getting started homeschooling, homeschooling

Why I Homeschool

“I educate my kids because it’s not normal to me to send them away to learn from strangers that do not necessarily hold my same beliefs and certainly don’t care about my children’s future more than I do.

“I want to watch them grow up, and I don’t want to miss all those hours they would be away from me.

“I want to have and know their hearts.

“I teach them at home because I want them to grow up together as siblings, not segregated into groups according to their date of birth for a ridiculous amount of time every year only to learn to value friendships over their siblings and to question their parents’ authority and knowledge.

“I want them to know God and not be exposed to things before they are ready.

“I want them to learn at their own pace and not feel bad about it.

“I want them to follow their passions without a time constraint of having to complete a ridiculous amount of homework while crushing not only any time left they have to pursue their interests wholeheartedly but also their love of learning.

“I teach them because sending my kids away from home to learn makes the same amount of sense to me as sending my child to school to learn how to talk.”

[Used with the poster’s permission from a post on a national homeschool Facebook group.]

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

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getting started homeschooling, homeschooling

11 Things Homeschool Moms Need to Know

1) Homeschool –when it’s effective– very seldom looks like the public school. Don’t copy the broken system you left. Don’t try to keep up with the school system.

2) You can’t teach your child everything they need to know. No teacher can not even the best professional teacher. Accept that. It’s okay.

3) If you can instill a love of learning in your child, he’ll fight you less and be willing to fill in those gaps himself if he needs to when he’s older.

4) You can’t force learning. You can try, but the truth is that real knowledge is obtained voluntarily. Anything else is less effective and will be miserable for the child and you.

5) When homeschooling is done wrong, homeschool parents can become bullies themselves doing damage to their own children in the name of education. Don’t force learning to the detriment of your child.

6) Tests and quizzes are unnecessary. They’re a method of monitoring large groups but really not necessary in a homeschool environment. Like all curriculum, it’s your tool, not your master. Don’t use anything unless you see its value in your situation.

7) The issue of socialization is a non-issue. We’ve been brainwashed into believing this was an issue. Don’t believe the lies.

8) Your child’s emotional, mental, and psychological well-being are way more important than a schedule or goal.

9) Some of the most efficient kinds of education methods are the ones that look the least like “regular” educational methods. My favorite non-traditional methods are Delight-led Learning and Unschooling. Your children are learning all the time even when it doesn’t look like school.

10) Trust your instincts even if it’s way different than what’s considered normal. You’ve been teaching this child’s since he was born and have way more knowledge of what works for this child’s than any “professional.”

11) You have something to offer your child that he’s not likely going to get from a teacher: unconditional love. Don’t underestimate its power. Love is an amazingly powerful tool that has the power to heal.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

getting started homeschooling, homeschooling

Why You Need to Know Your State Homeschool Laws

Although Oregons homeschool laws are very lax, I was rather shaken into reality last week when I attempted to enlist the help of the local public high school to test my oldest son for his learning disabilities.

Accommodating to his needs hasn’t been a problem. We’ve found ways to make learning possible. It was through done trial and error, but that was many years ago now and we’ve basically got it figured out now.

So, an IEP or a 504 isn’t that valuable to me. It can’t do anything I’m not already doing.  Since legally in Oregon homeschools are a separated kind of organization, different from either the public or the private school, I am not required to have either of those.

I had tried in the past (when he was in grade school) to have him tested and we met with challenges that included not being able to find someone well-versed in learning disabilities and also his high intelligence possibly masking some of the problems.

 

What got me started on this train of thought to revisit the issue is multiple conversations in various online forums. One mom insisted that unless I got him an IEP now, at the beginning of highschool, he wouldn’t be afforded any accommodations when he got to college.  

First if all, this sent me into a panic which I admit was an overreaction on my part. I was in the middle of fighting another kidney infection and not thinking clearly through the pain. So I freaked out and started doing all the research I could to find out how I could guarantee that my son would have accommodations if he needed them in college.

The lady on the one forum who pushed me hard to go the public school lives in a state where any homeschoolers are already under the authority of the public school.  

She had no idea that my laws were different and that if I pursued this I had the potential to lose the ability to make educational choices for my son.  By choosing to use the public school system, I was giving up our autonomy and choosing to have their oversight.

Now,  before I go farther,  I should clarify something.  I’m not anti public school.  I don’t think you’re in sin if you send your kids there,  wrong if you use a charter school instead of traditionally homeschooling,  and I’m not about to diss the public schools.

I’m a homeschool graduate,  so people assume I’m anti public school.  I’m not. I have extreme philosophical differences with the public schools and I don’t believe that their method of educational is the only way or even the best way. But that’s just an opinion about methods.

I have significant trauma from my public school years, but my best friend in high school attended public school and had no problems. She even thrived there and graduated with her faith intact.

So with those caveats, let me move forward with my explanation of why you need to know your state laws,  why it’s not good enough just to take advice from any random person on Facebook or a homeschool forum without checking that advice against your laws specifically.

– Laws vary by state.

– In Oregon homeschools are considered a separate entity –legally recognized as separate.

– To partake in the public schools in Oregon is to relinquish our autonomy as a homeschool and place ourselves under the public school’s authority.

– Once I relinquish that autonomy the decisions about my son’s education are no longer mine alone to make. I only regain that authority by removing us from the public school again.

– No one in my little town has ever tried to get a homeschool teen tested for learning disabilities at the public high school. It has never been done, so there is no precedent regarding how this situation would be handled. The school administration had to have a special meeting about how to handle our situation.

– A similar attempt to access school services  in a different town near us (which we pay for and are legally available to us homeschoolers) resulted in Child Protective Services being called because the special ed teacher –who had exactly zero knowledge of homeschool law– decided that the mom –who was in obedience to homeschool law– was not doing enough to educate her special needs child. This was at the middle school level.

– Once you access government services like public school, you lose access to representation like that which is available through HSLDA because, legally you’re not homeschooling anymore.

– The school insisted that I bring proof that I was educating him even though they didn’t know what the legal homeschool requirements were or what proof was legally required ;they wanted to see tests, quizzes, etc. Since we do online school, did delight led, unschooling, and oral work when he was younger, and only do state mandated tests every few years (the last one was almost 3 years ago), I didn’t have anything concrete and in paper form to show them.  They really didn’t like this. They really didn’t understand how homeschooling works.

– They were willing to do a meeting to explore possibly testing him, but any additional services  were contingent upon me enrolling him full-time in the high school. I think that is against federal law but I don’t have the energy to fight it. I am pretty sure it would require getting a lawyer and then do I really want my child around people who I forced to help him against their will?

– Many parents have successfully gotten their children enrolled in special needs services through the public schools, but it is nearly always done at a younger age.  

– The fact that he was still struggling with learning disabilities and that I did not diagnosed him when he was younger was apparently an indication to the special ed teacher that I was not doing my job properly. I’m not sure how that makes sense logically since many bright students don’t get diagnosed, and learning disabilities don’t go away simply because a child gets of high school age.

– I was only interested in help with the learning disabilities.  However, help was not available through the school district without strings attached. This is the case with many government programs, unfortunately.

This is why it is imperative that you know the laws for your state. If I had followed the advice that worked in other states, I had the potential to open a can of worms I didn’t want to have to deal with and a can that may not have easily been reclosed.  

In some states, homeschoolers are already under their local school or already are regulated about what they have to do when or even answer to public school teachers..  In some states, you wouldn’t necessarily lose your homeschool status by using those services.  I do know families in Oregon who use the school services and the school leaves them alone to homeschool, but none of those families tried to access those services at the high school level.  The high school seemed keen on proving that I was not doing a sufficient job, because if I had been my son wouldn’t have needed their help.  

In the end, we declined the public schools offer to enroll him full time and chalked it up to a lesson learned. Instead, we’re looking into having the testing done at a local college.  Apparently, contrary to what I was told, it is quite common for colleges to diagnose learning disabilities and even if he had an IEP or 504 in high school, it would have to be revisited and reevaluated when he got to college anyway.

So all my stressing was for nought.

Remember how I mentioned before that the pressure for homeschool moms to succeed is immense?  Even those of us who champion ignoring that stress and letting your child learn naturally occasionally lose sight of that and give into the stress.

It was actually my husband who finally calmed me down. We were out to dinner alone, and I was venting all my frustrations about the situation and telling him how I was doing the boys a disservice because we didn’t have them properly diagnosed.

He told me that in his observation the learning disabilities are not causing as many problems as I feared they were. He reminded me that many kids don’t get diagnosed with learning disabilities until adulthood (myself included), and that they fare well when they receive support, accommodation, and encouragement (which my children have).

He squeezed my hand and told me it would be alright.

His confidence in me and in our son’s ability to attack whatever challenges he faced was reassuring.  

We’re still looking into other options, but they’ll be private options because I’m unwilling to allow someone at the public school to have power over my son’s education.

Next time, hopefully, I will think before I freak out.

This is just one incident, but it serves as a good reminder that we need to know our state laws and how to work within those so that we don’t accidentally shoot ourselves in the foot.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

getting started homeschooling, homeschooling

Does Psalm 1 Mean You Biblically Must Homeschool?

Although my theology differs from Voddie Bauchman’s and he’s a little too patriarchal for me, I often find things he says I do agree with.

This however, I do not agree with:


“If Psalm 1 is to be believed, we must not allow our children to stand, sit or walk with those who deny biblical truth and morality.” –Voddie Baucham Jr


He is referring to this verse:


Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners,  nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2


Like Bauchman’s belief that women must keep having babies, a false teaching which I discussed in my quiverfull post, he based his conclusions on a misunderstanding of how promises should be interpreted and applied to our lives.  

As I’ve discussed before, promises are not commands.

A blessing is an extra benefit, extra favor.

It is an extra benefit if we are able to not surround ourselves with those who are against God.

But is it a sin, wrong, immoral –or anything like that– if we find ourselves in a situation where we are surrounded by unbelievers?

No! Of course not.

In fact, we are commanded to go, commanded to be ready to give an answer, commanded to shine in the dark spaces.

Is it wise if you choose to not surround  your child with negative influences when they are young?

Yes, it is absolutely wise to make careful choices for yourself and your children.

Is it wise if you are careful who is influencing you?

Yes, we should be vigilant that the influences we allow in our lives are not ungodly.

But is it a sin to be around unbelievers?

No, that’s ridiculous!

You don’t always have the option to not be around sinful people.

In fact, we’re not supposed to never be around sinful people.

How can we go and preach and be a light if we are never around people who are unbelievers?

We can’t. 

Homeschooling allows us more control over how and when our young people interact with those who may be hostile to our faith, but Psalms 1 does not teach that we’re in sin if our children are ever around those who aren’t part of our faith.

Not only that, this interpretation of this Old Testament, Mosaic Law Era passage is in direct conflict with New Testament commands that we go to the people of the world. We do not see the members of the early church in the book of Acts shutting themselves off from the world.

If we are hiding away from all unbelievers we are violating direct commands to us, Gentiles, during the Age of Grace.

This verse does not teach that we can’t be around unbelievers.

(Even if it did command that,  it would be an Old Testament command which would not apply to us today.)

And it doesn’t teach that sending your children to public school is a sin.

This is a twisting of scripture.


It’s not the only scripture that I’ve seen used to try to make the Bible say homeschooling is the only way.

My husband actually laughed the first time he heard this idea.

We’re homeschool graduates, but we were not raised with homeschooling as part of our religion.

He said “Do people really think that every single parent between 1900 and 1960  was in sin for not homeschooling?”

(I have known families who believed that you weren’t even saved if you didn’t homeschool.)

Most states made school attendance mandatory sometime before 1900, and the first of the homeschool pioneers emerged in the 1960s.

Do we honestly think that every God fearing, Jesus loving, Holy Spirit following parent for 60 years ignored the Holy Spirit’s conviction?

That’s a pretty ridiculous assertion.

But a bigger issue to understand is this:

The issue is how we approach scripture and not twisting the Bible to suit what we want it to say.

From the Quiverfull post:



Those who take this point of view unfortunately don’t have a very solid grasp on bible interpretation.

The big error in this argument is assuming that a blessing is a command.

A blessing is NOT a command.

How we approach scripture matters. We need a consistent approach that follows clear rules.

One of these bible interpretation rules is that you look at the context of a passage and take it at face value within that context.

A consistent approach to scripture means that if we take one blessing as a command then every single blessing in the bible must also be a command.

God doesn’t make mistakes: He wouldn’t accidentally write one blessing that He meant to be a command.

So, that begs the question “Can every blessing be logically converted to a command and still make sense?”

I would argue that some of them cannot.

For instance,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:2-12

If it is true that every blessing is a command then logically –and for the sake of consistency– the above verses would have to be commands as well.

If that is true then if you’re not mourning, being persecuted, and being mistreated you are in sin and disobeying the commands.

This does not make sense.

Nowhere in scripture is it indicated that blessings are commands.


This is huge!

A blessing is favorable.

It does bring benefits.

But it is not a sin to NOT do it.

So please stop using this scripture to try to make parents who do not homeschool feel like they are in sin.

Those who misuse scripture should be concerned about their own sin.

Additionally, if you are homeschooling, you need to be careful that you are actually fulfilling the New Testament commands to go, witness, and disciple.  

Your first disciples are your children, but they are not the only people you are called to reach.

It is possible for homeschoolers to shut themselves off so much from all bad influences and anything that is worldly that they cease to impact the world around them and become insular in their own little group.

And then, in an effort to fulfill a misunderstood command (which is really a blessings) you could be disobeying scripture.

This is actually one valid concern that Christians who send their children to public school voice about homeschooling.

This is a legitimate concern.

Most homeschoolers I know are out in the world taking classes, being in their neighborhoods and communities, serving in their churches, etc. But the possibility exists that we could be breaking real New Testament commands in our efforts to insulate our children.

We need to act in wisdom.

Unless we are actually keeping them away from people, we are not sinning.

My family is out and about nearly every day, but I do know families who will not having anything to do with others who do not believe the same as they do.

If we are not sinning by intentionally isolating our families, then how we handle this falls into our Christian stewardship.

Christian stewardship gives us the freedom to do as we believe is best.

Christian stewardship applies to anything about which there are not clear commands in scripture.

Where your child goes to school is part of your Christian stewardship.

It is not a sin to send your children to public school. I will address this more fully another time in another post.

Don’t let anyone add to the clear rules in scripture.

That’s what the Pharisees did. They had good intentions, I am sure, but Jesus had harsh things to say about them.

We should take the warnings about the Pharisees seriously and not add to scripture.

And don’t make blessings into commands. It makes all kinds of problems in our application of scripture if we do not understand these important issues.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

This post is dedicated to my longtime friend Cati who cared enough about me to graciously challenge what I had been taught about Psalms 1.

ADHD, getting started homeschooling, homeschooling

13 Ideas for Starting a Special Needs Homeschool Co-op

I’ve had three requests for an overview of our co-op in the last week.

I’m going to give an outline of what worked for us.

It’s important to understand why you would make certain choices for the group so that you can adjust those choices if they don’t work.  It’s also important to mention that what worked for us will not automatically work for a different group of parents and children.


1) Pick a location that doesn’t mind loud, rambunctious, and sometimes disorderly children.

It’s hard for neurotypical children to be quiet and never goof off –even more so for special needs kids.  

If the location has hand made and vintage items on display that’s probably not a great location. In one location, I was constantly protecting breakable and irreplaceable items from small children.

If you’re going to get chided by the neighbors or office spaces around you for having playing or giggling children, it’s not a good fit.

We attended a gym activity for a while where the offices down the hall from the gym (they owned the business and allowed use of the gym space) would regularly ask us to quiet down.  They knowingly allowed use of the space for a grade school and middle school gym time but got upset when the grade schoolers made any noise in the gym. That’s not a good fit. It was unreasonable to ask our kids to play games like red rover, simon says, dodgeball, and basketball in silence. If they weren’t going to be active, it defeated the point of renting the gym space.


2. Have clear, concise rules and display and review them.  

Clear rules are necessary for special needs kids. They need to be reminded at least at the beginning of each co-op.

Make sure the rules are doable. For example, don’t have a “sit still” rule if you gave a bunch of ADHD kids.

Include a be nice rule. My rule was to treat other people and their property with respect. This includes no bullying which is important because special needs kids can be the victim or the aggressor in the bullying scenario.

I taped rules on the walls in various locations around our building. Out of bounds areas were clearly marked. There was a sign on the exterior door saying “No children outside without an adult” (because of a busy road nearby). These signs serve as reminders for forgetful children.  

Do not expect them to remember without being reminded.


3. Have age inclusive activities.

ADHD kids are often intellectually above their peers while emotionally below them. The same can be true for autistic children.

So putting them in an age defined group often results in social rejection. Social rejection is devastating.

If you have a mixed age group then the children can gravitate to whoever they’re most comfortable with.  

If the 12 year old boy with autism still likes Curious George, he can hang out with the 6 year old and visit about it. Then, when he wants to talk about competitive chess, he can go talk to the 15 year old.

This is actually very healthy social interaction because he’s learning to interact with people of multiple ages. My definition of socialization is the ability to interact with people of diverse ages and diverse beliefs in a healthy way.

It also allows moms with multiple kids who all have special needs to keep their kids together  (all in one place where she can observe and oversee all of them).


4. Require parental involvement.  

Even if you are trained to deal with special needs kids, the needs of every individual child vary to the point that many kids all together would be overwhelming.  

Our events were never drop off events.

The parents were expected to come and be part of the group.

This allowed them to monitor the individual behavior of their children and step in when needed.  A parent is going to recognize the signs of an autistic meltdown or sensory overload in their child a long time before you do and can intervene before the situation hits critical mass.


5. Don’t have mandatory teaching.

I did expect parental involvement. I did not, however, expect every parent to teach. I took volunteers and never had a lack of volunteers to teach.

This left the moms with 2 or 3 special needs kids –or even one high maintenance kid– free to watch her charge and not have to be in change of the group.  


6. Have low academic standards for the group.

If you want to win a very rigorous competition, this is not the group for it.

Many of these kids will not handle that level of stress well. The moms will end up doing most of the work because the kids are unable to do what’s “normal” for their age.  

We did no-homework classes. Some of the classes were academic (like Hebrew for kids) but they were very low demand. This was necessary to not overwhelm. We tried to do classes that all ages could enjoy.

Ideas include: science experiments, crochet, pottery, sign language, reading club, PE, introduction to a language (like Hebrews class).

There was no way that I could have coordinated a rigorous math or grammar class that was for a specific grade and finished it in one school year. That’s just too demanding.

We tried one co-op where the group was participating in an national competition.  For kids (mostly boys) between the ages of 8 and 12, there were lectures where the children were expected to sit still, listen, and take notes; then they were expected to come up with ideas,  make presentations, and even design webpages.

The mom in charge did not understand why I thought this was unreasonable. She had girls and no special needs kids.  

They actually won one of the prizes in the competition.  Good for them!  But it was not a good fit for my family.  


7. Allow babies and toddlers.

Many homeschool moms who get involved with co-ops have to go hire babysitters so that they can teach and participate.  

Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It’s a family sport. So let the moms bring their little kids.

Have a space where they can take a very fussy baby but allow happy baby and little kid noises in the classes.

This is part of being age-inclusive.

I’ve seen a mom with a sleeping infant strapped on her chest, holding hands with her giggling sensory preschooler, working on sign language worksheets with her autistic grade schooler.

It’s a different way of thinking from the public schools,  but it’s been done this way for generations.



8. Encourage parents to bring food.

We were part of a co-op that had a no food rule. It was actually the church’s (the location’s) rules, but it was very hard for little kids to be in the classes for hours and not have a snack.

Many special needs kids are very affected by blood sugar issues. Allowing food and snack time can stave off a meltdown.

Make sure to have a rule about no sharing food because special needs kids are more likely to have food sensitivities like gluten, food dyes, and sugar.


9. Have a quiet room.

Special needs kids get overwhelmed. Anticipate that. Sometimes they need a break away from everyone else to calm down.  

We had an assigned quiet room. In that room you had to be quiet. You could play a video game,  read a book,  or listen to an Ipod, but you couldn’t go in there and goof off with friends.

This room was set aside specifically for kids who have Sensory Processing Disorder or other similar disorders.  

I think this was one of the things that helped the co-op the most.


9.  Keep the meeting times short.

We started at 10 AM and went to 4 PM, and honestly that was just too long for most of the kids. By 1 PM or 2 PM some of them were getting overwhelmed –even some of the high schoolers.

I would recommend a maximum of two hours of classes or activities. You could do longer if you’re doing games and lunch.

Right now,  my family is hosting a noon to 4pm lunch and game time at a local church. We play video games and board games in the youth room. Even the four hours is sometimes too much, but less than that and the teens can’t finish their board games.  



10. Don’t meet every week.

Every week is quite possibly too often for special needs kids (and special needs moms).

You’ll have to see based on the group you have,  but the moms in my group thanked me for not doing a weekly co-op.

We got together  one time a month when we were doing the co-op, and now we get together  one time a month for game time.  


11. Keep the co-op low stress and low demand.

Realize that special needs kids probably have special needs parents.  

Odds are that if your child has ADHD, either you or your husband have ADHD as well.

This is not true in every case of course, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Parents get overwhelmed with loud noises, stressed out, confused over social expectations, and many of the same things their kids deal with but hopefully with better coping skills.

Anticipate that and treat people with grace.


12. Allow people to come and go as needed –no questions asked. 

If you have a child who is having a sensory meltdown,  you know the looks.  

When your child is interrupting and making a scene, often times people act like it’s your fault and make an already stressful situation more stressful.  

That’s  what we tried to avoid.

We addressed this issue straight on.

We knew some kids would end up struggling. That’s okay.  

No judgement.  

These kids need patience and love not harshness.

So, knowing that our kids have good days and bad days, I made a rule that you could come and go when it was necessary.  

If your child is having a bad day, come late.

It’s fine.

We get it.

If they’re not dealing with people very well that day,  leave if you need to and go home.

No judgement.  

We live with this, too.

I actually had a mother cry when her child had a meltdown and everyone acted cool about it, like her child was normal and accepted.  

That’s what these kids need: a loving, accepting, and emotionally safe environment.  


13. Ask for extra volunteer help.

Older brothers and sisters, dads, and grandmas are all great ideas for extra helpers.

What is most important is that these people understand what it means to have a special needs child.

Someone who thinks autism is caused by bad parenting would not be a good fit.

My mother, my older friend, and my other friend’s husband all helped. Sometimes all they did was observe for behavior that needed addressed and motion to the parent who might have been distracted with another kid.

Don’t underestimate the value of older teens helping with younger kids. 

These teens are likely going to have kids one day. They can pick up a sippy cup that fell on the floor or play peekaboo with a fussy baby during lunch time. They can sit in a chair next to a preschooler and help them color and retrieve the crayons that fall on the floor.

They might be able to do more depending on their maturity.

This is life training.

This is apprenticing that teen in adult behavior.

It’s an invaluable part of their education.


One thing I haven’t mentioned was how invaluable Facebook was in gathering the moms and organizing the activities. Every last special needs family in our group was a result of Facebook interaction. I used Facebook to schedule all our co-op days and field trips. We had a closed group for this purpose. 

The main reason my co-op isn’t still going is my health. Mid-year last year I started hemorrhaging, and it was kind of serious. I couldn’t keep up with the level of organization necessary to lead.

Since there wasn’t anyone else who was able to step up and lead the co-op, we minimized stress by changing locations (closer to my house) and only doing a game time.

If I’m having a really bad day,  I lay or sit on one of the couches in the youth room and visit with the other moms while the kids play games.  

Pretty low key.

As always, you have to figure out what works for your group in any given situation.  

This is just what worked for us.

We need a lot more special needs friendly co-ops out there!

I couldn’t find one, so I started my own.

I hope this post was insightful.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes