Q&A answering homeschool questions

Answering Your Homeschool Questions – Part I

In this series of articles, a panel of homeschoolers have informally shared some of their teaching tips, thoughts, and experiences on a wide variety of homeschool questions that were submitted to us. 

The first in a three-part series, this post will answer some basic questions on the Virginia law and tips for teaching your child at home. We hope this little “chat time”  will encourage you and leave you with some helpful ideas! 

Keep in mind that each of our panelists is sharing what worked for her–and sometimes they even have opposite opinions! So just take the ideas that will work for you and ignore those that won’t. And be sure to watch for these upcoming posts:

Now, without further ado, we invite you to grab a cup of coffee or tea and join us for part one of our casual Q&A!

Homeschool Law Questions

How can I keep from losing my right to homeschool?

  • Know and obey the law in Virginia. Know your rights. Don’t give up anything to the state that you don’t have to.
  • http://virginia-homeschool-laws/legislative-information/legislative-updates/Homeschool laws and regulations are created at the state level, so read and pass along HEAV’s Legislative Updates, participate if there is a call to action, and pray!
  • Join and financially support HEAV! HEAV is your state organization that actively works to protect and expand your rights, as well as answer your homeschool questions. Your money and support and HEAV’s monitoring of the law and local policies are a formidable combination. While you may be mostly aware of HEAV’s nurturing support of us and our questions about homeschooling, HEAV’s first and most important benefit to us is the aggressive protection she provides. HEAV introduces legislation to advance homeschool freedoms, watches for and responds to legislation that could affect homeschooling families, and even employs a full-time lobbyist.
  • Join Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). This organization exists to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children. As such, HSLDA members receive personal legal support in the event of a homeschooling problem, as well as consultations on a wide variety of homeschooling issues. (If you’re first a member of HEAV, you get a discount on your HSLDA membership.)
  • Also, support, whose mission is to protect children by empowering parents. They are trying to get the Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution adopted, and to prevent the United States ratification of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Homeschool Questions & Teaching Tips

How can I teach different ages at one time?

  • I found I needed to teach the skill subjects individually, but history, science, literature, Bible, etc., can be taught together, which saves lots of time. Present the topic to everyone together, and then give different assignments based on the age, ability, skill level, and maturity of each child. After a designated time, have them return and present what they have learned—a one-page, written report from an older student, a drawing with labels from another child, and an item that the youngest child had to find related to the topic.
  • Sometimes the disparity is so large that you can’t lump school together, and you have to spend much more time with one child than with another. In that case, you hand the independent child an assignment and stay with the one who needs you by his side. (When I did that, though, I made an effort to spend time in some other way with the child who could study on his own.)
  • It can be helpful to set up a math table or a language arts center where supplies can be readily available and parents can oversee the work of children at multiple levels even when they are not working on the same thing. Parents can also set up a central station where mom or dad stays and children in need of individualized instruction can come to receive lessons.
  • Try simplifying your homemaking and your chores, encouraging independent study, and reading aloud.
  • Some subjects (such as history and literature) can be taught to multiple age levels at once if you read the books aloud. Reading aloud is a time saver and keeps everyone engaged.
  • We found the Konos curriculum helpful for a period when all the children were in grade school. It required mom-intensive preparation, but, since all ages could use them at once, it actually took less time gathering supplies and books than it did to sit down separately with each child to do individual seatwork. We found two other families to do Konos with, and that helped to share the preparation. We all loved it.
  • My Father’s World allows multiple learners at the elementary and middle school level to work together with minimal adaptation by the parent. Tapestry of Grace accommodates learners from kindergarten through high school.

How can we assess if our children are on track?

  • While there are certainly basic competencies that we all need our children to achieve, realize that what is “on track” for one child may not be for another. Instead of stressing about whether your child matches someone else’s ideas of “on track,” set individual goals at the beginning of the school year for each of  your children and monitor their progress to- ward achieving those goals. This will be much more rewarding and will help pre- serve the love of learning in your kids.
  • If you want to see generally what’s covered at an age level, go to any curriculum vendor and ask for their “Scope and Sequence.”
  • Annual nationally normed standardized achievement tests can be a good indicator of how your children are doing. They show how your children compare with others the same ages who took the same tests. Test examples include the Stanford, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and the California Achievement Test. You can order them through Bob Jones University Press. Of course, some children don’t score well on tests, and all children learn at different paces, so test results are only so helpful. See Interpretation of Test Results for some pointers on interpreting test results.

What are some different methods for teaching reading? Writing?

  • We used At Last! A Teaching Method for Every Child by Mary Pecci. This combines sight words with phonics, which is a very effective combination. The program works for children of all abilities, and related spelling and activity books are available.
  • Some good resources we found are Ruth Beechick’s The Three R’s and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully! and Common Sense Press’s Learning Language Arts Through  Literature.
  • We taught reading with a phonics approach, but my children either “got” phonics or they didn’t. The ones who didn’t still learned to read with lots of exposure to books. Writing was the same way. Some children had LOTS of ideas for writing but didn’t have the small motor skills to keep up with their thoughts. I let them dictate to me while I typed. I didn’t want their physical limitations to keep them from learning to put their thoughts together.
  • My daughter taught herself to read, and I still do not know how it happened. I used Spell to Write and Read with my son and found it to be very effective when supplemented with some easy readers. Unfortunately it also demanded a lot of structure and time that I didn’t have when my next child needed to learn to read, so we just opted for lots of exposure to books. We then began working through the reading lessons in My Father’s World First Grade and loved them! They were easy to implement and very effective…just what we needed. My next challenge will be to teach a child with special needs to read. The beauty is that I now know that there are so many options out there that I will definitely be able to find a perfect fit.

How do we assess our children’s learning styles and teach to them?

  • Cynthia Tobias is the expert here. She says to observe patterns of behavior (notice the circumstances around which your child experiences success); listen to how he communicates with you (which is generally what he needs back); keep an open mind and experiment with what works; and focus on natural strengths, not just on weaknesses.
  • When your children are not getting something, pray and ask the Lord for creative ways to communicate—and don’t be afraid to try them. Don’t assume every child will learn the same way (or the way you do). Cherish who the Lord made them to be.

How can we better juggle age groups within the home during school time?

  • I had a plastic busy box for my preschooler that she used only when we were in school. I set the timer for an hour, and she had to stay on the sofa or seated at a table and keep busy with those items by herself for that period of time. Every day I changed items in the box. We used puzzles, sticker books, videos, picture books, coloring books, felt scenes, Play-Doh, toys, etc.
  • Apart from doing reading and experiments together—the things that cross developmental lines—I worked with the personality of my kids. Some are sleepers, so they got the later shift. Some liked it done as soon as possible, so we got up early and did our math or writing assignments that needed more individualized attention.

This article was originally published in the 2011 winter edition of the Virginia Home Educator.

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