Tag: homeschool

From the Schoolhouse to Your House, Part 3

Welcome back! This is my favorite part in our three-part series on homeschooling because we’re going to look into different methods – or styles – of homeschooling. We’ll also talk about the cost of homeschooling, but choosing your method can make or break your homeschool. Many people choose a curriculum without considering what kind of teacher they are or what type of student their child is. Many choose a parent-intensive curriculum when they need an open-and-go workbook, or they’ve gotten a read-only curriculum when their kids do best with hands-on work. When problems arise from these mistakes, many people will then give up on homeschooling, thinking they’ve made a mistake believing they could ever do it in the first place.

Knowing your homeschooling style won’t protect you from every problem or from making any mistakes in choosing curriculum, but it can keep you from many of them and will help you know what to do when problems arise. I wish we had time to look into every method in-depth, but let’s look at the most popular.

 

Methods

When you begin the homeschooling journey, the most overwhelming part is choosing which curriculum to use. There are so many! And then not only are there tons of books and ideas, there’s also something called a method! What’s that about?! Well, actually, it’s your best friend. When you determine your method, or style, you eliminate most of those many, many curriculum choices. So choosing your method of homeschooling will be the next step after finding your tribe.

There are quite a few method choices, but here are five popular ones: classical, Charlotte Mason, traditional, eclectic, and unschooling. I would love to do an in-depth blog on each of these choices, but for now, I’ll just help you understand how to choose one or two of these methods. Yes, I said one or two…or maybe three! Often you can determine that you fit a certain one for the most part, but like parts of another and want to incorporate those in your homeschool. So let’s get right into it!

 

Classical

This method is steeped in history and ancient Greek and Roman philosophy to achieve the goals of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Classical education’s main focus is the trivium, meaning three roads in Latin. These three roads are grammar, logic (dialectic), and rhetoric.

  1. The grammar, or knowledge, stage lays the foundation for language and learning in elementary school through fact memorization.
  2. The logic, or understanding, stage starts around 5th grade when students begin to analyze memorized facts in order to determine cause and effect and grasp abstract thought. This stage focuses on learning to reason through logic and questioning.
  3. During the rhetoric, or wisdom, stage, high school students take the knowledge from the grammar stage and the understanding from the logic stage and begin to determine and present their own ideas in clear and original ways.

Classical education seeks Truth, Beauty, and Goodness through excellent books and shaping of the imagination with ancient myths and legends. Students study writing and speaking to learn effective communication and to craft eloquent arguments. The goal of classical education is to create virtuous, well-rounded persons who continue to learn throughout their lives. Critical thinking, the Socratic method, and subject mastery through looping are hallmarks of the classical learning method. Much of this method’s ideology is formed from Dorothy Sayer’s work, The Lost Tools of Learning.

 

Charlotte Mason

Named for an English turn-of-the-century educator, this style implements short, manageable lessons, lots of outdoor time, and reading rich literature, or “living books”, instead of sitting through long lectures or reading dumbed-down literature Mason termed “twaddle”. Charlotte Mason called upon all educators and parents to see and respect children as whole persons, and to holistically educate the full child instead of focusing solely on the academic mind. She insisted that by introducing and teaching good habits early – such as obedience, attention, diligence, and others, every aspect of a child’s life would be positively affected. Emphasis is placed on good reading and grammar skills and engaged students who can clearly express themselves.

Nature walks, dictation and narration, art, and music are hallmarks of the Charlotte Mason learning method. For more information, read Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles here.

 

Traditional

Also called school-at-home or school-in-a-box, this method most closely mirrors the public school setting. Traditional learning is structured and scheduled and, as such, is often the choice of new homeschoolers who are not yet comfortable self-guiding their children’s education. The pre-packaged curriculum is usually a complete full grade, and sorts learning into separate subjects including math, English, science, and social studies. Traditional learning is teacher-driven in its planning, implementing, and grading, but curriculum guided with a teacher’s manual, mapped-out lessons with daily assignments, and chapter or unit tests. As students advance, traditional curriculum can guide them in independent work.

Organized subjects, daily schedules, and textbook deskwork are hallmarks of the traditional learning method.

 

Eclectic

This is a style in which parents pick and choose from varying methods, curricula, and resources so as to best fit the family’s needs. For example, math could be selected from a Charlotte Mason style curriculum while science may be selected from a classical curriculum and other subjects may be a mix of two or more curricula. Some eclectic homeschoolers even fully create their own entire curriculum! This method allows for an educational design fully tailored to each student and highly flexible for parents.

Many times, parents gravitate to the eclectic method once they’ve gained experience with curriculum choices and more fully understand their kids’ preferences and learning styles. Customization and a relaxed style are hallmarks of the eclectic learning method.

 

Unschooling

As its name suggests, this method – or philosophy, rather – does not use a formal curriculum but relies solely on student-directed learning. It is the most individualized style of “homeschooling” as the student makes all his own decisions regarding his education. Workbooks may be used if the child prefers, but workbooks are never mandatory. Kids control what, how, and when they learn, and there are no goals, deadlines, curricula, tests, or grades. The parent’s role is less teacher and more facilitator by creating an environment that fosters natural curiosity as the child learns through interactions with others, outdoor activities, interesting books, exploring museums, visiting zoos, and having plenty of free time and play. People often have mixed feelings about unschooling, but it is legal in all 50 states – though unschoolers are still subject to their state’s non-public education structures. But all of life is filled with opportunities for rich education, and those opportunities are the hallmark of the unschooling learning method.

 

Hopefully, this quick run-through of these few methods will help you make the best decisions for your family. And remember that if one style doesn’t fit your family, you can simply change, or combine! For our family, we have a classical spine and a Charlotte Mason heart, drawn together with an eclectic flair. 😉

Don’t forget that we’ve just scratched the surface of these methods and that there are many other less-used approaches. For more information on both homeschooling methods and curriculum based on those methods, I highly recommend Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum – Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Each Child’s Learning Style. Choosing curriculum can be a daunting task, but Cathy Duffy introduces readers to the myriad choices for methodologies, and then directs them to curriculum choices based on those methodologies. This book is a Godsend for new homeschoolers!

 

Cost

For many new or prospective homeschoolers, this may be the biggest question: how much does homeschooling cost? And the answer is: homeschooling can cost however much you want it to cost! Since the government doesn’t dictate which curriculum you must use (at least here in CO), you can choose based on your budget, homeschooling method, and personal desire. Homeschooling your kids can be as easy as obtaining a library card and having access to the internet! Or it can include high-cost curriculum, a high-cost co-op, and high-cost field trips. And there are myriad choices in between. Certain methodologies are inherently more expensive and others inherently less expensive, but each can be done on a shoestring budget.

The main portion of your cost will be your chosen curriculum, school materials, field trips, and extra-curriculars. However, there a lot of curriculum swap meets and Facebook pages that make gathering material much easier and less expensive. When you break down the costs of sending children to public school (clothes, shoes, backpacks, notebooks and other materials, electronics, etc.) versus the cost of homeschooling, homeschooling is much cheaper! For comparison, check out this article.

 

Thank you for joining me for this series. I hope it has been a help to you and that your homeschool is a joy and success!

From the Schoolhouse to Your House, Part 2

Thank you for joining us again! In this post, we’ll follow up from Part 1 by discussing independent, or umbrella, schools and how they can fulfill the homeschool family’s needs. We’ll also talk about finding great homeschool groups! So come on! Grab a cup of coffee – or now that you’re a homeschooler, go ahead and grab that glass of wine – and let’s talk!

Umbrella Schools

Umbrella, or Independent, schools are a protective alternative for homeschool families that fulfill the state’s homeschool laws on behalf of the homeschooler. Umbrella schools are subject to all non-public school laws, but as a type of private school, each one sets their own policies for the families enrolled and vary widely in what they offer and what they cost. Some independent schools:

  • Allow parents to choose how and what they teach
  • Offer specific curriculum
  • Offer group classes and field trips
  • Offer sports
  • Offer scholarships and diplomas
  • Operate within a particular faith
  • Maintain a secular outlook
  • Simply assist the homeschooler to comply with the state’s laws and offer nothing more

You can access a list of several Colorado umbrella schools here. Interestingly, you can also create your own umbrella school! To find out how, check out this article.

Homeschool Groups

You must know and follow the law to homeschool successfully, but a close second in importance is finding your tribe. Oh, dear parents, homeschooling is not an adventure best taken alone! Thankfully, Colorado is teeming with support groups to meet every need and desire. In every nook and cranny, mountain town and valley community, big city and podunk, homeschool families are present and searching for ways to get together with others. If you simply do an internet search for “Homeschool groups in Colorado”, you will find a number of websites sharing myriad groups, co-ops, and communities like this one, and this one.

Facebook is also an excellent way to find local homeschool groups. Having lived in Pueblo since our start in home education, I’m only familiar with the groups here. Many are Facebook-only groups, meaning if you’re not on social media you won’t know what is going on within the group. One of the largest support groups is Pueblo Eclectic Homeschoolers. PEC is a Facebook-only group and has a $10 per family, per year fee. That fee is put toward many of the events that are offered.

Homeschoolers of Pueblo, Christian Homeschoolers of Pueblo, and Classical Conversations (CC) are but a few other bands of homeschoolers. You can find the Pueblo chapter of CC here. Take advantage of these amazing communities – or create your own! We all need our tribe!

Join us again next time for Part 3 where we’ll talk about homeschooling methods and the cost of home education.

From the Schoolhouse to Your House – Part 1

Okay, 2020…we get it. No, really, we get it. You didn’t like that we were excited to tell you what to do, that you were going to be OUR year – the year WE whipped YOU into shape. So you kicked back. Hard. And we hear you – loud and clear. And you can lay off now. Can I get an amen, Pueblo?!  From masks to quarantine, from toilet paper shortages to runs on backyard pools, from the schoolhouse to your house, 2020 and its infamous sidekick, COVID-19, have our worlds reeling.

Parents of school-aged children are in a tough spot right now. Some are sending their kids back to the brick-and-mortar schools – even though their stomachs are in knots over it. Some have their kids at home with them but are using the school system’s online curriculum – even though their stomachs are in knots over it. And some have chosen to take their kids’ education fully into their own hands – even though their stomachs are in knots over it.

If you are a parent who is now newly homeschooling or considering doing so, the mere thought can feel entirely overwhelming.

  • How do you start, what curriculum do you use, how do you teach, and is it really even legal?

  • Will your kids be isolated and lonely?

  • Will your friends make fun of your choice?

Are these questions yours? I’ve been there too. I’ve been homeschooling six years now, and, thankfully, I’ve had a lot of people come alongside me to help me, talk with me, listen to me, instruct me, and encourage me. Every now and again I still get stuck and have to scream ask for help…and my tribe is always there for me. We all need each other, and, if you’re new to homeschooling, I would love to give you some information and encouragement. So let’s talk!

LAW

First, let’s talk law. Yes, homeschooling is legal. 😊 According to the Colorado Department of Education website, “…it is the primary right and obligation of the parent to choose the proper education and training for children under his care and supervision. It is recognized that home-based education is a legitimate alternative to classroom attendance for the instruction of children and that any regulation of non-public home-based educational programs should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate a variety of circumstances.”

Colorado is considered a minimum-requirement state and is homeschooling “subject to only minimal state controls”. Homeschool laws vary from state to state, and it’s important to research your state’s laws. You can find Colorado’s laws for home education here.

Colorado requires that:

  • For children ages six to 16, a Notice of Intent (NOI) must be sent to the school district each year fourteen days before your homeschool start date. This notice can be sent to any district, and should include the student’s name, age, address, and number of hours he or she will spend in the program. Though the NOI must be sent for children beginning at age six, your program need not start until the child is age seven.

  • Your educational program must include 172 days of instruction per year with an average of four hours a day. This includes any instructional content you, the parent or guardian, deem appropriate. Touring museums, attending co-ops, wandering through zoos, drawing at the table, cuddling on the couch and reading good books, star gazing and naming constellations, watching documentaries, listening to history CDs in the car, taking nature walks, doing grocery store math, and more count as “school” hours. There are myriad educational board, dice, and card games that make learning fun!

  • Homeschools are required to teach certain subjects. The website reads, “A nonpublic home-based educational program shall include, but need not be limited to, communication skills of reading, writing, and speaking, mathematics, history, civics, literature, science, and regular courses of instruction in the constitution of the United States…” Please keep in mind, these are subjects you need to include throughout their education; they do not need to be taught every year, and the government does NOT dictate curriculum.

  • When the child completes the third grade, he or she must be evaluated, and these evaluations must be performed after every uneven grade thereafter. This can be done either by taking a nationally standardized achievement test, or a qualified evaluator can assess the student’s academic progress. The results must be sent to the district along with the NOI for the following year.

  • Homeschool parents are required to keep certain records, including attendance, test or evaluation results, and immunization records. These are to be kept on a permanent basis, and though they are virtually never solicited, they are to be produced to the school district if requested.

These are the main requirements to homeschool in Colorado, but it’s important to read the CDE website in full for expansion of these instructions and other information.  Please note that Colorado homeschool law does not dictate having a dedicated homeschool room, holding any parental teacher certification, placing or keeping your child in any particular, state dictated grade (3rd, 8th, etc.), or which curriculum to use.

As an alternative to Colorado’s homeschool statutes, many families choose instead to enroll in an umbrella or satellite school while continuing to teach at home. We will explore more about that option, as well as finding good homeschool groups, in Part 2 of From the Schoolhouse to Your House! And coming up in Part 3, we’ll wrap up this series with homeschool methods and the cost of homeschooling. Until then, send in that NOI and enjoy the adventure!

Part 2 of From the Schoolhouse to Your House here, incase you missed it.