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Archive for the ‘Home School’ Category

My Priorities Rant

I just read answers to a question put out to home schoolers about when they do chores. The answer was unanimously, ‘before anything else’ in the morning. What?!?!?
I have heard of home schoolers missing co-op classes because the housework was not completed, and thought that this was rare, and nuts. (Who is going to see your house when you are gone?)
What I am beginning to see is that in many homes it is more important to mom for her house to look ‘perfect’ (so her friends think she is wonderful) than for her children to be well educated.
Let me point a few things out:
1. A clean house never paid the bills, but a good education leads to much wealth.
2. If your children do not get a good foundation in school they will find college extremely challenging.
3. By placing housework first you teach your children to over-value other people’s opinions. This makes them a slave to those who emotionally bully people. This is not a personality that does well in life, but is a personality that is prone to depression, low self-esteem and fear.
4. An overly clean house stifles creativity. If you have to worry about making a mess, you will not do the things that make learning fun. Finger painting, elephant toothpaste, raising small animals- all of these hands-on projects have great mess-potential. But they are also the things that children remember most.
5. Being overly attentive to how clean your home is makes mom the house Nazi. This is not a fun position to be in, and does not help your relationship with your husband or your children. It is hard to cuddle up with someone who is always worrying about how dirty you are.
Remember: Proverbs 14:4 “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean, but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” (KJV)
Do not keep things so clean that it inhibits productive work. And remember, those of us who were at the beginning of the home school movement, the one that produced those wonderful kids who scored amazingly on their standardized tests and won spelling bees, we had messy homes! (And we visited each other. There was clutter, honest!) Let’s stop being like the world, always worried about being ‘better’ than others, and start being the people God created us to be: kind, caring, and hospitable enough to let the little things slide.

photo by Matija Barrett

How We Home School

IMG_7844Now this is a much more difficult post to write because how we do things has changed over the years. And it needed to. Different children need different things, and what they need, especially regarding structure, changes as they age.

In the beginning, when I was home schooling a second grader and pre-schooler, we sat on the floor a lot. The baby could crawl around and we worked until the child became bored, then took a break and returned. There was no pressure, and we went out and about a lot. My children enjoyed their work, and often sat down with their books and went ahead on their own. (My suggestion for this age is to buy curriculum with a lot of colorful pictures. The more the children are drawn to it, the more they will do. Also, make sure there is not too much on each page. Too many tasks in too little space overwhelms younger children, and some older ones too!)

When we added more children to our home school (7 in total) we woke up at 7 am, had a quick breakfast and got to work. There was a timer set to 30-minute intervals. If you were done with the work I assigned, you got a frozen Juicy-Juice ice cube (for some reason my kids loved this- use what works). If you did not finish the remaining work was put away and was ‘homework’ for later when the other children had free time. After the Juicy-Juice cube another subject was pulled out, and I corrected the papers while they worked on their next 30-minute task. (One of the advantages of home schooling is that mistakes are caught early and corrected.) When all of the subjects were done we had lunch. After lunch the children worked on their ‘corrections’ so there was an incentive to do things right the first time. Home school was not done until Mom was sure you knew what you were doing. Then any work you had not finished was to be done while the other children played, or watched TV. (Another incentive to work hard when you were supposed to.) We also had devotions at night, before bed, so Bible teaching was not considered a ‘chore’ they had to do.

Later the Juicy-Juice cubes and timer were no longer needed. The children had gotten into the habit of working well, so we continued to wake up at 7 am, but I merely sat in the room, available for questions and I monitored the situation. We also did a few subjects together as a family now that our adopted children had ‘caught up.’ We then introduced the concept of doing the work you do ‘alone’ beforehand, whenever you have free time (before bed, waiting for music lessons etc), so you have more time to do other things during the day.

My oldest three children never enjoyed school that much so they needed the daily structure. After they left the house things changed radically. My youngest three now do most of their work on their own whenever they have time. As long as it is done before it is due, I am fine with this system. We have an inbox that I check regularly and I make them a list of their daily assignments for the year before the school year begins. They can even begin during summer break if they would like. As long as they are completing assignments in a timely manner they can sleep in as long as they wish (The perk that drives this awesome behavior.). Or at least until we do the subjects we do together. Last year we gathered together at 1 pm. This meant some of my children slept until then and did their work at night. This was a little too late for my tastes so we now gather at 11 am. We are working on Science, Philosophy and Greek as a group this year. I am working on having them take notes as if they are in a college classroom, so I lecture and use my dry erase board. But it is still somewhat relaxed. If there is nothing to put on the board I sit sideways with my feet on the corner of my desk and the children are free to interrupt and ask questions at any time. Because the setting is so laid-back we explore many ‘rabbit-trails’ in addition to the work at hand.

I recently asked my son, who is a freshman in college studying engineering at a very competitive college, if there was anything we could have done to better prepare him for college. He said ‘no.’ He pointed out that the freedom of home schooling taught him how to budget his time better than his peers, and that he seems to have more self-confidence than many of them. He did say that his ability to sit through long, one-sided (no discussion) lectures could have been improved with practice, but he believes he would have learned less if we had used this method.
The biggest problem the home schooled children we know have upon entering college is just remembering to put their name on their papers. (Mom usually knows whose is whose*.) and they don’t all know how to open those silly little cardboard milk cartons in the cafeterias that still have them.
*With seven children ours did need to put their names on most things. My three youngest children developed their own unique signatures for this purpose. Their professors will just love this… (sarcasm)

On extra-curricular activities:

We have always done a lot outside the home. We participate in a home school co-op, but do not consider these classes to be part of our core curriculum. This is ‘fun’ learning. We are involved in whatever our church, and other churches our friends go to, offer. (We do not limit ourselves since they have many friends through co-op who go to different churches, this gives them extra time together.) We also play, and usually invite others to come along. We do the normal things like bowling, hiking etc. but also explore new things like cake decorating and pottery classes, or going to the opera (which we discovered most of us enjoy).

When all seven were home this was our week:
Monday: Co-op/music lessons/boyscouts (This started in the afternoon so school work was done before we left.)
Tuesday: Home school skating at a local roller rink then karate lessons
Wednesday: Wednesday night church school for all ages (more fun than it sounds)
Thursday: Home school gym and swim then bowling league
Friday: Karate lessons
Saturday: Youth group/ boy scout activities
Sunday: Sunday school, church and night service at church (again more fun than it sounds, the children have age-appropriate classes)

As the children grew they became involved in their own activities and/or worked. Some of them joined sports teams and occasionally played for the local school, which is allowed in New Mexico. Some could also drive, which helped. (Driving age is 15 in New Mexico, which, for a home schooling family, is awesome.)

There were also field trip days- lots of them. What I do to accommodate these days is two-fold:
1. I schedule lightly on Fridays so I can flex work onto that day if necessary.
2. We have a ‘half-day’ plan. If I say that today is a half-day then they do 1/2 of any problem set, and read the passages assigned without doing the questions. (Mom can spot check to make sure you read.) Labs are moved to the next day, and the assignment for the next day is done today. (Unless you want to do the whole thing on Friday.) Most of the time my children finish their assignments in the car. (We often have to drive a distance to get to these events.)

And then there are chores:
My motto (once the kids are old enough) is that I did not make this mess, so I am not going to be the only one cleaning it up. That being said, here is some of what we did:

When the children were younger there was a lot of clutter so we picked up as a family and vacuumed as needed every night before bed. They also had individual chores.

When the children were old enough to want money we allowed them to sign up for chores. The more they did, the more they earned. Some chores were one-time events, while others were daily or weekly. They fought over who got to do what at times, which is not a bad problem to have!

They also did their own laundry at a young age. This was not my plan. My husband decided to take over the chore and then quickly delegated it to the kids!

As they became older, and there were less of them in the house, we cleaned well once a week. Sometimes we worked as a team and other times we picked rooms that each was responsible for and got them done. Some rooms are tougher than others, so they each took a heavy and a light one, or one room counted as two. When they picked rooms Mom did not have to clean. This was the perk they decided on since the system allowed them the flexibility to do things in their own time, which they enjoyed. So we either cleaned as a family, with Mom helping, or we picked rooms. If the rooms were not done well, then the next week we cleaned as a family because obviously you need Mom to supervise! So while it was never as clean when they picked rooms as I would have liked, there was a limit to how bad it could get.

We then hired a cleaning service. (Many of the children had jobs and other things that kept them busy.) Now they rotate doing the dishes. The dishes are ‘theirs’ until they do them. If they ‘forget’ on their day, the dishes pile up and they do more. We try not to nag and badger them, but rather we allow natural consequences to take effect, in this case, the longer you wait the more dishes you will have to do. They also each have an individual chore and can be asked to pitch in and do anything when needed, including cook a meal.

One of the things I have learned is that it is not good for me to be ‘super-mom.’ Super-mom does everything for her children and makes sure everything is ‘perfect.’ Children then learn to be lazy. (At least mine do.) If they do a poor job, or wait long enough until Mom is sick of the mess, she will do it for them. She may nag, but this is a small price to pay for getting out of the work. This is counter-productive to raising adults who are competent people with servant’s hearts. Not being ‘super-mom’ also allows me to have some free time too. (Hence this blog…) Enjoy!

Photo by Matija Barrett

Why We Home School

Someone asked how and why we home schooled. Since these are huge topics, I will try to answer them one at a time. Our reasons for home schooling are different than most, so I am not sure how much you will benefit from knowing them, but it is fun learning about where other people are coming from. So here it goes…
In 1999 we began the process of adopting a family group of three children, ages 10, 8 and 6. We were told by Social Services that they were at grade level in school and doing fine. When we enrolled them in our local school, and then finally received their school records we saw that this was not the case. How could Social Services lie to us? Well, technically it was not a lie. Our children were in regular classrooms being pulled out only for math and reading and being given better grades than they deserved because, as the new school would tell us, ‘those kids need to see those grades.’ (Apparently this is the norm in most schools.) So technically our children were doing ‘just fine.’
But they weren’t. So we worked with the children when they got home, and enrolled our daughter in Sylvan (which was very, very pricey) for extra help. Why? Because at the end of the third grade she was still trying to count beans in math and she did not know all of her letter sounds. Her teacher was very proud of her because when it was her turn to read aloud she did so with self-confidence, making the entire thing up. She won two awards at the end of the school year. These were not ‘special ed’ awards, but awards open to the entire class. One was for best behavior (She was an extreme behavioral problem) and the other was for creative writing (As my husband put it, ‘Her writing sure is creative!’ Remember, she does not know all of her letter sounds yet…)
Since the school’s plan for our children was two thirty minute pull-outs a day, one for reading, and one for math, into a class with a 15:1 student: teacher ratio (the same plan as their last school) we looked for a private school that could offer more and moved them.
Even with the private school’s attention there was still a significant amount of home work to be done at night because our children did not behave well enough to do their work in school. This meant that there was little time for our son who was currently in the first grade and doing well. So we decided to home school him through the second grade so he would have more time with mom, and then we could focus on the other children when they got home.
Our son completed the second grade curriculum in record time. When I asked my husband what he thought we should do now he told me to order the next grade. It was fairly obvious that this child was not going to easily re-assimilate to the slower pace of even the private school system we had put him. Our other children were asking to come home to school too. We had one in kindergarten that did not like the fact that his younger sister (who I was teaching at home for pre-school while teaching the second grader) was getting ahead of him. Our oldest adopted child was also asking to come home. He told the teacher he would have had for the next grade that his mom thought she was too tough and was not going to let him be in her class. I had said nothing about bringing him home, or what I had thought about the teacher, and assured the boy that mom would be tougher. But, since they closed the private school my two oldest were in, there seemed to be little choice. Our options were to put them back into a school system than had already failed them, or take them home. So the two oldest came home. The second grader wished to stay home and the kindergartener wished to come home as well. It seemed the only person not begging to be home was the adopted child who was currently in the third grade. Since he was proving to be a master thief, cheat and puller-upper of girl’s skirts it seemed like a good idea for him to have some more one-on-one time with Mom as well. It was supposed to be short-term, until some of the more obvious problems resolved…
But, when the adopted children’s standardized test scores went from the bottom of the graph to around the 75th percentile it was hard to think of putting them back into the system. Further, the schools had already informed me that my oldest and youngest adopted sons would be placed into a school for behavioral problems after sixth grade, and my daughter would be in a year-round school for the emotionally handicapped. She was expected to live her adult life in a group home, since, with her EH her IQ testing would likely drop into the mentally retarded range as the other children continued to mature, while she did not. No matter how difficult they were at home I could not in good conscience allow this to happen. The younger children were also flourishing, and we stopped talking about what grade they were in because they were significantly ahead in their schoolwork. (They were disappointed when they realized that this did not mean Mom was sending them to college early. While they were capable students there is a maturity that comes with age, and we planned to send them to colleges with other students who were equally as bright.)
All of my adopted children graduated and received diplomas. (Two through Royal Academy, and one through the State of New Mexico which allows home schoolers who test high enough on the GED to receive an actual NM diploma.) My oldest son (fetal alcohol syndrome/ cocaine baby) finished four years in the Marines and now makes six figures doing security work in Kuwait. My daughter (cocaine baby/ RAD) is married, works as part of the hotel cleaning staff, and is expecting her second child. (She is not in a group home!) My other adopted son (cocaine baby) works as a front desk supervisor in a hotel and is working his way into management. My oldest natural born son is going to a very respected school for engineering on a full scholarship. My other children are still home schooling. After four have moved on home schooling the three feels like I am doing nothing! My son who is still in our home school wants to follow his brother and become an engineer as well. They are both hoping to start their own companies. (Home schoolers tend not to aspire to be employees.) One of my daughters wants to be a wedding planner, and the other (whose pictures you will see on my books and blog) wants to be a photographer, though both wish to go to college just to have had the experience.
I am glad we home schooled. I believe all of my children are doing better than they would have if we had left them in school. They are self-confident and capable. They can also cook, clean and do the laundry! My younger children also avoided the bullying I was subjected to in school. (If you couldn’t tell, they are geeks.) While I did not choose to home school them for this reason, I am glad they avoided it. When I see how proud they are to be them, I realize that there was an extra ‘gift’ in bringing them home. By the way: All of the ‘benefits’ of socializing when you are a nerd/geek are baloney. Being abused rarely has good results. (And when I see my college son’s friends who have trouble getting up the courage to speak with me when they visit, even though it is obviously a geek-home, I am glad my children were able to be schooled by me.) That does not mean that we were recluses. Quite the contrary. We were out with friends almost every day. But we picked people who were good to us, and taught our children it is okay to set boundaries with those who aren’t.
Home schooling, like everything else, has its plusses and minuses. For one, our bank account would have been significantly bigger if I had not stayed home, but had continued to work as a physical therapist. I am certain I would have owned my own practice by now and had others working for me. I would also have not had to answer annoying questions every day about why I home school, and don’t I think they are missing out on something/ everything.
There is also a better chance of having a relationship with your children since you see them, and talk to them more often. (Another surprise benefit.) I would not trade this for the world!
That is not to say everything worked out perfectly. In our case, the problems that children who are adopted as older children face still haunt them in many ways, and they like to blame that on me more than their birth parents. That is the price many adoptive parents pay for trying to right what someone else did wrong, but you’ll need to check out my posts on adoption for more about that.
Right now, I have to wrap this up… someone needs help with their math!
P.S. Home schooling also allows you to travel more, and at off-peak times. A perk that makes it more than worth it! (Investing in an RV and being able to just go whenever my husband had the time allowed my children to see most of what they were learning about!)

Photo by Matija Barrett

25 Ideas for Home Schooling Teens

1. Adult Education Courses– There are many adult education courses given in most communities. Check with your local colleges to see what may be offered. Some may be for an entire semester, while others may be much shorter. Many are fun or useful. Swing dance, medieval weapons making, cabinetry and other interesting things may be offered, so it is not always traditional academic fare.

2. Volunteer– Many places could use an extra hand, and may teach your teen useful skills along the way. There are the traditional places such as the church, hospital, nursing home, soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity, but the local bee keeper, small engine repairman or dog groomer may also appreciate some unpaid help.

3. Hobby Shops– Hobby shops often have classes that teenagers may enjoy. My children have taken lessons in pottery, dichroic glass fusing, wood working (using a lathe) and jewelry making. I am currently drooling over a glass blowing class, but the youngest is not yet 16 (the cut off age), so we are waiting.

4. Lectures– Museums, colleges and other community organizations often have guest lecturers. Check the local paper and/or the college websites to see what is being offered.

5. Seminars– Many times there are seminars given for the general public. Get Motivated is one of these. They bring in big name speakers. In between the speakers are commercials for other high priced learning opportunities, but if you know how to say ‘no’ to what you know you will not benefit from, then this is a great way to hear some truly remarkable people speak.

6. Church events– Most churches allow everyone to attend their events.  By investigating what each church is offering your teen may see concerts, comedians, take a course on financial responsibility or improve their Bible knowledge.

7. Toast Masters– If your teen is scared to death of public speaking Toast Masters offers a gentle, supportive way to gain confidence. There are Toast Masters groups in most communities.

8. College Events– Many colleges bring in entertainment and allow members of the community to purchase tickets as well.  Most of the time the performances are cheaper than you could see them elsewhere, and your teen gets to check out the college, without the pressure of an official visit.

9. Hikes– There are many interesting hikes to take. Plaques along the way often teach history without it seeming like you planned a history lesson.

10. Mining– Many areas have gem or other precious metal mining for a price. Some also have places where ‘rock hounds’ can dig for free. Use the internet to find places you may dig in your area.

11. Road trips– Your teen should now be doing much of their work independently. If they can complete their course work, then a trip is not unreasonable. Combine education with fun by visiting museums as part of your tour. There are also fun historical places like Pops by Oklahoma City on Route 66 where you can get any kind of soda imaginable.

12. Use movies to teach literature- Learning what onomatopoeia is may not be fun, but it is more fun when you get to watch your favorite movies and look for it. Also many movies are remakes of classics. For example the Lion King is Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and She’s the Man is 12th Night. Google whatever classics you are currently studying and see if Hollywood has a modern remake to compare it to.

13. Use food- Teens are always hungry. Build cells by cutting open a bun, spreading cream cheese and adding other toppings for organelles (a friend of mine’s suggestion).  Frost a cake and decorate it as a contour map of Egypt. Reinforce adding or dividing fractions by doubling or halving the recipe.

14. Use Pinterest- Pinterest has great ideas, especially for crafts. I started looking, and now my daughter goes on herself, gives me a list and does what she likes independently.

15. Order kits- You can do almost anything at home, just follow the directions carefully. The last big project we did was basket weaving.  My daughter now wants to make a carpet ball table.

16. Home Improvement– Many building places offer free classes and suggestions on how to improve your home. Get the kids involved. One day they will have a home of their own and these skills will benefit them. Recently we made mosaic tables, and placed a mosaic dragon on the kitchen floor. My son is now starting to landscape the yard, with the freedom to use some of his own ideas.

17. Cooking classes– As I said, teens are always hungry. Cake decorating is also an option.

18. Interesting science experiments– Search the internet for things that are ‘cooler’ than what you usually do. If you have boy, things that blow up are typically a hit. dissection kits and other interesting activities are also available through sites like Home School Science Tools. Our favorite was making elephant toothpaste!

19. Sports– Many teens are welcome on adult leagues, and classes in Tae Kwon Do, Zumba or golf are also age appropriate now.

20. Music and Drama– Many areas have community bands and theater groups. They are fun and low pressure. If your teen has talent in these areas they may enjoy joining one.

21. Book clubs– If your teen is a reader they may also enjoy joining a local book club. They are a great way to meet interesting people and share ideas.

22. Job Shadow– To help your teen figure out what they want to do in life you may want to set up opportunities for them to observe a day or two on a job they think they would be interested in. Most people will gladly allow them to do this.

23. Allow them to Explore their Own Interests– This is a time for them to develop hobbies that will enrich their lives. Currently my son is looking into blacksmithing, while my daughter is trying her hand at photography. 

24. Part time jobs- Part time jobs give teens practice being responsible and hard working without mom looking over their shoulder. If nothing else they teach your teen exactly why they do not want to leave school early and try to live on minimum wage.

25. Do things with them- They are now approaching adulthood and it is time to start establishing a more adult relationship with them. Take them out to eat, to bowl or anywhere else there is a lot of down time where you may talk. Ask their opinions, listen and try not to over-react if they do not think as you do.

Photo by Matija Barrett

11 Ways to Encourage Children to Read


1. Read to them. Begin as soon as they are born. Growing up with the assumption that books are a part of everyday life makes them more likely to see reading as just something people do.

2. Read in front of them. Set the example. When your children see that you read for pleasure they assume it is enjoyable and want to do it too.

3. Place books in the bathroom. There are times when a child is sitting and it gets rather boring in there. If books are their only source of entertainment, that is what they will reach for. Sometimes I put educational magazines, or books of quotes by famous people in there knowing they would never look at them otherwise.

4. Place Books in their Bedroom. Allow them to read before they go to bed, or if they wake up very early and can’t sleep. Having books that are theirs encourages them to treasure them.

5. Use books on tape in the car. This allows you to get used to discussing books as a family and introduces them to authors they might not have picked themselves.

6.Use the  Pizza Hut Book-It Program, or other rewards. Everyone needs incentive and rewards. Jewish teachers used to give honey treats to their students for learning scripture because there are rewards to knowing God’s Word in real life. Even if the child loves to read and would do it on their own, positive reinforcement never hurts, and a free pizza outing is fun! You do not have to wait for your group to enroll. The home school option allows families to sign up individually.

7. Do not micromanage their reading. Reading should be fun so let them choose what they read. There are obvious exceptions, but for the most part let them be. If you are concerned, read the book and discuss it with them. There is probably a reason they were drawn to the book, and it is typically better for them to understand why things are wrong rather than just be told ‘no’ and left clueless.

8. Read the books they read and discuss the books with them. In my house it is common for someone to say, ‘You should read this,’ and then, as you read, talk to you about the book. And of course there is always another sibling yelling, ‘Wait, don’t talk with me in the room, I haven’t read it yet!’ Kindle also lets you put books on up to six devices, so if you have the technology, multiple people can read books at the same time.

9. Buy comic books. Comic books, probably because there are lots of pictures, are less threatening and will be read at a younger age. Most comics however require inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as a knowledge of current events. They force children to ask questions and learn because they want to get the joke. There are also educational comic books. Chester Comix were some of my kids’ favorites.

10. Have books around the house. Many studies have shown that children who are successful in school come from homes that have bookshelves full of books. There are also success stories of poor women who cleaned houses noticing the rich people had books, doing something to encourage their children to read and the children becoming wildly successful. This is not always the case, but it does help.

11. Take the children to the library, used books store or anywhere they can get books for themselves. They should feel comfortable around books, and feel like these places are a second home. Most libraries and bookstores have scheduled activities for children. Make sure your children go. Many of the activities are for younger children but there are also parties for popular book releases that last until midnight that older children may enjoy. We have been to a few. While they are not always incredibly exciting, young teens typically prefer staying out past midnight to being home in bed. Caution: Children who do not sit still and listen well, especially if they pull books off the shelf may have a bad experience here. Adults will tell the child to behave if others cannot hear, or they may ruin the books. Teach your children these skills at home and then ease your child into these situations. Good behavior is also a key to a successful life, but know that some kids are tougher than others.

Photo by Matija Barrett

Home School Survival 101

Now I am not your typical home school mom. I did not yearn to have children, or be a stay-at-home mom. It just happened that way. This being said, since I was out of my ‘comfort zone’ I needed a few modifications that are not typical in your average home in order to keep my sanity. They may help you keep yours as well.

1. Set up your bedroom just like a college dorm. That’s right. Mini-fridge, toaster oven/microwave, radio, TV. Anything you need to create a space that you and your husband can call ‘yours.’ With the children being home 24/7 it is nice to occasionally eat a brownie in peace without someone (okay seven someone’s) asking, ‘Can I have one too?’

2. Date Night. Have a night every week that is just for you and your spouse. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it cannot be time to do the chores. Adult conversation and proof that someone loves you for who you are is necessary to maintain sanity.

3. Volunteer Doing Something You Believe In. You can do this with the kids, but it gives you a sense of being useful and connected with the outside world. It also gets you out of the house, so you don’t focus on how messy and chaotic it has gotten lately.

4. Have Friends. I once told my children that, even if they did not like Gym and Swim, they would be going anyways because I liked the group of mothers who took their children there. While the children played, we talked. Thankfully my kids enjoyed it too. Bible studies are also a great place to meet people and they typically have childcare available.

5. Plan. Nothing kills a home school like lack of planning. Know what you need to get through each day to be ‘done’ by the end of the year. Without planning you will always feel like you have not done enough, and you will likely be behind. No child wants to hear that they did not finish history so they will be doing it over summer break.

6. Set boundaries. Home school should have an end time. If you say they should be done by 3 pm, then they are still responsible for the work after 3, but you are not responsible for nagging and/or helping past this time. No TV, video games etc until the work is done and they will slowly learn to do their work when they are supposed to, without dawdling. If they still have work in the morning, then it is added to the next day’s work. Weekends will be busy for them if they keep this up! You don’t have to be on top of them during this time, just close enough to make sure they didn’t sneak off to do something else. (You can have some mercy if they have a legitimate question, but don’t fall into the trap of answering foolishness every two seconds.)

7. Take Breaks When Needed. If you, as an adult, are tired and need a change, then chances are so do your children. Have them do every other math problem, and only read (not answer the questions) in their assignments and then go on a field trip. Local museums are educational and fun, and many things count as ‘gym.’ This is not for every day, but becomes much more necessary sometime around February for some reason… (sick of winter?)

8. Keep things in Perspective. A home schooling house will not be as clean as a home where the people leave for long periods of the day, nor will you have the time to do everything you might like to do. Your children will also not be ‘perfect’ and may struggle in one or more subjects. Kids struggle in school too. Do not blow things out of proportion and get overwhelmed. Four of my children were in the 90 something percentile for everything except spelling. I am sending one of them to college this year. He has a full scholarship, and that’s right, he can’t spell! One of my adopted children, born with cocaine in his system, who struggles with school can spell anything without thinking about it. (So it’s not my teaching. Spelling can be learned in my house!) Every child has their gifts, and their weak points. Learn to be okay with it.

9. Get help when necessary. Everyone is bad at something. You can have a friend teach science labs, or another tutor math. If you excelled in school, but failed in housework (like me) you can have someone come in and clean. (I did not keep my housekeeper, because it was not worth the criticisms from some of the other mothers and we just messed it up the next day… but I probably should have!) and that leads me to my next point…

10. Edit your friends’ list. People who criticize and put you down are not friends; they are Pharisees. Jesus did not play well with them and neither should you. (I learned this a little late.)

I hope this helps. Our home school is doing well, despite many mishaps and bumps. Hopefully yours is too!

Some Things I Learned About Getting A Home Schooler Into College

Before your child starts high school:
1. Look at the websites of colleges your child may want to attend. See what they require for high school. Make sure your child completes all the work necessary. Typically most competitive colleges want four years of Math, Science, History, English and a Foreign Language. Even if a student can graduate high school with less in your area, if you are thinking about college make sure your child takes the courses they require.

Sophomore Year:
2. Have your child begin practice tests and study guides designed to help them do well on the SAT or ACT. Most colleges will accept either test, but check to see what they prefer. Children who memorize well tend to do slightly better on the ACT. Children who like logic/ problem solving tend to do slightly better on the SAT. SAT or ACT scores typically determine whether or not your child is accepted, even if they went to public school.

Junior Year:
3. Early in the school year the PSAT will be given at your local high school. Call the high school and make sure your student takes it. It helps with scholarships. Your student may take it in the fall of their sophomore year as well, but it will be only for practice and will not count for scholarships. The PSAT must be taken in the fall of the Junior year for it to count.

4. Make sure your child takes the SAT &/or the ACT in his or her junior year. Do practice tests before hand and/or courses to improve your score. These scores, if high enough, ensure admission to many colleges. Your student can take these tests as many times as they want. Colleges only look at the highest score so don’t be afraid to take the test over to see if a higher score is possible. Make sure you have an official report from the SAT or ACT sent directly to the college. If you do not send each score to the college, they will not see it. Colleges do not ask for scores; they expect you to have them sent. Scores sent from you to the college do not count, even if you send them the original. The SAT or ACT website will explain how to have the scores sent.

5. Visit the colleges. Talk to the admissions office and ask lots of questions so you are comfortable and know how to apply. Each college also has its own ‘feel.’ Make sure your student feels comfortable on campus. I loved the hustle and bustle of a very large university. Some of my friends transferred because they could not stand it and wanted the more intimate feel of a smaller college.

6. Do not try to get your child into a college they do not qualify for. If your child scores significantly lower on the SAT than the average student at the college, they will struggle there and are more likely to drop out.

7. Before November 15th of your student’s senior year, apply to more than one college. Most colleges choose students on November 15th. After that you are admitted only if they have spots left. Some colleges accept applications even earlier, and if your student’s ACT/SAT scores are high they may guarantee a place for your student even earlier than this. Your student should know where they are going to college in early spring of their senior year. Most competitive high school students have applied to more than one college before the end of their junior year.

8. Do NOT send more information than the college asks. Look on their website, or call the admissions office. Colleges are used to dealing with home schoolers now and know exactly what they want. If you send more, the admissions office will put it into a file to look at later, and will have to sort through everything to get what they actually want. They will put this off, and you have just decreased your student’s chances of getting in. Keep the scrapbooks etc at home unless specifically asked for them. Unless your child is going to an arts/performance school, you will likely not be asked for examples of their work. Most schools just want a list of courses taken and the grades they earned. Some want to know what each course consisted of so keep track of this as well, but do not send it unless they want it.

9. Make sure you send everything the college does want on time.

10. If the college wants a GED have your student take it. There is no stigma for a home schooler in taking the GED. They just want to know that your student can pass a basic skills test, or some of their funding requires this. Two of my children have taken it, and one of them has a FULL scholarship to a very prestigious college. It’s okay. Do not try to convince the admissions office that your ‘accredited’ home school diploma is a ‘real’ diploma. They do not have to accept courses taken at other fully accredited colleges, so they most certainly do not have to accept any home school or private school diploma. Arguing with them only decreases your chances of acceptance. If you want in, play by their rules. The only exception to this is if your student may go into the military if they do not finish their college degree. They can still get in with a GED, but it is a factor. Talk to a recruiter. The military too understands home schoolers. One of my sons went into the Marines right out of high school and just completed his four years. If you do finish a college degree no one really cares how you got through high school. Did you ever ask your doctor about his high school degree?

If your child does not get into the college of their choice, or struggles once they are there:

11. If your child does not get into a four-year school, don’t panic. Going to a community college is not the end of the world. After they prove themselves at community college, they may then go to a four-year school. Many of our friends who are pharmacists, doctors etc did two years at a community college to save money, then finished their degree at a four year school. No one asks if you did your first two years somewhere other than where you graduated. Just make sure the four year college they wish to attend accepts the courses they are taking at the community college before they take them.

12. Some colleges do have an alternate achievement test for students who did not take, or did not do well on their SATs or ACTs. Others may have an alternate way to be considered for college if your child does not meet the typical criteria. This is where your scrapbooks may come in handy! Most colleges do not have this option, so do not count on it. Additionally, a student that does not fit the standard requirements typically does not do well at that institution. There are exceptions though, but it is best to put your student into a college that is a good fit academically and that they feel comfortable, and excited about going to.

13. If your student struggles with college they may want to take fewer classes each semester. It will take longer to graduate, but they will have a better chance of succeeding.

14. If your student does not do well at one college, consider transferring to another. Each college is unique. One environment may be better than another for them.

15. If your child struggles in college it may be because they have a difficult time where they are living. Most people suggest living on campus, but if your child finds ‘partying’ too distracting they may do better living at home. If they are home, they may not be studying as much since this is where they are used to playing video games and relaxing. A dorm room may then provide the environment they need to do better. I loved living in the dorms; my husband spent time in the dorms but lived at home for the last years of his undergraduate degree. We both did well.

This is not hard. Most colleges want a transcript (course names and grades) and the student’s SAT and/or ACT scores only (in addition to application fees and their forms filled out). As long as your student takes the required courses in high school, and does fairly well on their achievement tests they should be fine.

Most of the ‘horror’ stories I have heard are the result of:
1. Not sending things in on time. If you miss the deadlines, you may not get in.
2. Not sending some of the required items in at all.
3. Sending so many things that were not asked for that the admissions office could not tell what had been sent in.
4. Not taking the necessary courses in high school and then expecting to be admitted.
5. Not providing the college with what they wanted (a GED or a more complete transcript) because they went to an ‘accredited’ home school program and the parents feel that their child’s diploma should be viewed as a public high school diploma.
6. Not having high enough SAT or ACT scores for the colleges applied to and not wanting to consider other options.

Remember, the people telling the ‘horror’ stories typically leave out why it is actually their fault. Keep them talking and you will eventually figure it out. Most colleges love home schoolers because they typically do well. The biggest problem most home schoolers have in college is remembering to put their name on their paper!

By the way: If your child is going to a competitive college for something like Engineering, they will want to take Earth Science and Algebra in 8th grade so they may take Calculus & AP Biology, Chemistry or Physics their senior year. Some of these classes may be taken at a community college or on-line. Make sure your child does their science labs or the courses are not ‘high school’ level courses. Also make sure they take a Health & Nutrition Course, a course in Public Speaking and do their State Study.

I hope this helps.

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