Homeschooling 101: Cathy Duffy

www.cathyduffy.com has over 1,000 reviews of homeschooling materials. [Hey look. Her web site is a walking tax deduction.] Extensive personal home schooling experience & some published books.

In space 1206 in Exhibit hall sporadically to ask questions.

Started homeschooling in 1982. 3 songs. Planned initially on doing one year homeschooling in, one year out in alternating sequence. Conventional wisdom is that it does not work real well. Thing she noticed that by the end of the year, she enjoyed not living in the car. Not having to keep an eye on the clock. Felt like she’d be rescued from the rat race. Didn’t expect that.

Ended up sticking with homeschooling through high school. Only one other family in her county when she started. In California.

Step 1: Research before you start

Just reacting is not the best way to start. Especially during the middle of the year. Do your research first and have a good idea about what you’re getting into. [Hence going to this conference.]

Some kids might feel socially disconnected. No recess. You’ll want to do some selling of the benefits of homeschooling that they would care about.

Step 2: You “big picture” goals

  • Your motivation: flex schedule, religious beliefs, safety, social issues, etc.
  • Your values:
    Ask yourself why you’re doing this? The answer to that will influence the cirrculum, method of accountability, etc. What do you want to see as a result of your homeschooling efforts?
    Example if you’re goal is improve academics, then you need to select harder materials for your child.

It’s possible for these reasons to shift over the homeschooling experience. Revisit this from time-totime

Step 3: Get more specific

  • For each subject area
  • For each child
  • For the family
    Have specific academic, et al, goals defined. Think about the progression of your subject areas over time. Think about this pacing ahead of time. [This person is clearly the sort of Vagabonder that plans way crazy in advance.]

Step 4: What are other schools teaching?

Common Core State Standards: www.corestandards.org
Other Standards: www.nextgenscience.org, www.educationworld.com/standards/state
Standards spell out what should be learned at each grade level for each subject area. Goal is to create uniformity. [Blah, blah, standards propaganda and analysis. Some object because the Federal government has used funds to bully to get States to adopt. It assumes that all 5 years olds can learn the same things at the same time. Aka anti-Montisorri.]

Don’t specifically try to line your coursework up with the standards. Treat them as informational.

Alignment does not mean that a course or text covers everything in the core standard. Only that they’ve identified what they do cover. Even within the public schools this is a continual problem. Just because something isn’t aligned doesn’t mean it can help your child learn.

Standardize tests are specifically aimed at forcing schools to teach to the test. Next Spring they’re required to give the Common Core tests. They’ve run into so many problems this spring that’s up into the air. It’s a mess right now. Very fluid situation. Portfolio assessment can substitute as an alternative evaluation. Try to avoid to get into the situation of teaching to the test – that hijacks your goals and results in shallow learning.

Stress critical thinking and your kids will do fine regardless of evaluation method.

Write out your goals. That will help you sort out your cirrculum choices. Use those goals throughout the year to see if you’re on target. It’s not a mystery for how well your children are doing.

Step 5: Decide how you will operate

  • Know your state law!
  • Find your local or statewide homeschool group.
  • Home School Legal Defens Associa.: www.HSLDA.org
  • Practical Homeschooling Magazine: www.home-school.com/groups
    Know your state law. [Do we need to go state shopping? We have options…] They have a list of more secular groups. Look for a “how to get started” for your state. It’s sometimes county-level. Know this up-front. [Orange County, CA is more home school friendly than LA County for example. /wave Irvine!]

Step 5: Continued

  • What’s your legal covering for enrollment?
  • If you choose to be Independent:
    ** School name/create letterhead stationary
    ** Join a legs defense association
    ** File forms or notice
    ** Request records
    ** Maintain immunization records
    ** Maintain school records
    This can get really complicated. It usually boils down to wether you do your own record keeping or do you outsource that. There are some schools (campus & online) which do this for you. [Sounds like a PEO.] They function like a school office. Remote/out-of-state OK. Calvert School, for example, does homeschool kids world-wide, but some states that’s not enough. Find out. [OK.}

Private Homeschooling: Independent. Up to you to know what records you need to keep & file. Up to and including their high school transcript. It’s not really that difficult. Lots of services and help to do this. Sounds worse than it is.

Publish homeschooling: if mutation is paid by the government. Your home is an adjunct to the public school. You’re considered an assistant. Be careful & know what you’re getting into. Technically your child is a public school student.

Going independent gives you the most freedom to do what’s necessary for each child.

Make sure you get their cumulative file. [She said this at least twenty times.]

Unregistered homeschooling is another option. It’s essentially underground. It’s much better to do it aboveboard. Not recommended.

Step 5: Continued

  • Choosing a program
    ** Supports your goals
    ** Record keeping, testing, and reporting requirements
    ** Limitations on educational approaches
    ** Support Services
    Programs vary a lot. Ask and learn upfront. What help do they provide? Offer field trips?

These are very personal decision for each family. Your choices are OK. Your choices can be changed over time. This sort of thing changes as your circumstances and children change. She always worked informally with other families creating their own classes. Found them via local homeschooling groups.

With so many choices, there’s a tendency to sign up for too many things. Don’t get overcommitted.

Step 6: Figure out your teaching style and your children’s learning style

  • Examples: Wiggly Willy, Perfect Paula, Competent Carl, Sociable Sue

Everyone has their own learning style. Our personal learning style preference translates into our teaching style. Your children may need something different. Example: reading aloud vs. reading on their own. Learning styles change depending on difficulty of the material for your child.

Step 7: Decide what educational approach(es) you will use

  • Traditional
  • Classical
  • Charlotte Mason (Use real books instead of textbooks. Narration-centric.)
  • Unit Studies (Use real books with lots of activities.)
  • Unschooling [<<<<<<< Best for Eldest. Most Montessori-like.]
  • Eclectic
  • More info: 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum and www.CathyDuffyReviews.com
    Very few are purist about their educational approach long-term. As a result, most homeschoolers end up in eclectic (combinational) category over time.

[Feels to me like a Unit Study on American History, for example, would be helpful to ground a tour of Revolutionary War sites. Combined with additional reading materials and on-site activities. Integrated with an open menu approach of choices – aka Unschooling. The point of the Unit Study segment is primary model behavior so that self-direction can take over and provide an emulation model.]

Questionnaire in her book helps you figure out which approach would work for you.

Step 8: Do a reality check

  • Is this practical this year?
  • Adjust your wishes
  • Keep in mind the first year is usually the toughest.

Be honest with yourself about if you have enough throughput to do the work necessary. Is this an aspiration or an actual achievable goal?

There’s an amazing number of free resources out there.

Be realistic about yourself and your situation and set your sights on something which is actually doable. Don’t bite off too much. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your children. Over that first year, you’ll learn as much as your children.

Don’t buy too far into advance into a program.

Be prepared to go a different direction.

Step 9: Set up your school area & supplies

  • Space
  • Organizations
  • Essentials
    Never one used desks, etc. that she purchased for school, actually for school. Don’t have to have a dedicated room for homeschooling. You do need to have space for your materials. Have a spot where you can safely put your records and answer keys out of reach of the kids. Organize along a by-child approach.

Essentials => bookshelves. You accumulate lots of books. Biggest space requirement. Portable crate files are useful.

Whiteboard & erasable markers. Used them all the time.

World map, stuff like that.

Make sure you have the things you need handy and accessible.

Step 10: Record Keeping

  • Report cards/portfolios/samples/logs
  • Standardized test results
  • Transcripts
  • Cumulative File (Cum file for short) [Clocking in at over 30 times for this phrase now…]
  • Check state law e.e.
    ** Immunization records
    ** List of teacher qualifications
    It’s OK to hold stuff back if you child returns back to a formal school. In most cases, no one else is going to ask to see these records. Keep good records just in case.

5 Cautions:

  • You don’t have to know it all!
  • Be merciful to yourself
  • Don’t take too much credit or blame
  • School at home vs. car-schooling
  • There is no perfect curriculum
    Do your best and don’t be too hard on yourself if things go wrong. Homeschooling is more flexible and can recover more easily.

Your children are going to know things which you’ve never taught the. You’re going to cover things again and again and they won’t learn it. Your children will choose what they’re willing to learn. They’ll memorize and erase what they don’t want to care.

[Car-schooling referenced as different than home schooling but not defined. Don’t know what this is.]

Allow your kids to try things privately and not be embarrassed. It’s not fair to our kids to evaluate everything they do.

There is no holy grail. Just about everything you use, you will need to adapt. Find something which works fairly will and just use it.

5 Final Bits of Advice

  • Read good books! (Make your kids self-educators.)
  • Leave them wanting more! (Stop before you’re done.) [Open loop. Duh.]
  • Don’t worry about what others are doing! (Envy bad.)
  • Experiment!
  • Have Fun!
    First year is the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t for you and them. Expect to fumble around for the first year. Give yourself room to do that.

Take time to do things which your children enjoy. If we make education so unpleasant that our children want to drop-out we will have failed. We want them to develop a love for learning.

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