pinterest-dd591.htm Oak Creek Academy: Home Schooling - Our answer behind the 5W's & H!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home Schooling - Our answer behind the 5W's & H!

Over the last few months I've had a few ladies ask about homeschooling. Some who are just starting the journey, some who've been on the road for about the same length of time as our family, and some with no knowledge of ins and outs of keeping your kids home.

The following are my views of the who, what, where, when, why, and how of homeschooling. Please grab a favorite beverage and enjoy reading.

WHO: We are the Brock's. Kevin and I met late summer of 1995, while serving at the church we were attending. The short version is that we didn't necessarily like each other when we first met. Through our own walk with God we began to talk more, see some common ground, and hear where God was leading us. We began dating March of 1996 and almost immediately began talking about marriage, what we wanted from a spouse, and some nit picky type things. August 1996 he asked me to marry him in front of the youth group, the same group of friends and kids that we'd been serving together for a year. The following February, we were married.

Our first son, Thing One, was born January 2000, after 13 weeks of "bed rest". I soon figured that I could move about the house, so it wasn't to bad. 10 years later, he's a fine young man and working on being taller than his Mom.

Thing Two, came along January 2003. That is always an interesting experience, to move while in the first trimester and feeling sick EVERY DAY. We paid a company to pack and to move the bulk of our stuff, which definitely made it easier. He's a handful, at 7, but still a bundle of love when he wants to be.

We are also working on adopting a child, most likely from the United States. The Home Study feels like it moving slowly, so no telling when Baby Brock will be here.

WHAT: The what's of homeschooling. Probably the biggest what question is, "What curriculum do you use?" That is a frightening question to someone who has never looked into homeschooling before. Typing "Homeschooling Curriculum" into Google yielded 938,000 hits in 0.30 seconds. It is overwhelming to figure out what to use. I've asked a lot of questions along the way and have quickly learned that you don't have to commit to one company for everything. It's okay to put one curriculum aside, if it isn't working or to hard to get through.

Another big what question: WHAT about socialization? It is because of the public school's socialization, in part, that we brought our oldest home. It's the endless bulling (even in kindergarten and first grade), teasing that crosses major boundaries, and numerous other things that just do not need to be a part of the academic day. Our boys have plenty of time to learn to deal with the bullies and teasers playing in the afternoon when everyone is home. During "school hours" we're choosing to eliminate as much teasing and bulling as possible.

WHERE: Where do we school? Where ever it seems appropriate. We school in the kitchen while making cookies and learning about fractions or about the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar. In the dining room when they seem to need "a desk" environment. We've schooled at Giant and Wal-mart to learn about budget, cost vs. quantity, how far a dollar goes, and the dreaded tax. It's also a good lesson in counting change to make sure they got the correct amount back. I think we might have used just about every room in our house, the car, DC museums, Baltimore Aquarium, the National Zoo, various stores, the library, the pool. Hope you get that when you home school, there are very few limits to where you can home school.

WHEN: This can be answered a couple ways, either by the day or the school year (which will be answered a little further down). First, the day. We try to keep our schedule similar to the public school, because a lot of our non-school activities are geared toward the public school year. Ideally, we school Monday through Friday. Our start time varies depending upon the need to sleep. I refuse to wake a sleeping child if there is no major emergency or no need to wake them early that particular day. Let them sleep, they'll do better emotionally and academically. Anyway, our start time is anywhere between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM. We finish when we finish. There have been days when our oldest is finished with a bulk of his school work by 8:00 AM because both of us were ready to go by 6:30 AM. We've also been know to finish up some school work on the weekends, when needed.

WHY: The why we home school is very close to my heart. When Thing One was in public school for kindergarten and first, it broke my heart to send him there. The class sizes where huge, there were a lot of things I saw that I just did not agree with. Yes, the bulling and the over the top teasing were present, even in the lower grades. We do need to learn to have thick skin, but why do our children have to be "torn down", by other kids, to learn this? From Christmas Break of his kindergarten year, I'd been wanting to pull him out, but we made the move after first grade because we heard so clearly, from God, to educate our children at home, both Kevin and I felt we would have been sinning if we didn't. It has not been an easy road (making sure they are learning, finding the activities that spark their curiosity, getting them involved in age appropriate activities, etc.). It seems that when I doubt the road that is before me, I run into a home school family that is having an awesome moment and I feel renewed by their excitement or I met someone who's kids are in public school and they share some trials their child is going through. We are confident that God will provide everything we need, for this journey, for as long as we are traveling this road. I can't tell you how long this journey is, because I just don't know where the end is. We take day by day.

HOW: Here, under the how, I'll try to touch on how we work with the county, how we've found our curriculum, and how we go about school in a general manor.

How we work with the county: Let me start by saying, that within the state of Virginia, home school is legal and it is rising in popularity. There are requirements for ages a child should be "enrolled", which are the same as if your child where going to private or public. Services available to a home school child, from the public school (HELLO, we're still paying taxes for the public school), vary from county to county. Thing one is still eligible to receive help in speech and O/T.

Within Fairfax County, there are four routes that you are eligible to take: 1) Opt out because your child is not 6 by September 30 for that school year; 2) Certified tutor meaning a parent has Virginia recognized teaching certificate; 3) Religious Exemption Statue; or 4) Home School Statue. For us, we chose to follow the Home School Statue. This means that by August 15, prior to the coming school year, we send in a letter stating our "Notification of Intent" letting the school board know our plans to home school. We are required to submit subjects we plan to teach among other things. At year end, we are required to have our children tested, to show that they have reached the 4th stanza for Language Arts and Math for a particular grade. These scores are due by August 1 after the school year is finished. For what it's worth, it's easier to mail in the test scores and next years Notification of Intent at the same time; so everything gets turned in prior to August 1.

We've found our curriculum through two main ways. First, referrals from those who have been home schooling for a bit longer than we have. We've asked what's worked and what hasn't. Second, we find information through research, either through books like Cathy Duff's 100 Top Picks for Homes School Curriculum or through Google type searches. As we're wrapping up our third year, I'm finally able to put a curriculum aside if it isn't working for our boys. Thankfully, in the last couple years, the cost for us has been going down as I find that I don't need to buy an all inclusive curriculum. I'm learning to shop at used sales, learning to by off of E-bay, and such, so if we need to put things aside, the cost that we spent on that one item isn't overwhelming.

Here is how our year is figured out. Working with August 1 as a deadline for getting things into the county, I work backwards. I allow two weeks to review the tests from the previous year (this only takes a couple days) and mail into the county. This gives me an approximate date of July 15th to have test scores back from being graded. Knowing that BJU Press (who we buy the tests from) needs 6 - 8 weeks to grade the test, I know I need to be finished testing by approximately May 20th. Given this, I can plan out my 180 days of school for the year, vacations, CHRISTMAS and EASTER Breaks (yes, I am screaming this - I am a Christian and I'll call the holidays as I see fit!!). It usually turns out that we do some school work during the summer, just not everyday, to get our number of days in. This is fine with us because they don't loose any information that way and they still get a few weeks of no school. I half to laugh though, because they still love doing science, mental math, being read too, etc. So, in theory, we never stop.

Other HOW's: Yes, there are ways of tracking classes taken while in High School. There are some excellent software packages out there that will guide you in the classes to take and to create a formal looking transcript. There are also numerous Co-op (by many different names as well) that offer lab classes for science, foreign languages (even different dialects of Chinese) taught by individuals whose second language is American English, etc. There are sports organizations so that athletic kids can have sports on their transcripts. There are drama clubs with 2 or 3 shows a year, orchestra's, dances, drivers ed, volunteer opportunities. Home schooled kids can be dual enrolled in the local colleges, starting their sophomore year, for college credit.

So, this is the gist of our homeschooling. I should probably wrap things up as I've been typing this out for over an hour. The guys are back from Tae Kwon Doe and the left at 8:45 AM. I'll probably come back and reread this and add more, but for now, it's a good description of our thoughts on homeschooling.

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