Friday, June 26, 2009

Preparing to Homeschool

by Linda Schrock Taylor

It's that time of year again. Parents are worrying and debating, "Should we let the children return to public school for just one more year?" Parents are refiguring budgets and wondering, "Could we drive the old car another year and put the kids in private school?" Parents are reevaluating long-range financial goals to determine which might be put on the back burner until later; so as to homeschool children who are growing up quickly now. Many parents arrive at the decision to homeschool, but then fail to act upon their decision, fearful of taking 'The Giant Step,' as we called it in our home. Do not be fearful. Act. Your children will be all the better for it, and you will never regret your decision.

Too often parents have believed the official state slogan, "You need to be a certified teacher in order to teach." That is nonsense, and one need only look at the failure of the public school system to see how 'well' those thousands of certified, degreed, experienced administrators and teachers have failed America. That system of 'educated professionals' has hurt the American people so severely that millions of individuals, and our nation, may never recover. America now ranks alongside countries long noted for having unskilled workers, low literacy rates, and the destructive effects of illiteracy: poverty; crime; welfare; gangs; illegitimacy; large prison populations; industry and manufacturing moving to countries where literate workers can read orders, blueprints, and manuals for operating high-tech production machinery. Mexican workers have a 90% literacy rate; American workers have about a 70% literacy rate. Eventually, Mexico may have to close its borders against Americans sneaking in to find work.

Certainly loving, committed parents can educate their children better than the State is doing. Children being homeschooled by parents who are focused; who willingly sit and learn with their children; who mediate experiences and information; are far better off than the children in most public schools in America. However, children who are being kept home from school by parents who lack plans, goals, and a commitment to truly educate their children, are better off in school where, hopefully, they will have a few good teachers and come away with something.

Parents do not need to "know everything" in order to homeschool. I have a master's degree and I certainly could not begin to teach my son everything that he needs, and I want for him, to know. Luckily the world is full of books, videos, and websites on every topic. Help is available for those who honestly seek it. Bring your children home, but do it with forethought, planning, and a commitment to provide the best education possible. Homeschooling is hard work, but it is most rewarding.

There are some things that you do need to know as you begin homeschooling: Know Your State Homeschooling Laws; Know Yourself; Know Your Child; Know What you Want Your Child to Learn; Know Your Timeframe; Know That the First Two Years Will Be the Roughest; Know that Reading must be the Number One focus; Know That It Is OK To Be Flexible.

Know the homeschooling laws in your state, and learn as much as possible about homeschooling. As a first step, visit the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website and learn the laws for your state. If you must file paperwork with the state, call the homeschooling office at your state department of education, and ask to be sent a homeschooling packet. Read it carefully for some states, like Michigan, require that you check a certain box stating that you sincerely believe that your children do not need certified teachers. Otherwise, the state expects that a certified teacher be involved in your homeschooling. Also, do not forget to tap into resources within your circle of family and friends. Maybe a relative is a retired certified teacher and would enjoy teaching some French lessons; a neighbor might be willing to act as consultant and advise on materials and lesson plans. Be innovative in finding help and support. Check for a homeschooling group in your area to join. Some of those groups are so large that they have orchestras and offer courses for the more difficult high school classes.

While at HSLDA, read a variety of articles so you can better understand the rights, and the responsibilities, of homeschooling. When you decide to homeschool, consider joining that association. The knowledge that you have immediate access to lawyers and advice is invaluable and especially reassuring to families as they begin this new venture. As protection against a day when the state might decide to interfere with our homeschooling, we keep every paper; every workbook that David completes. At the end of each school year, I bundle everything into a brown expanding file, label with grade level and year, and store. If I am ever questioned about whether I 'really' provide him with schooling, I can rent a hand truck and wheel the tall stack out for all to see.

Know yourself and your spouse. Communicate with your spouse to assess the commitment, skills and goals of your team. If the mother is strong in language and reading, but feels shaky with the math and science, plan educational schedules so that both parents can participate. No bus will pick your child up at 7:30 AM, and you don't have to run your homeschool as a typical public school day. You may choose to, as an aid to developing structure and accomplishment of goals, but you do not have to 'be in session' from 8:00–3:30. We homeschool four long days, then David has Friday off because he and his father have jobs in the meat department of a small town general store. Sometimes we have English classes on the weekends when I am more available to work with writing assignments. Flexibility is important, even in choosing or discarding materials. If you chose something that simply is not working, chuck it and find something that does; change the schedule; cut or increase the workload. YOU are the teacher, the principal, the superintendent and the school board. You make the decisions. Be flexible as you meet the needs of your children, yourselves and your household.

Know your child, and understand that you know your child better than any other educator. For example, if you know that your child hates early mornings, you adapt for that, plan schooling around it, and maintain an environment conducive to learning. David gets up just about the time that the bus he used to ride passes the house. With book in hand, he eats a leisurely breakfast while reading his literature assignment. After a relaxed beginning to his day, he feels more ready for pencil and paper assignments. You can be flexible and still complete the lessons plans that you wish to accomplish.

For the complete article, click HERE.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Emmanuel Books ~ God IS with them!

Who knows how long I was on the phone with Paola?

What I do know is that I came off happy, relieved and confidant in what curriculum choices to make for next year. She remembered the names of my children, their ages and interests. How many times have I heard other homeschoolers say the same.

Where else will someone talk through every decision and give you such pertinent advice on curriculum? Their catalog reads like a homeschooling manual, with descriptions like no other vendor.

This year has been hard on many financially, us included. When the coupons came from places that undercut Emmanuel Books, I asked my husband if he felt we should go that route and save some money? Knowing that I consistently talk to Paola who always has time for me and experienced advice with each item in her catalog, he said no. I was relieved. We both feel it is important to support this small, Catholic, family business!

The quality of what they offer has a price to us.

What they stand for has a price to us.

We remain grateful for Emmanuel Books and the time and care for homeschoolers that the Ciscanik family provides! That family embodies exceptional service in building relationships with their customers!

May God continue to bless them.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fordham Univ. Professor of Philosophy on Homeschooling

Dr. William Marra on Home Schooling

The late Dr. William Marra, a philosophy professor at Fordham University for many years, gave numerous speeches at Catholic conferences, including homeschooling conferences. He homeschooled his own children. Dr. Marra passed away on December 12, 1998, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to whom he had a great devotion. The following is a brief part of a speech he gave in Toronto in 1993. May he rest in peace.

In homeschooling, aim at certain academic excellence. I claim that is the bonus that is always thrown in. If you seek first to defer harm, if secondly you permeate the situation with a Catholic atmosphere, the easiest part is the academic subjects.

Those few people who are destined to be the cultural leaders will have a far better preparation homeschooled than they will going to the most prestigious, expensive private school around.
The moment a child is four or five, don’t let him go to the government schools. That is when the most damage is done to Faith, reason, intelligence, and everything else.

If you keep them home for at least eight years of schooling, and hopefully for four or five more years, by that time they can even survive Fordham or Notre Dame. They can survive anything! The main thing is to protect the innocence of young people.

There are about six or seven small Catholic colleges in the United States. Home schooled children going to places like Christendom, Thomas More, Magdalen, Thomas Aquinas, Steubenville—they are the hope.

These will be the serious Catholic parents and the serious Catholic citizens. Those who want to be cultural leaders will need a college education. College is the easy part. Grade school and high school are the hardest parts.

Where there is a Catholic culture, it is founded on Catholic truth. However, this no longer exists except in a few pockets. Quebec probably was that way fifty years ago. Where one sees the churches, the streets named after saints, there once was the wonderful sense of the French Catholicism. Large families abounded and no one begrudged a new baby coming in the world. A new baby was celebrated. Of course there were problems, but there was a sense of the Catholic adventure of life.

When culture is a cause, anytime a given culture exists, you don’t need formal education in anything. The citizens of that culture, from the babe in arms up to the oldest man, everyone will gain strength and light and solidarity as it were, through a spiritual osmosis: the very stones of the street, the very stations of the cross at the crosswalks, the very names of the cities, the very fact that we say “on St. Michael’s Day, we are going to do this,” instead of saying “on September 29th.”

When you start using the saints as your chronology, illustrations from the Bible and the lives of the saints, when Joan of Arc is a topic among you, and not some rock star—that is Catholic culture.

The beauty of Catholic culture is that the more you practice it, you don’t have to articulate your Faith—you live it. That is where we get the great treasures of our culture, like music, the fine arts, architecture, without any great effort on our part, because this always accompanies Catholic culture when it is authentic.

Catholic culture is the cause of the wonderful harmony and the high level of civilization that has been enjoyed in the past. There is no such culture today.

Today we are having these small homeschools. Because there is no Catholic culture, Catholic culture has to become the effect. Thanks to Christ-centered homeschooling, these children, born into this barren culture, will be the future heroes. These heroes will have a dedication to Truth.
These homeschooled heroes will understand who is Christ, what is Truth, what is the Church, what are the enemies of the Church.

Some of these heroes are going to swear a vow to be holy, and they will mean it. These home schooled heroes will reject our secular materialistic world and all its vices. These homeschooled heroes will understand that life on earth is a pilgrimage. Some of these home schooled heroes will be dedicated to a zealous pursuit of the Truth, no matter what it costs them in study, dispute, or controversy.

Because of their dedication and formation in homeschooling, these parents will give us the young people who will be the heroes of sanctity in the first place, and the heroes of Catholic culture in the second place.

It is these homeschooled heroes who will make the cultural barren desert bloom once again.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Delmarva homeschooling in the news

June 7, 2009
Home schooling on the rise
By Candice Evans - Staff Writer

SALISBURY -- When Amy Miller finished her final year at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts, the eighth-grader asked her mother if she could be home-schooled.
"It was a little scary at first because she's a really good student and I didn't want her to fall behind," said Amy's mother, Nancy Miller, who began home schooling her 15-year-old daughter about a year ago.

Characterized as an "artistic student" by her mother, Amy decided not to attend a public or private high school because home schooling allowed for more flexibility in her daily schedule. Now, the Laurel resident can devote more attention to the performing arts, while "staying on track" academically in all subjects. "It's been an awesome experience," Nancy, 50, added.
Plus, Amy's choice isn't all that unusual. Every year, the number of home-schoolers continues to rise across the country.

As of spring 2007, an estimated 1.5 million, or 2.9 percent of all school-age children in the U.S., were home-schooled, up from 1.7 percent in 1999, according to new figures from the U.S. Department of Education.

"Home schooling has been growing every year since 1980," said Manfred Smith, the founder and president of the Maryland Home Education Association based in Columbia, Md. "Currently, there are about 26,000 kids home schooling in the state." Ten years ago, the number of home-schoolers landed in the 15,000 range, Smith said.
Why the change?

The new federal government annual report, "The Condition of Education," found that 36 percent of parents said their most important reason for home schooling was to provide "religious or moral instruction"; 21 percent cited concerns about school environment; 17 percent cited "dissatisfaction with academic instruction"; and 14 percent cited "other reasons," including family time, finances, travel and distance.

Either way, Brian D. Ray, president of National Home Education Research Institute, said the switch to a home-school education is not an easy decision for most parents. "Each type of schooling has its benefits and drawbacks," said Rebecca Jones, co-administrator of the Hand and Hand Homeschoolers group that uses the Internet to connect more than 30 families in Sussex County. "Parents need to decide what fits their child best of all." And sometimes, it takes a while to figure out the ideal academic setting for a student. For example, Jones' oldest son, now 16, attended public and private school prior to home schooling. "If the child is having problems, you can stop and go over it until they grasp that concept," said Jones, 42, whose son had difficulty focusing in the classroom. "That's quality of education instead of quantity."

Right now, Jones' three younger children also learn from home. But she always gives them the option of ending their home-school education each year. As it turns out, the high school prom wasn't enough for her son to give it up. The home schooling online network has allowed him to make new friends, take field trips, play on athletic teams and participate in group activities with other families.

"Is home schooling easy? No," Jones said. "But we teach our children out of love and commitment to their education." Even though Mckenzie Conley earned her diploma in a nontraditional environment, the Salisbury resident, like most high school seniors, is heading to college in the fall.

"We didn't like some of the influences my girls were being exposed to in the public schools," said McKenzie's mother, Cherry Conley, who has been home schooling her children for the last 10 years. Another Delmarva mom, Rita Clucas, started home schooling her oldest son after he completed kindergarten in the public school system.

"He wasn't getting the education we had hoped for and we weren't impressed with what we saw coming home with our son," said Clucas, the mother of four children, who range in age from 2 to 14. "We thought he would do better being around his family, to pass on our values."

Other parents like Nancy Miller say home schooling offers a chance to develop a closer relationship with their children.

"I wanted the extra time with Amy before she grew up and went away," Nancy said.