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

This Fight is Not Over

From ParentsUnited4Kids.com

“We celebrated for a brief moment yesterday, upon hearing the news that Assemblymember Jose Medina is amending AB2756. The portion of the legislation that mandates fire inspections in our homes will be omitted. The piece that remains, and potentially new pieces to be added, is aimed at data collection. What does this mean?

The staffers in Medina’s office couldn’t really give anyone a clear picture of just what exactly this meant beyond including a section on the PSA that distinguishes ‘type’ of homeschool (i.e. Virtual, charter, online, or ‘traditional’).

This is what we know: Data collection will allow them to separate us into smaller groups and smaller groups are easier to target. We also know that California’s politicians are shrewd and patient. This will be Step 1. They WILL be back with more legislation that aims to restrict our rights.

Bottom line, this bill needs to go. There is no crisis calling for restrictive legislation. Or data collection. Our legislators should focus on more pressing issues, like poverty, homelessness, or the fact that our public education system ranks near dead last in the country.

Please take a moment to call Assemblymember Jose Medina’s office and ask him to pull AB2756. Be polite. You could even throw in a “We understand Mr. Medina’s concern after seeing the Turpin story. It was horrific. No one wants to see children being harmed. But, we need to see it for what it was – an aberration. There is no crisis in California homeschooling.”

Make Those Calls!

No automatic alt text available.
California Homeschool Network

★CHN TIME SENSITIVE ALERT★
Today we are bringing you a time-sensitive action.

It is NOW time to call the AUTHORS of AB 2756.

Your goal is to get this bill dropped before it reaches committee. This could be as early as next week.

➤TODAY: Take less than 5 minutes to make just 4 quick & friendly calls to the authors.

➤”I oppose AB 2756. Please drop this bill.”

Assemblymember Jose Medina (916) 319-2061
Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (916) 319-2013
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (916) 319-2080
Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (916) 319-2052

★★Bonus Action★★ Comment directly on the bill.
This requires that you create a login. It is quick & easy!
Simply click on the below link for ‘Comments to the Author.’
Once you’ve signed in, be sure to mark ‘oppose’ before sending your comments.
http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/loginClient.xhtml…

Thank you for your participation in preserving homeschooling in California.
We’d love to hear how your calls go, let us know!

Interview About AB2756

When a local news outlet contacted me about an interview, my first reaction was to ask someone else if they wanted to do it. I’m naturally a shy person and was terrified of being made to look like a fool. I ended up calling them back and was instantly set at ease. They couldn’t have made it easier or more comfortable. God does work miracles!

I waited on pins and needles for the broadcast date and here it is!

Click HERE to watch and read the interview.

The Great Homeschool Convention

If you’re looking at using a curriculum for your homeschool, want to hear some great speakers, or looking to see what homeschoolers lo a k like in large group, The Great California Homeschool Convention may be a good start!

This convention is put on by a large national group that just does events like this. They aren’t a social group but if you just want to hear speakers and look at a large vendor hall, this is a great place. It is mostly Christian, but not all and even if you are not a one or someone homeschooling for religious reasons, you’ll find loads of great information and resources here.

Best part? It’s only a couple hours away in Ontario AND it’s only $50 for the whole family for two days. I think I might go, just to check it out!

Backyard Science!

I just received a reminder in my newsfeed about an awesome annual event. The Great Backyard Bird Count from the National Audubon Society! This is a great way to do real science at home with your kids and another great thing about technology in our age. We are all contributing to large-scale data collection that is helping real scientists. In fact, we ARE scientists! And best of all, it’s completely free!

My sons and I participated in this event several years in a row, both in the city and at our new desert home. Oh, who am I kidding? I did this several years in a row and told the boys all about it! They weren’t interested in sitting in the yard with a cup of tea for an hour, noting which birds and how many came by. I was very interested though! I printed off the data collection sheet from the website, grabbed a cup of hot tea and parked myself on the back porch for an hour, several days in a row. The boys would come out and ask me what I was doing, and I proudly told them, showing them the list of birds I had already seen. Sometimes they would sit for a minute and watch with me. They’d point out a bird or two, grow weary and head into the house for video games. Sometimes, I’d have to cut my session short over a battle between them or a request for lunch. If they were interested, I’m sure they would have been right there with me, asking me what bird it was or helping me look them up online. This kind of stuff just wasn’t their thing at the time. Fast forward years into the future, they now take pictures of birds they find where they are and message them to me, so they did get something out of it!

What did they get? Lot’s of things! They saw a small way an individual can participate in a large science endeavor. They learned that bird watching was a sport AND science and that there are people all over the world who are passionate about it. Best of all, they were witness to my real, honest love of learning in action every day.

That’s the best part about home education! It isn’t about following a set curriculum, having a long reading list, perfect penmanship, or great SAT scores. It’s not about keeping “at grade level” in school subjects. It’s about kids living and learning right alongside adults in ways that encourage them to explore the world around them and stay excited about learning new things their whole lives.

Before my sons were around twelve years old, most of the homeschooling at our house was me finding awesome stuff to do around our area and signing up for tours, field trips, and excursions of all kinds. I read up about each event before we went, sharing what I learned and how. I was the one asking questions. My boys were along for the ride. We kept it down to one organized event per week when they were little because it was generally something they weren’t interested in, but I thought they might be. If we got there and they just couldn’t sit still or hang through the whole thing, we’d leave early. That was hard for me sometimes, especially when it was something I really wanted to see or with friends I really liked. I had to remember that we were there for their sake, not mine. As they got older, they were more apt to sit through an art museum tour because I really wanted to see it with the offer of a kind reward for their efforts. As teens, they don’t need that reward anymore.

We also visited a lot of museums, parks, and zoos on our own schedule. We didn’t get the group discount or docent-led tour, but it was usually better for them because they could take their time exploring what they wanted and skip past things that didn’t excite them. It wasn’t the last time we’d be at any of these places, so I didn’t mind if they spent all their time at the playground at the local zoo instead of seeing all the animals. We bought annual passes and memberships to places they expressed real interest in.

Education in the elementary years was always fun, short and sweet. Sometimes it was directed by me and my interests and hopes of expanding their horizons. And sometimes it was directed by them and what they were interested in pursuing. It always focused on them and how they were responding. Getting antsy and a bit loud? They weren’t interested, we needed to leave. Quietly watching, having a great time? We’d stay. One interested, the other distracting people? I’d ask a friend to keep an eye on one, while I let the other find something else to do. It was all about watching them and knowing their limits.

Now that they are in their late teens, I can see the reflection of those early days in the way they pursue their passions and share them with me through texts and social media posts.

Annual Passes Worth Every Cent!

There are two annual passes we have bought every year that I highly recommend, the “Forest Adventure” pass and the “America the Beautiful” pass. You can buy them online at My Scenic Drives.

The “Forest Adventure” pass is $30 and a second is only $5 more, so share with a friend! It allows you to park anywhere in the forest. Yes, there is controversy here. Does the money really go to keeping the trails nice and the bathrooms clean? Who knows?! And do they give tickets for parking without one? Occasionally. And I’ve heard the fine is the same as the pass. But…I’m trying my best to teach civics here as well and the law of the land is to have a parking pass, so we get one and leave it at that.

The “America the Beautiful” pass is $80 and gets you into all the National Parks. Of course, if you don’t plan on leaving the immediate area this year,  you can always get an annual pass for just Joshua Tree National Park for $40, but we’ve found that we usually get up to other parks in California at least once a year, so the $80 one is a deal for that.

When I lived in Orange County as a kid, I rarely went up to the mountains. My parents worked regular, Monday through Friday type, jobs, so we only had weekends and holidays to make the trek. Those are crazy busy times! I just assumed it was always like that, so I didn’t take my kids up there until we moved out to the desert and were looking for fun stuff to do during the week while Dad worked. That’s when I fell in love with Big Bear!

We’ve been making the hour drive up there about once a week for years now. We’ve explored mountain trails, hiked all over, gone fishing (another permit, of course, we ARE in California), looked for geocaches, played in the snow, ate (a lot), mountain biked, gone to the zoo. There’s so much to do up there! And during the week it’s so NOT crowded!

Here are a few links to places we love!

Fishing – Take Me Fishing is a good place to start if you’ve never been before! You can get a license there and look up the myriad of rules. I also love Big Bear Lake Sporting Goods. You can get a license there and everything else you need. Ask all the questions you like, they are nice people!

Mountain Biking – Check out Mountain Bike Big Bear for trails and such. And the best bike shop ever is Chains Required! Great prices, great people, they have everything you need. You can even rent a bike for a day and see if you enjoy the sport!

Hiking – AllTrails can help you find the best trail for you. Add Geocache to your phone and find those on the way!

Big Bear Discovery Center

Big Bear Zoo

And my favorite tip, we always stop at the Village Visitor Center first for a bathroom break and to re-group after the drive. It has saved us many times. I’ll also admit that we stop there before we leave as well. Lunch, ice cream, bookstore. They even have an awesome music store!

What does this have to do with home education? Everything. This IS education. So much science, history, PE, even literature. This isn’t a day off for adventuring. The adventuring IS the education. We had a backpack of snacks, water, and tools we took with us everywhere. We took pictures of things we found, made maps of where we went, looked at things with microscopes and binoculars. We had a notebook to draw in, a nature guide, a bandana (for everything), and a first aid kit. We even brought a book with us and read out loud while we picnicked at the top of the hike, alongside the lake, or in a grassy meadow. Go explore!

Unschooling History/Social Studies/Current Events Etc.

Even if you’re not totally on board with unschooling in the broader sense, an easy way to look into it and see how it works could be by starting with history. History, Social Studies, Government, Economics, and Current Events are covered in our home school by following trails. Those trails start everywhere you look! I’ll give you an example that came up today.

My oldest son has been fascinated by the 90’s show “X Files” for the last several months. He found out that they are on Netflix now, so he’s been watching them in order while he eats his breakfast. This morning there was an episode with a character that had spent time at a camp for Haitian Refugees. The camp looked a lot like a prison and there was some discussion about it. I wasn’t watching so I’m not sure about what was going on in the show, but my son came and asked me if I knew what they were talking about. I didn’t remember anything about it so he went to the internet and searched. At first, he searched “1992” because that is when the show was released. I told him to broaden it a bit and search for “1990’s” and “Haitian Refugees”. There was a Wikipedia article about a camp in Guantanamo that shed some light on the subject and one about a coup d’etat at the time. I won’t get into all the details. He came back and told me a bit about it. The article reminded me that I had heard about “boat people” from Haiti when I was in high school. We talked about why people would leave, why the government wouldn’t want them here, how they could be held against their will, court cases about it, what’s going on now in Europe, Syrian Refugees, etc. The conversation went on for about 45 minutes before he went back and watched the rest of the show.

Another piece of the history puzzle has been added. Our history lessons don’t come on a packaged and nice looking timeline. They come as we need them and when we are interested in learning more, little bites at a time. Some day we’ll find out more about that time period and what was going on in Haiti, how it was related to something else at the time, and other people that were affected. It will probably come from another tv show, a movie, a game, an article, a book, or a conversation. And it will tie in with the world around us. It will be relevant to our own time and it will be remembered in a deeper way than any pre-written history course.