Thursday, November 25, 2010


  • I am thankful I live in a country where homeschooling is legal.
  • I am thankful I live in a state where the paperwork side of homeschooling is minimal.
  • I am thankful I live in a house with a husband who fully supports me in homeschooling our boys.
  • I am thankful my boys understand that homeschooling is something to be thankful for.

I never knew I would grow up to be a homeschooling mom. I had big plans for myself. I was going to go to school, get a degree in biology, and change the world. Funny how things change....

If you are a parent considering homeschooling your children and never dreamed you would be even thinking about something as crazy as this... you are not alone. Many of the homeschooling parents I come across out here in the virtual world fell into this lifestyle. They had big plans. They were DOING things. But suddenly, someone needed them more.

That's why I love what I do. I may not have gone to college and gotten that degree. But I AM changing the world.

I am changing the world for my two boys...and I am thankful for that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


According to PA homeschooling regulations, all home schooled children must put together a portfolio and be evaluated for "progress in the overall program" every year. In order to be evaluated, you need an evaluator. We found our evaluator through a friend of a friend. I had a quick phone conversation with our evaluator when we first decided to break from the cyber school. Since then, I sent her a question or two via email. She seemed to share my attitude towards education, so I felt very comfortable with her from the start.

Because JT is considered a 5th grader this year, part of the homeschooling regulations require that he undergo standardized testing. In Pennsylvania, 3rd, 5th and 8th graders must do this when homeschooling. Parents can choose from a list of tests. They can be administered by just about anyone, except the child's own parents. It's even okay for siblings to do the job! Our evaluator offers testing services for a very reasonable fee, so we chose that route. Monday was JT's testing day.

When we first arrived at her home, EM was carrying a Far Side book under his arm. She immediately noticed it and said, "Wonderful choice of reading material!" That was when we knew she was perfect for us!

I had received a letter from our school district about a month ago, laying out my responsibilities in the homeschooling process. Since I was already familiar with homeschooling regs, I felt that some of their statements weren't quite on the money. I showed the letter to the evaluator. She asked if she could write on the letter. After I gave her permission, she proceeded to cross off their incorrect statements and add references to the homeschooling regulations in the margins. She even corrected the grammar in the letter. My kind of woman!

Testing was a smooth process. JT did a wonderful job. Our evaluator uses the Woodcock Johnson Achievement test. I prefer the out of level testing to the typical PSSAs given in our state. When you have a child that consistently works above grade level...on level tests tell you nothing about their progress. With this test, I was able to see where his strengths and relative weaknesses lie.

I am looking forward to working with our evaluator in the future. When the end of the year comes, the boys will each have an interview time with her. She told me that she likes the portfolio review to be a time where she can ask the mom about the child's progress and allow the child to hear praise for themselves from their parent. She's not worried about the minute details of our day to day lives. She wants to know what they love about learning, what they found most exciting about their year and what a great student they have been. No need for letter grades here...just praise and encouragement for our learning adventure.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


If you are squeamish about certain parts of biology instruction, no need to fear! This post is about the dissection of an ancient calculating beast, not a once living animal. An old Packard Bell computer met its demise in our library this week.

My husband is a computer geek. Because of this, people regularly ask him if he wants their old computers. Sometimes he can use the parts and sometimes they end up in the recycle pile in my storage room. This particular specimen was heading straight to the pile when he had the terrific idea to let the boys take it apart all by themselves. In the past, he has shown them the insides of computers, but never allowed them to get their hands in the 'guts'. Once he came up with the plan, he told them they would be doing a dissection this week, but he couldn't tell them what they would be dissecting. JT guessed the obvious...frogs, bugs, cats....CATS?! He was actually a bit disappointed that it wasn't something more gory. When we are ready to take that step, I plan to reference this excellent dissection post by Lisa over at The Joy of Learning. For now, we'll stick with the metal and plastic versions.

Dad placed the subject on the library table and handed the 'scalpel' a.k.a screwdriver, to JT. As they removed parts, my husband identified each component and explained its purpose. He also told them how many of these parts would not be found in a current computer. This gave them opportunity to see how quickly PC technology is advancing. As the parts came out, the boys made labels and attached them. The process only took them about an hour from start to finish. But EM, my hands on learner, was loving every minute!

When the boys went to bed, we removed the sticky labels and lined them all up. The next day each of the boys had to re-label all of the parts. They were both 100% successful.

Applicable, technical learning is so rarely taught before the option might be presented at the high school level. I believe so many hands on learners are sitting in school never knowing they would like learning if only they were given a chance to learn in their own language. I'm striving to offer a multi-lingual environment here in our home.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Answer Keys

When I first started homeschooling JT, I could check his work without the use of answer keys. I very rarely needed to even use a calculator for the math he was doing. As the boys have moved further along in their studies I started needing occasional help from the answer keys. Most of the time, it was only a matter of convenience. I just didn't feel like doing the math for 30 long division problems.

But now we have a dilemma. Occasionally we are working on something where I don't know the answer AND I don't have an answer key! JT is using an older English textbook for grammar this year. It was published in 1984. I picked it up in the free pile at our public library. Yesterday I asked him to work on an exercise to place quotation marks in sentences correctly. When he was finished, I realized I wasn't 100% sure about the answer for one of the sentences. This was quickly remedied when I read the instruction section of that lesson. However, it opened my eyes to a larger problem. Will I need to buy materials that come with answer keys from now on?

I have enjoyed the freedom of picking up books from various sources; discard piles at the library, yard sales, used book stores. Up until now, I hadn't thought about what would happen when we ran into material that wasn't second nature for me. I always assumed my husband could conquer any math problems we ran into. (He WAS a math major in college for a bit, after all.) But what about the other subjects? Should I have to learn everything my children are learning and master it well enough to be able to find their mistakes?

This brought on a whole new line of thought for me...If I, as an adult, haven't needed to know the things I am expecting them to they really need these skills? Should I instead be focusing more on things they are passionate about? Obviously, I want them to develop their communication skills. A quick refresher course on grammar rules I haven't thought about in 25 years should be sufficient for those matters. But what about the names of the presidents or the capitals of the states or names of the Canadian provinces? Most of this information can be found quickly on the internet. Is there REALLY a need to memorize such easily accessible facts in our modern world? You could argue that the act of memorization, no matter the content being memorized, is a good exercise in and of itself. But what if I can tie that skill into something they love and might really need someday?

I am reading a book right now called The Element by Ken Robinson, Ph.D. Here is an excerpt from a review, quoted on Amazon, by Publishers Weekly:

Robinson (Out of Our Minds), renowned in the areas of creativity development, innovation and human resources, tackles the challenge of determining and pursuing work that is aligned with individual talents and passions to achieve well-being and success. The element is what he identifies as the point where the activities individuals enjoy and are naturally good at come together.

I am looking at how this challenge applies in homeschooling my boys. I want to find their passion and help them develop it in a way that they will succeed in whatever they are best suited to do. Unless their goal in life is to someday make it big on Jeopardy! I think they can live without knowing loads of trivial facts.

My new question will be have to be, where do the long accepted standards of education fit into the goal of finding The Element for each of my children?