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

Dear Secretary King,

Earlier this week, you stated you were concerned many homeschoolers were not getting the socialization and educational opportunities as their peers.

You must be unfamiliar with contemporary homeschooling. Not only are many homeschool families excelling in academics but are also on the cutting edge of 21st-century education. In fact, the education world could learn a lot if they spent some time studying what contemporary homeschoolers are creating. In many cases, it is educational entrepreneurship at its finest! Regarding socialization, I find the opportunities for homeschoolers as vastly superior to those in conventional classrooms.

Let me break down and address your reported concerns:

  • You worry that, in a lot of cases, students who are homeschooled are not getting the kind of the breadth of instruction experience they would get in school.

     

We are able to provide our kids with truly customized, high-quality educations. We don’t use a one-size-fits-all curriculum, and we aren’t bogged down by hierarchies and bureaucracies to make change. We don’t teach to the middle or to a test. I never planned to homeschool but had to pull my son from public school because he was so far ahead of his peers. He was bored, and our local public school in an upper-middle-class area was not able to provide adequate rigor or challenge.

There is a large and impressive ecosystem in place for homeschoolers to take academic and enrichment classes. Some classes my kids , currently ages 6-10 years old, have taken with their homeschool friends over the past several years include physics, chemistry, public speaking,  NASA engineering, art, Spanish, aviation, Meet the Great Composers, chess, engineering structures, Lego Writing Club, cooking, botany and violin. In my view, our kids are exposed to so much more and in a much more enjoyable way than their conventionally-schooled counterparts.

  • They’re also not getting the opportunity to build relationships with peers unless their parents are very intentional about it.

I love the way my kids are socialized with our homeschool friends. 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, workshops, performing arts theaters, farms, planetariums,  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 ever spent time around children can tell you, both younger and older kids benefit when different ages mix. 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 mix of ages and everybody loses something. “–From The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Sal Khan

 

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  • Students who are homeschooled are not getting the kind of “rapid instructional experience” they would get in school.

I don’t know exactly what you mean by this. One of my friends, who is a former science teacher, replied to your comment, “That just means they go so fast and shallow that many kids don’t get it, and the others don’t care about it.” The typical homeschooler takes a different approach. We go deep into subjects. The lifestyle of learning in the homeschool community is a beautiful thing. It goes beyond our academics and can be found in the vacations we take, types of birthday parties we have, weekend activities and more.  Two of the most important skills of a 21st-century education are curiosity and a love of learning. If you spend time in the homeschool community,  you will see children who are frequently out in the world joyfully learning in a variety of environments from people who are passionate about their field and craft.

Also, a large chunk of homeschool families have at least one parent who is currently or was a teacher. This really should raise some eyebrows as to what is going on in public education when so many who have taught in the classroom have decided they can do better by taking them out of the system.  A veteran public school teacher with decades of experience is the person who really encouraged me to pull my son from public school and homeschool him.

  • They’re often not getting those relationships with teachers and mentors other than their parents. You worry whether home school students are getting the range of opportunities we hope for all kids.

Homeschoolers are able to get their academic work done in about half the time of their conventionally-schooled peers. This gives them far more time to be out in the world engaged in their passions with mentors. If they love birding then they can volunteer at the Audubon Society and learn from the naturalists there. If they are passionate about fossils then they can volunteer with a paleontologist. My homeschooled cousin is the youngest docent at our local aquarium. At just 10 years-old, she leads talks throughout the aquarium for visitors.

 

Additionally, there is a huge infrastructure of classes for homeschoolers. Homeschool parents are educational facilitators for their kids and often sign their kids up for classes. They have the flexibility to find the best teachers, tutors, and mentors they can. They aren’t stuck with whatever teacher they end up with at conventional school. True educational customization!

You did concede there are some families doing it well and you knew of some homeschoolers in college who had “very tremendous academic success.”  I am thankful for our freedom in homeschooling and agree with you that “it’s up to families if they want to take a homeschool approach.” Homeschoolers, in my view, are by far the most entrepreneurial segment of the U.S. education system, and homeschooling is superior to any public or private school when done well. Nothing beats the level of customization homeschooling parents can offer their children with all that is available to us today.

Respectfully,

The Contemporary Homeschooler

You may also be interested in:

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

Benefits of Experiential Learning

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning Part One

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning Part Two

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Free and Fun Spelling Website

Are you looking for a FREE, quality spelling website that is completely hands-off for Mom and Dad for your spelling curriculum?

My kids have thoroughly enjoyed Gradespelling.com. I love it because they complete their spelling totally independent of me. There is never any grumbling when they go to do their spelling.  Each lesson offers a wide variety of ways to practice the spelling list including Hang A Bot, Spelling Bee, Word Jumble and Word Search. Their absolute favorite is Hang A Bot! My kids work on two short, engaging and to-the-point activities per school day. The free website also offers vocabulary-building exercises.

www.gradespelling.com

Additionally, a premium version is offered.   We find, however, the free version works great for us. The premium version does offer a free novel studies section for a variety of very popular books.

www.spellingclassroom.com

My daughter uses a Hewlett-Packard Chromebook that we purchased from Amazon for only $160  that works splendidly for her school work. At 11.6 inches, it is the perfect weight and size for her hands. She uses it for spelling, IXL, writing essays, research, YouTube, email and more.

http://amzn.to/2bmdReq

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Here were our curriculum choices last school year:

An Example of an Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Curriculum

For ideas on adding more structure to your schedule to allow more time for experiential learning, you may be interested in:

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning Part One

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning Part Two

 

You can sign up to follow The Contemporary Homeschooler via email by clicking on the Follow button. Also, join our community on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/TheContemporaryHomeschooler/

Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

Homeschooling: The Road Less Traveled

While reading a book today about life’s critical choices, I was reminded of Robert Frost’s words and immediately thought of our family’s decision to homeschool. It is the road less traveled and that has made all the difference for our family.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

–Robert Frost

Here is a picture of our first day homeschooling several years ago. I pulled my son out of public school March of his kindergarten year. I remember the feeling of freedom and joy to be out in the world learning together as part of their education.

First day of our homeschool journey several years ago.

Some ways it has made all the difference for our family includes:

  • Family Bonds–My kids are best friends. We experience so much life together.  While they do have a tiff every now and then, they generally really enjoy one beach playanother. I observe this same pattern with our homeschool family friends. You just don’t see a lot of bickering amongst siblings in our community. 
  • Love Affair with Books–One of my favorite things about homeschooling is having plenty of time for reading aloud.  We travel on many book journeys together and engage in lots of conversation about what I read aloud. Additionally, we frequent a wide variety of libraries.  The kids are dying to get to one to find more books to bring home for their reading pleasure. Each library has its own personality and unique book selection.
  • Friendships–Our homeschool family friends are incredible people with shared values and vision for how we want to raise our kids. We have a blast doing life with them! I did not experience this same connection when we were in public school.
  • Love of Learning–We are able to learn in a wide variety of environments and from many different people. Yes, I am their teacher for many subjects. However, we are also out learning from park rangers, museum docents, business owners, scientists and more! We learn from passionate parents in our co-op.  We are not confined to one classroom and the same teacher daily. Additionally, I do not teach to a standardized test which can crush a love of learning.
  • Customized Education–I am an entrepreneur for my children’s education. Nimbly, we tailor the curriculum and learning opportunities to their learning styles, passions and our family’s priorities.

How has homeschooling made all the difference for your family?  Please click onto our Facebook page below and let us know. Your words may be encouragement for a family who is considering homeschooling or one wondering if they should stay the course.

Here are a few other links you may enjoy:

Benefits of Experiential Learning

I Like Being with My Kids

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning

 

You can sign up to follow The Contemporary Homeschooler via email by clicking on the Follow button. Also, join our community on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/TheContemporaryHomeschooler/

 

 

 

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning: Part Two

Are you looking to have more fun with your kids and less time nagging them to do their work? Would you like to spend more time on field trips, engaging classes,  and exploration?If your answer is  yes, this post may be helpful for you.

You can have plenty of time for experiential learning with discipline and a good structure in place. We were out 3 full days/week last school year and plan to do the same again this year. Here is a sample of what our schedule looks like:

 Days We are Out

On the three days we are out, the kids have a lighter academic schedule and need to focus on their core work including math, writing composition and reading. As I am buzzing around trying to get us all packed up for the day, I don’t put anything on the schedule that requires my involvement. Required science/history reading takes place for 25 minutes in the car en route to our destination. They need to finish all math before we leave for the day, or I know they will be too tired when we return. Some things like instrument practice work out just fine to do when we get back.

Full Academic Workload Days

On the two days we are home, we do full workloads as you can see looking at Monday and Thursday. They schedule their day how they want. My only requirement is that math comes first. On top of that, anything that requires my involvement, like editing an essay, must also occur in the morning. I want to be done with my part before lunch. Due to homeschool efficiency, we still are usually completely done with everything before the conventionally-schooled kids get out of school around 2:30 PM.

Dry Erase Sleeves and Spreadsheets

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We love these dry erase sleeves that we purchased on Amazon about a year ago. The kids simply use a dry erase marker to check off what they have completed for the day. The $8 we spent on the sleeves were a good investment, and they enjoy using them. Additionally, the kids learned how to use Google Sheets (similar to Excel) by creating their checklists.

Science and History

You don’t see it on the schedule because we do it primarily through living books during read aloud and quiet time, co-op and experiential learning.

Stay tuned for Part Three of this series.

Find Part One of this series by clicking on the link below:

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning: Part 1

Here were our curriculum choices last school year:

An Example of an Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Curriculum

For ideas on how to design your own writing curriculum:

Designing Your Own Writing Curriculum

You can sign up to follow The Contemporary Homeschooler via email by clicking on the Follow button. Also, join our community on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/TheContemporaryHomeschooler/

Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning: Part One

We all want to be out doing this!

 

Instead of this! Math pic for blog 003

So, we need to knock those academics out of the way ASAP so we can have some fun.

Last year, we dramatically changed our schedule by being away from home 3 full days each week so we could be involved in a weekly program at Disneyland, another day sailing and another day at our co-op. This did not include other activities like extra-curriculars, field trips, park days, etc. I wondered how we would ever complete our academics so came up with a plan as a family.

This is a series on how to schedule academics so we have plenty of time to engage with the world. This is what we have done as a family and has worked for us. What type of schedule has worked for you?

  • SET EXPECTATIONS

Before signing up for all the activities, we had a family meeting. The kids had to give their commitment that they would need to be dressed and starting their math at 7:30 AM on days we were to be gone.  They would also do their required history/science reading for 25 minutes in the car en route to our activities. Additionally, they would need to do some math over the weekend. Prior to this, they never had school work on the weekend.

  • CREATE A CHECKLIST

I told my kids what needed to be completed and they used Google Sheets to create their daily check-off list. This had the added benefit of giving them practice with spreadsheets. We will talk about what that schedule looks like in detail in the 2nd post in this series.

  • YEAR-ROUND SCHOOL

We have always done year-round school. However, because we were out 3 days/week last year and plan to do the same in the fall, we are doing a little bit heavier workload over the summer than we did in prior summers. Sure, we take some days off completely and even a week here and there.  A writing composition teacher has come to my house on Fridays giving them assignments to work on each day. That has helped us to stay on track with writing as it is easy for me to skip on that over the summer.

Additionally, it is hot during the summer and crowded with all the conventionally-schooled kids out and about. I’d much rather be knocking out some school work in our air-conditioned house on some of those days and enjoy our beautiful and interesting places with fewer people and better weather.

How do you schedule your academics?

Find Part Two of this series by clicking on the link below:

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning: Part Two

Here were our curriculum choices last school year:

An Example of an Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Curriculum

For ideas on how to design your own writing curriculum:

Designing Your Own Writing Curriculum

You can sign up to follow The Contemporary Homeschooler via email by clicking on the Follow button. Also, join our community on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/TheContemporaryHomeschooler/

A Case for Year-Round School

“During that 12-to-13-week period where kids are out of school, they are, in fact, losing that knowledge that they’ve already learned to the degree that, on average, kids on the traditional calendar are required to be re-taught or instructed on the curriculum they were taught the year previously between four and eight weeks annually. If you compound those four to eight weeks of required re-teaching in 1st grade through 8th grade, it’s quite possible a student entering high school will be a year to a year and a half behind their counterparts.”

It is nice that we are free as parents in charge of our children’s education to decide whether we want to do this or not. For us, we school year-round for several reasons. First, we like to do a lot of field trips and other types of experiential learning throughout the entire year. We don’t fall behind this way. Second, we don’t have to waste time reteaching material from the previous school year. Third, a light school load during the summer gives them some structure before we go out and enjoy our day. We do not do a complete school load during the summer. Their primary summer academic work is math, instrument practice, a little writing and reading (they would read anyway). I don’t want to have to backtrack on math in the fall.

I know some families look forward to that extended break over the summer. So glad they get that time off. 🙂

Is it Time to Move Away from the Traditional School Calendar?

An Example of an Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Curriculum

Some of you have asked what a typical homeschool curriculum looks like and how much is spent. We try to do as much learning out in the world as possible as well as through living books. Here is what we did for my 9, 8 and 5-year-olds last year. I think about $508 was spent total for all 3 of them averaging about $170/kid for the year.

Math
*Horizons Math workbooks 1 and 2 for $22.45 each
http://www.rainbowresource.com/product/sku/000718
Horizons Math Teacher Manual for $45
http://www.rainbowresource.com/product/sku/000717
*We supplement with Singapore Math workbooks
Singapore Math a and b workbooks $13.20/each
http://www.rainbowresource.com/product/sku/023997
Singapore Math Home Instructor Guides for a and b $17.49 each
http://www.rainbowresource.com/product/sku/024006
*We supplement with IXL–2 memberships at $79/each
*We supplement with XtraMath and cycle through it about every 3 months to stay sharp with math facts
https://xtramath.org/#/home/index

Grammar
First Language Lessons 4 workbooks at $12.95 each
http://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php…
First Language Lessons 4 Teacher Manual at $19.50
http://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php…

Spelling
Spelling.com is an interactive free spelling website
http://gradespelling.com/

Writing composition
I have not found a curriculum I have loved so have done my own thing. The link below will take you to another blog post about writing ideas without using a curriculum. Instead, you can tailor it to passions and experiences. If they write for their peers on a site like MeWe or a blog, they may find it more enjoyable than just writing for their teacher or parent.

Writing Ideas

Penmanship
D’Nealian Handwriting at $10.95 each
http://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php?id=037802&subject=Handwriting/9&category=MODERN+%2F+D%92NEALIAN+STYLE+-+MANUSCRIPT+AND+CURSIVE/2015

Science
Apologia Anatomy and Physiology text @$25.25
http://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php…
Apologia Anatomy and Physiology Notebooking Journal at $17.50 each
Also, we get many science books from the library to cover a wide variety of topics and greater understanding of the world.

Literature and History
We do all literature and history for free with living books from the library. Reading is a huge cornerstone of our curriculum and we are a family of ravenous readers. Reading aloud during snack and meal times is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling.

Learning to Read (for my 5 year old)
Explode the Code 2 and 3 at $6.95 each
http://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php…

Would anyone else like to share their curriculum? What do you absolutely love? Let others benefit from your experience.