Google The Unplanned Homeschooler

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.   

Monday, July 7, 2014

Another unplanned adventure: New glasses!

Life is one big unplanned adventure, isn't it? At least, it seems that way raising three kids. Today's adventure took us to the eye doctor, where my youngest was prescribed her first pair of glasses.

My older daughter had been having some trouble with her distance vision for a while. We first noticed it in the late fall, but since she was in the middle of a rapid growth spurt, we put off her eye exam until the spring. After all, we're homeschoolers. It's not like we can't get her a seat closer to the whiteboard.

Puberty is a time of big physiological changes, and as your head changes shape, so can your eyes. Lots of kids experience vision changes in puberty, and their prescription can change rapidly as they grow. But after a few months of weed-like growth, my daughter's spurt seemed to stabilize, so we got her appointment scheduled with the eye doctor, where she was prescribed glasses of her own.

She was very happy with her new glasses, of course, because now she can see again! My son and younger daughter's eye appointments were scheduled for a bit later, because the office was very busy, but I figured that was okay, since they weren't showing any signs of problems.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out my 6-year-old could see well, but only with her left eye. Her right eye, according to the doctor, is lagging a bit behind in development, so she'll need glasses for at least the next year to help out. The doctor said this is a problem not uncommon to preemies who were born small like she was.

So, back we'll go to pick up glasses for her in a few days. They're pink. And sparkly. And, although unplanned, they're going to be totally cute!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What are my state's homeschooling laws?

If you're new to homeschooling, you might be wondering what the legal requirements are in your state. Homeschooling laws vary from state to state, with some being very relaxed and others requiring homeschoolers to submit to all sorts of oversight and regulation.

One of the easiest ways to learn about your state's homeschooling laws is to visit the website for your statewide homeschool support group. Statewide homeschool groups are not only the first to alert members about proposed laws, but they also work to actively inform legislators about homeschool issues and to rally opposition against bad legislation.

Another way to inform yourself about your state's laws, or to learn about regulations in other states is to visit HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defense Association, where current laws and proposed legislation for each state are analyzed in detail. It may be a good idea to join both your statewide group and HSLDA to stay up-to-date on proposed changes to existing laws and to give yourself some protection, especially if you live in a more highly regulated state.

For your convenience, you can also click the the name of your state below to go directly to its legal page from HSLDA. They are grouped according to the level of regulation you can expect to face, with those under the green heading being least restrictive, and those under the red heading the most regulated.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bacon sandwiches and sappy TV make for a perfect girls' day

My husband took our son out fishing this weekend. We're not into fishing, even though I used to teach kids how to fish when I was working as a naturalist, but it's something our son really wanted to try. More than that, it was something he insisted he wanted to do with his dad.

So, my husband pulled the rod and reel his dad had passed down to him out of the back of his closet, bought some new tackle and supplies, and the two of them loaded up the car. Our youngest daughter didn't want to be left out, so she tagged along and they made a quick stop at the store to pick up a kid sized rod and reel for her, too.

That left just me and our older daughter at home alone all afternoon.

Bring on the BACON!

I knew exactly what I wanted to do. First, we'd have lunch. I made my favorite sandwiches in the whole world - BLTs. This time, they were extra good, though, because with just the two of us at home, and a whole pound of bacon to share, our sandwiches were colossal!

While we ate our bacon sandwiches, we watched part of the first season of "7th Heaven" on Hulu Plus. My daughter had never seen the show. She liked it.

The first episode featured a story line in which Lucy, the 12-year-old middle child, was dealing with the ups and downs of puberty. I found myself glancing over at my own 12-year-old daughter, amazed, because the last time I'd seen the first season she wasn't even born, and now, here she was, old enough to relate.

Spending time with the kids individually

Today was one of those awesome days when I got to spend time with just one of my kids, all alone. With three kids and a busy schedule, my husband and I don't get to do that often. It's important to make time for each of the kids, individually, though. They relate to us differently when their siblings aren't around, and they often talk fondly about the special times they spent with one or the other of us on their own.

I know bacon sandwiches and TV might not sound like an adventure, but you don't have to spend a lot of money or plan an extravagant outing to enjoy quality time with your kids. We had a very enjoyable girls' day, just the two of us, and my daughter didn't have to share my attention, or her bacon, with anyone!

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.