3.14.2015

Homeschooling Isn't Free...




But, then again, nothing worth doing ever is.

And - contrary to the myth perpetuated by its proponents - neither is public school.

*****

Now that spring is in the air and the end of the "school year" approaches, parents are beginning to consider their options for "next year." And now that the damaging effects of common core have clearly reared their ugly heads, more and more parents who never considered homeschooling are seriously mulling it over. Thus, my homeschooling friends and I are fielding how-to questions almost daily - one of the most common of which is, "How can I homeschool for free?"

I know why they ask.

For some reason, despite years of writing checks to pay for school supplies, back-to-school clothes, registration fees, parking permits, activity fees, hot lunches, lab fees, yearbooks, instrument rental fees, sports equipment, etc. - in fact, in 2013 the average family spent more than $630 on school-related expenses...before walking in for the first day of class and getting socked with the various fees ladled out by the schools themselves -  they're still under the impression that the public/government schools are free. As a result, they unconsciously feel entitled to continued "free education," balking at the notion of having to pay. And, against the clear evidence that they have, indeed, found ways to pay for all the expenses associated with attending government schools, they claim to have "no money" for homeschooling.

To be fair, I know from my work developing The Homeschool Resource Roadmap over the past two years that some homeschool resources are exorbitantly expensive, such that even private school tuition might be cheaper in some cases. And, while I believe those providers have every right to charge what people are willing to pay, I can also understand the sticker-shock if a wannabe homeschooler comes to believe that the pricey programs are her only options. That's not true, of course, but I've (sadly) seen quite a few advertisements for the "Cadillac" options claiming that more reasonably-priced materials are "clunkers." So, if a potential homeschool parent believes that lie, she will understandably think homeschooling is out of her reach.

But the truth - as is often the case - exists between the extremes.

On the one hand, it's hard to give an average because each family is unique. Despite stereotypes, there is no such thing as an "average" homeschool family, and our financial circumstances vary just as much as anything else about us. Some can afford and don't bat an eyelash at the Cadillac resources, even for multiple kids. One needn't spend thousands per child per year, but if that's some families' prerogative, so be it.

Others need to be incredibly frugal in order to manage. So they create their own material and learn to make good use of libraries and (well-vetted) internet sources. And kids in those families do very well when their moms put forth serious effort to compile and organize the low-cost material. In other words, what they lack in funds they make up for in time. But, of course, that is a "cost" as well; it's never a matter of simply being granted a pile of free resources and tossing them in front of the children on a Monday morning.

Realistically, though, most of us are somewhere in the middle, as are most folks considering homeschooling. So if we're honest with ourselves, we do have money with which to homeschool, and it's not even all that hard to find.

In terms of curriculum, most sources suggest that planning for about $500 per child per year is realistic. And based on what I've seen via my database research, I think that's a fair estimate. Of course, some years will cost more...but some will be less. And, as with any endeavor, initial start-up costs may be higher than in subsequent years. But, on the other hand, once one purchases material for an older child, it can often be used again for younger siblings, thereby lowering annual costs going forward. So, overall, I think that average estimate is an honest starting figure.

But where will it come from? Well, remember that if you're homeschooling, you're not paying for all the school fees, which in many cases add up to hundreds of dollars per child per year; this parent, for example, discovered he owed almost $600 in start-up school fees for just one child, and that is not unusual. So add up the cost of all the expenses you'd incur from the school - registration fees, parking permits, activity fees, hot lunches, lab fees, yearbooks, instrument rental fees, sports equipment - and set that money aside for homeschooling instead. And then consider the back-to-school costs you'll no longer have. Yes, homeschooled kids need school supplies and all children need new clothing from time to time as they grow. But you won't need the specialized, expensive supplies the schools often demand, and chances are good that you already have many necessities - pencils, crayons, markers, paper - on hand. And you certainly won't need to purchase six designer outfits and hundred-dollar sneakers in hopes of helping your child to "fit in." In fact, you likely won't need to buy any clothes at all in August; instead, you can purchase items throughout the year to meet your children's actual, physical needs, and use the money formerly set aside for "back-to-school" clothes on curriculum and other basic homeschooling needs.

Of course, homeschoolers incur costs beyond actual curriculum. For example, it's a good idea - for kids and parents alike - to join a homeschool association, most of which require a membership fee. And, whether with members of such a group or as an individual family, there will be field trips and other outings for which to plan. Similarly, opportunities for special classes and community-based sports, music, or drama will present themselves throughout the year. But it's possible to find a low-cost support group (for example, mine only costs $20 per year), and most trips and extras are just a few dollars per person. Thus, all of that can - for those willing to commit - be built into any family budget with just a few tweaks.

And commitment is the key. Honestly, anyone can homeschool, regardless of a family's socio-economic standing or anything else; history and the data bear that out. But it takes commitment. In terms of finances, it doesn't need to cost a mint. But, on the other hand, it's unrealistic and immature to expect it to be free. The fact of the matter is that educational materials cost money. And, as 1 Timothy 5.18 tells us, "the worker is worthy of his wages." So one must either invest time instead of money, as explained above, or be willing to pay for someone else's expertise and time.

However, remember that much of the expense is really just a transfer of cost - choosing to move what one was paying in school-related expenses over to homeschooling - and the rest is simply choosing to make small adjustments to one's budget throughout the course of a year to accommodate ancillary costs. If curriculum (around $500) plus everything else (maybe up to another $500) averages out to about $1,000 per year per child - which is still just one-fifth of the lowest average private school tuition - and you use what was budgeted for back-to-school expenses on the curriculum, can you find what amounts to just $42 a month to cover the rest...for the sake of your child's well-being?

If you want to, you can.


3.08.2015

Happy 2nd Birthday to My "Twin Boys"

Several years ago - perhaps when the girls were seven and eight - I had a dream that I'd given birth to twin sons. In the dream, they were young toddlers, and I was trying to juggle their needs with everything else. I remember feeling both exhilarated and exhausted. And when I woke up, I thought, "Wow. What if that really happens?"

In a way, it has.

Two years ago today - late at night on March 8, 2013 - I launched a Facebook group that has since become The Christian Homeschool Oasis (CHO). And since I'd intended to create a space where my friends could gather to wrangle with the unexpected discovery that some well-known homeschool materials had chosen to align with common core, it only made sense that the precursor to The Homeschool Resource Roadmap (HRR) was "born" a few days later - a belated twin, but a twin nonetheless.

I'm not equating social media and websites with children; obviously, the former are expendable, and the latter are gifts from God. And I want to be careful not to overspiritualize. But I've actually had a few other dreams that I could see in hindsight had clearly previewed later real-life events. And, scripturally speaking (Genesis 37, 40, 41; Daniel 2; Matthew 1, 2), we certainly know God sometimes does choose to speak via dreams. So I don't want to discount the possibility either...and it makes for a neat analogy!

In any case, I certainly have spent the last two years doing what I can to juggle CHO's and HRR's needs with everything else in my life, just as in my dream. Sometimes I've been rather successful and sometimes not...just as if they were real babies born into an already bustling household. And just like in this photo, when one is giggling, the other may be screaming.

They both tend to keep me up late into the night, and they've definitely needed lots of hands-on care. They've even caused me to temporarily set some of my favorite activities on a back burner, though now that they're a little older, I've been working those endeavors back into my schedule. Each has had his fair share of temper tantrums, even to the point every now and then of derailing a whole day's plans with my daughters. And each has definitely thrown up on me multiple times!

But they've also brought great joy. CHO is incredibly social; he's always talking...even when I'm so tired I'll collapse if I don't go to bed! And he makes me smile and laugh far more often than not. HRR is more placid, but I know he blesses many people in his quiet way, and I'm thrilled to see how much he's grown.

In fact, they've both become very big boys! CHO currently has well over 5,000 members and gets bigger every day. HRR's Master Lists just hit the 2,400 mark with more added almost every week, and as of today he's had almost 160,000 site hits since he got his new look in February 2014. In fact, though CHO seems to be pretty stable for the time being - I have nine incredibly helpful "nannies" to help me there! - we're bracing for some significant changes with HRR in the coming months. In the end, he'll be far healthier than he is now - he's been a bit "croupy" for a few months now - but the process may just resemble the fits and starts of potty-training!

Obviously, my analogy only goes so far. If CHO and HRR were actual children, they'd be truly melded into the fiber of our family, and their needs would be just as important as those of my husband and daughters. Of course, that's not the case; they are expendable if they ever become too big to handle or cause me to lose sight of my priorities (i.e., caring for the needs of my family). But I'm thankful God has seen fit to bless me with them, and if they don't become too demanding I intend to continue doing my best to help them grow and thrive.

2.24.2015

Homeschooling High School: The Road Less Traveled

A few months ago, I shared what I would use for elementary and middle school level home education curricula if I could do it all again. And now that my girls are officially in "8th grade" - we follow a January-December academic schedule so a "new year" started for us last month - I've naturally been thinking seriously about our high school plans.

And I've been wrestling with myself.

On the one hand, I found some very good resources for a somewhat "traditional" approach using engaging (as opposed to typical, boring) textbooks. I could easily implement that program, making my time as a parent to homeschooled high schoolers really simple. And I could probably feel pretty good about it in the end because of the quality of the resources I considered:

Traditional Academic Studies Option

Year 10 / 9th Grade (Age 14-15) Credits
Reading

Composition: Excellence in Literature connection

Daily Literature Read-Alouds
1
Language Arts
Math
1
Science Apologia Physical Science 1
Social Studies World History 1
(The Mystery of History, Vol. 1 & 2 as spines w/additional reading, research, and writing)
1
Health Fitness Activities
Read-Alouds, Discussion, Activities in Health, Safety, Character
½ – 1
Other Cat & Dog Theology, Year 1 1
Artistic Pursuits
Draw to Learn (Acts)
1
Instrumental Lessons (Piano, Voice, or Other) 1
Foreign Language 1
Life Skills: Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers ½
Current Events (WORLD Magazine) ½





Year 11 / 10th Grade (Age 15-16) Credits
Reading

Composition: Excellence in Literature connection

Daily Literature Read-Alouds
1
Language Arts
Math
1
Science Apologia Biology 1
Social Studies World History 2
(The Mystery of History, Vol. 3 & 4 as spines w/additional reading, research, and writing)
1
Health Fitness Activities
Read-Alouds, Discussion, Activities in Health, Safety, Character
½ – 1
Other Cat & Dog Theology, Year 2 1
Artistic Pursuits
Draw to Learn (The Letters of Paul)
1
Instrumental Lessons (Piano, Voice, or Other) 1
Foreign Language 1
Life Skills: Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers ½
Driver Education (once during Years 11-13) ½
Current Events (WORLD Magazine) ½





Year 12 / 11th Grade (Age 16-17) Credits
Reading

Composition: Excellence in Literature connection

Daily Literature Read-Alouds
1
Language Arts
Math
1
Science Elective 1
Social Studies State History from a Christian Perspective
1
½
Health Fitness Activities
Read-Alouds, Discussion, Activities in Health, Safety, Character
½ – 1
Other Cat & Dog Theology, Year 3 1
Artistic Pursuits
Draw to Learn (Psalms)
1
Instrumental Lessons (Piano, Voice, or Other) 1
Life Skills: Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers ½
Driver Education (once during Years 11-13) (½)
Current Events (WORLD Magazine) ½





Year 13 / 12th Grade (Age 17-18) Credits
Reading

Composition: Excellence in Literature connection

Daily Literature Read-Alouds
1
Language Arts
Math
1
Science Elective (if desired) (1)
Social Studies We the People Fight Tyranny (Civics) 1
½
Health Fitness Activities
Read-Alouds, Discussion, Activities in Health, Safety, Character
½ – 1
Other Cat & Dog Theology, Year 4 1
Artistic Pursuits
Draw to Learn (Proverbs)
1
Instrumental Lessons (Piano, Voice, or Other) 1
Life Skills: Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers ½
Driver Education (once during Years 11-13) (½)
Current Events (WORLD Magazine) ½





But, on the other hand, the thought of making my girls endure any sort of cookie-cutter high school experience - read this chapter, take that test, rinse, wash, repeat - honestly makes me cringe. After all, part of the reason I chose to homeschool is so my family and I could embrace our freedom to think outside the box by pursuing more authentic, holistic means of learning. So I've been investigating an alternative, unit studies-oriented program to which I am strongly drawn.

However, going that route is rather intimidating precisely because it is outside the box. It would require much more time and effort on my part, though that's not what causes me to think twice; after all, I've made a commitment to devote myself to my girls until they leave our nest, including whatever it takes to provide them with a wonderful education. No, my hesitation comes instead from the remnants of my own cookie-cutter educational experience rearing its ugly head - having been educated in the system, I don't naturally think about learning in a creative way even though I want to - coupled with latent bits of people-pleasing fear about what others might think if we pursue something "different," especially during high school. I don't like those feelings, but they're hard to shake.

There is, however, something stronger than my uncertainty and fears. Namely, conviction. When I think about taking the safe, traditional path, I know in my gut that I'd be copping out. That wouldn't be true for everyone, of course. But for me...it would. On the other hand, thinking about the alternative route excites me and also brings an inexplicable sense of peace even in the midst of my insecurity. Ultimately, I think that's God's way of reminding me to "trust in the LORD with all your your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take" (Proverbs 3.5-6, NLT).

And so...barring his redirection in the next few months, we will be taking the road less traveled. 

In our case, that means using the Far Above Rubies (FAR) program by Lynda Coates as our foundation, following where it leads us through the girls' high school years. 


Far Above Rubies Unit Study Option

Year 10 / 9th Grade (Age 14-15) Credits
Reading
Daily Literature Read-Alouds
(Excellence in Literature titles)
½ – 1
Math 1
Language Arts
Composition
Elocution/Speech
Grammar
Literary Analysis
Spelling
Vocabulary

Science
Astronomy
Biology
Chemistry
Earth Science
Physics

Social Studies
Civics
Current Events
Economics
Geography
History

Health
First Aid
Growth & Development
Hygiene/Personal Care
Nutrition
Physical Education
Safety/Prevention

Bible/Theology
Apologetics/Worldview
Bible Study
Christian Living
Creation Science
Scripture Memory

Art
Appreciation/History
Technique/Expression

Music
Listening/Appreciation
Technique/Theory

Life Skills
Entrepreneurship
Home Management
Keyboarding/Office Skills
Personal Finance
Far Above Rubies: Units 1-5:
Becoming a Virtuous Woman
Rocks, Rubies, and Minerals
Creation and the Origin of the World We Know
The World of the Old Testament
God's Plan for Romance
Human Sexuality
A Trustworthy Wife
Managing Personal and Family Finances
The Good Shepherd and His Sheep
Breeding and Raising of Livestock
Beasts of the Field
Fabrics, Textiles, and the Textile Industry
Food Production and Distribution
Trade, Travel, and Transportation
Explorers and the Age of Exploration
Oceans and Ocean Life
Food and Nutrition (w/Digestive and Excretory Systems)
Slavery: From the Bible to the Americas
Ancient Egypt
The War Between the States and Its Aftermath
5+
Other Instrumental Lessons (Piano, Voice, or Other) 1
Foreign Language (if desired)
(1?)
Draw to Learn (Acts)
(part of Art + Bible)
Fitness Activities
½ – 1




Year 11 / 10th Grade (Age 15-16) Credits
Reading
Daily Literature Read-Alouds
(Excellence in Literature titles)
½ – 1
Math 1
Language Arts
Composition
Elocution/Speech
Grammar
Literary Analysis
Spelling
Vocabulary

Science
Astronomy
Biology
Chemistry
Earth Science
Physics

Social Studies
Civics
Current Events
Economics
Geography
History

Health
First Aid
Growth & Development
Hygiene/Personal Care
Nutrition
Physical Education
Safety/Prevention

Bible/Theology
Apologetics/Worldview
Bible Study
Christian Living
Creation Science
Scripture Memory

Art
Appreciation/History
Technique/Expression

Music
Listening/Appreciation
Technique/Theory

Life Skills
Entrepreneurship
Home Management
Keyboarding/Office Skills
Personal Finance
Far Above Rubies: Units 6-10:
Gardening and Plant Propagation
Farming and Agriculture
The Real Estate Business
Westward Ho!
The First Americans
All Kinds of Strength
The Olympic Games and Other Sports
Ancient Greeks: Founders of the Olympics
Ancient Rome: Warriors of Great Strength
Being Prepared for Whatever Comes
Light and Energy
Vision and Optics
A Woman of Diligence
Sewing and Needlework
Simple Machines: The Seedbed of Invention and Industry
The Industrial Revolution
Poverty, Charity, and Welfare
The Great Depression
The War to End All Wars: World War I
The Next Great War: World War II
5+
Other Instrumental Lessons (Piano, Voice, or Other) 1
Foreign Language (if desired)
(1?)
Draw to Learn (The Letters of Paul)
(part of Art + Bible)
Fitness Activities
½ – 1
Driver Education (once during Years 11-13)
½




Year 12 / 11th Grade (Age 16-17) Credits
Reading
Reader's Workshop (The Reader's Odyssey  and Honey for a Teen's Heart)

Daily Literature Read-Alouds
(Excellence in Literature titles)
½ – 1
Math 1
Language Arts
Composition
Elocution/Speech
Grammar
Literary Analysis
Spelling
Vocabulary

Science
Astronomy
Biology
Chemistry
Earth Science
Physics

Social Studies
Civics
Current Events
Economics
Geography
History

Health
First Aid
Growth & Development
Hygiene/Personal Care
Nutrition
Physical Education
Safety/Prevention

Bible/Theology
Apologetics/Worldview
Bible Study
Christian Living
Creation Science
Scripture Memory

Art
Appreciation/History
Technique/Expression

Music
Listening/Appreciation
Technique/Theory

Life Skills
Entrepreneurship
Home Management
Keyboarding/Office Skills
Personal Finance
Far Above Rubies: Units 11-15:
Climates and Seasons of the Earth
The Uncertainties of Weather
Stars in the Heavens
Renaissance and Reformation
Fashion and Clothing Design
Interior Decorating
Lilies of the Field
Church and Family Government
Civil Government – An Overview
The Founding of America
The U.S. Constitution and Political System
Gates, Walls, and Buildings
Mind Your Own Business
Free Enterprise and the Global Economy
The Middle Ages
Dignity and Strength in All Circumstances
The Family Cares for Its Own
Prophecies of the Future
5+
Other Instrumental Lessons (Piano, Voice, or Other) 1
Foreign Language (if desired)
(1?)
Draw to Learn (Psalms)
(part of Art + Bible)
Fitness Activities
½ – 1
Driver Education (once during Years 11-13)
(½)




Year 13 / 12th Grade (Age 17-18) Credits
Reading
Daily Literature Read-Alouds
(Excellence in Literature titles)
½ – 1
Math
Teaching Textbooks, Pre-Calculus
or Consumer/Business Math
1
Language Arts
Composition
Elocution/Speech
Grammar
Literary Analysis
Spelling
Vocabulary

Science
Astronomy
Biology
Chemistry
Earth Science
Physics

Social Studies
Civics
Current Events
Economics
Geography
History

Health
First Aid
Growth & Development
Hygiene/Personal Care
Nutrition
Physical Education
Safety/Prevention

Bible/Theology
Apologetics/Worldview
Bible Study
Christian Living
Creation Science
Scripture Memory

Art
Appreciation/History
Technique/Expression

Music
Listening/Appreciation
Technique/Theory

Life Skills
Entrepreneurship
Home Management
Keyboarding/Office Skills
Personal Finance
World History: post-World War II – Present
(not included in Far Above Rubies)

Far Above Rubies: Units 16-20:
The Woman After God's Heart
The Brain and Its Processes (w/Nervous System)
Educating Children God's Way
Personal and Home Management
A Lifestyle of Productivity
The Christian and the Community
Your Family's Environment
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Train Up a Child
Honor Your Father and Your Mother
Orphanages, Foster Homes, and the Child Care System
God's View of Marriage
In Search of Excellence
All Kinds of Beauty
The Fear of the Lord
Fruit: Physical and Spiritual
Evaluation and Standards
Graduation and Beyond
5+
Other Instrumental Lessons (Piano, Voice, or Other) 1
Foreign Language (if desired)
(1?)
Draw to Learn (Proverbs)
(part of Art +Bible)
Fitness Activities
½ – 1
Driver Education (once during Years 11-13)
(½)




FAR Possible Resource Spines


myriad biographies, informational texts, works of literature, etc. according to our preferences and as outlined in Far Above Rubies


As a unit study, FAR approaches learning via themes, and traditional content areas are "covered" through the themes by reading living books, engaging in self-directed research, and participating in a wide range of creative activities. Thus, through FAR and our separate math curriculum (Teaching Textbooks), the girls will get everything they "need" for a high-quality high school education, delivered in a very compelling, well-designed, non-traditional package. 
I've just begun to map out what this will look like for us - for example, I'm not sure how we'll decide upon particular activities from among the amazing array of possibilities presented in FAR, and I'll need to come up with an appropriate record-keeping system - but I trust I'll be able to figure that out over the next few months. In fact, I've tentatively mapped out the following schedule, starting with a little jump-start this fall after we finish our current "8th grade" history and science books:

Far Above Rubies Tentative Schedule: Order & Scheduled Days Per Mini-Unit

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Mini-Unit Days Mini-Unit Days Mini-Unit Days Mini-Unit Days Mini-
Unit
Days
1.1 15 2.1 5 6.3 5 11.1 10 20.2 10
1.2 10 2.2 10 6.4 15 11.2 10 16.1 10
1.3 10 2.3 10 6.5 15 11.3 10 16.2 10
1.4 10 2.4 5 7.1 10 12.1 20 16.3 10


3.1 5 7.2 10 12.2 10 17.1 10


3.2 5 7.3 15 12.3 10 17.2 10


3.3 10 7.4 14 12.4 14 17.3 10


3.4 10 8.1 9 13.1 8 17.4 9


6.1 12 8.2 10 13.2 10 Mod.Hist. 18


6.2 12 8.3 10 13.3 10 20.1 10


4.1 14 9.1 5 13.4 15 18.1 10


4.2 15 9.2 10 13.5 5 18.2 10


4.3 15 9.3 10 14.1 8 18.3 8


4.4 10 9.4 13 14.2 10 18.4 5


5.1 13 10.1 5 14.3 15 19.1 10


5.2 15 10.2 15 15.1 10 19.2 10


5.3 15 10.3 15 15.2 10 19.3 10


5.4 15 10.4 10 15.3 10 19.4 10








20.3 10

Having settled this much, I'm now free between now and October to plan and organize the other nuts and bolts we'll need to get off on the right foot and to begin gathering the resources we don't yet have. I've even launched a group for those who use FAR (as well as Blessed Is the Man, Lynda Coates' program from young men).

I'm sure I'll have moments of doubt along the way - our faith is inevitably tested once we know we've chosen correctly - but I really can't wait to get started. Before I chose this path, I was feeling rather blasé about homeschooling through high school - resigned to doing what was expected even if it wasn't particularly engaging. Now, though, I know we'll be doing something right, and it's already made all the difference.

TRACKING MY OBEDIENCE