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Kickoff to Homeschool Week!

home school kick off with jody sanders from

Before I begin I want to say that I do not advocate a home school vs. public school issue. I have kids in both, so nothing I’m going to say is intended to suggest that I prefer one over the other, or that I believe anyone is a “good” or “bad” parent for choosing one option over the other. I’m answering questions about home schooling and that is that.

As the teacher and parent, will I increase the odds of scarring my kids.


As a home schooling family we do, to an extent, live a little more isolated than other families – not to say that the kids aren’t “socialized”, they are, but I am Momma and teacher and they are with me and each other all day and all night.

You mentioned a teacher who said something that your son interpreted differently than the teacher intended. You, who know that child better than anyone else, can teach him to his personality and abilities, you have the opportunity to use wording and techniques that work for him, an opportunity that doesn’t always arise in a class of 20+ kids.

I see the opportunity to home school my kids not as a risk of scarring them, but as an opportunity to raise them as I feel is best. Rather than worrying about the risk of doing wrong, I relish the opportunity to do right – to teach them to be kind and loving and part of a tight knit family, to focus on their individual talents and assets, to nurture their love of learning through fun projects and field trips.
I do think it’s important to have other supportive people in your life to help you keep yourself and your parenting/teaching balanced. I’m lucky to have my mother and sister to listen to me, offer feedback, and let me know if my latest idea is completely off the wall. A spouse is a perfect person for this task.

Yes, you could (you will) scar your kids for life. But if you’re choosing to home school it’s probably a decision based on love, and that tends to trump the other stuff, guiding you to be a caring, conscientious teacher and parent.

If the kids are home schooled is there time to work on the marriage, work, grocery shop, etc?

Home schooling does require a significant time and energy commitment, there’s no doubt about that. Being your child’s teacher is your full-time job. To an extent, handling personal time is similar to everyone else with a full time job (except you have some flexibility because you can take your kids places). The best part about this full-time job – I chose it, I’m doing exactly what I want to do and not everyone can say that.

Marriage and Self – You have to make time to do things together. Find another home schooling family to swap babysitting with to accommodate date nights. Eat dinner as a family whenever possible. Enjoy a romantic dinner after the kids go to bed. Snuggle on the couch together in the evening while watching a movie. Involve your spouse in home schooling, if he’s interested. Also, make time for yourself. A worn out Momma isn’t going to keep going forever and needs to be refueled – figure out what you need to refuel and make it a priority (for me it’s as easy as hanging out with friends, going camping with the kids, or relaxing at the beach while the kids do their own thing).

Working – During school hours (9-4) the kids come first. Occasionally I’ll get work done, especially if it’s a busy time of year or I have a deadline, but for the most part I’m with the kids, sitting at the kitchen table teaching and checking work (sometimes I get stuff done on the laptop, but hands on stuff is tougher). I do most of my work before 9 am and after 9 pm. Generally, when I do have to work during the day I involve the kids, they learn a bit about running a business but mostly they just fight less if they’re occupied.

Grocery shopping – I’m not a shopper, I don’t find going shopping to be cathartic or relaxing. My kids are now a little older and I can do my shopping in the early morning before school and don’t have to take them with me, I’ll drive the older two to school, run into Sam’s before the store fills up, and be home by 9. In the past I did shop with them, often all six of them – two in the double stroller, two holding the stroller, one in the cart seat (or still in a car seat) and the oldest helping me out, so it certainly can be done.

Is it more expensive to home school?

It’s as expensive as you want it to be. The first few years I spend about $100 per year per child, purchasing books and curriculum. 95% of what I purchased 10-13 years ago is still in use in our home. This year I spent about $20, and I’m home schooling 12 and 10 year olds, as well as a 5 year old preschooler. They simply use the same material their brothers and sisters used before them. If I had unlimited funds I’m sure I could spend more, but the reality is that (1) I don’t have unlimited funds and (2) excess curriculum is just going to be wasted, there are only so many hours in the day and we can’t use it all.When I began home schooling I went to every used book sale and curriculum fair. I bought home schooling materials at garage sales and on eBay. I was lucky enough to have relatives who were teachers and could pass things along to us. One of my favorite resources, which we use all the time, is a writing book I picked up at a curriculum fair for $.50 (and blogged about here). Before spending I asked a lot of questions of other home schoolers, which I still do – especially the kids, finding out what they like and what engages them is often the best way to find out what my kids might like is a great resource for product reviews and home schooling information, presented by home schoolers.
These days you can google anything you need and you’ll find free resources, whether at Khan Academy or the multitudes of home schooling related blogs and websites.
My kids are not extensively involved in activities outside the house, at least not ones to supplement their education (racing sailing and scouts are their primary activities). However, a solid home school co-op or group will offer activities of all different types, and usually will organize a science co-op if that’s an area of interest. Most science projects for elementary and middle school can be done at home with a minimal investment in supplies – in fact we have big books full of science experiments to do with household materials. High school science can also be done at home, the program we purchased was about $300 (it’s not the only one out there, but was what we invested in).
Do you use a co-op? How do you find out about a co-op? Are they age specific?
I do not currently use a co-op. We did the first few years but the majority of activities were a significant distance from our house and budgeting an hour+ of drive time into the activities made it really tough to get our regular work done. We did enjoy the families we met and have remained friends with some but find “going it alone” to be a better fit for us.
To find a co-op in your area google your city or county and “homeschool group” or “co-op”. If that doesn’t produce results contact your school administration office, ours provides a list of area groups.
The groups we’ve found are not age-specific, generally the materials and activities can be adapted to cover a range of ages (as can most stuff, my boys work together on everything but math, even though they are technically two grades apart). I have to say, though, that high school activities are very limited in our area – I think the kids reach an age where they work more independently and are less interested in group teaching.
Curriculum … Oh My Gosh!
Yes, there are a million different choices out there. It is a little crazy. We started simple, by using the same Math my oldest used in first grade (after which we pulled her out of public school), and continued with that math program through high school. Just this year we found a new Algebra program that we love.
Again, I asked lots of questions, looked through books at curriculum sales, and did lots of trial and error (which is a good reason to not buy expensive stuff unless you’re very confident it’ll work for you!).
The most important thing, to me, is to foster curiosity and a love of learning. I want them to crave knowing stuff. I want them to ask questions (even though that drives me nuts by the end of the day) and I want them to reflexively respond to their own questions by searching for answers. If they can do that then I don’t really care if they thrive at Algebra or can tell me what a gerund is (shh … don’t tell them that!).
How do you gauge if you’re doing a good job?
You grade your kid’s work. My kids fix every mistake. I know they understand the material or we don’t move on. I know because I sit there with them and I look at all their work. If they don’t get something I reteach it. Still don’t get it – google and look for answers, worksheets, videos, etc. Still not getting it – backtrack and repeat the few lessons before the one they’re stuck on. Still? – take a break, come back to it in the next day or two, usually they’ve had an epiphany or I’ve come up with a different way to explain it OR maybe this curriculum isn’t working for this child, maybe it isn’t taught in a way that he’s going to be able to understand it, then I google for a new curriculum.
How do you begin home schooling? What are the requirements?The requirements and procedures vary widely by state. I suggest getting in touch with the local school administration to find out what you need to do. To add a child in Florida I just have to send in a form saying I’m home schooling. At the end of the year there are a variety of ways to be reviewed (teacher review, standardized testing, and a few others) and move forward. I opt to have the children reviewed by a certified teacher who examines their work and asks them lots of questions. The criteria to “pass” is to show progress based on their abilities.
Who decides if they’re ready for high school?
High school begins in 9th grade, in Florida kids must turn 14 by September 1. That’s the requirement to get in. There does then become a question of where to place them.
When my oldest went to public high school she was put in remedial classes, because “home schooled kids are always behind”. We immediately demanded that she be put in Honors/AP classes, which she then excelled in.
My second oldest started high school his second semester of freshman year, in a different school than the oldest. The school he (and his younger sister) attend is a small specialized high school on a college campus, with a focus on Honors classes and dual enrollment. As a sophomore he has begun to integrate college classes into his schedule, and his sister will do the same next year. Both of the kids started high school with high school credits because they’d done online high school classes as 7th and 8th graders.
My kids and high school – when we began homeschooling the oldest was starting second grade. It was understood that when high school came around she (and the rest of the kids) could go if they wanted to. My oldest opted to try high school but wasn’t challenged at all and I pulled her back out for a year after the first semester. She went back second semester of sophomore year after we experienced some major family issues and did fine, but will agree that she learned a lot more at home. The next two have also opted to go to high school, and will do strictly dual enrollment (college classes) their junior and senior year. I have no idea yet what the other kids will decide to do.

How do you divide Momma/Teacher?You don’t. You are the parent all the time and you find yourself being the teacher all the time. I do expect my children to listen to me and do their work, (but I’m pretty confident they’d be more respectful of a teacher that wasn’t me). I can give them lots of hugs and call them “sweetie” all day long, but the underlying understanding is that 9-4 is school time and that that is what we do then. As far as consequences … there are rules, like no phone, tv, etc. during school time, if school isn’t done no scouts, no tv in the evening, etc. The kids are given a schedule at the beginning of the week of what has to be done each day, they are given quite a bit of control over their handling of that schedule and what order they do the work in (other than group stuff, we do that first thing in the morning) and how quickly or slowly they want to do it. Some kids are much easier to guide through the day than others, and I’m still learning a lot about discipline and parenting.
How do I handle it “effectively”?
I wouldn’t say I do! I prioritize and I write lists. Kids first, then the rest of it. Having a larger family, with four of them fairly close in age, has always called for a lot of structure and organizing (even though I don’t consider myself structured or organized!). I constantly look for ways to simplify and streamline running the family. The kids are expected to help quite a bit around the house. I am trying to learn to say “no” to outside stuff, but I’m not doing very well with that. There’s a lot of room for improvement around here!
The reality is that this is my/our life and I have to make it work, so I do my best.
My kids are in sailing and scouts, four in sailing and the same four in scouts. The youngest comes along for the ride. I try to limit what they do, but we seem to have something going on almost every afternoon/evening. My rule is that they can each be involved in two things – one physical (sailing) and one mental (scouts). I’m lucky that they’ve all chosen the same thing. I spend a lot of time driving and traveling, and I’m really excited to have a child turn 16. (my oldest, age 20 is a full-time college student living independently)
What curriculum do I use and how do I avoid fads?
My favorite books were written in the 1970’s. They can’t be beat for content, and are held to a much different standard than is used today. For example, the boys are learning sentence diagramming at 10 and 12, yet one of their older sibling’s teacher said it was too hard to teach to high school freshman. That’s how I avoid fads – I like the old stuff best.What we are using:
10 and 12 year olds:
Saxon for math
VideoText Algebra for math
Vocabulary from Classical Roots for spelling
The Stewart English Program (grammar)
Language Exercises (grammar)
creative writing prompts (gathered from all over the internet, we do one per day)
FLVS (Florida Virtual School) for science and history
*I do home school reviews as well, so we are always adding new stuff, some of which sticks (VideoText Algebra), right now the boys are learning Latin
5 year old:
Foundations in English (reading)
Reading Kingdom (reading)
Comprehensive Curriculum (workbooks from Sam’s Club … good for making sure you’re covering all the basics)

What are the first steps to take?
I’d suggest finding a local home school support group or a local home schooling friend. Gather information. Find out your state laws and requirements.
Register, or whatever is required in your state.
If you’re beginning to home school a child who is older – late elementary and up – be prepared for an adjustment period, for all of you but particularly for the child. He’s used to doing things the “school” way and you’ve just told him he’s going to be home schooled. His first reaction may be that excitement that he doesn’t have to go to school anymore, that he gets to hang out at home all day and play, which isn’t the case, but may take a little while for him to grasp. Some kids struggle with the change in routine and curriculum. Some kids don’t want to be home schooled, especially initially. It comes together, but the older the child the more noticeable that transition might be.
Relax. Really, it’s not hard to home school. It’s such a common option these days that support is everywhere – friends, co-ops, groups, the internet.Chances are someone will think you’re doing the wrong thing. Most likely the concept of home schooling is unfamiliar to them, which makes sense given the emphasis on the importance of “real” school and the fact that almost all of us went to “real” school.
Have fun.
Jody Sanders
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