Legally homeschooling in CONUS as a military family

This blog entry and the attached article are opinions, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

 

The arrival of PCS orders may set off an alarm for some homeschooling families.  Parents new to homeschooling often wonder, “Which rules do I follow?  Do I follow the rules of my home state?  Do I follow the rules at the new assignment?  Do I follow some special rules for military families?”  The short answer is that you follow the laws of the place where you sleep each night.

Educational jurisdiction

The Constitution of the United States does not address education, so schooling bypasses direct federal control and each state manages its own school system.

In the United States, schooling laws for children of compulsory attendance ages vary by state, as do the compulsory attendance ages themselves.  Although states maintain schooling laws under the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the federal government uses financial carrots or sticks to influence how states run their schools: “Do this and you will be given X-amount of dollars.  Don’t do this and the money will dry up.”  Most everyone wants that ‘free’ money, so some ‘best practices’ tend to follow federal wishes.

To read full article, plus links, please click here.

Copyright 2010, Valerie Bonham Moon

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Military life from the perspective of family members

Introduction

Military life has more rules to it than does civilian life.  The two modes of living have many parallels such as ID cards and driver’s licenses for identification, housing officials and code enforcement officers for minding your Ps and Qs in residential neighborhoods, and city police and military police for general law enforcement.  The difference is that life close to the military is more tightly controlled.  Installations closely document the registry of large personal belongings such as cars or motorcycles, restricted areas take up more space, and ‘gate-keepers’ check more often to make sure you are ‘authorized.’  It seems as if ‘the military’ controls your life, and, for active-duty, Reserve or National Guard members, ‘the military’ does control their lives.  But is this true for family members?

This part, of the chapters on the military-specific life of homeschooling parents, lays the groundwork for the chapter on military authority over the families of servicemembers.  I want to draw a rough picture of what it means to live alongside a servicemember so that I can more easily explain my view of who is in charge of whom, and why, and lay out the relationship between civilian family members and military authorities.  Some readers here will be new to military life and may have an idea that, because they are married to a servicemember, their husband’s chain of command has legal authority over the family.

To read the full article, with links, please click here.

Copyright 2010, Valerie Bonham Moon

Hug-a-hero dolls

No time to wait for the “Deployment” part of the blog, it starts now.

Children miss parents when they go away, whether it is for a deployment, or for any other reason.  The dolls from this site give children the ability to keep the parent nearby, and the dolls are more durable, and portable, than a normal photograph.

The site is called “Daddy Dolls,” and while that gender-identification applies to most deployed personnel, it doesn’t apply to all.  I imagine that families with a mom-sponsor would be able to buy the dolls, too.

Daddy Dolls

Regardless of what the site is called, the idea is wonderful.

Purpose of education II

Recently, I read a book on writing fiction just after watching curriculum discussions on an email list.  As I read the author’s opinion on plotting, I made a connection to curriculum and to “education” in general: “You can package plot any number of ways, and the way you package it decides what number [of plots] you’ll end up with.  There is no magic number, one or one million.  … any enterprising person can find more, or find another way to package the concept and come out with a different number.”

That’s what I’ve been seeing on those email lists, I thought, a million ways of packaging.

No matter where we go, “education” is on people’s minds. You can’t get away from it. New homeschooling parents work to find the “best” program, while veteran homeschooling parents assemble next year’s schedule. Seriously-independent homeschooling parents keep a weather eye on government plans for “core” standards, while newspaper reporters and columnists write about test scores and their meaning, and the mystery of mastery.  We hear about meeting benchmarks, raising bars, and holding students and teachers accountable as politicians make their fingers wag.

But, in all those educational haystacks where is the needle we all worry about?  In my light-bulb moment while reading about plot, I scribbled a list of what I think “education” means in relation to teaching children.

Read full article here.

Copyright 2010, Valerie Bonham Moon

Military homeschooling in Europe

I originally wrote the following booklet in 1996 to answer questions about homeschooling, and about homeschooling in the milieu of the overseas American Army in Europe, also known as USAREUR (United States Army Europe).  Many people, command staff as well as family members and sponsors, often did not have the time or the deep interest to delve deeply into just how homeschooling fit into the educational picture for children whose parents were assigned to a military unit in USAREUR.

Some of the specific references in the booklet are obsolete, rewritten or canceled, but the general structure remains the same.

This was my first book(let).  I still like it a lot, but I’d use more commas now.

Copyright 1996, 2010 Valerie Bonham Moon

Finding curriculum

One of the first questions parents new to homeschooling ask is about curriculum.  They want to know which one is best, and if there is no ‘best’ curriculum, what then?

The topic of curriculum often depends on the purpose the parent sees in education.  That purpose may range from ensuring my child has good job opportunities as an adult, to transmission of culture or religion, to my own preference for giving my children well-furnished minds that are pleasant places to live.

For the purpose of this post, though, I’ll cut to the chase:  Where do I find curriculum?

Homeschooling Over the Holidays

Homeschooling Over the Holidays  (as in the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year)

Whatever your cultural background, each year contains holidays, some longer, some shorter, some with lots of work, some with less work.[1], [2], [3], [4] And, as usual with the more complicated holidays, the kids are excited and Mom’s nerves are frayed (because Mom is usually the Holiday Fairy who makes it happen, and Mom is only one person, and if anyone else asks her how many more days there are until the Holiday – not nearly enough – she is just going to cancel the whole thing). There is too much to do and, with homeschooling, no getting away from the kids to have enough quiet time to either sort things out, or do whatever it is that needs doing. How do veteran homeschoolers concentrate on lessons while the clock is ticking and the children are licking (the beaters)?   In busy years, thoughts may arise such as,

  • “Maybe I’m not cut out to be a homeschooler?”
  • “Do any schools that take enrollments only between the end of November and the beginning of January?”
  • “What about a boarding school?”

Many homeschooling parents (who want to remain homeschooling parents) amend their schedules when seasonal demands increase. If scheduled lessons are a feature of homeschooling life then Mom decreases the lessons or puts them on hold. Shifting the family curriculum to ‘Seasonal Independent Living’ or ‘Home Ec for the Holidays’ can take the pressure off. Even at the high school level, there is no universal law that says, “It is hereby mandated by the Great State of Confusion that each and every homeschooling day will consist of each and every subject being studied.”  To keep burnout at bay during The Holidays, you can shift focus and zero in on Home Ec and Art with perhaps Religion and Community Service time increasing as well.

Home Ec:  Cleaning the halls

In a homeschooling family, Mom does not have to be the only Holiday Fairy making the magic happen. From laundering that special tablecloth, to putting away the extra groceries, to cooking special treats, the children can lend a hand.  The children’s increased holiday energy can be channeled into chores that may not be done as often as you would like:

  • vacuuming every corner of the house (if only in your dreams)
  • rearranging the furniture to accommodate card tables and chairs for guests
  • getting one of those nifty fuzzy duster gizmos and at least getting all the obvious dust removed, even if the furniture polishing doesn’t quite get finished
  • raking leaves before the first snowstorm arrives (if you’re in a temperate area)
  • cutting the grass (if you’re in a semi-tropical area)
  • tidying wood chips where the lawn would (if you’re in a Pacific-northwest maritime area)
  • sweeping the sand off the sidewalk and back into the ‘lawn’ (if you are in the Southwest).

Home Ec is as important as learning math, handwriting or pronouns — no one lives at a school with house elves.  Some children may stay at school if their parents can afford boarding school or they stay in dorms later on in college, but still no one lives-lives there unlike the Home that where, if you show up, they have to take you in — and a home must be maintained.[5]

Home Ec:  Decking the Halls

Decorating for complicated holidays is probably fun the first ten times you do it on your own, but after that it is not quite the thrill that, when we were children, we imagined it would always be.  One way to ease the job is to employ the children in the hall decking adventure.  Crafts that add to the holiday fun, but yet are kid friendly might be:

  • making paper snowflakes[6]
  • popcorn strings[7]
  • popcorn and cranberry strings
  • a card star from old greeting cards[8]
  • a string of brown paper bag gingerbread people
  • folded or cut German paper stars[9], [10], [11], [12]
  • home made candles [13]

Take your time over the holidays and make your home. Repeat the traditions of your own childhood and your husband’s and tell the children stories from when you were little. Make decorations that are kid-friendly.

Art:  Useful crafts

Many families send winter holiday cards and like doing so because, especially in the military, it is nice to stay in touch with old friends who are far away by sending them a special card. Special paper and Italic calligraphy (learned from the Getty-Dubay handwriting books[14])  make charming greeting cards. A more involved family project is extra-special cards for close friends or relatives using the instructions from books specializing in pop-ups[15].

Art:  A flair for the dramatic

The Holidays are a time of rich dramatic offering.  Many group stage special holiday performances tailored to the seasonal theme and attending a production counts as time for subject areas such as literature, drama or religion.  If the performance is culturally different from your own cultural outlook, you can enter the time under social studies.

Community Service:  Volunteering

On military installations, the entire community is often involved in various holiday celebrations. These activities can be good learning experiences outside the family circle. Chapels have an extended schedule of services or provide seasonal programs. Community theaters and choral groups produce holiday programs. Teens, who are collecting specific credits for high school graduation, might include:

  • ‘Office experience’ for collating and folding bulletins (and the attendant chore of keeping them in a useful place where others can find them later)
  • ‘drama’ for a holiday pageant
  • ‘literature’ for participating in special readings
  • ‘music’ for choral presentations
  • ‘religion’ for in-depth  research of traditions

Military installations may have food pantries for families who cannot afford all the Holiday trimmings, or may conduct clothing drives. These activities take the focus away from the commercial side of major American holidays and provide more memories than just the ‘what I got’ variety.

Social Studies:  Holiday differences overseas

Cultural differences between the U.S. and the host nation can provide learning opportunities. How, if it is a part of the culture, does the host nation celebrate the winter holiday? What are the differences between how the host nation celebrates and how the children remember celebrating in the United States?

Children can make unique souvenirs of the overseas tour with illustrated and captioned booklets of the differences they see and/or how your family celebrates. Small booklets are easily made with rubber cement, cereal box cardboard, scraps of fabric and manila paper, or typing paper that has been folded in half and sewn into a ‘signature.’[16]

Math:  Budgeting and baking

If gifts are a part of your holiday celebration, the children can practice their money math skills through buying gifts for the family.  Children use basic math skills if they have a specific amount of money already saved throughout the year (perhaps a dollar per week for the younger children, and more for older children), and then must divide the total either among the immediate family, or for extended family members if that is your practice.  Dividing a limited amount of money for the purchases of multiple people, and perhaps the gift wrapping materials, is a primary lesson in budgeting.

Holiday baking also provides math practice with the usual half cups of this, three-quarter teaspoons of that, and either halving or doubling recipes.  The children can confirm their pencil and paper exercises for increasing or decreasing recipes with actual measurements.

History:  Why do we do what we do?

Holiday observances did not spring out of nowhere.  Someone, at some point, found relevance in choosing to include a certain decoration, cook a specific food, or follow a particular schedule.  What was the relevance?  Does it still apply?  If not, why not?  Children can complete a unit study on the cultural significance of the holiday celebrated by the family.

Life isn’t all academics. Life is about relationships, discovery, harmony and love. So recapture the holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day by taking time to relate to your family. Discover the tender joy of being in harmony with the natural rhythms of family life.


[1] Muslim Families Activities
http://ourseeds.tripod.com/activities.html

[2] Christmas lesson ideas, A to Z’s Home’s Cool
http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/articles/120998.htm

[3] Naaseh Venilmad
http://naasehvenilmad.blogspot.com/

[4] Pagan homeschooling, A to Z Home’s Cool
http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/religion/pagan.htm

[5] Home Comforts : The Art and Science of Keeping House

[6] Easy-to-Make Decorative Paper Snowflakes
http://store.doverpublications.com/0486254089.html

[7] How to string popcorn  (includes warning about pets trying to eat the popcorn while it is on the tree)
http://www.wikihow.com/String-Popcorn-on-a-Christmas-Tree

[8] How to make a Christmas card star
http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Christmas-Card-Star

[9] How to make stars
http://www.howtomakestars.com/instructions.html

[10] Froebel star
http://www.howtomakestars.com/instructions.html

[11] 3-D stars
http://highhopes.com/3dstar.html

[12] Paper stars (German language; included for illustrations of colored stars)
http://www.blinde-kuh.de/weihnachten/basteleien/sterne/

[13] Beeswax rolled candles
http://www.magiccabin.com/magiccabin/product.do?section_id=0&bc=1004&pgc=200

[14] Getty-Dubay Italic handwriting instruction books

Write Now: The Complete Program For Better Handwriting

Italic Handwriting Series Book A

Italic Handwriting Series Book B

Italic Handwriting Series Book C

Italic Handwriting Series Book D

Italic Handwriting Series Book E

[15] “Joan Irvine: the Pop-up Lady” http://makersgallery.com/joanirvine/

[16] Bookbinding 101:  Your first book
http://www.diyplanner.com/node/442

Homeschooling styles and methods: Waldorf schooling

Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and founder of the “science of the spirit,” to which he gave the name Anthroposophy, also developed a school for the children of the workers of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette company in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 [1].   The name of the cigarette company gave its name to Steiner’s style of schooling.

For young children Waldorf schooling emphasizes art, music, handicrafts and physical movement (Eurythmy). The schooling philosophy divides children’s developmental ages into three stages of about seven years each: birth to change of teeth, change of teeth to puberty, and adolescence.  Waldorf schools teach from an Anthroposophist viewpoint, a viewpoint that has its critics, but the homeschooling parent, as always, can choose only those aspects that best fit her talents, philosophy and disposition.[2]

A distinctive aspect of Waldorf schooling is an emphasis on the children making their own books rather than reading only from textbooks. These books can be handmade using Manila paper, cloth, glue and cardboard, or the book can be an art sketchbook from the store. Either way, they are individualized records of the child’s interests and work and make excellent ‘souvenirs’ of the homeschooling adventure.

Links:


[1] Soul Economy:  Body, Soul and Spirit in Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner, 1977, 2003
http://books.google.com/books?id=NVG7-E6uT3gC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPA9,M1

[2] Foreword, R.A. Jarman, The spiritual basis of Steiner education, Roy Wilkinson, 1996
http://books.google.com/books?id=WpjLkeNwtGsC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPA9,M1

.

Copyright 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

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

Homeschooling styles and methods: unschooling

John Holt[1] was the first writer to use the existing word, “unschooled.” Holt used the word to mean children who learned outside of school, instead of the word’s meaning of people who have never been to school.

Holt was an elementary schoolteacher before he wrote his first book, How Children Fail.[2], [3] During his teaching years, Holt found flaws in classroom style instruction and worked to reform public schools, going so far as to propose an underground railroad to help children escape from the effects of compulsory schooling laws.[4] After he discovered homeschooling, Holt changed his focus from school reform and started the magazine Growing Without Schooling [5]. He initially used the term ‘unschooling’ as a synonym for homeschooling but the word has come to mean a separate form of self-directed learning.  This use of ‘unschooling’ contrasts with the various styles of school-at-home teaching that usually characterize homeschooling.

Like homeschooling, unschooling has also experienced a fractalization similar to that in homeschooling:  the greater the number of people who participate, the greater the number of styles that develop.

Perhaps the ‘eclectic’ style of homeschooling could be thought of as a middle-of-the-homeschooling-road style of unschooling:  no set curriculum, no set list of materials, and no set style of learning.  Eclectic homeschooling though, can still include formal lessons (depending on what each family chooses), so it could probably be categorized more as possibly ‘unschoolish’ than actual ‘unschooling.’

The practice of unschooling is raising children with parental encouragement, conversation and support.  An everyday example of the unschool style is the time of life of small stay-at-home-children between birth and whatever point they are assumed to be educable and are sent off to school.

At the far end of unschooling lies ‘radical unschooling.’  Radical unschooling does not mean unschooling by politically radical parents, although that would not be surprising.  Radical unschooling is allowing children to grow up ‘just living’ and making their own decisions about many aspects of life usually controlled by parents, such as mealtimes or bedtimes.[6]

Regardless of whether a family’s unschooling style is more eclectic or more radical, the intent of unschooling is not to ignore the children and allow them to age without direction.  The intent of unschooling is attentive, engaged parenting that supports the children in their interests and activities:  life as learning, rather than learning separated from living.[7]

Link:

Interview with Canadian publisher, Wendy Priesnitz


[1] John Holt http://www.holtgws.com/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Children_Fail

[3] Google Books version http://books.google.com/books?id=n43EjP2iLGgC&dq=how+children+fail&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=LhAoSsi_KNXelQfw7qjmBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4

[4] John Holt and the origins of contemporary homeschooling, Patrick Farenga, 1999
http://www.pathsoflearning.org/Paths01-Farenga.pdf

[5] Growing Without Schooling http://www.holtgws.com/gws

[6] “Is there a difference between a Radical Unschooler and just an Unschooler?”
http://sandradodd.com/unschool/radical

[7] Wikipedia article
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unschooling

Copyright 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

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

Homeschooling Styles and Methods: Unit study

What are unit studies?

Homeschoolers usually think of the unit study method as a group of lessons that use a variety of approaches.  These approaches can work together to focus on a smaller part of a larger subject (perhaps a multi-media report on the “Lost Battalion” of WWI[1]), or may spread out to look at many aspects of a single subject (George Washington’s political path plus the kind of house he lived in, what he ate, the popular music of the time, etc.).  All the children in a family can take part with each one working at his or her level.  Unit studies can be the main style of the family’s homeschooling (as with the Konos[2] program), a part of each new subject, or a special treat.

Parents can allow the unit study to be as wide or narrow as they or their children wish.  Parents can set aside an amount of time for the project – usually a week or two – or they may allow it to continue until the kids run out of steam.  As with any homeschooling method, no single unit study style is t.h.e. official way of spending time with any material.

The goals people have for a unit study are as varied as there are people using the style.  Pieces of music have different aims; few trendy dance club managers invite polka disc jockeys to perform, even though composers of polka and techno music may all mean to get people dancing.  Likewise, painting the nursery walls using Jackson Pollock’s style could be a workable way to camouflage dirt in a toddler’s room, but most parents prefer room decorations with more structure, such as blocks of color arranged in a design, or nursery pictures.  In the same way, the result of a unit study could be anything from journal entries tracking the study, a completed Lap Book®[3], [4] or a 4H project or Scout badge.

Commercial unit study programs often work ‘across the curriculum.’  A ‘store bought’ program may include writing assignments for English, worksheet activities for handwriting, illustrations for art, physical information for science, and different levels of information for working with children of different ages.

As with most things, people of different levels of creativity and skill put together commercial unit study programs.  Some programs are original, but some are plagiarized information from books whose copyrights have expired and are now in the public domain.  This is a problem within the commercial sphere of homeschooling, not just unit studies. The practice of ‘buyer be aware’ coupled with making only a small first-time purchase after asking around may keep any poor choices, such as ‘unit studies’ that are little more than elaborate worksheet exercises that children paste onto construction paper, from knocking a big hole in a budget or ruining a long stretch of school year as the shortcomings show up.

Where do I find unit study materials?

For homemade unit studies, idea starters might be:

  • the calendar, for notable days, holidays or the birthdays of famous people[5]
  • a history book for pinpointing ‘little known facts’ that hide behind the larger events of history
  • a science project book, for interesting experiments that can be researched as to whether the experiment was famous or significant, such as Galileo’s insight into freely falling bodies
  • children’s interests

Parents can think of any focused area of study as a unit study.

Parents who prefer prepared programs can find unit study suppliers using a search engine.


[1] Blood in the Argonne:  The “Lost Battalion” of WWI, April 2006 review in The Journal of Military History
http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/journal_of_military_history/v070/70.2yockelson.html

[2] Konos program http://www.konos.com/index.html

[3] Lap book trademark  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lap_book

[4] “Winter Vacation Book”
http://ourlapbooks.blogspot.com/2008/01/winter-vacation-book.html

[5] “A Birthday a Day,” Rebecca Rupp, Sep/Oct 1997,  Home Education Magazine
http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/HEM145.97/145.97_clmn_gs.html



Copyright 2006, 2009 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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