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.

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!

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!

Our Kindergarten

I’ve been going through some old paperwork and photo files and came across pictures of my kids when we were just getting started with homeschooling. I’ve been thinking a lot about what we used to do for “school” back when my boys were elementary age, so it’s strange that I found those photos. Or is it? I thought I’d post here a bit about what Kinder was like at our house!

We had come across the idea of homeschooling while searching for private preschools. I found the California Homeschool Network and started reading. It just happened to be close to their annual conference, so my Grandpa and I went to check it out. I fell in love with the idea right then! So essentially, the boys have always been homeschooled.

Since Kindergarten isn’t mandatory in California, we decided to not enroll in any school and see how it went. If it went well, we’d continue to file as a private school and keep schooling that way. I’d say that year went pretty well! Do I change things? Yes! Our school always changes according to what is working and what is not. That’s the real beauty of homeschooling in the first place. Each child’s education is tailored to their individual needs. And even though I desperately wanted to play teacher at home, my boys weren’t having it. It wasn’t for them. I had to be honest about my own personality and theirs, and change things up. “School” has evolved over the last eleven years and it still is, but the underlying current is an “unschooling” style that has worked well for the whole family.

Here are some pictures of the first months of “school” at our house so you can get the idea!

When you start homeschooling one child, you start homeschooling the younger kids, too! No one wants to be left out. And you HAVE to have a “First Day of Kindergarten” picture!

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sept-6-034We had a playgroup of kids and Mom’s that came to our house every Monday for the last couple years. It wasn’t a homeschool group, just an evolved Mommy & Me group. Most of us weren’t planning on homeschooling but we didn’t want to send our kids to preschool, so we did this instead. It was wonderful for all of us. Even though only two of us really ended up homeschooling in the later years, we are all still great friends!

sept-6-001We spent a lot of time at the Regional Park in our area. It had a small zoo, loads of trails, a pond, a train, and several playgrounds. Since we lived in the city at the time, it was also a great place to escape the noise of the neighborhood and safely ride bikes!

sept-6-011We took very long walks here, climbed trees and rocks, brought sketchbooks and drew pictures of plants and animals, talked about and explored natural science, not to mention lots of picnics!

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One thing that I’m glad we spent money on was a membership to the big Natural History Museum in LA. It was an hour (sometimes more) drive away but there was so much to do there. Some days we would spend hours in the children’s “hands-on” area. Some days we’d rush through all the mammals and dinosaurs, and then spend an hour looking at the bird exhibits. The best part about it was that the boys came to know that museum, and many others, as a place to play. It wasn’t boring for them. They knew there was a lot of very interesting stuff there and lots of great people that would answer any question they had.

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I remember walking behind them as they came into a giant domed room. My older son stopped in his tracks and was amazed by the ceiling and the sound of the room. They both dropped to the floor to get a better look and made loud and quiet sounds, listening to it echo off the walls and ceiling.

You can’t do this on a school field trip!

They spent several minutes lying there looking at the ceiling and then wanted to draw pictures like it when we got home.

Better than any toys you can purchase and have at home are ones that are available only when you’re at a certain place! The children’s section in museums is worth the cost of an annual membership every time!

sept-6-030So this is how our homeschooling journey began. There was no curriculum, no “school” time, no co-op. There was just me and the boys exploring the world around us while Dad was at work and then sharing it with him at the end of the day. Camping trips on weekends, weekly trips to the library, grocery shopping, amusement parks, stories before naps and bedtime, video games, and movies. That was it. It was a joyous time and a little nerve wracking. We were different. Everyone else was starting school. Kids were being dropped off and crying for Mom. Mom was crying to leave them behind. Kids were coming home with packets of notes and homework. Bedtimes and packed lunches. School clothes and buses. But mine weren’t. We were on, what felt like, a permanent summer vacation. We were happy. They seemed to be learning a lot every day. It was working. Why is everyone not doing this?

 

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.

Strange New Technology!

I’m about to burst with the awesomeness that has just entered my home through the miracle of technology! My husband got an Amazon Firestick for the enormous TV we got last year and I was a bit disappointed with it until now. Most of the movies and TV shows I wanted to watch were not included with our Amazon Prime account, so I’d have to pay extra for them and we already have Netflix. Netflix is an amazing resource for homeschoolers and worth every penny, by the way. Last month I heard about “The Great Courses Plus”. You can pay a monthly fee and watch all kinds of lectures on academic subjects. The one that got me interested in it was “Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage”. My sons are both very interested in language and thought this would be a great class to listen to together. I thought we could watch it on the computer together but then I found out you can watch it through an app on the Firestick! On my big TV! I didn’t even know there were “apps” on this thing! This is a game changer! And then I started scrolling through the other classes and found a bunch of other stuff I NEED to watch like “Economics of Uncertainty” and “Game Theory”. Oh my goodness, I love learning and I love this new high tech world!

Here’s the break down.

Internet access: $50 a month (for us, used by everyone for everything)

Amazon Prime: $8.50 a month (free shipping from Amazon, yes please!)

Amazon Firestick: $50 one time

The Great Courses Plus: $20 a month (cheaper if you pay for a year in advance)

I’d say that’s a pretty reasonable amount of money for some wonderful benefits! One of the benefits of homeschooling is that the parents get to educate themselves and introduce their kids to subjects they wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. I don’t mean that I will make them watch the “Rise and Fall of China” and quiz them after every lecture. That’s a sure fire way to kill any interest in a subject! But I do ask for some personal time on the TV to watch what I’d like to watch and since the computers are in the livingroom as well, they can play Minecraft or Kerbal Space while I watch. Sometimes they get sucked into what I’m watching and great discussion ensues. Sometimes they are bored with the subject and tune it out. Either way is good for all of us!

So, if you’re looking for me this summer, I’ll be on the couch with swamp cooler blowing directly on me and my popcorn, watching university lectures!

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.

CHN’s Family Expo in June!

California Homeschool Network’s “Family Expo” is being held in June in Pomona this year! This is a homeschool conference my family has been going to for years. This year we can’t attend due to a schedule conflict, but I want to be sure everyone knows about it.

The first year I went alone. I paid for the weekend and only went one day, Saturday. It was so worth it to see so many families in different stages, doing the same thing I was thinking about doing. Homeschooling was completely foreign to me and this conference made it feel like was joining a special community of amazing people. The following year I took my husband with me. Again we only went the one day since we didn’t have the money to stay in the hotel over the weekend, but it was still very much worth registration fee just for that one day. For years after that, we went as a family and stayed the weekend. I volunteered to help in places and my kids loved staying at the hotel, being a part of this wonderful group of people. My parents and grandparents have visited while we were there. It really brought our family together and set our hearts and minds at ease when we were first starting out.

It’s more than just speakers and a vendor hall, this conference is more like community and support building on a grand scale. It’s put on by one of our statewide non-profits and completely done by volunteers. I highly recommend attending, especially if you are new to homeschooling!

The Game

Recently, a friend agreed to help my sons get better at motocross. He raced a lot when he was a kid and thought he could help them a bit on the track. Little did he know that he would be helping me as well.

It’s all a mind game.” Racing really is one of those mind game things. One of the biggest things holding you back may not be your skill, but you mindset, your fear; fear of failing, fear of the riders around you or that they are better than you are. Those riders probably think the same thing about you. If you think they are the best, you are probably closer to winning. It sounds so corny, doesn’t it? But it works. Confidence is the key to winning. You can’t go out there thinking you’re just going to finish and not fall and then end up winning no matter how great your skills are. Leave the gate feeling on top of the world and you’re more likely to get to the finish line first. It’s crazy.

As I was sitting under the awning of our RV in the pits, I started thinking to myself that this advice probably applies to me somehow. The thing that puts the most anxiety into our race weekend for me is not whether or not my boys will get hurt. It’s whether or not we should be there at all. Do we belong? Are we in the right place? What do these people think of us? Who’s the authority here? What are my qualifications for being here? What are the rules? This is me, but my sons don’t do this and they are so much happier. They read the website, they get what they need, and they jump in and do what everyone else is doing. This is what home education is all about, putting the “authority” in yourself, not others.

So I decided that day that I would play the “mind game” too. This is where we want to be and if someone has a problem with it they are welcome to say something, until then we will just keep doing what we’re doing. We belong there because we have the desire to race and that’s all the authority and qualification we need.

Once again on the home education journey, I’m taking a page from my sons’ book, I’m following their lead and seeing where it takes us. So far it’s been an amazing journey!