Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: homeschooling
Showing posts with label homeschooling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homeschooling. Show all posts

Monday, December 29, 2014

Writing for a magazine

I'm enjoying writing for Learning Tangent magazine. I've had articles featured in the last two issues, along with an advice column for homeschoolers. I get a lot of joy out of helping others learn to homeschool happily and successfully, even as I continue learning and growing with my own kids.

Here's a link to my latest article, in the Winter 2014 edition of Learning Tangent, entitled, "Reaching out to New Homeschoolers in Love." It's all about finding ways to break down arbitrary barriers that so often prevent new homeschoolers from finding the support they need in their local communities. I tried to provide a number of ideas that groups can implement, no matter how inclusive or exclusive they want to be, in order to help new homeschoolers in their area.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the magazine. It's free to read online, and there is a photography contest for homeschoolers detailed inside. I'd also love to hear from you if you have a homeschooling question you'd like to see answered in the Unplanned Homeschooler's column in the next issue!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Embrace change, become a butterfly

Sometimes we seek change and welcome it readily, and sometimes it is thrust upon us. For many of us, the decision to homeschool involved change, and often a response to changes over which we had no control.

Butterflies are such a beautiful portrait of change fully embraced. They, like so many other insects, live their early lives in a state much different from what they will eventually become. As caterpillars, butterflies inch along, focused mainly on eating whatever plant material they can reach, and eventually, as the approach maturity, on building their cocoon. 

It's a simple life, but one to which they are accustomed. That is, until everything changes.

Emerging in their adult form, butterflies have a whole new diet. They move in a whole new way. Their entire world is expanded, as suddenly the impetus to mate and to migrate, perhaps over thousands of miles, becomes a priority. The challenges they faced as a caterpillar are different than those they face as a butterfly, but so are the rewards.

I don't think caterpillars spend a lot of time or energy focused on their lives before the change. I think, instead, they fully embrace their new existence and move ahead, because they aren't likely to ever go back to the way life was before their change.

Homeschooling successfully takes almost as determined a mindset. If a bully was making your kids' lives miserable before, leave them behind and embrace new friends. If the curriculum was holding your child  down, put it behind you and set your child soaring with a curriculum that fits. If mama drama had you tied up in knots, celebrate your freedom and fly!

In other words, acknowledge the change that brought you to where you are today, but don't dwell on the past. Embrace your metamorphosis, and be the beautiful butterfly you were always meant to be. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Leaving public school is sometimes like escaping a cult

I wonder, how many homeschoolers actually felt like you were survivors of a traumatic experience when you pulled your kids out of public school? I did. In many ways, I felt like I'd escaped from a cult, where people with absolute power had control over me and my kids, where our entire community pressured us to stay and conform, and we were all suffering because of it.

Like many homeschoolers, I lived in a district where the schools were overcrowded, and where I had no choice over which elementary school my kids attended. I had to fight to get my kids the speech therapy they needed, and to keep them from being pigeon holed into classes where they didn't belong. We dealt with classroom bullies, an inattentive bus driver who lost my kindergartner, teaching methods that failed to engage my son, and lunch periods so short they threatened my daughter's health.

But we escaped! And although leaving behind the only form of education we had ever known was hard, it was the best decision my husband and I could have made for our kids.

Being able to talk about our bad experiences with the schools, and hear the stories of others who'd transitioned from public school to homeschooling made a tremendously cathartic for me. It was like group therapy, and I discovered that I was not alone. Many new homeschoolers feel exactly the same, as if they have just escaped from a controlling, unhealthy, often traumatic situation.

It's not just bashing public schools

Talking with others about the negative aspects of public school may be perceived as bashing by some, especially non-homeschoolers or homeschoolers who still have connections to their local schools. But for those who have been hurt at the schools, physically and/or emotionally, and may still be tormented by friends and family who are critical of their decision to homeschool, a place to vent is especially important.

That's what makes online and local support groups for new homeschoolers so critical. They need a safe place to vent about the system they left behind, and to learn what they need to know to move successfully into educating their children at home. They need support, not only in deciding what curriculum to pick and how to set up their school schedule, but in confirming that they made the absolute right choice for their family.

Publicly, openly acknowledging how bad public school can be helps those who left awful situations behind to work through the emotional trauma and crushing doubts that so often accompany leaving public school. To commiserate with other "survivors" of sorts helps work out the feelings of anger and loss, and then to move past the hurt and into the good parts of homeschooling.

We're not all at the same place on our homeschooling journey, but I guarantee you, without being able to talk about the negatives of public school with other people who'd been there when we got out, I would have never become the happy and successful homeschooler I am today!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What should you do when your bullied child begs to be homeschooled?

This week, I read a post on Facebook from a mom who was homeschooling one son, and had two other kids in public elementary school. Her younger son, who'd been asking to be homeschooled as well, suffered through a bullying incident and came home crying, and begging to be taken out of the public school. The mom wanted advice on what she should do.

The scenario reminded me of another from my own home state a couple of years ago. A 12-year-old boy texted his dad from inside a bathroom stall in his middle school in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The text read, “Just get me out of this school.”

The boy’s parents had been in contact with the school over the bullying that the boy said took place every single day. He said not a day went by that he wasn’t called horrible names, pushed, punched, or had milk dumped in his backpack. Finally, after suffering a beating from five other boys outside the school building, the child had enough.

Echoes of other children

Mitchell Wilson, age 11, from Canada begged his family to homeschool him after being tormented for years. Wilson, who had Muscular Dystrophy and could not escape his bullies, said he would rather die than go back to his school. 

Just weeks later, Ashlynn Conner, a 10-year-old honor student from Illinois, begged her parents to homeschool her because of the bullying she faced at school.

These cases and too many others are haunting, because the children begged their parents for help, essentially saying the same thing as the young boy in Bartlesville and the little boy whose mother was asking for help on Facebook. 

Just get me out of this school!  

They begged their families to do the one thing that would make their life tolerable, and their parents said no. Forced to face returning to school, the kids chose to end their own lives rather than be bullied one more day.

Options available to parents

If your child is being bullied so badly that they are begging to be taken out of their school, you owe it to them to explore your options. And there are options. If you live in a large district, you can insist that your child be transferred to another school for their protection. You may have to get a lawyer to make it happen if the district does not allow open transfers, but it is possible. You may also be able to have your child enrolled in a homebound program where a tutor from the district comes to your house and teaches your child at home.

In many states, you have the right to pull your child out of school for any reason. You can choose to homeschool your child or send them to a private school. Even if you have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get your child removed from their school, it is better than seeing them die.

Hopes for the future

People are becoming more aware of the effects of bullying, but the hopes for the future may not be enough to save your child today. The parents of the Bartlesville victim filed a police report after their son was attacked and said that they want teachers to pay more attention to what is going on in school.  

The day may come that anti-bullying policies actually do something to stop the torment that many children suffer, but if it is happening to your child, don’t wait for that day to come. It may be too late. If your bullied child desperately wants out, help them! Exercise your options and get them out.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Homeschool support is all about changing lives

Good Sunday morning, readers! Today, I would like to share some good news and some gratitude.

I've been one of the leaders of my local homeschool group since it was founded, nearly five years ago. And although I have interacted with scores of homeschoolers, and helped dozens of families begin their homeschooling journey in those years, the magnitude of what I've been helping to do as a volunteer didn't truly hit me until recently.

Recently, I realized that I have perhaps not been as thankful as I should have been for the work that God has done through our little group in northeastern Oklahoma, and for the good things He has allowed me to witness through His grace.

You see, homeschool support really is all about changing lives. Becoming a homeschooling family isn't always an easy step. Just making the decision to take full responsibility for your child's education, then getting through the adjustment period of those first months is hard. But with the right support, homeschooling can completely transform your family in some pretty fantastic ways!

Amazing life changes

Some of the changes I have seen in the lives of the homeschoolers I know have been nothing short of amazing:

A little boy who often cried because he was bullied and had no friends at school now greets friends of all ages enthusiastically with hugs and high fives and looks forward to getting together to learn and play.

A mother who felt isolated and alone, homeschooling her child with medical issues, now feels connected and empowered as she and her daughter make new friends.

Kids who were lost in the the cracks in public school, falling behind academically or bored to the point of distraction in the classroom, are able to learn at their own pace and indulge their interests at home.

The role of a support

Homeschool groups, and especially leaders, are vitally important to the success of many homeschooling families. As someone who has been part of the support network for many families on the local level, and who has relied just as much on the care and support of others, I have seen what a difference caring, acceptance and encouragement can make.

I've also seen how damaging bad leadership within a homeschool community can be. In my own personal growth as a support leader, I know I have sometimes put my trust in the wrong places and made mistakes that I can't go back and change, but I have learned valuable lessons.

Our efforts, magnified

An unexpected situation forced me to really take stock of my own role as a leader in my local homeschooling community this summer. When I did, I realized that the role of a homeschool support leader is much akin to a ministry, reaching out to others to help effect a positive change in their lives. I also realized that with God's help, I could be a much better, more effective and more loving leader than I could ever hope to be on my own.

Leaning on God, and trying to follow His guidance rather than acquiescing to others, I started to see wonderful changes, not just in my homeschool group, but in my own family. My kids were happier than they'd ever been, our school schedule ran more smoothly than it had in months, and good people started to surround me and lift me up.

Our local group began to blossom like never before. We grew to nearly double our previous size in a matter of weeks and welcomed new families whose lives were a testimony to the good work God was accomplishing through our members. Other area groups began working cooperatively with ours and the number of expected attendees at our upcoming events climbed to unprecedented numbers.

Yes, our efforts at outreach and support seem to be magnified as we work to honor God rather than to satisfy others. So it is with gratitude that I acknowledge the strongest support any homeschooling family could hope to have, and with sincerity that I hope to keep putting His will first as I continue to work to support other homeschoolers locally and around the world.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

To doodle or not to doodle?

This week, I followed a discussion on Facebook about kids doodling on their homework. Some homeschooling moms strictly prohibited the practice, while others thought it was just fine, and most agreed that a little doodling doesn't hurt anything as long as it doesn't cover up the student's work.

I love that most of the worksheets my kids have done over the years have plenty of extra white space. I've found miscellaneous doodles, poems, jokes and sometimes even carefully thought out scenes that traverse the whole page. Those extra marks on the page never failed to make me smile, as they revealed my kids' personalities, their creativity, and their budding senses of humor. 

Now that my twins are in middle school, when I look back at their binders of elementary school work, I couldn't care less about seeing 8+4=12. But I LOVE seeing my daughter's evolving skill at drawing animals, my son's amazing superhero adventures, and both of their fascinations with goofy jokes. 

Doodling is good for your brain!

Some of the moms in the Facebook discussion recommended a TED Talk, by Sunni Brown, who purports that doodling is a powerful tool to help boost your learning power. This article in Psychology Today expands on the video, explaining Brown's research and going into greater detail about exactly how doodling can improve memory and help students retain more information as they work.

Many homeschoolers already incorporate music and movement into their routine, to help auditory and kinesthetic learners better absorb the material they are trying to master. Why not allow doodles, too?

A time and place for neatness 

I appreciate a sharp presentation, with crisp margins and clean lines. There is definitely a time and place for neatness, and students do need to learn how to put together a clean report and how not to doodle all over an important test. But worksheets are for practice, not for show. They're a scant step up from whiteboards and dry erase markers, in that once the material is learned, they are completely disposable and irrelevant.

By constricting the free and spontaneous flow of creativity that may be expressed in the white spaces of children's worksheets, parents may be missing out on some of the best memories of their children's development they could hope to capture.

Or at least a great laugh at the their child's visual joke about stinky feet and poot clouds!

Oh, hey! One more thing... if you want a great deal on some awesome art curriculum for your kids, act fast. This sale ends soon.

One Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - Save 90% on the Fine Arts Bundle

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't try to duplicate public school at home

There are so many new homeschoolers this year, more than I have ever seen before! And of course, all the newbies are looking for some advice to help them get started in the right direction. The absolute best piece of advice the Unplanned Homeschooler can give is this: Don’t try to duplicate school at home. 
As a new homeschooler five years ago, I didn’t know exactly what the veteran homeschoolers I met meant when they issued this warning, but I soon learned.
This sort of cluttered classroom environment is probably not best for your kids.

I grew up in public school, and my own kids started out there. The public school classroom was the only model of elementary education I had to work from, and while it may be the acceptable standard for simultaneously teaching 20 or more children of the same grade level, it’s not the ideal for most homeschooling families. 

Fortunately, there are a few easy solutions that can turn the public school experience you probably remember from your own childhood into a homeschool environment much more conducive to educating your children one-on-one.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Planning a Not Back to School Party

As we begin our sixth year of homeschooling, I'm so excited because my twins are full fledged middle schoolers now, going into seventh grade as it were, and their homeschool group is thriving like never before. This year, we're even adding an overnight campout to our annual Not Back to School party.

What's a Not Back to School party? Why, it's just about the best way possible for a group of homeschoolers to celebrate the beginning of a new year of learning together. Although many homeschoolers follow different schedules than the public schools, it is impossible to escape the fact that August means back to school for most of the nation's kids.

My son and friends playing games at our first Not Back to School party.

The time of year can leave some homeschoolers feeling a little left out, and even though they don't want to leave summer behind and head into a classroom with their peers, it's still great to celebrate the beginning of a year full of new learning adventures with their friends.

How to plan a Not Back to School party

If you belong to a homeschool group, or just have a few homeschooling friends who enjoy getting together occasionally, planning a Not Back to School party will be a snap. First, you want to make it a fun event, so try to find a location where your kids can play and have a good time, like a playground, splash pad, swimming pool, bowling alley, etc.

Next, make sure you have plenty of food on hand, because kids get hungry when they play hard. You can arrange with other parents to all bring snacks to share, or perhaps contact a local pizza place and ask for a discount.

Opt for a new adventure

If you are part of a larger group, especially one that has done a few Not Back to School parties in the past, consider ramping things up a notch this year. Add a new adventure, something the kids have never done together before, to create a more memorable experience.

As I mentioned above, my own group decided to take our annual Not Back to School party to the next level by camping overnight at an area lake instead of just meeting for the afternoon at a local park. The kids will still be able to play on a playground, enjoy a picnic, and do some hiking like they did in years past, but this year there will be so much more to do, and more time to do it.

Not the camping types? You can still add more adventure to your annual party by incorporating an exciting activity the kids haven't tried before, or maybe going to a brand new location. Use your imagination and give the kids an experience they would not be likely to get in school.

Setting the tone for the year

Your Not Back to School party is about more than just showing your kids a good time. It's about setting the tone for the coming year. Whether this is your first year homeschooling or your 21st, starting the year with a fun and exciting new experience is sure to stoke everyone's enthusiasm, so don't hesitate to make your party the best it can be.

Friday, July 18, 2014

How homeschooling helps save big on school supplies

When I first started homeschooling, I really didn't know what supplies I would need to buy for my kids. As an unplanned homeschooler, I was jumping out of public school and into homeschooling knowing I would have to learn as I went along.

I had been spending between about $85 and $150 per child for the supplies on the teachers' lists when my kids were in public school. I knew homeschooling would save us money on the standard school supplies, but over the first few years, I was shocked at just how little we ended up spending. This year, I expect to spend less than $100 on all three kids combined, excluding some special art supplies my older daughter wants for her birthday.

Here are just a few tips that have saved my family money on homeschool supplies over the years.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pandas on a playground. How cool is that?

Oh, you guys! Today's unplanned adventure started with a video I saw on a friend's Facebook page. It featured young pandas playing on a wooden slide. Pandas on playground equipment, people! I don't think it gets much cuter than that.

Of course, I wasn't satisfied to just watch the video over and over and grin ear to ear. I needed to know where these adorable pandas lived, and what exactly was up with the panda playground. I found the original video on YouTube, and discovered that the young pandas were part of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.

This one of a kind research center gives researchers a chance to study the giant pandas native to China, and to help in the effort to conserve the species. There are tons of educational resources on the site, perfect for anyone who loves pandas, and even live 24 hour high definition webcams where you can watch and listen to the Chengdu pandas from anywhere in the world!

Today's venture into the world of the Chengdu pandas was definitely an unplanned stop, but sometimes those are the very best learning adventures of all!

Friday, July 11, 2014

How to withdraw from public school

So, you've decided to homeschool. That's great! One of the first things you may need to do is withdraw your child from public school. How you do this depends on where you live. Each state has its own regulations and requirements for homeschoolers.

Withdrawing from public school may be as easy as turning in your child's books and walking out the door. But you may have to fill out state forms or even get approval of your education plan from the local school district in order to begin.

Take a look at the map above. The states colored green are the least restrictive. Notice of intent to homeschool is not required in these states. However, if your child is already enrolled in public school, the statewide homeschool organizations in most of these states suggest that you submit a short withdrawal letter, just to avoid any problems with truancy accusations.

You can find links to sample withdrawal letters, state mandated forms and instructions to help you begin homeschooling legally in every state at the links provided below.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Turning bad moments into valuable lessons

Today's unplanned adventure wasn't any fun at all. It all started with a hot summer afternoon and a trip to the local Sonic Drive In to get some big, icy happy hour drinks for me and the kids.

As I pulled into Sonic's U-shaped drive, I came up behind a pickup truck that had pulled out, moved forward, and then come to a stop. I waited as they sat there, not moving, and cars began to line up behind me. Then, suddenly, the driver in front of me put her truck in reverse and started coming back. I honked repeatedly, and my kids and I screamed out the window, but she just kept coming. CRUNCH!

Truck's bumper smashed several inches into the front of my van.

My poor van. I got out of the van, took a picture of the collision and the other driver's license plate, and asked for the other driver's insurance information. Then I called the local police department and asked the other driver to pull around to a parking space and wait for them to arrive.

Lots of lessons to be learned

It's no fun to be in an accident, but at least this was a low impact collision that took place at a slow enough speed the air bags did not deploy. No one appeared to be hurt, and for that, I was immediately grateful.  

Since my kids were with me, we talked about what was going on as things happened. I told them that it was important to exchange insurance information immediately and document the damage if possible. We also talked about how the officer who arrived on the scene was there to help.

After we got home, I explained to them how our insurance policy works, and how the other driver's policy should cover the accident since they were responsible for the collision. I showed them the police report, and explained how I would contact my own insurance company first and proceed from there, possibly contacting the other driver's insurance company as well.

We talked about why it is always important to carry your insurance verification in your car, and what happens if the other driver is not insured. 

More lessons to come

Like a set of real life word problems, there will be lots of math to be figured in calculating the settlement of this claim. There will also be opportunities to read and understand forms and paperwork. And these will be memorable lessons, because they are tied to the vivid memory of an out of the ordinary experience.

When something bad, like a minor car accident, happens to your family, don't forget to look at the potential for learning. Nothing will help set a lesson firmly in your children's long term memory like being tied to an extraordinary experience, either good or bad, so use the experience however you can to help further your kids' education.   

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Are your homeschool techniques keeping up with technology?

My kids love Minecraft! I do, too. We play together often as a family, and my son researches new tips and techniques on YouTube and other sites to improve our worlds. He's recently talked about wanting to learn coding, so he can work on developing games on his own. I think he should go for it.

A photo from my tutorial on how to easily find diamonds on Minecraft.

Our kids live and learn in a world of advancing technology. They eagerly seek knowledge that is relevant to them, and utilize devices and resources online that most likely pave the way to their future careers. But are we, as their teachers, keeping up?

A warning from the industry

Today I read an article featuring Dylan Collins, the CEO of SuperAwesome, a major children's marketing and research network that analyzes how developments in the digital world effect kids. He said:

"The change we are seeing with kids is the greatest change we’ve seen in a generation of children since the war. This is the generation of kids that is going to change everything. They are going to create. They are going to destroy.

"For the first time in our society’s history, we’re being presented with a generation of kids capable of exceeding our abilities while they are still kids. The reason Minecraft exploded was it allowed kids to create: it gave them the tools and empowered them. As a society, we are woefully under-prepared for this generation, I think.

"Now imagine what that is going to be like in five years time. It will be the new generation of kids, but it’s probably going to be the same teachers. How are we going to deal with that?"

Evolving as educators

It's important that we continually evolve and adapt our methods as teachers. What worked for us a generation ago isn't necessarily what will work best for our kids, and what's best for them today might not be in another year or two.

This year, a bunch of kids in my homeschool group are starting a Minecraft club, with the goal of creating a historically accurate replica of a Civil War era site. I'm volunteering to mentor them, but in truth, they already know more than I do about the technological side of the project, and probably will learn much more as they go.

I'm excited, though, because we'll be using the technology they love in order to study history, geometry, architecture, writing, and more. How are your kids using technology in their educational pursuits? Are you working to keep up?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Learning about fireworks on the 4th of July

I love taking time to learn about things in the moment, and the 4th of July is a perfect time to stop and learn a little bit about fireworks.  Last year, in between lighting smoke bombs and Black Cats in the afternoon and watching a professional fireworks display at night, my family watched some videos about how exactly fireworks work.

It was pretty amazing to learn about how the insides of a shell are packed in just a certain order, and how different types of fuses help control not only the initial explosion, but the secondary bursts in the sky.

This year, we're going to spend a little bit of time on the 4th of July making these cute decorative firecrackers I found on Fran's World of Discovery. They use recycled materials, and look like a perfect activity to do indoors when it gets too hot in the afternoon.

After that, I think we'll check out some of the many informational links on the same page. It will be a great way to have fun and learn more about fireworks all at the same time.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Did bad school lunches really turn us into homeschoolers?

One of the questions I have been asked the most over the years is why I decided to start homeschooling. Of course, there were all the usual reasons, such as giving my kids a better education than I believe they could get in public school, keeping them away from bad influences and bullies, and avoiding having our kids possibly fall through the cracks in overcrowded classrooms. But when my husband and I were weighing the pros and cons of homeschooling, one surprising factor figured heavily in our decision: school lunches.

Can school lunches really be that bad?

I know you're probably thinking, yes, school lunches can be pretty disgusting, but can they really be bad enough to make a family choose to homeschool? A lot of kids would say that lunchtime at school is one of the worst parts of their day, but that's just part of growing up, right? 

Unfortunately, as we discovered when our twins were in public school, the problems with lunch in today's schools can actually jeopardize your child's health. That's exactly what was happening to our daughter, and it was becoming a serious problem. What were we going to do?

Making the decision to homeschool

My twins had just finished kindergarten when we made the decision to homeschool the next year. Of course, part of that decision was based on the fact that we'd just moved to a new school district, which was overcrowded. Realizing that our kids would have to go to an elementary school across town instead of the one just blocks from our house, we started thinking about other options.

We had also become very concerned about the fact that our daughter had lost weight over the course of her year in kindergarten. She and her twin brother were born preemies, and she was barely hanging on at about the 10th percentile in weight. It was dangerous for her to go a whole year without putting on at least a few pounds and even her doctor was growing concerned.

What did school lunch have to do with it?

I had tried hard during my twins' kindergarten year to help my daughter get enough healthy nutrition so she could grow. I packed her lunches, and made sure to send along snacks that she would like to eat in the afternoon. That helped to eliminate the yuck factor that was keeping her from eating the school's hot lunches.
But there was little I could do to help with the main problem, which was time. There just wasn't enough time at the lunch table, and what time there was came way too early in the day. 

Because the school had a burgeoning population of students, the kindergarten classes had to eat lunch at 10:45 in the morning. That was too early for most of them to be hungry enough for lunch, and left them starving by the end of the school day.
This problem was compounded by the fact that the kids got just 15 minutes to go through the serving line, find a seat, eat, bus their own tables and get in line for recess. I did not know at the time, but the USDA and many medical groups have recommended for years that students should get at least 20 minutes at the lunch table. Mine were getting less than half that.

Homeschooling made such a difference

Bringing my daughter home made a huge difference in her health. She was able to take her time and finish hearty meals at breakfast and lunchtime. She was also able to go to the kitchen and get a healthy snack whenever she got hungry midmorning or in the afternoon. Her energy levels were higher, and she began to gain a little weight.
We were leaning toward homeschooling anyway, but the problems with school lunches really were a significant part of why we finally made the decision to go for it. Now my twins are teenagers, and they're both healthy, vibrant, and although we hadn't originally planned to go this direction, very happily homeschooled.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Getting ready for the back to school rush

My kids and I are starting our sixth year of homeschooling this month. It's July, and the school supplies are on the shelves already, just waiting to be snatched up in the back to school rush. Pencils, crayons, paper, scissors, binders. Well, if you have kids, you've probably seen the lists. 

But the back to school rush means something entirely different to me. As one of the leaders of a homeschooling group that serves much of northeastern Oklahoma, this is actually one of my busiest times of year. Why? Because as the beginning of a new school year approaches, our homeschool group gets inundated with new members.

Not going back to that school

Sometimes it's because a child has just gotten old enough their parents either have to enroll them in school or find another option.  Other times it's because kids get stuck in a class with an ineffective teacher, or because they know they'll be going back into a bullying situation. Often it's just because the parents have looked into all the alternatives, and they've just decided at last that homeschooling is the best choice for their family. Whatever the reason, we always get a lot of inquiries in July and August.

A commitment to outreach

My co-leader and I feel a responsibility to reach out to new homeschoolers, whether they end up joining our group or not. So the past two school years, we have hosted informational meetings for anyone in our area who is interested in homeschooling. We've invited speakers from OCHEC, our statewide homeschooling organization, and passed along all sorts of information homeschoolers need to get started.

It's not always easy for new homeschoolers to find support, but in the midst of the back to school rush we do our best to help out. If you are a new homeschooler, or just considering homeschooling this year, I encourage you to look for a local group or contact your state organization to connect with others. And if the first group you try is not a good fit, don't give up. Homeschool groups are just about as diverse as the families that join them!