Intro to Homeschooling in WA State

With the outbreaks of the Covid-19 virus, schools have officially chosen to shut down for the next six weeks so as to slow the spread of the virus to our most vulnerable populations and we don’t overflow our hospitals with the sick and run out of room so quick that we are unable to care for them. This is great for students to try out homeschooling, but also a huge stressor for parents who work full time and do not have the funds for childcare such as this for lower elementary ages. However, do not despair! If you are brand new to homeschooling or just wanting your kids to stay up to speed during the six weeks they are gone, or you just want some kind of learning to occur while they are home, there are so many varieties of learning programs that you are sure to pull your hair out from the choices. I am not kidding on this.

Here is what you do need to know about this temporary break from public school. The Homeschool law (HBI) for Washington State doesn’t give us particular guidance for a pandemic.

If your child is enrolled in public school, and your school has shut down, nothing is required of you as far as the Homeschool law (HBI) goes. Your compulsory attendance is covered by your public school enrollment.

If you are inclined to switch to homeschooling and do not have the inclination to return when your school re-opens, you will need to qualify, declare, start covering the 11 subjects, test or assess annually, and keep certain records.
A great place to start is the Washington Homeschool Organization webpage.  http://washhomeschool.org/intro-homeschooling-part-1-compu…/

The best advice I can offer you if you plan for your kids to return when public school reopens, is to do a lot of reading, writing, and math together. Your library has dozens of books with titles like, “101 Science Experiments You Can do With Everyday Items.” Bake and cook together. Create art and music together. Look up hygge for ideas to make hunkering down in your house more fun. Write letters to distant relatives. Join some short Outschool.com classes. Subscribe to “Let’s Make Art” and learn how to watercolor with your kids. Learn about different endangered animals and write letters to companies about their practices. Spring clean. Plant a garden. Take a hike outdoors. There is so much to life that is learning that we often overlook when we’re in a “public schooly” mindset.

Parents are contacting me about Homeschooling and what it looks like. It looks different for every kid and every family. It does NOT look like public school at home. If you try to do brick and mortar schooling for 3-6hrs at your home, you will have a mini revolt on your hands in no time.

You can take so many routes. Please, please don’t worry so much about their learning. When your kids look back at “those six weeks we had to homeschool because of Covid” they won’t remember a thing of book work. They WILL remember the games you played (tons and tons of educational games out there, btw), the cookies and things you baked together, the hike you took outside together, the educational documentary about the homeless that got them interested in build tiny homes for those in need (like my 6 year old). The memories you make will be what they remember. They can catch up on book learning so easily. This will be a blip in the many years of schooling. If you want them to learn something, find out what or who they are passionate about and dive into learning more about it with them. 

Yes, I know the difficulty is that you have to work too…. But the beauty of Homeschooling is that it doesn’t have to happen during school/work hours. For actual book work, it can be in the car while you do your job or run errands, it can be at night after your work is done. My oldest does the bulk of her work at night because she is a night owl. The boys get up early and do theirs before 10 a.m. They all play together in the in-between. So I guess what I am trying to say is to enjoy this time together. Communicate your needs to work but also take the time to play/work with your kids. My kids love to cook together and take goodies to neighbors. Make a bucket list of things they want to do while “Homeschooling.” Make these six weeks a positive memory.

For fellow homeschoolers, what ideas do you have for temporary home-schooled public schoolers? Check back for my next post on first steps to take once you have chosen to homeschool.

Completed: first year of Homeschooling-2018

It’s been about a year now. We will finally have finished one year of homeschooling after my daughter’s recital June 10th. What have I learned? Homeschooling is hard, and not for the faint of heart. I make mistakes. Often. I have friends who genuinely don’t really like spending tons of time with their kids. Homeschooling would NOT be for them. I have friends who go to work to escape their kids. Homeschooling would NOT be for them, either. Homeschooling is intense. Its personal. It involves the whole family, working together as a team. It really is seeing your kids, their different learning styles and trying to grab onto those 5 second interests to get them excited about learning more.

I realized right away, that homeschooling doesn’t need to look like, nor should I try to make it ANYTHING like regular school. I used to be a high school special education and transition teacher. I made the mistake of trying to do school at home, like I did in public school. The thing is, the biggest reason public school fails our kids, is making school a one-size shoe box to fit all learners. This is not how people learn. This is not how my kids learn. Homeschooling should NOT look like public school. It should be learning in our pjs, letting them eat a snack and drink hot cocoa. Allowing kids the opportunity to listen to their own bodies, recognize their own needs to get food, use the bathroom, or take a brain break and not have it dictated to them when they can eat, pee, or pause from learning. The classroom needs to look like real life…in the kitchen, in the car, at the dentist office, out in nature. It should look like whatever makes them comfortable while learning something new, and finding that subject that they are fascinated by to help inspire them to want to learn more.

Want to know what worked the best for us this year? Gameschooling. Yep, you heard that right. Game- schooling. (If you are interested in knowing more about gameschooling, go to THIS site. It is eye opening!) We play games. My kids learn more playing games than anything, because right now their interest levels, attention span, and desire for fun are at the gaming level. Plus, it helps my kids see their dad and I play board and card games frequently and so they want to play like us. My 4 year old knows the 50 states and about half the capitals or state nicknames right now. At 4!! My 7 year old has mastered addition with games and her reading skills just took off. Even my 2 year old has picked up on counting to three, as well as some color recognition, and knows about five states because of gameschooling. Mostly my daughter is the one we were homeschooling this past year, but the benefits have already really paid off with her siblings as well.

Another factor we struggled with, was making sure my daughter, who is very social, got her social interaction she wanted. We had a lot of hit and miss with people not showing up for play dates and such in the fall. But it turned out that our joining some coops was all we needed to make things work. Now we do a Tuesday Adventures Ahead group that is very good at meeting regularly for 2 hours (though we personally have failed the last 2 weeks with illnesses that turned out to be just allergies, sigh). We have a Thursday general music class with Tacoma Area Homeschool Band. The kids have a science class at the Tacoma Nature Center they have equally loved. I have found that we all do better, when we are out and about. My kids have always been active and busy. We do better as a family when we are outdoors and active. When I say “do better,” I mean less yelling and bickering and fighting amongst eachother when we are home.

What plans do I hope to change and make for next school year? Well… I hope to make our homeschool, more informally year round. I mean, we are all constantly learning! I plan to have us stay active by having the weekly coops. We will have a PE class next year and adding a full day coop of classes, but it will also be important to incorporate down time. We will need this because I am also due with our fourth and final kid in December. I will be one tired mama. I plan to do a lot of gameschooling. I hope to have my older two kids doing some Raddish Kids cooking classes, and still do Tacoma Nature Center Science classes. I hope to have a better “afternoon” homeschooling structure since that is when the youngest naps, and the perfect amount of time for homeschool work. But this is also the time I crash and pass out as well… so I will need to finagle this a bit. I also realize that my daughter learns equally as well at night, as she does during the day. If not better. She is a night owl like her daddy, and this may be the time where her dad could help with the math portion of homeschooling and have some one on one time that she so desperately wants with him.

I want to add, emphasis on “I hope” because… plans change. Life happens. We will go with the flow and learn as we go. They will only be in kindergarten and 2nd grade. They don’t need to know everything and I want them to still just be kids. There is a lot going on in the world today. I want them to stay young for as long as they can. I have to give myself some grace with homeschooling as well.

I have learned a lot this year, obviously. I am still learning as I go. I will share my “Why we homeschool” post and “The Games We Love” post in the near future.

The Home-School Adventure Begins

School has begun. The school lists were sent out. Supplies were bought. But this year is different. Everyone started school today; everyone else but our family. We are at our favorite place on the planet, Orcas Island.

We are enjoying the first few days of un-schooling, or the back-to-school rush, by just being a family and figuring out what this all means. Going down to the beach to explore crabs and jellyfish? Yep. Watching Orcas off the beach teach their young to hunt? Yep. Having our kids work on cooking skills? Yep. The best place for our kids to learn, is with us.

I have been asked my reasons for homeschooling. I have been asked with a inquisitive side glance, after stating we are homeschooling, “You are homeschooling? Wow. You are brave. Why are you doing it?” Is it really brave? Should homeschooling be this daunting task? Or should it be something that just comes naturally? We want our kids to be happy and healthy, but also be successful. So my plan is to teach my kids to be successful, so that if they wish to learn something new they can do so on their own. I want to instill in them a passion for learning, so that they can always be curious and seek to understand the world and people around them.

Generally, the questions posed are, “Why?” Why home school? Why take on the huge burden of my kids education? Why, when there are teachers that can do it? That “Why” is a huge loaded question that cannot be easily answered. When people try looking up homeschooling and how to start homeschooling, that “Why” is actually what weighs most on a parent’s heart. Each family has their own reasons. Each family knows that there just is something missing from their kids education, and know that whatever it is that is missing, its important enough to pursue the option of homeschooling that more and more people are coming to find as the right solution for them.

The first thing for a family who chooses to homeschool should do, is to create a mission statement. Mission statement? Why one of those? I’m not a cooperation or nonprofit. Our homeschool isn’t serving anyone else but our own family. The Mission statement will serve as a reminder as to “WHY” you are choosing to homeschool. It is something that you can look at and return to over and over again, especially in those moments where you question “Why the hell am I doing this?” Let’s be honest here…. those moments will come. I am not kidding myself. I know that my patience will run low, I will question why we are doing this. I will wonder if I am doing the right thing. But this mission statement will remind me over and over again the very personal “Why” reasons our family has chosen this path to education.

So, I will be sharing our homeschool journey on this page. We are just starting this new adventure and I will share our mission statement, our mock schedules, curriculum we chose, what works for us, and what does not. Most importantly, I will share what sites I have gone to for support and backup.

Have you considered homeschooling? What is holding you back? If you are homeschooling already, what were your reasons?