Saturday, June 30, 2012

Decisions, decisions, decisions....

'Tis the season for decision,la,la,la,la, la-la, la, laaaa.. (what, you don't know that song? Lol) I don't know about you all but this time of year I like to torture myself by becomming innundated by the obscene number of choices out there, for the coming school year. So I thought for those both new (I have an issue with the term 'old' lol) I'd put together my list for swimming through the choices available without getting bogged down. here are my top 5 contributing factors/important decisions. These are the order in which I do them each summer. 1) Know Your State Laws. Believe it or not, laws can change. (gasp, shock!) In fact the educational laws in my state have been undergoing a major change over the last two years. This seems redundant for those experienced schoolers, but it's important to ensure you're following the letter of the law. Plus, some states have strict guidelines and that will make a major impact on the other decisions when it comes to curriculum, teaching/learning style, etc. so, just do a quick check at your state level, just to keep abreast of what those politicians might have done. First timers can find the laws - for easy to read. But for subsequent years, I really suggest going through your state, you can just google (state) Homeschooling Laws, and find the link to your state. 2) Money, Money, Money, mun-ay. This is one of the biggest decisions because it will have a huge impact on what further decisions are available to you. You really can HS at almost any cost. I'm super frugal, which is real lucky since my DH was laid off over a year ago. So for my two boys I spend less than $100/year. How much you can budget for education will be dependent on your finances. Keep in mind you CAN get a fantastic education for virtually nothing. So don't think you HAVE to budget thousands of dollars or else your kids will be at a disadvantage. Now once you have the yearly budget numbers (let's say $500/child, which is average). Some will decide to have a quarterly budget, or make the budget 2x/year. It really depends on your finances. Once you have the genral number of what money will be available for you to play with, you need to divide that number into compartments. You'll want to distribute/budget that amount. A good general guideline is as follows. 75% = curricula {using the aforementioned $500 as a guide, this would be $375/student/year} 10% = field trips/membership fees {this would amount to roughly $50/student/year} 10% = supplies 5% = groups and co-operatives 5% = travel expenses Now, this isn't set in stone. Seem will want more money spent on co-ops than they will on curriculum, others live way out in the boonies and therefore have to budget more for travel expenses, etc. But, this is a good starting point. My next post will include all my $$ saving tips and how I cut corners. 3) What Type Are Yooouuu? This is by far the most difficult decion, especially in the beginning of your HS adventure, IMO. Figuring out you child(ren) learning style, your teaching style and the type of HS you want are big decisions that we often make more complicated then necessary. But, these decesions will help narrow the abundant field of available curricula from overwhelming to manageable. There are a couple contributing factors and they are: A) State Laws- this is really where your state laws can be a help to you. Some states have very specific curricula requirements. HS'ers in these states will have the curricula field already narrowed by laws that require certain subjects, number of days, hours of learning, you, in those states, can search our curricula that is sufficient to encompass those requirements, but, for those of you like myself, who live in a state that has no requirements, this factor will not help narrow the field. B) Learning Styles - I can't stress enough the importance of developing an understanding of the different learning styles. A great webste for learning about the different styles is - But, there are a couple of things to remember. First, most children do not acquire a specific style until around 3rd grade. Before that time, most kids need a combination of all the styles. So if you are starting with a pre-k-2nd grader, you will want curricula that includes a varied approach to delivering information. I've always maintained that these younger kids require mostly a kinetic/hands on approach. Younger kids really need to get their hands dirty, to involve all of their senses in order to process information. But, even if you have an older student, they may require multiple aspects since these learning styles tend to overlap. If you are unsure of what style best fits your student, then I suggest doing a few unit studies and including a few different aspects. If your child loses interest or becomes frustrated, then you'll know that style was a bust. C) Teaching styles - guess what, your teaching style might be completely counter to you students learning style. So, again a few test unit studies will be helpful. In order for you to be a helpful teacher, you'll need to have an understanding of what your learning style is. Let me give you an example. I'm most comfortable with a lecture style of teaching. Where I'm spouting facts and explanations. But, my eldest is a visual learner. So he needs visual, not audio, cues in order to process the information. So I have to find curricula that is heavy on his learning style, especially since it is so counter to my own style. 4) Your Long Term Goals Ok, okay, you got me. I am an anal planner. I admit it. But having a clear understanding of your goals will also help you narrow your choices. If your goal is to prepare them to re-enter PS then you'll want curricula that best mimics those used in a Ps classroom. If your long term goals are for your kids to enter college, then you'll want to make yourself familiar with enterance requirements and plan your curricula accordingly. My general goals a 2-fold. 1) I want my kids to understand how their mind processes information. This means helping them develop good study habits and giving them a lot of independance. 2) I want my kids to understand Where to Look for information. This means I often bring up a topic and leave them to do research using various tools. Neither of ese goals requires me to give a lot of lectures, nor do they require a strict curricula format, so I can do away with curricula that encompasses those requirement, thus narrowing the field. So, answer these questions, on the day of your child(ren) graduation from HS, What do you hope these have learned? What do you hope you have been successful in imparting? How would you define your home school? What are your students prepared for? 5) Space. If you live in a tiny abode (as I do) then getting completely different curricula for each of your students will be confusing. They will have no room for being seperate from siblings and thus will have to be overhearing their siblings lessons while doing their own? Instead, you'll want curricula that can be a single lesson adapted to many grade levels. You might also pull back from an overwhelming project driven curricula as you might not have the available space for either storage of materials, or execution of the projects. I hope these are a help to all of you!

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