How to get started Home-Schooling - Easily, Quickly, Low-Cost
New to Home Schooling Letter
Congratulations on your decision to home school. There are many decisions to be made. The process can seem overwhelming at first. We have put together our suggestions to try to help the process a bit easier.
The first step is to go to www.hslda.org (Home School Legal Defense Association) to find out your state's home school laws. Home schooling is legal in every state, however there are governing laws which vary from state to state. You should become very familiar with your state's laws. You may have notification requirements which must be met to begin your home school. You will also find a list of support groups on the HSLDA website. We encourage all home schoolers to find a local support group to encourage, inform, and provide activities for their family. We strongly encourage every home school family to join HSLDA. Not only will they represent you in case of a legal problem, they are on the battle field every day fighting for home school rights. All home school families benefit from their work.
The next step is to explore your curriculum options. You may wonder where to begin with curriculum selection. We suggest taking some time to analyze your family. Each family is unique. Each student is unique. It is important to know your specific needs and circumstance. Families should consider the learning style of the student, family dynamics, the student's previous school experience, and the family budget as a start. Read the Learning and Family Styles below to narrow down your curriculum choices. We suggest picking only 1 or 2 types of curriculum for the first year. For example, you may decide Lifepacs are a good fit for your family but one or two other products also peak your interest. Start out with the Lifepacs for the first year. Once you have some experience with teaching your children at home, you can add variety. As you learn about your children, you can make adjustments to fit their style better and better. Keep in mind that home schooling is flexible. You are not locked in to any particular curriculum for the remaining years of the student's schooling. Many families have to tweak their curriculum selections from year to year. We also suggest talking to experienced home schoolers for suggestions and first hand descriptions of the pros and cons of curriculum they have used.
As the selection is narrowed down, a placement/diagnostic test should be ordered. Some are available free online. Others are sold for a modest cost. Placement tests are specific to the curriculum being used. You cannot take a placement test designed for one curriculum and apply to another curriculum. Placement tests are not achievement test, which are given at the end of a school year and are used by most public school systems. We strongly encourage the use of placement tests. Every curriculum is different in its approach and scope. Every student has a different educational experience. It is very frustrating for a student to be improperly placed within a curriculum.
The next step is to order your curriculum. No matter who you order your curriculum from, you should order well in advance. We recommend ordering at least six weeks before you will need it. This will give ample time to become familiar with the curriculum. It will also relieve the stress of waiting for your curriculum to arrive when it was needed yesterday. The busy curriculum season is from March through October. The busiest time is August and September. Order especially early in those months and expect some backorders no matter who you order from.
Home schooling comes with sacrifice. But good things usually do. The most important thing you can do to make your home school a rewarding and successful experience is to cover your family in prayer and renew your mind in the Word of God. There will be many trials and unexpected challenges along the way. God promises to give us wisdom when we ask for it in faith. We can rely on His strength and wisdom to meet every challenge. In the words of Joshua, "Be strong and very courageous"!
God bless your home school,The Pennywise Learning Teamsales@pennywiselearning.com
A Personal Story
The founders of Pennywise Learning began their home school adventure when their oldest child was in the first grade. She was in a private Christian school with about fifteen students per classroom. Even in such an ideal environment, they became dissatisfied with their daughter's progress. When she struggled with math, no effort was made to present the material in a way she could understand. It was her responsibility to keep up with the class rather than the teacher's responsibility to help the child learn. They made efforts to help their daughter at home but she became frustrated whenever new material was presented in school. Their daughter rode the bus to school. She would leave home at 8 am and arrive home at 4 pm. It was a very long day for her and they sensed it was taking its toll. By the time she arrived home, it was nearing the dinner hour. By the time dinner was over and cleaned up, it was almost bedtime. They felt like the school had custody of their child while they only held visitation rights. They also found it was a lot harder to instill values that were important to them. She was being taught by Christian teachers but they didn't always hold to the same standards as they did at home. The teachers were not able to notice the details going on each child's life. Too many "little foxes" were getting a hold of their child's heart. They made the decision to home school and feel it was the best decision they have ever made.
As home schoolers, the founders of Pennywise Learning evaluate what has worked and what has not with each of their children. They are always striving to improve their home school curriculum plan. After struggling to find the right fit for their oldest child, they began using Alpha Omega's Switched-On Schoolhouse (SOS). It was a defining moments in their home schooling experience. SOS provides a solid education mixed with the benefits of computer technology. It combines, text, video, and games to make the material more interesting. SOS also corrects most of the student's work. This feature alone to make a big difference. Some students will accept the computer telling them an answer is wrong better than dad or mom. The program is also customizable. Certain features can be turned off if the student if it isn't working well with your particular student. It's really an excellent choice for the more independent, strong willed child. While SOS works well for one child, they use a variety of curriculum for their other children.
Since Pennywise Learning strives to employ home schoolers whenever possible, our customers frequently want to know what our staff uses for their children’s curriculum. Each student has unique learning styles. As we mentioned, SOS is a good fit for the more independent, strong willed student. Our staff uses a variety of the curriculum we carry and some we do not. Switched-On Schoolhouse, ACE School of Tomorrow (particularly the ABCs of ACE Phonics program), Saxon Math with the DIVE Instructional CDs, Apologia, Mystery of History, Lifepacs, and Horizons Penmanship are favorites among our staff.
Pennywise Learning has purposely focused on Biblically based curriculum. We pray the curriculum we offer is a blessing to your family.
Learning and Family Styles
There are several approaches to home schooling your child. Styles are chosen with the needs, learning styles, and preferences of the child in mind. The unique needs and situations of each family is also a factor in determining an educational approach. We cover the more common approaches here.
Traditional - One of the most common approaches is the Text Book or Traditional Approach. You may also hear this approach referred to as "structured." This approach uses textbooks, workbooks, and/or CDRoms. The entire curriculum is worked on following a set plan, or scope & sequence. Testing and assignments are usually planned out in a sequencial order. Some common examples are Alpha Omega's Switched-On Schoolhouse, Lifepac, Horizons, and Saxon programs. Abeka, Bob Jones, and ACE (School of Tomorrow-paces), and Christian Liberty also fall under this catagory. This approach is good for families and children that enjoy routine and want to be sure all the basics are being covered. The guesswork and research has been done so parents can rest assured their child is learning all required material at each grade level. This approach is also good for families beginning their home schooling program with an older child or when the primary teacher must work part-time outside the home.
Unit Studies - This approach uses a theme or topic as the foundation for learning in all areas of study. Unit Studies may be purchased or you may prepare your own. Once a theme or topic has been chosen, a course of study is mapped out integrating language arts, science, social studies, math, fine arts, etc. Reading and writing can be covered by reading books on the topic and writing reports. Science and history are easily integrated for most topics and themes. Sketching and song may be used for art and music. Math may be integrated completely into the program or may be studied as a separate subject. Some examples of themes are a specific animal such as birds or horses. A particular period of history is popular as a theme.
The Bible is also an excellent base to choose. Alpha Omega offers their Weaver Unit Study program using the Bible to incorporate a wide variety of subjects. Weaver is set up to take the guess work out of designing a unit study for your family.
An advantage to the unit study approach is it can be adapted to teach more than one grade level at the same time. Older children are given more advanced assignments than the younger ones. Many families enjoy learning together with this approach. This approach is good for families and students that enjoy a more hands-on approach to education. It is also good for parents who want to stay highly involved in their child's education process.
Living Books or Charlotte Mason - This is a non-text book approach where parents teach the basics of reading, writing, and math with a more traditional approach. All other subjects are taught using the best sources of knowledge for those subjects such as museums, nature walks & wildlife, and reading "real books" rather than textbooks. This approach is especially good for families who wish to break away from traditional textbooks and use a more hands-on approach.
Classical - This approach teaches the Trivium-grammar for early elementary ages, dialectic for middle schoolers, and rhetoric about age fifteen and older. Grammar focuses on reading, writing, spelling, Latin, observation, listening, and memorization skills. Dialectic focuses on logic, debate, conclusion, Latin, essays, argument, criticisms. Rhetoric focuses on language in the written and spoken form used both eloquently and persuasively. This approach focuses on the stages of mental development and focuses particularly on communication skills. Self-learning is encouraged. This is a historically proven method that has produced many great minds throughout history.
Unschooling - Popularized by John Holt, children are allowed to pursue their own interests with parental support and guidance. The child is surrounded by a rich environment of books and learning resources. Parents model a lifestyle of learning which opens opportunity to interact with the child as interests arise. Formal academics are pursued when the need arises.
Relaxed - This approach is similar to unschooling in that there is less structure but this approach has definite goals.
Mixed - Many home school families use a mixed approach. They may use traditional textbooks for math, language arts, & science but unit studies for history, music, & art.
Why do families choose to home school?
Each family is unique as to their reasons to home school. These are a few of the reasons a family may choose to home school.
Academics - Some families are not content with the status quo of public school institutions where advanced students can become bored and those having trouble keeping up may be labeled. Home school families can put together an academic plan that addresses the specific needs of their child. Perhaps this accounts for the higher achievement test scores among home schooled students.
Social - Some families do not accept the traditional approach to socialization. They believe the horizontal approach public and even private education adopts is harmful. A child's social exposure becomes limited to children their own age. They become peer-dependent for their values, dress, language, behavior, and sense of personal worth. This can have a negative affect on a child's self concept. Home schooled children have a much broader form of socialization. Their vertical experience gives them skills they need in real life ranging from babies to adults.
Relationship - Some parents choose to home school in order to mentor their children throughout their childhood. They want to be the ones to guide and teach their children. This is not possible when their children are gone 6-9 hours out of each day and must spend even more time in the evening concentrating on homework. Home schooling gives the freedom to take family vacations and field trips when convenient. It allows the whole family to experience learning activities. These families believe home schooling allows them to have a closer relationship with their children.
Spiritual - Perhaps one of the strongest reasons for Christian families to home school is based on the un-Godly environment of public schools. From evolution to sex education, from peer pressure to drugs, children are taught each day in a hostile environment. Even good, Christian teachers must use humanistic textbooks. Christian home school families believe the Biblical mandate to bring up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) applies to their children’s education. They do not believe public schools are bringing up children in the way the Word of God says they should go.
* Psalms 1:1-3 - Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungoldy, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
* Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
* Proverbs 1:8-9 - Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
* Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
* II Corinthians 6:14-18 - Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
* Psalms 14:1 - The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
* Proverbs 13:20 - He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
There are many questions about home schooling presented by parents, family, friends, and even strangers. We hope to answer a few of them here. We also recommend Christian parents to read "Warning! Public Schools Aren't for Christians!" by Richard "Little Bear" Wheeler for a Christian perspective on home schooling.
What About Sports? -This answer depends on the state and school district you live in. For instance, in the state of New York, home schooled students may participate in activities deemed extra-curricular within their school district. Many sports fall into that category. Christian schools sometimes allow home schooled students to participate in their sports programs. There are also a variety of individual sports students may take private lessons for or enjoy individually such as track, tennis, gymnastics, etc.
Won't home schooling shelter my child so they can't function in the "real world?" - The Bible does not tell us to expose our children to as much as we can to "toughen" them up. It tells us to train them in the way they should go. The statistics bear witness that this is the wise approach. Home school students not only succeed, many colleges and universities are recruiting them because they do so well. Studies show that home schoolers are more well-rounded socially than their public school counterparts. Perhaps this is because home schooled students are given the freedom to develop their faith, personality, and relationships in a secure, safe environment. This gives them the confidence needed to succeed in the "real world."
What About Socialization? -Here we repeat the "Social" section from "Why some families choose to home school." Some families do not accept the traditional approach to socialization. They believe the horizontal approach public and even private education adopts is harmful. A child's social exposure becomes limited to children their own age. They become peer-dependent for their values, dress, language, behavior, and sense of personal worth. This can have a negative affect on a child's self concept. Home schooled children have a much broader form of socialization. Their vertical experience gives them skills they need in real life ranging from babies to adults. Statistically, home schooled students rate high in their social skill. See www.NHERI.org link below for more information.
How do home schooled students rate academically? - Home schooled students consistently score higher on achievement tests than both public and private schooled students. While this does not guarantee each child will test above average, it does show that home schooling works....and it works well. For more information on home schooling statistics and research please see National Home Education Research Institute. (NHERI) at www.NHERI.org.
Is Home Schooling Legal? - YES! Please see Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) at www.hslda.org for more legal information. This site provides individual state laws and a list of support groups for your state. We strongly suggest joining this organization. They do a wonderful service for home schoolers. All home school families benefit from the work they do preserving our freedoms and right to home school.
What about a high school diploma? - Parents are the ones who issue a home school diploma. It is very important for parents to keep a good transcript. If you would like your child to have a school issued diploma, you need to enroll your child in an umbrella school. Check with the publisher of the curriculum you are using to see if they offer an umbrella school program.
What about college? - It is especially important for home schooled students to meet with college officials early in their high school years to determine the school's requirements concerning home schooled admissions, particularly if the student has their heart set on only one or two institutions. Many colleges and universities actively recruit home schooled students.
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