Backpacks!

Years ago, at a campground, I made one of the best discoveries. The campground had an interpretive trail like many we’d been to, but this one gave you an “adventure backpack” to take with you for $5 and a $20 deposit. In that backpack was a laminated field guide, binoculars, a handheld microscope, baggies for collecting treasures, a trash bag to help clean up as you visited (clever), and a scavenger hunt page. My sons loved it! And we resolved to get backpacks of our own to have with us wherever we went. These packs were lifesavers on so many occasions. Not only did I not have to carry water and snacks for everyone anymore, but they used them to bring home all sorts of exciting treasures that I didn’t need to clean out of their pockets before I did the laundry!

Here’s a list of what we kept in them in case you’d like ideas to make your own!

A “field guide” of some sort for the area we were in.

  • Binoculars
  • Handheld microscope
  • Baggies for collecting
  • Trash bag for helping clean up where we go. My older son insisted on having rubber gloves for this purpose.
  • Sunscreen and chapstick
  • Bandana
  • Kite string
  • Water bottle and snacks.
  • A hat
  • Geocache trinkets
  • Pens, pencils, and sketch pad
  • A small pocket knife, yes, I let my kids have pocket knives.

I’ll admit, sometimes the bags got a little full and we had to cull thru them from time to time. When they were little the packs were smaller but as they grew they transferred to the regular school backpacks everyone has. I spent about $20 on each backpack that lasted forever since we weren’t lugging around books. And from $10 to $20 on the microscope and binoculars. They don’t need to be fancy, just a little tough, built for kids.

Other things that ended up in the backpack were a fire starting kit, a space blanket, a book we were reading, a pedometer, candy, bird calls, and old wooden games we got at a fair one time. Things were always rotating in and out of there. Sometimes we were hosting “Flat Stanley” characters or a stuffed animal needed to come along.

Every time we went anywhere, from a walk around the neighborhood to hiking in the forest, from the local park to Disneyland, those bags went with us. We’d constantly stop to inspect a bug or plant, identify it, maybe draw a picture of it, or take a picture. We collected interesting leaves and rocks. We built paper boats and floated them down streams. And I took notes to remember an idea they had or something we needed to bring the next time we came.

Speaking of notes, I took pictures or made notes to remember the things we talked about or investigated and translated that to my personal blog the next morning while they watched cartoons. That was my “education tracking” during our elementary age years.

Get out there and have some fun following where your kids lead you on the trail or in the neighborhood!

Clarification

This is something I posted to a local Facebook group. It is a subject close to my heart and I want so badly to help people not be afraid, combative, or stressed about homeschooling.
First of all, if you are enrolled in a charter school, you are in the public school system. There are only public and private schools in California, no “homeschoolers.” That’s actually a very good thing and something that advocates of secular and religious homeschooling in the 80’s and 90’s worked hard to keep that way. It’s a way of protecting us from the “tyranny of the majority,” giving ALL public and private schooled “homeschoolers” the same protections as those that enroll in the corner school or pay out of pocket for the church’s private school.
 
Second, I think it might help a lot of people to think of the local school district, the charter school, the church private school, and all the other “school” options as individual businesses trying to get you to buy their services. Walmart doesn’t lose money if you shop at Target, but they do want you to shop at their store and will do what they can to entice you to shop there first. And in meetings, they do say, “We’re losing money to that other company! What can we do to stop them?!” Businesses use all kinds of tactics to get you to buy their products, including advertising, sales, surveys, etc. And (unfortunately) since the government is now involved with more and more every day, they also have government ways to force you to shop there, from stopping other stores from coming in the area to lobbying government to change laws in their favor.
 
Schools are very similar. They want you to buy their product (enroll your child) and they will do what is available to get you do just that. The role of government in our schools has added a bit of fear to all of this because they have the use of force on their side. They made laws (long ago) that will put you in jail if you don’t enroll your child somewhere. Kind of a bit of a monopoly, I’d say.
 
That fear of the use of force is what we are all reacting to, but I’m refusing to do so. We don’t have to worry what the school district is up to. We don’t need to get them to see our side. We can just use other options, ignore what they are doing, and do what’s best for our families right now. I’ve found over the years, while working with the legislation and legal teams at CHN, that interacting directly with the school district as a community only creates stress and solves very little. Bureaucracy is an infuriating slug when your child is growing up so fast! They just want to find ways to “help” and like a vampire you’ve invited into the house, they’ve found a way to get into the homeschool community. Most of us don’t want their help. We just want to be left alone. I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t interact with them, I’m just saying you don’t have to. Sometimes the best way to fix something is to let it sit on its own, walk away, “opt out.”
 
That being said, to stay on top of legal issues, I’d recommend joining and following a statewide advocacy group. CHN, HSC, HSLDA, CHEA of CA, all have people watching the legislation that comes in and out and they warn us when we need to “do something.” I love advocacy groups of all kinds! It lightens my load of citizenship and lets me focus on my family.

I’m Back!

Wow! I didn’t realize I had been gone so long!

I had to take a break from homeschool blogging to focus my energy on my two teens who have decided to take leaps into independence WAY earlier than I had mentally prepared for. It just goes to show that kids will take the reigns when they are ready. We just need to be ready for them to take them. More about THAT journey is coming soon!

I won’t be posting daily. And I’m not sure just yet what I will be posting, but I have felt led to write about my experience in the hopes of encouraging others, so I’m following that with much prayer for guidance.

I hope you’ll join me!

A Special Reminder and Calming Vibes

If this is your first year homeschooling as a private school, you may be feeling pretty excited and a bit nervous for the coming year. It’s exciting to take that first step into independence. You’ve read all the rules. You’ve organized your files. You’ve created all the documents. Everything is in place. And then you get a letter, a phone call, or a visit from your child’s old school! Yikes! All your confidence comes crashing down. Did I do something wrong? Am I in trouble? No. Take a deep breath! You’re fine. Here’s what you should do.

For public charter folks, you have a far smaller chance of dealing with school district officials because your school takes care of that for you. For private schools, we have to be the administrator as well as the teacher so we get the calls and letters directly.

If you get a letter from the school district, calmly read it over.

If you get a phone call, put on your school admin hat and take a message. Get their name, phone number, and what they are specifically calling about, get the child’s name they are trying to verify as well. Tell them you will call them back after school hours. Most likely the school official is trying to clean up their paperwork. They are looking to verify your student’s enrollment.

If you get a visit from an official at your home, keep your children inside and talk to the official through the door. You do not let them into your home to inspect your school. Be polite and calm while you ask them what they need. If they want to know what school your kids attend, give them the name and phone number of your school. If they want more information than that, politely tell them that you are busy with your kids right now and that they can call the school for an appointment if they need more information, then give them a piece of paper with the school name and phone number on it. They will most likely leave on that note.

After any of these situations, get online and contact one of the statewide groups like CHN or HSC, or the national group HSLDA. Find their contact info and either call or email them. Don’t go to a Facebook group and post. You’ll get a quicker and more precise answer instead of having to wade through all the comments from everyone else in that group. You don’t need to panic and hurry. The school officials are dealing with lots of other things and aren’t sitting by the phone waiting for you. But that doesn’t mean not to take this seriously and wait weeks before answering. Give this your utmost attention. The sooner it’s taken care of, the less problems will be created.

The statewide groups all have legal teams waiting to answer your questions and are happy to help free of charge. They may make a phone call or write a letter on your behalf. They all want to know how school districts are reacting to homeschoolers, so you are helping them advocate for our rights and make things easier for others in the future.

Toys!

Ask me what I think is the most important thing for homeschoolers to have around the house and I’ll tell you “awesome, colorful reference books” and “building toys”!

Legos are some of my favorite toys but I also love building blocks, Knex, and Tinker Toys. My sons still drag out the box of legos when they are trying to better understand some physics concept they’ve discovered or read about.

Here’s a list of my favorite building toys!

Lego – Crazy Contraptions
It’s a small set with lots of potential! We had an awesome storage system of little drawers that we got from Harbor Freight. It was for keeping nuts and bolts and you could hang them on the wall.

Knex – Model Building Set
The bigger the better! More pieces mean more innovation. We used to spend the whole day putting together the “amusement park” sets!

Wooden Blocks
They are expensive but so worth it! We had so much fun with these when my boys were little. And I still have most of the sets put away for my Grandkids (minus the ones the dog chewed up).

Keva Planks
They may seem overly simple but the more you have, the more amazing things can be built!

If you’re going to buy something as a homeschooler, make it awesome toys instead of expensive curriculum. Kids will get so much more out of them than any textbook or worksheet!

New General Resource Page

I’ve created a new General Resource Page that includes home education sites and online general curriculum guides! It’s by no means complete but I’ll continue to add to it and share when I find awesome resources during my online travels.

Homeschool Advocate Groups

This is just a short post to remind you that becoming a member of statewide and national homeschool advocacy groups is important, not because you personally get something by being a member like you would if you subscribed to a magazine, but because your money helps support groups that keep their eyes on what legislation is being put out there that may have an effect on your ability to legally homeschool.

Homeschooling has not always been legal, accepted, or as easy to do as it is now. As with any right, we all need to pay attention to what’s happening in our government and statewide groups help us do just that!

Home School Legal Defense Association

Private & Home Educators of California

Christian Home Educators of California

California Homeschool Network

Homeschoolers Association of California

 

Productivity For Homeschoolers

I bet you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted in a couple of days, right? Well, maybe you have, maybe you haven’t but I’ll let you know why anyway. I’m a Mom and a currently homeschooling Mom. My teenage sons’ race motocross and the schedule can be a bit hectic at times. Also, I don’t plan this blog in advance. I just write about what I find interesting, what’s currently happening in our area, and what I feel may be important or relevant to desert homeschoolers right now. Maybe some day in the future that will change and I’ll more time to plan but, for now, this works. Which leads me to exactly what I wanted to write to you about today!

Do you read productivity books or blogs? I do. At first, I thought they only applied to business people and entrepreneurs. That’s the audience the authors I read are focused on. The first one I read was “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. My friend and mentor recommended it to me years ago. I really love that book and highly recommend it as a great start! I realized after reading it and several other blogs I follow, that homeschoolers really could use these ideas. The same planning and thinking strategy’s that entrepreneurs use to build their ideas and businesses are a huge help when planning our own education and helping our children get theirs. After all, entrepreneurship seems to fit the main idea behind homeschooling to a T!

Here are some of my favorite books and podcasts!

“The Productivity Show” by Asian Efficiency. Not only are these guys full of great information and idea, they are entertaining as well. I love listening to them while I do the dishes!

“15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management” by Kevin Kruse. His website is filled with some great stuff, including a podcast that I love. http://www.kevinkruse.com/

“Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen. While I don’t use his system in its entirety, I did like reading the book and found lots of useful tools I could use in my daily life. He has a lot of great books and blogs as well if you search for him. His website http://gettingthingsdone.com/ is a great place to start.

This one isn’t a productivity book but it did really help my state of mind and got me closer to a place where I could begin to feel in control of my life’s direction and become more productive. “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. Their website is a good place to start to see if this series of books can help you. http://www.boundariesbooks.com/

And last but certainly not least, the one I mentioned earlier in this post, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. This book and the newer one “The 8th Habit” are amazing tools! The site for his books is https://www.stephencovey.com/

Enjoy! I really believe the place to start homeschooling is with our own education, like putting your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others.

Do you play with your kids?

I’m bringing this up because something I hear a lot from people that don’t homeschool is that they just couldn’t stand to play with their kids all day, every day.

I was so glad that I had two boys only 17 months apart once they started playing together. I was never the “playing with kids” kind of person. When I first became a step-parent my step-daughter was very much into “pretend play” and I was at a loss. Luckily her Dad was really good at it and would play with her for hours when she was home. I was terrified that the children I had would want to play this way as well! It turns out they didn’t, at least not in the same way. My sons liked to set things up, like green army men and other plastic figures and then pretend play with them. That was more my style! They did dress up and run around the yard pretending they were Indiana Jones and Buzz Lightyear, but they didn’t include me so much because they had a game going between them. I lucked out for sure! My role in entertainment back then was to throw marshmallows at them and things of that nature.

Now that they are in their teens we still play. Mostly we play video games together in the form of sharing them and playing on our own. They rarely play a video game at the same time. They each play separately and compare notes. We play more in the form of jokes and sharing funny stuff we find on the internet. Teenagers are way more fun that way than younger kids, but it’s a different kind of fun.

I found this article by Peter Gray today that really hit home about playing with kids. I hope you like it too!

The Education Secretary’s Comments

Have you seen the articles written in regards to the Education Secretary, John B. King’s comments about homeschooling in the U.S.?

Here are a couple of articles that I found interesting.

“U.S. Education Secretary Says He Is Concerned About Homeschooled Kids” from Caffeinated Thoughts

“What Obama’s Education Secretary Got Wrong About Homeschoolers” from The Daily Signal

I have some serious thoughts about it myself, but I’ll only comment on the one line that stood out to me most. This one, “King said he worries that ‘students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school’—unless parents are “very intentional about it”.”

I believe most of us have left the education system because we did not desire the “rapid instructional experience”. Real, whole-life learning and education is not rapid or instructional. Relating real education with school is holding so many citizens of this country back from greatness. Homeschool families are very intentional about giving their children all the advantages of a personalized education that no government school can create.

I highly recommend the two articles above and remind everyone that homeschooling remaining a legal option in the United States is not guaranteed. We all need to remain vigilant and support those groups that help us navigate the government waters and keep our rights secure.