"How do I start homeschooling?"

When it comes to homeschooling, this is probably the most asked question and the one that gets the most diverse answers. You will hear anything from "De-school yourself first!", "If your kids are in school, pull them out now and just let them decompress," to the other end of the spectrum where someone will say "Find a virtual school." Receiving such varied responses can be confusing for someone new to homeschooling. I am going to try to simplify it for you and end the confusion.

Step #1 - Find out what your local homeschooling laws are. A five-minute internet search can help you with that.

Step #2 - Once you see what the legal requirements are, find a local or state homeschooling association which can help you with the logistics to meet those requirements. Some states are much simpler than others. In the ones where the requirements seem complicated, there will be people who have been doing it long enough to guide you in simplifying the process. The best advice I can give you in this area is to think like a lawyer and ONLY give what you are required to give by law. By the end of the year, chances are you will have gone above and beyond what was required, so there is no need to complicate things by offering more to your reporting agency.

Step #3 - Give your year some structure. How you proceed with this will vary greatly depending on your family goals and how you want to meet your state's requirements. It may also change from year to year, depending on your educational goals. It works best if you break this down into much smaller steps, so you don't get overwhelmed. And please, do yourself a huge favor and do not follow anyone's "method", "style" or any packaged right or wrong way.  I won't list the coined methods, but you will know when you see them. Almost all of them can interfere with your parenting so don't give your power away.
This is how I break it down every year for my family:  

Interest led activities

I have four children, ages seven to seventeen, who each have very different personalities, learning styles and interests. This complexity could potentially lead to a loss of sanity for me if I don't plan ahead accordingly. This past year there was taekwondo, four different dance classes, gymnastics, acting workshops, productions and classes, Japanese class, Girl Scouts, horseback riding, homeschool teen group activities, library clubs and volunteering. I put a high priority upon all of the above because these are the things that the kids want to do and that give them joy. For those concerned about the kids having social interactions, activities like this should answer that concern! The list will look different for you, so don't be concerned about mine.

Each summer we discuss what they would like to do in the fall. My daughter has decided to scale back on dance classes a bit. One of my sons wants to go to beekeeping classes and start an apiary in the spring. Another one of my sons would like to sign up for fencing. While each of them is keeping a few activities that they did last year, they have the option to try others. Once the kids have decided what they would like to do in the fall, I get it on their schedule, that way I know what days and time-frames I have available for the rest of the year.

Classes and Clubs

After those schedules are completed, I can find out what classes or clubs they would like to be involved in that are homeschool centered. Last year, my oldest was covering American History. Since I have a strong history background, I designed an American History Through Movies course that fit his learning style and would keep him connected with the material. My youngest wanted to have a book club, so we held a Mighty Girl one, choosing books from the site A Mighty Girl, where six other homeschooled girls attended. If you don't want to set these things up yourself, find others in your area that are holding open classes and clubs. Keep looking until you find the right fit for you! You may even decide that you don't want to run classes or have your child attend any because they have enough other things going on. Or you may want to spend that time building a closer connection with your child by going on a lot of field trips by yourselves.

Educational Goals

Yes, I put this step last! Once all of the above is set up, it is much easier to fit in all of your other educational goals, whether that means a lot of free play because they are very young, or more structured studies in preparation for college, or even time for your child to learn a skill that they can use to start their own business. You have the freedom to create what is best for your child here as long as you meet your state's legal requirements at the same time. Don't be afraid to get creative and think outside what you know about the "classroom."

Those new to homeschooling usually put all of their efforts into their educational goals first and foremost, then start feeling isolated very quickly, even deciding to give up because their children aren't around enough other children. You can prevent this by trying the order I suggest here. If you are worried you won't have enough time to meet your educational goals, I have to tell you that homeschooling does NOT take as long as you think it does. You can have your child learn in a way that doesn't take hours out of your time. It may sound impossible, but with the resources we have available today, it can be accomplished and in much less time you ever imagined!

People often think that the overwhelming part of homeschooling is the academics. Once you get started, you will see that because there are so many options, finding the right method that works best for your family as a whole will be the biggest challenge. That challenge will come more from your own expectations about what you think you are "supposed" to be doing based on your own school experiences, as well as some pressure from people who have no idea how homeschooling really works. The academics are only one aspect of it. Integrating them into your life will be much easier if you let go of preconceived ideas of what schooling has meant to you in the past.

While the above is how I do it with my family, keep in mind that the right way to do it is the one that works best for your family and will look completely different. Find others who are willing to share how they do it and keep trying different things until you find what works for you and what doesn't. You will quickly discover that homeschooling isn't something you do during "school hours" but it is a complete lifestyle.

When a lot of homeschooling parents think about continuing through the high school years, they can get overwhelmed very easily.  The prospect of college looms on the horizon and parents get nervous about their abilities to prepare their teens.  What can be even more daunting is wondering if college admission offices will take your teen seriously since, after all, they have a transcript prepared by mom and/or dad!  What I can tell you is that putting together great classes for your teen that will be taken seriously by colleges and ones that are enjoyable for your teen is completely possible.  First you need to let go of the teacher, curriculum, transcript trap.

So what do I mean about the "trap"?  It's too easy to look at college admission requirements then go backwards to figuring out how you are going to plan to cover those credits.  You automatically think of things like English 101, Geography and other pretty stale, nondescript class titles.  While some people are perfectly content with buying courses or having their teen take them through a local community college, there is another way.  That way is by creating a custom curriculum.  The best way I can describe how to do this is to give you a couple of examples.

Last year, I was concerned that my sixteen year old wasn't reading a lot of traditional books like he used to.  He had no interest in the few I gave him and after giving them a try, he put them down.  I am an avid reader and writer so I completely believe in only reading what interests you.  If you read the first chapter of a book and just can't get through it, it's either poorly written or just doesn't click with you.  There are so many books to choose from so why be forced to read what you don't enjoy.  While I firmly believe this, I was still seeing current suggested book lists for high schoolers and it got me a little nervous.  My son's main source of reading this past year was the graphic novels found in the Teen section of our local library.  (A good library pulls out the Mature ones and be warned, they are rated Mature for a reason; just as the Teen ones are rated for a reason as well!)  When I went to look at how many books he read, I discovered he had read almost FORTY!  Those were in addition to the more classic ones he did read.  While I had originally told him that I couldn't count them as toward his transcript credit, seeing the number he read made me think twice.  So I did a little digging...

After a quick internet search I found course descriptions for Graphic Novel classes not only from Phillips Academy, but also from a number of Ivy League colleges!  Reading through the requirements of the courses as well as the syllabuses made me realize that not only could I form what he did into a course but it was one he was going to complete and have fun doing!  I grabbed suggestions for a few books for him to read so that he can further understand the genre as well as a couple of other suggested graphic novels that are written a little differently than what he had been reading.  He now has a complete course under his belt!

Another example of creating a custom course is how I am covering United States history this year.  I have an extensive background in history from college and have maintained of love of it since then.  One thing I love to do is watch a historical movie or documentary and see how accurate it is.  After finally getting around to seeing the HBO John Adams series this year, I decided that I could make a fun class for the kids and their friends out of doing that; especially since my sixteen year old loves history as much as I do! 

It did take some work but I sat down and came up with twenty six historical dramas that will be fun to watch that are PG13 and below.  The kids will do research on their own during the week to look into the validity of what they watched then we will talk about it before our next movie each week.  (I keep getting requests to share my list but I decided that it wouldn't serve people very well without being a complete class.  I hope to find the time as we go during the year to put together an affordable package with complete historical notes.  If you do decide to try this yourself, please be aware that even documentaries have mistakes in them!  I was even recently advised that the Teach With Movies service has mistakes all over it.)

These are just two examples of how you can create your own custom courses.  The more you can create that center around your teen's interests and learning style, the better.  They will connect with the information more and it will be much more tangible to them.  They will not only meet the transcript requirements that college admission offices look for but they will stand out as being unique, interesting individuals.

There is quite a bit of advice from homeschoolers regarding college. Funny thing is, the people pushing the most advice are either people who don't have kids that are teenagers yet or they are the ones with the teens that those particular people use as examples of what homechoolers who go to college are like. You hear tons of stories about homeschooled teens that go to college early; the actuality is that there aren't as many as you'd think. Or stories of “our founding fathers” who homeschooled; different times, people, different times. Even more about college for free through online free classes; all HYPE, believe me! Or how some colleges don't even require SATs; not by my research. Or what about the whole "college is an evil empire" argument and how you don't need it to succeed; not always wrong but haven't they read the stats about college grads and the gap in earning? Shall I list more? Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about!

The truth is some of us, actually most of us homeschooling parents, have teens that are just …. well, normal!!! They may not know what they want to do with their life. There is nothing wrong with that. They may know what they want to do but not sure what path they want to take. There is nothing wrong with that either. Isn't it even a little unfair to expect a fifteen year old to decide what they want to do with their life, pick a path, and be expected to follow through just for the sake of finishing something they start. The stories of overachievers from the main stream or homeschoolers I think make those of us who don't have super amazing stories to tell much more tight-lipped about sharing our paths. … But you know me... I'm not afraid to share if I know it will help someone gain a little more confidence in their abilities as a parent.

My oldest is sixteen. He has wanted to be an actor from the time he could talk. At sixteen, he still has that passion and while I may be biased, he is good at it! (When a casting agent who holds a workshop he takes tells you so, that's even better ;-) We have looked at what path is best for him. He has a few options and the key for me is that I don't close off his options because that can decide for him what his path will be. I want it to be up to him to find what feels best for him. What I mean by that is if he decides he definitely wants to take the college acting degree path, he has to have a transcript and diploma. Period. The transcript has to have a certain amount of credit hours for certain subjects. (Sorry unschoolers! The facts are the facts!) After looking into his college options that are the most affordable for a one income family of six, all of those colleges require SATs. Even if he doesn't go to college now and decides to later, he is going to need those scores.

Okay, homeschoolers. I know I just burst a few overinflated bubbles! But don't be scared and react by declaring your kid is going to an institutional high school! I will do a completely separate blog about course options for high school as well as transcripts. You don't have to follow a bunch of packaged curriculum to have an outstanding high school transcript. In fact, it is often better if you don't and have a much more personalized learning path that is directly related to what your teenager would like to do. If you go to college admission pages, they often come right out and say that they want to see some specialized emphasis.  This is how us homeschoolers have a huge advantage! Again, I will visit that later.

My son has other options than the college path. For him, it is best for him to continue not only his training, even outside of college, but also get experience. He may decide to finish his high school years and focus all of his efforts on auditioning, gaining roles and experience and see how it goes. He may decide that is working great for him and he won't need college at all since he may be working enough. Or he may only get roles intermittently and decide that he wants to have other skills that he can use to make money with. Then he can decide if he needs a full degree or just other training.

Whatever he decides he wants to do, it is still my job as a parent to be his advocate and make sure he has a good foundation he can build upon no matter what path he chooses. To do anything else or follow what other people do can really make things more difficult for him further down the road. I am the adult who has lived in the adult world. He isn't there quite yet and he doesn't have the experiences I have to see the whole picture as well as I can. And even for us parents, seeing the whole picture can be a challenge, can't it? We don't know what the future will bring for our kids. It's our job to just do the best we can to prepare them for it and set them up with options for success.

When I first began my homeschooling journey, I was pretty confident that I would find the right path for my kids. Sure, I read a few books and visited some online forums to hear what other people had to say but I never felt like I had anything to worry about. As they began getting older, I did go through a time where I felt a little unsure of myself. I loved school and there were certain things I was afraid the kids might miss out on. Being a bit of a perfectionist, maybe more than a bit, I decided to try joining a local homeschooling co-op to see if it would provide the things I was worried the kids would miss out on. My two oldest boys had very different experiences and through their experiences I learned a lot about the good and bad about co-ops. That was some years ago and I have seen how many other co-ops are run. I wanted to take a moment to give all of you, newbies especially, some of my take on the pros and cons.

Since I always like to end on a positive note, I'll start with a few of the cons:

Lack of control over subject matter and how it's taught
– This of course depends on how involved you are. If you volunteer to teach a subject, you have control.

Mismatch to your child's learning style
– My 2nd born hated how the reading teacher was teaching in the co-op we were in.  And I mean HATED!   Of course I pulled him out but I believe it delayed his desire to read. Please learn from my mistake on that one ;-)

Price – Some co-ops are not free and can be pricey. I still marvel at one I am aware of that people pay some pretty decent change for and one of the classes has the kids play with Legos for two hours. If you want to give the power of your child's education to someone else, and pay for it, make sure you have a clue about what is going on there.

Behavior – Just as in school, you have no control over who shows up. Homeschoolers on the whole tend to be great kids but there are plenty, just as it is anywhere, where the parents only pretend to be involved in their child's life and they are using the co-op as a place to dump their kid. And just as in school, these are many times the kids that crave the most attention and will do what they need to do to get it.

Schedule – This is an important one for us, isn't it? Since you have to be at the co-op for certain times, you have to cater your and your family's life to it.

Philosophy – This is the biggest complaint I have heard form people. There are many co-ops that are faith based. While they are very often open to those who don't share their philosophy, you may find that the central beliefs do matter very much to those running it and those values are intertwined into subjects taught. If that is what you are looking for, great! If not, ask questions and see if it's truly the right fit for you.

Here are some major pros:

Shared responsibility – If the co-op you are in welcomes direct parent participation, and most do, then you can share ideas for classes, subject matter and clubs. You can even volunteer to teach one of the classes. It can be a real community effort.

Variety of offerings – Sometimes you can find classes at co-ops that you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else for free. The co-op we were in had parents that were karate and dance instructors at night. They offered classes for the co-op at no extra charge during the co-op meeting times.

Matching your child's learning style – One of my kids really enjoys learning through exchanging and sharing ideas with others around him. He also likes the accountability that someone else besides me and my husband can give him. This style is tough for some homeschoolers to admit even exists, nevermind the obvious issue it presents if someone is completely adverse to co-ops, teaching group classes in their home, or sending their child to school. For those people I say, stop and really let it sink in that this IS your child's style whether you like it or not, learn to be okay with it, then for the good of your child, do something to cater to your child's style better, even if it puts you way out of your comfort zone. I have found that this is most often THE reason why kids end up going to high school after homeschooling. Parents don't think there is another way.

Less effort to accomplish more – If you are lucky enough to find a co-op where all parents want to be actively involved, you will see that the ones that volunteer to take on certain subject areas are choosing what they are already good at. One parent may love math and know how to make it fun. One may enjoy history or science and have backgrounds in them. If you aren't strong in an area, don't have the money to buy a great curriculum you want to use, or have the time to brush up on a subject in order to teach it well, then you can lean on these other parents. It turn you can contribute your other strengths instead.

Piece of mind – I list this as a pro because sometimes it's a tough road always being on your own and not knowing for sure if you are doing everything you can to set your child up for success. Co-ops can offer that support directly through your interaction with other parents and also in knowing that it was a group effort with other like-minded parents.

Keep in mind that every co-op is unique. Some only last a year and others many years. It's only as good as the members and the participation of them. If you can't find one that meets your needs and that is the way you'd like to go, start one! Even if it only has a few members, as long as everyone is sharing responsibilities it can be successful.

One final note, since I know I will receive emails asking if I am in a co-op, I will answer it here. We are not. I give it fair consideration every year depending on where each of my four kids are at and what co-ops are running around me. This year I felt it was best to set up our own clubs at the house and am having no trouble getting sign-ups... and it's only July!!! This does take some work since I am doing all of the planning myself but it will be worth it. I am able to give the kids exactly the things they are asking for and present it in a way they I know THEY will enjoy. When I do this, it's even more fun inviting others who will enjoy it too to join us.

In preparing our children for their independence, I think one of the most important things we can do as parents is expose them to many different occupations so they can see what kind of jobs are out there.  It can also give them ideas about jobs they can create for themselves, whether in an existing company or through starting their own business. 

For this weekend's challenge, I want you to research a profession or two with your kids.  Now it's one thing to go to a library and pick up a book about different occupations and completely another thing to actually talk to someone about their work in the profession.  Many jobs within certain occupations look very different from one person to the next so it's much easier to make it meaningful and personal if you can find someone to talk to. 

One idea could be to schedule time with a friend or relative to talk about what they do and possibly visit their place of work.  Another idea is to go on a police ride-along.  And yet another could be to schedule a time to go on a behind the scenes tour of a local television station.  Ultimately, if it's something your child is excited to learn about, they will get the most out of it.  Have fun!

I wanted to share this because I thought this was an absolutely amazing idea!  It has my gears churning about the possibility of my soon to be sixteen year old doing something like this with his local, and even distant, homeschool friends next year.  This fits his learning style as well as his personality so perfectly!
I have spent some time looking through the questions I have received from all of you and decided it was time to let you know why I haven't been able to answer all of them.  A little over a year ago I posted The Divisiveness of Unschoolers.  If you haven't read it, please do because it's actually a fairly positive piece.  I was pretty petrified to post it.  Sure I have had the occasional trolls on my FB page, people who like to pick at me but not fan my page and have nothing positive to say, but I never have had any hate mail.  I was afraid I would get some.  In fact, I was afraid I'd get a lot.  

After constantly receiving emails from people that were frustrated with beginning homeschooling, mostly due to lack of support from people who were trying to give them non-helpful and often very judgmentally minded advice, I decided I needed to publish it because people like that needed to know there are people out there who genuinely would love to support them on their journey.  I put those people above the possibility of having to delete mail that I decided I wouldn't read anyway.

A funny thing happened... it has been my most shared blog to date and the blog that garnered some of the most amazing emails from people, comments in person and support for what I write.  Had I known that it would have impacted people in such a positive way I would have published it back in 2009/2010 when I first wrote a version of it.  To date, I haven't had one person lash out at me for it, knock on wood, and I am grateful for that too.

Back to why I haven't been able to answer all of your questions though...  Due to the response I had received from posting it, I decided it was time to start thinking about my next book.  I have been wanting to write a homeschooling book but wanted to have enough experience behind me to share with all of you.  Now that my oldest is turning sixteen, I feel that I could write quite a tome!  After pondering it for a while, I finally settled on the fact that it felt right to me to start it.

The book I am working on is under the working title Intuitive Homeschooling.  It's about how I have been homeschooling my four without falling under anyone's particular homeschool labels and how it's not necessary for you to use any labels either.  It's about homeschooling according to what is best your your individual child and family dynamic.  I can't give you any tentative dates yet but I have gotten enough done to feel comfortable letting you all know what I am working on.  

Please do keep the questions and topics coming!  This book is for all of you and I will do my best to get all of them answered in there!  I love to write and know that you don't make much money publishing books but this is something I want to do to be able to help as many people as I can, whether you agree with my methods or not.  As I have said before, this is my community service to all of you.

Happy New Year!

I wanted to start off the year with some support for a new blogger.  I am pasting his entire blog here because I have tracked you all before to see if you would follow a link to read the remainder of a partial post.  You tend not to.  What I am going to do though is disable comments here so you all have to go over to his site to leave a comment!

I felt compelled to share this because I pay close attention to which of my own blogs are the most shared.  Over the past year you all have gravitated toward the ones that focus on what's most important in life.  Since you all know that I am HUGE on living by example, I thought you'd enjoy Peter's thought provoking post as much as I did.  My hope is that it prompts some real discussion about how we live our lives and the real impact it has on those around us - particularly our children.



The Problem With Men

Posted on January 11, 2012  by phiggins74 under Fathers, Help, Men, Opinion, society, Uncategorized

We, and by We I mean the current 30-40 yr old generation, grew up with NO real male role models. We grew up in a time that was high on immortalizing Sport Heroes because of their stats, not their caliber as a Man…Music heroes, glorified by their separation from the Norm, showcased more on their ability to party than to be Men of character…..We grew up Idolizing movie stars, action heroes, who Fought, shot, and thumped their chest while building body counts…..This is NOT to say that there weren’t good examples of being a man in all of those theaters, there were good men, but they were not glorified, they were not front and center, they were not shown in the same light. As we grew up, we were directed AWAY as a society from the Good male role model by the thing we gravitated most towards…entertainment. I am not saying the entertainment industry is to blame…they are not responsible for OUR decision as a society, but they found what SOLD…Sold products, sold airtime, sold merchandise, and they pounced at the chance to make more by selling more….A generation who idolized, what I WOULD consider the furthest people from being acceptable role models, followed in what they though were the footsteps of those who were merely trying to entertain us. They weren’t trying to tell us how to live, or who to be, or what to strive for, but we bought into it fully.
This mentality, started back in the 70’s, has succeeded through today in every way shape or form. We (by way of buying into the dumbing down of this society through faith in media and entertainment) put characters from movies on pedestals, glorify violence, swim in the escapist mentality and often times put down those who would attempt to come along to try and steer us back in the right direction because…well…that’s not entertaining, exciting, nor does it feed into the fantasy of our societies mentality anymore. Effort is made to shield us from the things we need not be witness of, but it is futile and is more often than not, seen as censorship. The more we see as a society, the more we crave. YOU may not feel this way, but the mentality of the general masses has SHOWN us unequivocally that this is how we are as a collective society.

I do not have a solution, but can only offer a suggestion. It starts with MEN….yes….MEN. Not boys with dreams of being anything more than MEN. A MAN will protect his children from the things seen and heard and witnessed that can harm a child’s mind. A MAN will be a role model for not only HIS children, but all children that may come into contact with him. A MAN will stand for what is right, not in children’s eyes, but what is MORALLY right….Foul language, disrespect of women, bad mouthing others (these are things we are all guilty of, finger points back to me), making judgement verbally to others, inability to leave a bad day at the door…there are countless ways we as men in this country have failed generations of children and I and many others have witnessed this first hand. We cannot be perfect, but WE can be BETTER. Want the cycle of violence and decay to end in our society….THEN BREAK THE CYCLE. LET THE CYCLE END HERE!!!!!! Lower your voices and show compassion even in the hardest of times, love your wife / partner with respect and selflessness and rebuke your children with loving kindness and not out of anger…..a punishment should not be administered out of anger…just my OPINION. Teach that what they see on TV is ENTERTAINMENT and make it age appropriate for crying out loud….NEWS, SPORTS, Movies, All of it, entertainment. Its okay to teach the mentality of “you can be what you want to be in life with HARD WORK, you’re NOT entitled to what you want in life.” And if you feel compelled, teach that even YOU as a Father are only a child in the eyes of God as well….If kids see that we serve something bigger than us then they feel a bit more even in the playing field and will come to accept, through consistent teaching and example, that we ALL answer to someone for our doings.

Again….I am not offering this is the SOLUTION to all problems, just stating my own personal opinion of my observations in my time with you all. And this is NOT in ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM a disclusion of women….I am not a woman therefore I can only speak of my experiences as a man.So men, BE A MAN and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY…EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE CHILDREN, YOU CAN STILL BE A ROLE MODEL. Without great Leaders there are no good paths to follow. Let OUR children see good paths that they will want to travel as they too become men.

God Bless.


Thanks to Peter for taking the time to write this and giving me permission to share it with all of you!

Now go leave a Comment at http://thoughtsofthefallenman.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-problem-with-men/

I have taken a long and much needed break from writing because I wanted to focus on some other things.  Top priority for me was having clear focus going into my first year of officially homeschooling all four of my children since my youngest is now kindergarten age.  Above all, I wanted to make sure I was fully present and aware of what my fifteen year old's needs would be as he moves through another crucial pre-college year.  Since I have been so focused on this, I figured I would take the opportunity to share with you what many people are curious about regarding homeschooling through high school.

The questions I get most often are about the friendships my son develops and who is he exposed to that he can be friends with in the first place.  So yes, the socialization question.  Please don't needle me, my fellow homeschoolers, for muttering the word.  It is what it is.  I don't know if people have images in their heads, that the mainstream media thoroughly loves to exploit, about the WAY outside the "norm" people who lock their kids up at home all day with no outside contact and call it homeschooling, or if people are just curious.  Either way I choose to assume the better intent of the latter.  It isn't the other person's fault that they don't have any first-hand knowledge of what homeschoolers do.  In fact, every year I see at least a couple of homeschooling teenagers we know go to public school for one reason or another.  That means the chances of someone being exposed to a homeschooling teen are pretty slim.  

Here is how we, and all other homeschoolers we have known, here and in the southern states we have lived in, connect with our larger community:  We network!  The easiest way to begin is to get on a local online group and start meeting people in person.  Once you meet a homeschooler or two in the area, you find out about other area groups.  We are in three different secular homeschool networks and the smallest has about one hundred families.  The largest?  Over five hundred!  Yes, I live in New Hampshire and these groups are in my area, not Boston.  These networks provide opportunities for social functions, field trips, co-ops, sports and clubs.  

This year my high schooler is focused on only certain groups he wants to belong to.  He meets with a pretty sizable teen group for social activities and teen field trips.  In fact, this will be his third year with them.  Outside of the homeschool networks, he is also in a Teen Anime Club and a Teen Cooking Club provided by our local library.  (So yes, he does have friends who do not homeschool!)  He is also taking Hip Hop lessons at our local dance school.  And I also must not forgot to mention he also went to the prom this year.  It was bigger than even my own and yes, he knew some of the teens that also attended.  When he is not out and about to socialize, you can find him on Skype with his friends that are in all corners of the country including Florida and California.  (And no, not all of them homeschool either!)  They play online co-op type games and work on projects together.

Surprisingly enough, the academic questions are usually the last ones I get so I wanted to at least make mention of his studies!  I don't know if it's because the person asking about his homeschooling knows that I am college educated and it's obvious through their interaction with me that I have enough brains in my head to be able to figure out the academic part or they assume that the academic part of homeschooling is regulated to some ambiguous, higher degree than public school teachers are...  But again, I am patient and don't bother asking what their assumptions are or why.  As for academics, he is taking Japanese, utilizing a self-paced Algebra curriculum, learning about Earth Science, World History and is constantly reading something; doing all of the things you would expect to see on a transcript.  I will leave curriculum and resources details for a later blog if anyone is interested.  

He is also learning how to play guitar and opened his own etsy store where he has taken orders for custom sweatshirts he designs and paints.  He is working on button designs he will be adding to the store soon!  He also enjoys manga drawing and may integrate some of his designs on his buttons as well.  There are a couple more things he is going to be doing but I can't disclose them until after Christmas since I have gifts directly related to them.  I'll post an update about that in the Comments next week!

So yes!  It is possible to homeschool high school, have lots of friends, a college-worthy transcript and not be socially awkward!  Just ask anyone who has met my son.  I am a very proud mom of a well-adjusted, intelligent, outgoing and confident teen!  I am more than happy to dispel the common misconceptions and myths as I also encourage and support my fellow homeschoolers. 

I know this is a pretty general blog about homeschooling high school but at least wanted to lay down a basis for how we do it.  Feel free to post any comment or question on the topic below and I'd be more than happy to elaborate or even expand on it in another blog.

I have been homeschooing since… well, since my oldest was born almost 15 years ago.  I went into it one step at a time and fairly analytically.  That’s just how my mind works and always has.  That’s why I am really good at research, why I could pick up programming so fast that I was hired to do it and why I had such a diverse course of study in college.  I like to learn as much as I can about something.  When it came to homeschooling, the one of thing that kept coming up for me was this “unschooling” label.  It piqued my curiosity!  I’m a pretty open minded gal, after all.  After checking it out and being around many families that have called themselves unschoolers my conclusions may not please some of you.  Why?  Because from what I have seen and experienced unschooling has become a religion for some people!  And a divisive one at that!

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the premise of unschooling.  Personally, I consider it life learning as opposed to strictly curriculum based learning.  Nothing more complicated than that.  But if you run into most, not all, people that use the label they would have a huge issue with my definition.  They will quote others that came before them that have been self-proclaimed or group ordained authorities on what the correct definition of it is.  People get into such a tizzy over what it is and isn’t that it becomes a battle of rhetoric usually resulting in anyone not agreeing with them being bullied into silence and excluded from the “club”.

The first part of the problem is the WHO people are looking to for a definition.  I don’t care what perceptions are, people are people.  I hate to even say this because I have heard people say this and it wasn’t the least bit true for them personally, but I have been around enough famous people to know that people ARE just people.  I can’t tell you how many times I have spent time with someone who was looked at as an authority on something and found that they really didn’t know half as much or have the experience that people gave them credit for.  When it has come to the unschooling label, I have had personal experience with a few of those “authorities” and they turned out to be not very kind or the open-hearted people they are duping everyone into believing they are!!  And it's funny how they each had their own different definitions that they believed were the only right ones.

This made me wonder about the experiences I have had with people that use the label.  I have seen people get chastised because they dared ask in an online unschooling support group setting if it was ok to use a workbook since their child saw them at the store and wanted one.  Then they were told if they did buy one for their child then they clearly weren’t unschoolers.   The person is then literally ignored if they ask for any more help.  I have seen things like this happen in every single local and national online unschooling support group I have been on.  If you don’t live by that particular group’s accepted definition then it was made clear that you weren’t welcome.

Other unschoolers have jumped on the label simply because they loved how “anti” mainstream and rebellious it sounds.  For some it is used as a means of pushing other people’s buttons.  They really enjoy going out of their way to tell people how they don’t have a schedule or curriculum.  It gets them attention they feel like they need.  It is even used as a rebellion against their own family members who do things “how they have always been done.”  I have continually seen it divide families because unschooling, for them, is in reality a continuation of the teenage rebellion against their parents that they never grew out of.

For some, unschooling is used it as an excuse to un-parent.  For them it becomes some “free life” way of living, reminiscent of the hippies that were irresponsible of years past.  Or for others it’s an excuse to let their kids learn the hard way much like “tough love” parenting where no help or guidance was given.  In these cases it’s not a new idea, just a different label.

Some have gone as far as adopting the “radical” unschooling label that has the same “anti” feel but it crosses over even more so into parenting.  This is where you’ll find things like allowing your children to decide if they are going to brush their teeth, letting the kids have complete say on what they eat even if they decided to eat all candy or things they are really allergic to, etc.  Obviously I bring up my health related concerns with this since I think this is where it crosses the line into ignorance.  Knowingly letting your kids’ teeth rot is not called trusting your children to make the best decisions for them.  It’s plain neglect!!

I am only sharing my own conclusions here and my conclusions based on my experiences tell me that unschooling attracts the most of one type of person.  Unfortunately time and time again it is those that are attracted to rebellion.  I’m not saying this is an inherently bad thing.  On the contrary, I’m obviously a bit of a rebel myself or I wouldn’t have even dared write this.  The problem is with the ones who are so attached to their rebel status that they take it too far.

I really do want to end this blog on a high note.  I want to address all of those people that discover unschooling and are truly relieved to find others that put a definition on what you already do or what resonates with you and your family.  It’s great to feel like you aren’t alone!  I completely understand that!  While I have had experience with people who do unschool in a pure loving sense, most of them don’t feel the need to call it that.  Either they put their kids first, above any labels, or they are afraid to be lumped in with those that have the bad behavior.  You don't need to follow a label or anyone's definition to do what's works best for your kids!!

When homeschooling or parenting, and we all know how those two things are not mutually exclusive, don’t turn off your instincts, common sense or life experience.  USE the lessons you have learned and don’t choose to ignore them so that you can fit someone else’s method of raising your kids.  They may not have the life experience or life lessons under their belt that you do.  And that’s fine.  Take what you can learn and what you feel may work for you or you may want to try and ignore the rest.

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