What are your qualifications?I have been a certified New Hampshire teacher since 1995, holding current New Hampshire endorsements in both Middle Grades (5-8) and Secondary (7-12) Mathematics. My B.A. in Mathematics and teacher’s training was completed at Keene State College… but don’t hold that against me ; ) I have been involved with the homeschool community since 1998, and have been evaluating portfolios since 2003. I am an amazing tutor and craft effective curriculum for my classes. I love education, teaching, learning, and curriculum sales. I love seeing that “ah hah!” moment in a student’s eye and encouraging other homeschooling moms. Every person’s educational taste is different so, in the end, I’m only as qualified as you think I am. [That being said, here’s my resume.]
How do I know that I’m covering everything my child will need?This is the number one homeschool question that I get, and my best answer is: Pray. The reality is that a human can’t learn every bit of phonics, history, geography, world languages, mathematics, science, politics, public speaking, fine arts, etc… not even over the course of a lifetime–much less over the course of 12 or 13 years! Your job as a parent is to prepare your child with basic life skills and the ability to learn. Bring each child prayerfully before God and teach them as you believe He would have them go.
In New Hampshire subject requirements are simple; over the course of your child’s academic career, they should be taught science, mathematics, language, government, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, U.S. and New Hampshire constitutional history, and art and music appreciation. You don’t need to teach everything all at once, and your student doesn’t need to go over every subject each year. If you are interested in what New Hampshire schools try to teach, check out the state’s frameworks… but keep in mind that this is not the final word on the subject and I don’t know any homeschoolers who even try to match these very theoretical goals.
There are some great “anti-gap” resources out there: Tammy Duby of Tobin’s Lab has a great audio presentation entitled “Are You Leaving (Gasp!) Gaps?” where she talks about choosing your gaps rather than letting them choose you. If you are putting together your own curriculum, consider using Luke’s School List or the What Your Child Needs to Know series to help you cover your bases. A commercial scope and sequence such as A Beka or World Book, or an online program of studies might give you a helpful planning framework. But remember — these are all suggestions. What your child graduates leaves home with is ultimately between you, your spouse, your child, and God.
A final word: Please don’t ask your child to complete two Language Arts programs or three history programs so that you won’t “leave anything out”… It’ll just frustrate everyone. Choosing Joy has an encouraging article about “old fashioned” homeschooling and the comparison trap.
Do I have to fill out all of these forms?Some school districts like to send out packets of forms for homeschoolers to fill out each year. However, the law doesn’t require any of them. My yearly letter of notification simply includes the required information, with none of the extras. I try to keep things professional, without either giving away my rights or slipping into “lecture mode”. Of course, this is not official legal advice… Talk to your own lawyer or contact HSLDA for specific guidance.
Do I really have to learn algebra in order to teach it?Well, yeah. If you’re going to teach algebra using a traditional math curriculum, you need to know (or be willing to learn!) algebra. Thankfully, however, it’s a great time to be a homeschooler — there are several math curricula written directly to the student. Since the computer or DVD program functions as the “teacher”, you function more as a facilitator or overseer. Add in a friend or family member whom you can call in a pinch, and you’ve got yourself an algebra class! Some examples would be VideoText Algebra and Teaching Textbooks. Plus, some motivated students can teach themselves… it’s just not the norm.
Writing! How do I teach and/or evaluate my child’s writing?If you have a number of children and want to be able to affectively teach them how to communicate in writing, you can’t go wrong with Teaching Writing with Structure and Style, a teacher education workshop published by The Institute for Excellance in Writing. It will teach you how to teach your children. Creation Ministries International has a great Homeschool Corner with a number of excellent articles on writing, including one by Ruth Beechick, entitled How Not to Teach Writing. This is well worth checking out. Finally, if you’re still stymied by grading, Theresa Moon has a wonderful book on Evaluating for Excellence.
How often, over the course of a week, do you recommend I teach each subject?This question was submitted via email by Karina… and it’s a great question! New Hampshire law requires that student be instructed in “science, mathematics, language, government, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, the history of the constitutions of New Hampshire and the United States, and an exposure to and appreciation of art and music.” But they certaintly don’t have to learn all that at once! You might spread it out over the course of several years (art one year, music the next, NH history the next) or cover a little bit each year–it’s entirely up to you.
Karina continues her question “For example, I really like the Sonlight Math and Science curriculum. Math I want to teach 4 x’s a week, but History and Science only twice a week…is that too much, too little. He is only 6 and I don’t want to overwhelm him…thoughts?” Many families choose to teach fewer subjects per day, or consolidate teaching time, it all depends on what works for you. I’ve found that most “knowledge-based” classes, like history or science, really lend themselves to an every-other-day or twice-a-week schedule. You have more time for a great project or for digging out those science supplies! Watch out for attention span issues, however, as some little brains just can’t concentrate on one subject for that long.
Skills-based classes, such as reading, handwriting, and mathematics, are another matter altogether. It’s the rare young student who will make the same progress three or four times a week as they would working five or six days. It’s not about the time spent, just about the regular, consistent practice of these skills. I’m not saying you have to pull out the workbooks five days a week–just that you have your student practice these skills. Maybe have him write a short note to Grandma, play a math game, or read a book together. Every family’s schedule will look a bit different, and that’s ok. Just consider where your child is and step out on faith… If it’s not working, change things up! That’s the joy of homeschooling : )
Please note that while you might “do school” lightly and sporadically with your six year old, I do have the expectation that, as your child ages, he will spend a larger and larger proportion of his day in the pursuit of learning. When you’re a kid, work interrupts your play. When you’re an adult, play interrupts your work… it’s kind of a continuum.
What does a typical homeschool day look like? Am I doing this right?This is a great question with a million different answers… literally. There are over two million children being homeschooled in America today, and that number is growing by leaps and bounds. Every family will have a different schedule, with different priorities, interests, and challenges. At a recent homeschool support meeting, some friends and I shared our “day in the life” stories. The “Jones” family’s day is here and here. The “Anderson” and “Smith” families were also gracious enough to share their days with you. And, of course, my day. [Note: the left hand side is the “shined up” version… the right side contains those facts that we’d all prefer not to mention…] As for your day? If your children are progressing academically and personally, and are getting what they need, then you’re doing just fine.
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