Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why I Oppose the Tim Tebow Bill



In Texas, the Tim Tebow Bill is working its way through the State Legislature. It promises equal UIL participation for homeschoolers. On the surface. But it has problems. In a state where there is zero regulation for homeschooling, the bill actually inserts a testing requirement for students who participate in UIL. 

I do not support this bill, as I do not support regulation in homeschools. In a letter to the members of the Senate Education Committee, I shared why. I'm sharing that letter with you today. 

Texas is my home state, and I am thankful for the freedom we enjoy to Homeschool without regulation. Every single school day in our home is a joy to me, because I am spending the short years of childhood watching my children learn and grow.

As you are aware, Texas homeschools fall under the definition of private schools, giving us 100% freedom to direct the education of our children. No testing is required, no state curriculum must be followed. I believe that at some point in the future, the Tim Tebow Bill would lead to a loss of these freedoms. Right now we are THE BEST state in the country in which to Homeschool, and many, many families have made Texas their home state simply for this reason. It’s that important to them.

There are many Homeschool families who oppose this bill, because we all believe that it will lead to questioning of our curriculum, “passing” grades, and how we spend our day, all of which will lead down a path to regulations that we currently do not have. It will not take long for the parent of a public school team member, a public school teacher, or a coach to question the fairness of allowing homeschooled children to participate in UIL activities while not being required to follow all public school rules (curriculum, tests, etc.). This will open a new discussion, which will eventually end up in Austin as a bill requiring more intense scrutiny of how homeschoolers educate their children.

How do I know this? Two reasons. First, in the first year of our homeschooling in Oklahoma, my parents were arrested on charges of truancy. Who called the police? A local school official. Second, I am a local contact for families in my area who are interested in homeschooling their children. I get calls and emails of all sorts from new or current homeschooling families telling of trouble with the local school district. The majority of public school officials are not friendly to homeschoolers, but see them as a threat to their funding. The passage of the Tim Tebow Bill will most certainly heighten this problem.

I do not want or need a state curriculum or outline to educate my children. Many may see this as my having something to hide, but it’s actually quite the opposite. In fact I welcome any who read this letter to visit us in our Homeschool to witness how homeschooling benefits children.

Texas history is not limited to one grade level in our home. When we planned our last trip to the Alamo, all of my children learned Texas History together. We read several books together, including “A Time to Stand.” In that book we felt the determination of the Alamo defenders, the desperation of knowing that help wasn’t coming, and we all cried when the Alamo fell. But we thrilled together when Sam Houston and his band lead the battle of San Jacinto and captured Santa Anna. After these moving stories, we visited the Alamo as a family. It just happened to be the 175th anniversary of the battle. When we walked inside, the entire building was filled with funeral flowers from all over the state. Our family felt the respect, the awe, and the sadness inside that place as we stood where the defenders stood and fell. When we came around to the little room where Susannah Dickerson had huddled with her child, listening to the sounds of battle and knowing that her husband was among the dying, the tears flowed freely.

We did not use a textbook, and no one took a test. Neither was necessary, because they lived the story through real books and walking in the Alamo. Some books we read were far above the “reading level” of my younger children, but they were a part of our “curriculum” because they are exciting stories.

This same type of education takes place over and over in our home. If one child is slow to gain math concepts, we spend as much time as necessary to gain mastery. One math book might take a year and a half, and the next one might only take 4 months.

One of my children had the hardest time understanding pi, so we spent about 3 weeks on what the math book considered a one-week lesson. I sat by my daughter as she worked problem after problem, always with my help, until she understood it. On the very last day of that lesson, she said, “I finally understand, Mom. I can do this page alone.”

Another child has an advanced level of comprehension in every single subject (and every extracurricular activity he tries). He typically moves ahead in his work, even catching up to his older brother and sharing some lessons with him.

One of my children (age 9) has such a desire for learning that every new thing fascinates him, so as soon as he discovers a new topic, he follows every rabbit trail he can. A love of tigers led him to study where they live in the wild, which led to a fascination for Africa, which led to a desire to read maps, which led to an obsession with a high-school geography book, which led to an interest in the layers of the earth which all made sense because he plays Minecraft. I don’t even know what grades all those things would be taught in a public school, but it doesn’t matter, because he studied them all voluntarily. Again, no textbook was involved and no test was required. I knew exactly what he had learned because he kept telling me. : ) All of this was done alongside math, spelling, cursive, reading, and history.

I could go on, but you get the idea. This concept is not new to homeschoolers. THIS is why we in Texas highly value our regulation-free homeschools. The joy of learning is so exciting to witness in our kids when not hampered by a list of do’s and don’ts, grade levels, and passing requirements. Not every family structures their education like our family, but that’s the beautiful part! Some families DO use textbooks, tests, and standardized testing. Because they can, not because they have to.

This bill is not all it's advertised to be.There are a few common arguments against this bill, which I will address:

We pay school taxes. Why shouldn't we use the school in exchange?

Fred Watt, a homeschool dad and homeschool sports coach, answered that question best in his own analysis of the bill:

"I find it highly ironic and in fact a bit hypocritical that so many homeschoolers -- those of us who are quick to self-identify as conservative Christians, and profess a strong affinity toward a strict constructionist view of the Constitution -- would be jumping on the bandwagon to push something that effectively amounts to . . . an entitlement!"
My family pays $200 per month in school taxes for a school we don't use. I don't like it. I'd rather put $200 per month into my homeschool, But taxes are a necessary evil. For the county taxes I pay, I'd love to submit a request to have my gravel county road paved nice and smooth. But that's not how it works. The senior citizens down the street pay school taxes; what do they get out of it? Nothing. Because it's not an order form for goods and services. It's how government operates, whether we like it or not.

We live in a rural area, where there are no homeschool teams.

My short answer: start one. Every other homeschool team/association started with just one parent who was willing to do the work. These homeschool teams and groups are not limited to the large cities; our tiny community has a homeschool sports association, started by parents who wanted to give their kids a team sport. They went on to compete against public and private schools and even win tournaments. Just do a quick Google search of Texas Homeschool Sports Associations and you'll see that this is not a far-fetched idea.

My reeeealy personal (and controversial) opinion is that those who support this bill are not of the first wave of homeschoolers in Texas who fought for their freedom and value it highly. They are of the second wave who may not share the same convictions for homeschooling their children. Some of them do it because it's easy to do in Texas without realizing that this was not always the case. Some choose to keep the option of public school open for the future because they are flexible in their opinion of education options. 

That first wave (to which I belong) remembers that it was a hard and scary decision to do what no one else was doing, to be ridiculed by their own family members, to fear (and sometimes suffer) arrest, to stay indoors during school hours because any neighbor or passerby might call CPS, and to keep an attorney's phone number near the front door in case that dreaded knock should come. THEY (WE) are the families who oppose this bill because THEY (WE) know that freedom is precious, and for Texans it's like living in the promised land. We want the freedom, we have the freedom, and we will fight to preserve that freedom.

The one answer I don't have: Why the Texas Homeschool Coalition is pushing this bill so fervently. I cannot figure that out. But I disagree with them on this issue and I will reconsider my free recommendation of their association to the homeschoolers I speak with constantly.

To read about my parent's arrest, click here. To read about my family's part in the 1986 Austin TEA Party, click here.  As you can see, I take this very seriously. : )

For more on why this bill is not good for Texas, start here. Sign the petition and share, share, share.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Busting the Socialization Myth - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, I attempted to show that homeschoolers are definitely not suffering from a lack of socialization. Rather, they experience a level of social interaction that produces the kind of people I think everyone desires.

I attempted to prove that homeschool kids don't actually live under rocks, possessing only Bibles, granola, and slingshots. We do actually go out into the world and interact with other humans. A lot. But since we are homeschoolers, a lot of our time is spent at home, with our families.

And this is actually the perfect training ground for social interaction.

Interacting with family members gives ample opportunity for kids to learn how to relate to others, while in the forgiving and comfortable environment of their own home. They learn by waking up and greeting family members with a good attitude, eating breakfast cheerfully (even if oatmeal is NOT their favorite), looking people in the eye when carrying on conversation, speaking in complete sentences, completing tasks alone or with others, and hundreds of other incidents while under the instruction and observation of parents who love them and desire their best.



They learn to properly greet a stranger at the door, answer the phone, discuss a favorite book, ask (and answer) questions, listen patiently to a toddler (or any sibling) ramble on about a "boring" topic longer than they'd wish, and when to put their phones away and be present with the people in the room. They don't disappear to their rooms when company comes, but sit around the living room and join in conversation with the adults.



But there are a couple of other things that people confuse with the need for socialization: the fear that homeschool kids might be weird or immature.


Nicholas reads about Tigers with his safari hat, because every day has its own costume.

I actually know plenty of people homeschool moms who are afraid their kids will be weird. But what they're doing is buying into the very same thought process that if you aren't just like all the other kids out there, you're still doing something wrong.

Some of you want your kids to be super smart, super talented, and graduate at 15. But you want them to look and act like all the other kids. It just doesn't work that way. The reason it seems that kids raised at home are "weird" is just because they are different.

But consider: they are literally developing their own personalities without the influence of a classroom full of children in which the leaders determine what's cool and what's not. They get to be who they are! Isn't that what everyone, the world over, tells us we should do??? Be Yourself. Unless what you are is not pre-approved by the cool kids. Then don't be yourself. It's just too weird.

This excellent article "Why are homeschooled kids so annoying?" hits the nail on the head. "And what do I mean by “annoying”?  I mean what people mean when they say that homeschooled kids are annoying.  I mean kids who ask too many questions and know too much information and like certain stuff and refuse to like other things and don’t care what other people think about their silly hobbies and their know-it-all-ness."

If your kid recites a list of dinosaur facts a mile long for fun, embrace it! If your daughter reads and writes for 8-10 hours, be thankful! Bug collections, Rubik's cube obsession, castle drawings, electronics tinkering, perfecting headstands in the living room, dabbling with endless pasta recipes...they all spring from your child's inner person. It's who they are, or at least developing who they will become. And the end result is going to be someone who has explored all the different little rabbit holes until they found their main path to adulthood. They will have traveled that path without ridicule, teasing, peer pressure, and bullying.


In the meantime, maybe they will wear some weird stuff, or tell you "cool things about wolverines"  till your eyes start to cross.


Maybe you'll walk into a room and see your daughter doing schoolwork while it looks like she's playing Headbanz. Maybe your son will only wear camo for the next 18 months of his life. Maybe your son will carry around a thick book of geography, memorizing everything he can about the jungles of South America.

Maybe your daughter will wear a sock sticking out of her pants every day because she's a wolf and the sock is her tail, and she plans to grow up and be a "baby wolf scientist." My cousin did that as a little girl! But you know what? That same cousin is now 20, pursuing a political journalism major in college, and producing a talk radio show in Washington D.C. in her spare time. Yeah. I'd say she's pretty normal. No; actually, she's above average. And she was raised at home, socialized under her parents' protection, and has turn into a very likable young adult. My just-turned-18-year-old daughter was asked to be a shift manager at the local Starbucks, before she reached the age to be eligible. Her boyfriend's boss tried to promote him to manager at the fast food place where he works, before he turned 18. All three of these kids never set foot in a public school, and did not receive the indoctrination socialization that the world out there mistakenly desires for them.

What about immaturity? Again, I think the wrong label is being slapped on a lot of kids who are actually innocent. I know a LOT of  kids who are an interesting mixture of innocence and maturity. They are overjoyed with simple pleasures and love to laugh and have fun and play like kids, but they have a level of maturity that makes them responsible, understanding, and smart kids.

Childhood innocence is something to be treasured. And it's the very thing that's missing in that holy grail of public education call socialization: it's the exact opposite of innocence. The innocence of children is snatched away, not only by peers, but by the school's teachers and curriculum. I don't need to remind you what's being taught to very young children in schools that is far ahead of their ability to understand, let alone need it.

So, please, moms and dads who are afraid that your kids will be messed up because they are raised at home: quit listening to the "experts" (seriously, though!) and let wisdom be your guide.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. Proverbs 3:5-6

Be patient through those years where your kids are kinda different from the other kids. Love them, support them, encourage their interests, and wait. If you raise your children yourself, God will bless your efforts a hundredfold!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Busting the Socialization Myth, Part 1

If you've homeschooled for any length of time (or ever even MET a homeschooler), then you're aware of the great concern over socializing our children. There are lots of great arguments out there against this crazy notion, so I won't try to top them. I'm here to prove that it's all a myth anyway.

In the last 30 days, my children (all homeschooled, all their lives) have had more time with friends than this mama has the energy for. But it's not really just about having friends, is it? Socialization is interacting with other people. And these homeschool kids have it down.

Example: My daughter Chloe turned 14 this month, and had a 10-hour party with 13 teenage girls. This scenario might send most parents running to the fridge for an overdose of comfort food, or prompt utterings of "I'm gonna rent a few movies and stay out of their way," in the wake of a Hurrican called Drama.


Not this bunch. They are all friends. With each other. No drama.

I didn't run this party. I provided snacks, cake, and decorations, and they did the rest. They coordinated their own activities for HOURS.




At the end of the night, they turned on music under a tree in the backyard and practiced the dances they learned at Cotillion.

Oh, did I mention Cotillion? It's the monthly gathering of teens who sit down to a formal dinner, dressed in their Sunday best, and eat with manners. The guys escort the girls to their seat, get their drinks, and bring them dessert. An etiquette lesson accompanies this. 


And then when dinner is over, they learn real dance steps. 




I never tire of looking at 50-60 teens dressed in skirts and slacks laughing, talking, and learning formal dances.


And then there's our local co-op. We meet weekly for a few hours of classes taught by many  moms (and a few dads). And even a few teens. 

This semester we have four teens teaching classes to younger children. My 6-year-old is taking one of these classes, and it's his favorite one. These kids must submit a class description and a 10-week outline to get their class on the schedule. They decide the cost of the supplies needed and set a class fee. They prepare weekly lessons. They instruct children in art, animals science, stories and crafts, and Minecraft. 

These kids interact with other kids. And adults. People of all ages, really. They are friendly and fun. And as far as I can tell, they're all pretty normal. : )

The fact that the world at large is much more concerned about social skills than education is a little silly. 

Learnin’, schmlearning- those kids need to be among herds of other kids their exact age in order to learn how to be normal. 



Last night I took a carload of girls to a Newsboys concert. I teared up just a little watching all of these girls sing worship songs in an auditorium with a couple thousand other people. They openly declared that they are Jesus Freaks, that God's Not Dead, and nobody worried what other people thought about them. My daughter. Her friends. 

That makes a mama happy.

We like socializing our kids. But we really like overseeing this socialization. That's why we participate  in small groups of like-minded families, where we get to supervise their social interactions. The rest of their time is spent actually being raised by Mom and Dad in the best possible training situation for real life...the family.

Which is the subject of Part 2. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Preschool Busy Bag Swap


Welcome to the 400Things Busy Bag Swap for Preschoolers!

To kick off Preschool Week here at 400Things, I'm hosting an online Busy Bag Swap for Preschoolers.



What is a Busy Bag Swap?

It's an easy way to get a box full of fun, educational activities to keep your little ones busy and learning at the same time. In this case, 20 moms will participate by creating one busy bag project 20 times, and then swap with the other participants, resulting in 20 different activities. Instead of dreaming of, purchasing for, and assembling 20 different activities, you will create just ONE (multiple times) and receive 20 different bags!

If you have preschoolers, you already understand the need for some creative new playthings. Moms, grandparents, homeschool families, preschool teachers, co-op teachers...this works for anyone.  It also makes a great gift!

What does it cost?

Just the cost of your activity plus shipping. You will want to spend no more than $1 per bag on supplies.

How does it work?

I'm glad you asked.

1. Choose your activity. You will be creating this activity up to 20 times, so choose wisely. : )

2. Email me at 400things@gmail.com to join. Please provide the following info:
    Name, mailing address, and chosen activity.  This email is your commitment to join. Please do not      send a "maybe I'll do this" email. Once committed, please follow through.

3. Create! Assemble 20 identical busy bags. You have 2 weeks from the commitment date to complete the project.

4. Ship completed busy bags to me, and include payment for shipping your complete set back to you. You may include a money order, or pay directly through paypal at 400things@gmail.com. No personal checks, please. Send $12.35 for a Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box. This is how I will send your new set of busy bags! (If you're a local friend, you can skip the shipping cost; however, I'll ask you do do pick-up and delivery of your items.)

5. Wait with anticipation by the mailbox!

So, what shall I make?

There are SO many great ideas on the web, so I'm going to point you to my Busy Bags board on Pinterest. (Note: this Board contains busy bags for lots of ages; check to be sure that the one you choose is Preschool appropriate.) But don't stop there! Google "busy bags" or "preschool activities" or create something new.

Some of our favorites from past swaps:

Color sorting (works great with wooden beads, too)

Felt Lacing Shapes (no link)

Lacing Foam Shapes

Each activity needs to meet the following criteria:
· *Self-contained:* This way, you can just grab a bag and GO (without
having to add a number of supplies to the bag in order to make it useful).
· *Transportable: *Yes, they will definitely be used at home, but
parents might want to be able to grab a few bags to take to a restaurant, a
waiting room, plane trips, car rides, etc.
· *Convenient:* None of the bags will have supplies that require
major set-up *or* clean-up: (no paint, watercolors, liquids, sand, dirt,
etc.)
· *Inexpensive:* Don't spend too much money on this project!
· *Easy to Make: *Don't spend hours and hours and hours making your
activity.
· *Re-usable:* You want these activities to last a while so that your
other children can use them in the future. Therefore, avoid activities
where you would have to buy new supplies to re-stock the bag. This is why
lamination is important for some of the activities. 
*Storage*  Use a gallon-size FREEZER bag for durability.
· *Include instructions:* Make sure the activity has a clear name or
instructions for use. Laminate this if possible, or write on Ziploc bag
with a Sharpie.
· *Preschooler appropriate*: The activity needs to be appropriate for
ages 2-4. Every child is different, so busy bags may be simple and some
will be more advanced. That's okay. Variety is the spice of life!

Please plan accordingly. You will need to purchase supplies, assemble Busy Bags, and ship them to me within 2 weeks of signing up.

*If however, you do sign up with full intentions of participating, but then realize that for some reason you are unable to continue, please let me know right away, so that we can contact someone else who would love to be involved.*
Try to invest *no more than about $1 per bag*. (Use those Michaels, Joanns, & Hobby Lobby coupons!!) This ensures that each bag is of approximately equal value.

Also keep in mind your schedule AND your budget. Some of you may have more time than money, vice versa. If you have the time, you might be willing to print and cut and sort flash cards or felt shapes. If you don't have the time, but have a few extra dollars, you might be willing to purchase manipulatives that just need sorting into bags.

Other important info:

I will take up to 20 participants. If more than 20 are interested, I'll start a waiting list in case someone falls through. 

I will not share your personal information with the group. You'll just get a big ol' box of goodies in the mail!

January 13 is the start date. I will continue to take names until I receive 20 requests. From that date, each participant will have 2 weeks to complete their task. So....let's begin!

Join 400 Things by subscribing at the top of this blog page so you won't miss a post, and go like my Facebook page. Please share this swap with your friends!

Preschool Week has been extended, due to illness in our home. : ) So, there's still time to join the Swap. 

Below is a list of the activities so far:

Felt Color Links by Jill

Matching Color Shades by Heather




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