Uncategorized

New Beginnings

Some of you might have noticed that things have become very quiet over the past few months. This was nothing that we had intentionally planned, and it has weighed heavily on our collective conscience.

The group of us came up on some very hard life situations — cross-country moves, life-altering sickness, older children who needed so much more of us — and due to those stresses, we lost the spark that made writing for the Sandbox fun.

But we never forgot you, our readers, and our responsibility toward you.

To remain true to its original vision and continuing to help homeschoolers everywhere, we decided to hand off Sandbox to Jen Naughton, the author of Recreational Scholar and Viking Academy.

We are so very thankful to her for taking on this huge project. We know we’re leaving our project of the heart in good hands, with someone who will spark a vision for its future and serve the readers we’ve become so endeared to. Thank you for your support these last three years, dear readers.
Bon Voyage!

The Founders of Sandbox to Socrates

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Education is a Life

Sheltered Homeschoolers, by Lynne

A health care professional recently told me that by homeschooling, I was sheltering my children and inhibiting them from experiencing the real world. My older son and I were sitting in this person’s cozy little office for the very first time, so this person did not know us or anything about the way we homeschool.  I think a lot of people are confused by the term homeschooling and equate it with online public school.  They imagine that kids are just sitting at home all day, staring at a computer.  This is as far from our experience as possible.  Of course, as soon as the doctor said this, I was turned off and immediately started thinking of nasty comebacks in my head. I didn’t say them out loud because my son was with me.  The only one that was fit for mixed company, and that I should have said, was, “I’ll sit here in your cozy office all week while you drive my kids around to their umpteen activities, and then we’ll talk about sheltered.”  But, I didn’t.  I politely smiled and nodded until we could get the heck out of there.

As soon as we were in the car, my (Asperger’s) son asked me if we ever had to go back there because he didn’t like that guy.  I reassured him that I didn’t like that guy either, and we would never be going back there. The audacity of people who know nothing about homeschooling, yet state their opinions about it anyway, is always shocking to me.  I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone that their choices were wrong unless they specifically asked for my honest opinion about something.  I had not asked this doctor to comment on our homeschooling.  It was just mentioned when he asked where my son went to school.

This got me thinking about the whole idea of being sheltered.  While I’m sure some families do homeschool to shelter their kids from certain things, like bullies or things that are counter to their religious principles, I am 100% convinced that my kids would be far more sheltered from reality if they went to our local public school, which is in a moderately affluent suburb. How is being in the same building with the same kids and the same adults day after day experiencing the real world?  Is it preparing them for that feeling of being trapped in a job you hate because you have to earn a paycheck?  Other than that, I can’t see how school and the real world are at all similar.

Another common criticism that I hear about homeschooling is that the kids won’t learn how to take direction from someone else if Mom is the only one teaching them.  Once again, this usually comes from people who know nothing about actual homeschooling.  Homeschooling moms are not dumb.  And, they also need a break from time to time.  That’s why we pounce on any outside classes in which our kids show an interest.  My boys are exposed to their religious school teachers, piano teacher, theater teacher, horseback riding teacher, and co-op teachers on a regular basis. Then there are the countless one-off classes and camps they have taken over the years.  Other homeschooling families use tutoring, online classes, or community college classes to cover certain subjects, thereby exposing their children to different teaching styles.  Kids are also not dumb and recognize that they can learn from someone other than Mom.

So, I’ll gladly continue to shelter my kids by taking them to plays, orchestra concerts, museums, historical sites, game club, playdates, and all their other activities while simultaneously providing them with a deep, rich classical education.  If school is the real world, we’re glad to be sheltered from it.

Image: I also sheltered my kids at Universal Orlando this fall while the other kids were learning about the real world in school.


Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for over 5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Penguins, by Andrew

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Penguins live in Antarctica. It’s very cold there, so they have to huddle together to stay warm. Penguins have to fish to survive. They eat mostly fish, krill, jellyfish, and squid. They have a very smart, interesting way of testing the water for predators. They push the first few penguins in and see what they do. If the water is safe, they dive in, too. But sometimes there are leopard seals in the water. If a leopard seal catches a penguin, he thrashes the bird around until its dead then picks off bits of meat until it’s mostly bone. But the penguins who survive in this incredibly dangerous place grow up into adults.

Adult penguins have a long, difficult challenge ahead of them. First they have to find a mate. They sing songs and show off their bodies until they find a mate. When they find a mate, they have intercourse and lay an egg. The dads have to watch the eggs while the moms cross the icy plains of the Antarctic to find the water. When most of the moms come back, they try to find their mates by singing to them. When the mom finds the dad, he is reluctant to give up his baby to the mom, but he needs food so he gives the baby to the mom. Then the dads go on their journey to find food.

The mother and father take turns watching over the baby and finding food for it. Eventually, the baby penguins are old enough to find food for themselves. When the penguins go try to find food for the first time, they start out in the shallows first, so no predators kill them and eat them. Some leopard seals though adopt a strategy. They make themselves look like boulders across the rocky coast. They slide slowly closer until the small penguins are an easy target. Sometimes a full grown leopard seal can grab two baby penguins at once.

But the penguins that do survive have to continue their hard life cycle until they grow up into adults. Then they have to find a mate and have more penguins and continue the same life cycle. What is the point of the penguins and why do the keep on going? No one can say for sure, but they are just so adorable, that makes it worth it.

By Andrew, age 10

Pezze e Piselli

Pezze e Piselli, by Briana Elizabeth

I am big on plans. I’m not big on following them to the letter of the law, but I do think they help us aim well, and that’s the most important thing. If you’ve followed us for any amount of time, you know I love a good Bullet Journal. Why? It’s inexpensive, it doesn’t need battery backup, you can’t lose it in a crash (my iMac recently crashed, and we had to wipe it. I did not have an external hard drive for backup, alas). You can set it on fire, but that’s another post. (I do have friends who set theirs aflame after the year is done as a marker of a new year to come and a goodbye to the last. An interesting way to mark time, no?)

Anyway, that time is upon us. If you’ve put off planning, don’t worry, you can still write a few things down to order your mind and days.

Here are some links I collected for you.

Why Bullet Journaling works.  How a Bullet Journal might work for you.  An interesting way of prioritizing our work.  How the Ivy Lee method is working for Jen of Viking Academy.  Jen from Wildflowers and Marbles has free printables to help you organize. She also has a page specifically for planning, with printables, helps, and ideas to help your year go  more smoothly.

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If you’re setting up a seasonal table for your littles and picking books for a Morning Basket, here are a few wonderful titles with lovely illustrations. The Year at Maple Hill Farm  and Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm both by Alice and Martin Provensen.
I loved this beeswax snail tutorial from Frontier Dreams and this felted pumpkin from Hinterland Mama. For olders, one of my favorites is always A View from the Oak. And you really must follow Lynn on Exploring Nature with Children because her watercolor journaling videos are so encouraging and beautiful.

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For older kids, this time of year is harder – at least at my house. Marching band camp is over, practices have started, football is all over my schedule, and choir is starting back up, which leads me back up to the bullet journaling in the beginning of the post. It keeps my head on straight and my people fed. The days of morning baskets and nature tables are long over at my house, and I miss them, but these older student days are so filled with new and beautiful things. I am trying to hold onto afternoon reading this year, but this may be the year we bid a fond farewell to that also. Older children…they have to be given their own leisure time. Time to build, discover, learn in very different ways than the younger children. It’s also a quieter time because they need their privacy about studies and accomplishments. Finding the balance is tricky and a daily tension, but growing like this is a part of being a homeschool parent.

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Happy Schooling, all.


Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

 

Literature

A Legacy….by Brit

There was a time when a man spoke very impatiently to my father. He had seen a copy of the Iliad lying on the table. “You are reading this?” he asked.

“I have read it many times. Now I read it to my son.”

“But he is too young!” The man protested, almost angry.

“Is he? Who is to say? How young is too young to begin to discover the power and the beauty of words? Perhaps he will not understand, but there is a clash of shields and a call of trumpets in those lines. One cannot begin too young nor linger too long with learning.”

[…]

My father was a tall man, and now he stood up. “My friend,” he said, “I do not know what else I shall leave my son, but if I have left him a love of language, of literature, a taste for Homer, for the poets, the people who have told our story–and by ‘our’ I mean the story of mankind–then he will have legacy enough.”

Louis L’Amour, The Lonesome Gods, p. 141-142

Though our homeschool has changed a bit here and there over the years, one thing has been constant pretty much from the beginning – we wanted to make sure we read to our children, read often, read good books, and gave them a love of reading. Honestly, you could say this began on our oldest’s first night home from the hospital. He had his nights and days very mixed up, so after he nursed, my husband took him and hung out with him until it was time to feed him again. Starting that very first night, my husband read to him. If I remember correctly, it was Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You Will Go! It didn’t matter that he didn’t understand a word of the story. What mattered is that he knew his daddy’s voice, heard the rhythm and cadence that comes with spoken language, and knew that daddy was with him.

That practice has continued throughout our children’s lives. Even now, I still read to them in the mornings during the school year, my husband reads to them most nights at bedtime, and we often have a family audio book going. Reading – together, alone – has become part of our culture as a family.

I still remember something my principal told a group of us when I was still teaching. His two sons were older – one in college and one in high school – but he said they still read aloud as a family. They often took turns, sharing books they loved with each other. They also would listen to books in the car as they drove places. To realize that once my children were able to read to themselves it was still a good thing to read to them made a huge impact on me. My firstborn, that little boy who heard his first story the night he came home from the hospital, still loves to listen to his father and me read to him and his siblings. Truth be told, they all still love to listen to the early pictures books being read to the youngest two.

“Who knows how much he will remember? Who knows how deep the intellect? In some year yet unborn he may hear those words again, or read them, and find in them something hauntingly familiar, as of something long ago heard and only half-remembered.”

Louis L’Amour, The Lonesome Gods, p. 141

Being raised in a literature-rich home is having its effect on our daughter with special needs as well. She loves books. From the time she was able to crawl around and make mischief, she has been pulling books off the shelves to “read” them. Over the years she has amassed quite a collection of her favorites. She still has us read what some would consider “babyish” books – board books with little print on each page. But those books are sinking in. She is beginning to recite them with us. She sits with those books and reads them to herself. She brings them to the dinner table and takes her turn at “recitation” by “reading” them to the family. She also loves longer books – books that, given that she has Down syndrome, some would say she wouldn’t have the attention or comprehension to sit through. But I know she does. And I attribute so much of her love for language and literature to it being a strong part of our family culture.

We may not have monetary riches to leave our children. At this point in our lives, with my oldest nearing the end of his homeschooling career, I’m just hoping we have riches enough to help with college for five children. But we can leave them a few things money can never buy – a love for language, a love for literature, a friendship with some of the greatest writers who wrote some of the greatest works.

Image courtesy Freeimages.com

Brit and her husband are living this beautiful, crazy life with their four sons and one daughter in sunny California. They made the decision to homeschool when their eldest was a baby after realizing how much afterschooling they would do if they sent him to school. Brit describes their homeschooling as eclectic, literature-rich, Catholic, classical-wanna-be.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Pencil Drawing, by Olivia

Armon and Tristan Natsua

Olivia is a sixteen-year-old writer and artist who enjoys spending her time sewing, first person interpretation acting, and attempting to exchange dairy goats for small children under the age of one. She currently works at The Texas Renaissance Festival and Sherwood Forest Faire and attends Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp.

About Classical

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ at the Gap, by Courtney

Parents of public school children who are thinking about homeschooling often ask questions like:

“How do you homeschool your child without leaving gaps in their knowledge? How do you know homeschool curricula authors have expertise and their curricula are covering enough?”

The most common answer I see is this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In words:

“No curriculum is perfect! Students are always going to have gaps! You should just follow their lead and let them study whatever they enjoy! As long as they figure out how to learn, that’s the important thing.”

I have a problem with this, and the following is why I have a problem.

One of the original thinkers in the study of how children learn is Jean Piaget. Piaget came up with the idea of schemas. (East Tennessee State University, 2016) Schemas are the basic building blocks of knowledge. If you spend much time around toddlers, it is easy to notice huge gaps in their schemas—all animals with fur and four legs are “doggy,” for example. Toddlers eventually refine their schemas to exclude all but canines in the “doggy” category.

So what? From my example, most people would point out that everybody has gaps, right? Well, yes and no. The more we learn, the more we refine our schemas. “This has four legs and fur, but it meows, so it is not a dog.” Our schemas become incredibly complex, in fact—and this is a good thing! (East Tennessee State University, 2016) The more refined the schema, the more information inherent in it and the more opportunities a child has to attach more information to it!

In terms of schemas, random facts do not “attach” to anything, which is why they are so difficult to learn. This also explains the phenomenon of “in one ear and out the other”—students aren’t making connections to existing schemas. However, when a student is attentive, with proper background knowledge, refining a schema can be effortless—see also, “meow” versus “bark.” As an instructor, one should be on the lookout for incorrect schemas. Without correct background knowledge in their schema, a student “knows” that gravity does not act equally on bowling balls and feathers (Clement, 1982).

This is where my problem with laissez-faire education occurs. When they don’t have an introduction to human knowledge in a structured fashion, with explicit connections to prior knowledge, students will have enormous gaps in their education of which they are unaware (East Tennessee State University, 2016), (Clement, 1982). Furthermore, their lack of prior background knowledge will actually impair their ability to learn in the future. (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006), (Clement, 1982).

If you want your child to be a good learner, it’s self-defeating to shrug off the “gap” question. In educational research, this is called the Matthew effect (Sanovich, 1986), after Matthew 25:29:

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.

Students with refined, complex schemas—or in other words, well-organized depths of background knowledge—learn more easily (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist, 2003) and are more likely to draw correct conclusions when given new information. For example, every progressively-educated public school student in a study was gullible enough to believe that a website about tree octopuses was telling the truth (Krane, 2006). Why would we not do as much as possible to “mind the gap” so that our students do not fall prey to tree octopuses?

Classical education is good for all kinds of students, not just students who love to read. For poor readers, background knowledge increases reading comprehension (Kosmoski, Gay, & Vockell, 1990). For students who struggle with working memory, education research has firmly shown that increased background knowledge increases working memory (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006).

One common criticism of classical education is its emphasis on rote memorization. If you want your child to have good problem-solving skills, random, scattered background knowledge is insufficient. “The student must have sufficient background knowledge to recognize familiar patterns—that is, to chunk—in order to be a good analytical thinker.” (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006). Classical education’s emphasis on memorization actually contributes to good problem-solving skills and flexible thought!

On the other hand, schemas are not composed solely of facts—they are also composed of knowledge of how those facts fit together. This allows students to draw analogies between prior knowledge to create new knowledge:

a shark is to a vertebrate as an octopus is to a(n) ______________

Classical education’s emphasis on learning facts in context—history as narrative, for example—helps students “fit” their memorized facts into their increasingly refined schemas.

Will every classically educated student become an expert in every subject? Of course not. But background knowledge of facts and concepts is required for students to develop expertise in their chosen areas of interest (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise, 2002).

Another way to look at this research is to note that the hierarchical, highly structured nature of formal classical education actually lends itself beautifully to the way children learn. We provide them with oodles of background knowledge, diving deep into a particular subject for a year or so at a time, explicitly scaffolding their schemas with timelines, science notebooks, and nature journals. Then we revisit the topics at different age groups, making connections and relationships between knowledge clearer, strengthening schemas until students develop a deep understanding of the material.

Classical education’s overarching view of knowledge, organized into interrelated domains, actually works with the way our minds create schemas. Will there be gaps? Of course—but we’re minding them, providing our students with basic, underlying structures for their schemas, instead of throwing our hands up and shrugging at the inevitable

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. –Edward Everett Hale

 

 

Clement, J. (1982). Students’ Preconceptions in Introductory Mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 66-71.

East Tennessee State University. (2016, May 31). Schema Theory: What is a Schema? Retrieved from Faculty Support for Instruction: http://www.etsu.edu/fsi/learning/schematheory.aspx

Kosmoski, G. J., Gay, G., & Vockell, E. L. (1990). Cultural Literacy and Academic Achievement. Journal of Experimental Education, 265-272.

Krane, B. (2006, November 13). Researchers find kids need better online academic skills. Retrieved from University of Connecticut Advance: http://advance.uconn.edu/2006/061113/06111308.htm

Sanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy”. Reading Research Quarterly, 360-407.

Willingham, D. (2002, Winter). Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise. Retrieved from AFT American Educator: http://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/winter-2002/ask-cognitive-scientist

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

Willingham, D. (2006, May 31). Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps. Retrieved from AFT American Educator: 2016

Willingham, D., & Riener, C. (2010, September-October). The Myth of Learning Styles. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning.

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Courtney is a relatively 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.

How We Make it Work, Uncategorized

I’m pregnant, I have a toddler, and I still have to educate older children! by Cheryl

Courtesy FreeImages.com

First, take a deep breath! (That’s just as much for me as it is for you.) Then, take a nap.

Okay, now you are ready to think about school, a toddler, and a baby.

Last time I was pregnant with a toddler, I only had one school-age child, and he was only in first grade. We had relatively few problems, even though I was very sick for six months of the pregnancy. Now I have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, and an energetic preschooler.

The best thing I have done with our homeschooling was to train my oldest to be independent. He works alone, and then I check his work. We go over troublesome issues together, but he normally does well on his own.

Not all kids can do this – my daughter cannot. I have to sit with her for every minute of school. So, how do we make this work?

We are combining some subjects. Last year we started The Prairie Primer but only made it half-way through the book. We will spend this year finishing that. With this curriculum, we cover literature, some history, some science, and some nature study.

My oldest is working on a book of centuries for history. He is reading through the Kingfisher Encylopedia of World History a couple of pages a day, making notes in his book, and following up on what truly interests him with other books we have at home or that he finds at the library. He can also make entries from our Little House on the Prairie studies. This is completely independent.

We have always used Real Science 4 Kids for science. We will work through the middle school series for geology and astronomy this year. Because they are only ten chapters each, it is easy to finish two in a year. Even if we miss a few weeks, we can still finish the books. If we are on track to complete everything, we can supplement with other labs, books, and activities. The flexibility is great!

Everything else – math, grammar, writing, reading, etc – is open and go, just do the next thing. No planning, no searching out supplementary books. I simply track our days, and we do the next thing until we have completed 180 days, or really close to it.

We also attend a weekly co-op. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it has always been great for us. I enroll each kid in a class that is fun and fluff and one class that is more educational. Plus, they both do PE. If I put them each in a science class, I know that if we fall behind at home and skip science, they will still be getting science all year.

While these things help us maintain our education in the busy times in life, it is not perfect. I still have to remind myself that this is just one short season in life. I am only pregnant for a short time, they are only babies for a short time, and while toddlerhood seems never ending – too soon they are preteens.

We got behind a little when Matthew was born, and again when I had gall bladder surgery. Both times, we caught up and even surpassed what I had planned. The break from the norm may help reset everyone so that your school time is more effective. Relax, breathe, and enjoy the new baby smell.

 

Education is a Life

Calling for Backup, by Apryl

This piece originally ran on May 23, 2014.  Enjoy this Throwback Thursday!

Sometimes in the homeschooling journey, we run into subjects we cannot or do not want to teach. Sometimes our children need more interaction with the world at large. Sometimes mom just needs a small break. When these times arise, calling for backup is warranted.

Outsourcing is an important part of homeschooling, especially as your children reach the teen years. Depending on your area, income level, and family preferences, outsourcing opportunities can look very different from family to family. I will be discussing some of the ways our family has met these needs.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to expand your child’s view of the world. There are so many unique ways your family can serve others in the community. My oldest child, in particular, has been a very active volunteer.

When she was twelve, we managed to talk our vet into letting her help at his office. She was able to observe surgeries, interact with adults, and learn a bit more about the profession. This experience allowed her to realize that she really did not want to be a vet like she thought, but she also learned that she has a very strong stomach!

Her love of animals, and that iron stomach, have led her to be a volunteer at a rescue center for birds of prey. There she has learned so much and developed a great relationship with the woman who runs the center. Now she is a pro at cleaning up bird dung and handling mouse guts.

She has also volunteered at two different libraries, one that was part of a metropolitan library system and one that is a small town library. Working at a local food pantry was another volunteer position she had and she learned so much about people there.

The girls have all spent time volunteering at nursing homes. They have gone with homeschool groups, scouts, and our church and have done everything from putting on a show to doing arts and crafts projects with the patients.

All of my girls will be volunteering at a summer camp this year. They will be mentoring and teaching younger kids in a science camp.

In order to find volunteer opportunities in your area, just ask around. Don’t be afraid to ask local businesses and services if they can use help: the worst they can do is say no. You will have more luck with older children and teens than with young children, but even when they are small you can volunteer as a family.

Religious Activities

Church is a large part of our lives, and I consider the things we do there as part of our outsourcing. The kids have attended Awanas, worked in the nursery, sang in the choir, helped with events, and attended regular services. Again, they have learned things they could not pick up at home such as relating to the elderly, caring for small children and infants, meeting some of the needs of the poverty stricken, being part of a choir, and socializing with larger groups of people. They have also learned more about our faith, and grown stronger in it.

Park and Play Groups

This option will depend on how many homeschoolers there are in your area and how far you are willing to drive. Most larger metropolitan areas will have park groups. A group of this sort usually meets on a regular basis to play, go on field trips, or organize things like field day. Don’t limit these to smaller children. We were lucky enough to belong to a teen park group that met once a week just to hang out and play. On warm days we met at a large park that could handle 20+ teens and other days we would meet at various homes. The kids developed some very close friendships, and also got some much needed exercise. They often played things like zombie tag, or “everybody’s it” tag, dodge ball, Frisbee, or just ran around and had fun.

Groups like this also have the ability to organize group field trips, often at a discounted rate. We were able to see plays at school rates, attend an astronaut school, visit museums at school rates, take farm tours, and more.

It did take us a while to find a group that we felt comfortable in. We have had the most luck with inclusive groups. While we are Christian, we have found that exclusive groups simply weren’t a good fit for our family.

Online Classes

Sometimes you need a class taught by someone else. There are many reasons for this, from a parent needing a teaching break, to the parent just not feeling comfortable in their ability to teach a subject. We are fortunate that so many classes are available online. There are paid and free options, with the paid options giving you more time with a real instructor.

Our personal experience with online courses have been with both self-directed classes such as ALEX math and Kahn Academy, and with a class that had a live instructor and certain class times. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Self-directed courses allow more flexibility in scheduling and pace. However, if you run into difficulty, it can be hard to get help. With live classes, you will have an instructor that can help the student, but you are also tied to the class schedule. We have found both types of courses to be valuable to our homeschool instruction.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) should also be considered as part of this option. This is a rapidly growing area in which you can find self-directed courses on just about every subject you can imagine. There are both free and paid options from universities and teachers around the world. Some of the most popular MOOC providers are Coursera, EdX, and Udacity.

Co-ops

Co-ops are parent co-operatives in which parents come together to teach (or hire someone else to teach) classes to homeschooled children. Co-op styles and structures vary greatly and it is important to find one that fits your family’s needs. There are religious and secular co-ops, inclusive co-ops and co-ops that require a signed statement of faith. There are co-ops that are entirely parent taught, and there are co-ops that hire professional teachers for their classes. Some co-ops focus more on extra-curricular classes, and some are more academically focused.

We have attended three different co-ops over the years. Our first was a very small, parent taught co-op that focused on extracurricular classes. This was a good way for the kids to do some fun things a few times a month. Since it was so small, however, a little bit of drama between families made the entire co-op uncomfortable. We ended up leaving.

Our second co-op was huge. It was in a large city with a very large number of homeschoolers. It was run like a large one-day-a-week private school, and there were waiting lists to get into classes. We weren’t there for very long due to a move, but it was a good way for the kids to get a few classes in, like acting and choir, that I couldn’t do well at home.

Our third and current co-op has been a huge blessing to our family. Now that the girls are all in high school, there are some needs that I find hard to meet at home. Our current co-op is fairly large. While it is a Christian co-op, it is inclusive and does not require a statement of faith. We attend one day a week, and the kids change classes during the day much like they would at public school. Parents are required to volunteer and the classes are taught by paid teachers. The quality of the classes and teachers is very high, with many classes taught by former professors and degreed teachers of their subjects. The girls take all of their foreign language classes there, along with some very interesting electives like Ballroom Dance and Fencing.

Clubs and Sports

Most communities have various clubs and sports organizations for children. You often do not have to be part of the public school system to participate. I know our rural area has Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, basketball, soccer, softball, baseball, rowing, swimming, summer camps and more.

In some areas, you may also be able to participate in public school or private school sports teams. The laws vary from state to state. Some homeschool organizations even have their own sports teams.

Other Sources

Finally, don’t forget some of your most valuable resources: friends, family and neighbors. Grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends all have talents and abilities that they may be willing pass on to your children. My father-in-law has taught the girls about gun safety, archery, botany, and more.  A friend organized a writing club for our children, and a friend of a friend ended up being our piano teacher.  The people in your life can become wonderful mentors to your children.

Most of all, don’t let the thought of being responsible for your child’s entire education intimidate you. You are essentially the director of their education, and you can find the resources you need to accomplish your goals, regardless of where your own strengths and weaknesses are.

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

Homeschool Wisdom

Sometimes You Must Compare, by Briana Elizabeth

I’ve said it so often myself, as a veteran homeschooler, “Don’t compare! Your child learns at a pace different from everyone else, and it’s an injustice to them to compare how fast they learn!” I mean, isn’t that what homeschooling is all about? A parent having the power to choose what’s appropriate for their student?

But I have found an exception to my rule, and I want to be a warning to you that sometimes, you must compare.

We’re almost into the middle of June, many of us are winding up our school year, or at least changing tracks for the summer, and planning out the next year and giving final grades or assessments to our students.

My 11th grader and two freshmen have all used David Hick’s Norms and Nobility Humane Letters lists which I love because I see them as an orchestra of beauty and truth, and my children have read through those challenging lists with gusto. Some of our favorite books and poetry are found on those lists. We truly love them. But my youngest son, who will be entering 8th grade this year and is a boy who would rather be playing in a fort, had to have a lot of accommodations made for his 7th-grade list (which is quite substantial, I assure you).   I was getting upset with his work, and though I have always taught to an A, meaning we do the work until it’s done perfectly–there is no mediocre and move on–I was having to constantly move projected dates back for him, and I started to realize that he wasn’t as mature as he needed to be to accomplish this list, never mind the 8th grade list. I was dreading how I would eventually have to drag him through those books.

Because of all this, I began to wonder if I should red-shirt him. Now, I have done so before with my current 11th grader, and it worked out incredibly well. I remember my math teacher in high school remarking that he wished all boys could enter school at seven years of age, instead of five, because they needed time to mature. Although it puzzled me then, now as the teacher of my children, I see what he meant. Not all boys need the time, but some do, and that should be available to them as a gift, not as a punishment of being held back.

Then I began to consider doing a 7.5 year, and just idling where we were until he was ready to take off again. Kind of like a gap year, but for middle school. It isn’t a bad idea, and one I was happily starting to pull together.

However, I recently received Memoria PressClassical Teacher in the mail and it hit me – I was expecting so much of him because I had only ever compared him to his siblings. As I read Memoria’s catalog, I realized he could more than accomplish the work they had laid out for 8th grade, and I wouldn’t have to make any accommodations.

I have long held that a parent should use MP as a plumb line, but I had forgotten to follow my own advice.  I know Memoria’s choices are wise, and their scope and sequence challenging yet appropriate. In our case, it will work perfectly.

Comparison doesn’t always have to be the root of envy. Sometimes it can be a reality check  that doing less than what you’ve expected or previously accomplished isn’t always a bad thing. I was reminded to adjust my expectations to the child. After all, he learns at a pace that is his own, and I have the power to accommodate my student as a homeschooler.

And that is always a wonderful thing.


Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.