September 6, 2020

Epistle of the Felines: Our 2020 Cat Saga

I recently wrote a post about how so many things that were supposed to happen a certain way over the past six months haven't panned out as expected. And now I've got another entry in the "supposed to...instead..." ledger - one that warrants its own post.

We were not supposed to get a new cat this year. We have four - two different sibling pairs - and, even though my husband and I have pinkie-sworn with each other that we'll always have cats, I was very content with that.

But fast forward to the end of June when this little guy showed up on our back deck one day - and didn't leave!
After several days - even though I wanted to resist - we felt compelled to put out some water...and then some food. He was very friendly, and our cats did not stress about him through the patio door, as they've done with strays in the past. We christened him "The Apawstle Pawl" (Pawl for short) since he was generally self-sufficient but was willing to accept gifts when offered.

After a couple of weeks - yes, we waited that long, assuming he'd eventually "go home" - we finally let him come into the house one day...and he promptly made himself at home.
We were shocked that our cats were receptive to him - even the one who would be content as an only cat tolerated him - so we took that as a "sign" that we were supposed to add him to the pack. But we still let him outside when he "asked," and we were awakened in the middle of the night by a terrible cat fight the second day after he'd come in. And that morning Pawl was nowhere to be found; in fact, he stayed away for a full day.

Thankfully, he eventually returned and didn't look terribly beat up. But I determined right then that I'd convert him to indoor-only life for his own good. However, though he was as sweet as ever with us and still friendly with our cats, he began trying to mark his territory all over the house! He hadn't even hinted at that prior to the brawl with the other outdoor cat, so I surmised he might be trying to tell the other cat that our place was his territory.

I sympathized with his defensiveness, but couldn't tolerate spraying. So out on the deck he went again, and I tried a couple of times a day to bring him in to see if the spraying urge was only temporary. Unfortunately, it became clear that we couldn't trust him not to mark...but neither could I stand the thought of him living alone on our deck.

I did some asking around and found some friends-of-a-friend who could take Pawl. They live in the country about 30 minutes from here, so Pawl would remain an outdoor cat - but these new friends have about 10 other kitties and purpose to love them all very well. So I drove Pawlie out there at the end of July, and he has proceeded to adjust exceptionally well in short order.
We missed him - he has a distinctive meow we'd become accustomed to hearing from the deck - but felt good about his new home. And we thought that was the end of that.

But this is 2020, so we should have known better!

Once Pawl left, we noticed a young gray tomcat hanging around - in our neighbor's yard, though he wasn't theirs, and in our driveway. We figured he was probably the one with whom Pawl had had his tussle, and I was miffed at the little guy - cute as he was - because it was "his fault" that I'd had to surrender Pawlie. I determined that we'd shoo him away and hope he'd go away completely.

Of course, you can probably see where this is headed. By the end of August, he'd jumped the fence into our yard and managed to wheedle his way into Jeff's heart. In fact, Jeff took this picture one recent night when he (as has been his custom through much of this summer) was sleeping in a hammock in our yard.
After that, the cat went from visiting the deck a couple times a day to claiming it for his own and doing everything in his power to win us all over. And...of course, win he sure did!

On September 2, Jeff snuck him some cut-up hot dogs. I didn't know that so, when he and Rachel were on a bike ride, I put out some soft cat food for him. Jeff laughed at me...until Rachel snitched about the hot dogs.

We then let him inside for several hours on September 3, and, despite the fact that they'd only seen him through the patio door for a few days, our cats were surprisingly chill. Two have been rather tentative and one - our lone ranger - has growled at him. But Prince - the one who also loved Pawl right away - has already taken to licking his head, and not one among the five has gotten aggressive.

And he hasn't sprayed! In fact, though I wasn't sure at first if he'd use a litter box - he seemed afraid of it that first day - he's been a perfect gentleman in regards to his bathroom habits.

We let him out at night on the third because we weren't sure if all the cats could handle him being in overnight. But I let him in again on the morning of September 4 - I felt so bad for him because it was so windy that day! - and he's been in  - happily and at peace with all the other cats - ever since.

By the way, his name is Barnabas - named after The Apostle Paul's friend, the one with whom he did ministry for a time but from whom he eventually separated by mutual agreement. This seemed very fitting, given the circumstances - i.e., that kitty Barnabas and Pawl had apparently been relatively friendly with each other until their apparent late-night brawl, after which Pawl ended up "itinerating" out on the farm.

So...we were not supposed to get another cat this year. But then we were supposed to adopt Pawl. Instead, we found a more appropriate place for Pawl so that - unbeknownst to us at the time - Barnabas could adopt us a month later!

Of course, unlike so many of the "supposed to...instead..." moments of this year, this one at least - unexpected as it was - has a happy ending.
Ironically, we think both Pawl and Barnabas are about six months old (Rachel even wonders if they're biological brothers), which would put their birthdays at right around the time this whole pandemic business gained traction. So maybe, just maybe - now that they're both safe and loved instead of fending for themselves - might all the craziness of 2020 stop? 

Yeah, I don't think so either. But at least we've done right by not one but two cute little kitties. And, thankfully, there aren't any other strays milling around our property!

ADDENDUM - October 25:
There was another cat milling around, though she initially stayed under the neighbor's porch and skittered away whenever she saw any of us. However, she worked up her courage around the middle of the month and started visiting our deck, checking out our cats, including Barnabas, through the patio door and crying - just like Pawl and Barnabas - for a bit of attention. We christened her Lydia (after the New Testament Lydia whom Paul and, presumably, Barnabas knew). Yet we knew we couldn't keep her - she's unspayed and Barnabas isn't neutered yet - even though we felt horrible at the thought of her being stuck out in the cold all alone. So we put out the call to our cat-loving friends, in search of a new home, and one of my homeschooling acquaintances and her husband said yes!

We brought Lydia inside this morning - to make sure she was here when her new owners came to get her. After eating a good breakfast and exploring a bit - during which we kept all the other cats upstairs - she happily claimed a little cushion we keep under our bed and literally slept all day, warm and content, except for the times we couldn't resist visiting her and playing. We're now convinced that Pawl, Barnabas, and Lydia are siblings who were dumped in our neighborhood in June - but continue to be amazed at how friendly and healthy they all are despite their circumstances. And Lydia most of all might have had reason to be semi-feral - but, just like her brothers, all she needed was security and love.

We sent her off to her new home this evening, where she'll live with a few other kitty companions and some dogs as well. Based on how quickly she adapted here today and early reports from her new owners, we're confident she'll adjust as readily as both Pawl and Barnabas have. And we're confident - for real this time - that we've seen the last of neighborhood strays this year!

August 29, 2020

Supposed to . . . Instead . . .

Whatever your position on the nature of 2020's "coronavirus scare," there's no doubt that it has significantly disrupted all of our lives over the last six months or so - and may continue to do so for some time to come.

I already knew in January that this year would challenge me simply because it would mark the end of my journey as a homeschool mom; I even wrote about my "year of lasts" in June 2019. But, of course, I had no idea that so many milestones and important family events would end up being lost entirely or manifesting so very differently than I'd originally anticipated - and I never imagined that so many things would be turned upside down, in large measure because of other people's reactions to a microscopic pathogen.

To be sure, our challenges haven't (thank God) been catastrophic; in fact, some (the homeschool spring formal and our graduation party in particular) may have turned out to be better than originally intended. But we have experienced real stress over the chaos of the last few months, and our lives going into this fall do look very different from what we'd envisioned at the beginning of 2020. So as I stand on the precipice of my first autumn as a "retired" homeschool mom, I thought it worth recounting what was supposed to have happened over the last several months versus what actually occurred instead.

The year was moving along pretty much as anticipated through January and February and into March. But then...

Rachel was supposed to play her 11-page Class A piano piece - which she'd begun practicing in August 2019 - at the district music festival on March 13. If she'd played well, she would have earned her first-ever berth at the state festival in May.
Instead, the festival was cancelled just hours before she was slated to play. 
Attempting a video lesson shortly after the festival was cancelled

Rachel was supposed to continue taking on more and more shifts at her job as a YMCA lifeguard, both to earn and save money for college and to transition more and more into adult life.
Instead, she was furloughed starting on March 16, and has yet to be called back for a single shift even though the Y reopened in June. Rather than continue to wait around for shifts that might never come, she finally opted in July to open her own business - Girl Friday - through which she does various odd jobs (cleaning, babysitting, painting, cat-sitting, gardening, etc.) by request.
Working her first Girl Friday gig

Rachel was supposed to continue tutoring through our city's literacy council, which she'd done since October 2018.
Instead, she hasn't seen her student since March and doesn't know if they will ever reconnect. 

Rachel was supposed to play her Class A solo and one other piece at her senior piano recital in April.
Instead, her teacher was forced to postpone and eventually cancel the recital.

The girls were supposed to sing in their final homeschool choir concert at the end of April - a performance of pieces from Broadway's Anastasia in which Abbie had a featured role and Rachel would serve as one of the narrators.
Instead, the director was forced to postpone and eventually cancel the concert.
Fall 2019 choir rehearsal

I was supposed to coordinate the 20th annual spring formal for our homeschool group in April. We expected 75 or more teens, which would have been the group's largest event of its kind.
Instead, I first had to postpone and then cancel entirely. A small group of 20 teens did participate in an alternate event at the end of May that turned out to be special in its own right, so my girls did at least get a senior prom of sorts.
Speakeasy Spring Formal

I was supposed to coordinate the June 6 graduation ceremony for our homeschool group. Twenty-five teens from 23 families would have participated, making it the group's largest-ever ceremony.
Instead, circumstances led several families to drop out by early May, our original venue cancelled on us just a couple weeks before the ceremony date, and we scrambled to find a new location. The new venue had a much lower capacity so we had to limit attendance and lost a few more families in the process. We still had a beautiful ceremony - Abbie was part of the special music team, and Rachel finally got to play her solo as part of the ceremony's prelude music! - but we ended up with just 13 graduates representing 12 families. 

We were supposed to have our graduation party - a joint celebration with some dear friends whose daughter also graduated with our homeschool group - at our favorite park (where the girls played all the time when they were little) a few blocks from our home.
Instead, city policies made it impossible to hold the event as we'd envisioned it, so we moved the party - rather at the last minute - to our friends' family farm an hour from town. 

Abbie was supposed to be living at home after graduation, working and going to college while we planned her wedding for sometime in Spring 2021.
Instead - fueled at least in part by virus-related lockdown measures - Abbie and her love, Gabriel, chose to elope on May 13! She moved in with him on June 14, and we held a reception for them on July 18. I'm still adjusting to her not living here anymore. 

Rachel was supposed to volunteer at Lake Lundgren Bible Camp for several week-long camps throughout the summer.
Instead, LLBC first delayed the start of camp and then cancelled everything for the entire summer. Rachel did make a couple of day-trips to help out with maintenance work, but it was nothing like what she'd anticipated.

In mid-August, Abbie was supposed to start full-time in the Administrative Professional program at the local community college.
Instead, she changed jobs - taking a full-time assistant teacher position (which she loves) at a local Montessori preschool - a couple of weeks before the semester started, and decided to go part-time at the college. But then, less than two weeks into the semester, she chose to switch to the Early Childhood Education program, which necessitated dropping her Admin Prof classes and applying to the new program. Schedule-permitting, she may start part-time EC classes in January.

Our church was supposed to mark 50 years of ministry in September with a weekend-long celebration. Many with ties to the church over the years planned to travel from near and far to join us.
Instead, the event has been postponed until September a 50th anniversary celebration has to wait for acknowledgement until the church's fifty-first year.

Rachel was supposed to leave today - August 29 - to begin her studies at a missions-oriented Bible college that she'd had in mind to attend for at least two years - as her first step toward serving in Japan.
Instead, the school's last-minute adoption of a draconian, inflexible mask policy led Rachel to drop out in protest less than two weeks before she was slated to begin. We're very proud of the stance she's taken even as we ache that her long-held plans have been unjustly upended. We're now helping her to recalibrate her thoughts and plans, which likely include ramping up her Girl Friday services, working and volunteering in other capacities, and (possibly) taking a class or two through the local community college. 
Her "at-home dorm room"
Add to this what has been going on in my husband's life - he's been working from home, ensconced in his basement office since March 16, trying to be a corporate trainer via Zoom for a company with an international reach (and with no hope of returning to the office until "at least" January 2021); he's got a missions-mobilizing ministry but cannot actually mobilize any current missions teams; his ministry's annual fundraising golf outing was cancelled because of virus-related policies at the venue - and all I can really say is that this has been a lot to digest.

Though I've grown in flexibility over the years, the "Rou-Tina" part of my personality bristles over the fact that my routine has been out of whack for almost six months - with no end in sight. And my inner Momma Bear hates that the girls - especially Rachel - have lost so much that should have been normal in their senior year and launching into young adult life.

Of course, I do see that it's not all bad. I love my new son-in-law even though I didn't expect him to bear that title until next year; I know he's the man God has always destined for Abbie. I also believe that whatever God is doing in His redirection of Rachel's life right now, it will be good; she stood up to the college with godly motivation so He will bring beauty from what might seem like ashes at the moment. And I'm grateful that our lives have not been devastated by job loss and related problems that are hurting so many others.

So I'm not complaining even if it might seem that I am. It's just interesting thinking about the "supposed to" versus the "instead." I don't know how our current circumstances - in the lives of my family members or society at large - will play out going forward...or what lessons we're all supposed to (!) glean from this. Time will tell. In the meantime, I'm just really, really glad I know Jeremiah 29:11!

I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

August 27, 2020

The Art of Buddy-Reading

When my girls were first learning to read, I stumbled (by accident as I tried various activities with them) upon a process I came to call buddy-reading. It worked really well for us, and I've recommended it regularly to many others since. But almost every time I suggest it, the person with whom I'm talking asks, "Buddy-reading? What's that?"

In a nutshell, buddy-reading is a way to help new or struggling readers practice the skills associated with reading - decoding, comprehension, etc. - in a positive, low-key manner. Buddy-reading also helps a parent understand a child's reading strengths and weaknesses in the context of relationship.

That last point - in the context of relationship - is key. In fact, it's the key to the entire process of homeschooling, as it is a loving parent-child relationship - not turning our homes into mini-schools - that fuels effective home education. That's why - with helping a child learn to read and everything else - I advocate ignoring the regimented, standardized approach the schools take in favor of seeing home education as a simple extension of parenting.

In terms of buddy-reading, this translates into employing the approach most of us associate with reading aloud to our babies and preschoolers with our older, learning-to-read kids as well, and keeping things easy-going, warm, and relational - starting only when each child has actually demonstrated readiness to learn to read - instead of making it a formal, mechanistic process.

With that in mind, this is what I did with my children as each was learning to read and then growing in fluency - roughly from age five to about nine or 10 in our case. I started out using just the Amish Pathway Reading series - only the primers, not the workbooks - which I highly recommend, until the girls were about eight and nine, and then eventually added in my Readers' Workshop tool as well.
  1. Find a comfortable, cozy spot - such as your living room couch or propped up with pillows in your bed - and cuddle up with your child, book in hand. The idea is to associate reading with warmth and positive feelings;
  2. Read the title of the book or story aloud and then take a few minutes to turn the pages and talk - conversationally, not in quiz-mode - about the illustrations. Gently encourage the child's use of descriptive, expressive language and see if he can make predictions about the storyline based on the pictures;
  3. Ask the child if he would like to read the first page - or if he would prefer for you to. Honor his decision and start accordingly. Then alternate every other page (i.e., if you read the first page, the child reads the second, etc.);
  4. When you read, be sure the child can see the text and encourage him to pay attention, but don't run your finger under the words. Aim for the process to be as natural as possible - as when you read aloud at story time - and rely on the appropriateness and topic of the text to draw him in;
  5. When your child reads, let him run his own finger under the words if it helps him; if it doesn't, don't require it. When he gets to a word he cannot decode, just supply him for it (without making him labor over it or "sound it out") and keep going. Provide appropriate praise as he proceeds;
  6. Read all the way through the story, alternating pages. As you read and/or at the end, take time to discuss - again, in conversation, not quiz-style. Think about how you'd talk about a favorite book with an adult friend and use that as your model as you talk about the story with your child. When the discussion seems to be over, tell your child what a good job he did, give him a hug, and send him on his way;
  7. The next day, get situated in a similarly comfortable manner and pull out the same book/story. Talk about the story for a few minutes if the child wants to - i.e., if he says he thought about some new things related to the story since the previous day - and then ask him to begin reading it aloud to you;
  8. For this second reading, the goal is for the child to read the entire story to you. But allow him to ask for help when he gets stuck on a word, and oblige if he asks you to read a page now and then after he's read several. If there's a word that you know - from past experience - he can sound out rather quickly, encourage him to do so. But if it's a sight word or a newer decodable word, just supply it to him so the flow of the reading continues and the experience stays positive;
  9. At the end of the story, praise him appropriately for reading the entire story to you. Then ask him to tell you the story in his own words. This is a comprehension check - no need for quizzes or tests when you've got a relationship with your child! - and you'll quickly know if he grasped the gist of the story. Then give him a hug and move on with your day;
  10. In the evening on the second day, arrange for the child to read the same story aloud to your spouse - so, yes, the child gets three readings of each story, which builds confidence and "muscle memory." Tell your spouse ahead of time to listen actively as the child reads and to simply supply any words on which the child stumbles or asks for help, without pressure. And encourage your spouse to talk about the story with the child afterward - again, in conversation mode, not quiz/school-style - and praise him for the effort.
  11. Move on to a new story the next day. Rinse, wash, repeat.
I know this seems almost too easy - and probably leads you to wonder, "What about phonics instruction?" I'm definitely a phonics fan - and I worked on letter identification, matching sounds to letters, and sounding-out and blending, etc.,  with my kids before we ever began the buddy-reading process. In fact, I spent a pretty penny (far too much!) on a bells-and-whistles phonics program I thought was the Holy Grail of reading instruction. But God blessed me with a right-brained learner in one of my kids - meaning that she learns whole-to-part, not part-to-whole. As such, she had a hard time with isolated phonics lessons but began to thrive as we read - buddy-read - the Amish Pathway series, because the real stories provided her with context that enabled her to decode unfamiliar words. In fact, even her left-brained sister did better with her reading within the context of real stories. And one strength of the Amish series over randomly picked "easy-reader" or favorite picture books from our shelves was the leveled, incremental method built into it - so, even though we were reading real stories, they were also instructional and phonics-based by design.

As we dug into the series - and grew in relationship - via our daily buddy-reading, I was able to challenge the girls to pause now and then and really "sound out" a new word instead of just saying it for them - so I still employed phonics in that way as well. But I found that the girls rather naturally took that on for themselves more often than not as their confidence increased and their enjoyment of buddy-reading grew. Once we started buddy-reading - leaving the kitchen table and the worksheets and drill-and-kill lessons in favor of this more holistic approach - all the pieces fell into place rather quickly and learning to read became a joy, not a burden.

August 22, 2020

The Homeschool Curriculum Route-Finder Tool

In 2013, I created a database of homeschool-related curricula and resources that would eventually become The Homeschool Resource Roadmap. Then in 2015, I expanded The Roadmap's original purpose and built what would become the very detailed resource charts now housed within the site's Deluxe Charts Project and Special Projects: IND Only sections. The Roadmap currently lists and describes more than 4,800 different resource providers and, with an average of more than 7,500 page views per month, is clearly helping a lot of homeschoolers - all at no cost.

Right now anyone can visit The Roadmap - for free - and click on any section of interest to begin searching for appropriate homeschool-related resources and other helpful information. For example, if you were looking for elementary math material, you could follow a short thread to get there: Deluxe Charts Project > Ages 5-18 > Math: Elementary. And when you clicked the link for Math: Elementary, a PDF file charting all 800+ options for elementary math would open. You could view and use the chart online, download it, and/or print it out for further study.

Part of the First Page of the Math: Elementary PDF File

The Deluxe Charts Project and Special Projects: IND Only sections each detail in slightly different ways the content available to home educators in over 300 different subject areas for Ages 0-18. And, though at first blush the thought of parsing through the charts of interest might seem daunting, many users have confirmed that doing so is actually quite intuitive with just a little practice.

Even so, some people don't want to take time to dig into the charts for themselves and would prefer, instead, for someone else to it for them. And it is for those people that I have recently developed a paid product, THE HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM ROUTE-FINDER TOOL - a.k.a., The Route-Finder.

If you purchase The Route-Finder, I'll send you a link to a brief survey with questions related to the different columns on The Roadmap's charts. I'll then use your answers to personally study the relevant charts on The Roadmap and create a report for you, listing all the options that will likely best suit your kids' needs. I will also make myself available afterwards for further consultation.

Each report is unique - because each parent will have a different combination of survey answers. But take a look at a few samples, generated for real parents who were kind enough to beta-test the tool for me, to give you an idea of what to expect:

Seemingly similar tools do exist elsewhere and are sometimes available for free. But The Route-Finder is different from those products in at least three ways:
  1. Other tools are often sponsored by affiliate programs and will, thus, direct you to just a few favored options. But The Homeschool Resource Roadmap - the single most comprehensive listing of homeschool-related material around - is not fueled by affiliate income. Thus, I'll share with you every possible relevant resource, not just my personal preferences;
  2. I do not use a computer-generated algorithm. Instead, every report is unique, based on each individual's answers to the survey questions. I take as much time as necessary to study The Roadmap charts and write a customized report for each client;
  3. I'm not offering The Route-Finder to collect email addresses for product promotion. While I do have plans to write at least one book - likely in the near future - I won't use your email to try to sell you anything else. The Route-Finder is a stand-alone paid product, not a marketing tool.
I've done beta-testing with over 50 people - new and veteran homeschoolers alike - and have received valuable feedback and favorable reviews. Among the most insightful of comments was one from a mom who said that The Route-Finder both expanded and narrowed her options, all at the same time. She said it enabled her to learn of several resource companies of which she'd never heard before - thus expanding her view - but simultaneously helped her to hone in on options that most fit her kids' needs, narrowing her search in a very valuable way.

Now, even as I believe that a worker is worthy of his wages (1 Timothy 5.18) and know that The Route-Finder is worth a lot in terms of the time and hassle it saves busy homeschooling parents - not to mention the fact that it will likely save its users lots of money in the long run by preventing the purchase of unhelpful curricula - I also know that most homeschoolers live with budgetary constraints.

Thus, I'm currently offering The Route-Finder at
a very reasonable introductory rate:

a one-time fee of just $19.99!

When you buy the tool, I will send you - using the email you provide with your purchase - a link to The Route-Finder survey, and I'll use the survey results to generate your customized report just as soon as possible. I'm a "one-woman show" so, if I receive a lot orders, that may take a few days, but I know you might feel under a time-crunch, so I'll do my very best to be prompt. You will receive my email address with your survey link, and/or you can contact me via The Roadmap if necessary, so you will be able to get a hold of me to check on the status of your report.

What do you think?
Would you like to see a rather extensive list of viable curricular options?
Do you want to save the time and hassle of searching The Roadmap yourself?
Would you like a veteran homeschool mom to do the digging for you?

Then click here to purchase

August 11, 2020

A Plea to New Homeschoolers

Many thousands of parents have responded to the coronavirus situation as it affects conventional schools - both public and private - by choosing to leave the system and move to private, independent, home-based education (i.e., homeschooling). If you are one of those new homeschoolers - coming into homeschooling for the short- or long-term - know that we veterans will welcome and try to help you. But, in return, we ask that you keep a few very important points in mind:
1. If you are using a public school's virus-related distance learning or a virtual/charter public school, you are not homeschooling (from a legal perspective) even though your kids are at home. That's not a value judgment, just a legal reality. Actual homeschoolers operate under a different set of laws, and it's imperative to understand, acknowledge, and respect the distinctions. For a complete analysis of what is and is not homeschooling, check out this article; 
2. Current state homeschool laws have been in place for 25+ years. Modern homeschool pioneers fought hard for the freedoms inherent in those laws - some even went to jail - and bureaucrats are regularly on the lookout even to this day for ways to take that freedom away. Therefore, it's incumbent on every new homeschooler to know the law in your state and abide by it. You will have great freedom as a homeschooler - but with freedom comes the responsibility to make sure it continues for others down the line. If you knowingly flout the homeschool law just because you're new to the party and don't like the rules, you risk everyone's freedom going forward. Please don't do it; 
3. One distinct feature of homeschooling is that homeschool parents do not receive taxpayer funds or other government-sponsored stipends. We pay for our kids' resources on our own (yes, even as we're also forced to pay taxes for public schools). That doesn't seem fair and perhaps it's not - but self-funding is a hallmark of homeschooling. And the reward for using only our own money is freedom (i.e., no one has the right to say how we can or can't use our own money). Veteran homeschoolers fought long and hard to obtain and keep that freedom too. So do not come in and try to get that changed. If you want government funding, you need to go with distance learning or virtual/charter public schooling, not homeschooling; 
4. There are literally thousands of homeschool curriculum resource providers out there - over 4,800, to be precise...all of which you can see on The Homeschool Resource Roadmap (HERE for alphabetical lists and HERE if you want to start choosing what to use for your kids). And there is great diversity amongst those resources! Some will not comport with your personal/family values and you may even be "offended" by some companies' views. The answer: just don't buy that stuff. But please do not bully those who do...or talk about getting it banned (yes, that has, sadly, been happening!). There is something for every homeschooler, and it's not your job to try to control a market that has existed for almost 40 years. Spend your money as you please and don't complain about how anyone else spends theirs; 
5. The same is true for homeschool groups. If you find an existing homeschool group you don't like...move on and find a different one or start a new one yourself. It's not your job to come in and try to "reform" long-standing organizations that you don't happen to understand or like. We do truly want to help...but, as Abraham Lincoln said, "Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself..."
As you begin private homeschooling, you are coming into a beautiful, rich lifestyle choice upon which our country was actually founded - and which has been vibrant in the modern era for more than 40 years. Veterans will generously show you the ropes so you can start to build your own homeschooling "house" - we'll be your biggest cheerleaders! But please understand that we won't allow the basic blueprints of the movement to be altered by "newbies." Just as you would not walk into someone's home and start knocking down walls, please respect the history and integrity of the system you're joining. If it's not for you, that's totally fine; you have other options. If you're choosing homeschooling, though, you need to accept what it is...and is not.

July 11, 2020

Look Back and Go Forth

Much to the chagrin of experienced home educators, a large percentage of the general population still seems to think that homeschooling is a new educational model or even a fad. Driven by ill-informed and/or agenda-driven media reports, they mistakenly believe homeschooling to be a novel idea taken up recently by “religious weirdos” or wealthy, entitled elites. In fact, a lot of younger and prospective homeschoolers believe the same things because it’s all they’ve ever heard, causing them to wrestle with insecurity over their interest in home education. They worry that trying something “new” and “untested” might somehow damage their children’s growth and development.

Luckily for them, the cultural misconceptions – whether accidental or deliberate – couldn’t be further from the truth.

In point of fact, home-based learning – the practice of a child’s parents serving as his primary educators in all realms of life (physical, emotional, social/relational, spiritual, and intellectual/academic) – is as old as time and spans across all geographical regions and cultures. Though outsourcing a child’s education to paid strangers (i.e., school teachers) at younger and younger ages for more and more time each day and year is the current norm in many places, things haven’t always been as they are now. In fact, institutional schooling such as we currently know it – not homeschooling – is the actual social experiment.

In America, homeschooling in one form or another was practiced by all Native tribes and was the norm among European immigrants from the Pilgrims’ initial landing in 1620 all the way through the Civil War. Where community schools occasionally popped up during this time, children attended on a voluntary basis for a very limited amount of time, typically for only a few weeks during the winter and summer seasons and only between about age eight and 14. Parents of schooled children retained tight control over what and how teachers taught, and many never sent their kids at all. Yet literacy rates and overall educational accomplishment soared all throughout the colonial era and into the nation’s first century of existence as a republic, led by parents as their children’s main educators.

However, even as Americans spread their wings of independence after the Revolution, there remained an undercurrent of “loyalist” discontent – a cadre of individuals who longed for a return to monarchy and who shared that desire with their children and grandchildren. These parents often sent their children to European boarding schools, which had adopted Prussian ideals of militaristic structure and control. This European-trained oligarchy openly longed for European-style social stratification and a means of controlling the American “masses” for their own gain.

And they seized their opportunity to do so after the Civil War. Americans were stressed by the chaos the war had caused and longed for a return to stability. The oligarchy – led by the likes of Horace Mann, John Dewey, and the Rockefellers – took advantage of this and promoted compulsory, government-sponsored schooling as a solution, promising that if all children were taught the same things in the same (managed, regulated) way, the nation could “heal.” And, when waves of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe began streaming into America near the end of the 19th century, these same “progressive” elites used people’s fear of change to advance the cause of factory-style, government-controlled schooling even further.

Some states outlawed homeschooling outright, not because it had failed children, but merely to force resistant parents to send their children to the “public” schools. In other states, home education was never officially banned. But it became so rare as more and more families defaulted (under duress) to government schooling (or parochial schools begrudgingly tolerated by the oligarchs – as long as they adopted the public-school methods) that people thought it had been criminalized and eventually gave it up.

By the 1960s, however, the fallout from a system of institutional schooling that treated children like products on an assembly line and purposely marginalized parents and their values began to manifest. Parents from all political stripes – from counter-cultural liberals to religious conservatives and many in between – became frustrated when their concerns fell on (purposely) deaf bureaucratic ears. Through the 1970s and into the ‘80s, leaders from diverse backgrounds – John Holt and Raymond S. Moore most notably among them – began advocating for parents to take back control over their children’s education and eventually created an informal alliance that promoted a return to home-based learning. Following several protracted legal battles, homeschooling was – by 1993 – once again acknowledged as a legal means of education in every state.

It’s because homeschooling was dormant (though never completely dead) for about 80 years that people feel justified in saying it is “new” and “untested.” But, of course, a practice that has existed throughout time and across cultures and then predominated for 280 years of American history before taking a relatively short, coerced hiatus is neither new nor untested. Rather, it is a time-honored approach that was asleep for a time but has now been reawakened. And even if we only consider “modern homeschooling,” that movement is at least 50 years old; it’s obviously not “new.”

We homeschoolers must embrace our movement’s long, venerable history as we go forward. Even though we look “radical” compared to the current cultural norm, we can hold our heads high if we understand that our critics are simply ignorant of true history on this subject. We’re not walking away from tried-and-true educational practices and, thus, jeopardizing our kids’ well-being. No. We’re actually walking away from a dangerous experiment gone bad. And we’re returning to a rich, family-based lifestyle of holistic learning that’s been passed down for thousands of years all around the globe in order to fully meet our responsibility as parents.

You are called to educate your children at home according to your convictions and values because you know them better and love them more than anyone else on the planet ever could. Walk in confidence with the history of the ages behind you and your best dreams and hopes for your precious children ahead. Look back and go forth.

Gaither, Milton. Homeschool: An American History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 
Gatto, John Taylor. The Underground History of American Education. New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2001.
Murphy, Joseph. Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement. Thousand Oaks CA: Corwin, 2012. 

March 12, 2020

Coronavirus Led Me to Homeschooling; Now What?

On March 11, 2020, coronavirus panic in the U.S. ramped up significantly - and just a day later, it was in full overdrive. As I write on the evening of March 12, there's no telling how long the hysteria will last or what its long-term ramifications will be. But what is undeniable is that - warranted or not - people are being forced to change many aspects of their normal lifestyles.

Among parents with school-aged children, no small number is dealing with the indefinite closure of their kids' schools. And "social distancing" recommendations - again, whether warranted or not - mean those children (and their parents) must remain largely at home. Some closed schools are activating online learning platforms, ostensibly requiring (though probably without long-term enforcement capabilities) that students log on and complete schoolwork virtually. However, not all schools have such capabilities - and many students do not have access to compatible devices in their homes even if schools attempt to mandate "attendance."

In response to this situation, it's entirely possible that a noticeably large number of parents may opt to entirely abandon institutional schools - public and private - and turn, instead, to home-based education, particularly private, independent homeschooling. At the risk of sounding like an "ambulance chaser," I must admit - as a sold-out homeschooler - that I see a possible increase in homeschooling families as a very positive side effect of an admittedly stressful, unfortunate turn of events. After all, parents choosing to take direct, personal responsibility for their kids' education is always a good thing, even if the impetus for doing so is something we wish would not have happened. And I hope that many parents who currently intend to homeschool only until this crisis abates will realize the beauty and benefits of home learning and continue long after school doors reopen.

I am ready to help any in my sphere of influence as they get going; contact me HERE if interested. And I call on other homeschoolers to likewise come alongside any "newbies" they might meet, in person or online.

If you are a coronavirus-driven homeschooler, let me first acknowledge that I know you're probably scared as all get-out. You may have been mulling over homeschooling before or it may never have crossed your mind. But now here you are. Your kids are home and you feel compelled to "do something" educational with them, hoping to avoid "screwing them up" in the process.

First, let me assure you that you will not hurt them. Any parent who chooses to become intentional about facilitating his or her kids' learning is perfectly equipped to do well for one simple but very powerful, double-pronged reason: you know your kids better than anyone else on the planet (yes, you do!), and you love them more than any other person ever will. That knowledge and love will motivate you to do your homework as you jump into homeschooling. And, spurred on by love, you will discover your kids' learning strengths and weaknesses, find good resources, and put in the necessary time and effort. Your homeschool "qualification" is your child's birth certificate!

Assuming you believe me, I know you're still wondering about the nuts and bolts of getting started. In fact, shelves and shelves of books have been written on the question of "how to homeschool." But you don't have time to find and read them; your kids are home now, and you've decided to jump on the homeschool bandwagon, ready or not. So let me offer a just a few "ground zero" tips to consider right now:

  1. Understand your state's homeschool law. I sincerely hope that no bureaucrats will come after well-meaning parents who decide to homeschool on the COVID-19 fly and inadvertently forget to cross some legal t or dot an i - but we can't count on them to exhibit grace and compassion even in crisis. So you need to follow your state's homeschool law from the beginning. If you do an internet search for your state's law, you'll find myriad sources - but some are more reliable than others, and it's impossible to tell at first glance which are reputable. So I recommend reaching out to an experienced homeschooler in your area - look for local homeschool groups on Facebook - to get you headed in the right direction. If you're in Wisconsin, ask me; I've even detailed various elements of the Wisconsin homeschool law HERE;
  2. I recommend that new homeschoolers take a period of time to "deschool," which I believe is critically important. However, deschooling often involves getting out and about in the community - to rebuild family relationships, give children (and parents!) time to decompress from school-style thinking, and enable a parent to begin seeing his/her kids as learners - and, sadly, the virus scare may preclude much of that for a time. But don't be discouraged. Partake in the wonderful, valuable deschooling activities that are currently possible, and save outside-the-home things for later. Deschooling activities are all educational - they can be easily categorized into school-style "subject areas" if you feel so compelled - so don't feel one ounce of guilt for spending time on them;
  3. When you feel ready to find curricula, realize that there's a plethora of options available to you - in all subject areas, for all learning styles, for kids of all ages, from multiple religious/worldview perspectives, at a wide variety of price points. If you're really interested in seeing all the possibilities, take a look at The Homeschool Resource Roadmap charts HERE ...or - if you want to avoid all connection to the common core standards - HERE. You'll be amazed - and perhaps overwhelmed - by all the options from which you have to choose...but if you're game for digging into the links, you can find something to meet the needs of each of your children;
  4. I don't pretend to know what resources are best for every child - remember that you alone are the expert on your kids - but I know that the prospect of pouring over the long Roadmap lists - or even my shorter lists of personal recommendations - can be very daunting for new homeschoolers (and for many veterans as well). So I'd like to suggest just a few (reasonably-priced, easy-to-use) basic options to consider trying for the next few months as you get your feet wet. Though you may not end up using these for the long term (homeschoolers often switch around several times in their first few years as they hone in on their kids' real needs and usually end up becoming "eclectic" - i.e., picking and choosing from different companies for different "subject areas" - along the way), all are solid and thorough such that you can feel secure in giving them a shot:

    Christian Light Education
    Fun-Schooling (The Thinking Tree)
    - Gather Round Homeschool
    Homeschool Share
    Master Books
    Monarch (Alpha-Omega Publications)
    Queen Homeschool Supplies
    - Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum, The
    - Under the Home
    - Weaver (Alpha-Omega Publications)

Above all else, give yourself - and your children - grace. As with any new endeavor, beginning to homeschool means that you will face an inevitable learning curve and experience some bumps and obstacles along the way. Depending on your situation, the journey may be pretty rough at times. But the rewards - personal autonomy for yourself and your kids, freedom from the stress that accompanies institutional school schedules, deepened family relationships, the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing you've taken direct responsibility for your kids' academic learning - make the difficulties worth it in the end. The coronavirus situation is certainly not something to celebrate...but we can and should acknowledge and embrace good things (like more families choosing to homeschool) that sprout from it.

January 31, 2020

My Feelings about National School Choice Week: It's Complicated

This past week was designated as National School Choice Week (NSCW), an event held annually in January since 2011. According to the NSCW website, the sponsoring organization "is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical, independent public awareness effort" that is "not associated with any legislative lobbying or advocacy." It "recognizes all K-12 options, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling," and encourages supporters to hold local school choice celebrations to "raise public awareness of the different K-12 education options available to children and families while also spotlighting the benefits of school choice." The NSCW foundation reports that more than 40,000 distinct local celebrations occurred in 2019.

As an unabashed advocate of homeschooling, people have regularly asked me how I celebrate NSCW, assuming that I've been on board with the initiative since its advent. I did order a supply kit one year, though I didn't end up planning an event. The truth is that my honest answer regarding my feelings about NSCW is, "It's complicated."

On the one hand, I truly appreciate the NSCW effort that highlights a reality too few parents understand: government-sponsored, state schooling (i.e., public school) is far from the only viable educational option in this country. Non-government options actually have a long history of success - in particular, America was founded almost exclusively by homeschoolers of one sort or another - but the powerful, vociferous public school lobby has clung to its bully pulpit since the early 20th century, doing everything it can to marginalize every other option. As a result, many parents today still don't realize they have choices - but efforts such as NSCW help to dispel that myth.

I also appreciate NSCW's position of trusting "parents to make the best choices for their individual children." Indeed, I am a strong proponent of parental rights, holding unwaveringly to the view that no one other than a child's parents have a legitimate right to an opinion about how that child is educated. Loving extended family members (and, perhaps, a few very close friends) might - with a parent's express permission - offer their thoughts and ideas. But the ultimate authority for making decisions about a child's educational endeavors is in the hands of his/her parents (with the understanding - from my worldview perspective - that parents will answer to God for the choices they make). If friends and family disagree with a parent's choice, they must submit to the will of the parent and keep their mouths shut going forward. And it should go without saying that - absent a proven case of extreme neglect that results in a loss of custody - governmental bureaucrats have absolutely no right to an opinion.

Because of this, I really do agree that every parent is free to choose any educational path for his/her children - even when another parent's choice would never be my own. However, I'm uncomfortable giving full-throated support to NSCW since it does include government school options (especially traditional public schools, but also public charter schools and public magnet schools) among those it promotes. In my view, state-sponsored schooling - especially traditional public school - already has plenty of support by virtue of having forcibly muscled out most other options through the first three-quarters of the 20th century. It doesn't need anyone else's voice. And, in fact, it's not really a choice due to compulsory school attendance laws (i.e., unless a parent chooses another option, attending state-sponsored school is mandatory, not a choice). So efforts to promote choice should emphasize options that are not taxpayer-supported - or, at the very least, those beyond the conventional public schools - rather than giving equal weight to all.

My second concern rests in the fact that - though the NSCW itself asserts that it is "not associated with any legislative lobbying or advocacy" - discussions of school choice almost always morph into endorsement in one way or another of vouchers - i.e., an initiative promoting the idea that private schools and homeschooling parents should be given taxpayer funds to pay for non-public school options. Of course, government school advocates vehemently oppose vouchers, claiming that voucher programs (even those going to charter or magnet public schools) "steal" money from (traditional) public schools. That argument is nothing but a a red herring; in fact, it's the public school scheme as a whole which does the stealing. But I do know that the aphorism "he who pays gets the say" is true. Thus, if government entities "give" private schools and homeschooling parents "government money" (i.e., money that comes from other taxpayers), the government will have a legitimate right to regulate the use of those funds. In other words, if private educational endeavors accept voucher money, bureaucrats can (and will) begin to pass rules about how the money can be spent - i.e., what can and cannot be taught. Thus, the real problem with voucher money is that it is a governmental Trojan Horse, inevitably leading to a loss of academic freedom - a narrowing of real choice - for homeschoolers and private schools.

That said, I do understand why some who choose private schools and some homeschoolers find the idea of vouchers appealing. These good folks look at all the state and federal aid given to public schools (of all iterations), knowing that they were mandated to contribute (via taxation) to the funding despite their own kids not attending public schools and regardless of the fact that they often have moral objections to the content and/or approaches used in those schools. They pay on top of that to cover private school tuition or homeschooling expenses, so the idea of vouchers - "getting some of my money back" - sounds good. And they try to justify their position by asserting (all evidence about the nature of government to the contrary) that bureaucrats "would never" add regulation in exchange for the money.

The answer to the money problem is not, however, government "giving" money to parents or private schools. Instead, government shouldn't be taking our money to begin with, and it's time that advocates for non-public school options begin lobbying for a new paradigm. Rather than government taking money from us to "support public schools" and then "giving" some of it back (with strings) in the form of vouchers, it would be better if those who do not use public schools (i.e., any schooling option supported by taxpayer dollars) were simply exempted from paying school taxes all together (and this should apply as well to those who have no children). We could then use what would have gone to support government schools to cover our own children's educational expenses - without any regulation since government would never have touched the money.

The only people who should be mandated to pay into the school system are those who use it, with others contributing voluntarily if they so choose. This idea will surely make public school advocates' heads explode. They will scream that public schools will never have enough money if school taxes don't apply to everyone - but they already scream about not having enough now. The fact is that the way the factory school system operates means there will never be enough money in the eyes of its supporters. So we can't worry about that. What we need is justice - i.e., the ability of those who do not use and do not agree with state-sponsored schooling to opt out of paying for it.

My concern about open-ended school choice initiatives is that most people still aren't thinking outside the box like that. The furtherest some will go is talk of vouchers rather than true freedom - and I am too much of a realist about the nature of government to ever support that.

Hence the reasons my feelings about NSCW are complicated. I support parental rights even for those who choose differently for their kids than I ever would...and even though I urge anyone who asks to put private, independent home education at the top of the list. But I don't think public (i.e., compulsory) school really needs a seat at the choice table. I absolutely support the proliferation of options...but I absolutely oppose voucher schemes of all stripes and don't ever want my support of the former seen as endorsement of the latter.

I may at some point decide to host a NSCW event. I was watching a New York-based morning show this week and noticed a very large contingent of kids and adults hugging the outdoor rope line and holding signs promoting "National Catholic Schools Week." Clearly, they were using NSCW to celebrate their particular choice - i.e., for Catholic schools. So if I do hold my own event, it would geared specifically to promote private homeschooling - not all choice in general - in order to encourage those interested in learning more about what that means, and I'd be sure to explain my caveats to the larger initiative.

That said, I do encourage all parents to fully investigate all the options - to not default to traditional public school (or public school in general) just because it's the biggest and loudest kid on the block. Even though compulsory school attendance laws are abominable - that's a topic for another post - it is a parent's responsibility to see that his/her children are educated, not according to current state-school norms but, rather, in keeping with what the parent knows to be best for the children's ultimate good and long-term well-being. Whatever you choose, be absolutely sure - without compromise for convenience - that it comports with your parental convictions and values.

January 23, 2020

A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool: Limbo Land Version

Since she started, I've followed the Day in the Life posts that Jamie at Simple Homeschool compiles around this time of year; it's been fun to see the wide variety of ways in which even a small sampling of homeschool parents organize their children's home learning endeavors. And - via my former blog - I even wrote posts for the topic a couple of times and shared them on Jamie's link-up.

As I've read through this year's entries, it has, of course, struck me - as it has repeatedly since last summer - that this year is my last opportunity to chime in on a day in the life of our homeschool. The girls will graduate in June, and that will be that. I fully intend to stay engaged with the homeschooling community - locally and beyond - in several different ways. But after June 6, I won't be directly facilitating my children's learning activities anymore.

In fact, this "semester" is a time of transition for us.

You see, the girls wrapped up most of their formal academic studies in December - by design, to avoid last-minute stress in the weeks leading up to graduation - so a day in our lives right now is different than what has been the norm for the last few years. As a result, we all feel as if we're in a sort of limbo, hovering between the comfortable routines of the past and the new (exciting and somewhat scary) adventures of the future. Some days one or more of us wishes we could go back; other days, we anticipate the plans God has laid out before the girls so much that we wish we were already there.

Even though we could have arranged our learning environment any way we'd pleased, the girls had agreed throughout their high school years that they'd prefer to wake up somewhat early in order to complete their formal bookwork by early afternoon; this was a stretch for my night-owl daughter but she made it work. Thus, we'd start our days around 9:00AM with "morning time" - a group gathering during which we'd talk through the day's overall schedule, catch each other up on various thoughts and interactions with others that we'd had since the previous morning, drift off onto tangents related to current events and/or theology, and (eventually) wind our way back to a brief time of prayer. We'd wrap up by 10:00 or 10:30, after which the girls would each load up their bookwork and customized learning logs and retire to their rooms to address their individual studies. I remained available to help as needed - usually on math corrections or part of the writing process we employed for language arts and history - and kept myself busy with other endeavors when I wasn't needed. By 1:00PM, we set aside the bookwork and had lunch. And then at various times over the past few years, afternoons and evenings have included time for music lessons, dance practice, choir and musical rehearsals, art class, teen group activities, and (eventually) paid jobs, in addition to personal endeavors like sewing, knitting, crafting, writing, reading for fun, and (yes) watching some "twaddle" on TV.

In Limbo Land, though, things are a bit different.

For one thing, our schedules have diverged. My early bird would now like to complete her bookwork as soon as possible each day, and she's in the midst of changing jobs (setting her overall daily schedule in flux) and growing a relationship with the young man that God has brought into her life. My late-riser is relishing the fact that having limited bookwork affords her an opportunity to sleep in most days. Thus, Early Bird is often done with all of her academics before Night Owl has even had breakfast, and "morning time" has been on hiatus for the past couple of weeks, likely to return only intermittently over the next few months. And I've relaunched an old routine of heading to the gym right after I wake up, which has changed how my own morning routine proceeds.

Secondly, the girls' remaining bookwork now only takes about two hours a day, and sometimes not even that. They're both taking the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course as a sort of capstone "senior seminar," and we've determined that they can easily complete each week's work by devoting about an hour to it each day, Monday through Friday. But I've also decided to let them monitor their own progress, with the understanding that they may need to complete some assignments over the weekend if they choose to spend less time on weekdays; as long as they're both ready for each Monday night live class session, I'm letting them prepare as each sees fit.  Beyond that, Early Bird spends some time each day on personal finance, reader's workshop, Spanish, and piano, and likes to work out most days as well (contributing to her credits in "personal fitness"). Night Owl also does personal finance, reader's workshop, and piano each day and sometimes works out. And once a week or so, a new video launches on the app we use for world geography; the girls watch for new posts and view them as soon as possible after they're published. I help with personal finance and some of the Perspectives work - but that's it.

Beyond that, the girls do spend their free time in ways similar to before. It's just that they sometimes have more of it, and it's a bit more disjointed than it used to be.

But we also have some new endeavors to tackle over the next few months - planning a graduation party, getting senior pictures, contributing to preparations for both the homeschool spring formal and graduation ceremony, creating personal displays for the ceremony, sending out invitations for the ceremony and the party, finalizing transcripts, creating diplomas, and completing registration at each of the girl's chosen post-secondary institutions, to name the obvious. Oh, and I need to get caught up on the girls' scrapbooks so that I'm totally up-to-date by graduation on June 6.

All of this contributes to a type of new normal compared to how we've managed our days over the past several years. But this new normal is weird because it's destined to be very short-lived, lasting only until the beginning of June, when things will change yet again. And then, of course, we won't ever return to what has become business-as-usual. Instead, we'll move on to a whole new phase of life, with all its unknowns and promise.

There's a bit of parenting wisdom that I've purposed to hold onto since the beginning: Sometimes the days are long, but remember that the years are very (very) short. The years have, indeed, felt exceedingly short - I cannot believe I'm already in my last "semester" as an "official" homeschool mom - and I know these last couple of months will race by. I have completely mixed emotions about that - so happy for and proud of my girls as they launch into some very exciting endeavors...but still (and probably always) wishing for more time with them as children. And I won't ever apologize for that desire.

But who knows. Maybe at this time next year, I'll write a post about a day in the life of a newly "retired" homeschooler!

November 21, 2019

A Family Road-Tripping Tool

Even though The Homeschool Resource Roadmap is completely free and independent - so I'm not beholden to paying customers, advertisers, or share holders - I regularly consider ways to improve the site's appeal and functionality...just because I want to help my fellow home educators as much as possible. Originally, that meant aiming to list the common core stance for every resource I know homeschoolers use and/or that markets to us. Then I purposed to create detailed charts showing other important information about each provider and also added a section with additional helpful links.

Within that section, I've been working for many months on something pretty special: extensive lists of field trip and roadschooling venues. The lists link to dozens of educational destinations in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia, as well as every Canadian province, and also a few international opportunities. They include a wide variety of venues, including art galleries, children's museums, factory tours, farms and orchards, historical museums and sites, national and state parks, nature preserves, science museums, zoos, etc. These lists - which I compiled based on personal knowledge, my interaction with other home educators, and reference to the Homeschool Buyers Co-op resource pages - are thorough but not exhaustive; I know I'll become aware of and add other venues over time.

The lists can, of course, be used by homeschoolers when planning field trips of one sort or another. Additionally, they can be referenced by home educators who are roadschooling, either short- or long-term. And they're a beneficial tool for all parents - homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike - as a guide for planning family outings and vacations. As I visited all the websites, I couldn't help but think of the many wonderful, enriching experiences kids and their parents can have by choosing to visit some of the different options on the lists.

Click below to begin exploring the possibilities, and feel free to share this post or that link far and wide. And if you know of venues I can add, leave the site names and URLs (website links) in a comment.

Photo Credit: mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
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