Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 22—I’m still alive!

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

I missed three days of posting!   I am fine—so sorry for the worry I caused by not posting the last three days.  Thanks for the notes of concern.  

I have been fine.   My oldest daughter got some glass in her foot.  After many doctor’s visits and x-rays, we think all of the glass was removed.   And that was the reason for my disappearance from the blog world. 

I’m working hard on finishing strong!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 18--Mom has a headache

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

This mom has a headache. 

And spent most of the day laying on the couch wasting time on the computer to keep herself awake.
And now her day is over.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 17—A Day in the Life

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

7:15---I drove my husband to work while my two youngest dragged themselves out of bed.  My husband drove my high schoolers to seminary at 6:00.   He himself played basketball from 6:00-7:00.

7: 40—home.   Girls are finishing up breakfast.  

8:10—ready for the day, we start our school day with Megawords.   Both girls have passed the spelling section of what they are doing and are working on reading with more fluency and speed.

8:30—the girls work on writing for a half hour.   I-E is working on a longer paper about the Revolutionary War, while E-R spends some time free writing.
9:00---Both girls work on picking out quotations that show suspense from “The Most Dangerous Game.”   Next week they will be writing their first literary analysis paper.   This week we are working on the building blocks of that paper.   While the girls work, I get supper started in the crockpot---lentils cooked with potatoes and hambone.

9:30—we hope in the car to take a friend to the train station.   Her train will be late, so we take the time to visit a bit. 

11:15—back home.   The girls snack while alternating between reading for an hour and working on math for an hour.    I clean up the kitchen and can some chutney I made yesterday.
1:30—time for grammar.   We read the lesson on loose, periodic, and balanced sentences, complete the oral exercises, and take study notes.   Then move on to the next lesson which covers coherent paragraphs.   After reading the lesson, the girls put some guidelines from the lesson into their writing notebooks for when they are editing and revising.  

2:40---time for me to pick up A-M and E.   While I am gone E-R and I-E read their science lesson on ionic bonds and complete the exercises.

3:20---I am home.   We go over the lesson and exercises and look up ionic bonds in our science encyclopedia.   E-R and I-E take notes on the info in the encyclopedia while E and A-M have a snack.  

3:45—time for E-R to go to rehearsal.   I-E rides along so we can talk alone on the ride home.   E and A-M get started on homework.   E has to prepare for a debate.  A-M is studying for a calc test.
4:30---I’m back home.    E and A-M are still working.   I hop in the shower.  

5:15---I leave to pick up J from work.  

5:40---We are home.  J and A-M work on calibrating a catapult for a physics project.   E, I-E, and I eat supper and leave to pick up E-R from rehearsal and head to church.
9:00—all home.   J is working on school work and the rest of us head to bed--where I write this post.
Good night!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 16—Free Resources

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all.

I’m that girl.   The one that has 101 Pinterest boards

I’m a visual person who loves ripping off borrowing others ideas!   So it didn’t take me long to jump on the bandwagon and pin, pin, pin.
I’ve found it an excellent tool to help me remember and organize all the free resources available.
Remember when you had to buy a cookbook or magazine for recipes?   Not anymore.   I’ve even utilized Pinterest as a free menu planning tool.  
Pinterest Menu Board
                 I have posted tons of recipes that I weekly pin onto my
Supper This Week Pinterest
                                                     or my
Lunch this Week Pinterest

I’ve also organized more  free homeschooling resources than any sane person could use.   In fact, I kind of think buying resources is simply a convenience thing these days as so many quality free resources are available.  Pinterest has changed my homeschooling world.

                         A few of my favorite homeschooling boards:
Pinterest Picasso Picture Study
Pinterest Tudor
Pi Day
Pinterest Nature Study
Pinterest School Organization

                                   Happy clicking around!   

Day 15—Planning vs Doing!

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

I use to spend vast amounts of time planning.   I love planning.   In fact, I love planning more than I love doing.   But I’m in a place in my life that I need to be doing so much, I don’t have so much time to be planning.
And along the way during that time doing without so much planning, I’ve learned that simply doing consistently is more important than finding the perfect curriculum or creating the most awesomest lesson plans ever.  

If all I have is a dull encyclopedia that I teach from everyday, that is better than getting to the fifteen most exciting living books in random spurts. 
It only took me 10 years or so to get to this realization, but here is where I’m at!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 14—Preparing for the Week

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

Most Sunday evenings you can find me preparing for our upcoming homeschooling week.   I spend much of my summer vacation choosing curriculum and lesson planning, but I’ve still found following a few steps on Sunday night help our week to run smoothly.     
  1. Look over lesson plans
    • I spend some time looking over lesson plans I’ve created and the lesson plans that come with some of the programs we use.   Some plans may need adjusted according to the skills we are currently focusing on.  
  2. Decide on our weekly goals
    • While looking at our lesson plans I decide on our goals for this week.
    • It is unusual that we would be able to accomplish everything listed in our lesson plans. This time gives me an opportunity to  look at the assignments, readings, and activities planned; and I think about the things that we absolutely must accomplish, the things that would be nice to cover but aren’t necessary, and the things that don’t meet our needs at all.  
  3. Look at our schedule this week.
    • It would be such a comfort if each week was an exact eight to three schedule every day of the week.   Unfortunately our schedule never seems to follow that schedule.   Field trips, monthly dentist appointments, lunch dates, and public school holidays are just a few things that affect our schedule.   This week a friend needs a ride to the train station Wednesday morning, so our schedule that day will need to be adjusted.   Friday afternoon we may have out of town guest causing our week to end early.  
  4. Adjust lesson plans to fit into our schedule
    • Looking at our goals and our schedule I fit in our must do assignments and as many of the it would be nice activities.    I try to keep in mind I tend to over schedule—but that is still a work in process.
  5. Pull resources
    • I try to be organized with most things we need on our bookshelves, but occasionally I need to dig through some boxes in the garage.    And a few times a year, there is something I can’t find when I plan for it!   It is good to know that before I need it; I am saved from spending time during our school day looking for it and can figure something else out.  
  6. Start the week off right.
    • I can now go to bed knowing we are ready for the week.   No need to wake up Monday morning feeling that I need to scramble to get things done before my girls get up.   

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 13—Homeschool Support

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

Homeschool moms’ lives are different than most moms’ lives.   We spend all day with our children.   We take on a full time job of educating our children without any pay or much recognition.   Our minds are filled with curriculum choices, state standards, and scheduling conundrums. 

It’s sometimes hard to find others able and willing to talk curriculum, teaching frustrations, and school burn-out.  And yet everyone needs encouragement and the wisdom of those that are treading the same path.  

I have had a few homeschooling real life friends throughout this journey, but most of my support comes from other homeschool moms and dads I’ve “met” online.
I’ve been able to connect with homeschooling families that share my religion, curriculum choices, and homeschool methodology through several different yahoo email groups.  Clicking on the link will take you to yahoo groups pages where you can search for specific types of homeschooling  groups or even create one yourself.    This is an awesome way to be able to chat with everyone in a group via emails. 

Another excellent homeschool support has come from The Well Trained Mind Forums.   This forum provided by Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well Trained Mind, has thousands of homeschoolers of diverse backgrounds willing to share their experiences with others.  I visit often to share curriculum experiences,  commiserate  bad days, and celebrate triumphs.   
Pinterest provides a tremendous amount of support  for my homeschooling journey.    Other homeschoolers and teachers of all kinds freely share articles, organizational ideas,science activities, history resources,  and curriculum choices.  

I also feel I have a network of homeschool moms through the many blogs I read and share with on a regular basis.    Cellista at La Scuola d'Argento shares both her triumphs and defeats.   I love reading that she struggles with keeping her house clean, and yet she still manages to fit her passion of music into her busy life.   Mary at Winecup Christian Academy encourages me with optimism and  her vast experience homeschooling.   It is always nice to read where others with older children are on their homeschool journey.   And I often feel like I have my own personal cheerleader when My Name is Tiffany from Random Utterings comments on my blog.

Support is out there for this sometimes lonely and very hard thing we call home schooling.
Where have you found a support network?   

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 12—Setting Goals and Prioritizing

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 
This week we had days that we worked our tails off and days where we relaxed a bit.   But even during the slow days, I made sure we focused on our goals for the week.
  • Covering the Constitutional Convention
  • Practice communicating with math teacher
  • Spelling everyday
  • Expressing specific ideas in writing
  • Get excited about logic
We didn’t get to all the history reading I had hoped for because I added extra reading.   At the last minute I decided we needed to cover Shays’s Rebellion in more depth than I had planned.   So the end of the week came and we hadn’t covered everything planned.   Pinterest came to the rescue with this video:

It worked out wonderfully as the basics were covered and the girls got to practice taking notes.   I see more of Hughes’ History in our future.

E-R had been a bit shy about sending emails to her math teacher with homework and questions, so we worked on that this week.  She’s now caught up with turning in homework and feels more comfortable asking questions.   First test on Monday.

We worked on spelling everyday this week.   Spelling is a struggle for both girls, so we need to work on it on a regular basis to see improvement.

E-R has a tendency to write in general terms.   This week I kept pushing her to be more specific.   We’ll continue working on this for the next few weeks, but I think she’s getting the idea---Be Specific!

All I have to say about our logic goal is we’re working on it.  

We didn’t check off every box, but with our goals in mind I was able to prioritize our time, and we’re ready to move on next week.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day Eleven---The Giants Won!

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

I took my older kids out to breakfast this morning, leaving E-R and I-E to get themselves going and started with school.   I’m happy to say they were both working hard when I arrived home.
breakfast, chicken feet, and giants 003


They both worked on math for an hour and read for an hour before we completed an English grammar lesson together.  

And then….

Dad walked in the door after being gone for over a week.   That was the end of our school day.    We snuggled up together and watched the Giants win the playoffs.

breakfast, chicken feet, and giants 004
It was a nail-biter, but they pulled it off!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day Ten---Story of Our Day

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

Our day as seen through our white boards---one of my favorite homeschooling supplies.

white boards 001
History notes

white boards 004
Science---our kitty baby spends the day  learning with us.

white boards 011
Spelling lessons

white boards 012
Spelling test

white boards 015
Working on rearranging sentence

white boards 016
List of things that still need to get done.

white boards 018
Notes for assigned paragraph.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day Nine---When You Hear Snoring….

Anna Sleeping
You know not too much school is going on.   Just saying!

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

It’s 5:30 and Our School Day Just Ended!

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

It’s Monday, our short day! 
Surprised smile
I was determined we would get into the swing of things and work through our new schedule.    Things were going reasonably well until right after lunch. Our schedule dictated thirty minutes to go over last weeks writing and suggest improvements before revising and editing happened.   Discovering that my girls had not worked on their writing project for the prescribed 1 1/2 hours on Friday, I had to try really hard not to blow a gasket!

I-E had taken 3 notes on a five page article. Baring teeth smile She explained she had been annoyed she had to do the assignment, so that when she read the article it hadn’t made any sense to her.   I sent her to the table to work while I checked in with E-R. 
E-R claimed she didn’t realize the assignment was to write a one page overview of the  battles fought in the Revolutionary War.   Instead she had drawn a map, and thrown together a really bad paragraph about Billy Howe. 

Remember the gasket I was trying not to blow!    Don't tell anyone smile

So we read over the paragraph, discussed what the topic sentence should have been, and took some notes so she could write a good paragraph about Billy Howe.  
I-E checked in with her 7 total notes from that five page article.  

Gasket blowing!   Still holding it inside!  Steaming mad

So we read and took notes together from the first section of the article.   We then determined how she wanted   to introduce the article and what the topic sentence of the first paragraph should be.   Then I helped her write the first paragraph sentence by sentence.   The whole time I wanted to scream---YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS!!!!!
And then she told me, " I can do the rest—I didn’t know this is what you wanted me to do!"Disappointed smile

When will I learn that teenage brains need clear, concise written instructions!  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Curriculum Plans 2012/2013

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

Rod and Staff 8

Sentence Composing for Middle School

Derek Owens Algebra

Rainbow Science


Windows to the World: Introduction to Literary Analysis Teacher and Student

Self-Evident Truths Series: Statements of Equality

The Art of Argument
Critical Thinking in United States History: New Republic to Civil War

Art will be outsourced this year.   Both E-R and I-E are quite talented, and I’ve taken them as far as I can.   They will be picking a specialty and working with an artist later on this year.

I-E and E-R tried out and got parts in The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever at a local playhouse.   Rehearsals are filling up their afternoons.   After this show, we will be taking a break from acting so they can concentrate on art, but I’m sure another show will be in their future later in the year.  

Liberty! The Series
George Washington’s World
Abraham Lincoln’s World
A History of US
Student News Daily

Additional we are reading for one hour a day.   I have a pile of books on the shelf that are available for the girls to choose from each week.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I’ve committed to post for all thirty-one days of October. So what should I write about now?

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

E-R and I-E were excited to have two sessions of free writing this week.   I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a free writing session, but here goes—and you the reader are under no obligation to continue reading.  

I am helping a friend enter this strange realm of homeschooling.   I was a bit embarrassed when they asked me about my organizational system.   My disorganized bookshelves and desk organizer did not speak of organization.   So today was get organized day.   My bookshelves are neat and organized and while doing so, I realized I had everything I needed on that shelf for the next two periods of history that I’ve been stressing about.
Why do I make things so hard?   Why am I always trying to make things perfect?   When asked how something is I often answer—perfect.   Thank-you, that’s perfect is another answer that often escapes my lips.   Things aren’t always perfect and that needs to be okay. 

That needs to pertain to our homeschool as well.   I’ve been working on this homeschooling thing for over thirteen years now—and I still don’t have it down.   I look back and see things I would have changed, things I could have done better, and yet at some point I need to say it might not have been perfect, but it was enough.   I did the best I could with who I was at the time.  
And that’s what I’m working on right now.   It’s never too late to grow in this homeschooling journey!    

Friday, October 5, 2012

Week in Review

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 
this post is linked up to weird unsocialized homeschoolers weekly link-up.  

This week I wanted to dive into school with our new schedule.   Unfortunately, I-E wasn’t feeling up to snuff, so we took things much slower than planned.   We still managed to complete quite a lot. 

We started logic using Art of the Argument.   We are still working on the introductory chapter, and I’m still trying to explain to the girls why we are studying logic.    I’m more excited about it than my students.  

the art of argument.  So my goal for next week---inspire!   Get the girls excited about logic.

Second new thing this week—algebra.  Thank goodness for Derek Owens and his online courses!   Math is not my thing.   Left to their own devices both girls have worked most days for longer than the required one hour.    Great start!

Writing also introduced a new idea this week.   Instead of working on specific projects, time is our new writing master.   Without any specific assignments, both girls were excited to free write on Monday and Tuesday.    Wednesday history assignment brought a narrative covering the Revolutionary War’s battles.  With writing time set aside each day, we had time to work on it while also moving on with our reading during history time.  

Goal for next week—get onto our schedule so we can fit everything in.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

All Quiet on the Home Front

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

Today was a quiet day.    I-E hasn’t been feeling well so I let her sleep in while E-R and I worked on Megawords.  E-R passed her test and was able to move onto the next unit.
I-E was still snoozing at that point.   E-R worked on to her online math class.   I tackled making ten pounds of apples into three jars of applesauce. 

I’ve noticed that if left to their own devices E-R and I-E work on math for longer than the one hour each day I require.    So why do I not leave them to their own devices more often?

E-R made herself some lunch and read for an hour while I-E took a long bath.   I cleaned the kitchen.  

E-R and I-E both worked on history at this point.   Yesterday we read and discussed the sequence of events that took place during the Revolutionary War.    Today, they worked on a paper about those events and worked on finishing up their reading on that period of history.   I canned a batch of jam.
That summed up our day.    It was a quiet slow lazy kind of day.   Why do they mostly happen when someone is sick?   Why don’t we plan to have them just because?  

The one where I forgot to post, and oh did I mention I live with a bunch of teenagers

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

I have five children that are teenagers right now.   One is living on his own at college, and four are living right here at home.    So many people tell me—I’m sorry—when they hear how many teenagers I have.  Don’t be.    I love this stage of life.    Teenagers are fun to do things with and are enjoyable to talk with. Teenagers are exploring and testing out the whole big world of opportunities that are just waiting for them.
I love spending time with my teenagers. Teenagers are generally excited about life. 
Except when they aren’t.   Sometimes life is big and hard and scary.   Sometimes decisions that can seem overwhelming have to be made.   And teenagers are just figuring out how to deal with those choices and the responsibilities that come with making what seem like and sometimes are huge life changing decisions.   One of my teenagers is at this point in their life.   Decisions are being made.   It’s been hard on all of us.
I’m just saying---that may have been why this post is late.   
Have a great day everyone! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I have been missing?

Portrait of a little girl sitting on a stack of books. Over white background.

This school year has been a bit funky, and in a way I feel we are just starting our school year.   My girls have been working for six weeks now, but because of numerous things happening in my life much of that work has been done without me.   Today I realized  I’ve been feeling guilty for missing those times of working with my girls.  I’ve somehow felt that school was not getting done.
I’m a big proponent of working with kids and not sending them off to work independently day after day as some homeschool parents seem to do.   In fact, I’ve written about it quite a bit.  As I allowed myself to dwell on life  this school year, I realized I need to let go of the guilt!   My girls are capable of independent work because I’ve spent the last 8 years working with them.  Although not the ideal long term,  they can work and learn without me.
But as I thought about them working alone, I realized I was missing discussing what we have learned, hearing their opinions on things they are learning, and seeing the connections form as they learn and grow.    It is the relationship forming time I have missed this school year.   Thank goodness, things are coming back to a normal routine and that time is back in my life.  

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Back to School

This post is part of a series showing the realness of homeschooling---the ugly, frustrating, and wonderfulness of it all. 

My husband and I recently spent a fabulous two weeks in Italy.   It was a wonderful trip.  But it has been hard to get back into the swing of things  since getting back.    So today felt like the beginning of the school year again.    I’m working on being more relaxed and learning to take life as it comes—not just school wise!   I’ve found that setting aside a particular amount of time each day for each subject instead of a certain amount of work allows me to be a bit more relaxed about what we are able to get done.

Today we started our new schedule.   We started late.   We had a meeting with our ES.   Accordingly, we didn’t get to everything, but I am happy with the work we did accomplish.  
Our school day started with current events where we read about the violence and “martial law” imposed in East Saint Louis.   To really understand what is going on there, we needed to do some background research and let me just say---East Saint Louis has a really sad history.    I-E was outraged about the mayor’s reaction to the violence and asked if she could write him a letter.   I was able to say yes to this request since I had set aside thirty minutes for free writing.    Sometimes things work out so well!   (And I didn’t even plan it!)   

We started our logic course.   We didn’t get to everything I had planned for the day, but I’m working on rolling with the punches!   We will pick up with where we ended tomorrow and keep on trucking.  

The girls also worked on Algebra and free reading.   Not the busy full day I had pictured for today, but a good one all the same.  

There you go—a real day of homeschooling.     

31 Days of Real Homeschooling Day One


I’m joining Nesting Place’s 31 Days Meme.   I haven’t posted for several months because the pressure of living and recording blog worthy material got to me.  So this month, I am jumping back into blogging with daily posts.   And of course, I wanted to start off with a pretty 31 Days button, but that hasn’t happened yet!   (Give me time!) (The time is now--9 days in!)   The posts might not be pretty, picture worthy, or  imitation worthy, but they will be real.
So, let’s get real.   This morning:

15 minutes ago we should have started school.

We are expecting our ES (Education Specialist) to arrive at 9:00, so I spent the last 10 minutes of my life getting rid of the rotten tomato smell that has permeated our home.  

Our home is a mess.  

I have put in a load of laundry and watered the plants on my balcony.  

I’m signing off to do a quick pick-up of our living room.

I will post again tonight to let all know how our real day of homeschooling went!  

Day One

Day Two  What I Have Been Missing?

Day Three--The one about having Five Teenagers

Day Four--All Quiet on the Home Front

Day Five--Week in Review

Day Six--Freewriting and Perfection

Day Seven--Curriculum Plans

Day Eight--I Didn't Blow a Gasket

Day Nine--When You Hear Snoring

Day Ten--Story of Our Day

Day Eleven--The Giants Won!

Day Twelve--Goals and Prioritizing

Day Thirteen--Homeschool Support

Day Fourteen--Planning for the Week

Day Fifteen--Planning vs Doing

Day Sixteen--Free Resources aka Pinterest

Day Seventeen--A Day in the Life

Day Eighteen--Mom has a Headache

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The How, What, and Why of Charter Schools


memory monday button

First of all what is a charter school?  

A charter school is a public school that is exempt from most regulations that bind school districts except where those regulations are specified  by law.   Charter schools are usually created by teachers, parents, and community leaders and are sponsored by school boards or the state.   Goals and expectations are agreed upon by the charter organizers and sponsoring group and written up in an agreement or charter.  

A charter school is a public school.    Just like all public schools, they may not charge tuition, teach religion, nor discriminate against any pupil based on his ethnicity, gender, or disability.  Unlike other public schools, charter schools are schools of choice.   Parents have a choice to enroll their children there, and teachers and administrators have a choice to provide education in a nontraditional manner.   Which brings us to homeschooling….

Many, but not all, charter schools are set up to provide support to the homeschooling family.   That support differs from school to school, but many home-based charter schools provide support by funding tuition purchases, providing extra-curricular activities, opportunities for social activities and field trips, and over-site by certified teachers.   All charter schools provide transcripts and the standardized testing required by the state in which they are set up.  

Many homeschoolers consider those that use charter schools to not be homeschoolers.   And legally they are not homeschooling; those that are enrolled in a charter school are public school students.   What constitutes a homeschooler differs state by state.   For the purposes of this article, I am going to refer to those using a home-based charter school as homeschoolers simply for the reason that school is happening at home!  

The question I’ve been asked to answer: How do you make a charter school work for you when you have so many hoops to jump through?  

Some of the hoops (or requirements) that I’ve had to jump through to utilize charter schools in the state of California are education specialists visits, work samples, restricted curriculum choices, meeting state standards, and standardized testing.   My specific experiences relate to the state of California, but most likely are similar to other states’ requirements.  

Education Specialists Visits  Once every 20 school days an education specialist (commonly referred to as an ES) is required to meet with you, the teacher, and the students to discuss work accomplished, plan further work, and collect work samples.  She or he is a certified teacher and is part of the process in place to make sure students are making progress. 

Once every 20 days usually works out to be once a month that our ES come to visit us.   Our visits are about 20-30 minutes in length and in addition to going over the work we have planned, she answers any questions we have about school policies and helps us fill out all required paperwork.    I prefer to meet at home as this interrupts our day less, but other families choose to meet their ES at the school office, a local library, or another public place.     Know what your charters requirements are for what goes on at ES meetings and let your ES know if you feel they are over stepping those requirements.   Also know that you may request another ES  if your family does not mesh with the one assigned to you.   Feel free to talk to the office staff about what you are looking for in an ES.   I’ve found different ES have different educational philosophies just like homeschoolers.   If you love to use a stack of textbooks at home, an ES with the viewpoint of school at home might fit your family better than an ES with a preference towards classical education. 

I look at my ES visits as a time to make sure I’m organized and on track with plans for the year. 

Work Samples   Work samples required differ charter school to charter school.     The charter school we are using now requires one work sample from each subject we are working on with each ES visit.    Keep in mind that a work sample does not have to be a worksheet or test!   Some of the things I’ve turned in for work samples include maps, posters, lab sheets, power-point presentations, mp3 files of speeches and music performances, journal entries,  and pictures—lots of pictures.   I’ve turned in pictures of sporting events, performances, gardening projects, science experiments, bulletin boards, art projects, timelines, history notebooks, field trips, math projects, and any other hands-on projects we’ve worked on.   And I will admit that occasionally it’s time for our ES visit, and we have nothing to turn in to our ES, so we complete a worksheet just for our work sample.   That doesn’t happen too often and doesn’t take up too much time when it does happen.

Restricted Curriculum Choices  As a public school a charter school can not appropriate curriculum or materials that are religious in nature or even allow religious teaching as part of their program.   I do use a few curriculum choices that are not secular which I purchase with my own money.   These are subjects are that are adequately covered without these religious  based materials, so  I am able to supply work samples from other materials used.   

I also include scripture, hymn, and other religious study in my home.   I do not consider these studies to be part of our school time, but rather our family time.   This family time happens with my children who attend a public school as well as my children who stay at home for school.  

Meeting State Standards   Just like other public schools, charter schools are required to teach to the state standards.    Looking at this list of state standards will leave most feeling confused and  overwhelmed with the task of teaching these standards.   Many charter schools will provide a parent friendly list of standards written in everyday language that is easy to understand.   If your charter school does not provide this list, many are available on the internet.   Here is a complete list of California state standards in easy-to-understand language.  

Another way I’ve come to understand exactly what is expected of these standards is looking at the educational portion of museum websites.   Looking at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s educational website, I can see that visiting the gold display and discussing what we see meets state standards in math, language arts, and science.   

To be honest, I’ve found that most state standards are met by simply completing our normal educational activities and do not require much forethought.  One area that is not always the case is the social studies standards.   I do not teach social studies, but rather teach world history on a four year rotation.   California state standards require American history almost every year.   I’ve met these standards by teaching about American history through patriotic holidays.   When Memorial Day comes around we read a book or two from the library about that holiday.   Standard met!    Remember most standards do not require depth of learning and are easily met with an introduction and discussion about the topic. 

And that brings us to Standardized Testing.    Public schools in California (and most other states) are required to prove their worth through testing.   This is especially important for charter schools as they usually do not have other regular assessments to prove their students are progressing.  That being said---I do not teach to the test.   I do teach my children how to take tests, a skill I feel is important.   Also keep in mind that you may ask to have testing spread out over several days and may also request private testing for your child.   And last but not least----the scores your child earns are not a grade for you the teacher.   Rather they measure your child’s success on a test one day of the year on material he or she may or may not have learned.  

The key to utilizing charter schools is to research and learn all you can about their requirements.   Know the rules and expectations.    As the case with any public school, you, the parent, must be the one that advocates for your children.   Learn what services are available.   Learn what is required and what is not required.   Be willing to speak up when needed.   

What have been your experiences with charter schools?    Does anyone have a simplified list of state standards for other states than California?    Any other questions I just didn’t answer?