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What I wish I knew before starting to homeschool

We all start homeschooling for different reasons.  Here are just a few:

  • Disillusionment with the public school system
  • Not able to afford private school
  • Religious reasons
  • Wanting to spend more time with our children
  • Wanting a superior education for our children
  • Wanting our child not to be indoctrinated with pop culture
  • Wanting our child to not just fit in society’s boxes, but to be a free thinker

You could’ve gone into the whole endeavor for any or all of the reasons above or a number of other reasons.

Whatever your reason for starting, we all run into similar issues as we go along our path and some catch it sooner than others.  I have learned some of the lessons in the following articles the hard way and through observing and communicating with lots of different homeschoolers and I am convinced that if you know some of these potential pitfalls at the start, you can more successfully navigate through it, even prevent it all the way, and come out on the other side with well-rounded children and a strong marriage intact, both of which are really important for a fulfilled life as a homeschooler.

I am convinced that more books will be published in the next few years, because as homeschooling matures and becomes more widely accepted, as well as more people reach the point where their children are graduating and they can look back and reflect on what they might’ve done differently.

So, I intend to, in the articles that will follow, let you know some of my experiences and those of others I’ve talked to and observed, in an effort to save you a bit of the difficult learning curve.  We’re busy enough as homeschoolers to not have to waste unnecessary time on stumbling through some potential pitfalls.

Make peace from the onset that you WILL make “mistakes” on your homeschool journey, in parenting, as well as in life in general, but try to see it not as mistakes, but learning experiences and adjust accordingly, as we teach our children as well.  As long as you’re willing to change, there really is no such thing as a mistake.  As long as you don’t expect perfection from yourself, you will do just fine.

There is a poem by an anonymous person that has changed my life and I would like to include it below.  I now live by this poem or I try really hard to and it goes further than parenting.  I believe it is just as applicable to homeschooling.  I think we all start out with some of these as goals, but then in the busy-ness of the whole homeschool journey we sometimes forget this, so read it often to remind yourself where you’re heading.

 

“If I had my child to raise (school) all over again,

I’d build self-esteem first and the house later,

I’d finger paint more and point the finger less,

I would do less correcting and more connecting,

I’d take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes,

I would care to know less and know to care more,

I’d take more hikes and fly more kites,

I’d stop playing seriously and seriously play,

I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars,

I’d do more hugging and less nagging,

I’d see the oak tree in the acorn more often,

I’d model less about the love of power …

And more about the power of love.”  – Anonymous

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness in Education

Happiness…. What is it?  Most of us will probably define it as something that we all strive for, something that is even listed as one of our “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence – the right to the pursuit of happiness.  The Webster’s Dictionary calls it

a :    a state of well-being and contentment : joy

b :  a pleasurable or satisfying experience

Amidst all the talk about happiness, including countless seminars and books, it appears to me that we don’t always put a high enough premium on it when it comes to the world of education.   It seems we have forgotten that happiness is also an unalienable right of children and not just adults.  So often we see kids dragging themselves to school, experiencing little joy from the process of learning, even though education is one of the most wondrous of life’s experiences!

This saddens me, and makes me very determined to work for a change!  The incorporation of happiness and joy into the process of learning is grossly undervalued in most of our educational systems today.  Our lives are so short; this is a reality I have just recently experienced again with the death of my father.  Why would we spend extended periods of time in self-imposed misery when we don’t have to?  Sadly, most kids don’t have any say in this whole process of imposed joylessness.  They get dragged to school with no choice and the frustration that creates can spill out in the form of a variety of undesirable behaviors.

There are many enjoyable and engaging ways to learn.  The industrialized method that we’ve been using for the past century is, increasingly, not one of those.  Wouldn’t it be more engaging for students to learn through experiences, projects, apprenticeships, and from people with a passion for the subject than to spend an inordinate amount of time practicing for a test?  If an adult wants to learn something, they find someone who knows the subject, spend time with them and learn in a hands-on, experiential way–why is it not the same for kids?  When teachers are saddled with increasingly large class sizes, required to spend many days testing and many more preparing for these tests, and required to cover all subjects, it is virtually impossible to engage every child in the most inspiring way. Putting aside the fact that it takes all the joy out of teaching, there are other problems with that model as well.  If that teacher really is not a fan of Math, do you think it will not come through in her teaching?  If she freaks out when she sees a bug, do you think her Science class will take a hands-on approach, or be the best these kids have ever had?  Of course not!  Everyone has their limitations, and someone who does not enjoy a subject isn’t the best choice to be teaching it.

At Learn Beyond The Book, we have taken many of the problems we’ve seen in traditional schools and created solutions.  Not only are all our classes taught by individuals who are highly passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, but also by kind, compassionate individuals who think of the children as whole human beings, engaging them as individuals and encouraging them as a group.  We see children as resourceful, and value their input as part of the educational process. We create classes where they feel embraced and respected as they actively participate in their own learning, where they more easily remember what they’ve learned, because they were engaged in the learning process, not passive bystanders!

Learn Beyond The Book maintains small class sizes to create an intimate and safe environment where kids can try things, fail, learn from their mistakes, succeed, and celebrate each other’s successes.  What is the result of all this?  Happy kids who can’t wait to come to class!  It’s a win-win for students, teachers, and parents.  All the kids attending are either homeschooled or hybrid schooled, which combines independent learning with several of our classes.  We provide support to homeschooling families and high quality class options to families who enroll in home-study charter schools.  Homeschooling parents love this system because it provides them with some free time and a break from the feeling that they have to become an expert in every subject, especially the ones they do not enjoy themselves.  Many times we’ve even seen parents become more interested in learning about a topic that they previously didn’t find interesting, because their kid has been so inspired by a class and shared their excitement with a parent.  Our teachers enjoy teaching because they have freedom to teach the kids in the way that they best learn, considering all the different personalities and learning styles in their class, and without being bound by stringent testing and grading standards.   Our students have a great time learning and doing it all surrounded by good friends and a supportive, less competitive atmosphere.  It is all so exciting to observe!

In my experience, happy teachers teach more effectively, and happy students are more efficient learners.  Many of our families have remarked about the change they see in their kids when they are learning in our more happiness-inducing atmosphere.  Imagine how your child might blossom in such an environment.

If you are interested in a different kind of learning environment for your children, feel free to check out our website and all of our Fall classes.

 

 

New hybrid school program for Santa Clarita starting Fall 2015!

inspirelogoThe great news about charter schools just keep coming this week!!

As you know, Learn Beyond The Book already partners with 10 great charter schools offering classes and social groups, fieldtrips, and more to their students and will continue to do so (Golden Valley, Sky Mountain, Gorman, SCVi, iLead Lancaster, iLead Exploration, Sage Oak, Albert Einstein Academy, Excel Academy, and Mission View Charter Schools).

I’m very excited to let you know that Inspire Charter School has partnered with Learn Beyond The Book, to provide a true hybrid program for homeschoolers/hybrid schoolers in a new Specialty Program, starting Fall 2015.  There are many benefits for you as a result of our partnership.  Most families will love the ability to choose up to any six of the available Beyond The Book classes each semester.  These classes are available tuition free for all enrolled Inspire Charter School students.  If students want to take more than the six classes, parents are free to pay the rest out of pocket.

The whole goal of Inspire is to simplify things in order to give students the best individualized education program possible.  Inspire provides special education services and the teacher assigned to your student will be available for assisting parents in getting any questions answered that you might have about the program or homeschooling in general.

A credentialed teacher, assigned to the students at Learn Beyond The Book (one of our own local teachers), will be on site at Learn Beyond The Book at regular predetermined times and they will be collecting the monthly work samples, most of which will be created during Learn Beyond The Book class times from students/parents, as well as an attendance calendar, which has to be initialed by the students and signed by parents for all days attended in the month.   Since the teacher will know the students from being on site, they wouldn’t have to meet with them and the parents for an hour each month.  Parents also won’t have to fill out any specific learning logs.  We are excited to have Kelli Mejia, a homeschool mom herself, be our first teacher!

If your student chooses to use the online courses available to them, the funding for those will not reduce your tuition-free classes.  For K-8 students, K12 or Odysseyware is available and A-G approved APEX for high school students.  Students in high school could replace APEX courses with community college classes and/or test out of certain courses.   High School Science courses with labs done through APEX will have labs completed by attending 2 Saturdays per semester of lab time.  Electives taken at Learn Beyond The Book can count for credit under certain circumstances, so please see this article for more details.  High school credentialed teachers are available all week for students’ questions via phone and online and classes taught by our own credentialed teachers will be able to count for high school credit.

When testing time rolls around, all Inspire state testing will also be conducted at Learn Beyond The Book’s facility and proctored by the assigned teacher(s).   Inspire doesn’t believe in teaching to the test so students will not feel pressure about that.

If students want to use funding at other vendors as well, they can enroll in a different program of Inspire with an annual budget of $1,000 for enrichment with the core subjects being done through one of the online platforms (K12, Odysseyware and APEX).  In this program, students have to use the online curriculum.

There are limited spots available for the Fall, so don’t delay your enrollment if this sounds like a great fit for your family.  Then also register on our site for the classes you want and put Inspire down as your school.

A free information meeting to provide you with more details about Inspire’s partnership with Learn Beyond The Book was held on July 16, 2015 and here is a partial recording of the meeting (forgot to push record right away, but what you missed is in this article).

Why homeschool parents want to quit and why they shouldn’t

As homeschooling families, we all have our good days and our bad days, just like any other regular family. The only difference is that, since we homeschool, we might potentially be with the kid who is causing us distress the whole day while other families might have some hours that the child is at school to think about how to handle the situation when the child returns from school, time to sort of push the “reset” button. So, our bad days sometimes feel like bad weeks, bad months or even a bad year. There are many reasons for things going wrong and for most there are solutions that work differently for different children. Today I want to write about what it is that pushes most families to thinking that they should stop homeschooling (or never even start) and invite you to investigate why that shouldn’t make you stop and how it can potentially be solved. Most of all I want everyone to realize they are NOT alone in these struggles, it is very common.

Here are some common concerns that homeschoolers face during the years of homeschooling:

• Student(s) resisting instruction

• It’s too expensive

• We have a lot of hard days

• I’m scared my kids will have gaps in their education

• I’m worried I’ll mess them up

• I’m not patient enough to do this

• I’m worried they don’t have enough friends

In this article, the first in a series, I would like to explore just the first concern and in subsequent articles, the others will be discussed.

Student(s) resisting instruction

Many of us probably have encountered the child who, when called to start “school”, gives a sigh and asks, “Do I have to?” Although that is not a fun thing to hear when you spent several hours preparing something that you think would be important or even fun, it is important to not take it personally.

Remember the following possibilities:

– If you were waking the child up to go to the school down the street, you probably would’ve had the same response, but wouldn’t have thought anything of it, because that would be “normal”, because everyone else also deals with that and you’re not anything unusual.

– A lot of times if you have a child just coming out of traditional school, they might need some time to deschool first.

– It’s not always easy and neither is it fun to be pulled out of doing something you’re really enjoying to do something that you might not be that interested in. We don’t even like it as adults.

Some possible solutions:

As is the case with all homeschooling issues, there isn’t just one answer, but several possible options that might be helpful.

– Give the child a time that school will start and it is great to have that be a consistent time, e.g. 9am every morning or 2pm or whatever time works best with their natural rhythm and age (teens usually like to sleep in way later).

– Give the student some warning, e.g. remind them about 10 minutes before they need to start.

– Some families let the student set their own schedule. They are given an assignment sheet for each day and they have freedom to do those things whenever they would like as long as it’s done by the end of the day. This encourages time management and self-regulation, but it might have to be slowly implemented with younger children who might have a hard time to manage all their time right away.

– Reconsider the curriculum you’re using if this is a common occurrence where the child is complaining about doing school work. It might not fit their learning style or modality. Keep the lines of communication open and don’t take anything personally.

– Always encourage them to give you feedback. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to feel what they’re feeling. The more they have a say in how and what they’re learning, the more likely they will be active participants.

– If the problem persists, consider setting up a meeting with a homeschool consultant (like myself) to discuss potential solutions for your specific situation.

More on the other concerns in my next article.

Class Dismissed Movie Review

A few months ago, I found out that a new documentary about homeschooling would be released soon and I was very excited. I bought my ticket online and drove down to North Hollywood last night to see it in the Laemmle Theater. I entered the theater with great anticipation and the hope that this will be a documentary that I can recommend to secular and religious people alike when they consider homeschooling as an option or are new to it. Up to this point, I haven’t had much luck locating a documentary like it anywhere. All I’ve had to recommend were Sir Ken Robinson’s awesome TED Talks and the great talk about Hackschooling. I must admit that I was concerned and a bit nervous too, since I had invited a lot of fellow homeschoolers to go watch it with me. What if this was just another biased documentary with an agenda to push one way of homeschooling as the only right way?

The theater was clearly filled with enthusiastic homeschoolers as was evident from the loud cheers at regular intervals during the screening. As the movie minutes rolled along, I got more and more excited about Class Dismissed. It really portrayed all different kinds of options available to homeschoolers as it followed a family along their homeschool journey, struggles and all. What I really loved about it was that several different options were given. Viewers got to see different approaches to homeschooling and other options like hybrid schooling with the help of learning centers as well as an experience with a charter school. They made the point throughout that one thing would or wouldn’t work for their family, which is the way it should be seen, especially as homeschoolers. There is no right way for each family and not even for each student!

I felt the movie did a wonderful job of being real. It had a real family, real-life issues, real questions and concerns, real solutions, without being unnecessarily dramatized. I am convinced that the homeschool world needs a movie like this so badly, because everyone has their own struggles and especially when you are new to it, parents so often feel so alone and think that they’re the only ones with struggles and that they are just not equipped to pull it off! I’ve found countless times that as soon as I’m honest about our family’s struggles on the journey, others open up and share theirs as well and it is amazing how similar these struggles are. The film did an excellent job of portraying homeschooling as it truly is: a journey and not an event.

I appreciated the homeschool experts who spoke during the movie, with all their years of wisdom. They all had such good points to add and really contributed to making this a great and balanced film. I loved how none of them pushed just one way of homeshooling as the only or superior way. Blake Boles even commented how homeschooling isn’t for everyone and that it really is about the choice that parents should have between all different kinds of schooling, which is not currently the case. I believe that movies like this will do a lot to promote change in that direction, which is very exciting.

The drive down to North Hollywood was made even more worth it since we got to meet the family who is the main part of the film, as well as the 2 producers, Jeremy Stuart and Dustin Woodard. What an amazing production! The cinematography and editing were excellent as well. I found it very easy to watch and interesting to follow the life of the family. It was engaging and not repetitive footage as is often the case with documentaries.

I want to show this film to everyone because of all the great reasons above and so we will have small screenings at Learn Beyond The Book in November and the months beyond, depending on demand. I am convinced that this movie could be the start for many families of creating an environment where everyone can be happy, fulfilled individuals all throughout their lives. I hope you will be able to join us for one of the screenings. If you have a day and time preference, please leave it in the comment section.

Homeschool Success Stories

We’ve all heard the stories… children graduating at ridiculously early ages from college with a Master’s degree, amazing kid sports stars playing with professionals, young kids attending music festivals, playing several classical pieces from memory and the one common thread between them?  They are usually homeschooled.  Yes, I know some of these amazing children myself and I’m really glad I do, because they are all wonderful human beings.  We also often hear about how homeschoolers compare with their public school peers and how their test scores are on average so much higher than those of public school students.   In the homeschool world, however, since homeschooling is a subculture that isn’t always deemed as a legitimate educational choice by friends, family and strangers, we are often trying to prove how homeschooling is so advantageous and superior academically and in every other way, that we engage in showing off achievements of our children, trying to keep up with the Joneses so to speak.  I’ve often felt the pressure myself and even added my own comments from time to time, but I realized that it is doing 99% of homeschooling parents and students a big disservice.

Of course we will always have the students who are truly gifted in one specific way or another, but there are so many homeschooled students who are regular, average, and awesome kids with no specifically outstanding ability and the parents, and sometimes the students, feel the pressure of comparing themselves to the stories of the genius who graduated college last week.  Too often we have the idyllic picture in our mind of the homeschooled student who sits under the tree outside, peacefully reading their book of the week for hours on end without even having to be told to do so.  That just isn’t everyone’s reality, and honestly it isn’t the reality of most.

I’ve lately talked to many parents and realized that as soon as I am honest with them about my struggles, honesty from their side revealed that they often feel very alone in their struggles, as I have felt from time to time, which led me to write this article.  There are very few homeschool parents who don’t run into challenges along the road.  There are many solutions to those challenges, but it is very helpful, I believe, to first of all realize that there is nothing abnormal about you, your family, and your children if they’re not scoring 100% on all their tests or not retaining those pesky Math facts after one glimpse.  Even worse is when one child in a household does have that special gift and the others don’t.  All we need to do is think of ourselves.  Some of us have special abilities, but most of us are just smart, hard-working individuals who got where we are in life by putting in some serious effort.

Of course everyone is special in their own way, and everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and the world needs us all, but I feel we often fall into one of the traps we are trying to avoid by homeschooling, which is comparing ourselves to the other homeschoolers and making judgments on how successful our schooling is for our children.  I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t take note if we realize there might be a learning difficulty or some other problem, but as the parents, we are in tune with our children and we usually know or can figure out what they need most.  I’m not arguing for mediocrity at all either.  I’m arguing for every child achieving their personal best.  Let’s celebrate when that is achieved!

Not all children will like reading, because neither do all adults.  Not all children will be good at sports, because neither are the adults.  Not everyone will be math geniuses, because neither are the adults.  Let’s celebrate our children’s differences and stop comparing ourselves to everyone’s success stories only.  Let’s be happy for each other’s success and try to help with each other’s challenges.  That is what true homeschool support really is all about.

Math classes in Santa Clarita

Are you tired of trying to get down those multiplication tables and other Math facts, frustrated because the kids are finding it so dry and boring?  Do you find every day’s Math a battle to get through?  Or maybe you just feel like it could be more interesting?

If so, you are not alone at all.  Many homeschoolers find Math a challenging subject and they are ready to throw the towel in many days.  First it is challenging because it might not be the parent’s favorite subject.  However, in some cases where it is the parent’s favorite, they have a hard time teaching it and staying patient, because it all seems so easy to them and they can’t quite understand how it would be hard for anyone to remember it.  An even more common problem is that parents don’t realize how much repetition goes into Math before mastery will occur.

Sometimes all that is needed in there is a little fun, but it is sometimes hard to come up with something interesting to do when there are so many demands, so many subjects to cover and children at various levels of learning.

One option you might consider to alleviate this potential problem would be to join in on one of the Math classes offered at Learn Beyond The Book.  The Math teachers here love Math and love teaching it.  They’ve been doing it for years and know what it takes for kids to get it down.  Learn Beyond The Book offers Math classes covering all different levels, starting with Place Value, Addition & Subtraction.  Then there are classes forMultiplication & DivisionDecimals, Percentages & Fractions, Integers, Measurements, Word Problems, Pre-AlgebraAlgebra 1Geometry and Algebra 2.  If none of those interests you because you already own a Math curriculum that works well for your child, there are also other classes to change it up, like the Logic & Math Through Games class, plus this year we also plan to host a Math Bee for Santa Clarita.  We are so excited about that!  If you are more interested in applied Math, some Consumer Math classes (titled “Where’s the Money?”) for 2 different ages could be interesting to you and your students.

Feel free to check out our Fall schedule to see what else is offered.

How to start homeschooling in Santa Clarita

Many people consider homeschooling and they start researching it, but it all just seems so overwhelming and they don’t even know where to start.  I’ve encountered so many people like that recently.  I have been doing homeschool information meetings at Barnes  & Noble and will have another on Aug.10th at 4-5:30pm to help with it, but in the meantime, I thought to write an article to help people know how where to start.

Here are some easy to follow steps, although it will still take some more research on your part, so I will link it to my articles about it to make your life a little easier.

1. Decide what your goal is for homeschooling.  Do you have a specific vision?  Would you like to let your children have more academics or less?  Is your decision mostly social in nature, e.g. not wanting certain influences, certain attitudes or character development needed?  This would make a difference to what you do next.  If it’s not totally clear to you, don’t worry about it, but just keep it in the back of your mind to think about.  This will likely change over the years of you homeschooling as well.

2. Decide if you want to homeschool on your own, keep your own records and take care of your own transcripts, diplomas etc.  If your child is in elementary school, this might not be that big of an issue yet and you can always change it later, so whatever you decide is never irrevocable.  If you do want to have all the freedom possible, the best option would be filing your own private school affidavit, keep an attendance record and some work samples as well as your own report cards (easily created on your own computer).

If you would like more direction, you could pick to either go with a private PSP who will do the above for you and provide some guidance, but you will have to pay a little for it.  If you want more direction, but have no funds, you might want to consider public homeschool charter schools.  These are free and give you some funds for materials and classes from approved vendors.  There are several options for these charters.  All of them have waitlists, but get on the waitlist anyway, because you can always just not join once you get in if you change your mind or got into another one.

3. Once  you picked which way you will legally homeschool, you have to do some research on all the homeschool philosophies.  Here are some of the main ones:

–         Traditional worksheets/textbooks

–         Charlotte Mason

–         Thomas Jefferson

–         Classical Education

–         Project-based unit studies

–        Unschooling

–        Hybrid Schooling (some classes and some curriculum at home)

–         Eclectic (a little of everything, my favorite)

4. After you’ve determined all this, it would be helpful to observe your child and how they learn best before you will be ready to pick which curriculum you might want to get.

5. There are so many options available for curriculum, but I would suggest checkingused curriculum sales first for curriculum at a fraction of the regular cost.  The internet also provides tons of free resources.  If you need to purchase something, you can check out all the articles and links I have listed.  Rainbow Resource and Amazon.com are usually the most affordable options for most curriculum needs.

6.  I strongly recommend getting together with other homeschool moms, getting on some yahoogroupsfacebook groups and meetup groups for Santa Clarita homeschooling and visiting a local parkday to get input from more experienced moms.  There is a parkday every Friday around noon till about 4 at Valencia Glen Park on Via Gavola.  You can come and go as you are able.  If you live elsewhere, search for some local groups.

7.  Know that homeschooling is a journey and you will probably change and adjust your course several times as you find what works best for each child since they’re all so different.

Good luck and I hope to see you at one of our parkdays very soon!