Common Core – The Truth from a Homeschool Perspective

I recently read the article The Truth about Common Core in the Guardian. I loved the fact that they presented several different views of the common core. However, since I homeschool the one on homeschooling really seemed to stand out to me. What is your opinion about the Common Core?

The view from home-school

By Nicole Reuter, home-schooling parent in upstate New York ( quoted from the article The Truth about Common Core – in The Guardian.com)

One of the things that shapes the typical home-schooling parent’s mentality about education is the ability to teach my kids what I want, when I want – as well as the freedom to move at a pace that’s appropriate for each child and to teach them in a way that is best suited to their learning style.

My biggest concern about the Common Core State Standards is how long we’ll be able to maintain our freedom to educate our children in the way that works best for us. There are no federal home-schooling standards but, in New York State, we already agree to cover certain specific subjects, report grades to our school district, and track our children’s progress with standardized tests (like IOWA or CAT tests) or written end-of-year evaluations. National standards, both directly and indirectly, could be devastating to home-schoolers by forcing us to abandon the very reason many of us chose home-schooling in the first place: flexibility.

Even if we maintain the legal right to be free of Common Core, we might well still have to cope with its effects. Some educational companies that market to the home-school community have already begun altering their curriculum in alignment with Common Core. Worse yet, we are told that college entrance exams are likely to change to reflect the new Common Core standards, rather than being tests of general knowledge. If that happens, home-schooled students would be disadvantaged in their pursuit of higher education unless they adhere to the standards, regardless of what they actually know or what skill sets they posses.

I also worry that politicians could just decide that home-schooling parents need to comply with all of the picayune standards of Common Core, full stop. At that point, I would lose the freedom to decide on behalf of my children – my students – how to help them grasp certain concepts, and instead be beholden to teaching them certain things at certain times as determined by the government. How much does it matter if a student masters fractions in the fourth grade or the fifth grade?

My husband was a public high school teacher at the time we chose to home-school our oldest two children, so he’s seen the educational system from both sides and knew this would be a good choice for us. Common Core standards want to make cookie-cutter students that get a one-size-fits-all kind of education. I know that’s not what’s best for my children, and I don’t think it’s what’s really best for any child.

 

The ADD/ADHD Epidemic

Photo: It's time to #wakeup

One of my friends posted this graphic on facebook this morning. While I know we see these things all the time, something about it really triggered my thinking. Could it be true? and if it was that would mean – yet again – that money speaks louder than anything else. Sad… very sad…

As my brain was running through these wild and depressing thoughts, I began to click on a new tab and google it. (Well, isn’t that the answer for anything we don’t know these days?  ) What I found was that apparently it is true. In 1991 legislation was passed that included ADD/ADHD in the funding for special education. Of course, the more special education children you have in your school the more special funding your school receives, in addition to any grant money. Though, from what I understand over the years the government has become more particular about what that money is spent on. I believe that it has to be spent on the special education department, so at least the money stays in the correct department. (I’m not sure if that is any consolation, though.) Anyway, this occurred in 1991, the numbers for ADD/ADHD rose dramatically since then. We aren’t talking hundred of thousands, we are talking millions! So, of course, I began to google to find out just how high the cases of ADD/ADHD have risen since this legislation was passed. …And for your viewing convenience here is a neat little graphic that sums it all up!

Jamie Turner Gaddy's photo.

So, yes… I would say that the numbers have drastically risen since that legislation was passed. So, the evidence is in… however, I have to admit I don’t think it is all “filthy lucre’s” fault in this case. You see, I believe that there are two issues at play here. Yes, the misdiagnosis of many children across the U.S., but also the rise in use of technology. Don’t get me wrong… I love technology (as I sit here on my laptop with my ipad and phone beside me…) I just believe that our children are suffering the effects of sitting too long in front of the television and playing too long with video games. Teachers just can’t compete with the amazing graphics, interesting plots, and super sound that comes with all that technology. So, in all honesty I believe that there are two evils at play here.

1) Money – I think every American would admit that most American public schools are often more concerned with the budget than with the individual child.

2) Abuse of technology – I believe that there is a right way to use technology. That is for educational purposes and as tools for productivity. Letting television and video games babysit our children is a big mistake and we (our children) our beginning to pay for it!

Making the Most of a Busy Time

photo (6)I must apologize… it has been quite awhile since I’ve posted some good material! It’s been pretty crazy around here for the last couple  months. My grandfather passed away from a stroke back in March, and my grandmother has been having some issues. Grandpa was 84 and grandma is 82, and both were/are amazing people! Anyway, I’ve flown/driven back and forth from Ohio three times now in the last few months. Needless to say, we’ve been doing the best we can with homeschooling. Sometimes life is just like that. God’s grace is sufficient, even in these times.  I must say, I’m so proud of my kids. They really did much better than I thought they would on their schoolwork while I was gone.

There are still some gaps in the big picture and some things that need a bit more work in order for them to be where they need to be – but all in all – we are getting there. We will probably do a bit of summer school focusing on the subjects that they just didn’t get this year, and of course – having some summer fun with a new pool. AND… maybe a mix of the two!

When life throws curve balls… what do you do?

Proverbs 3:5-6

        Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

5 Ways to Build Your Vocabulary

build your vocabularyEveryone knows that the fundamental skill of learning is the ability to read and comprehend. Along with that is the concept of vocabulary building. When read and learn new words, our knowledge and skills increase. All this by simply understanding more vocabulary. To top it off… this learning shouldn’t stop when you graduate from high school or even college. Sure, even us “adults” need to continue to build our vocabulary. As a dear friend of mine said recently, “Learning new things keeps my brain young!” This is definitely the case with vocabulary skill building. Here are 5 tips to help you learn and keep learning throughout life!

1) Get into the habit of looking up any words that you come across that you don’t understand. If you do this every time – you will assimilate hundreds of new words each year!

2) Make a point to use those new words in a sentence the day that you learn about them. This immediately puts the words into your schema and gives you a reference for future use. Put those new words on sticky notes around your house. This will help you remember to use them in a sentence. Throw them away once you’ve put them into practice.

3) Become a voracious reader. READ. READ. READ. This is by far the most important thing. Reading builds your vocabulary as well as your knowledge! Read and you will go far!

4) Read through the dictionary. Sure I know this sounds boring. Yet, you can quickly scan through the pages and highlight any words that you don’t know. You’ll be surprised  at the sheer quantity of words that you ALREADY know!

5) Read literary works that challenge you.  The classics are a great place to start. There is GOOD reason as to why these books have remained favorites over the years and even centuries. Most often their themes transcend time and will envelope you in their story before you know it! Reading books that were written centuries ago will increase your vocabulary with classic words. This practice will not just build your vocabulary, but will enrich it!

 

Homeschooling for FREE… it is possible!

I have many people tell me that there is no way that they could homeschool, because they could never afford to buy all the materials and supplies. Well, just to set the record straight… you don’t have to buy anything fancy or spend a fortune on homeschooling your children. In fact, there are so many inexpensive ways to homeschool, it’s almost funny! I do have to admit that there are things that you can buy that do make it easier… just like a dish washer makes doing dishes easier. Yet, just like doing dishes… you don’t HAVE to have the dishwasher. :)

There are several ways in which you can go about homeschooling on a very slender shoe string… I completely understand, and have actually been there many times! This year, I did splurge on ABEKA videos for my Junior High School kiddos… just because I had to concentrate on getting my youngest reading. Up until now, it has definitely been “homeschooling on a budget”… a small one for six kids!

Homeschooling Offline

One of the best ways to homeschool on a budget – offline- is to use your local library. It is amazing how you can put together an awesome homeschool curriculum just by using what is free at the library. To make the most of the library and truly maximize on its potential, you will need to visit the library frequently. Obviously this will cost you fuel (not completely free). However, you can find teaching resources, student resources, and general educational information all in one place. You will have to invest alot of your time to benefit from this method, but if you have more time than money… then this is a good choice. I would suggest starting with a resource book for teachers or use the internet at the library. Find out what your children need to cover for the grade levels in which they are currently learning. From this information, you will want to make a scope and sequence for each of your children. The easiest way to do this is to make an “outline” type list of topics that they will cover during the course of the year. Divide this list up into the months that you will be doing school, and then further down into weeks. From this list, you will be able to search for resources to use to teach each of the topics on your weekly goals. If you are near a rather large library, you will be amazed at the wealth of materials that the library holds on each topic. You’ll probably have a difficult time choosing which book to use. I get so wrapped up in the cool information that I get distracted and want to take home every book… but I’m sure that never happens to you!

There are definitely other forms of homeschooling offline, and one of my favorites is to find textbooks that are used or are discounted. You can do this by developing what and how you plan on teaching for the next year, and then going on a treasure hunt to find things that fit your plan. If there is a curriculum that you know fits your plan, you can search for used textbooks from that set. I love to use ebay, amazon, or half.com to find my discounted books! There is also a nice homeschool curriculum sharing site called Curriculum Share that you might want to check out.

Homeschooling Online

This is my particularly favorite method of homeschooling. Simply because the cost of my internet access each month more than covers everything I need to homeschool. It’s absolutely unbelievable when you look at the amount of amazing high quality content that is out there FREE to use for homeschooling. There is so much!! I’m not even sure that I can completely cover this topic – but I’ll give you a nice sampling of some high quality free resources.

Let’s start off with one of my favorites, Lesson Pathways. This online curriculum used to require paid access, however, now it is free! That’s good for all of us. You can go to Lesson Pathways and sign up for a free account. There are what they call “pathways” that you can view and determine if they are the lessons that fit your needs, or you can actually build your curriculum within the Lesson Pathways site. You can use their student planner and set it all up right there. The lesson pathways will give you a list of weekly units from which you can view links to various activities and printables and often a video. Everything you need is right there at your fingertips for FREE. Nice…

Another pretty nice FREE online curriculum is the Easy-Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. It has every school grade as well as special subject such as art and music. We are using the art and music this year as electives. It is pretty nice, and works on the idea of links for the information and knowledge base.

There are other places that offers specific subjects for free. The USHISTORY.ORG site does just that. They have U.S. History, Ancient Civilizations, and American Government courses for free.

I could really go on and on with this… like I said before there is a WEALTH of information out there just begging to be used. To make it easier for you to find what you are looking for, I’ll just list the curriculum by subject. Please note that this list is definitely not comprehensive, these are simply the free resources that I feel bear repeating. There are so many out there, but not all of them offer a quality education.

Bible

Kids World teaches Bible lessons for kids with accompanying quizzes

Bible for Children has a lot of resources for homeschool and those who teach SS or Bible school

Calvary Curriculum has a very nice Bible series for children with the lesson AND puzzles and fill in the blank printables!

Ministry to Children also has very nice lessons

Truth Chasers Club – one of my favorites! This is the online club portion of the Good News Club for kids. There is also a free mail version of this club that your kids can sign up for!

Math

Homeschool Math has a lot of super nice printables to accompany your homeschool math lessons

Math.com has alot of nice math tools for the homeschool parent

Khan Academy is super for videos on subjects that parents just can’t get across!

Math

Pinterest and the Homeschooler…

pinterest homeschooling

I think most of you know that I contribute to the Time4Learning Community Blog. This week I created a post that I think is very important to the homeschool community. A combination of two of my loves… Pinterest (ahhhhh….) and homeschooling! (Almost as good as chocolate and peanut butter… maybe) I thought that I would share the link and a repost of the article. It was so much fun to create and I felt like you all could get alot of benefit from it.

If you could take a minute and stop by the Time4Learning Community I would appreciate it, and I know that you’ll definitely come away with something useful. It’s a great place to share and become a part of a huge and varied group of homeschoolers. The parent forum is bursting with tons of information on all aspects of homeschooling, and the blog has so much… well, let’s just give you a little taste here…

Yet, in regards to the subject at hand what is your opinion? Do you think that pinterest led learning might be a viable new homeschooling method? I think it could very well be possible, IF… and this is a big IF… we could somehow keep on the task of homeschooling! Pinterest has such a wealth of information that it is often extremely difficult to NOT get distracted. So, good luck making it through my list…

 

The Top 25 Reasons Homeschoolers Should Use Pinterest

Organization Ideas

1)Get organized for Homeschooling!
2) Simplify your Homeschool Room
3)Organize your Schedule
4)Use technology to organize your Homeschool Planning
5)Make your homeschool beautiful… (my dream homeschool room)
Learning Ideas
6) Find amazing resources for nearly every subject
7) Give your kiddos a pinterest board and let them pin their favorite ideas
8) Use pinterest for science projects
9)Find great pictures to incorporate into your lessons
10) Use pinterest as a lesson in itself. Teach the kids how to create pins and boards and how useful it can be for their learning experience.
11)Find specific grade level materials.
12) Use the great book resources on pinterest to start literature units
13) Use the printable resources to enrich your lessons
14)Use various pins to create a virtual field trip for a particular study
15)Use resources to find fresh ideas for Hands-on activities
Enrichment Ideas
16) Take advantage of the plethora of craft and art ideas and have some fun
17) Encourage your kiddos to make Christmas presents for others
18) Use pinterest to post your own amazing photos of your learning
19) Have your kiddos use Pinterest as an online collection of knowledge for a research report
20) Teach photo editing skills using tools such as PicMonkey
Personal Enrichment Ideas
21) Use pinterest to connect with other homeschoolers – follow their boards
22) Find amazing new teaching/learning products
23) Keep abreast of learning trends and homeschool news
24) Find tutorials to help you teach various subjects
25) Find encouragement through educational posts and homeschool blogs

Should all Juniors Take the PSAT?

homeschooling

I just recently wrote an article on Homeschoolers and the PSAT for Let’s Homeschool High School. This article made me aware of several things. First, I wanted to share the info with my friends here at MomSCHOOL because there are some super benefits from taking the PSAT!

First of all some of you may be wondering what the PSAT is. In reality, it is called the PSAT/NMSQT – quite the mouthful- but it boils down to Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test was designed primarily as a preliminary or practice test for the SAT. It gives the students an idea of what types of questions will be asked, how the test is structured, and a way to practice without fear of doing poorly. The secondary purpose of this test is a qualifying test for the National Scholarship Program. This program is designed to commend high achieving students through connections with various scholarships.

Secondly, there are many benefits that homeschooled high schoolers can receive through the taking of this test. The PSAT website states that students who take the test in their Junior year will:

  • Qualify for scholarships by being automatically entered
  • Receive free information from colleges and universities that are interested in you
  • Receive access to My College Quick Start – which is a free college planning tool
  • Score higher on the SAT (on average) versus those who don’t take the PSAT

Finally, there is great news for homeschoolers. The College Board, makers of the PSAT, have made it possible for students to take the test at their local high school. Homeschoolers will simply need to contact their local school’s PSAT/NMSQT coordinator several months before the October test date. Typically they recommend contacting them in July prior to the student’s Junior year of high school, while taking the SAT test in the spring of the Junior year. Homeschooled students will need to know their state’s PSAT homeschool test code and enter it into the test. Other than that, it’s simply a task of taking the test and seeing if there are any areas to work on before taking the SAT/ACT.

Homeschool High School Credits

high school credit

This past year we had the opportunity to graduate our first homeschooler. Let’s just say it was AWESOME… but it was also a time of stress, worry, and doubt. This was something that we had never done before, and we were worried sick that we would mess up our daughter’s future.  We were stressed because though we had researched and found out everything that we could about homeschool high school records, we still had never done this before. I have to thank my friends at Let’s Homeschool High School for all the great information that truthfully made all the difference in the world. 

The biggest worry that most homeschool parents have is understanding the basic requirements over “credits.” Truthfully every state might have a slightly different take on this subject but overall the credits and their assignments are pretty much the same. One of the biggest questions asked is “How much credit do we assign for a particular course?” The idea behind this goes way back to how “credits” first began to be used. Which takes us all the way back the “Carnegie Unit.”  In the early days of high school and college there was not a “standardized” way to figure what a student had accomplished during his high school years. This brought about the use of the credit or Carnegie Unit. This was developed so that colleges across the country could at a glance see that students had studied the accepted amount of time for each particular course. So, the fundamental guideline here was TIME.

This brings us now to the question of how much time equals a credit? Well, typically 120-180 hours of coursework equals one credit and 60-80 hours equals a half credit. That will help many homeschoolers who give credit for work experience or volunteering. You can simply keep track of the hours spent, and log the credits accordingly.

However, if you are working through a regular school course who has the time to track every hour you spend studying? The easier way here is to understand if you have a one year course it usually equals one highschool credit. Conversely, if you have a one semester course it will equal a half credit. This would also go hand in hand with dual enrollment at community colleges. If your student completes a one semester course through a college, this would translate as one highschool credit.

Sure, it can get pretty tricky. Let me share a great infographic that my friend Kerry has made to make simple this idea of homeschool high school credit equivalencies. If you have encountered any other types of high school courses that are difficult to translate into credit please share your experience with us!

Using a Combination of Block Scheduling and Traditional Scheduling for Homeschool

homeschool schedulingMaking a Homeschool Schedule

One of my most popular posts on this blog is about block scheduling. It rather surprises me, but I realize that everyone is trying to find the best way to organize their homeschool day and block scheduling is often the most feasible option for homeschooling several ages/grades. However, over the years I have begun to realize that for our homeschool a mixture of styles and schedules is usually the best fit. So, with almost everything we do in our homeschool – it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that!

Our Homeschool Schedule

Our schedule this year is a combination of traditional scheduling and block scheduling. For example, at the beginning of our day we start with a traditional schedule. We begin with Bible time as well as our “WonderTime” devotionals from the Good News Club that my kiddos are part. We spend about half an hour on Bible, and since my Middle School twins are working with ABEKA videos this year, I am able to teach to only my two youngest and so I am teaching through the ABEKA flash a card series. While I teach they color a coordinating color sheet that supports what the lesson is teaching.

We then move on to Language Arts. Since this was a pivotal year for our youngest I wanted to really work hard in this area. We are using Saxon 1 phonics, which is a pretty intensive curriculum. It takes us about 40 minutes to go through all of the learning and worksheets each day. My third grade daughter is using Grammar Made Easy which is really amazing. She is picking out prepositional phrases subject and verb phrases already.

We spend about 20-30 minutes on reading – I can get a few things done during this time.

Next comes math or numbers as my youngest calls it. We spend about 30 minutes on this and are using Saxon for both first and third grades. It is also a very intensive curriculum, and we could actually spend alot more time on this curriculum. However, my girls are very intuitive when it comes to numbers and we are able to work through these lessons rather quickly

Finally, we do a handwriting workbook. This usually takes the girls about 15 minutes at the most to complete.

Our Block Schedule

After we’ve gone through these traditionally scheduled courses, we move on to our block scheduled courses. Here we have our history, science, art, and creative writing. I have basically scheduled these four to happen each day of the week with science occurring twice each week. We use Time Traveler’s History, Apologia Science, my own art, and Don’t Forget to Write as well as “Rip the Page” for our creative writing.

Remember that homeschooling is all about fitting your child and your family with the right style of schooling. Whatever works for your family is what is right for you. Don’t be afraid to get “out of the box.” Homeschooling is truly all about freedom to educate according to your needs.