Suddenly homeschooling? Here are some tips and links to help you out. Sorry, I can’t send wine.

If you are a parent whose children attend public or private school and now they are suddenly home you may be panicking a little. That panic may be because you know they are going to drive you crazy, or it may be because you are afraid they are going to fall behind on their lessons. Either way, you’re feeling the stress right now.

Welcome to the world of this already homeschooling mom. *wink*

Seriously, though, stay calm. It’s not as hard as you think.

Maybe your child’s teacher has already given you lessons, paperwork, etc., but maybe your child has already worked through it or would simply like some supplemental educational resources. Either way, I’ve pulled together some links and advice that might help you feel a little calmer about the situation you’ve been placed in.

Blogger Heather Dawn from Every Small Voice had some great advice about this on Friday, actually, so make sure to check out her post as well. 

One of the most important lessons I have learned from homeschooling is something Heather mentioned on her blog as well and that is that homeschooling is not going to look or act like public school and that is okay.

As I told a friend this week: The issue is that a lot of parents think homeschooling has to be exactly like public school, in that the kids have to be sitting in a class for six hours at a time. That’s not the case. Kids aren’t even in instruction time all day at school. They have recess and lunch and study hall and getting on and off buses and by the time they are done they really have only had 2-3 hours of instruction time, perhaps a little more as they get older.

Also, with younger children, everyday activities can be a chance for learning. For example, when my daughter wants to play a game or watch something on my phone she has to type in my passcode and has been learning her numbers that way. If she wants to watch one of her kid-friendly shows on YouTube, she and I search for it together, which helps her practice her letters.

On Friday my daughter and I were outside drawing with sidewalk chalk and she was practicing writing her letters at the same time.  Homeschooling creates many hands-on situations like this for every age.

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DSC_8912Unlike what some may think, homeschooling families do not simply sit at home playing video games, though they probably have more time to do that than some students since they don’t have homework. They do all of their work during lessons, which means homework is completely unnecessary. 

And speaking of lessons, some students are self-sufficient when it comes to their lessons and assignments and some students require the parent to be more of a teacher to them. Every age group and student is different. Our family has set curriculum that I research prior to each school year, but we also supplement with a number of resources, both written and digital.

We currently use America the Beautiful for our social studies; Apologia for our Science; CTC Math for math; Saxon Grammar and Writing for part of English and we read books through America the Beautiful and on our own for English.

For my 5-year old we use The Good and the Beautiful.

I won’t lie that we have been pretty thrilled with the free resources popping up for parents who have been flung suddenly into a homeschooling situation so I want to share some of the links I’ve found that have popped up recently, as well as resources we use in our regular homeschooling lessons.

So far, we have enjoyed Mo Willems, who is the current Kennedy Center Artist in Residence (literally), and is offering an art demonstration and lesson for young children every weekend day at 1 p.m.

Michelle at Blessings By Me mentioned a resource in the comments and I’m adding it here. Supercharged Science will send you science experiments via your email and explanations of the experiments, according to Michelle. Thank you to her for this additional link!

Crash Course offers digital learning on their YouTube channels related to history and science and current events. Their channel is aimed toward older children maybe 12 and up. My son has already been a little more mature than his peers so it’s hard for me to gauge the age that this would be appropriate for accurately. You might just want to watch a couple videos and see if the channel would be right for your student.  We use their videos as supplemental resources for our Social Studies and Science.

Speaking of YouTube, you can find a lot of supplemental videos there for a variety of subjects, but always be sure to vet them and double-check they are from reliable sources. 

Also on YouTube are a few videos from a farmer friend of ours. It’s good for students to understand the importance of farmers, especially right now when people are panicking about a possible lack of food. Mark creates videos to educate children and others about dairy farming. I don’t know how he even has time with all the work he has on the farm! My 5-year old really enjoyed this one.

I also saw a blog post from Cornerstone Confessions that shared a huge list of online activities to support music education.

I’m barely on Facebook, but I did happen to catch a very extensive list of sites offering either virtual tours of museums and zoos or other educational opportunities. The sites range from offering ways to learn about art, history, culture, and music and other academics to simply offering ideas for child-related activities. FYI: not all these sites or activities are free.

 

Have any tips of your own for parents who are “suddenly homeschooling”? Or links to blog or sites that do? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave links (I’ll check my spam in case any of them get kicked in there.)

 

How homeschooling has made life easier and less stressful. Well, sometimes anyhow.

Homeschooling is not something I would recommend for the faint of heart yet here we are only two more weeks away from another year of homeschooling beginning and I, one of the most anxiety-ridden people I know, is looking forward to it, though I’m sure my 12-year old son is not.

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Photo by Lisa R. Howeler (available on Lightstock.)

Last year was a bit of a bumpy ride when it came to a routine but this year I at least have a tentative plan for a routine and for lessons. I also have a better handle on the curriculum for this school year – in some ways at least. I don’t feel as panicked about curriculum as I did last year but like last year I am concerned about how we will pay for it all. Truth be told you don’t have to spend a lot to homeschool, but I’m a stickler for getting the best curriculum I can.

Luckily I snagged our history curriculum on eBay and there are other sites where you can purchase high quality used books or sets. Last year my brother, who is a librarian (and a blogger. You can find him at Still An Unfinished Person.), had some curriculum dropped off for the library’s book sale and he snagged it up for me, not knowing that part of it was what I needed to complete my son’s science unit for this year. Actually, that particular curriculum is geared toward eighth or ninth graders and my son will be in seventh this year, but he’s very quick with subjects that interest him and science does interest him. The only subject that doesn’t interest him is math, something I hope to remedy at some point.

I also think I’ll be using a Language Arts curriculum I picked up last year but thought was too confusing and advanced for him at the time. There is one other place we don’t have to spend extra money. Yeah! I really want a grammar and spelling curriculum this year, which adds to the budget but is much needed (probably for me too! Ha!)

My daughter’s birthday is actually after the cutoff to go to Kindergarten, but she’ll be five this year so we are stepping up her education and I hope to be able to pick up a full PreK and Kindergarten curriculum for her to add on to what she already knows.

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Photo by Lisa R. Howeler (available on Lightstock).

Despite the extra costs that homeschooling can bring when it comes to curriculum, I truly feel homeschooling has been a blessing and perfect fit for our family in this season. For one, my son, daughter and I can visit my parents whenever we want, no longer having to work around my son’s school schedule. We simply take school with us. Last year my son also spent some days and nights with his grandparents and his grandfather taught him how to build things, pour concrete, repair tombstones, weed, and flatten the ground to prepare for a pool. The lessons he learns at his grandparents are well beyond the scope traditional education would provide for him and I love that.

Another aspect I enjoy about homeschooling is that I no longer dread the end of August, knowing it will be a crazy rush of trying to buy school supplies and back to school clothes and pay for books and tuition. I also no longer have to dread my son being gone all day long. I’m one of those weird parents who actually likes having him home with me and being able to interact with him throughout the day and the school year. I know that before too long he’ll be grown and out of the house and I’ll miss those moments together.

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Photo by Lisa R. Howeler (available on Lightstock)

Lest you think my “poor unsocialized” kid and I are attached at the hip,  however, we are involved with a local homeschooling group to encourage interaction with other children of various ages and also make sure my son spends time away from me so neither of us contemplates running away from home, screaming and arms flailing.

Just because I like having him home with me during the week, doesn’t mean I never let him have a life away from me. I don’t know why I’m desperately trying to clarify that my son isn’t unsocialized, but it’s probably because I’ve heard the weirdest ideas about the lack of socialization of homeschooled children. There are some people that seem to believe that homeschooled children don’t ever have interaction with other humans and are being held hostage by their parents in a dark room with only a tiny light to do their school work.

Actually, maybe our children are being held hostage by us in some ways since we make them actually learn during the day, often without the breaks for recess or study hall that traditional school allows for. Poor kids. Ha. But they are definitely socialized – either by joining with other homeschoolers in a type of co-op or by interacting with adults when their parents drag them to stores, the mechanics, church, or doctor’s appointments. My son has developed a bit of social anxiety, but I don’t attribute that to homeschooling, I attribute it to a bad experience he had in traditional school and also the fact he’s a preteen (for two more months anyhow) and that’s a natural stage for preteens.

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Look…he’s being social with other homeschoolers. Just look at them all. Ha!

 

Incidentally, many homeschool students are able to complete their work in about four hours and devote the rest of their day to other educational or life skills related activities, including socialization. The reduced hours my son was “in school” during our first year of homeschooling last year was actually disconcerting to my husband until I pointed out that our son doesn’t have to wait for other students to catch up before he moves to another lesson, doesn’t have to wait in homeroom, doesn’t need a 45 minute lunch break, doesn’t get recess or study hall and his extracurricular activities are simply included in everyday activities.

This isn’t to say that these activities held in a traditional school are wrong or not appropriate. Not at all. They have their place and reasons. I’m just explaining that may be why a homeschooling student doesn’t seem to be in school “as much” as a “traditional student” (for lack of a better word).

There are many other benefits to homeschooling, for our family anyhow, and among them is no longer having to buy our son an entirely new wardrobe at the beginning of each school year. At his previous school, he was required to wear polo shirts every day and on Friday he had to wear dress shirts, khakis, dress shoes, and a tie. We needed to budget for those expenses, in addition to the cost of books and tuition, every summer. Also eliminated from the budget are the various lunch items. We no longer need to pack sandwiches and snacks or provide money for a snack card. Instead, he makes himself a sandwich for lunch or I cook him leftovers.

The grocery budget may have increased in some ways since my son procrastinates from work by declaring he needs a snack every couple of hours. Last year I finally told him he could eat his snacks while working and that cut down on the procrastination at least. We will see if it helps with the grocery bill at all this year.

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Photo by Lisa R. Howeler (available on Lightstock).

One other benefit of homeschooling I’ve discovered is that I can learn along with my son. The fact I am learning things I never learned in public school or college has made me more aware that maybe my education wasn’t what I thought it was, or maybe I was simply in a total tachycardia related fog all through high school and a sleep-deprived haze in college. I don’t know, but homeschooling my son has made me feel like I still have a lot to learn about history, especially.

In addition to me having the chance to learn more about a subject, my son also can spend more time on a particular subject or unit if it interests him. We can take the time to really focus on what he is interested in and expand on lessons, while making sure he still learns his other subjects. Often in his other school they had to end a unit or simply “never got to it” and then the next year they’d start back at the beginning of a subject, so to speak, and still never progress past certain points in the subject, especially when it came to history.

I can’t tell you how many times the beginning of the year would start learning about the pioneer days, end with the Revolutionary War and then repeat the next year. It was the same when I was in public school. I swear we never learned past the Civil War when I was in school, so by the time I graduated I knew very little about history beyond the Civil War. At least I knew all there was about Pennsylvania history, though.

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I’m sure I’ll update my homeschooling journey on here throughout the year and hopefully, it won’t be a tearful post, asking questions like “what was I thinking???”

 

Tell Me More About … Debby Frisk, Mom and homeschooling parent

Debby Frisk is a homeschooling mom from Athens, Pa. She is also simply a mom who cares about her children. She encourages other parents who want to homeschool their children, for various reasons, but don’t believe they can.  I asked her if she would tell my readers a little about her journey in homeschooling and offer some advice for parents who might be considering  this style of schooling for their children.


 Photos by Lisa R. Howeler
Photos by Lisa R. Howeler

Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, your family, your interests.
My name is Deb Frisk, married to Tim Frisk for 25 years, with 2 daughters, Elizabeth age 19, and Leah age 16.  I’m originally from Ellwood City, PA.  We moved to Bradford County upon finishing college.  I enjoy reading, puzzles and games of all varieties, watching musicals, going on walks, cats, and spending time with my family.

What careers have you held or do you hold now?
I was hired by Towanda Area School district in 1992 to teach math and work with the deaf and hard of hearing students in the district.  I worked there for 6 years before starting our family.  Since then I’ve mainly been raising our children and homeschooling, but have worked for short times as a sign language instructor and for Early Intervention. 

You are a homeschooling mom. How did you get involved in homeschooling?
Homeschooling was always on our radar as an educational option even before we had kids.  Because I have a teaching degree, I was asked to perform homeschool evaluations for a few homeschooling friends of ours.  I was impressed with the quality curricula that is available to homeschoolers and with the character and academic excellence I saw in the homeschooled children that I met. 

When our first child was diagnosed with autism, we were strongly encouraged to enroll her in school to help with socialization.  We listened to the experts and put her in a year of private preschool and a year of public school for K-4.  Although she had fabulous teachers and aides in both places, it was obvious to us and her teachers that school was not a suitable environment for her to learn, so the decision was made to bring her home for kindergarten. 

We first enrolled her in a cyber charter school, which is public school done in the comfort of your own home.  This worked well for us for several years, but whens he reached middle school, it became cumbersome to jump through all of the hoops that the school set before us and the decision was made to begin pure homeschooling. 

What is your advice to parents who are considering homeschooling?
I have a lot to say to people who are considering homeschooling.  The first thing is that you CAN do it.  You do not need a teaching degree to be a good teacher to your own children.  Research has shown that parents without a teaching degree are just as successful as those with one. 
The next important thing to know is that there is no one right way to homeschool.  It looks different for every family.  Sometimes it takes a year or two (or three) to figure out what works and doesn’t work for your family.  It’s good to talk to other families and see what they like and what works for them, but trying to copy others will likely make you unhappy.  Do what’s best for your family. 
Next I’d suggest that you try to connect with other homeschoolers.  Some people desire a lot of support others do it all on their own.  There’s no right or wrong amount of connection either, but initially it’s good to talk to others to get ideas and to look at curriculum.  Pennsylvania has an amazing homeschool convention in early June in Lancaster that I strongly recommend. 

It’s a good place to attend seminars on homeschooling, pickup curriculum and examine it, possibly purchase some materials, and begin to network with others who’ve been-there-done-that. 
My personal preference on curriculum is to buy used, sell used.  This keeps cost to a minimum for us.  There are several different places where you can do this — used curriculum sales in your area and online sales being the main ways. 

Do you have suggestions for resources or web sites where parents can learn more about homeschooling?
For PA residents, my favorite resource is askpauline.com
For anyone in the United States, I’d recommend hslda.org
These 2 resources are great for telling you your state’s requirements for getting started and other required record-keeping. 

Many use ebay for curriculum shopping, but my favorite is homeschoolclassifieds.com.  I also use the Facebook group Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace. 

There are probably hundreds or thousands of other quality websites to learn about homeschooling.  I just don’t have specific recommendations.

What does homeschooling look like at your house?
Homeschooling looks different for every family.  Some people do school at home, copying what they’ve experienced in the classroom.  Some people use a variety of materials including textbooks, workbooks, instructional DVDs, computer programs, field trips, hands-on projects and experiments, etc.  While still others  throw out conventional methods of learning and just follow their child(ren)’s interests and explore the world with them.
One thing that we always say about our schooling is that the only subject that’s ever done at a desk or table is handwriting.  Often you’ll find us curled up on the couch or in a bed reading together or alone.  We use clipboards a lot when writing needs to be done. 

We’re pretty eclectic meaning that we use a wide variety of resources for our learning.  I prefer literature based curriculum.  Usually whatever books the girls are reading for literature is related to the same topics they’re reading about in history.  For some subjects my girls rely pretty heavily on traditional textbooks.  In recent years we’ve moved towards instructional DVDs for some high school topics like chemistry and writing.  They’ve both used computer programs for learning foreign languages. 

I have one child who enjoys art, drama, and dance and we use a lot of outside lessons to provide instruction in those areas since that is not my area of strength.  I also should add that what works for one child often is not appropriate for another.  My girls have very different learning styles and strengths.  I’ve often used totally different curriculum to cover the same subject material for them. 

Some people have found that having a schedule is necessary for school work to be completed in their home. We’ve found that our girls work best when they can choose the order of their subjects and when they work on them.  My only rule is that the assigned work needs to get done each day (though exceptions to the rule do happen).  The girls have learned very good time management and planning skills.  For example they’ve learned that it’s not wise to save their hardest subject for late in the day.  One of my children likes to get up and get all of her work done as quickly as possible in order to be free for the rest of the day.  This works really well for her.  My other child does a subject and takes a break, does another, then takes a break.  School takes her all day, but the result is the same at the end of the day and Mom is happy. 

What do you like most and what’s the hardest part about homeschooling?

The answer to these questions is the same —  Time spent with my children.  I love the amount of time that I get to spend with my kids.  I know them inside and out because we spend so much time together.  I love being part of what they’re learning.  We tried public school for a year or two with each of my girls and I really hated not being involved in what they were learning.  I love being able to tie what they’re learning into everyday life, but if you don’t know what they’re learning in school, you’re not able to do that.  I think my absolute favorite part of homeschooling ever was teaching them to read. 
I will be honest though.  As much as I love spending time with my kids, there is never a break.  When they were younger, sometimes they would be the only people I’d see for days at a time.  It’s easier when they’re older and do activities on their own and aren’t always in the house, but the younger years were sometimes tough, but just sometimes.  Mostly the time is a gift and I try to enjoy every moment of it. 
Oh, another perk for us is taking family vacations during the off-season.  The crowds at most places are lowest in September right after all the kids go back to school.  It’s the perfect time for us to hit the road.  The same is true for any kind of activity or field trip.  My kids have never been to Chuck E Cheese on a weekend. 

What misconceptions do you think people have about homeschooling?
The most common thing I hear when I tell someone that we homeschool — “Oh, I’m not against homeschooling or anything, but I just worry about socialization.”
There are always exceptions, but I think it’s fair to say that most homeschoolers are better socialized then their public school counterparts.  Most homeschoolers joke that we don’t know why it’s called home schooling because it sometimes feels like we’re never home.  First of all, because we spend so much time with our kids, homeschool parents have lots of opportunities to train them on how to interact with people.  Homeschooled kids as a group are extremely respectful and courteous.  We attend a lot of group events (like roller skating, bowling, play practice, science fairs, and field trips) with other homeschoolers. 

This gives our kids a chance to interact with other kids, but not just their age peers; they become comfortable with kids of all ages.  Our kids spend more time in their communities than their public school peers.  They go with their parents EVERYWHERE.  They go shopping with us, to the dentist, to the post office, the gas station, you name it.  They become very proficient and comfortable interacting with adults, not just other children at a young age.  And like public school kids, you’ll find us participating in other things in our communities such as soccer, swimming, Little League, dance class, art class, piano lessons and recitals, etc.