CF: Getting Started, Classical Foundations 2014

Planning For High School, by Lisa Appelo

 

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been homeschooling kids since kindergarten, thinking about homeschooling through the high school years is daunting. What records will you need? Can lab sciences and pre-calc really be done at home? Even though thousands of other homeschoolers have graduated and gone on to successful post-high school experiences, it can still seem like a grand experiment until you’ve graduated your own child.

I have found there are five keys to high school planning. Follow these to curb misgivings and missteps.

1. Start with the end in mind. Before you look through the first catalog, sit down with your child and talk about post-high school goals. Does your child prefer a large state university or a small liberal arts college? Will she likely go into the service or to a vocational school? While not immoveable, knowing the end goal will help you shape the high school years.

In our family, we knew our children would most likely go to a state university because of their career goals and an excellent state scholarship program. With that in mind, we looked at two things: the state universities’ admission requirements and any special homeschool conditions. One university required homeschoolers to take several accredited courses, or alternatively, SAT II exams in those subject areas. Armed with that information, we were able to fold in accredited classes over the high school years. It would have been a major roadblock had we discovered this during the senior year admissions process!

Once you know your student’s post-high school vision, you’re almost ready to open the catalogs. But first, pause and reassure yourself with step 2.

2. Just take the next step from 8th grade. Moving into high school is much like moving a child from kindergarten to first grade or from 6th grade to 7th. While high school may seem like promotion to a whole new world, the student is just progressing up one step academically. For many core subjects, this simply means going to the next level in that subject. In math, for example, the student might move from Saxon Algebra I to Algebra II. If you already have favorite curricula, some of it can be used right into high school.

Even the schedules and learning style you found in the middle years can be used in high school. Thinking of just going up one level, rather than creating a whole new structure, will help take the angst out of high school planning.

3. Research state graduation requirements. In most states, homeschoolers are not bound by state graduation requirements. But these standards help indicate two key things: what colleges in your area are looking for and what credits graduates will have taken — graduates in the same college application pool as yours. If graduates in your area routinely take four years of core academic subjects (math, science, social science, language arts and foreign language), you will want your student’s transcript to reflect that as well.

Also, while most college admission sites list the minimum requirements, be sure to look at the freshman profile page. This page gives a picture of the test scores, GPA, and credits for the freshman class actually admitted and attending. At this point, you’re ready to make the four-year plan, only in light of Step 4.

4. Sketch a four-year plan. In pencil. Now that you know your child’s goals, what worked in eighth grade, and your state’s requirements, you’re ready to rough out a four-year plan. Go ahead and add in details like curriculum you might use or online classes that would fit. Be sure to write in tests that should be completed along with courses (AP, CLEP or SAT II) as well as tests necessary for dual-enrollment and college (PSAT, SAT, ACT).

Now is the time to get out the catalogs and dream big! Just remember that this draft will change. Before your child graduates, new books will be published. Outside classes and local opportunities will appear. Or your student may develop a new passion. Of course, the beauty of homeschooling — sometimes most clearly seen in the high school years — is being able to tailor learning to our children. Even in pencil, this sketch will provide a great scaffold for the next four years. Just one more thing to add:

5. Consult a local source. This is my favorite part because it usually means I get to take another  homeschool mom out to lunch. Choose someone who has already put kids through high school and is familiar with state requirements. Ask her if she sees any problems with your four-year plan. In the best of worlds, this parent will share the transcripts, planning forms and tried-and-true wisdom learned from the process.

Planning for the high school years does not need to be intimidating. Even for those completely new to home education, these five practical steps will get you started and help you craft a plan for your high schooler. And be sure to stay tuned, as Sandbox to Socrates will cover the high school years in more detail in October.

Lisa Appelo is in the 16th year of homeschooling her seven children. The oldest three were homeschooled through high school and went on to their first choice colleges. Lisa continues to teach the others in grades 2nd through high school at home, most recently as a suddenly widowed single mom. Each day is an adventure in life and grace.

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CF: Getting Started

Choosing Curriculum, by Sarah

Every so often we choose a favorite article to run again.  This originally ran on June 25, 2014.  Enjoy!

You’ve finally decided that you will homeschool your child. There are hundreds of reasons that may have brought you to this point, but here you stand, about to start.

I’m a planner so I like to know what curricula I will be using to teach my child, at least to start. Since we are eclectic classical homeschoolers that means I did a lot of research to figure out what I thought would be a good choice. I was completely wrong about most of my original choices, but I still did a lot of research before deciding on all the wrong books.

That is probably the first thing to remember when choosing a curriculum and planning the subjects you will study with your new homeschooler: you will occasionally be wrong. You will think that XYZ looks super exciting and is something your child will love, only to end up with your child despising the book and everything related to it. It happens to everyone at some point, even to experienced homeschoolers.

This brings me to the second thing to remember: just because it looks good on paper doesn’t mean it will work for your family. Often, something you purchase even though you have doubts about it ends up working far better than the curriculum you were absolutely certain about. I chose Singapore Math for my son. He is good at math, and I really liked how SM taught math. I figured it would work great. I was wrong. My son was not happy with my choice; it was too much busy work for him and he tried to get out of math every day. I then bought Life of Fred thinking it would be a nice supplement. My son loved Life of Fred; it suited his learning style a lot better, and he was much happier doing a chapter of Fred each day rather than a couple pages of Singapore.

This leads to the third thing to remember: be flexible. Sometimes you will have to change plans midstream. The “perfect curriculum” ends up being a paperweight instead of the repository of knowledge you hoped it would be. This can be painful since some curricula are costly, and money spent for something that doesn’t work can hurt your financial plan for the year. Fortunately there are some cheaper options out there, but having spent $100 or more for something for the year only to figure out it was a bad match for your child can be painful, especially for your wallet.

Look for samples to check out the material before buying. It’s no guarantee, but it can be helpful. Another good option is to enlist your child’s help in deciding what to use. If you are undecided between two or three things, ask your child to look at them with you. He may see something in one that makes it his top choice — or his bottom choice. This also works well when you are not sure what subset of a subject you should teach. Asking your children what they are interested in or knowing their interests can make it easier when you are trying to decide between chemistry or physical science or biology.

Lastly, getting information and opinions from homeschooling friends, local groups, and online sites can help cut down on bad choices. I found a number of resources when researching. The Well-Trained Mind message boards were extremely helpful, as were Facebook groups. Seeing various options in person, either because a friend brought it over or I saw it at a curriculum fair, helped as well since I could actually evaluate the physical product. I will admit that even with these resources, I did make a few bad choices for my son, but they also aided me in finding a better replacement.

The main things to remember when researching and choosing curriculum are that you need to be flexible, you need to do your research, and in the end you need to be willing to admit something was a mistake and start over. I have done my research for the coming year for both my son and my daughter who will be starting Kindergarten. I am hoping that most of my choices for my son will work since they are just a continuation of what we have been using, but I am well aware that my choices for my daughter will likely end up being tweaked as we discover together what works for her and what does not. Also remember if your choices do not work out, there’s always next year to find a better fit for your child as you learn together what works best while continuing on your homeschooling journey.

 

Sarah–Sarah is the wife of Dan and mom to Desmond, Eloise and Sullivan (Sully).  She enjoys reading,  board games, D&D, computer and console games, the Oxford comma, and organizing fun trips. Sarah and Dan decided years before they had children that they would be homeschooling and now they are. Their family has enjoyed beginning their homeschooling journey and the early elementary years. There are a lot of fun opportunities upcoming in the next year as well, including Eloise starting Kindergarten at home, numerous trips to Atlanta, and a month long trip to India. They currently reside in a suburb of Washington DC and enjoy all the local attractions available for day trips.

CF: Getting Started, Classical Foundations 2014

Homeschooling: Where to Start? by Jane-Emily

 

Getting started in homeschooling can feel overwhelming. There is so much information, so many curricula, so much stuff! Sorting through it all can take ages — and it means you spend a lot of time on the computer instead of with your children, who are, after all, the point of the exercise. One mistake nearly all of us make at first is overbuying: in our excitement and our anxiety to cover all the bases at once, we spend too much money and buy too much of everything.

Preliminary Research

When I first got started, I spent a whole lot of time reading. I was a little bit lucky in that I started thinking about homeschooling when my first child was two years old, so I had plenty of time to research. But anyone could do this kind of reading as a long-term thing, though not everyone would want to.

I had already found out that classical homeschooling was what I wanted, but I still read just about everything I could. This often meant that I requested books at the library through InterLibrary Loan so that I could read them without spending hundreds of dollars on books I might not find useful. Then, if I really loved the book and wanted to use it as a permanent reference, I purchased it, which helped me not to overbuy. Because I wasn’t committing to the books by purchasing them, I was free to read across religious lines and homeschooling philosophies. I could choose to mine conservative Christians for tips on teaching math, and radical unschoolers for ideas on making my home a learning environment. I read about people homeschooling so they could focus on African-American culture, and people who spent a year bicycling across the country, and all sorts of things.

The only books on homeschooling (not curricula, but how-to books) I ended up purchasing new were:

I also found some books used at library book sales and so on. I got a full set of E. D. Hirsch’s “Core Knowledge” series that way–which I mostly did not use, but it helped me feel secure.

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Kindergarten Math

Other People: A Fantastic Resource

Once kindergarten was closer, I started looking around for people to meet up with. Please understand that I live in a small city, and at that time there weren’t a lot of homeschoolers for me to meet; you may have far more available to you!

My neighbor down the street told me about her mothers’ group and invited me to go. This turned out to be a group that was very welcoming to me and did not have a statement of faith, but was entirely composed of evangelical Christians (I am not).  The criterion was that members had to be independent homeschoolers, not connected to any charter or public school with an independent study program. They were lovely to me and I always enjoyed the meetings, but I also knew that some of my more secular friends would not have felt comfortable. I may well have been the only person in the room not teaching young earth creationism.  I learned so much from these women and am grateful to have been able to do so.

I also heard about a group that met for a park day, and I tried that out. They were welcoming, too! This group tended to be comprised mainly of unschoolers and crunchy folks, but welcomed everyone. I’m not an unschooler either, but again, I made good friends and learned a lot. My kids had a great time running around the park and playing in the creek. We have also shared field trips and other events with these same families, and these times have been wonderful for all of us.

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Park Day at the Creek

 

I never did meet very many people like me; there are very few classical homeschoolers around here. I never joined a co-op or even heard of one I could join. Instead, I learned to make friends wherever I could and learn from them. I met lots of people whose homeschooling philosophies I did not share, but who made great friends. I could take care of my own homeschooling philosophy myself.

Purchasing Curriculum

I had gathered many recommendations for curriculum from the books I’d read, especially the ones I purchased. My next problem was how to choose among those recommended curricula — which ones would fit our style and what I wanted to teach? Even the most detailed recommendations couldn’t tell me that, although they often helped me decide that I did not want something.

I visited a lot of websites and ordered a lot of catalogs. I loved looking at them, but I was often frustrated by my utter inability to inspect the actual books. These days I think it is a bit easier to find long samples so that you can see more of the book, which is hugely helpful, but I really prefer to pick up the book and handle it.

I live quite far from the places where homeschooling conferences mostly happen, but there was one in a large city about two hours away. It was unschooling-focused, and I didn’t want to pay to attend the whole conference, but the exhibit hall was free (they usually are). I drove down and explored, visiting as many vendors as I could. Since I was mostly looking for classical vendors, there still weren’t that many for me to look at, but I could inspect Saxon Math and some other basic things. Later on I traveled further to attend an evangelical-focused conference, where I was able to find and inspect other products.

Used curriculum swaps were also helpful to me, although they often ‘helped’ me buy books I ended up not using. The mothers’ group had a yearly used curriculum sale, which gave me the chance to really look at some things! The prices were always right, too. Used curriculum swaps seem to be going a bit out of style in favor of selling online, but I think there’s a lot to be said for an in-person sale first; you can see the books, and there’s no shipping to pay.

Some things I just had to order and hope they worked out. It felt like a leap of faith, but I was rarely disappointed. I ordered some books based only on recommendations and short samples. Most of the time, it worked out fine. My biggest leap was buying Prima Latina, a Latin curriculum for younger children, and that turned me into an enthusiastic convert to teaching Latin to children.

The local teacher supply store was not helpful as far as curricula went, but it was great for other materials. I bought many math manipulatives, test tubes, art supplies, and posters there. We often really enjoyed our trips to that store, because they had tables set up with activities for young children and they often raised silkworms in a box on the counter. I don’t think I ever had to order materials online; I either got them at the teacher supply store or, sometimes, made them myself.

Homeschooling is a huge job, and getting started is overwhelming. It can often feel impossible to figure out how to select the right curriculum — for several different subjects! — when we haven’t picked up a textbook since our own long-ago schooldays. It’s OK to take things slow and steady, adding as we find good materials. (And meanwhile, head to the library and borrow lots of good books to read!) As homeschooling moms, I think that one of our weaknesses is our desire to get everything chosen and planned right now! In our anxiety to do right by our children, we tend to think that we need to get every subject started right away. It is hard for us to remember to take things one day at a time, one child at a time. It’s a long journey, so we need to pace ourselves.

Another mistake we make is to make the perfect the enemy of the good. We are always wondering if this math book, this grammar text, is really the best possible option. Is this other textbook better? Switching all the time is usually self-defeating, as we spend too much money and jerk the children from one thing to another. If a curriculum is working for you and not making your child cry on a regular basis, switching mid-stream is not productive.

Seek out other homeschoolers to befriend. Read about homeschooling and figure out what sounds good, and then seek out the curricula that will help support the philosophy you choose. Take it slow. And sometimes, make a little leap of faith.

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Janjane-emilye-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian at the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict.

CF: Getting Started, Classical Foundations 2014

Homeschooling is Legal in All 50 States, by Megan

 

 

Yes! Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.  

Here is a list of websites to help in your search for the laws and requirements of your state.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

When possible, I have listed the state’s Department of Education website for information. If that information was unavailable or too full of legal jargon, I have linked to a homeschool organization in that state. For example, Utah recently changed its laws regarding homeschooling, but its DOE website hasn’t been updated to reflect the new requirements. For this reason, I linked to a Utah homeschooling organization which summarizes the changes. If any of other state websites have outdated information, please let us know in the comments. We’d be happy to find the updated laws and keep our readers up to speed.

 

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware – Look under sections 2703-2704 for homeschool requirements.

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan 

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

I often hear that people are afraid to homeschool in NY or PA because of all the regulations. My friend Pauline has a wonderful website that’s a huge help to homeschoolers in PA. Someone, please create a similar resource for NY!  🙂 Pauline encourages anyone interested in homeschooling in PA by saying, “PA’s laws sound complicated when you first read them, but it’s mostly a matter of paperwork. Don’t get overwhelmed – it’s easier than it looks!

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

A website with a little more information about homeschooling requirements in Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

Washington, D. C.

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

 

Megmeganan–Megan is mom to three children: Pigby (boy, age 7), Digby (boy, age 4), and Chuck (girl, age 2).  She loves history, ballroom dance, and crocheting.  She made the decision to homeschool when her oldest was three and they’ve been on this journey ever since.

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How to Get Started with Homeschooling

Whether you’re looking at the bright, shiny face of your new five-year-old or you’ve yanked your 10th grader out of school mid-year, beginning your homeschool adventure can be daunting. Scary, even.

No parent wants to mess up a child’s education or leave him at a disadvantage later in life. Having doubts that you can really do this is normal. However, once you get into the swing of things, you will see that it can be done – and is being done by millions of families all over the world.

Several Sandbox to Socrates authors have shared their advice for starting out in homeschooling. We’ve compiled a list of these articles here for your convenience.

If you have specific questions about homeschooling in your state or about different curricula, join our Facebook group to ask your questions to hundreds of experienced homeschoolers already in the trenches.

 

GETTING STARTED

Homeschooling is Legal in All 50 States

Testing and Record-Keeping in a Minimally Regulated State

Homeschooling in Highly Regulated States

Homeschooling: Where to Start?

Choosing Curriculum

How Will I Know If My Child Measures Up?

Planning for High School

 

PARENTS ARE TEACHERS.

From Classroom to Homeschool

No Operator’s Manual

You CAN Teach Your Child to Read

Qualifications

Calling for Backup

Greenest Pastures

 

We will highlight some of these articles specifically over the next few weeks. Feel free to share them with anyone else who might be considering homeschooling.

CF: Why Classical

Neuroscience & the Trivium, by Courtney

 

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When I began researching homeschooling, I looked for books on the topic—and luckily enough, The Well-Trained Mind popped up at the top of the Amazon list. While the sheer scope of the book was overwhelming, I was curious about this heretofore-unknown concept of classical education. It seemed like a good idea—but where were the research studies? I was frustrated when I realized that curricula research neglected any major studies of classical education—at least, any studies conducted in the last 100 years (Headlam, Fletcher, & Paton, 1910).

Yet, I did find some research. For example, when reading a chapter on the criminal justice system in a book on the teenage brain, I came across an easy-to-read chart depicting why children need to learn facts and concepts about the world during the grammar stage. There, in black and white, was a neuroscientist’s casual statement that “synaptic learning rises rapidly in infancy and childhood, stays high during the teen years, and tapers off to plateau in adulthood. However, myelination and connectivity do not peak until early adulthood (late twenties), plateauing later in life.” (Jenson & Ellis Nutt, 2015, p. 270)

This statement came with a simple graphic illustration of the superior ability of children to learn facts, decreasing in teens, and sliding down the slippery slope in adulthood, all the way to near zero in senility. It was contrasted with lower myelination in toddlers and elementary children, rising through the teen years and peaking in the late twenties. (Jenson & Ellis Nutt, 2015, p. 270) Myelination corresponds with maturation of the prefrontal cortex, also known as the ability to see other people’s point of view and see the connections between complex concepts.

At last, a scientific justification for the trivium! I have some data behind my insistence on having my child learn as many facts as possible in early elementary school! Does that mean that my child should memorize random facts, just because they can? Of course not—here is why. To quote Dr. Willingham:

Cognitive science has shown that what ends up in a learner’s memory is not simply the material presented—it is the product of what the learner thought about when he or she encountered the material. (Willingham, 2003)

I don’t know about you, but my mind wanders when I’m bored, and there’s nothing more boring than reciting random facts and numbers. In fact, people who study the art of memorization often use a technique called a “memory palace” that allows them to create their own context (Zielinski, 2014) Classical education’s insistence on the overarching narrative of history and science is important because the narrative gives our children context for otherwise meaningless facts.

Conversely, one must be careful with hands-on projects. Students may be more likely to remember the process than the associated information (Willingham, 2003). Timelines are an excellent tool, but if students approach timelines purely as an opportunity to show off drawing skills, the point of the timeline is lost. Inquiry-based learning is a powerful tool—but without an excellent supporting framework of knowledge keyed to good Socratic questions, it’s also entirely possible for students to come to wildly inaccurate conclusions from which you cannot easily budge them. For example, we all know that moving closer to a heat source makes us warmer, and the Sun is often described as a great ball of fire, so many people incorrectly deduce that it’s warmer in the summer because the Earth is closer to the Sun (Kamenetz, 2016). (Tip: The summer warmth comes from the tilt of the Earth, not perihelion.)

Even the common insistence in classical education that even the youngest children learn how to perform narration is an excellent skill for putting information into memory. Narration is a verbal outline, or summary of the information, requiring students to think about the material. One could not design a more perfect technique for requiring students to “actively process the text” (Willingham, 2003).

In short—teach your children well by surrounding them with the stories of math, science, and history, using Socratic discussion in combination with a student-generated narration of the topic.

 

Works Cited

Headlam, J. W., Fletcher, F., & Paton, J. L. (1910). The Teaching of Classics in Secondary Schools in Germany. London: Wyman and Sons.

Jenson, F. E., & Ellis Nutt, A. (2015). The Teenage Brain. New York: HarperCollins.

Kamenetz, A. (2016, April 16). Why Teachers Need To Know The Wrong Answers. Retrieved from nprEd: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/04/16/473273571/why-teachers-need-to-know-the-wrong-answers

Willingham, D. (2003, Summer). Ask the Cognitive Scientist. Retrieved from American Educator: http://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/summer-2003/ask-cognitive-scientist

Zielinski, S. (2014, February 3). The Secrets of Sherlock’s Mind Palace. Retrieved from Smithsonian: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/secrets-sherlocks-mind-palace-180949567/?no-ist

Photo courtesy of FreeImages.com

Courtney is a Ostaff Headshot 1relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000, while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncting, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats.