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.

Online Mentoring?!

If you’re just getting started homeschooling this year, or got off to a rocky start last year, and you didn’t get a chance to go to one of the great conferences this summer, Sue Patterson is offering an online 3-month group mentoring program starting August 1st. Check out the link for more details about this awesome opportunity!

Legal Options to Homeschool in CA

To throw a wrench into everyone’s thinking, I’ll start with asking you to wrap your head around the following idea, there is no legal “homeschooling” in California. I know! The term “homeschooling” isn’t in the legal code, so it doesn’t exist but that doesn’t mean that you can’t school at home. The compulsory education law in California states that all children between the ages of 6 and 18 must be enrolled in some kind of full-time day school. To satisfy that law you can enroll your child in a public or private school, or have them tutored. To “homeschool” your children, you will be doing the same thing in a different form. And now there are several forms to choose from. For more details, including the education code, CHN’s Legal Options page is a good place to start. HSC’s Legal page also has great information.

The options you can choose to homeschool are summed up here.

Choose a Private School

 

  • You can create your own private school and enroll only your own children.
  • You can enroll in a private school with a “satellite program.”

Choose a Public School

 

  • You can enroll in a local public school’s independent study program.
  • You can enroll in a public charter school with a home-study or virtual study element.

Credentialed Tutor

  • You can hire a credentialed teacher for the grade your children are in.

There are pro’s and con’s for each option and which one you choose depends on several factors. I’ll get into those in a different post. But first you need to ask yourself things like: What kind of education do we want for our children? How much oversight do we want? What are our teaching and learning styles? I’d recommend looking into different education styles to see what is out there. The neighborhood school is only one way of educating children, a kind of “one-size-fits-all” thing. There’s a nice overview of styles on Homeschool.com about different approaches to homeschooling. Once you have an idea about what kind of homeschooling you’d like to try, you can make a better decision about which legal option to use.

For all the options, except creating your own private school, you’ll be enrolling your kids in a program and that new school will help you get started. The only thing you’ll be responsible for is withdrawing your kids from their current school if they are already going to one. If your kids are not currently enrolled in a school, meaning they are under 5 years old, then there is nothing you need to do at this time.

To withdraw your kids from their current school, you are only changing schools just like if you were moving to a new town. It’s the exact same process. You go to the school office and tell them that you are changing schools and need to formally withdraw from this one so that they aren’t looking for your child when they take attendance. The school is legally required to know what school your children are transferring to. All you need to do is tell them the name and address of the new school. You also may need to tell them the last day your child will be expected at the old school and what day they start at the new school, so have that information ready as well. Even if you’ve chosen to create your own private school, you will go through the same process at this point. You’re done!

If your child has an IEP at their current school, there is a nice article explaining the withdrawal process on HSC’s website.

In the next few posts, I’ll go over the options that are available and link you to some lists of schools that fall under each one.

Faculty List & Enrollment Forms

Welcome to the next post in my “Private School Paperwork” series!

This one is kind of boring but, like I said, I like forms and creating them. You can easily make your own, but if you don’t want to or like to, you are welcome to use mine! All you need to do is email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com and I’ll send you the file.

Here’s a picture of the “Faculty List & Qualifications” form I made for my school. It’s one of the forms every private school needs to keep in its files.

Educator Enrollment PhotoIn the state of California, private school teachers must be “capable of teaching”. What qualifies one to teach is determined by each school individually. A larger “for-profit” or church school may require a teaching credential or degree, but they are not required to do so by law. Your school can set its own qualifications for its teachers as well. So, did you finish high school? Go to college? Some college? Run a business, work a job, volunteer somewhere? Think about your own resume. What do you think makes you a person qualified to pass along information to your own children? You can put as little or as much information as you please on this form, but I consider it a good exercise to build up our confidence, especially when we are first getting started. Also, it isn’t required that your teachers be finger-printed or have a background check since the only students at the school are related to the teacher.

Once your new private school has a name and you’ve “hired” a teacher, you’re ready to enroll a student! Private schools in California are required to keep certain information about each student at their school. When you enroll in any school, that school creates a file and collects that data for their records. When you transfer from one school to another, that file is requested by the new school and kept with any new records from that school. Elementary school records don’t have much in them when you’re homeschooling privately. Mine have the enrollment form and related documents, attendance records, a list of subjects studied each year, and any report cards I may have generated. If you’re pulling your child out of another school and enrolling him in yours, you’ll be asking for that file and it will be interesting to see what the school kept on file for your child. When I pulled my son from 1st grade after Kinder, there was little there, of course.

The documents that must be on file (Cummulative File) with a student at his school are the following:

-Enrollment form including the legal name of student, date of birth, sex of pupil, and name and address of the parents.
-Copy of birth certificate.
-Entering and leaving date of each school year. This can be on the “report card”.
-Subjects taken during each year. This can be in the form of a “report card”.
-Marks, grades or credits if given. Marks or credits toward high school graduation.
-Date of high school graduation or CHSPE, GED equivalent.
-Health and Immunization Records.
-Attendance Records, indicating every absence of a half day or more.

Here is a picture of my Enrollment Form. Again, you’re welcome to use it if you like, just shoot me an email.

Enrollment Form Photo

Attendance Record

This may seem strange but one of the documents every Private School in California must keep is an attendance record. Even days where your kids are sick in bed can count as “present” if you are homeschooling. You may not get anything checked off your curriculum checklist, but they are learning. Most likely they laid on the couch and watched a movie, you read a book aloud, or they played a game with their siblings. So there will be few “absent” marks on your attendance record. I bet your kids may even get a “Perfect Attendance Award” every year!

But, since we are homeschooling under the same laws that big private schools use, we are required to have in our files an attendance record. I have always printed out a two sheet one from Donna Young’s site for the current year and kept it in my school folder with my calendar/planner. Every morning I check off the day for each of my students and take a look at the “Course of Study” over my cup of coffee and on my way to read my favorite blogs. Some people add to the bottom of the attendance record “Absences Marked With an X” and then leave it blank for the year. That will work as well. I’m kind of a paperwork nut, so I like checking the boxes Monday through Friday, even though we are learning 24/7.

I have used Donna Young’s attendance record in the past. You can download and print several for free. Take a look and find one that suits your personal style.

Here is a picture of mine. I’d be happy to send it to you if you’d like the file. Just email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com!

Attendance Photo

How do you create a “Course of Study” without the use of curriculum?

One of the requirements for a private school in California is to have a “Course of Study” for each grade offered. If you are just starting out, that doesn’t mean you need to have one for Kinder through the 12th grade. You can create them one at a time for each year you are homeschooling. The first year we homeschooled was for my oldest son in 1st grade. I created a “Course of Study” for the first year of our school and kept it in my school files. The next year, even though I marked “ungraded elementary” on our Private School Affidavit, I created a new “Course of Study” for 2nd grade and called it “2nd Year”. The third year my younger son enrolled in our school for his 1st year and I already had a 1st year course of study. I checked it over and reformatted it a bit and we were done. I only created one course of study each year because the old ones covered our whole school.

Our family has never used a boxed curriculum, except for a couple years that I bought a Bible Study one. I liked the morning reading over breakfast and then the boys liked doing the craft that went along with it. It introduced a bit of regularity to our early homeschool days that I enjoyed and my boys found comforting. It took us about an hour over breakfast to complete. Everything else at our school was found as it came up over the year through videos, websites, outings, and library books. It made our homeschool very relaxed and enjoyable with plenty of routine and time to drop everything to watch a bug or spend hours at a museum with a sketch pad. The only money I spent was on art/science supplies, museum or park memberships, gas, and toys. I’ll show you what I did!

First of all, I went to World Book’s “Typical Course of Study” page and clicked on the grade I was adding that year. Let’s start with 1st grade. The California Department of Education requires that all private schools offer the same basic subjects as the public schools. That would be English, Math, Social Sciences, Science, Fine Arts, Health, and Physical Education for grades 1-6. You can find a list of these at CHN’s page here and on the CDE here. For each grade, World Book has a detailed list labeled as a Curriculum Guide with all those required subjects included, except PE. I copied it and pasted it into a word document with my school’s name at the top. Like this:

Liberty Academy
Course of Study – Year One

For PE, I just listed regular activities we planned on doing. Daily activities like hiking, biking, park days, sports, roller skating, etc, were all included in our PE course of study. I had jump ropes, assorted balls, hula hoops, and other sports equipment always available. We regularly took walks around the neighborhood and I tried to teach them some of the playground games I played as a kid. Your city’s Parks & Recreation Department is also a great resource for PE!

I kept that “Course of Study” in a file folder on my desk along with my “Attendance Record”. Each day I’d get it out, mark off that they were present and look at the Course of Study to give me ideas of what we could be doing that day. Once a week we’d go to the library. The boys would find a few books that they were interested in and I would pick out a book or two for something in each subject. Those books would sit on the coffee table at home and I made a point of reading from one of them out loud while they ate an afternoon snack. Bedtime stories were also a big part of our school day. They each picked one each night and so did I.

I’ll look at math more closely because that’s the one many people get stuck on and really want to buy a curriculum to help them. It really isn’t that hard, though, especially at the elementary level. You just have to trust that you do know elementary math and can pass that along to your kids. I was one of those people that was math phobic (I believe because of the way I was taught math) and I didn’t want to pass that on to my kids, so I decided to rediscover math as if I had never heard of it. I did buy RightStart math games after hearing the author explain it at a homeschool conference. I felt like a veil had been lifted and I could really see it for the first time! I’ve been in love with math ever since, not in the sense that I could be a math major but in that I can see the beauty and utility of it. I wanted my kids to see math that way and decided against using a typical American math curriculum. We went for discovery instead. How do you do that? You look, play, and discover and share with your kids!

The course of study for 1st grade says, “Compare and describe attributes of shapes.” How easy is that?! “Hey, guys! Look at this ball. Is it a circle? Sort of. Here’s a circle on drawn on paper. It looks different. This ball is 3D. It’s a sphere! And I can throw it at you!” Moving on.

“Skip count by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s.” So many board games use this. And we use it when we’re making sure everyone has the same amount of M&M’s out of the bag.

This goes on and on. You just need to be creative. History can come from movies and stories. English can come from a bedtime story or a Mad Libs game. Science can be a TV show like “Mythbusters”, playing with a microscope, or going to a nature center at a park. Art can be making your own, discovering famous artists on a website or museum, or going to the theater or summer concert series in your town.

The thing to remember is that you don’t need to teach each subject every day and not everything on that list needs to be covered. It’s just a guideline. Most of what is on those lists overlap over several years. Over the course of time, you will get around to offering each subject listed. And it doesn’t need to be a formal lesson to be offered. Just going to a movie covers a lot of real education time with a kid.

What education is in the new blockbuster movie? Or even the $2 older movie during the day? Let’s see.

What time does the movie start? How much does it cost? How do we get there? How long will it take? How long is the movie? In minutes? In hours? Do I have enough money for a popcorn or candy? Which costs more? Less? How much for both?

What kind of movie is it? Who are the characters? What happened in it? Is there a book this was based on? Has this movie been done before? Do we recognize the story from some other movie or book? Plot? Effects? What was the cost of making the movie?

Where should we go for lunch afterward? What kind of food? Where did it come from? America. Mexico. China. India. Let’s look up the culture this food came from on my smart phone. Can we make it at home? Let’s pick something that has all the food groups. Ordering the food. Paying for the food.

Can you help me get home? Which way did we come from? Do you know what street we live on? What landmarks let you know we are close to our house?

See?! The list can go on and on. If you are allowed to follow those trails where they lead the education you are giving yourself and helping your kids find can be amazing. The only thing stopping you is your imagination. And if you’ve just paid a lot of money for a boxed curriculum that says you need to fill out this many papers and read about the civil war today, you’ll have missed out on it.

Some days you will feel like you’re doing nothing at all, but that is far from the truth. Kids are always learning something. Go see what they are interested in at the moment and see if you can join in somehow. If they are looking restless, like they can’t find something to get into, head to the kitchen for some cooking science magic, or the grocery store, or the park for a walk and a climb. Change the scenery for them and they’ll lead you to the magic! Education doesn’t come in a predetermined box. It’s out there in the world. Go get it!

Save The Date!

I’ve talked about it for months and I’ve finally added it to the calendar!

LIVE – “Homeschool 101” & “Basic Record Keeping for Private Homeschoolers”

This will be two independent talks. “Homeschool 101” will cover the four legal ways to homeschool in California, including what you need to know to be in compliance with the compulsory education laws in California. I’ll have handouts to help you get started and advice on how to find what works best for your family. If you’ve considered homeschooling your kids, this will be an informative session for you and your family. There will be lots of time to ask questions! Long time homeschoolers are welcome and encouraged to attend and help field questions.

“Basic Record Keeping for Private Homeschoolers” will be for those families that are considering using the “Private School” option of homeschooling. The session will cover what records you need to keep and where to get them, including an easy way to create a “Course of Study” and a basic lesson plan that helps you feel like you are doing all you can to help facilitate your child’s education at home with little expense.

Your speaker, Michelle Huelle, has been a private homeschooler for ten years and has been an active volunteer for the California Homeschool Network for eight years, serving as a Local Contact, Family Expo Registration Committee, Board Member, and on the Legal Team. Her experience ranges from eclectic homeschooling to radical unschooling. And her passion is for helping families discover the joy of homeschooling she found that changed her family’s life forever!

Yucca Mesa Community Center
3133 Balsa Ave. Yucca Valley, CA 92284
Thursday – June 30, 2016
6pm to 8pm

This event is free but a donation of $5 per family will be asked to help cover the cost of renting the room and printing handouts.

The whole family is welcome to come. Mom & Dad, Grandparents, and Kids!

Please email Michelle at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com with questions.

If you are on Facebook, please go to the “event” created and let me know you’re coming!
“Homeschool Information Meeting”

 

New Resource for Non-Vaccinating Families

I’ve experienced a huge jump in numbers of people joining our local homeschool group due to the new law passed this year regarding mandatory vaccinations to attend public school. Most of these people are parents of pre-school age children looking into their options for education in the future.

There are new websites popping up all over the internet about how to “get around” the new law, some of them have good information and some are not so good. There are different people trying to make sense of the new law and how it will apply to each of us. I’d say all of them have the best intentions. The best advice I have for anyone looking into homeschooling as a way to satisfy the compulsory education laws without vaccinating their kids is to look to the large statewide homeschool advocacy groups for help. CHN and HSC are non-profit groups that have been helping people comply with the law for many years. They have “experts” and veterans of homeschooling keeping track of the changes and advising people about how best to stay legal and get the best education for their kids.

A new website popped up this week that seems to have good, concise information about how to legally homeschool in California. It’s called sb277 Homeschool. I’ve read some of the website and I plan on watching her videos. I’ll check that information against what the statewide groups are saying and what the law says. That’s what we all should do. Don’t take one person’s word for what is right to do. Anyone can put up a website and claim to know the answers, but if what they are saying checks out against other sources, it’s most likely true. And in legal cases, it’s may be true only for the moment.

Organized for Creativity

I was listening to the School Sucks Podcast yesterday and David Allen (Getting Things Done) said something very interesting about creativity. “When you have control of the mundane work, you have more time for the creative.” That’s not a direct quote. I was listening to the interview and doing the dishes, so I had to remember while I dried my hands and then wrote it down, but it is the idea. It makes so much sense. So many of us, especially homeschoolers, complain about our lack of time. We don’t have time for creative time with our kids, messes, long walks, and wandering through museums because we have lessons and housework to get done. But what if we used a system to keep the everyday work finished so that we had time for the fun (and actually more important stuff)? We could just drop the housework and shopping list for the more important to our children day at the zoo, but can we really be in the moment when we know there is nothing planned for dinner and the laundry is piled on the bed at home?

A long time ago I came across FlyLady online and she taught me how to keep house with young ones around. She designed the system for working people but I used it to make time for my family. I found that keeping the house moderately picked up each day really freed up my time and energy. I believe “Getting Things Done” will do the same with the new things I want to do like study and write. I ordered the book today. The funny part is that I don’t think I would have thought that I had anything to organize or that I could make time for more in my day and week if I hadn’t heard him talk on the show. The thing that inspired me to look into it is this, he said the system “creates space” in your day. Now this past year I’ve learned first hand that meditation “creates space” in my mind for controlling anxiety and focusing my mental energy. I’ve learned in the past few months that yoga, or any regular exercise, “creates space” in your body for health and vitality. So why would something like this not “create space” in my day? I can’t wait to get this book and read more.

Field Trip Ideas

I’ve been contemplating putting together a few field trips for my local group. At first I was excited about it. Remember when we were kids and got to go to the zoo or the post office? But then I thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea because I did remember going and it wasn’t very fun. We just had to stand there and listen to what the docent or worker was telling us. And then they asked if we had questions and I was too shy to ask in front of all those people. Maybe it would be better if homeschooling families just assumed everything was a field trip. Going to the post office for stamps? Kids wonder where the mail goes? Ask! Grocery store? Lot’s of stuff to explore there. We can go to the zoo all day and stay the whole time in front of the zebras watching and asking questions. If we can’t find a docent, my smart phone may have the answer.

Our family has taken advantage of group discounts with other homeschoolers many times over the years. Whale watching on a weekday morning, the zoo, the science center’s new exhibit and IMAX movie, lots of stuff that we might not have done otherwise, we have done because someone has organized a group trip. Many of them have been amazing experiences.

But what about the little field trips like when we were in elementary school? The post office, the pizza place, the grocery store, etc. Could we somehow do these kinds of group activities in a way that would benefit us? I think we can! I was talking to a local pizza shop owner the other day and asked about doing a homeschool field trip. He asked what we would want to know. I mean, any of us can make a pizza, right? He could show us how they do it with their big oven. Then I thought of something. What might our kids want to know? Why did they decide to open a pizza place? What kind of experience did they have? Did they go to college? Was it hard to do? Our older kids might ask questions that us parents might ask. Did they have to take out a loan to start up? Have they started a business before? Bottom line for me would be “What’s your personal story? Why are you here doing this?” He was excited about that! And we’re totally booking the tour.

What other places can we explore? How about the Chinese Restaurant, the health food store, the rock climbing adventure place, the little book store, the local realtor, or the sheriff’s office? All these little places in our town have interesting people and stories. We want to know about them. And I bet we’ll be doing a little homeschooling outreach as well. Some of these people probably don’t know any homeschoolers and I bet they’d be pretty impressed to meet our crazy bunch of kids. I can’t wait to get started!