Keep California on the Cutting Edge of Education by Withdrawing AB2926

Keep California on the Cutting Edge of Education by Withdrawing AB2926

Dear Assemblywoman Eggman and Assemblyman Medina,

Bill AB2926 was brought to my attention. If it were to pass, it would be a step backward for education because California homeschoolers are on the cutting edge of educational innovation and customized learning. The ecosystem of classes, programs and enrichment opportunities is enormous for California homeschoolers. With such a tremendous infrastructure in place, California homeschoolers have created a thriving and dynamic place to receive a 21st- century education and explore one’s passions.

Personalized learning, also referred to as individualized learning, is all the rage in education circles these days. Unfortunately, when we hear about this in a conventional school setting, this usually just refers to adaptive computer programs. On top of that, many of those adaptive computer programs are not very effective. Homeschoolers have truly been personalizing their children’s learning for years because we are free from bureaucracy and a one-size-fits-all curriculum. Parents know their children better and love them more than any other person who wants to get involved in their education. Homeschool parents spend tremendous time and energy in researching and finding the optimal education for our kids. We can be most successful with a hands-off approach, so we can effectively tailor our children’s education to best meet their needs. Homeschoolers shine because we aren’t required to follow a government standard that doesn’t meet the needs of most children on an individual level. 

In my opinion, homeschoolers are the most progressive in terms of reimagining what educating the whole child can be. Sir Ken Robinson so passionately makes the case for this in the #1 Ted Talk of all times called “How Schools Kill Creativity.”  

Please join me in supporting the California homeschool community and all we have accomplished. We respectfully ask you to withdraw AB2926 which would stifle homeschool families who are true educational entrepreneurs. We are nimble and adaptive to our children’s needs and learning opportunities because of our freedom to be educational entrepreneurs.

California prides itself on being progressive. Let us continue to be progressive with cutting edge, personalized education and a role model for other educators around the nation and world. Please withdraw AB2926 and let homeschoolers continue to innovate.

Sincerely,

The Contemporary Homeschooler

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Is it Time for you to Consider Homeschooling?

Is it Time for you to Consider Homeschooling?

The Parkland, Florida shooting has many families wondering if they should take a closer look at homeschooling. I want you to know there are so many amazing reasons to homeschool that have nothing to do with fear or safety.  In fact, Business Insider says that “homeschooling is the smartest way to teach kids in the 21st-century.”

In this post, I will discuss five benefits of homeschooling: 1) Academics; 2) Socialization; 3) Mental Health; 4) Family Relationships;  5) Love of Learning.

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Academics

Homeschooling offers you the opportunity to craft a 100% customized education for your child.  Multiple factors will go into how you decide to personalize your child’s education including her learning style, skills, and passions as well your family’s priorities and values. You can speed up or slow down depending on your child’s needs and interests.

Sixteen-year-old homeschooled student, Christian Williams, who has just been accepted by MIT,  summarized this well:

“I’m able to do so many academics, so many customized learning programs through my homeschooling, so I was able to take advantage of my love for math, my love for sciences, and was able to do math way above my grade level. I was able to do any science I wanted to. That’s how I discovered half of my passions.”–Christian Williams, 16-year-old admitted to MIT

Homeschooled students typically score above average on standardized tests and the SAT and ACT compared to their public school counterparts. Impressively, many homeschoolers complete 1-2 years of junior college before they turn 18 years old and are admitted to top universities across the nation without ever having to take the SAT or ACT. Additionally, you can choose to school year-round so you don’t lose ground with summer slide.

Homeschoolers don’t use a one-size-fits-all curriculum and don’t teach to the middle or a test. We aren’t bogged down by hierarchies and bureaucracies to make change. Quite the opposite, we are entrepreneurs of our children’s education and are nimble and adaptive to their needs and learning opportunities.

Many cities have homeschool learning centers and co-ops. If you don’t feel equipped to teach a subject to your children, you can seek out the best instructors. This semester, for instance, some classes my kids are taking from other teachers include physics, chemistry, debate, art, and theater. In California, we have the option to receive educational funds to pay for some of our educational expenses including classes.  Because of the customization we are able to do with these educational funds and the tremendous ecosystem that has emerged, I believe Southern California hoomeschoolers are on the cutting edge of education.

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The Well-Trained Mind is an excellent place to start if you are considering homeschooling. The book’s authors provide a how-to homeschool plan including multiple curriculum recommendations for each grade level.

Socialization

Many homeschool families chuckle at this question about socialization. Yes, there are some homeschooled kids with quirky behavior, but you find plenty of that in conventional schools.  I firmly believe my children’s socialization is superior to what you find with traditional schooling.

They are not confined to the same desks, playground and cafeteria day-after-day. Instead, they are often out in nature enjoying the freedom and purity of those landscapes together. Other times they are interacting in places as diverse as museums, nature centers, restaurants, galleries,  performing arts theaters, farms, and more. This stimulates tremendous creative interaction amongst the homeschoolers.

They are more actively engaged in conversation, thought, movement and play with friends. Their friendships are strengthened as they learn and play together in a wide variety of interactive environments. This is in stark contrast to the humdrum of being in the same classroom with the same teacher in the same desk each day.

Additionally, homeschooled kids build relationships with peers of a wide age range. Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, wrote in The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined:

“There is nothing natural about segregating kids by age. That isn’t how families work; it isn’t what the world looks like and it runs counter to the way that kids have learned and socialized for most of human history…As anyone who’s every spent time around children can tell you, both younger and older benefit when different ages mis. The older ones take responsibility for the younger ones. The younger ones look up to and emulate the older ones. Everyone seems to act more mature. Both younger and older rise to the occasion. Take away the mixx of ages and everybody loses something.”–From The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Sal Khan

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Mental Health

The mental health of our nation’s youth is, sadly, declining rapidly. You don’t need to read statistics to know this is happening. You hear sad stories in the news all the time and probably hear many of them from your own child’s school. Depression, anxiety, anger, bullying, and suicide are all on the rise.

A teen suicide in my community last month prompted a Newport Harbor High School principal, Dr. Sean Boulton, to write a letter in which he stated:

“Our teachers and district have simply created and maintained a system that our community/country has demanded from us over the past 20 years since college admissions mania went into hyper drive, since vocational training programs were dismantled, and since earning “A’s” in AP classes became the norm.”

“Our teachers feel the pressure, administration and counseling feel the pressure, and now parents/students are really feeling the pressures.”

“When we grew up nobody asked us what our GPA was, and it was ‘cool’ to work on the roof of a house. This competitive culture has significantly impacted our young adults. We endlessly discuss test scores, National Merit Scholarships, reading scores, AP scholars, comparisons to other school Districts and this is when we start losing our collective souls–and our children.”–Newport Harbor High School Principal, Dr. Sean Boulton

When you homeschool, you can get out of that rat race. Instead of living in comparison and competition, homeschoolers are so generous in helping one another out to succeed with their homeschooling. Blazing a different trail than the masses is so empowering.

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Many factors that contribute to children’s mental health problems are lessened with homeschooling:

  • Bullying is greatly reduced.
  • Students are less likely to get on ADHD meds because they are not being confined to a desk in a classroom for hours each school day.
  • Parents spend more time with their kids building bonds, sense of love and security, and transmitting values.
  • Children usually eat healthier when they are with parents.
  • There is less rushing around because school can be done much more efficiently than in a large classroom of kids.
  •  Kids are happier because they are getting outdoors much more and have extra time to play with their friends. This also reduces the need for ADHD meds.
  • Homeschooled children, generally, are not dealing with developmentally inappropriate topics and situations.
  • Homeschooling does not have the hyper-competitive atmosphere you see in many schools today.
  • There is much less risk to personal safety for homeschooled kids.
  • The teach-to-the-test culture is absent.
  • Involvement in drugs, alcohol and sexual activity is much less.
  • Image consciousness, such as the clothes you wear and people you hang out with, is greatly reduced.
  • Homeschooled students don’t usually know who struggles with math and reading and who excels. Those are typically done at home at a customized pace. As a result, it is much less likely that less academically-inclined kids will feel dumb. That insecurity and damage can take years to get over–if ever.
  • Parents often play a greater role influencing with whom their kids socialize.  As peers play such a big role in our children’s lives, this can’t be underestimated.

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Family Relationships

Homeschool families are typically very close. I think part of it is because we have so many shared experiences together. I have been told many times by parents who left public school to homeschool that the whole family is so much more relaxed, and they are finally having time to enjoy one another.

 

Most of our homeschool family friends have siblings who get along well as do my own children. My hypothesis is because they do so much life together. They have so many meaningful experiences together out in the world. They know one another’s friends well because we are experiencing the world with them, too. We read aloud books as a family and discuss them which is, also, a powerful bonding experience.  I don’t know the precise reasons homeschool kids typically get along so nicely with their siblings, but it is wonderful and sweet.

Love of Learning

Earlier this week, The Harvard Gazette published a story featuring three of their homeschooled students. The writer pointed out the following: “The three profiled here share a spirit of curiosity and independence that continues to shape their education.”

This is one area that homeschoolers really shine. Because we aren’t caught up in competition and standardized tests, homeschoolers usually exemplify love of learning!

 

In fact, homeschool parents have tremendous fun learning with their kids. I have a master’s degree and have completed some executive education. However, none of my prior education comes close to what I am learning as a homeschool parent. It is nice to be surrounded by other parents who enjoy learning and discussing ideas. I find the lifestyle of a homeschool parent extremely rich and gratifying.

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There are quite a few other compelling reasons to homeschool. However, I covered some highlights for you.  I am so grateful to homeschool and feel it is one of the best and most important decisions we will ever make for our family. Additionally, I love it more and more each year. It is an incredible journey to go on with your children, and  I hope you will strongly consider it. As I remind my friends who are in public school and on the fence, there is no wait list to get back in school. If you try it and it doesn’t work, then you can always go back. However, most people I know who take that step only regret they didn’t start sooner.

Please share this post if you believe others should learn more about homeschooling. I believe with all my heart that with devoted, loving parents who can make the time for it, in most cases, it is the optimal choice for kids, families and our nation.

Finally, I highly recommend Richard Louv’s groundbreaking book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Children From Nature Deficit Disorder. “He links the absence of nature in156512605X the lives of today’s wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. This is the first book to bring together a body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions to heal the broken bond.”

You may also like:

Six Reasons We Homeschool Year-Round

The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

Do Parents Need More Patience for Public School or Homeschool?

How We Homeschool 4th & 5th Grade

How We Homeschool First Grade

How Much Does it Cost to Homeschool?

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The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

The state of California offers me, a homeschooling parent, $2600/year in educational funds for each of my kids. I, along with so many other homeschooling families in California, have crafted a customized and well-rounded education that reflects our family’s interests, priorities, learning styles, and values.

Thanks in large part to our educational funds, I believe homeschoolers in Southern California are at the forefront of 21st-century learning. We are empowered with financial resources to truly customize our children’s education. The network of homeschool vendors is huge because homeschoolers have those financial resources to pay for their educational offerings.  Most families would only be able to afford a fraction of these learning opportunities without the funds.

The ecosystem of classes, programs and enrichment opportunities for homeschool families in Southern California is enormous, and I credit much of that to the educational funds. With such tremendous infrastructure in place, it makes for a thriving and dynamic place to receive a 21st-century education and explore one’s passions.  Personalized learning is all the rage amongst education circles these days. Homeschoolers have been doing this for years. With educational funds, it makes it even easier to facilitate a top-of-the-line education for our kids.

I’d like to share with you how educational funds work in California for homeschool families:

  • Educational Funds–Charter schools for homeschoolers offer educational funds. There are multiple charter schools and each competes to attract and retain students. The charter school I selected spends, on each student’s behalf, $2600/year to use with vendors to provide for a well-rounded education. The parents direct what they want to spend their funds on and the choices are colossal. Funds can’t be spent on religious curriculum or classes. I don’t know any two families who spend their funds in the same way. Our options are vast. Here is how we are spending our funds this year:

    • Piano, flute and saxophone lessons
    • Flute and saxophone rental fees
    • Basketball clinics and gymnastics lessons
    • Weekly field trips
    • Weekly project-based learning classes that correspond with our field trips
    • Weekly sailing lessons
    • Technology classes
    • School and office supplies
    • Curriculum–Amazon and Rainbow Resources are two examples of curriculum vendors. The options and combinations seem almost endless allowing for a wonderfully customized curriculum.
  • One-hundred Percent Personalized Curriculum–We can use any method or program of our family’s choosing.
    • I select the mix of curriculum that fits each of my kids’ needs and am free to change it up as needed without permission from anyone. Here is what we do for math.
    • Faith-based materials can’t be purchased with state funds.
    • Some people use funds for core classes like math, language arts, etc. The parents can choose the teacher and program that best fits their kids’ learning styles. I  prefer to use our funds on experiences and activities. I expect as my kids move into middle or high school that I will begin to use some of the funds for writing and math classes. For now, however, my children are thriving academically, emotionally, and socially. My 10-year old son’s blog and my 9-year old daughter’s blog offer a glimpse of our incredible homeschooling lifestyle and educational opportunities in SoCal.
    • If a child or family is fascinated by a subject, then it is our option to linger in it and dive deep without making sure we are hitting all the quick and shallow standards of public school.  This creates passion and love of learning.
    • There is no state-mandated curriculum.
    • One of the benefits of homeschooling is instruction is individualized. If a child learns quickly then s/he can jump ahead. For example, my oldest two kids are above grade level in virtually every academic subject freeing them up to move at an accelerated pace. This is not usually an option in conventional school. Additionally, kids that do not learn as quickly are able to slow down until they understand it without being made to feel dumb. One nice thing about homeschooling is most of the kids have no idea at which rate their friends learn math, read books, etc. Instead, they are learning together joyfully on hikes, field trips, in science classes, etc.
    • We are also part of a weekly homeschool co-op with about 60 families. Parents volunteer their gifts and passions to teach classes so we only pay for supplies. We do not use funds, and about half the families file independently and not with a charter school. I teach Blogging and 21st-Century Skills. My kids take art, science and other classes here with other wonderful homeschool families.

Thanks to educational funds for homeschoolers, a tremendous infrastructure of classes, programs, and opportunities have emerged allowing kids to learn and thrive in such diverse ways that best fit their needs and passions. The funds have created a competitive market that has dramatically amplified opportunities. 

  • Standardized Testing–Since we accept funds, homeschool charters prefer that we take the same standardized test in the spring that public school kids take beginning in third grade. I have no problem with that. I do not spend any time teaching to that test, and the charter school does not put any pressure on us to do so. So far, my kids have been in the top tier of each standardized test we have taken. Many of my homeschool friends also score much higher than their district school counterparts. I find this interesting considering how much time public schools spend teaching to the test, and we spent none.  Rather, we focus on a well-rounded, quality education.
    • I am not pressured to teach to the test at all.
    • There is no reward or repercussion for test results.
    • I tell my kids to do the best they can on the tests and advise them they will probably see some unfamiliar language and terminology. We do not follow a Common Core curriculum or use classroom lingo. If they don’t know an answer, they can use process of elimination.
    • Last year’s standardized tests only took about 3 hours total and was divided into two days. Our wonderful teacher surprised them with homemade lollipops with encouraging notes attached for their hard work after test completion. We also went to her house a few days later to watch her ducklings hatching. We witnessed a duckling peck its way out of its shell. She is an example of the many caring teachers who support homeschool families.
    • You simply get the results in the mail. It is your choice to open it up and look at the results. Some parents choose to not look at the results because they do not believe in standardized tests for their kids.
    • Most people will need to take tests throughout their lives. I see this as good preparation and a partial barometer of how we are doing. However, I don’t believe those tests account for many important successful life skills or for the uniqueness in each of our children. Many brilliant kids don’t test well.
  • Meeting With Your Assigned Credentialed Teacher–We are required to meet with our assigned teacher approximately once every 3 weeks. However, some families who prefer additional support may be in contact with their teacher more often.
    • Samples are required. Each student is required to provide one to several samples per month depending on the charter school. All samples must be secular.
    • I have always worked with supportive teachers who have trusted me with my children’s education. They are simply there as a facilitator and to offer guidance for those families who need it. I have occasionally heard of some demanding teachers. In that case, a family simply switches teachers or changes to another charter school. It is the free market in action.
  • Educational Vendors–We have thousands of products and vendors from which we can choose from to use our homeschool funds. One thing I love about homeschooling is that my kids are out experiencing the world in a variety of settings and learning from different instructors who are so passionate about their field. Families are empowered to ask their favorite provider of services or products to become a vendor. Here are just a few of the vendors in Southern California offering programs for homeschool kids:

Amazon and Rainbow Resources are my two favorite vendors for curriculum. The prices and selection are great, and shipping with Amazon is fast.  We can create thousands of combinations customized to our children’s learning styles and abilities.

 

  • Charter School Options–Charter schools compete to attract and retain students. Each year, the choices, funding and options seem to get better. Here are just a few examples:

I know some people vehemently opposed to accepting educational funds from the government. In California, you have the option to stay independent instead of receiving charter school funds. However, sometimes they give out false information and say you can’t teach what you want if you accept funds. This simply is NOT TRUE. I customize my kids’ education every bit as much as a family who does not join a charter school. I find their misinformation confuses new homeschool families. If I ever felt dissatisfied with the charter school, I have the freedom and choice to file independently again. I have multiple friends who were fiercely independent and resisted joining the charters. However, when some amazing opportunities opened up two years ago for students in my charter, they signed up. They are enjoying their activities and extra funds and have not looked back. crown-group-shot-end

In summary, the educational funds have played a tremendous role in creating a huge infrastructure for homeschool families. I am in charge of what and how my kids learn.  If I ever believed it impacted my ability to teach what I wanted, then I would simply go independent. I am so excited and hopeful that homeschooling families across America will also have the opportunity to receive educational funds, if they desire, and see an even greater expansion of the homeschool infrastructure and learning opportunities.

I would love for Secretary DeVos to come to Southern California to see what has been built for homeschool families–in part due to educational funds. It is learning for the 21st-century at its finest!

 

You may also be interested in:

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

Need Some K-6 Math Inspiration?

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

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Note: I have updated this post to answer readers’ questions and provide deeper explanations for you.