Ohio Homeschoolers Granted Equal Access

Ohio FlagGreat news for those families that homeschool in Ohio. Legislation was just passed that provides “… the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities offered at the district school to which the student otherwise would be assigned during that school year.”

In other words, a student is no longer required to enroll in their local public school system to be able to participate in sports, music, and other extracurricular activities.

Another significant provision of the bill is that homeschoolers can receive funding from the state’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Program (PSEO). This program pays for dual enrollment college courses at participating Ohio institutions of higher learning.

You can read more about the bill, including the text of the legislation, on the Home School Legal Defense Association web site.

Let’s hope that other states take notice and follow suit.

Resources to Assist You

Homeschool Support Resources

Websites:

http://www.home-school.com/ (lists articles, groups, events related to homeschooling)

http://homeschooling.about.com/od/magazines/Magazines_and_Publications.htm (a list of homeschool magazines)

http://www.nathhan.com/index.htm ( homeschooling special needs children)

http://www.homeschool.com/ (has message forums, resource lists, and Podcasts)

Books:

Homeschooling from Scratch (1996)  by Mary Potter Kenyon

Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath-You Can Do This (2004)  by Terrie Lynn Bittner

Educating the Wholehearted Child (2011)  by Sally Clarkson

Audio Books: A Great Way to Forget the Winter Chill

At our house, it has become a tradition to spend the cold days of our Iowa winters listening to books on CD. We are often finished with our schoolwork shortly after lunch which leaves the long afternoons to work together on a jigsaw puzzle while we listen to a book on CD. We have listened to some wonderful books over the years and I wanted to share our list of favorites with you.

As my children have grown we have chosen more challenging stories but while they were younger we listened to books like these:

The Magic Tree House Collection by Mary Pope Osborne ( many sets to choose from)

Little House on the Prairie Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder ( there are several of these to choose from)

Your Story Hour collections (there are many of these to choose from)

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner ( there are many of these to choose from)

Charlotte’s Web by E B White

When the boys got older we listened to books that required a little more concentration like these:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis

Adventures in Odyssey by the AIO Team ( there are many of these to choose from and they are all good!)

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey ( this one is hard to find. Check your library)

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr (this one is hard to find. Check with your library)

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck ( also by this author: A Long Way From Chicago, Here Lies the Librarian, and A Season of Gifts)

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater ( and the sequel – Looking for Bobowicz)

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The Penderwicks by Jean Birdsall

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

Right now we are listening to the third book in a series by Trenton Lee Stewart called The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma. This is by far our favorite series to date. The first two books are called The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.

 

What I’ve Been Reading

You would think with the busyness of the holidays I wouldn’t have time to read. Wrong! I always have time to read. It is definitely my sanity safety net.  This month I have been reading a variety of things. Sometimes whole books, sometimes just portions of a book. Either way, I have found some interesting reading lately.

One book I have been enjoying is Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe. This is a fascinating culinary tour of the world that highlights a vast collection of foods and places. From the cherries of northern Michigan to vanilla from Madagascar, to the mushrooms of central France, you are treated to delicacies that will intrigue you. And the book is published by National Geographic so the photos are amazing. This book reminds me of the Peter Menzel books. We’ve enjoyed two of his books.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait 

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Books like these allow you to experience the world from the comfort of your home. I know it isn’t quite like being there, but for large families like ours, on one income, the opportunity to actually travel the world is not really an option. This is one way to bring some of the worlds diversity to your family in a very satisfying way.

Another book I’ve been reading is called Homeschool Your Child For Free by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski. This book contains more than 1,400 resources that you can take advantage of for free.  The book is divided into subject areas and then further grouped in smaller subtopics. Every entry has a brief summary of what is available and then the web address. Most are totally free. Some do have subscription options that give you access to more of the website’s resources should you choose to pay the fee. I have found some great websites that I will be using with my boys.

Finally, a book that has given me much to think about is Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World by Dr. David Jeremiah. This book is sort of a follow-up to a previous book he wrote called What in the World is Going On? Last winter we listened to a series of Dr. Jeremiah’s messages (on the prophecies from the book of Revelation) that became the book What in the World is Going On? We were fascinated by the information he shared. Now I am reading this latest book and find that his suggestions about how we are to live, in light of the end times message, are very helpful. His focus is on what we can do that is positive in an increasingly negative world. It has really helped me to redirect my energy to something more productive than living in fear of the future. I highly recommend any of Dr. Jeremiah’s books. He seems to have a very realistic view of how we can face the future with anticipation instead of apprehension.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I’ll have a new list in a couple of weeks when I finish these books and start on the pile I have waiting for me!

Happy reading!

–Sheryl

Creation Science Resources

creationThis year marked the 100th birthday of Charles Darwin. With that fact drawing attention again to his work, there has been a renewed interest in the age-old conflict  – Evolution vs. Creationism.  My older boys have shown an interest in this topic and have read several books about the subject. We have had an opportunity to discuss what a Christian worldview is and how it is in conflict with the other popular worldviews of the current era.

We have found several resources that have been particularly helpful in our studies of Creation and of the ongoing controversy surrounding it. I have listed some of the best that we have examined so far. We are certainly not finished with this subject and will probably find many more reference materials being published in the near future. Therefore, consider this a list in progress, subject to change as more information becomes available.

Probably THE best source of information concerning the study of Creation comes from Creation Ministries International. They have the most up to date information and the greatest presentation that I have seen so far. You could spend days on their website and still not see everything.

Another great resource is Answers In Genesis. Founded by Ken Ham, this organization has spent 30 years sharing information on topics such as the age of the earth, the flood and the significance of archaeological discoveries. There are many answers to the questions that people have been asking for decades.

Creation Resource Foundation website also has lots of great information.

 

Some excellent books on Creation include:

The New Answers Book 4 volume set for adults. There is also a version for kids.

In the Beginning by Walt Brown

Unlocking The Mysteries of Creation by Dennis R Petersen – This book is a wonderfully illustrated volume of information concerning Creation.

Do You Geek the Library?

GeekTheLibrary.org

From a homeschooler’s perspective, it goes without saying that the library is a vital part of daily life — at least at our house. I don’t know about you, but for our family, the library is actually our main source of curriculum. I use the word “curriculum” loosely.  It isn’t uncommon for me to have more than 100 books signed out on my library card at one time. Fortunately for me, my library has no limit to the number of books you can take home!

Years ago, when I began homeschooling I spent hours with the curriculum catalogs and then spent more hours in the vendor hall of our state homeschool convention in search of the perfect curriculum.   I collected boxes of different programs all designed to be the perfect means by which to educate my children.

Now, eighteen years later, I have tossed most of those texts and also tossed the concept that we need some sort of canned program at all. These days you will find us on any given school day, reading a variety of books — most, if not all, from the public library.

At this moment, because of the current economic challenges we are all facing, libraries are becoming endangered.  Many state and local governments are considering cutting funding for libraries at a time when the resources available there are more important than ever.

As homeschoolers, we are quite familiar with the need to make our voices heard about issues of importance. This is another cause that we can get behind wholeheartedly. Institutions like the public library are part of what makes our country a great place. Let’s get informed and get the word out that we need our libraries to be a priority.

You can start by visiting GeekTheLibrary.org and sending the link to anyone you feel would be interested. No one will know that we think this is important unless we tell them.

What do you geek?

–Sheryl

Mama, Let’s Color!

Coral Reef

One of my favorite activities, especially on rainy or snowy days, is to color with my kids. Now I’m not talking about the box of crayons and the dime store coloring book sort of coloring. I am talking about artist quality colored pencils and Dover Publications coloring books. Dover Publications has hundreds of coloring books on a huge variety of subjects that can really enhance your child’s learning experience. Some of the titles are just for fun and for the joy of creating art but others are very informational. There many historical titles that could be incorporated into unit studies.

Comparing this type of coloring to the old-fashioned crayon variety is like comparing sirloin steak to hot dogs. Hot dogs certainly have their place but for real quality, you might look for something a little more sophisticated. In the realm of coloring books, Dover definitely is the quality you are looking for.

Prismacolor

You can purchase a set of Prismacolor colored pencils for a fraction of what they cost in even discount art supply stores. Then we gradually put together a pretty impressive collection of books. Some we ordered new and some we picked up at yard sales for a quarter. We have books that cover all different time periods, nature topics and geometric figures.

We don’t worry about who colors in which books for the most part. We usually just choose a book and a picture that suits us at the moment. There is one exception — Mom has a Victorian House book that’s off limits!  I have worked my way slowly through this book one room at a time and am almost finished with my masterpiece.  I also have one which contains pictures of the outside of houses that I am enjoying. Of course, I  like the nature ones, too especially the ones with flower gardens in them. My boys aren’t too picky but they really aren’t interested in my house coloring books. They prefer the historical and the natures titles.

Another title that has been particularly useful is the Human Anatomy book. It shows the body systems in very detailed illustrations so you can learn how our bodies are designed as you color. A great resource to combine with biology or health studies.

There are a couple of tips I’ve learned that will help the experience to go smoothly. One thing I would suggest is to purchase a pencil sharpener that is strong enough to handle the harder lead of the pencils.  We ruined an electric one with overuse. I finally just bought a metal hand-held one designed for artists. It works fine, just remember to give your artists a place to collect the shavings while they are sharpening. A paper plate or something like a piece of poster board will work fine.  Also, we have learned that if we want our books to look good when we are all done with them, it’s a good idea to use a piece of plain white paper between the pages so the pressure you exert while coloring on your current page doesn’t “transfer” the colors on the previous pages onto each other. The white paper picks up any color that is transferred by your pencil pressure.

Happy coloring!

–Sheryl

Ways to Avoid Summer Brain Drain

Summer ActivitiesI know a lot of homeschoolers do some sort of formal schooling all year round. For a long time, I started each year with the intention of continuing through the summer but as April rolled around and then we got into May, my resolve always crumbled — by then we all needed a break.

The research is plentiful if you want some proof that learners actually lose some of what they learned if they take a long break from the learning process. I had plenty of evidence in my own house, I didn’t need convincing.

What I did need was a way to take a much-needed break from the more structured education process that we follow most of the year without losing too much ground. I’m really not worried about “getting behind.” I just didn’t want to spend unnecessary time “relearning” before we could move on.

What I’ve found with my own kids is that it isn’t always that important what they think about during the summer. In other words, they don’t always need to be progressing in the usual subjects like math lessons and spelling lists. I’ve found that a little review now and then, coupled with a variety of activities that keep their brains from collecting cobwebs is enough to prevent the sort of information dump that we are constantly being warned about.

If your family is anything like mine, then you are learning new things all the time. We have never considered summer as a break from learning, just as a break from the routine of the rest of the year. We are always looking for new things to explore. So what we do now is to try to be a little more intentional about learning but we mostly just have fun!

Here is a list of  some of the things we do in the summer that help us keep our brains engaged:

  • Reading lots of books for the library reading program.
  • Reading magazines –  click here for a list of great magazines for kids
  • Watching nature or travel DVD’s
  • Keeping identification books for bugs, birds, wildflowers, trees, weather, etc. handy so we can look up anything that happens to come across our path
  • Drawing and art projects
  • Board games
  • Hobbies like stamp collecting and coin collecting, kites, rockets, model cars, fishing, woodworking — all these things require learning new vocabulary and new skills

Aside from those activities, camping trips and family vacations offer tremendous opportunities for learning.  The thing I always try to remember is that my main goal is not to fill my kids’ heads with a bunch of facts but to teach them to love the process of learning and I think the summer months are the perfect time to do that.

Here are a few books with more ideas:

1,001 Boredom Busting Play Ideas

101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever!

Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from FunAtHomeWithKids.com!

So enjoy your summer and learn some new things right along with your kids.

Happy learning,

–Sheryl

Homeschooling Hinders Assimilation?

While browsing the internet the other day, I ran across this letter to the editor in the Tennessean that really ruffled my feathers:

“Home schooling in America has doubled in the past decade. What’s wrong with this picture? Students attending public schools, by necessity, associate with others who are different from themselves. This enables children to learn to think for themselves and to become tolerant of those who are different, preparing them for the “real world” once they become adults. Rather than being concerned with their children receiving a broad education, many home-school parents apparently are more concerned that they grow up with their own beliefs and prejudices. Home schooling makes these children’s assimilation into society much more difficult.”

When I read this type of article I am always amazed at the narrow-mindedness of some homeschool critics.  Perhaps he should instead look at why so many parents are deciding to homeschool their children. This man states that “students attending public schools, by necessity, associate with others who are different than themselves.”  I have a difficult time finding evidence to back up this statement as I am sure he would too if he cared to look for any.

From my perspective as a former public school teacher, I would say that the students in a public school setting are actually more alike than different. This is especially obvious at the high school level. Enter any high school in the country and you are likely to find some or all of the following:

  • A group of teens—all in different stages of puberty but all going through the same basic changes—struggling to understand life and surrounded by others who are also struggling and have no answers.
  • A group that generally eats and drinks the same type of food and beverages on most days, whether they are healthy choices or not.
  • A group of kids who speak the same language complete with profanity and the current slang.
  • A group that is learning the same things at the same time in order to meet some man-made standard that the school has been programmed to teach.

The author of the letter states that homeschooled students have difficulty associating with people who are different and they can’t assimilate. First of all, in regards to the short list above, the opportunity to encounter diversity is much greater outside the school walls in the “real” world than within them. And secondly, if assimilation is the goal, I don’t think that the teen sub-culture is the place I particularly want my kids to become assimilated.

Webster’s definition of assimilate is “to make similar,: to alter by assimilation: to absorb into the culture or mores of the population or group.”

Even more revealing is the definition of “assimilation. ” Webster says “the process of receiving new facts or of responding to new situations in conformity with what is already available to the consciousness.”  That sounds like brainwashing techniques to me. It’s that word “conformity” that really bothers me.  The author states that the association and assimilation he believes is lacking in homeschoolers is something that teaches students to think for themselves.  I think he needs to read his dictionary.

A World View of the Family Meal

What the World Eats

What the World Eats

We just finished reading a fascinating book called What the World Eats.  This book is a photo essay with photographs taken by Peter Menzel. He also wrote a book back in the 90’s called Material World: A Global Family Portrait which is also worth your time, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

What the World Eats takes a look at 25 families from 21 countries and explores what they eat in a week’s time. The photos show the family together with their week’s supply of food displayed in the foreground. There is also a detailed list of the grocery items and the cost in both their country’s currency and US dollars. There are interesting facts about each country as well as a narrative about what life is like for the family. In addition, there are pages scattered throughout the book with statistics about life in the countries and how the individual countries compare to the rest. One page that we found quite interesting was the one that compared life expectancy.  There are also graphs that show interesting tidbits like how many McDonald’s restaurants are in each country and what the literacy rate is.

I read this book aloud with my two youngest boys covering one or two families each day. After we read we talked about the pictures and what life was like for each family. I was amazed at how quickly my boys recognized that we live in a very wealthy country compared to the rest of the world. We had many discussions about how spoiled we felt when we looked at what other families had or didn’t have.

There are several websites that go along with this book. And on this page, it shows several of the photos from an earlier book called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. The website doesn’t include the informative text about the families.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

The other book I mentioned, called Material World: A Global Family Portrait, is similar in format but this time the focus in on what each family owns. The photos show the family outside their home with all of their belongings displayed around them. Again, it was sobering to see how people in other parts of the world live.   On the web, you can find more information here where you can see some of the families in the program NOVA developed around this book.  You can also visit Peter Menzel’s website for more information about his work.