Testing your views of testing

When parents start homeschooling, one aspect of the modern educational structure that they usually consider is testing.  Often, the parents’ viewpoint is that testing is a necessary activity.  I assume this is based on their own educational experiences, both as schoolchildren, and later as graduates of service schools.  Test scores validate quality, or that is the theory.

Testing itself is a tool used by bureaucracies that serve large numbers of clients.  To my mind the schools are in place to serve the children (their clients), not the children to serve the schools, so any tests should be used to check the quality of instruction given to children.  Testing, using various standardized methods, is how our educational system tracks the progress of these large numbers of individuals.

Homeschool parents may ask whether they need to track their children this way.  For the most part, homeschooling parents do not keep track of classroomsful of children.  Our children’s schooling is on a human scale, not an industrial scale.  Because of this, parents do not need standardized tests to gauge their school-age children’s progress any more than they need standardized tests to tell if their babies are progressing from crawling to toddling.  Yes, in some instances, testing is required when parents notice that their child’s development is either unusually slower or faster than is said to be ‘normal’ for their child’s age.  In this case, the process of pinpointing developmental delays or beansprout-fast leaps, with the intent to provide some kind of ‘fix,’ is helped by diagnostic testing.  Overall, though, homeschooling parents have enough experience of ‘tracking’ to see whether their child’s learning is progressing or not.

For homeschooling parents, testing is an option, not a requirement, although some homeschooling families have no choice concerning periodic standardized testing that may be required by law depending on which state is currently ‘home.’ Any state in the country could be ‘home’ to military personnel because not only are military bases scattered around the country, but recruiting stations and ROTC assignments are in every state, as are Reserve or National Guard units.

Some parents feel that testing is a valid measurement of their children’s educational accumulation, while others are content with conversation and observation. Parents who value testing may want to know in which areas their children score well or poorly.  Non-testing parents may feel that the reduced pressure of an untested childhood is enough payment for not micromanaging.  Parents are free to choose whichever style suits the family best unless state law dictates otherwise.

One area of exception for parents who do not feel the need to test their children is if the almost-graduated or graduated children want to go to college. An SAT or ACT score may be required for admission to a college.  Another reason for using either the SAT or ACT tests could be if the kids just want to ‘know how I did.’

 

Kinds of tests

One aspect of testing that parents may want to consider is how developers intend test-givers to use the test results.  Tests that rank the group of people taking them are called ‘norm-referenced.’  Tests that measure how well a person can answer questions about something in particular are called ‘criterion-based.’ Tests that report the child’s score as a ‘percentile’ or ‘stanine’ are the ‘norm-referenced’ tests.14, 15

Norm-referenced test developers purposely include questions considered too hard for the average person in the group to answer correctly.  This ‘feature’ is built in to the test to make ranking the test-takers easier. Testing companies regularly change the questions on norm-referenced tests because once the questions become well known within the tested community more children correctly answer the ‘hard’ ones and that ruins the test’s bell curve.  Norm-referenced tests include the CTBS (which includes Terra Nova), the California and Iowa tests, IQ tests, ‘cognitive ability’ and ‘school readiness’ tests.

Criterion-based tests are the kind we have all taken to check our knowledge of spelling words, arithmetic problems, or state capitals.  This kind of test tells the tester if the testee knows the answers to the test questions that day.   Children can also demonstrate this kind of knowledge by playing games such as Scrabble, Yahtzee or Trivial Pursuit, or by using flash cards, filling in crossword puzzles or completing chapter quizzes in textbooks (if the questions are well written).

 

Norm-referenced tests

In the case of a norm-referenced test, developers take a sample of all the students who have already taken the test; this is the ‘norming group.’  Test grading charts spell out where each score lies compared with the score spread of the children in the ‘norming group.’  The scores rank from the 1st percentile to the 99th.  Scores above 50% are ‘above [the] average,’ and those 49% and lower are ‘below [the] average.’  Norm-referenced standardized testing shows the strengths or weaknesses of the people tested in relation to the sample group of people.

Test developers write the questions to ‘separate the wheat from the chaff.’  The point of the test is to rank test takers and compare group results, not to see who knows what.  When the tests are used as they are intended, there can be no time when all the test takers are ‘above average.’ It would be as if all the test takers were lined up by height from tallest to shortest. Half would be above the ‘average height’ and half would be below the ‘average height.’  Even if the group improves as a whole, say from better nutrition, there will still be a tallest person and a shortest person.  If everyone’s growth pushes the people in the compared group closer in height to each other (they’re all doing well on the ‘test’), then the measurement cut-offs will just become finer so that everyone is still ranked from tallest to shortest.  There is no way for everyone to be ‘above average’ in height because the average is midway between the tallest and shortest person.  The children in Lake Woebegone did not take normed tests.16

The dilemma for homeschooling parents considering standardized testing as a reference is that if a homeschooled child’s learning doesn’t reflect what is tested on a norm-referenced test, then the results will only show what the child knows compared to children taught the standardized curriculum, not whether the homeschooled child is ‘smart’ or ‘not.’ Norm-referenced tests would only show whether the tested child has learned the same information as everyone else, and has the same cultural references.

 

Grading on the curve

Norm-referenced ranking is also what your teacher called ‘grading on the curve.’ That ‘curve’ was a bell-curve of the distribution of scores.  The teacher awards the person with the highest score an A, and delivers an F to the person with the lowest score, regardless of the actual score.  If, on a test of 100 questions given to 10 people, the range of final scores were between 90 and 100 correct answers out of the 100 questions, the person with 90 correct answers would be at the bottom of the heap and would get the F.  For ranking-purposes it does not matter if 90 would normally be an A, the person with 90 correct answers did the worst in comparison to the other test-takers.  On the other hand, if the final answers ranged from 1 correct answer to 10 correct answers out of the 100 questions, the person with the 10 correct answers would be top dog and reap that A.

Norm-referenced tests are graded on the curve.

 

Criterion-referenced tests

Criterion-referenced tests are ones on which everyone can get 100%. If everyone in the classroom knows the spelling words, everyone gets an A and we all have a pizza party because the teacher promised. This is our mental model of what tests are ‘supposed’ to be.

Criterion-referenced testing shows the strength or weakness of the people tested against the information contained on the test, not against each other.

 

Where to get tests

If you live in a state that does not require standardized testing, but you want a pencil and paper demonstration of how well your child has learned ‘the material’  (instead of, perhaps, a portfolio), you would have to use a test fashioned from that ‘material.’ Chapter quizzes in a textbook could serve that function (again, if they are written well), or you can read the material yourself and make your own test.

If you want to use a standardized test, even if the state where you are stationed does not require one, you can buy the tests from providers around the country.18

 

No Child Left Behind

The “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) legislation is meant to cause schools to collect children’s test scores so that each school can be ranked.  The goal is to determine if a school has successfully taught the children attending it.  If children test well, the school has made “adequate yearly progress.”

NCLB rules apply only to schools that receive federal money.  The NCLB legislation does not apply to families in which the children are homeschooled.

Protections for Private and Home Schools

NCLB has provisions that contain important protections for private and home schools, including that nothing in the law shall be construed to: (a) affect any private school that does not receive funds or services under NCLB; (b) affect a home school; (c) permit, allow, encourage, or authorize any Federal control over any aspect of a private, religious, or home school; or (d) require any SEA or LEA to mandate, direct, or control the curriculum of a private or home school.  19

 

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Notes:

14. FairTest, “Norm-Referenced Achievement Tests,” 342 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02139 http://www.fairtest.org/facts/nratests.html

15. Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), Norm- and Criterion- Referenced Testing, ERIC Digests ED410316, December 1996 http://www.ericfacility.net/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed410316.html

16.  John Jacob Cannell biography, “‘Lake Woebegone’ and Fraudulent Testing” http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/cannellBiography.shtml

17. FairTest, “Criterion- and Standards- Referenced Tests,” 342 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02139 http://www.fairtest.org/facts/csrtests.html

18.  A to Z Home’s Cool, Testing Services http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/articles/010499b.htm

19.  Choices for Parents, Nonpublic Education: A Vital Part of U.S. K-12 Education June 2008 http://www.ed.gov/nclb/choice/schools/onpefacts.html

 

Copyright 2006, 2008 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

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Beginning homeschooling in ‘high school’

How can a family begin homeschooling at the ‘high school’ level? Much depends on your child’s intentions for proceeding with the adventure of adulthood. Does she intend to go to college? Does he intend to start a business? Is joining the military a goal?

If college is part of the plan the parents and the child should keep track of endeavors and accomplishments. This record will be most easily understood by college admissions committees if it is written like a school transcript. Credit hours can be detailed by using 180 clock hours per one credit hour (Carnegie Credit Unit 12). This approximates a one hour class for 180 days of schooling.  One hundred-eighty days is a common, if not universal, unit of measurement for one school year.  Every subject need not be an even credit hour.

A useful example of a nontraditional curriculum vitae is found in Mary and Michael Leppert’s book, Homeschooling Almanac 13, under “Interview with Janelle Orsi” a young lady then attending Pomona College near Los Angeles. The interview details Miss Orsi’s high school career and includes her Academic Summary.

Parents, especially those new to homeschooling, may be intimidated by the idea of teaching their children ‘high school subjects,’ and this is understandable.  People employed as teachers are required to have a college education and some form of teaching certificate if they want to teach in public schools, and those employed by private schools often have professional experience in the classes they teach.  How can a garden-variety parent compete with that?  In many respects, you don’t have to.

Note:  If you are reading this at a site other than Tossed by the Fates, and no attribution is given to hard-working and generous Valerie Bonham Moon, the person(s) using this text is passing my work off as theirs, the slimy rotters.  If you paid for this information, you were schnookered.  There isn’t much I can do about plagiarists, but I thought you should know that about the site you’re visiting.

Back to the original text.

Credentialing

Teachers are required to be credentialed for multiple reasons.  Classroom teaching is not the same thing as either passing on information to your own child, or helping your child to find information. 

Classroom teaching requires leadership, control, and organizing the records one keeps on a large group of people.  Getting training in these areas reduces the strain of trial and error in learning how to manage a classroom situation.  If a person is shown the results of cumulative worker-years’ worth of trial and error in a college course, getting on with the job once you’re hired goes much more quickly than discovering your own system.

People who aspire to teach others, and get paid for it from public funds (other peoples’ money), must first prove that they are capable of delivering a minimally quality performance.  Accountability is expected for the payment of monies extracted from taxpayers.  Taxpayers want to know that they are paying someone who knows the subject.

Additionally, taxpayers do not want schools hiring Joe Blow to teach children if the schools do not first check out Joe’s background.  Joe could be a terrible person, and if the schools don’t bother finding this out first, children could be at risk.

Because of all this, and possibly more, schools and the states that authorize them, required credentialization.

Private schools have more latitude.

Homeschooling (aka, parenting) has the most. 

Parents who homeschool are not employed by the taxpayers to teach the children (or grandchildren or nieces or nephews) of those taxpayers.  Parents who homeschool parent and teach their own children in their own homes using their own money.  Because of this, in terms of parental concern not state rules, credentialization of homeschooling parents is not necessary any more than a parent is required to be a trained chef in order to put supper on the table.

Using your child’s natural curiosity

Another reason not to ‘fear’ homeschooling your child at the high school level is that you don’t have to provide all the motivation yourself.  By the time kids are teenagers they can have a good idea about what interests them.  In these areas, parents do not have to push, cajole or threaten in order to keep the kids ‘on task’ (as it is put in educationese).  Kids usually are the ones pushing ahead. 

By supporting the kids in their quest for knowledge about whatever it is that interests them, the parents help the kids add to the kids’ fund of information.   Some of the subjects may appear to be ‘lightweight,’ but even lightweight interests can have heavyweight learning behind them.

 

Learning yourself

Another less-noticed benefit of helping someone learn about an area you are unfamiliar with is that you learn it, too.  Parents have perspectives on learning that their children haven’t yet developed, so even if the parents are new to an area of knowledge, it isn’t as if they are starting out cold.  They have their lives’ experiences on which to draw.

Parents can also refresh their memories of areas of study that have faded from their lives.  It can be interesting to come back to an area of study and see how the experiences of the intervening years have changed your outlook.

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Notes:

12.  Carnegie Unit and Student Hour, Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_Unit_and_Student_Hour

13. Mary and Michael Leppert, Homeschooling Almanac, 2000-2001, Prima Lifestyles,
1999; “College, a teen’s story,” The California Homeschool Guide

 

Copyright 2006, 2008 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Homeschooling a child you’ve withdrawn from a school

If you are beginning to homeschool a child who was withdrawn from a public or private school you may need to go through a period of deschooling. The deschooling may apply to both you and your child and it is an open-ended period while you and your child come back to ‘yourselves’ and recover the teaching/learning equilibrium that kept both of you balanced in your child’s earliest years.

A parent’s work teaching a child to talk is one example of the teaching/learning relationship between parents and children. Although babies and young children have a natural ability for mimicry and language acquisition, and learn the language into which each is born, someone does have to take the time to provide the language and to just be there.11

Unfortunate children who end up in orphanages that are holding pens may not acquire either language or culture. A young girl who was adopted by friends of ours recoiled when a woman addressed the little girl in what should have been their common tongue.  This woman was a native of the same country as the little girl, and was the wife of one of her father’s co-workers.  The child ran away from the woman.

For the little girl the words seemed to be the sound of a place she apparently didn’t want to be reminded of, yet she did not appear to understand the words and hid behind her new mother.

At the time we assumed the girl was four or five years old but it turned out later that she was about seven — and she didn’t speak the language of her native land. Your child learned the language you spoke to him because you spoke to him.

A lot of things that are learned by children are learned because someone was ‘there.’ These sentences are being typed because I’m sitting on the porch pecking away at the typewriter [this book was indeed originally composed on a typewriter].  It’s happening because I’m ‘there.’ A garden gets dug because the gardener is ‘there.’ The birds get fed in the winter because a sunflower seed grower was ‘there,’ because a seed-packager was ‘there,’ because a grocer was ‘there,’ and because I’m ‘there’ to put the seed into the birdfeeder.

“F/8 and be there” was advice given in early journalistic photography for photographers using completely manual cameras. With homeschooling the advice could be summed up as ‘Invest yourself and be there.’

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Note:

11. Christophe Pallier, Anne Christophe and Jacques Mehler, “Language-specific listening,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 4, July 1997 http://www.pallier.org/papers/Pallier_tics97.pdf

 

Copyright 2006, 2008 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Homeschooling a child who has never been to school

To begin homeschooling a young child who has never been to school a simple routine of handwriting, simple math, being read lots of stories, coloring pictures, singing songs and playing should be sufficient.

Whether or not to ‘schedule’ depends on your personality and that of your child. Handwriting is easily done with workbooks such as the Italic handwriting series by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay. These books have entertaining and educational exercises for the child to write. Other names to look for in the search for handwriting materials are Zaner-Bloser, D’Nealian, and Palmer. A web search using these names as search terms will return many handwriting websites.

You can begin math using simple workbooks from the grocery store and a cheap manipulative such as Fifteen Bean Soup. I found the soup mix to be an excellent manipulative because it is so versatile. ‘Beans’ represent the ‘whole’ yet the ‘parts’ can be easily seen.

   4 pintos                 8 beans
+ 4 limas               – 4 pintos
   8 beans                  4 limas 

If you are teaching multiplication, 6 x 4 is easily illustrated by four rows of six different beans and then allowing the child to count the 24 beans. The ‘six’ is obvious, the ‘four’ is obvious and the ‘twenty-four’ is obvious.

For more technical math advice read the Math Whiz Basics in Ann Lahrson-Fisher’s, Fundamentals of Homeschooling.4

I found that reading is best taught through the parent reading aloud while the children are very young and continuing until homeschooling is finished.Young children love listening to the same stories over and over so recording the books is a voice-saver. I’ve found that newer tape recorders with microphones pick up the recorder’s motor hum so making tapes nowadays is a challenge. A superior method is to record stories onto a digital voice recorder and save the file to your computer’s hard-drive. Convert the proprietary sound files to MP3 or WAV files and then burn them to a CD-ROM.

Science for a young child can be introduced by reading magazines such as Your Big Backyard or Ranger Rick 6. Highlights for Children 7 has a good range of articles as well.

I don’t care for ‘social studies’ and preferred history and geography. For this you can look for magazines from the Cobblestone publishers8. Historical fiction is another relatively painless way to learn about The Story of Mankind 9as is reading the book of the same name by Hendrik Willen van Loon, the winner of the first Newbery Award in children’s literature.

Geography can be studied by familiarizing the child with maps. One way is to make your own atlas of your house, your neighborhood or your town. You can make the book before it is illustrated or bind together pages that are already filled in. The library has books on simple bookmaking. A nice addition to the study of Geography might be a coloring book of the state where you’re stationed. Sometimes the state’s department of natural resources publishes such books and some can even be found online.

Children often enjoy drawing their own pictures and looking at those drawn by others. A nice little series for simple art appreciation using postcard size reproductions of famous paintings is Mommy, it’s a Renoir! by Aline Wolf10.

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Notes to How to Start Homeschooling

4. Ann Lahrson Fisher, The Fundamentals of Homeschooling: Notes on Successful Family Living, Nettlepatch Press, 2002
http://www.nettlepatch.net/homeschool/foh.htm

5. Valerie Bonham Moon, “Reading Lessons,” Home Education Magazine, March/ April 1997
http://www.home-ed-magazine.com/HEM/HEM142.97/142.97_art_rlssns.html

6. National Wildlife Federation
http://www.nwf.org/kids/

7. Highlights for Children
http://www.highlights.com/

8. Cobblestone Publishers
http://www.cobblestonepub.com/pages/magmain.htm

9 Hendrik Willem van Loon, The Story of Mankind, W.W. Norton & Company; Millennium edition , 1999 http://www.soemadison.wisc.edu/ccbc/newb1st/vanloon.htm

10. Aline Wolf, Mommy It’s a Renoir, Parent Child Press, 1984 http://www.kidsart.com/store/csm.html

 

 

Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Preschool

Many mothers on homeschooling email lists ask for advice on preschool homeschooling. My advice is invariably to let the children play. Although your child is the oldest he has ever been and time seems to flying away there are still years left for him to practice formal schooling, if that is what develops.

Handwriting can wait. What do small children know about that needs to be written? Small motor muscle movements are still developing and some children haven’t even yet learned to run with much coordination. If running or throwing or jumping are still movements needing more control than the child has, why expect him to be able to manipulate a pencil so that the result is ‘legible?’

Coloring books may be most useful for the development of small motor control. The lines of the picture give boundaries but the area to be colored allows large movements. One Waldorf school curriculum doesn’t introduce form drawing until second grade. Another is at first grade.

Read-aloud stories are good for young children. They hear the language spoken grammatically and they connect the sense of words with the arbitrary marks they see on paper. To a young child ABCDEFG makes as much sense as the same letters in the Cyrillic alphabet would to a non-Cyrillic reader. The stories also feed the imagination and may give the children inspiration for drawings or for imaginative play.

Physical movement is important for children. Researchers have connected physical movement to proper physical development. The traditional ‘work’ of young children is running, jumping, climbing, crawling, dancing and rolling. The ‘preschool classroom’ is a playground. Also, get music. Lots of music.

Buy toys that aren’t already ‘done.’ Blocks are a good example. Children can take blocks and make all sorts of things out of them: houses, raceways and sailboats are a few of the constructions I’ve had in my living room. Cardboard boxes are another good toy, or laundry baskets; both make good ships. The ships can turn into forts or caves with the addition of a blanket. Tricycles are useful, as are wagons. Sidewalks and chalk are good toys for encouraging writing. Children who balk at pencil and paper may well scribble up an entire driveway. Trees are handy toys because they are so big the child can’t lose them and Mom doesn’t have to put them away. They can be lain under, leaned on, have a swing dangling from a sturdy branch and they inspire dreams of climbing. From some you can even get apples. Definitely get trees. (Disclaimer: if you get a tree, keep an eye on the children. I am not responsible for anyone falling out.)

What to do for ‘preschool?’ Let the children play.

 

Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Mothering and fathering compared to standardized instruction

Apart from all the ‘how to’ information, you can ‘start homeschooling’ by continuing as you began with your child. Many of us carry a notion of education as a formal activity that occurs while seated and holding some kind of wood product: pencils, paper or books. Our learning model focuses not on how we ourselves learned but rather how we were managed, how our crowd of 25 or 30 was controlled. We were in rows or lines, we spoke when we were allowed to speak, we sat when directed to sit and stood when told to stand. Sitting during standing times or standing during sitting times was an infraction. We learned when we were told to learn and what we were told to learn — or at least that’s what we remember.

For organizational and safety reasons crowd control is necessary because of so many small bodies in one room. Thirty little people in a room for five hours at a time, for days, weeks and months in a row with no control would be bedlam. Teachers need to announce standing time, sitting time, talking time, reading time. Homeschooling is different because our homes generally do not contain large numbers of children. It isn’t necessary to make three children walk in line to get from the living room to the bathroom — the idea is ludicrous. Mothers of larger families will already have devised organizational methods to cope with meals, outings and other group activities. These mothers may find they need a bit more organization in their homeschooling than mothers of fewer children.

I’m on the ‘back’ side of raising four children, one publicly-schooled and three homeschooled, and my impression of that time is that compared to standardized instruction, involved mothering and fathering, informed mothering and fathering, ingenious mothering and fathering, and insightful, inspired, integrated, intelligent, intentional, interested, intuitive, inventive and invested mothering and fathering, are at least equal to the standardization, if not superior.

 

Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Opinions are like noses — and you’ve got your own

The ways of starting homeschooling are probably less varied than are the ways of continuing homeschooling, just as the beginning of a baby’s life is simpler than the way that baby conducts his life after gaining maturity. For myself I formulated rules after fielding the ‘how do I start’ question numerous times.

  1. Tightwad: Hold onto your wallet. Before you sign on the dotted line check around. “Canned” curriculums or “schools-in-a-box” sometimes act as if ‘one size fits all’ and one size often does not. Sometimes you will find elements within a curriculum that either do not work well with your child or are things you find discomforting. Also, what works with one child doesn’t always work with another. Do what feels best, but be a careful shopper.
  2. Chill: Homeschooling is flexible. If whatever you’re doing doesn’t work you don’t have to answer to a bureaucracy before you make a change. It’s your decision how to proceed.
  3. Deep-6: If whatever you’re using isn’t working cut your losses. You won’t get your money back by continuing to use something that isn’t working, and you and you kids will feel stressed. Yes, there is something to be said for finishing what you start (another reason to check around before you buy), but if what you’re using truly isn’t working – dump it. You can save your finished/discarded materials for sale at support group curriculum sales. Just because it didn’t work for you doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else.
  4. One Right Way: There is “one right way to homeschool” but it varies from person to person and from interest to interest.
  5. Choice: Remember that homeschooling is a continuing choice. You have the freedom to continue to choose to homeschool or to make another choice.
  6. Private or Public?: Be aware that enrolling your child in online public charter schools will return your child to the public education sector. Instead of homeschooling you will be enrolling in a public school home-study program. This isn’t to say that this is a wrong choice just be aware of all the ins and outs of the program you are considering so you can make an informed choice and be aware that your choice may re-enforce the bureaucracy’s view of how ‘homeschooling’ is to be done.
  7. Survival: If you have a good babysitter or co-op friend for babysitting, send her home with wine or chocolates after babysitting. It can’t hurt.

 

Note:  If you are reading this at a site other than Tossed by the Fates, and no attribution is given to hard-working and generous Valerie Bonham Moon, the person(s) using this text is passing my work off as theirs, the slimy rotters.  If you paid for this information, you were schnookered.  There isn’t much I can do about plagiarists, but I thought you should know that about the site you’re visiting.

Back to the original text.

 

Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Advice on starting

The following is advice from veteran homeschoolers on how to start:

  • Go to a homeschooling convention and see what’s offered.
  • Email all your homeschooling friends and relatives and ask what they use.
  • Do research, talk to your child and get an opinion on what he or she would like to do.
  • Join a support group.
  • Invest in a reputable curriculum unless you have a lot of time to sift through opinions before you start.
  • Believe in yourself. You’ve already taught your child thus far: walking, talking, potty training, colors, animals, plants, coloring, . . .
  • Take your time and be flexible.
  • Make a pro/con list to gauge your own feelings.
  • Read your state’s homeschooling material (laws or regulations) and make sure you understand them.
  • Try to start during the summer for a few hours so that when school starts the routine will already be set.
  • Jump in and do it!

 

Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Underground homeschooling

Some military families feel that they do not want local authorities putting their bureaucratic noses into the family’s business and do not comply with the education laws of the state in which they are living. This is called ‘underground homeschooling.’4  If you choose to homeschool underground because of philosophical or religious objections to your residence state’s laws, have an exit strategy. Think about the consequences of the action before you engage that action.

In case of the educational authorities taking exception to your homeschooling underground and filing charges for violating the law worth the effect this might have on the active-duty parent’s military career?

  • If you are living in quarters consider how the community or installation commander will view a resident family being charged with truancy.
  • Could you be evicted from your quarters?
  • In light of the preceding, are you willing to take time and money from your homeschooling to deal with the fallout of being ‘discovered?’
  • Will you present it to your children as standing up for your liberties or might they see it as breaking the law?
  • What kind of example will you set for your children?
  • How much will you worry about ‘discovery?’
  • Will this worry affect your ability to move freely during the day?

This isn’t to say that homeschooling underground is a ‘wrong’ choice, only that if you choose to do so, examine your attitudes, the presentation of the situation to the children, and your exit strategy.

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Notes to How to start homeschooling

4. Pauline Harding’s Guide to Homeschooling, Alternatives to Pennsylvania Homeschooling Law, Underground Homeschooling http://home.comcast.net/~askpauline/hs/homeschoollawalternatives.html#underground

 

Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

Ages of compulsory attendance

On homeschool email lists one of the first questions asked by list-members who are new to homeschooling and wondering how to begin often couched the question as, “What curriculum should I choose?” Before this question is answered, as well as it can be answered, an important piece of information is, “What is the minimum age of compulsory attendance in the state?”

If your child is of ‘beginning school age’ the first thing to check is the minimum age of compulsory school attendance1 for your state. If your child is below this age and has not been enrolled in school, you may proceed as best fits your conception of what homeschooling should be. There is no one right way, and you are under no authority to meet the requirements of someone else’s vision.

If your child is not yet at the minimum age of compulsory attendance, do not keep ‘practice’ records or act as if your child belongs in school.  The desire, which may be admirable, can backfire because if anyone raises questions, it may indicate that you consider ‘school’ to be the appropriate place for your child.2

If your child is nearing the age of traditional school leaving you may also check to see if she is over the maximum age for compulsory school attendance. If so, she may proceed as best suits her needs,  with your support and guidance.

If your child is within the compulsory school attendance ages you should read your state’s laws so you know what is expected. State support-groups’ web sites often have information for new homeschoolers on how families in that state apply the state’s laws.3

To get insight in applying the law to your life it may help to join a state-wide email discussion group. Veteran homeschoolers often pass along tips they’ve discovered or picked up along the path of their homeschooling journey.

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Notes to How to Start Homeschooling

1. Ages of Compulsory School Attendance
http://www.nhen.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=65

2.  In the Interest of J.B., Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District  
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=mo&vol=/appeals/082001/&invol=2080701_2001
“We find that although Child was only six on July 1, 1998, he was subject to the compulsory attendance law because, having turned seven on August 10, 1998, he was a seven year-old throughout the 1998-1999 school term that began on September 1st.  We also note that Parents treated Child as one who was required to attend school.  They provided regular instruction, and as of September 1, 1998, kept a logbook of the number of hours and topics of instruction as required by the homeschool statute.”

3. NHEN site for state homeschool laws and regulations
http://www.nhen.org/leginfo/state_list.asp

 

Copyright 2006, 2008  Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

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