Friday, February 27, 2009

Answering Your Homeschooling Questions

A little over a week ago, I participated in Tammy's Homeschool Open House. As I read my comments, I jotted down the questions that were asked. I really enjoyed all the comments and encouragement! I started to answer each one individually and privately, then it occurred to me that it might be something that could help others that aren't sure of homeschooling, or help someone just beginning or considering homeschooling, or even someone just curious about how it works. So, hopefully, this post will help someone out there!

1) First of all, I was so pleased to see that whether you were a homeschooling family or not, so many of you treasured read aloud time with your children or husbands or the entire family. I truly think it is one of the sweetest things to do as a family and I treasure those times. If you haven't implemented this one single thing in your family, consider doing so, no matter what ages your children are....gather everyone together and keep a read-aloud going. It builds togetherness!

2) Those of you grandparents that are homeschooling or considering homeschooling your grandchildren....I just wanted you to know how much I admire you for doing so and doing this at a time when traditionally you could be traveling, or anything else that retirees do!

3) I was asked, "On an average, how many hours a day do you spend homeschooling?" This is really a hard question to answer because our day is not really like a typical classroom day. We don't start and then finish at a certain time everyday. Our day is usually broken up in segments and learning is an atmosphere that is always present. Even when we're traveling to and from extracurriculuar activities, we are learning. We discuss books we've read; We listen to scripture or other memorization CDs; Joy brings her personal literature with her; Or I might quiz her orally or review things we've studied. Joy just reminded me that when she has a question about anything really, like a word or a person in history, we stop and look it up and gather more information. But since I know you want to know hours...I'm going to estimate for you and say at this level (Joy is 4th grade)...we probably spend a total of about 4 - 4 1/2 hours. But honestly, this is never the varies depending on what we're many of our studies are hands-on, etc....

4) "Do you take off for summer and holiday breaks?" Yes and no. I've always been accused of not giving my kids enough breaks (by them). But in my defense, let me say it's because during the school year, if we have to be off a day for something unexpected, we do have the liberty to take it, but I feel that when the other kids are getting a day off for a National Holiday, we should just keep on going because we've had a day off elsewhere. We do take time off around Christmas and generally Wednesday through Friday of Thanksgiving as well as a week's Spring Break. As far as summers go, we do a review type of school twice a week. Of course, my kids have always read year round, so I've never had to "require" that. They love it and we will have read-alouds going all year round. So, to answer those questions, we do "school" year around, but not officially. (Does that make sense?) That learning atmosphere never goes away magically during the summer! :)

5) How do kids being homeschooled get graded?" This depends on the homeschooling family. There are many programs available where you may send your child's work in and have it graded and they issue report cards. People that feel like they need accountability really like this option. Most families though evaluate their own children's work. Believe me, when you know your child's education depends on YOU, you take it seriously! I've always expected alot from my kids and they know it. However, grades were designed for teachers in schools to let parents know how their kids are doing in school. When you check your kids work everyday and see what they're doing, you KNOW what they're lacking or excelling in. For example, my kids miss 2 problems out of 20 in Math. I will mark 2 missed and hand it back and make them rework it until it is correct. One of my kids (Colt) never cared to have a letter grade but Joy sometimes asks for one. When they are old enough (high school) to be keeping a transcript, I will issue grades. Other than that, grades aren't necessary when you know that your child is correcting their work (or if they are the type that is motivated by grades).

6) "Do you have to meet certain state requirements?" Yes. Every state is different. HSLDA can give you a requirement of every state. Our state requires us to fill out a Notice of Intent form every year to our school district's Superintendent's Office. We give an overview of curriculum to be used, etc.... All students in grades 3 through 9 are also required to take standardized tests for statistical purposes once a year.

7) I can't remember what the question or comment was here, but I had noted that I wanted to say that schooling elementary and high school aged kids each has its own benefit and is special. There is absolutely nothing like seeing and being there for your child reading the first time and develping that skill and all the fun elementary years of field trips, hands-on projects and read-alouds; BUT the high school years are really rewarding too. After all those elementary years, you finally get to have the most intelligent conversations and discussions with your maturing student! And we still get to share those great read-alouds!

8) Someone mentioned being a fly on my wall to see what all went on in our homeschool. I've often said that and I found a great book that I love to re-read every summer. It is called: Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days.

This book actually takes you through a homeschooling day with 30 different families varying in size of family and methods of homeschooling. I love it because it is so real. It takes into account the normal interuptions that arise. I always say, there's rarely ever two days in a row that are alike. If you ever get a chance to read this book, it is a great one!

9) Someone also said they didn't want to fail their kids. Everyone that makes a great homeschooling parent has had that thought. If you're worried about it, you're going to be on your toes. You and your children will be fine.

10) I would like to say to Allyson (a 9 year old that left a comment)...Thank you for your kind words! I think you and your mom are nice too!

11) To those that said they could never homeschool their children, you underestimate yourself! You really can! As a coordinator for our local homeschool group, I've gotten many calls from nervous moms who said the same thing. They stepped into the role beautifully! It comes more natural than you's kind of like those years from birth until five when you're teaching them things constantly or just helping your kids with homework except it's full-time)! :)

12) Someone said, "Joy must have lots of energy". YOU HAVE NO IDEA! She was God's little way to keep me young after having her at age 35! :)

13) Life skills. I was glad that was mentioned. It is something that is very important...just as important (or more so) than book learning and we put high importance on it. Part of Colt's homeschooling was learning how to maintenance his car (himself), working with Jason in carpentry etc... Colt volunteered at a printing shop to learn more about computers, and print, etc... And so on. Cleaning house is a great life skill and I definitely teach that one! :)

14) Speaking of all of our extra-curricular activities, someone said they were homebodies. I have to admit I would rather be home than running around doing those activities, but as long as we can afford to do them and the kids have wanted to do them, we've tried to do them. I know a day will come when the house will be quiet and that will be a new chapter for us. I am so excited when we do have a day that doesn't have to be interupted by an activity and we are home a FULL DAY! :)

15) A couple of you mentioned that you were reading The Little House series! I absolutely love those books and read them aloud (all of them) to Colt when he was younger. We did this with another family then got together as families to do activities from that particular book (at the end). We have lots of memories from that. Joy and I have finished the third book, On the Banks of Plum Creek and it's our turn to host the "Little House Day" with the family we are doing this with soon!

I would love to suggest another series, especially if you have boys (although girls love it too)....Little Britches series. If you love Little House, you'll love these too!

16) Those of you that have little ones (babies even) that are considering homeschooling, I think it's great. Just consider how you teach them now every little thing and that's just the way homeschooling is. When you get to those subjects that you're not so comfortable with....there's so many ways to go about that including a teacher on the video if you're more comfortable with it that way. But when you teach your child HOW TO LEARN...they learn to figure out so many things (amazingly) on their own too and you wonder, "How did they know that?"

17) "How does the state know she's not cheating...I mean you could do an open book and get straight A's every time and who would know?" I rarely ever even give tests. I know from day to day how they're doing in various subjects by how they perform on assignments given. However, during state standardized testing, they are tested by certified teachers that come in and administer them in a timed matter. These tests are sent in and graded by the state. The parents then receive their children's test scores through the mail. (However, I do buy practice tests appropriate to their grade level a couple of months before a test so that they feel comfortable in a test situation or atmosphere and make sure they understand how tests work and how to "fill the bubbles" appropriately. This is mostly to make me feel better and them more comfortable on test day. My kids have consistently said that the tests I've given them here at home are MUCH HARDER than the actual standardized ones though.

18) "In a school system, you have to take a foreign language to graduate high school. Do you have the same requirements and if you did, how would you work that?" I did require that of Colt. He took two years of Spanish and we used Rosetta Stone which is what the military uses. It is a computer course. I plan to use the same thing with Joy (except earlier than high school).

19) "Will Joy go to high school or do you home school through that?" I've always said that we take it a year at a time. However, we did homeschool Colt kindergarten all the way through high school. Joy has no plans to do anything different but homeschool all the way through...she will tell you that in a heartbeat! :)

20) "What about graduation?" "Does she get to attend that or will she miss that?" Different homeschooling families handle this in different ways. Some people don't make a big deal of graduation. They just finish their studies and either receive a diploma from their parents or take the GED. Some folks take part in their State Homeschool's graduation. Some folks take part in a local homeschool support group's graduation. We chose the last one with Colt. We didn't take the first choice, because we didn't want Colt to do the GED. I felt it looked like he "didn't complete high school". We didn't choose the state ceremony, because we really didn't know all of those folks and it felt a little impersonal. We chose the last one with our local group and it was very special. He and another boy were the only graduating seniors that year. However, that can change from year to year. Jason and I both spoke at his graduation (in between my tears). There are sites that will create an official highschool diploma, which is what we did. Colt walked to Pomp and Circumstance in his cap and gown and even played the guitar and sang "This is My Desire" also at his graduation. We showed a slide presentation of photos through the years of our schooling and growing up. There was a charge to the graduates by our pastor and a special video clip sent in by a State Youth Director that Colt admired. It was a tribute to Colt entitled "Excellence". Afterwards, we had a reception in their honor in the fellowship hall. We had display tables set up of homeschooling memories and special trophies, projects and accomplishments. I believe we counted about 85 people that attended the graduation service. His graduation was very rewarding and special after all those years of homeschooling. And if you're wondering about the homeschool diploma, how many of you have ever been asked to show your diploma to get into college or at a job? I never have. And that's exactly what we've found. If anything, they want a transcript and we have that, plus they are required to take entrance exams (which shows they know their stuff). :)

21) One of you mentioned having opposition from your family about homeschooling. I totally understand this. My mom and dad have been supportive from day one and have always been very proud of their grandkids, even "bragging a little". I remember my dad pulling out the newspaper when Colt was in kindergarten around Christmas time and showing everyone "how he could read anything in the newspaper!". BUT, my father-in-law was a different story! He really thought "that boy ought to be in school around other kids his age." But over time, we earned his respect and admiration and even support. He is very proud of Colt now and doesn't even question our decision with Joy. He sees how Colt is doing in college and that he is a well-rounded young man with good work ethics and responsibility as well. So, don't be surprised if you have family that doubts your decision at first, but comes around pretty quickly when they see how they're doing! But I have to warn you....people love to "quiz" homeschooled kids! :)

Gosh, I didn't know this would be such a long post. However, I hope it did answer the questions and concerns you have. I also want to say that whether your child is homeschooled, in private school or public school, I respect each and everyone's decision to do what's right for YOUR family! And isn't that what freedom is all about? God bless you all as you guide your children through the learning process and are involved in their education...whatever manner you choose!



Karen said...

That was an excellent post, Tammy! Love homeschooling.

Backwoodsprim said...

Wonderfully written!
Thank you for taking the time to prepare and share this post!


The Whites said...

Wonderful post, Tammy! It looks like we feel exactly the same way about everything. Our days are handled pretty much the same way as yours.

I laughed at your warning about homeschooled kids being quizzed. I have family members that do that to my kids at get togethers!

Have a great weekend,

Shellmo said...

This was so informative and I have even more admiration and respect for you and other homeschooling parents! Just by reading Joy's blog - I am so impressed at her creativity and how she articulates her thoughts.

wrcdgc said...

What a great post. You left nothing out. I know I had a lot of questions and I thank you for answering everyone of them. I can tell by Joy's blog and her comments she is not lacking at all by being home schooled. In fact I found her to be a little smarter and mature than most girls I know her age. I say that's because she has a great Mom and great teacher.


Luke said...

The Little Britches books are great!


Walking on Sunshine... said...

I have to say homeschooling is a great choice. We tried it for a year and it just didn't work for us. But then we moved into a different state and found a great school system here. My daughter who is in 10th grade just asked the other day if we could try it again! I wish I had the patience to do it all over again!! Great job!

Sharon said...

A wonderful post. I had a lot of questions, but you answered most of them in great depth.
God bless

Susan said...

Even though we are senior citizens, I realoud every day to my husband and have for years. We share our Bible reading time, read 2 devotional books and are always reading another book. Right now we are on our 2nd Joel Rosenberg book.

Cora from Hidden Riches said...

This was such a great post, Tammy!!!! I don't have children, so have never been in the position of making the decisions that parents have to make about education. But. . . . I have been on the end where I was critical of homeschoolers. Why???? Because I was soooo ignorant about it. Since getting to know some homeschoolers, seeing the great success rate, and reading posts like this, it has helped me see the benefits and opportunities. Those of us who are out of the loop need to know what you are doing, what you need from us that are older, can we help in any way, etc., etc. This was just a great read for me and I appreciate your taking the time to let me into your life a little bit! Thank you again! Cora

country gal said...

Ya know.....for the one-trillionth time.....I LOVE HOMESCHOOLING!!!!!


Love, Joy =D

Daffodil Hill said...

We read and loved the Little House books as well as the Little Britches books. Great memories!

Zaroga said...

I really enjoyed reading about homeschooling. I admire all of you that do it.

Tammy said...

Tammy, you did an excellent job answering very common questions that so many have- or even some that some of us have had at one time!
The way you describe your days sounds so much like ours, too...:)

I was especially intrigued by your describing Colt's high school years and graduation, having not gotten to that point, yet...I absolutely loved the kind of graduation he received and the big fact so many of those details you described I want to tuck into my memory bank because I'd love to do that, too!

I just feel as though I know you so well, even though we've never met...:)

Hugs to you,

Anonymous said...