Thursday, March 6, 2008

Calling All Homeschoolers

Some of you may know that I am thinking (quite seriously) about homeschooling Kid this next year. Kid is epileptic and will reach two years seizure free (hopefully) this fall, at which point she will start weaning off her seizure medication. The weaning process, and the following six months, is when she will be most likely to suffer a recurrence as her brain will be more vulnerable during this transition period. Our school system does not have full time nurses in the schools and since Kid's seizures are life threatening I am most likely going to decide to keep her home next year. This means that I will be homeschooling her.

Kid would be entering Kindergarten this fall as a "red shirted" student already... so even though I believe Kindergarten should be much less regimented and more nurturing and playful experience than it has become.. I'm also nervous about having her keep up with the school system's program. Mostly because we have learned that she is a very self conscious student who is easily discouraged when she is behind the other students (hence the initial decision to hold her back). She has a late birthday and we had to choose for her to either be the youngest or the oldest and after watching her blossom as the oldest in preschool this year we knew holding her back was the right decision. But now I feel even more pressure. Because if she does end up attending our local school for first grade I don't want her to be both the oldest and also the least prepared.

So this is where I am at:

Kid loves school. She likes going to school and loves the strong relationships she has with her teachers. She tends to be shy and has a harder time engaging kids (although she is well liked). She is definitely not outgoing by any means. I worry about socializing her and getting her involved in something that allows for the kids to have kid directed activities (not just dance & swimming, etc). I'm really worried about taking a step backward in her social development. I also don't want to only have her socializing with girls!

Kid can be a homebody who prefers to sit in a chair reading all day. That could be a positive and I do think she will be easy to homeschool because of that. But my point is that she is a pretty independent thinker/doer, I guess I'd say she's introverted. She has always been a reader (as in looks at books) and will spend several hours a day quietly "reading" to herself. Kid does not like to be tested. She does not preform well under pressure. She won't practice things. She will do things (like write, draw, count, etc) when she is confident that she can and will proudly show you her work. She will not even try if she isn't sure she'll be right.

In some ways I think she will be better served not having to follow the State's curriculum. She is a very interesting young kid with a strong imagination and a passion for in depth learning. Kid will sit and be read to for 5 straight hours actively listening and absorbing every minute fact. She can't read and isn't a strong writer BUT she knows all about Greek Mythology, Laura Ingalls entire life, Pompei, natural disasters... and I mean ALL about that stuff.

If I thought we'd homeschool indefinitely I wouldn't worry too much about meeting or exceeding the State's curriculum... but if she is going back then I need to.

There is so much information out there. Right off the bat I am drawn to the Charlotte Mason Approach and it seems like a good fit for her. But I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Most importantly... how do you not want to kill your spouse when you are doing everything you were doing and now you are teaching full time to boot?!?
How did you adjust to the first year?
How intimidating is it to inform the authorities of your plans?
How did you/do you deal with having children of varying ages in the house (obviously Baby will not be homeschooling and I don't want to take away from what I would have been doing with her!)?
Oh and Kid loves science experiments... any good recommendations for that?


Smoochiefrog said...

I'm an odd duck in that I'm HSing from an educator's position. I taught in schools for 3 years and then worked in a different one for another 3 years. I'm not familiar with Charlotte Mason, so I can't offer any advice on that.

A lot depends on if you plan to use Christian curriculum or secular. I can help you more specifically if you wnat to use Christian. I'd be happy to email you specific curriculum to avoid and what *I* consider to be great. We're using secular Science and Social Studies from MacMillian-McGraw Hill that we love! M has actually finished the S.S. book and has almost finished the Science one. Her science book contains LOTS of experiments that we will go back and conduct when we're done reading and testing. You have to do what you feel most comfortable with, that's for sure.

As for your other questions....

Kid Art said...

Ah, a kid after my own heart. She knows all about Laura Ingalls' life? That's wonderful! Someday I want to visit all the important sites from her books.

To the homeschooliing - I will ask my mom for any suggestions. I think I may have mentioned that she homeschooled 3 of my brothers.

Smoochiefrog said...

Most importantly... how do you not want to kill your spouse when you are doing everything you were doing and now you are teaching full time to boot?!?

Dh is fully on-board with this. When he's off of work, he'll do some teaching for me to give me a break. My kids are older and they all have chores. That really helps the load on my back immensely. We also are usually done with school by noon, so I have the rest of the day until 4 to get things picked up before Dh gets home. Plus, I can do laundry and minor cleaning while M is working. There are some subjects that she can complete without my help.

How did you adjust to the first year?

Still adjusting. If you're anal like I am, a firm schedule is key. It'll keep you from going insane, really.

How intimidating is it to inform the authorities of your plans?

It's not at all. I don't know Michigan law, so I can't offer specifics. I consulted this site: constantly when I was considering it. If you go there, click on "in your state" in the left hand column and then choose your state. There is a box on the right that has a link to specific HSing laws for MI. It'll tell you how many days, who to notify, etc. It's really helpful.

Lucky for us, MD is extremely lax on many things and is a simple state to comply with.

How did you/do you deal with having children of varying ages in the house (obviously Baby will not be homeschooling and I don't want to take away from what I would have been doing with her!)?

I just have K at home since I sent B back to public school. (long story. You can read about it on my blog if you'd like) As I said in today's post, she's learning America's second language daily from Dora and Diego. I feel really guilty, but I play with her and make it up to her after school's done. And since naps are over, we have tons more time.

Oh and Kid loves science experiments... any good recommendations for that?

Um, no. I'm not too creative on that front. This year we did the flowers in colored water (straight from her book). She loved watching the flowers change colors. That really excited her. There are tons of books with experiments at your local teacher store. Try there!

katieo said...

My kids are in public school. But we try to do homeschooling during the summers. I've considered pulling them out because last summer we just really had a lot of fun with it. But right now, I really like their schools and teachers. I think it's easier to pull them out when there is a problem situation, than if things are really going well (with no serious health issues, obviously) I've considered when they're older doing half-days, Just from friends who have done it.

Lately I've been surprised at how much HOMEWORK my kindergartner has been given. Seriously. Kindergarten?

(ps, I think we might finally be coming out to MI in June. woo-hoo!)

Nutmeg said...

I used to teach science and once upon a time I taught science labs to the 2 and 3 grade once a week.

So I can give you both specific experiments as well as web and print resources galore when you want them. It's always easier if you have something you want to look at, generally speaking though.

Good luck with all your decisions.

Nutmeg said...

Oh.. I just looked up the charlotte mason thing. The private school I taught at first seemed to have used this in the middle school with language arts/social studies. This was one 3 hour class. They just basically read books about specific time periods they would study. The older kids also had a small lecture component (maybe 20 minutes total in that 3 hour period for the 8th graders) involved where they would distill specific information and dates as needed.

I think it really gave the kids plenty of information about the time periods they were study, a sense of history, and most importantly they remained interested. The LA/SS classes were always putting on museums, plays... the seventh grade did a formal salon and everyone else in the school was invited. I think the approach, specifically of using literature to teach is awesome. It isn't maybe so straightforward in science.

Mrs. Furious said...

We aren't homeschooling for religious reasons and aren't terribly religious so we would definitely favor secular in terms of science and history in particular. BUT I am willing to work around a more Christian oriented text if it is well liked. I don't have a problem with that it just isn't the foundation of our studies. I absolutely would love to know which curriculums to avoid!!

Charlotte Mason is based on the use of *whole books* instead of text books (although I am still unclear about how that works with math & science). Instead of testing the kids give a narration to show what they have comprehended without focusing on what they don't know (key for Kid). Also there is a big focus on nature journaling, art appreciation and short lessons. You can buy "Charlotte Mason" based curriculums but those seem like they have strayed pretty far from the point... with a fair amount of research you can find book lists from other homeschoolers. Charlotte Mason was an educator in the late nineteenth century so the info isn't actually readily available... although it is a popular homeschool method. It does have a Christian component as she was Christian but since you choose your literature that isn't as much of an issue.

emmyjw said...

I think you guys would love Sonlight Curriculum, it is a whole books approach and the science is very hands on and fun. As far as her being behind or having trouble, my experience has been that HS kids that go back to school are usually where they need to be if not ahead and they are much more independant thinkers/workers and able to do their work without waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do with everything. Reading is the key in elementary, nuturing a strong reader with a love of books will make a strong student.I truely love homeschooling my kids,they grow up fast and I love watching the close relationships they have because they are together all day and being there watching them learn and grow. I also really love our co-op group. As far as Nolan goes, I really do all of the schooling, and sometimes I get stressed with how full my plate is but in the end I would not change it. Ella loves to listen to Langston's lessons and do her "schoolwork" with her brothers and sister, and when she was a baby we just took breaks as needed. Kindergarten at home doesn't take more than 1-2 hours per day so it really isn't too bad and I suspect you already do a lot of learning activities as it is :) As far as the socialization goes I think there is also a co-op group in Ann Arbor, and I am sure other activities as well. We have homeschool gym at the local rec center, library story times etc... that are all good opportunities to engage with other kids.

Mrs. Furious said...

Yes I remembered you said that. And please ask.. the more info I get the better!

Laura Ingalls... I could talk about her all day! We spent all of 2006 reading and re-reading all the books and then I also read some biographies. Boy oh boy did her life really take a nose dive after her marriage! Hands down "The Long Winter" is my favorite in the series... that was a pretty intense book. Yep... total nerd ;)
Also coincidentally we are listening to the series on CD right now... they are great!

emmyjw said...

Also, as far as notifying authorities you don't have to. MI is very open as far as homeschooling goes, plus there is no mandatory attendance until 1st grade anyways. You basically don't have to tell anyone and you just have to teach "similar content" which just means teach the basics.

emmyjw said...

OK, one more comment, when kid is a little older there is a great unti study using the Little House books ;)

Mrs. Furious said...

Yes I would like the references. I am very into the literature component and do believe that through reading well written books she will (as she already has) into a good speaker who will then in turn be able to develop strong writing skills. I LOVE the nature journaling and getting the kids out as much as possible. She really is a natural fit for this method. BUT she loves the science experiments they do at preschool (I have no idea why but they have a strong science component) and I always think... how would I ever even think to do that? But you are right that it seems that is something I will need to supplement. Essentially the CM approach is a liberal arts education broken down into smaller bites for kids. And much like a real LA education it is focused on the soft sciences. If I homeschooled her for longer I would probably look into getting a math & science tutor.

Mr Furious said...

Oh and Kid loves science experiments... any good recommendations for that?

Yes...The science and chemistry of baking! How yeast works, leavening agents, substitutions, measuring and math...then finally, biology, as she observes me shove the experiment into my mouth.

Mrs. Furious said...

I didn't think I had to do anything until 1st grade as far as notifying but since she'll turn 6 in October I wasn't sure. So do you have to do anything to "register" or whatnot once they are in the higher grades?

Unit Study on Laura Ingalls?!?! Bring it on! I'm just getting to the "Unit Study" Chapter in that huge Mary Pride's Complete Guide.."

I was looking at the curriculum fair info last night and we are definitely going. Sonlight will be there and I have heard them mentioned a LOT. So that is good to know. Have you heard of "Living Books Curriculum"? They will be there too and advertise as being CM based but it is impossible to really tell online what is up. I think I might like to have a curriculum this 1st year just to feel I have a safety net (you know?) even if we don't follow it religiously.

Mrs. Furious said...

June?! We'll be here :)

" But right now, I really like their schools and teachers. I think it's easier to pull them out when there is a problem situation, than if things are really going well"
I know what you mean. I had thought about homeschooling and researched it a couple of years back before Kid had any health issues.... so... obviously I was already drawn to the idea. But when she loved preschool so much I let the idea go thinking why mess with a good thing? If she likes school why take her out? And even though I had some reservations about the public school (they are one of the highest rated in the US... but that just means they are REALLY good at testing!) I would have still sent her until it seemed like it wasn't a good fit.
But I'm excited and I want nothing more than to have the girls grow up with a love of learning (you know that kind that makes you stay up all night researching the Amish!)... and if she is thriving at home next year I think I would be unlikely to put her back in school. We'll see. Baby on the other hand...

emmyjw said...

nope, you don't have to notify anyone. You can even keep your own records and make your own transcripts for highschool, I use a service for transcripts, but basically MI is one of the best states to homeschool in. I think I have heard of living books, haven't seen it though. My friend did the Laura Ingalls unit study with her 3 girls and loved it, they even took a family vacation to one of the former Ingalls homes in Minnesota. So really, the only time you have to notify anyone of anything is if you decide to put her in school later. I would love to go to the fair but I am working :(

Mrs. Furious said...

They have a big used book room let me know if there is anything you want me to keep my eyes open for.

Lauren said...

This is my first comment ... (Hi!)

We homeschool and don't use a curriculum. Your daughter is learning every single day without you teaching her. That can continue through her whole lifetime.

There is tons of great stuff about how kids learn here -

Btw, my 15yr old step son wanted to go back to school in 7th grade. We had not been 'teaching' him anything. He was on the honor's list for every grading period. He decided he was done with school a few weeks into his Freshman year and right now is getting paid $20/hr to do research work for the dude who created The Lion King.

Your blog is a little addicting! Thanks for that. :)

Mrs. Furious said...

Hey thanks for the comment! :)
I actually was originally drawn to homeschooling after reading John Holt's books and am very interested in unschooling. But I guess I'm nervous and fear that if I... say... want to divorce Mr F because I'm too taxed by the whole thing, or whatever... that she be able to enter back to school easily. I'm encouraged to read about your son's experience!

At the very least Kid will learn to blog ;)

Julie said...

I have a lot of respect for all you homeschooling moms. You all must have so much patience. I could NOT ever homeschool my youngest. Not. Ever. Ever. Ever. I think one of us would be dead by the end of the year;) I know I should not joke about that so sorry!

Thankfully, his Kindergarten teacher really gets him and appreciates him. He is in a Looping program and will have the same teacher for 1st grade. Mrs F, it is hit or miss when you put your kids in Public school...but within our district so far we have had super teachers...teachers that really take the time to get to know the kids and help with their strengths and weakness both academically and in my opinion in the earlier grades, socially and emotionally. Anyone familiar with the Open Circle program that came out of Wellesley College...awesome social competency program for the lower grades. I wish we had it as kids. They sit around in a circle and talk about problem solving, bullying, emotions and all that. Can you imagine in public school? It rocks.

We do a "Momma Camp" in the summer so I guess it is a bit of homeschooling type of stuff...BUT because it is just for us and not for actual school, there is no pressure to "perform".

I find the whole topic of homeschooling fascinating. Keep the info coming!

Julie said...

in my opinion in the earlier grades, socially and emotionally.

I meant to say "in my opinion more important in the earlier grades, socially and emotionally."

Andrea said...

Im sure some one has mentioned sonlight, I personally never used the curriculum my mother didnt really look into it untill I was already in college but my younger sisters used it and my younger brother is now starting on it he is six, the one thing I will say is it is very literature based and kid sounds like she loves to read so she would probably love this program and its fun for the parent or in my case older sibling too I read alot to my younger sibs out of their books and actually found myself finishing the books before the kids. I also wanted to say i know your probably nervous as hell I remember when my mom started homeschooling us I was in 2nd grade and she was a basket case the first few months I remember not even being able to go get the mail during schoool hours because she was sure the authorities would come get her. So try to relax I know that sounds hard but you can do it and at that age she will be fine and school days never take more than a couple of hours, I always felt bad for my friends in public school who were there all day. As a little side note I asked to go back to school in fourth grade and let me tell you how bored I was in school I hated waiting on other kids I knew alot of what they were doing so I was bored I made it till christmas break and asked to be pulled out.
I guess I need to get back to work sorry for the novel.

Mrs. Furious said...

That sounds like the Sudbury Valley School model (kind of).

I don't worry about killing Kid... I worry mostly about killing Mr F. I already get pissed if there is labor discrepancy (perceived he would say... I say real).

Thanks for your input... it is not a novel ;) I'll definitely check out the Sonlight curriculum when I go to the fair next week. So did you homeschool all through highschool too?

Andrea said...

I sure did, well actually I started college at 16 so I kinda combined my last two years with going to college.

Robin said...

This is all very interesting. It sounds like lots of children thrive in a homeschooling environment. I just don't think it is for us. I'm afraid I might lose my mind. :)

Smoochiefrog said...

Wow. I have so many opinions but I don't dare share them all.

Literature-based learning has been shown to not work as well as phonics-based learning. Studies have shown it and I stand by it as a certified teacher myself. When I was in college, we learned to teach using the literature-based principle. A whole crop of teachers went out to conquer the world by teaching through literature. Test scores dropped and half a generation of students didn't learn to read until about 3rd grade.

Just being straight up honest and real.

If you can find a happy balance between the two, that would be great. Phonics is necessary in learing how to pronounce the words. When I was learning the literature-based method, I totally rebuked it. There is no way you can tell me that Susie is going to learn how to read and sound out words by having "quality children's literatre" read to her. She's got to learn how to decode and pronounce and read with fluidity. That all can't be taught by having someone else read to you. It just doesn't work. Once basics are taught, then and only then can you teach using literature as a supplement.

Now if a child already has a background in Phonics and knows the basics then doing literature based thematic studies can be quite beneficial. I just firmly believe that you need a foundation to build on. Phonics is that foundation.

Oh and you want to say away from Abeka for Reading. Many people tout it's excellence, but it lacks big time in comprehension. We use Bob Jones for Reading. It is a building Reading system that encourages comprehension by having numerous questions for each page of reading. The Kindergarten curriculum is different from 1st grade, but the emphasis on comprehension is still there. I'm not totally familiar with Sonlight, but what I saw I wasn't fond of. It just didn't go with my teaching style. We tried an online version of schooling called Learing by Grace which totally blew chunks. Save your money on that one. We also use Bob Jones for Math. I enjoy BJU, but it's not for everyone. We use Reason for Handwriting for, duh, Handwriting, the aforementioned MacMillian-McGraw Hill for Science & Social Studies, Lifepac for Bible, and BJU for Reading, Phonics and English. (So much for emailing that to you huh?)

One thing I can offer is that if you check online or in person with the school she will be attending in 1st grade (if she goes), they should be able to tell you what curriculum is used in Kindergarten. You can then go to an online distributor like and get the exact same books the schools use for half price. That's where I got M's Science and Social Studies books, the same ones used in the school she'll go to next year. You can also get teacher's guides, but I chose not to. I know the teachers guides will have lots of experiments and activities in them.

Of course, like I said I look at homeschooling as a real teacher not as a mom. My thoughts are quite different than other homeschooling moms.

Here's your grain of salt. :)

Mrs. Furious said...

well that is very encouraging :)

thanks for all the curriculum advice!

Nikki said...

I don't homeschool but am a teacher. I wondered if you might be able to organise something with a local school where she could go in maybe one day a week or something to get to know the other children and socialise and get used to the environment, but you could also stay there too in case anything happened? You wouldn't have to stay with her the whole time but could be in the class or on site if needed...assuming you can get someone to look after Baby while you were there. I know at my school there was a boy with cerebral palsy who just came into school one day a week and it seemed to work well for the family.

Mrs. Furious said...

thanks for the comment.
I'm having a meeting with our school system's early ed specialist to see what we might qualify for. I'm hoping she might be able to participate in some stuff... or at least be able to join the school's Brownie troop, etc. I'm also hoping maybe I'll be able to have access to the school's curriculum. Since it is Kindergarten and that isn't mandatory I don't know if we will qualify for anything yet... but I figure it is worth asking about.

michelline said...

Kid would be entering Kindergarten this fall as a "red shirted" student already.

Really? What is the starting age in Michigan? In Florida, the student must be 5 on or before September 1 in order to begin Kindergarten. Tori's birthday is 10/24, so she turned 6 only 2 months after starting Kindergarten. It's never been a problem.

Mrs. Furious said...

In Michigan the cut off date is Dec 1st. They have talked for many years about moving it up so that you are 5 before Kindergarten starts but it hasn't happened yet. Since I held her back (which I think is the best thing for a young kid) she will now be the oldest in some cases more than a year older than her classmates.

Julie said...

In our area, it is not abnormal for the kids to stay in preschool for one more year and start Kindergarten at age 6. Either way, it all smooths out in the end.

Sherry/Shay said...

I can't answer your question about homeschool. I am very much so against it with regards to my family--NOT my kids, my family. My 16 and almost 18 year old niece and nephew have been doing 6th grade work over and over because their mother won't buy them new supplies. My brother is brainwashed and think this is the best thing that's ever happened to them. My fat ass SIL is ruining those kids lives just so she doesn't have to work. I have contacted the Louisiana State Board of Education and there is nothing to do. Once they fill out the form stating their intent to home school and they're handed the certificate, the school board can do nothing. Btw, you don't have to take a test or anthing to get a certificate. They just give you one. So, with that said, I think those kids are better off in the school system.

Btw, here in Oklahoma (and Texas), if your b-day isn't prior to Sept 1, you have to start with the later class. My oldest was in that situation. She's in 2nd grade now. If it were up to me, she would've been one of the youngest in 3rd. But I know how Hanna is and I know that would've been great for her!

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