Posted in Homeschooling Corner, My 52 Stories

My First Homeschool Conference

I’m not sure why I didn’t write about this much sooner, but it is still relevant and I hope it might help a homeschooling mama considering whether or not to attend a similar conference. In all of my nine-plus years of homeschooling, I had never attended a homeschool conference until September of last year (2017). I just never took the opportunity until then, but I had always wondered what they were like. Now I know!

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This conference took place at The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee.

This was a Wild + Free conference. I had never heard of Wild + Free before I signed up for this event. My lovely friend, Audria, told me about it and before I knew it we had each booked our tickets, months in advance. I definitely recommend going to something like this with a friend. It makes the whole experience sweeter, plus you can figure things out together. 🙂

The location for this conference was a lot of fun, and it was my first visit to Tennessee so that was exciting, but what I want to focus on is the experience itself: There were dynamic speakers and talented musical performances. The focus was on building one another up. There were hundreds of other homeschooling mamas, from all backgrounds, in attendance. Honestly, it was thrilling to be there because I felt a part of something bigger than myself. I realized that I am not alone on this journey, and that was my biggest take-away.

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The speakers tackled a variety of parenting, family, and homeschooling topics. Some were addressed to the entire group while others took place in what I’d call “workshops” which we chose to attend in smaller groups. Each was motivational, yet realistic. By that I mean that the speakers were down-to-earth and relatable. There was also musical performances which were upbeat and energizing. I came away feeling encouraged and supported in my homeschooling. And that is why I’m glad I seized an opportunity to attend a homeschool conference.

♥ If you homeschool, have you attended a homeschool conference? I’d love to hear about it! Thanks so much for visiting my blog today. ♥

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Posted in Homeschooling Corner

10th Grade Homeschool Curriculum & Schedule


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September is here and for us that means the start of a new homeschool year. We follow the traditional school calendar (September thru May) because of the awesome distance program we use for Marcus’ core subjects.

This school year got off to stressful start because of driver’s ed. Sigh. To avoid dual-enrollment, I put Marcus in a seven-night driver’s ed. course which began last week and just ended last night. It’s a shame he couldn’t have taken the only other summer course which was in June, but that coincided with a youth camp. Honestly, if I’d known it would be this time consuming with the four-hour classes from 5:30 to 9:30pm, and the hours of homework assigned for each class (he basically rewrote the driver’s handbook), I would’ve made him trade his summer camp for driver’s ed. And, he’s still not finished because he has all the driving-with-instructor time to get in. One is scheduled for this afternoon for four hours, another for next Thursday, and then two more need to be scheduled after that.

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The book on the left is for history; the rest are for our own unit study. He’s studying Doctrine & Covenants this year in Seminary.

So, up ’til last night his schedule looked like this-

  • 6:40am wake up, get dressed
  • 7:10am leave for Seminary (20 min. drive + traffic)
  • 7:40-8:30am Seminary (this is a four-year scripture study program for youth)
  • 9:00am breakfast, set up for class
  • 9:30ish-am online American History II (1860-present; live-streamed)
  • 10:25ish-am online Earth Science (live-streamed)
  • 11:25ish-am online English (live-streamed)
  • 12:25ish-pm online precalculus (live-streamed)
  • 1:30pm lunch
  • 2pm-5pm driver’s ed homework (at least two solid hours worth); math or chores as time allows or sometimes we snuck in a quick devotion/scripture study; quick dinner
  • 5:15pm leave for driver’s ed
  • 5:30-9:30pm driver’s ed class (carpool home)
  • 10pm second dinner because he was hungry, even with snacks at driver’s ed
  • 10:30pm shower, brush teeth, get to bed
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English books: The Bronze Bow; The Hiding Place; The Screwtape Letters; The Merchant of Venice. His grammar comes from The Good and the Beautiful.

Driver’s ed. made us feel sorry for the public high school kids taking it. We know two girls in band, and band practice is after school for an hour and a half and then they had driver’s ed for four hours. These girls were at the school from 8:30am to 9:30pm! We were wondering when in the world they found time to do their driver’s ed homework? Or just breathe? We are so glad we homeschool. One morning we skipped Seminary for some much needed extra sleep. We can do that when we need to and to make up the absence, Marcus completes a worksheet the teacher emails him.

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Math book.

I don’t have any science books to show because all the resources will be provided by the teacher.

Aside from the time and stress of driver’s ed, which I realize is both necessary and temporary, we are excited for this homeschool year. Even though I don’t personally teach Marcus’ core subjects, we still make time to do other types of learning together, and I read all of his novels for English with him. But on our own this year we plan to make time for:

  • an early Church history unit study
  • a unit study about C.S. Lewis, including much of his poetry
  • fieldtrips to museums
  • hiking, biking, nature walks
  • art lessons
  • poetry tea time
  • meal planning and dinner prep
  • finishing six merit badges and his Eagle project
  • visiting his dad in Montana at least once a month

♥ Are you homeschooling a teenager this year? Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog today. Are you seeing signs of fall where you live? Here, not so much. Not yet. ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

What is “Real School”?

Marcus and Mom

Marcus and I have just begun our tenth year homeschooling together. 🙂 This week he started a driver’s ed. night course through the public high school. He’s been carpooling with three other teens from our neighborhood. He is the only homeschooler in the group, and maybe the only homeschooler in the driver’s ed. class. One teen in the carpool made it a point to tell Marcus that he does not go to “real school” and that prompted my son to write an informal essay which I’d like to share here-

Something I hear all the time, and something every homeschooler will hear, is that we don’t go to “real school.” This is always annoying to hear so I decided to really figure out what “real school” truly means, and if anyone is actually using this phrase correctly. I have gathered some resources to break down the phrase “real school.”

Let’s define what real means. I am going to use Dictionary.com for these definitions. Under the word real it lists the word genuine. Upon going to the word genuine we find definitions and synonyms such as “origin; not counterfeit; authentic.” Upon delving deeper into the word origin one of the definitions is “something from which anything arises or is derived; source; fountainhead.” In other words something which is real could be anything coming from an original source.

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Cell cake

Let’s define what school means: “A session of such a course” or “the activity or process of learning under instruction” or “a building housing a school.” Sounds like normal public school, right? It’s interesting to think about how parents do teach their children many basics, and that home can be a building, but we will explore this later.

Let’s combine the words real and school together: The origin of process of learning under instruction. And for a bit of a history lesson: Everyone should know that learning has always begun in the home. Since the creation of Adam and Eve, and before public and private schools existed, everything was taught within the family and community. Before private schools, a scholar or teacher was hired to teach a very small group of children.

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Elephant toothpaste experiment

In Thomas S. Monson’s talk Teach the Children, from the October 1997 General Conference, he talks about “parents and grandparents fill(ing) the role of teacher.” Although Monson is talking more about the gospel in the home, this principle of parents teaching in the home can be applied in any and every way.

As for the definition of school as a school house, a home is and has always been a place of learning, and a home can be housed in a building. Home is always where family is and in an article called Home: the Heart of Learning, from an October 2014 Liahona magazine, it says, “All of the Church’s ‘teaching, programs, and activities’ [are] home centered and Church supported. That means our church meetings are meant to support individual and family learning.” Most things in the Church are meant to support learning in the home and not replace it. Of course, home is not the only place we can learn. We can learn anywhere, even outside. I’m not saying public and private schools are bad or wrong, but I do believe there is a better way to do them. I would like to see schools follow the example of the Church and be more home centered.

When someone tells homeschoolers that they do not go to “real school” it implies that homeschooling is fake. But upon looking at the definitions applied here it could actually imply that public school as the “real school” is actually derived from and in fact a counterfeit version of homeschool.

I just finished reading the book Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. As I was pondering “real school” something he said stood out to me: “What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is one right way to proceed with growing up.” Homeschoolers like us know better and we are proving it first hand. ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

My Homeschool Meet and Greet

 

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Poetry tea time display

Last month I felt inspired to offer a homeschool meet and greet in my community. I wanted to give curious parents a chance to meet experienced homeschooling parents, such as myself, so they could see what homeschooling can look like, freely ask questions, learn about a local co-op, and see some of the different curriculum available. And, to be completely honest, I wanted to invite some of my dearest friends, who send their kids to public schools (as I once did mine), to meet other homeschooling parents and hopefully see that we are actually normal (certainly not super-moms).

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I printed out favorite education/homeschool quotes and posted them throughout my entryway and living room.

As soon as I came up with this idea, I mentioned it to several friends in both camps (homeschooling and public schooling) to see if there was even any interest. Everyone was in favor of the idea so that encouraged me to go for it. I then emailed two local homeschooling co-ops in my community and invited them to participate. One said no because they are full, but the other said an enthusiastic yes. 🙂

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Unit study display

I chose to make this event a two-hour open house so it would be informal and relaxed. I chose an evening on a Thursday in May for a few reasons: First, I thought May was perfect timing for the summer months, giving parents time to ponder and plan for the school year ahead. Second, I thought a weeknight would mean dads could join in after work, and also, I wanted to avoid the craziness of the weekend. I chose to host in my own home because it’s homeschooling after all. 😛

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art and music curriculum table

As I was planning this event, I brainstormed ways to bring homeschooling to life. I was already creating a beginning homeschool resource packet, but I wanted something visual to offer besides curriculum samples. That’s when I had a light-bulb moment- I would create four main displays highlighting my favorite aspects of homeschooling: poetry tea time, unit studies, morning baskets (morning time), and read alouds. I just want to mention here, that none of these are requirements for homeschooling, although there are so many benefits to reading aloud to your children! These are just awesome ideas which many families embrace at one time or another in their homeschooling.

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Morning “basket” display

I love to design displays so this did not feel like work to me. I started setting up my displays two days before the event (I could do that because I don’t have littles at home anymore). Another visual I added to the walls were photos of our homeschooling in action.

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I put together this morning treasure chest and made it a give-away.

Along with each display and table, I put out info. cards (5×7 index size) for parents to collect if they so wished. I even hole-punched them and provided binder rings to keep them together. Each info. card briefly outlined the concept displayed (such as morning baskets) or listed some popular curriculum choices to consider. In the packet, I included reasons to homeschool, common homeschool myths, Utah homeschool laws, a little blurb about dual-enrollment, and a list of homeschool blogs which I find encouraging.

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Read aloud display

I also provided refreshments and a children’s table. I covered my kitchen table with Kraft paper and set out bowls of Legos, and washable markers and crayons. This was a bit hit with kids of all ages who came along with their parents. For refreshments, I had a fruit tray, veggie tray with ranch dip, cheese and gluten-free crackers (I knew one guest eats gluten-free), and a s’mores bar (individual bowls of Golden Grahams cereal, chocolate chips, mini M&M’s, fruity marshmallows, regular marshmallows, and Teddy Grahams which could be scooped into snack cups).

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I certainly could’ve had more guests, but by my calculations, 13 showed up (five were experienced homeschooling moms) and everyone seemed happy to be there as questions were asked and answered, curriculum handled and discussed, and sad pubic school stories shared. I heard from two different moms that there is a homeschooling growth or “surge” (the exact word one used) happening in our community, and if that is true, I think it’s wonderful. I have been homeschooling my son for nine years now. I wouldn’t trade those days/years for anything. Anyway, I’m calling this event a success. 🙂

♥ Here is something I’ve learned about myself over the 26 years of my marriage- Not only do I enjoy hosting, but no matter how early I start preparing for a gathering, I end up working until the very minute it starts! It’s just the way I roll because I’m such a thorough planner and cleaner. Do you like to plan and host gatherings? How perfect does your home have to be when you have invited guests coming over? Thanks for visiting my blog! ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

Homeschooling the High School Years (Bonus- Using a Distance Program)

This post will complete my series, Homeschooling the High School Years. As in any years with homeschooling, every family’s methods and experiences will differ because every family is unique. I have mentioned that we use an online distance program for most of my son’s courses. I wanted to further explain how this works for us. Even though our distance program has some unique features compared to others out there, I’m sure the general idea and the pros and cons are pretty much the same for homeschoolers who high school this way.

The distance program we use is through a private Latter-day Saint based school called, Liahona Preparatory Academy. We love this program for the following reasons:

  • Our faith is woven into each course. God is welcome and our values and beliefs are embraced and taught. Each teacher is also LDS so our values and beliefs match theirs, and that is important to us because we strive to live our beliefs every day.
  • There is no Common Core, which I am fully against, and no state testing.
  • There is an accredited track, which includes a transcript for college. This makes my job a lot easier as they take care of the transcript for me.
  • They prepare students for the ACT test.
  • It’s homeschool-friendly. By that I mean it’s flexible by offering options to work for each family. Also, there are no classes on Fridays, and there are no worries if we take time off for a vacation or just-because day (there’s no attendance, etc.)
  • Homeschoolers are welcome to visit the school, and attend school events, such as prom and super trips (super trips are summer trips to historical sites, etc.).
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The best part is learning in the comfort of home.

In a nutshell, Liahona offers four high school courses online- English, science, history, and math (there are choices for the math and the other subjects are in a four-year rotation). These classes are actual academy classes which are filmed and streamed LIVE. Students simply log onto a streaming site to watch their classes.

If the student watches live, they have the option to instant-message their teacher throughout class. The teachers are great about answering homeschoolers’ questions and comments on camera. This helps the homeschooled student feel a part of the class. Teachers may also be reached through e-mail.

If the actual class time is inconvenient for the homeschooler, they simply watch these classes recorded, anytime of their choosing. Assignments are submitted through a sharing platform site or by email.

Accredited students take a proctored exam for each class, per semester (so twice a year).

I won’t go into the details here, but there are options for homeschoolers who wish to add additional credits to their transcripts, and to earn a state high school diploma (Utah, in this case).

PROS to using a distance program:

  • Someone else does the planning and teaching for subjects the parent may feel are beyond them. For me, this is math, science and history. I do miss teaching  English, but I still proofread his essays, read his Shakespeare with him, and reinforce what he’s learning.
  • The student gains experience with other teachers. Good preparation for college.
  • The student gains experience with online learning.
  • The student learns how to manage their own education. I’m not saying homeschoolers don’t do this if they are using another method, but in our case, each of my homeschooled teens have taken the reigns of their distance education.
  • If the program is accredited, it looks great on a high school transcript.
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On the Freedom Trail (part of a Liahona super trip), in front of Paul Revere’s midnight ride.

CONS to using a distance program:

  • The curriculum is chosen by the program and there is little parent involvement. This is the flip side of #1 from the other list. I admit, I have struggled with this one. On the other hand, I actually love Liahona’s history and English curriculum, and I still teach my son life skills such as cooking, money management and good work ethic.
  • There is a set calendar, which could be similar to a typical public high school year. For example, Liahona films classes for 32 weeks, beginning in September and ending in May. These classes are Monday through Thursday, with breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring.
  • It could feel like “school at home”. In our case, this is a program offered through a private school so there are public school aspects, such as block time subjects, teachers lecturing while students take notes, etc.
  • There is little person-to-person interaction. Liahona does a good job including homeschoolers in activities such as youth conference, which is held every fall. (Youth conference is a type of camp, featuring uplifting speakers and workshops.) Marcus has also met his distance teachers in person.
  • It could be heavy on the online/screen time. This is the case for us, but we balance it out in various ways. For example, my son does have one class outside our home with peers both public schooled and homeschooled.

♥ Overall, we are very happy with our distance program. Does your homeschooled teen use a distance program? If so, I’d love to hear about it. If you have any questions for me, ask away! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog. Have a wonderful day. ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

Homeschooling the High School Years (Part 5- Student & Parent Advice)

Welcome to part five of a five part series focusing on our experiences homeschooling through the high school years. This series will tackle what high school learning looks like at our house, the benefits of homeschooling the high school years, the curriculum we use (plus activities outside the home), how we prepare for college, and our advice for both the child and the parent.

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When I first started homeschooling my son, he was only 6-years old. Now that he is 15, I look back on those early years and I’m so glad I didn’t treat them the public school way, which is advancing children from grade to grade with a pre-determined set of skills. I’m so glad I let my son have many “school years” full of carefree days, where he learned primarily through play and exploration. We had so much fun together! We spent a lot of time outside on nature walks, observing frogs in their natural habitat, riding bikes, meeting up with friends at parks, etc. We created our own unit studies based on whatever my son was interested in, and we read a lot of fun storybooks together.

No matter where you’re at in your homeschooling journey- the early years, the high school years, or somewhere in between, find enjoyable activities to do together with your child, often.

It’s the time we spend together with our children, at any age, that matters most. Now that Marcus has started his high school years, I’m no longer a part of his formal schooling because his distance teachers have taken that over (so that his classes are accredited), except for offering him encouragement and direction as needed. So, our time together is extra meaningful to me. We continue our bike rides, hikes, and read-alouds, and have added more cooking/baking time, and a lot of discussions.

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One of the reasons we homeschool the high school years, is so our teens can still have a childhood. I know high school life today, and in my humble opinion, it’s crazy busy, high-pressured, and high-stress. A lot of teens play competitive sports. Other teens take college courses to get a jump start on their future, and that’s great, but it’s also a LOT to take on. I’ve seen teens burn out and I’ve seen teens grow up faster than might be healthy for them.

It’s important that teenagers have TIME. They need time that is their own- to relax, to play, to daydream, to create, to sleep, to read for pleasure (not for English class), to be with family, to be with friends… 

Now, for the fun part! I asked Marcus, to give some advice to other teens who might be homeschooled through their high school years:

“First, it is good to realize that school is not the only place to make friends. I have met too many kids who do not want to homeschool just because they think they will never see their friends or never make friends. There are other ways you can make friends- In Canada, I met some really good friends at a park. I have also made friends at church. And if you think you will never see your friends if you aren’t at school, you’re probably not very good friends; just meet up somewhere. It’s not like you really have a ton of time to do whatever you want at school anyways.

When homeschooling, it can be really easy to learn things fast. So, if you want, you can push yourself to go farther faster.

Eat lots of Doritos.

Sleeping in is more fun than public school.”

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I’m going to paraphrase what my daughter, Darcie, now in her early twenties (and in her last year of university as an English major) advises to homeschooled teens:

Don’t pay any attention when other teens say you are “weird” just because you are homeschooled. The truth is, we are all a little weird, whether we are homeschooled or public schooled, and there is nothing wrong with being weird anyway! I liked being homeschooled because I could be myself. My true friends, who were all public schooled, accepted me just the way I was, and when I started homeschooling, I saw them just as much because we made time for each other. They knew I was happier spending my last two years of high school at home. I didn’t miss public high school one bit! I didn’t miss the homework. I didn’t miss the profanity. I didn’t miss the drug solicitations. I didn’t miss the popularity contests. I didn’t miss the lock-downs. So, if you think you are missing out, on prom or anything else, just remember all the things you are not missing.

♥ I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, but it’s not over just yet! Stay tuned for a bonus post where I explain more about the distance program we use and the pros and cons of homeschooling that way. If your teen is homeschooled, I’d love to hear their advice for other homeschooled teens, and as a homeschooling parent, what advice would you give to other homeschooling parents? ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

Homeschooling the High School Years (Part 4- Preparing for College)

Welcome to part four of a five part series focusing on our experiences homeschooling through the high school years. This series will tackle what high school learning looks like at our house, the benefits of homeschooling the high school years, the curriculum we use (plus activities outside the home), how we prepare for college, and our advice for both the child and the parent.

When we first started homeschooling, my husband’s main concern was how our kids would earn high school diplomas so they could get into college. We have since graduated three kids from high school- one the traditional public school route, one the homeschooling route with a state issued diploma, and one the homeschooling route without a state diploma. All three got into the universities of their choice. My daughter, who graduated as a homeschooler (no state diploma), met her university’s requirements for homeschool applicants. In her case, she submitted 18 accredited credits ( I believe only 15 were required) and her ACT scores. She was not required to take a GED.

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Once we let go of the idea that a diploma was necessary to get into college, my daughter was able to have more of a childhood during her teen years.

We have absolutely no experience with scholarships so I don’t have any advice to share in that regard. We did search out scholarships and we tried to apply for financial aid, but everything was denied to us based on my husband’s salary. So, in the end, we paid for tuition ourselves and lowered our costs a bit by having one daughter live at home and attend the state university and having our other two kids attend church universities (BYU). Their part time jobs have covered the cost of books and other incidentals, and my son was able to pay his own apartment rent. We do hope that our youngest son can earn a scholarship if we do some things differently, but that’s a post for another day.

However, what I can share with you is that a state high school diploma is not necessary to get into college, and taking that pressure off of my youngest daughter was the best choice for her. I believe our teens need responsibility for sure, but I also believe we put too much pressure on them. They are still kids! Here in Utah, we have one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the nation. Isn’t that sad and scary?

 

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Marissa spent part of her high school years in Peru, and Darcie took a year off between graduating high school and starting college to volunteer at an orphanage in Lima.

I also have no experience creating a high school transcript, and that is because the online private school we use, Liahona Preparatory Academy, does that for us. I think I’ll include a bonus post in this series to further explain Liahona’s distance program.

Having three children with college experience, I know the basic skills I taught them at home have come in handy. These skills include: time management, organization, balance of work and play, frugality, proper cleaning (dishes, bathrooms, floors, laundry), money management, and basic cooking. I know I wasn’t taught most of these skills at school so I’m glad my kids have had more time at home to learn these by parent example and teaching.

♥ My girls felt well prepared for college life as homeschoolers. For example, they had already been managing their own time schedules quite well. Unlike public high school, college classes are not neatly held back to back, and in one long block of time. Every college student has their own unique class schedule, and most classes are held two or three times a week instead of every day. Classes are held anywhere from early morning hours to evening hours. Mondays usually look very different from Tuesdays. Etc. Also, they were used to being around people of all ages and backgrounds. They always found it funny when people would suggest that college would be this huge adjustment for a homeschooler, when the reality is that college life doesn’t resemble public high school much at all! ♥ Thanks for reading! ♥