Self Reliance Lessons

Last week we baked bread and put up strawberry preserves as a family–a change from our usual routine that did not interrupt our homeschool studies, though it did cut in to our play time and chore time!

Screech helped wash the berries:

Then Buttercup mashed them (which wasn’t necessary, as I blend them in a blender. But hey–we were short on jobs, lol!)

While the jam was being made, Dizzy was grinding wheat flour to make us some loaves of bread from scratch:

All in all, a fun and educational day, but a little too good to be healthy because homemade jam+freshbaked bread=better than cake!

The BEST Science lessons

. . .are the ones children learn from getting outdoors and living life! Not remaining confined in cinder-block buildings full of metal desks and artificial light.

Check out our most recent “Science Class” observation post–right outside our back door, in the awnings of the porch:

My oldest daughter, Prima, took these pictures, in addition to making lots of notes and diagrams in her science notebook, about the nest-building and child-rearing habits of backyard birds! 🙂

And this doesn’t even include our adventures in butterfly watching, firefly stalking, and birdhouse-observing!

Homeschool Gets More Media Publicity

Okay, this is one of the best articles I’ve ever read about homeschooling–ever!

For those of you who have never heard of the Onion, I should probably explain that the incredible, hilarious article about homeschool that I’m about to post here is a comic piece–meant to be funny–but one that hits so close to home that you have to laugh. And oh, how I laughed!!

The Onion’s aim is to help us laugh about current events, and while I don’t endorse them often (because their videos and articles sometimes have expletives and other un-family friendly content), I wholeheartedly endorse this article, giving it a homeschooling mom’s five star rating! 🙂

Here is the article: http://www.theonion.com/articles/increasing-number-of-parents-opting-to-have-childr,17159/

Science With Friends

Well, I’ve finally done it. When sadness threatened to get the best of me (after our local homeschool group wouldn’t let us join because we are Mormon), I dried my tears and went to work to make life more livable here for me and my  children. I decided to start up a NEW homeschool group!

I started with just a few homeschooling families that were willing to let my children play with their children. After some playdates, outings, and homeschool activities together, we are really enjoying each other’s company, and I feel good knowing that I’m supporting an endeavor that welcomes homeschool families of ALL religions and races.

Here is a look at our recent Science Club activities:

It has been so much fun having other families to come with us to the Science museum, singing classes, library story time, and so on. The children have been much happier now that they have made some friends, and I enjoy the relaxed tone of this casual homeschool group–no committee meetings, dues, or red tape whatsoever! 🙂

Universities Seeking out Homeschoolers

“Home-Schooled Students Rise in Supply and Demand”

By PAULA WASLEY,  The Chronicle of Higher Education

For Katelin E. Dutill, high school began as soon as she woke up each day. During her senior year she would tackle her hardest courses first, while her 20-month-old sister was still asleep. That often meant taking a math or chemistry test and then turning to the teacher’s manual to grade it, or logging on to her Advanced Placement macroeconomics course. Later she might read for her literature class while keeping one eye on her sister, or conduct Internet research for her paper on the historical accuracy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels.

This fall Ms. Dutill, who has been home-schooled since kindergarten, is experiencing a classroom for the first time, as a freshman at Cornell University. She is one of thousands of home-schoolers entering colleges and universities around the country. The home-school movement, once considered the domain of religious fundamentalists and hemp-wearing hippies, is all grown up and going off to college.

While exact numbers are hard to come by, recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Education place the home-schooled population at more than one million, or about 2 percent of the school-age population. As recently as 20 years ago, home schooling was illegal in many states. Today its students are edging toward the mainstream — and are eyed by some colleges as a promising niche market.

Meet Us Halfway

As an admissions officer at Stanford University in the 1980s, Jon Reider began fielding inquiries from home-schooled students who, he says, seemed to have the “intellectual spark” the university was looking for, but who came without the transcripts and teachers’ recommendations that admissions offices rely on. He advised those students to take steps to reassure admissions officers: Take lots of standardized tests. Get a letter of recommendation from someone not related to you. Try taking a class at a local community college.

“College admissions people are a little like insurance adjusters,” says Mr. Reider, who is now a college counselor at a San Francisco high school. “We don’t want to sell insurance to people who smoke four packs a day.”

The suggestions soon became codified as Stanford’s written policy for home-schooled applicants, earning the university the reputation as one of the first to welcome them. The policy, he says, sent a message to home-schooled students: “We take you seriously. Now meet us halfway.”

Years later, just about every college takes home-schoolers seriously, and admissions offices everywhere report increasing numbers of applications from them. In 2000, 52 percent of colleges had written policies, like Stanford’s, to evaluate home-schooled candidates, according to a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. By 2004, 85 percent did.

Most of those policies, specified on application forms, Web sites, and admissions brochures, are designed to get around the challenges of evaluating grades given by Mom and educational backgrounds as individual as the applicants. Many home-schooled students, like Ms. Dutill, follow accredited curricula furnished by a booming industry of home-school retailers. Other families design their own courses of study. Some students, who identify themselves as “unschoolers,” direct their own learning, according to their individual interests. Translating years of independent study into something that resembles a high-school transcript can be tricky for the home-schooled applicant — and even more challenging for the admissions officer assessing it.

“In many cases their transcript is here, there, and everywhere,” says Paul M. Cramer, vice president for enrollment at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania. That’s why the college “strongly encourages” all home-schooled applicants to go to the campus for interviews, he says.

One applicant’s schooling entailed traveling the country with his family in a motor home, Mr. Cramer recalls. A stop at a Frank Lloyd Wright house became a lesson in architectural history; a detour through Ernest Hemingway’s home, in Key West, Fla., prompted a discussion of American literature. “That kind of originality and enthusiasm about what they’re learning is fun to hear,” he says.

But sifting through homemade transcripts, extensive book lists, and portfolios can be unusually time-consuming for admissions officers. Eddie K. Tallent, director of admissions at George Mason University, recently received one application that contained a page of explanation for each class listed on the transcript. “That was a bit much,” he says.

Without traditional points of comparison, like class ranking and grade-point averages, colleges tend to fall back on standardized-test scores. Many require that home-schoolers take two or more SAT 2 subject tests in addition to an SAT or ACT.

As the number of home-schoolers applying to college continues to grow, admissions offices have attempted to streamline the process. The University of Richmond, for example, has one admissions officer assigned to read all applications from home-schoolers. This year the Common Application, a format used by more than 300 colleges, added a supplement for home-schoolers, which both pleases and unsettles some home-school advocates.

“We’re not fighting to even be considered anymore,” says Howard Richman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency, one of seven organizations in the state that provides accredited diplomas to home-schooled graduates. On the other hand, he says, such standardization may cost home-schoolers some of the individuality that has set them apart.

In From the Fringe

Indeed, as their numbers have swelled, the college-application process for home-schoolers increasingly mirrors that of their more conventional counterparts. A host of home-schooling guides offers advice on compiling transcripts and highlighting the advantages of home schooling in application essays. So, too, do independent consultants, who offer the same sort of college counseling that a traditional high-school guidance counselor would.

Wendy J. Bush, an independent counselor in Maryland and home-school advocate who advises about 90 home-schooled seniors per year, organizes college fairs and financial-aid workshops, furnishes students with transcripts and letters of recommendation, and even holds home-school graduation ceremonies.

The Home School Legal Defense Association publishes a ranking of colleges with “home-school-friendly” admissions policies. In online discussion groups like homeschool2college, parents swap stories about navigating the admissions process and bemoan the difficulty of representing a summer of barn building on a high-school transcript.

Many colleges that once treated home-schoolers with suspicion now reach out to them as desirable applicants.

“Home schooling often really allows students to develop a passion,” says Sabena Moretz, associate director of admissions at Richmond. “With a traditional high school, most of the time you don’t see a kid who’s gotten so excited with the history of Monticello or got themselves onto an archaeology dig.”

Recognizing that sense of passion is what led Virginia Commonwealth University to create two engineering scholarships this year for home-schoolers, says Russell Jamison, dean of the engineering school. “We were looking at the kind of engineer that we needed to produce for the 21st century,” he says, “where part of the skills are not technical, but how to collect information through guided inquiry.”

It occurred to him that home-schoolers’ inquisitive, self-directed learning style — an educational model that often gets lost in the highly structured “problem-set oriented” environment of traditional high schools, he says — was particularly well suited to engineering. The school holds an annual open house for home-schoolers to get them interested in both engineering and Virginia Commonwealth. (One thing Mr. Jamison has learned, he says, is that when you plan a home-schooling event, the whole family shows up. At this fall’s open house, he included robot-building activities for elementary-school-age siblings.)

Social Smarts

The last hurdle in the admissions process for home-schooled students is persuading colleges that they have the social smarts to get along with their traditionally educated peers.

“There is an assumption that kids who are home-schooled are strange, that their idea of having a good time is sitting in a tree,” says Mr. Reider, the college counselor.

In a 2004 study of college admissions officers’ attitudes toward home-schooled applicants, Paul Jones, a vice president and a professor of educational administration at Georgia College & State University, and Gene Gloeckner, an associate professor of education at Colorado State University at Fort Collins, found that while the majority of respondents believed that home-schoolers would perform academically as well as their peers, if not better, 35 percent expressed skepticism that home-schoolers had the social skills to cope with college.

But, argue advocates of the movement, home-schoolers are hardly the hermits they are sometimes made out to be. Home-school bands, theater groups, sports teams, even proms are common now. Home-schooled students often study together in co-ops led by parents or the students themselves.

For an increasing number of home-schoolers, community college is the entry point to a four-year institution.

Julie Boiko, a sophomore at Stanford who was home-schooled, began taking classes at her local community college at age 13 to supplement her math and science studies. “You can’t do chemistry in the kitchen,” she says.

A self-described “science geek,” Ms. Boiko says her classes at West Valley College, in California — including microbiology, anatomy, and calculus — gave her a head start on the immunology research she now conducts at Stanford. At first, she says, her mother had to keep reminding her to put her name on her midterms.

While the few experts who have tracked home-schoolers’ academic and social performance in college have found little difference between their transition and that of their peers, the perception lingers that home-schoolers start college at a social disadvantage.

That’s why Grant Mukai rarely tells classmates at Boston University that he was home-schooled from second grade through high school. “Normally I say I went to a private school,” says the sophomore, adding that in many ways, the co-op he sometimes attended at a church basement was like a very small, very private school. While most of his friends there went on to small, religious colleges, Mr. Mukai chose Boston for its urban setting and strong communications program. “It was a little weird at first,” he says of going to college, but in the end not that big a deal: “It’s not that hard to learn to sit in a classroom.”


From the issue dated October 12, 2007

http://chronicle.com, Section: Students, Volume 54, Issue 7, Page A1

Benefit of Natural Learning #10: Book-Loving Kids!

I discovered yet another benefit of natural, home-based learning last month:

My daughter asked for BOOKS for Christmas!

(I couldn’t get her to keep her eyes open for the camera flash. That’s okay–we’ll save those peepers for reading, I guess, LOL!)

That’s right–while everyone else was rushing to the toy stores, looking for animatronic hamsters or computerized dinosaurs, I was calling up a small, independent publisher in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, requesting their entire series of Native American children’s novels!

It all began when I bought this book for our in-home history studies: Naya Nuki

Naya Nuki is the (partly fictionalized) account of Sacajawea’s actual childhood friend; a girl who–like Sacajawea–was kidnapped and sold into slavery. But unlike Sacajawea (who remained in capitivity long enough to bare her captor’s children and to help guide the Lewis and Clark expedition), little Naya Nuki escaped!

This precious book chronicles the 1,000+ mile journey of Naya Nuki towards her home. After reading Naya Nuki, Prima loved it so much that she begged for another. So I bought Doe Sia (because our library doesn’t have any of these books on their shelves–boo!):

Doe Sia is the true (also partially fictionalized, to help fill in the blanks) story of a Native American girl who helped guide and protect a group of white settlers in their journey across the prairie.

After reading this book, my daughter said “Are there any more books like this?” I visited the publisher’s web site, and sure enough–there’s an entire series!

But our library didn’t have any. Neither did local bookstores. Prima was crushed.

When Christmastime came around, Prima’s constant refrain was, “All I want for Christmas is a set of books like Naya Nuki!” So we contacted Grandview Publishing in Jackson Wyoming, who not only shipped the entire series to our home before Christmas, but who also included a delightful book on CD, and a poster of the artwork from Naya Nuki!

If your children do not yet love history, I encourage you to check out these books, which are very entertaining and educational, and help history come alive in the hearts and minds of young children (whereas history textbooks only fill them with lifeless dates, dry facts, and summarized events).

Raising Readers

You might say that my kids like to read. Check out these pictures!

Hanging out at home:

Alone in their rooms:

Reading with siblings:

Even reading with friends who come over to “play”

So people often ask me–“How do you get your kids to read so much?”

Here’s my secret:

1) Parenting

Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook is a parents’ guide (now being used as a teachers’ textbook by many colleges) that helps turn kids into avid readers, even if they are currently T.V.-addicted or unmotivated! Once we implemented his advice and strategies in our home–from nightly readings and strategic book-placings in the home to the more scientific “how to discuss books with kids in a way that makes them want to read more”–we noticed a huge change in our family as our children gravitated away from the television and towards books!

2) Education

From Bauer’s book The Well-Trained Mind, we learned how children of the past were taught–you know, the kids who devoured books like they were candy, back in the days before television. Whether you are a homeschooler, or just a parent wanting to enhance their child’s public education, the Well-Trained Mind is THE must-have guide for how to instill a love of learning and a passion for books in your child.

3) Activities

If your child struggles with reading comprehension, try using these Writing With Ease worksheets, which help enhance a child’s reading abilities through writing! This ingenious book takes sentences and paragraphs from classic children’s literature and asks students to read, respond to, copy, or put into their own words the things that they read. This easy-to-use program (small, 5-minute exercises!) introduces so many great books to my children that I am constantly driving to the library to feed my daughters’ “hey–I want to read that book, too!” requests after each lesson. I HIGHLY recommend these worksheets to any parent whose child struggles with reading or is not motivated to read.