What options do parents have for homeschooling?

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My daughter with teammates and friends during the homeschool years.

It can be overwhelming trying to decide the best course for educating our kids. With so many parents working remotely from home and schools not opening up, many parents want to explore the options available to them.

When I homeschooled my daughter for middle school, I went to a homeschool conference in Long Beach, CA called CHEA (Christian Home Educators Association) that helped me get started. Back then it was in person of course, and I was able to browse through hundreds of vendors of curriculum on every subject imaginable. I took my son with me, who is three years older than his sister. I figured he’d already made it through grades 6, 7 and 8 with flying colors and could help me select curriculum that would be as good or better than he had at our private school.

The reason why I chose to homeschool was based on several factors, including my daughter’s commitment to swimming and conflicts with her school. They were pretty strict about missing school for non-school sponsored sports or activities. Also, they piled on heaps of homework that homeschoolers don’t have to do. I loved many of the teachers, but with new administration in place, we saw changes we weren’t in agreement with.

Deciding to homeschool was a freeing experience. I remember vividly making the call to tell the school that my daughter wasn’t coming back. It was the start of an adventure. I knew several homeschool families and they directed me to a charter school that offered some in-class options as well as homeschool. They had a teacher assigned to each family that we met with to review assignments to make sure my daughter was on track. They offered standardized testing at a local college for all their students. Also, they had a huge selection of field trips such as Disneyland, whale watching, and Sea World. I was shocked when we went on our first field trip to Medieval Times in Orange County and the entire arena was filled with thousands of homeschool families.

I felt like I had plenty of support by the charter school which was Springs Charter School. Also, I hired a tutor for math because that’s not one of my strong points. I won’t say homeschooling was easy breezy. In truth, it was a lot of work and a full time job for me. But they are years I’ll never forget. My daughter told me last week that she was happy I homeschooled her. By the time 8th grade was finished, we were both ready for her to return to school and she entered our public high school.

I read with interest two articles about the decisions parents are making today to educate their children from home. Here’s an excerpt from Pandemic parenting: How do you pick a good online education option? by Marc Istook from WFAA an ABC News station in Dallas, TX.

Search google for “online educational content” and you’ll find 126,000 results. That just goes to show how many options parents have to choose from.

The pandemic has seen an increased need for these resources as parents try to help educate their kids during school closures and uncertainty about the fall.

But Lauren Minor, a former teacher and curriculum creator, explained it doesn’t have to be a stressful crisis of choices.

“Sometimes we can get paralyzed in this fear of making a decision, worried we’ll make the wrong one,” she explained. “Every option has the opportunity for the child to be successful.”

That provides some comfort, because it can be stressful trying to pick one option. Between ABC Mouse, Khan Academy, PBS Kids, Sesame Street and so many others, choices abound.

Whether it’s education-focused videos or just content to keep your kids entertained and moving, there seems to be something for everyone. Which is why it’s important to know your own child’s needs.

“What do they easily engage with?” Minor asks. “Are they more tactile? Do they like working with their hands? And then, what excites them? Do they get really excited about and feel successful when they complete a workbook page or do they feel really excited and successful when they complete a science experiment?” 

Those are the questions parents should try to answer when making their plan. 

Fortunately, many subscription-based offerings allow for a trial period. Minor explained that’s a great way to see what works for your family.

“I would recommend looking into a few trials right now and seeing which ones your child really engages with and feels successful in doing.”

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The other article I read discussed the different types of options for homeschooling, like the charter school option we selected to forming learning pods at home.

Growing interest in true, hands-on home school options as school year nears by Amanda del Castillo at ABC7News.com in the Bay Area discussed how parents can homeschool. Here’s an excerpt:

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — It’s no secret the pandemic is pushing parents to become more involved in their child’s education.

Education experts say the move toward true home schooling is growing across the state, and right here in the Bay Area. The approach is different from the distance learning expected this fall, as it’s known to be more hands-on.

While navigating options for education during COVID-19 may seem overwhelming, the Homeschool Association of California (HSC) said there’s proof that more parents are pivoting to homeschooling.

“Distance learning and homeschooling are two different things,” HSC board member and secretary treasurer, Jamie Heston told ABC7 News. “With distance learning, you are tied legally to a school. They’re telling you what you need to do. They’re directing the education.”

She continued, “True homeschooling is when you are directing the education. That doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself. That can encompass using classes, or tutors, or other parents.”

Heston said parents are able to use online class curriculum and other resources to find success.

“So, you’re directing the education but you’re not necessarily doing all of it yourself,” Heston added.

She also serves as a moderator of several local home school groups, and is a home school consultant.

Heston explained she usually points parents in the direction of Charter Schools. It’s a public school option that offers resources, and teachers to support homeschooling.

“Generally, for families who are going to just home school for a short time and pop back into school… I usually recommend using a charter because that’s still a public school, but you’re doing the day to day work at home.”

According to the article, it states the charter schools have huge waiting lists, but I think it’s still worth checking out. They may have alternatives and several different programs still available.

The article gave advice to comply legally in California for homeschooling, which is important.

“Create a small private school in your home, which is how I’ve always home schooled,” she said. “And that’s filing the private school affidavits and keeping a few things on file. The government has no say in how private schools are run. So, you have a lot of decision making and a lot of responsibility as a small private school.”

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) lists three options to comply with California’s Home School Law:

  • Option 1: Homeschooling as a home-based private school
  • Option 2: Homeschooling with a private school satellite program (PSP)
  • Option 3: Homeschooling via instruction by a private tutor

In the South Bay, A TEAM Homeschool Community Executive Director Ann Wolfe said the pandemic is forcing parents to become more involved.

“Parents are more engaged, more on-board,” Wolfe told ABC7 News. “Listening to their kids, and not just expecting somebody else to do all the educating.”

She’s home-schooled for nearly 20 years.

“A friend and I decided to start our own,” she said, referring to the A TEAM program. “And we brought in teachers to teach those things that we didn’t want to teach. We started in our homes and then eventually went into facilities, church facilities, and expanded our programs.”

Now, Wolfe provides support for home-schoolers.

“The ranges from everything from PE to physics, and from Kindergarten through 12th grade,” she explained. “Ao people can pick and choose- a la carte- whatever classes they want, whatever days they want, to round out their homeschooling curriculum.”

About the growing interest, Wolfe explained, “I just see all these Facebook groups popping up- Pandemic Pods.”

“People coming on home school groups that have been around for a while and asking, ‘Hey, what do I do about this? How do I home school legally?’ And all these different questions,” she told ABC7 News. “I’ve received emails from people saying, ‘I’m considering homeschooling for the fall. Can you tell me something about your program? Or how do I do this?’ And so, a lot more interest in homeschooling that I’ve never really seen before.”

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The swim team offered lots of fun times with friends, teammates and coaches.

Have you considered homeschooling during the pandemic? If your schools aren’t reopening what are your plans?

Don’t wait to say I love you…

IMG_5838People around the world are losing loved ones. Now more than ever, take time to tell them that you love them. Don’t wait. I currently have three close friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer during the COVID-19 closures. How scary is that for them, their families, and friends like me. While on my walk this morning, I thought about how important people are in our lives and how empty it can be without our usual social encounters. I remembered when my husband wanted to talk with a close friend who had cancer. Here’s what I wrote about that five years ago when it happened:

Twice this year… It’s happened. We knew a friend was sick. One was 92 years old. The other was 57.

We wanted to tell them how much their friendship meant to us. But when they got sick, they didn’t want to see anyone. You have to respect that.

“I’ll call and talk to him on the phone,” my husband said about our 57-year-old friend. He never reached him by phone. 

Yesterday, we heard from his family that he was in hospice. My husband said, “I’ll write him a letter. I’ll tell him how much his friendship meant.” He immediately sat down and wrote the letter. The last time we wrote a letter like this was to our 92-year-old friend. Family members told us it arrived in the mail the day she died. She never had the opportunity to read it.

My husband ran this letter over to the family’s house. Literally ran because the house is around the corner from us. The brother said thank you. The brother thought it would make him feel good to read it. But, he said, he’s not seeing anyone outside of family.

My husband and I went for a walk. We walked and talked about our friend. This life thing is so fragile. We take it for granted sometimes. When I was 21 years old, I walked across a street and got hit by a truck. It made me realize how uncertain life is. A car almost hit us when we crossed the street last night. I screamed out loud. I can’t help it. It’s residue from my encounter with the pick up truck.

Life goes on. You get married, raise kids, drive kids to swim practice, sit on PTA boards, help with homework and have your own work to do. Pretty soon you can forget how fragile life is.

We finished our walk and returned to our house. The letter my husband wrote to his friend was stuck in our gate, unopened. It could only mean one thing.

Make sure you tell the ones you love — I love you while you have the chance.

It’s the little things that count

Prior to COVID-19 and the weirdness of today — pre my ski accident and subsequent knee surgery — I wrote about the little things in life that matter the most. These thoughts are important today. What I wouldn’t give to get up and go to practice at 5:30 a.m. or have lunch with a friend. If anything these two months sheltering place have taught me to appreciate what I have and love the most. My family and friends — and pets.

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The view from our pool makes me happy.

I’m proud of myself today, because I started off the week with 5:30 a.m. practice. I’ve been trying to get up, half-heartedly I’ll admit, for the past month but the comfort of bed is just too much for me at 5 a.m. An extra hour of sleep usually wins out. But, today I did it. I made it to practice on time, began my workout in the dark and found joy in watching the views of the sunrise and pink-hued mountain change color during my workout.

I find a lot of happiness and excitement in the little things in my days. Our lives are made of small moments strung together and if we spend too much time worrying or focusing on the past or future, we miss the little bits of joy in the present. 

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Happiness is my daughter with her puppy.

Here’s a list of moments that make me truly happy:

Hearing the birds sing early in the morning.

My fourth flip turn during my second 200 at practice this morning. I nailed it.

Having lunch yesterday with a good friend and spending a few hours catching up with our lives.

Noticing that a family member got their dish off the table, into the sink and miracle of miracles—into the dishwasher.

Olive the cat honoring me with her presence and stretching out for a cat nap while I’m laying on my side. I have to be careful not to move, so she doesn’t fall off.

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Olive the cat in our back yard.

 

My kids calling just to talk. They aren’t asking for anything and there’s nothing big going on.

Sitting under an orange tree in my back yard reading a really good book.

Walking with my husband and marveling at the beauty surrounding us on a weekend morning.

Reading a positive comment on one of my articles.

Checking things off my to-do list and feeling productive.

What little things in your life make your day?

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Beautiful views of bougainvillea.

 

 

Remembering a perfect day for a sail

I like to look back on what I was doing during the same week on another year. This looks so wonderful. I’d love to be sailing in Santa Barbara this week. Instead I’m sheltering in place and it’s 108 degrees outside in Palm Springs. So, looking back at the photos and videos will have to do. Soon, we’ll be back and on that boat with our good friends, I hope.

On the lookout for Humpback Whales.

On the lookout for Humpback Whales.

Sunday was a perfect day for sailing. I went with my daughter, who’s home from college for a short break, and our friends—who own a sailboat. They live near Santa Barbara, and as an Aussie, Rob sails in and out of his slip at the marina, and the first time I went sailing with them, we were in a regatta. So, he’s very good at sailing.

I’m a fair weather sailor. I like a gentle breeze, sunshine, and no waves. The weather was perfect. We watched as 14-footers raced, brightly-colored spinnakers hoisted, gliding over a glossy sea.

A couple of the 14 footers with spinnakers racing by.

A couple of the 14 footers with spinnakers racing by.

Then, we spotted a dolphin. Then tens of dolphins. Soon the boat was sailing with dolphins leaping all around. Several were playing and cruising along the bow. There were dolphins leaping in all directions, tens upon dozens of them everywhere!

Then they slowed down and turned around.

We watched pelicans and gulls dive into the ocean.

Then–the spray of a whale blowing. The broad humped back, then the tail. WOW! We all yelled together. Soon we spotted whale number two. Then three. We were being treated to a pod of humpback whales.

A whale's tale.

A whale’s tale.

We spent the next several hours on the lookout for whales. After the tail goes straight up the whale dives. It was incredible to hear their loud gasp for air as they filled their lungs with oxygen before their dive. They hold their breath and stay submerged for at at least five to ten minutes. We would wait patiently, scanning the sea for a sign of the blow, and the back breaking the surface.

What a truly amazing day. How sad I was the following day to hear about the oil spill.

Here are more dolphin photos. These are from my friends with the sailboat on a recent sail they had from Santa Barbara to the islands. How I wish I had been there. IMG_4906 IMG_4912

Dolphins having fun with the boat.

Dolphins having fun with the boat.

Two dolphins at the bow. Photo by Debbie Gardiner.

Two dolphins at the bow. Photo by Debbie Gardiner.

Reflections during sunset at the Santa Barbara marina.

Reflections during sunset at the Santa Barbara marina.

Here are the latest photos from my friends from their June sail to “the islands.” Photos by Debbie Gardiner.IMG_4947 IMG_4979 IMG_4961 IMG_4976

Why I Like to Stay in Houses vs. Hotels

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The Colorado Airbnb.

This past weekend, we traveled to Colorado for a wedding. The bride was one of my children’s age group swimming teammates who played a big part in their swim and school lives. We’ve stayed close friends with her parents after bonding over years of volunteering for the team and going to meets. (Isn’t the swim world great?) They were one of the families I looked up to, who taught me the ropes about swim parenting. Not to brag, but their daughter swam in the Olympics–Beijing in high school and London in college, representing Singapore.

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The house we stayed at in the summer at the beach.

My kids insisted they were going to the wedding, which I was kind of hedging about. I mean, I wanted to go, but Colorado in the winter? They were going to go with or without us, so I finally agreed to go, too. I’m in Palm Springs, thank you very much, and I was stressed about flying in the snow, driving in the snow, and yes, even walking in the snow! We did have a six-hour delay flying due to a severe snow storm, so I had reason to worry.

Lately, when we travel with our adult kids, we look for rentals on Airbnb or VRBO. In the past years, we took a trip to Summerland, Calif., a few blocks from the beach where our kids joined us. We went to Park City, Utah, too. The kids were supposed to join us there but couldn’t take time off work. I like houses better because it’s nice to stretch out on the sofa, have a kitchen for snacks and meals and a full-sized living room. It’s so much better with family to have an entire house than staying in hotels where you have a bed and a coffee maker. I also believe it’s much more affordable.

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The claw-footed tub. One of two perfect bathrooms.

The house in Colorado this past weekend was really cute and fit us perfectly–in spite of the snow. We could walk (with our boots, parkas and gloves on) three blocks to downtown and some great restaurants. In Park City and Summerland, we also had great locations within a few blocks of the shops and main streets.

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Back in high school: The bride and my son in their Physics class cardboard boat competition.

If it’s just my husband and me, or me traveling alone, a hotel is best. But, for a family, you cannot beat a home. FYI, the wedding was wonderful and the bride especially beautiful. It made me treasure our swim team days even more and reminded me of all the time our kids spent together for years and years.

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At the wedding with the bride and groom.

Here’s my review of this past weekend’s Airbnb:

This spotless, bright and airy home has every convenience you’ll need including a fully updated kitchen and plenty of outlets everywhere. It’s located three blocks to downtown. We loved the beautiful decor. Everywhere we looked there are unique touches, from a claw-footed tub, stained glass windows above a bedroom door to an antique door handle collection. In every room you’ll discover something special. The beds and bedding are comfy, too.

Which do you like better for vacations? Houses or hotels and why?

 

What a week it was!

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Waffles at the park. Some unknown person decorated park benches.

What a whirlwind week we had for Christmas. It was fun, but I’m exhausted. We had our second annual Christmas with my son’s girlfriend’s family. We are a family of four and they are a family of nine, plus my dad. Looking back on the past few days, I did a lot of cooking and dishes. It’s a good thing I like to cook — and I don’t mind cleaning up!

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Some of the fun stats from our week included the food we went through:

7 dozen eggs

6 dozen Honeycrisp apples

1 full-size prime rib

2 hams

8 packages of oxtails for soup

8 packages of sweet Italian sausages for sausage and peppers

1 giant pot of split pea soup

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We also enjoyed my son’s charcuterie and veggie platters before each dinner.

I can’t say how much fun it is to be around an energetic, athletic, intelligent and musically-talented family. I’m inspired and in awe. Also, I was amazed to see how well everyone got along — all the time. Coming from a small family, I feel like I missed out on something by having only one sibling.

I will admit as much fun as the past week was, I’m glad to have my quiet and solitude. I’m ready to start the New Year and get back to my work.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a viola concert by two of the siblings who are professional musicians. Although the lighting is terrible, here’s a snippet:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Waffles in his Christmas sweater.

What are your thoughts about family togetherness for the holidays?

I miss my dear friend on her birthday

One of my closest friends from childhood passed away unexpectedly a year and a half ago. I woke up realizing that today is her birthday. The pain of losing her has not faded. I miss her.

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Rebecca with my baby girl.

I learned via Facebook that my dear friend Rebecca had passed away.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received on a Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my own house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

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The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor. Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR’s competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.

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Me, Rebecca and my baby girl.

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

 

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Rebecca, her husband Andrew and son Jake plus my kids.