Blessed Be the Interruptions, by Briana Elizabeth

 

When my twins were three months old, I got pregnant with Child Number 6. He was born almost within the same year as his twin sisters. So, at one point in time, I had three toddlers in the house while I was trying to school their three older siblings who were 5, 9, and 13.

I would be lying if I told you I remembered those days. They were a sleep-deprived blur. They were days of crunchy things underfoot, endless nursing, laundry never being done, dishes almost never done, and my husband gone 16 hours a day because he was building a business to support us. We were ships passing in the night, and when he did crawl into bed, we almost always had a kid or two sleeping between us and our touching feet became the most comforting of hugs. We were in the thick of building our family, and he needed to know that I was holding the fort down while he was out there slaying dragons for us.

Through all of this, and despite all of it, those older three were homeschooled. Not only were they homeschooled, but they became excellent students who learned Latin, and Logic and are pretty well-read.

I have NO idea how I did it. None. I remember fighting over The Scarlet Letter. I remember fighting over Traditional Logic. The younger one even learned to eventually read and do basic math in those years. And I did it in a 1000 square foot house.

Much more, I remember buying chickens and how much fun my children had learning about them and caring for them, and then how we learned to butcher them together because we were trying hard to be farmers. They remember eating all of the peas out of garden before I got to harvest one. We remember a baby squirrel jumping on one of the twins and her giving a blood curdling scream that sent me racing into the yard to find her, and then putting that squirrel in a cage and learning how to feed it. They remember fishing, and learning to ride bikes, and life being very home-centered because that was all I could manage. We remember lots of days at the park.

What am I trying to tell you? That it will be OK. The children will learn, and just “sticking to the basics” is fine. The house will recover. Believe it or not, your marriage will be strengthened, because you trust your team member even more and take pride in what you’ve built together.

So, I’ve some ideas to help you do something with those toddlers while you ignore the laundry, and the dishes, and the crunchy things underfoot.

Create a flow. Call it a habit, call it a loose schedule. Whatever you do, don’t let it dictate to you what must be done. It’s only there to establish a routine to your day. Now is when we eat. This is when we rest. Now is when we learn. This is when we read aloud.

Get a baby yard. They will not die if confined. Do we? No, with confinement we learn creativity. Boundaries are safe things. Even use baby gates to fence off one safe room for them.

Minimize the toys that you put in the play yard/room. Can you imagine what your house would look like if you allowed three toddlers to keep every toy anyone ever gave them? Pack some up and rotate them every week or two.

Make yourself a busy board or two. Think of what fun this could be to make together! They are wonderful things that help fine motor skills, encourage problem solving, and are very Montessori. Make them smaller and switch them out if you can. Make tactile books for them with different surfaces. Get them a broom and dustpan and show them how to sweep.

Bring them into your schooling when you can, for the read-alouds (let them be busy in the room while you read aloud), and for art and especially for singalongs and nursery rhymes. Pull up their high chairs to the table and give them some paper and some watercolors. Make sorting games. Have your older children help you make these! What fun they will have helping and screwing things onto the busy board. This is a wonderful lesson in parenting, too, and for appropriate expectations for children.

Don’t forget to have fun days and school on the floor or in blanket forts! Let the older ones have some time schooling independently where they can, but always remember to check their work! I always had mine bring me their work them they were done.

Adjust your expectations. Stop comparing your season of life to a mother who has older children. Give yourself grace: this is a hard thing you are doing, and instead of criticizing yourself more, how about you pat yourself on the back more?

Find God amidst the pots and pans. St Teresa of Avila told her nuns, “Don’t think that if you had a great deal of time you would spend more of it in prayer. Get rid of that idea! God gives more in a moment than in a long period of time, for His actions are not measured by time at all. Know that even when you are in the kitchen, Our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.”

Know that this is your vocation and that this hard time will only be like this for a short time in the scheme of things. All of my children were out of the house for a weekend recently,  and let me tell you I was bored and lonely. I know that those days seem far off to you, but they are right around the corner. My youngest is only 8. I remember back when they were small thinking that if I was alone in a room for a day I would have done nothing but stared at a wall in silence and been content to do just that. This too shall pass.

Remember to bend when a child asks you for something. Your day is made up of a hundred small requests and demands on your time. God as our parent is always barraged with questions and requests from us, and is always patient and long-suffering.

This is a high calling, to be a mother. Don’t let it pass without letting it change us into the people we want to become.

 

Brianbrianaa 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.

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Curricula Fairs and Conventions: How NOT to be Overwhelmed! by Cheryl

 

You have decided to homeschool. You have taken the necessary steps to withdraw your child(ren) from school or register with your district/state. Now you need to pick the perfect curriculum. Where do you start? What about the convention and curricula fair that is happening in the spring? You can go and browse everything that’s out there and make a decision! There is nothing better than getting a hands-on look at everything, right?

WRONG!

A convention or curricula fair should be your last stop on the journey to find the right curriculum. The best way to guarantee that you will be overwhelmed  is to go in without any prior research. So how do you prepare? A few simple steps will help you enjoy the convention and find what you need.

1. Know what method of homeschooling fits your family: Classical, school-at-home, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, or unschooling. Most libraries have a shelf of books on homeschooling. Select one with an overview of different methods to start your research. Once you pick a method, select a book that is specific to that method. I use a few books as support on my journey through classical homeschooling: The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer and Jessie Wise, The Core by Leigh Bortins, and Charlotte Mason’s original homeschool series. The first two books have curriculum suggestions for most subjects. These are my guide as I start to narrow my search.

2. Know your teaching style. Do you need a script to teach, or just a textbook? Some products (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, some Abeka products) tell you word for word what to say to the student. Others provide a teacher’s manual with teaching helps (Singapore Math, Rod and Staff, Real Science 4 Kids, and many others). Some are self-teaching (upper levels of Saxon math, Teaching Textbooks). What do you need and what do your kids need?

3. What subjects do you want or need to cover? This will be partially determined by your state and partially by your child’s age and interests. Most families will cover math, science, history, literature, grammar, and spelling. Do you want to add a foreign language? Which one? Do you want to add geography, health, social studies, or writing? Do you need reading and phonics? Make a list of what you want to cover.

4. Is there a company that specializes in curricula for your style? Classical Academic Press, Memoria Press, Peace Hill Press, and Classical Conversations all cater to classical homeschoolers. Do you have to be classical to use their products? No, but knowing that classical is the method they specialize in will help you as you shop. The scope and sequence of the products is geared toward the classical student.

5. Do you want secular, protestant Christian, Catholic, or Jewish programs? Or does it not matter?

Once you have considered these five things, you should have a manageable list of curricula to search out at convention. By this time, you are no longer researching; you are at the decision-making point. You will know which tables to visit and which tables to skip.

Will there be distractions in the vendor hall? Yes. Will you find something new and wonderful that you’ve never heard of but is perfect and you must have it? Yes. But you will be focused and you will be able to weigh your options better because you are informed.

Before purchasing, there are two more steps to completing the process and be satisfied with your decisions.

6. Set a budget. You know what you can spend. Set a limit and stick to it! You don’t need to buy EVERYTHING. You can find literature selections and some history curricula at your library. Be sure you have checked what is available.

7. If your convention lasts two days, window shop and attend seminars on the first day. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING YET! Take a notebook. Look at everything on your list. Make a price list. (Many times you will save money by purchasing at convention: No shipping charges and sometimes a discount for buying on-site. Note the savings in your list.) Go home, review the list, make decisions, sleep –  and then go back to purchase the second day. This alone is the best piece of advice I have ever been given.

If your convention is only one day, follow the same steps, but do it before and after lunch.

Our local convention is huge, with thousands of people and more tables than I have time to visit. By going in well-researched with a shopping list, I know my shopping experience will be less stressful. This allows me to pick the speakers and workshops I want to attend and shop in between. I don’t feel the need to spend all day in the vendor hall.

One final and important hint: Take a rolling cart for your purchases! Those books get heavy fast!!

Conventions can be a great help and support to new and veteran homeschoolers, but we must all go in prepared!

 

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and cheryltheatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

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.

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.