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?

From Play-Dates to Play-Groups, Just Let the Kids Play!

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I saw a blogger on TV talk about “banishing the play-date.”  You can read his post here.

I reminisced about my childhood. I played in and out of neighbors’ backyards, rode bikes from dawn to dusk — with no adults bothering me.

imgres-2When I had kids, I found they didn’t have freedom like we did.

I went to Mommy and Me with my son Robert at the Palm Springs Pavilion. We learned to sing songs together and play “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot” with a dozen other moms and babies that apparently needed the coaching.  Each week, we took turns bringing snacks of grapes or string cheese. I look back at this as a training ground for the proverbial play-date.images-5

Play-dates developed from the Mommy and Me group. We had a park day, which was actually fun and healthy. Moms sat together on quilts on the grass and talked for hours while our kids played on the now-banned steel playground equipment — a super tall, steep slide, a merry-go-round, and a stagecoach that they could climb into, on top of and jump off of. Sometime during their early childhood years, our city tore out the dated, dangerous equipment and put in rubber ground and safe equipment. My kids never liked to play on the brightly-colored equipment and our park play-dates vanished.images

One day, I got a phone call from a friend. She homeschooled her daughter and hand-picked her friends for a weekly Friday Play-Date. She hired a teacher to run play-group, and each week included a lesson, a theme, craft and snack, followed by 10 minutes of unsupervised play on her backyard swing set.imgres-1

I felt honored to be in the select group. My kids had made their mark. Months later, she took me to lunch at CPK and told me she had some big news. She was uninviting one of the boys. I hardly saw this is earth shattering, but perhaps there was more to this luncheon. Maybe it was a warning!

imgresYears later, when my kids were in high school, they reconnected with friends from play-group. NOTE: This wasn’t just a play-date, it was play-group. They remembered it as if they were fellow Mouseketeers, having survived a bizarre childhood experience.

By 7th grade, I was homeschooling my daughter. Every Wednesday, I picked up her best friend from school, and brought her to my house to play until her mom got off work. This was another sort of play-date. We moms thought it was an ideal way to keep their friendship going. Since my daughter loved arts and crafts — homeschooling allowed her to try ceramics, mosaics, and quilting — I said that the two girls could do an art project each week.

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But that didn’t happen. I was tired from supervising my daughter’s activities to the half hour, and my daughter just wanted to hang out with her friend. So, I retired to my room and left them alone. After a few weeks, the friend didn’t want to come over anymore. She said she was promised an art activity and she was disappointed that they weren’t doing anything.

That makes me think about our kids and their overly structured lives. I love having quiet time. I hope my kids do, too. We need to unplug, unschedule, and let our kids regain their creativity and inner peace. They need us to leave them alone and let them be kids.DSCN0116