Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.



Karen Pennebaker


Part II:

Priorities & Organization

Before beginning any major undertaking, it is a good idea to sit down and list your prior- ities. Some people may call this "setting goals" but priorities are a little more involved. You might say priorities are "goals in order of importance". Like any other major under- taking, homeschooling needs some plans and guidelines. You might want to make a list something like this:

Homeschooling Instructors:

    Who teaches what (Mom, Dad, Grandma, etc)

Homeschooling Styles:

    Do we want to be structured, like school?
    Do we want to use a boxed curriculum?
    If not, who will write the curriculum?
    Are we brave enough to be "unschoolers"?

Homeschooling Law:

    Do we know the law in our state?
    Do we have the proper forms, if needed?

Homeschooling Preparation:

    Do we have a plan for each child?
    Do we have the necessary materials?
    Library cards? Internet access?
    Do we have a place for children to work and study?
    Does each child have a private area for quiet reading?

Each state has its own particular set of rules and regulations. I live in Wwst Virginia, which is not a difficult state for homeschoolers. The law says each child must have in- struction in a certain list of subjects. You must provide a "plan of instruction" annually to your local school district. At the end of the year, the children must either be tested or have a portfolio of work assessed by either a certified teacher or another person ap- proved by the superintendent of schools. This person writes a letter saying whether the child has or has not accomplished the goals set in the plan of instruction and makes any recommendations for improvement.

Some states are easier than that; others are downright difficult. However, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If your local school dis- trict is "anti-homeschooling", contact your state department of education. In some states, home schools are set up as "private schools". No matter how the state chooses to define them, they have to allow them.

Once you have your priorities set, knowing what you want to teach, what the children want to learn, and how you want to go about this, the next job is to get organized. From the Great Clutterer (me), with a house that always looks like a tornado just hit, you will find that I am amazingly organized. I have file cabinets. My books are in categories. I can find things, in all this mess. (We are building a house that we live in. One week, we may be working in one area. OK, haul all the junk over here. Plop. Next week, another area. Move. Shove. Plop. You get the picture!!)

We are "unschoolers". We have no set time for school or for subjects. This is because it works best for us. If one of the children wants to learn Ancient History, they all may end up learning it, in spite of themselves. This is happening at our house right now. We have an 11 year old expert in Egyptian history and folklore who can even write hieroglyphics. She is interested in relating the ancient worlds to each other. In the process, she has captured the other's interest in her research. Just because the "plan of instruction" includes, say, 5th grade math, that does not mean you spend an hour a day on 5th grade math. What that means is that by the end of a school year, the child has mastered the basics of 5th grade math. Whether it takes an hour a day or 15 minutes a month isn't relevant. Learning is relevant. Not class time!

If some family emergency disrupts your home life, when you homeschool it doesn't mat- ter if the children miss a week of "school," because homeschoolers are life time learn- ers and are learning all the time. This is especially true of "unschoolers," who let the children pick the subject matter and run with it. We adults become mentors or facilitators and the child learns.

Homeschoolers are good at working on their own, because they are expected to succeed! Children who have never been to a "real school" do not have a problem with this, be- cause they have never known any other way of learning. If you have children who have been in public school, it may take some time to get them used to doing anything without being told what to do! Some homeschoolers call this process "deschooling"--getting the child out of the idea that the teacher must tell you when to go to page 43 of the spelling book!

OK, by now you are wondering what all this rambling has to do with being organized. Organization includes these important factors:

Family lifestyle. Does someone work night shift, for example. Are you early birds or night owls? Who pays the bills and orders things? etc.

State laws and regulations. Do you have to take attendance and keep track of hours? If so, how will you do this? Do you keep a portfolio of work? Where?

Family rules and house rules. Even unschoolers have rules. They don't just do their own thing! In our house, children have jobs to do, too. They live here and they help sort laundry, unload the dishwasher, feed the animals, etc. They have a lot of free time, to play, to read, or to do crafts, etc. What time is bed time? Accountability. If a child is working on a project, there should be a result. Is there a time frame? What is the fin- ished project, a report, a 3-D map, etc?

Is finished work gone over and handed back for corrections? Did you tell someone what that library book was about or did you even read it??? etc.

Being organized also means you have the materials you think are necessary for home- schooling. We consider computers to be useful, so we have one that the children can use on the internet and for learning games. We have another ancient one that can be used as a word processor and for some other games. It is not connected to the internet and is available anytime. There is no printer connected to it, so things must be saved on floppy disks to be printed from one of the network computers.

After many bad experiences with inkjet printers, when the last one died, I purchased a second laser printer. One is our "network printer"; the other one is mine, but can be accessed through the network if need be. No color printing here, but we have lots of colored pencils, markers and crayons! We also have a copy machine, which is a nice tool for homeschoolers. Other "fun things" we have, since I have desktop publishing capabil- ity, are a light box, a paper cutter, a small spiral binder and a hand operated saddle stapler. What fun! We can make books, notebooks, cards, whatever. We have a dozen pairs of inexpensive "zig zag" scissors, with all sorts of patterns. A dozen paper punches including a star, moon, butterfly, snail, heart, flower, etc. A 3 hole punch. Several small staplers. Scotch tape. Glue sticks. A glue gun. Are all of these necessary? They are at our house, but you may think them to be superfluous! Oh, we have lots of art supplies, too. Construction paper. Craft supplies. Yarn. 3 looms. An old sewing machine that the kids use.

All of these things have a place they call home. When someone uses them, if they move them, they are expected to return them to where they came from! This is so everyone can find things, all the time. We may not be neat, but we are organized. There is a big difference! I know lots of neat freaks who couldn't find a paper clip or a safety pin, if their life depended on it. Supposedly, "a place for everything, and everything in its place" keeps things in order and neat. Wrong! It keeps them organized, but it doesn't guarantee anything is going to be neat. That's another whole department.

Now that you know what you want to do, have the materials together, go for it! The best time to start is now, while you have it all thought out. Remember, the only rules (other than state laws that must be followed) are the rules YOU set for your homeschool. It is your family's prerogative to set it up the way it works for you.

Copyright 2003 SierraTimes.Com

Reprinted with Permission of SierraTimes.Com
Reprinted from SierraTimes.Com
January 23, 2003


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