s not yet eighteen. He’ll be back in a few months with his new girlfriend and they’ll be finding ways to start their lives together here.

The youngest has a different path so far. He’s still looking for work. It’s no small task in a small town. He’s been doing odd jobs for a neighbor for cash. He’s taken up reading, guitar, and 3D modeling. He enrolled in the community college and will start classes in a couple weeks. When he took the assessment tests for the college, he tested into college English and almost into college Algebra. Not bad at all. He’s still considered a high school student for this semester because I was under the impression that high school “dual enrollment” students could take some classes for free, but it turns out that’s only at the big city schools. That’s ok though. He enrolled as a private high school student with no trouble. I made him traditional transcripts and he’s taken on the responsibility just fine.

So here I am. One kid graduated and out in the world. One almost so with one foot in college. They seem happy and well adjusted, almost normal. I say almost because they are very different from kids their age and they are very much “nerds” by any standard. Homeschooling works. You don’t need a curriculum. You don’t need oversight. You don’t need to fight and argue with your kids. You can just live with them, support their dreams, treat them like roommates, and they will eventually just take off.

Changes

Hey, folks!

This website needs to go through some changes, so I won’t be blogging on a regular basis here anymore. My goal at first was to have a web-based place to find things to do in the area, for those that don’t want to follow social media. But, since I’m not homeschooling my own children anymore and have moved on to other things, I’m just not in the loop to keep that kind of blog going. So, this site will have to change a bit.

For now, it will stay static. There will be links to information about how to get started, forms you can use for your own homeschool, and contact info in case you want to talk to a live person.

Privately homeschooling our children has changed all our lives for the better. I want to share that with the world, but I’m starting to think the only way I can do that effectively is by watching our kids move out into the world and be awesome humans.

I’m still here, so if you want help or have questions, please send me an email. I’d be happy to chat!

Farm Camp!

I found something exciting while driving down the 10 freeway. A billboard for Farm Camp in Cherry Valley! This week-long camp runs from the end of June and into July. There are day camp weeks and overnight weeks available.

The cost is $375 for the day camp and $550 for the overnight one. Wait! Before you balk at the price, remember what you are getting. A whole week of things to do that your child will never forget and such a great experience too, living and working on an organic farm! That’s $110 a day and it includes meals (that you won’t have to buy or make). We can easily spend that at an amusement park, water park, or the mall. And it’s nothing compared to sending your kids to a private school. This is why we work so hard throughout the year saving money by not having to buy school uniforms, expensive curriculum, and participate in school fundraisers. Things like this are worth the money!

If you’re having a hard time coming up with the money for this year, plan ahead for next year! If you set aside $50 a month until next year, it’ll be sitting there waiting for you next summer! Involve the kids that want to attend and show them how a budget works. The intrinsic rewards in that alone are worth the effort. And don’t think of it as an “extra-curricular” activity. For private homeschoolers, it’s all part of a well-rounded education. What better way to explore social studies, science (physical and biology), health education, life skills like cooking and caring for others, and more, than through a weeks’ worth of farm work?

Check out their website for details…FARM CAMP!

If you’re not sure if this is the kind of thing your child will enjoy, there’s an open house in April and May to come check out to the place and talk to the instructors! Click HERE for details.

Unconventional Education

Almost every town has a Parks & Recreation department, right? And there are city and community events planned as well, like summer concerts and holiday celebrations. This stuff is a gold mine for private homeschoolers!

I recently picked up Yucca Valley’s Activity and Events Guide while I was at the library. It made me wish my kids were little again! You can find it online by clicking HERE or drop by the Library or Community Center to pick up a printed one.

When I opened it up I thought of all the subjects the events listed inside would cover, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. Private homeschooling in California can be cheap if you don’t buy a pre-made curriculum. Classes and events like these are a great way to offer the same subjects the public school’s offer but in a different way.

The Summer Music Festival is the first event I saw. Free live music all summer. Can you think of a better way to introduce your kids to some performing arts? Different styles of music. Live performance etiquette. They may find an instrument they’d like to learn to play or a new genre they love. When we’d go to concerts like this, I’d be looking up the music, where and when it came from, who was playing, etc. If they liked it, we’d usually find a CD for our collection. And there’s more music at “Chamber Music at the Museum” in June! This event does cost some money to attend, but you don’t hear classical music live much anymore. Pay up and support these folks! This could cover the subjects of music, performing arts, history, social studies, and math (music is totally math).

Earth Day celebration? Not much needs to be said about that! Science, social studies, a little history, all rolled into one day.

The Hi-Desert Nature Museum has an exhibit all about toys all summer. Yes, toys are education too! There’s some serious exploring to be done there! That’d be science, history, and even some language arts if you decide to write about it or read many of the signs and displays.

Dance classes, karate, yoga, there’s a ton of stuff to do that would cover P.E.

Did you know Yucca Valley has a Youth Commission? That sounds like a great way for a homeschooled kid to get involved in the town they live in. You may be raising the next mayor! Civics, economics, language arts…and social skills!

If you’re a little new to this homeschool idea you’re probably wondering how in the world do you document this type of learning, right? In the elementary years especially, tracking can be as easy as keeping a student calendar or a journal. At the end of the day, write about what you did that day. Take pictures and make a scrap book, blog, or just post it to Facebook. I urge you to write about daily activities even if you think you could never forget that glorious day. I’m looking back at my blog posts about my son’s activities from ten years ago wishing I had written more details! And many times I’ve looked back on the last weeks activities and thought it felt like we were laying around in the yard more than we really were. A look at my student calendar (the big notebook ones you find at Walmart or Target in September) showed that we were incredibly active after all!

One more thing, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is or what time of year. And it doesn’t matter what grade your child is in. Like I’ve said before, institutions need grade levels, homeschoolers don’t. If a California history event comes up when your child is 6 or 12, go experience it and then maybe experience it again in a couple years! If it’s Saturday morning when you head to the science center or go hiking in the national park, it’s still education for a homeschooler! That’s what makes it so great. That’s what makes it ok if you spent a week vegging in front of movies with a bucket of popcorn. We are educating our kids year-round, 24/7…but that’s another post!

Grade Level?

Whether you use a pre-written, all-in-one curriculum, a pieced together “eclectic” style, or you’re a full-fledged unschooler, you don’t need to think about the dreaded “grade level”. My opinion? Abandon the idea all together. Grade levels were created for institutional schooling. Your child must be able to read by the time they are five years old at school because teaching to so many kids at once requires independent study. Kids need to read to keep up and to test. in the same vein, we don’t want a classroom of thirty kids all studying a different part of history at the same time, so we teach World History one year, American History the next, California History, and so on. So far, it looks like the best way to be sure everyone gets a similar education at the same time. But isn’t that why we are going against the grain and homeschooling? To give our kids a unique personalized education?

We watch kids get left behind at schools, told they are not at grade level and pushed to achieve in all subjects instead of master one. We’ve all seen the school of fish cartoon or the one about judging a fish by it’s ability to climb. Let’s try another approach!

Homeschooled kids learn throughout their lives. And just because they can’t read fluently yet, doesn’t mean they aren’t learning. If they can’t read for themselves, read to them. They’ll catch on in time, especially if they don’t see you hovering over them and giving them the idea that something is wrong with them because they are “late.” Everyone is born with the innate drive to become independent. I’ve personally seen kids that do not know how to write at all, decide they need to or want to, practice for a week, and be right up with their peers. As to science and history, it’s all around us every day and it doesn’t need to be taught in any chronological order. Just dive in where they are interested! You’ll find elementary math and basic algebra all around you too. Counting, roman numerals, addition and subtraction are in all kinds of games. Basic algebra and the dreaded word questions? Go to the toy store and they’ll be working those problems with you pretty quickly. “If I have $5 and each toy is $1, how many can I get?”

Instead of grade level, let’s keep up with interest level. Watch your kid specifically. Do they love to explore? Do they seem interested and excited about the world around them? When they are younger, watch for what lights them up and offer ways to explore that more. Books, movies, websites, museums, parks, etc. When they lose interest and wander off to look at something else, go with them instead of redirecting them to what you brought them there for. Have you ever gone to store for one thing and been distracted by something more intriguing? Kids are the same way! That’s a good thing. It’s how we find our passions!

Are they asking questions and having them answered? When they ask a question about how something works or how to spell something, it’s better to help them to find the answers than to tell them to google it themselves. After a while, you will be too slow for them and they’ll be zipping around the internet themselves!

If you’re using a curriculum, skip around in it and look for what peaks their interest. Or you could go through it chapter by chapter and skip over and come back to things that seem to bore your child or cause them to become antsy, angry, or distracted (those are signs of boredom or a lack of interest). The great thing about pre-written curriculum is that the same things come up over and over again, year after year. The subject will come up again. Don’t worry. Or it won’t and, if your child doesn’t miss it, he doesn’t feel the need or interest to know it, he probably doesn’t need it right now. When she needs it, she’ll learn it! There is no statute of limitations on real learning.

Instead of asking, “Is my child at grade level?” a homeschooling parent needs to ask, “Is my child excited about learning? Is my child exploring his world? Is she asking questions and finding answers?” The only way to know that is to watch and interact with them. A young person’s enthusiasm for learning is contagious. Soon you’ll be the one on the hunt for new and interesting information!

I’ve found a couple other articles about ditching the idea of grade levels on the web. Check them out!

https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschooling-grade-levels-relax/

http://simplehomeschool.net/stepping-outside-the-grade-level-box/

https://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2017/03/without-grade-levels.html