An Extraordinary Time: Homeschooling Yesterday and Today

When the kids were younger, you would often find us on the beach with Papa, meandering about the woodlands, or strolling along on the Deschutes River Trail just a stone’s throw from our home.

A common query from strangers was, “No school today, kids?”

“Nope, we’re homeschoolers! The shoreline is our school today!” the kids would shout in unison.

In shock or dismay the examination continued. “Oh, but … how can you,” they stammered. “I mean, you will still spend time learning, won’t you?”

image of a grandfather walking along the shoreline at low tide with his two grandchildren, text overlay reads: "an extraordinary time: a look at homeschooling yesterday and today"

Classrooms Today

We’re living in a most unusual time and I don’t mean just due to the worldwide pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. We are living in a time where most people consider learning to be directly associated with a small space inside four walls.

With pencils,
worksheets,
textbooks,
calculators,
whiteboards,
desks,
structure,
routines,
bells,
tests,
and grades.

Stop and picture a typical classroom today. In your mind’s eye, you likely see a group of children gathered by age as the primary criteria. At the front of the classroom, an often overwhelmed and overworked teacher delivering a prescribed lesson at a prescribed pace. A tight set of curriculum standards, assessment measures, deadlines, and accountability governing them all.

How is this scenario considered the gold standard for all students?

A specific, narrow definition of success that is taught early and reinforced often. A place where the pressure to perform and the fear of failure chip away at a child’s mental strength almost daily, exacerbated by the potential of that failure happening openly in front of their peers.

The One Room Schoolhouse

Growing up, my favorite television program was Little House on the Prairie. I loved Laura’s spunk and pictured myself as her regularly. I also loved the one room school house and wanted more than anything to be a school teacher just as Laura aspired to be when she was growing up.

While I never had the opportunity to teach in a one-room school, I cultivated this idea when I made the decision to homeschool my children in 2006. Homeschooling provided the means to surround my children with learners of all ages. More importantly, we were not confined by the walls of the classroom.

Last week, I binge watched Anne with an E on Netflix. I loved the series so much. I had of course read the books years ago but the actors in this version really touched me, especially Miss Stacy.

Miss Stacy, the forward thinking, fierce, and compassionate young teacher (portrayed by the actor Joanna Douglas) who brought new life into the Avonlea schoolhouse. This was me! This is me!

Back on the stream bank, among the ripples, wildlife, plant life, physical exertion, and fresh air … we observed, we experimented, we asked questions, and we learned.

None of what we were surrounded by matched the accepted definition of the best possible “modern” learning space. None of it looked like what learning was supposed to look like. Yet this was our classroom.

Homeschool Spotlight

Around the world, classes have been suspended and schools are locking their doors. In Arizona, the remainder of the school year has been cancelled and Oregon is considering the same decision.

Parents have suddenly found themselves thrust into educating their children at home. Parents are now desperate for activities and educational experiences to occupy their time. There is now a global spotlight on homeschooling.

While it is wonderful to have so much attention on homeschooling, we must be careful to recognize that most of us aren’t actually homeschooling. Even veteran homeschool families like myself. Not fully.

We are all isolated from the world around us. Home educated kids don’t spend their lives at home the way we have been asked to right now.

Six months ago, homeschoolers would be at the library, the swimming pool, an art gallery, at the beach, at the park, or exploring a museum. They would be at Tae Kwon Do, dance class, music lessons, or at drama school.

They were interacting with all the different people in all those different spaces, and the balance this gives is incredibly important to a homeschooling lifestyle. Right now, they are not doing any of this.

image of two high school students seated at a dining room table with a laptop computer and working collaboratively on a project

Homeschooling Tomorrow

I’m hearing from a lot of parents who are struggling. Admittedly, I am struggling. These are extraordinary times. Nothing about this is normal, homeschooling included.

Not surprisingly, families have reached out to me to inquire about homeschool. They are curious about our story and desire to learn more. While the present situation is challenging for everyone, I want to encourage you.

The curriculum we have used has changed as the kids have gotten older. Today, they are both dual enrolled at the community college and taking courses full time on campus (though spring term all their coursework will be delivered online).

Homeschooling has provided us with a rich life experience. Through it all, we have always strived for five things:

meaningful work
good books
beauty (art, music, nature)
ideas to ponder and discuss
imaginative play

It is uncertain where we will be six months from now. When we begin to return to some measure of normalcy, I hope some of you will choose to continue homeschooling. I would be delighted to go tide-pooling with you.

Queen Girls Inspiring Our Youth One Story at a Time

Some time ago I shared with my readers a series of books for young girls that I found both inspiring and uplifting, Queen Girls. The women featured in these short biographies are amazing – strong, determined, and courageous.

I am now delighted to announce two additional titles in this wonderful series: Junko, Queen of the Mountains and Marie, the Bright Queen.

Each of these books continues in the style of the previously published titles. The women featured in the books are of diverse ethnic backgrounds and their stories are brought to life through engaging stories. The soft, colorful illustrations are done by Denise Muzzio in a simple style that may even inspire your young artist to try to paint her own heroines.

The goal of Queen Girls Books is to teach our children that our diversity makes each one of us unique, equally capable of doing anything we set ourselves out to do. To encourage them to find their happiness, passion, drive and self-confidence from within. 

Marie, the Bright Queen! Inspired by the story of Marie Curie, the first woman to receive two Nobel prizes for her discoveries. She is known for her pioneering work with radioactive materials and the discovery of two new elements: Radium and Polonium. She was also the first female professor at a university.

I have put together a short unit study on Marie Curie which I outlined in my earlier post, Science Milestones: Marie Curie.

Junko, Queen of the Mountains! Inspired by the story of Junko Tabei, a Japanese mountaineer and the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, bordering Nepal and China. She was also the first woman to ascend all the Seven Summits by climbing the highest peak on every continent.

Whether you have girls or boys, these books will warm your heart and inspire your children. I encourage you to share them with your loved ones.

They can be found online at Queen Girls Books.

#queeengirls #childrensbooks #booksforgirls
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Developing Language Skills with New Amigos Board Game

I have always been fascinated by languages. In fact, raising bilingual children is was one of the primary reasons we chose to homeschool. Along the way, we have purposely sought out resources and opportunities to develop fluency in a second language.

Finding materials for Norwegian is not easy (at least where I live) so I was very excited to discover the New Amigos board game. New Amigos makes language learning fun and interactive!

The game has sold over 42,000 copies in Norway where it was developed. In Europe, it is distributed through toy stores, department stores, as well as book stores. Thus far, there are several versions available including: Norsk-English, Norsk-Spanish, and Norsk-Arabic!

Developing Language Skills

You can play either as an individual or on teams, independent of language knowledge or age. By virtue of three difficulty levels, played in parallel, even novices can stand a chance against advanced speakers and learn the basics of the language along the way.

The game works in two directions: native English speakers, for example, but wish to learn Norwegian can play the English-Norwegian version with speakers of Norsk who wish to learn English. The vocabulary is learned by everyone as each player takes his or her turn.

I have compiled a list of my favorite Norwegian Language Resources for families interested in learning Norwegian, Snakker du Norske?

Even players with the same language background and goals can play together. In other words, though both my daughter and I desire to learn Norwegian and are at different levels ourselves, we can successfully play the game together and learn from one another. We do not need to play with someone who speaks the language fluently.

The correct pronunciation of words in foreign languages is no problem, as New Amigos uses a unique phonetic system that doesn’t require any advance knowledge. Unlike the dictionaries, the words are spelled using Latin alphabet letters instead of phonetic symbols.

New Amigos Game Play

The goal of the game is to win cards over three rounds, each new round begins after seven cards have been won. This is accomplished by translating cards in both languages. The winner is the player who, in the final round, translates all of the played cards error-free.

Novices translate simple words, while advanced players translate more difficult words. In addition to vocabulary, there are also sentences and idiomatic expressions. New Amigos also includes geographical information and cards focused on culture, business, and food and drink.

New Amigos is a great game for language learners of all skill levels. Available for purchase online, there are four bilingual versions presently available: Spanish/Norsk, Arabic/Norsk, English/Norsk, and Spanish/English.

The Importance of Quality Adult Mentors for Youth

Kids need adult mentors in their lives. Adults with whom they trust and share common interests. Sometimes mentors can be a family member – an older sibling or an uncle. A mentor can also be a family friend or teacher within the community.

When we lived in Redding, my daughter developed a strong relationship with an elderly woman, Karen Scheuerman, who volunteered her time to lead nature outings for the youth in the community. In the beginning, we looked forward to these weekly excursions – a component of our Roots & Shoots club – because it was a chance to get outside and discover a new part of the local ecosystem.

Enjoying a walk near the lake on one of our many weekly nature outings.

Adult Mentors

As time progressed and we got to know Karen more, a mentor relationship developed that helped to foster my daughter’s interest in the natural world. Though we have since moved away, the lessons she imparted have stayed with us. Their connection fostered a passion for service and protecting the environment for my daughter.

Take a peak at one of our most cherished memories with Karen, Ladybugs Ladybugs Ladybugs!

Sadly, we recently learned that Karen has passed away. As we reflected on all that she taught us about caring for animals and caring for the environment, I began to realize just how important mentors are in the life of a child.

I also realized that Karen had special qualities that epitomized a great mentor relationship. She was of course friendly and outgoing but she had something special.

What are the qualities of effective adult mentors?

What qualities stand out to you in a mentor who is ultimately able to make a difference in the lives of youth? Below, I have outlined six important features of successful mentor relationships:

Be a friend

The successful mentors are the ones who can be a positive adult role model while focusing on the bonding and fun of a traditional friendship. It can be difficult for youth to befriend an unknown adult.

As a mentor, your goal is to help the relationship evolve into one of closeness and trust—but if you sound like you think you know everything or act like a parent and tell him what to do and how to act, you are likely to jeopardize your ability to build that trust.

Karen Scheuerman, mentor and wildlife conservation advocate in Northern California

Have realistic goals and expectations

Strong mentoring relationships do lead to positive changes in youth. These changes tend to occur indirectly, as a result of the close and trusting relationship, and they often occur slowly over time.

Have fun together

Sharing your expertise on a subject is of course educational and rewarding in itself. Having fun together also shows that you are reliable and committed. It is always possible to weave educational moments or real-life learning into the most “fun” activities. This is the kind of learning that youth tend to enjoy. It is learning with an immediate purpose and an immediate payoff; often they don’t even realize that they are learning.

Role models are highly important, helping to guide us through life during our development, to make important decisions that affect the outcome of our lives, and to help us find happiness in later life.

From my earlier post, Mentors & Role Models: The Positive Influences of Adults.

Give youth a choice

Giving your mentee voice and choice about activities will help build your friendship. Allowing them the freedom to choose or suggest activities demonstrates that you value their ideas and that you care about and respect her or him. The process can also help the child develop decision-making and negotiation skills.

Be positive

One of the most important things a mentor can do is to help develop self-esteem and self-confidence. Be encouraging and supportive; not criticizing. Many youth appreciate being able to bring up issues and having an adult who responds primarily by listening.

Listen

Just listening gives kids a chance to vent and lets them know that they can disclose personal matters without worrying about being criticized.

Respect the trust placed in you

As your relationship develops into one of closeness and trust, there might be times when the youth discloses something that causes real concern. As a supportive adult friend, you may be able to express that concern, but deliver your message in a way that also shows understanding and an ability to see her perspective.

Youth Activism: Don’t Silence Their Voices

At our weekly Scout meeting earlier this week we talked briefly about how we, as individuals can make a difference. If you do your duty, then you can make a difference and though you are just one person, together youth activism has the power to impact the world.

Youth activism is youth engagement in community organizing for social change. Youth participation in social change focuses more on issue-oriented activism than traditional partisan or electoral politics.

As hard as it seems, it’s possible to make a difference. All it takes is one idea and the right mix of determination and willpower to effect change at the local level. Start with one thing you’re passionate about and find small, local ways to organize and find solutions to the problem. 

Image of youth activist Greta Thunberg with her sign "Skolstrejk for Klimatet"

GRETA THUNBERG

By now, everyone has heard of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist focused on the risks posed by climate change. She began her school climate strike only a year ago. This past week, she inspired over 4 million people to take a stand for climate.

“Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed.”⁣⁣ ~ Greta Thunberg⁣⁣

Greta is great. However, if we center our attention and lift up only the white youth leaders on an international scale, we risk recreating the exact same dynamics of instilling a culture of white supremacy that is present in modern, adult organizing spaces. We risk silencing the voices of black, indigenous, and people of color .

Indigenous youth and adults have been tirelessly leading the fight for climate justice for millennia and yet their voices have not received the same recognition. Let’s celebrate a few of these amazing young activists!

Image of youth activist Autumn Peltier

AUTUMN PELTIER

⁣Autumun Peltier, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in Canada, was appointed chief water commissioner for the Ashinabek Nation and was recently nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded annually to a child who “fights courageously for children’s rights.” She was only 13-years-old when she addressed the UN General Assembly and told world leaders to “warrior up” to protect water.

Image of youth activist Isra Hirsi

ISRA HIRSI

Isra Hirsi, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She helped launch the U.S. movement the same month her mother, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, took office. She says the climate crisis “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.”

Image of youth activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ⁣⁣

Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement.⁣⁣ He has fought for climate protections and spoken to large crowds about the effects of fossil fuels on the Indigenous and other marginalized communities since he was six years old. In 2015, Martinez and 21 other youths filed a lawsuit against the US Federal government, Juliana et al. v United States et al. They argue that the federal government is denying their constitutional right to life, liberty and property by ignoring climate change. 

ROOTS & SHOOTS

Are you a young person interested in making change, but don’t know where to start? Or are you an adult who is inspired by the recent wave of youth activism in the U.S. and want to help out? Consider Roots & Shoots; join an established group in your area or start a new group for your homeschool community or at your school.

Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute, is a global movement of youth who are empowered to use their voice and actions to make compassionate decisions, influencing and leading change in their communities.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

Founded by Jane Goodall in 1991, the goal is to bring together youth from preschool to university age to work on environmental, conservation, and humanitarian issues. Roots & Shoots is a movement for youth just like Greta, Autumn, Isra, and Xiuhtezcatl …. just like you or your children.


Homeschool Science for College Bound Students

As a former elementary science specialist, science has always been a major part of our homeschool. During the grammar and logic stages, I taught each of the kids together following a three year cycle (life, earth, and physical sciences) emphasizing hands-on labs and outdoor experiences.

As the kids have matured and their interests have developed, I have begun to customize their coursework to align with college in mind and their individual career goals. As a result, the courses they have taken (or will have taken in the near future) are unique to each.

*Make sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post for an online homeschool high school science course. Giveaway ends 8/30/19!

Disclaimer:  I was compensated for my time for this review. All opinions are honest and I was not required to post a positive review.

Options for Homeschool Science

Providing a quality science education through high school is a common concern amongst homeschool families. Considerations like budget, time, and even your own level of comfort are frequent topics of conversation at co-op or in online forums.

There are many different avenues available for teaching science in your homeschool. While traditional textbooks, lab kits, and literature based instruction remain popular, online courses and dual enrollment are gaining momentum.

Dual Enrollment

In our homeschool, we opted for the dual enrollment option. This was the best choice for us for a multitude of reasons but primarily cost. Keep in mind, it is important to take into consideration the aptitude and maturity of the student prior to making this choice. It isn’t for everyone.

Additionally, the grades the student earns in college courses will forever be on their transcript. It is also critical to research the local regulations and admission guidelines of the universities to which your child intends to apply. Not all schools accept dual enrollment credit.

Another related option is credit by examination. Students may earn college credit through examination by passing standardized exams in numerous subjects including biology, chemistry, and natural sciences. Taking an accredited AP course is NOT required. Students may study independently using textbooks, online courses, or even tutors of their choice.

Online Courses

There are a growing number of companies that provide diverse online educational opportunities for students around the world. From computer programming to local ecology, the choices are endless.

Online classes are not just for kids. There are a wealth of courses and materials available for adults providing both personal enrichment and professional development.

College Prep Science

One provider that stands out is College Prep Science. I am impressed by the acumen of the author. He has worked as a college professor, has more than twenty years of experience teaching homeschooled students, and he’s a homeschool dad!

The course offerings are diverse, here are a few that will be offered September 2019:

  •  Biology – College Prep (9th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Chemistry – College Prep (10th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Physics – College Prep (10th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology (9th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Exercise and Sports Physiology (8th-12th) – One Semester Class

Like most public and private schools, College Prep Science uses a virtual lab service with all classes that allows students to perform very realistic labs online. Students are able to virtually pour liquids and chemicals, light burners, move things in the lab, weigh things, measure temperatures, record results, etc.

The courses provided by College Prep Science are Christ-centered.

Students are instructed on how to produce quality lab reports and they turn-in formal lab reports which are graded. Emphasis is placed on students understanding scientific inquiry, the scientific method, and the resulting science lab reports.

“We focus on building critical thinking skills and developing a research and inquiry mindset with the resulting quality lab reports and thinking skills that affect every area of academics and life.”  ~ Greg Landry, College Prep Science

Summer Camps & Weekend Intensives

Often you can also find incredible summer opportunities at your state university. A year ago, my daughter took part in a week long intensive engineering camp where she was able to take part in authentic research, connect with professors in her prospective field, and make friends with other teens with the same goals.

College Prep Science

College Prep Science offers two day Biology and Chemistry Lab Intensives in 15 locations nationwide. Parents may issue school credit for these as they deem appropriate. According to their website, each two day intensive is the equivalent of a full school year of labs.

They also provide online bootcamps for ACT prep and CLEP Biology prep. For students planning to be science majors in college, doing well on the “science reasoning” section of the ACT is especially important. 

Online Science Class Giveaway

To enter this amazing giveaway of an online science class ($680 value) from College Prep Science, you’ll need to subscribe to their newsletter. One winner will be announced in their newsletter on August 30, 2019.

Teaching homeschool science with college in mind does not have to be overwhelming. I hope these options can help you successfully navigate high school science. Best wishes with the giveaway!