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Is Your Child At or Above Grade Level?
Here is the Transcript from our LIVE Teleseminar
From Tuesday, June 5, 2007


MP3 File

Before the call

Welcome everyone! I'm so glad you could make it. We'll get started with the Teleseminar in 5 minutes. I just want to wait a bit to make sure that we can get everyone on the call before we get started. I hope you all received the cheat sheet that we sent out late last night. If not, then please go to http://www.homeschool.com/cheatsheet/cheat_sheet.pdf and print out the 12 page PDF document. This cheat sheet will help you follow along with the class today and will give you a place to write down any ideas that come to you during this call. If you have any questions that you would like me to answer, please email them to Rebecca@Homeschool.com. and I will try to answer them before we sign off. We will be recording today's call and we will send it out next week in our next Homeschool.com eNewsletter. So if you have any friends that you think will benefit from hearing the recording, please have them go to www.Homeschool.com/subscribe to subscribe to the newsletter. It's free and we will include a link in the newsletter so that you can either listen to the recording online or you can burn it to a CD.

Kelly, are you ready to start the recording? Great. I'm going to pause just a moment to check with the operator and then we'll get started.

Thank you for waiting. It appears that we are in good shape so we can go ahead and start the recording and get started with the class.

Introduction

Welcome everyone and thank you for calling. The title of this teleseminar is "Homeschool Planning & Organization for the Totally Overwhelmed and Utterly Confused." My name is Rebecca Kochenderfer and I will be your host for this call. I am the Senior Editor for Homeschool.com and co-author of a book called "Homeschooling For Success." I have been homeschooling for 16 years now and sometimes I still feel "totally overwhelmed and utterly confused."

Let's face it, sometimes homeschooling seems so easy and natural and at other times it feels like a big job. During this call today we're going to be talking about:

  • How to make sure that your child is at or above grade level,
  • How to homeschool different age children,
  • How to organize your time so that you can do all that you do and not lose your sanity,
  • How to keep yourself and your children motivated throughout the year,
  • How to give your child a superior education without breaking the bank and without having to teach 24/7, and
  • How to prepare your child for high school and college.

Before we start, I want to take a minute and dedicate this teleseminar to our wonderful Homeschool.com Product Testers. For the past couple of months they have been answering surveys and sending in their advice and suggestions. They have been so giving and this is a wonderful example of homeschoolers helping homeschoolers.

In one of the surveys, I asked them "What are the top changes you would make to your homeschooling? I think you'll find their answers helpful.

1) They would buy more bookshelves.

2) They would schedule better and be more organized.

3) They would relax more and not be so uptight about accomplishing everything.

4) They would do ore fun projects and more field trips.

5) They wish they had more money for curriculum (It seems that homeschoolers are curriculum junkies), and

6) They want to make their homeschooling more fun.

So today I'm going to see if I can give you some ideas and suggestions that will help you relax more in your homeschooling and have more fun, but still feel like you are accomplishing something.

In July, I will be having a private 5-week teleclass that will cover all of these areas in more detail. During those 5 weeks I will personally hold your hand so that by August 14th your home will be organized and you will have a customized plan in place that will get you off to a good start and will see you through the rest of the school year. Unfortunately, I will only be able to take 50 signups for this class, so if you think you might be interested you might want to sign up while this call is going on. The registration page for the class is at http://www.homeschool.com/coaching/. If you wait until the end of the call, it may already be full.

Grade Level Expectations

On page 1 of the cheat sheet I have some links for you about grade level expectations. After the call, you can click on these links to explore some good information on this topic. But I really want to comfort you about this. There really are no specific expectations for each grade. At least no one agrees on these expectations. Schools all have different expectations for what they think should be accomplished at each grade level. For example, Waldorf schools like to give their students time to mature and do not teach reading until the second grade. However, there are some private schools that expect preschoolers to already be reading. And classical homeschoolers do things differently than Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. If you want, you can do a Google search where you put in the name of your state and then the words "grade level expectations." This will bring up links over to sites that will list the expectations in your state for math, science, and reading. These expectations might help you if you are required to take standardized tests each year that compare your student with other students in the state.

There are also a couple of books I recommend that might be a good resource for you. My family really likes the "What Every 1st Grader Should Know" series by E.D. Hirsh. This series has books for grades K through 6 and we have worn our copies to tatters. You may also get a lot out of the book called "The Well-Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer. Her method of classical homeschooling is very popular with homeschoolers. And Rebecca Rupp has a good book called "Home Learning Year by Year."

But really, grade level expectations are pretty random. In California, for example, the expectation is that 10th grade is when I should teach my child about Mother's Day. And to be honest, isn't our goal to do better than the public schools? Not just meet their standards? So I want to encourage you to not worry about standardized grade level expectations and instead to set goals for your children each year that will give them an excellent education and will also help them identify and develop their special passions and talents.

So here are your action steps for this topic:

  • Go to a bookstore or go to Amazon.com and take a look at the books I mentioned. See if any of these are helpful to you.
     
  • Go to www.Homeschooling.about.com and click on the links for teaching and testing (the link to About.com is in the cheat sheet). They have some good information on this topic.
     
  • And lastly, do a Google search with the name of your state and the words "grade level expectations" in quotation marks. See what they have to offer.

How to homeschool different age children at the same time

The next topic we're going to discuss is how to homeschool different age children at the same time. For the classroom teacher, their challenge is teaching 20-40 children at the same time. For the homeschooler, our challenge is teaching different grade levels at the same time. Our Product Testers have some great suggestions for you. As you listen to these suggestions, write down any good ideas or inspirations you come up with.

  • If you have a toddler in the house, the goal is to keep your tazmanian devil busy doing fun stuff so that you can work with your older children. One of the best ways to do this is to create a box or basket filled with fun activities that only get to be used during your school time. This basket can include stickers, coloring books, crayons, a wipe off board, special books, worksheets, and toys that are only used during homeschooling times. This will keep the goodies fresh and exciting and special and will keep your toddler occupied so that you can work with your other children.
     
  • If you have a baby in the house, congratulations. I'm so jealous! My "baby" is already 10 and I miss those wonderful, hectic baby years. If you can get your spouse or an older child to help with the baby while you are homeschooling that makes things easier. If you don't have that option, you may want to work around the babies schedule and do your one-on-one homeschooling when the baby is napping. Be kind to yourself and be flexible. This is a wonderful time for everyone and your older children are lucky to be able to spend so much time with their new baby. Other kids have to go off to school, but you get to spend time bonding together and creating memories as a family.
     
  • If you have a large family, you may want to consider taking a "Unit Studies" approach to your homeschooling. Unit Studies are where the entire family works on the same topic area, but at their own level. For example, if you are doing a unit study on horses, your older children may do detailed research and writing about the horse's anatomy and history. But your younger children will do an easier version of this, and your toddlers may just draw horses and read easy books about horses. If you'd like to learn more about unit studies there is a blue "Unit Studies" link on the right hand side of Homeschool.com's homepage. You can also do a Google search for "Homeschooling unit studies.' You can either buy a prepared unit study and follow directions, or you can create your own. Unit studies are VERY popular with large families because it eliminates having to work individually with each child and instead you all work together.
     
  • Another idea is to sit on the floor when you teach your children so that your baby and toddler can be near you. You can even purchase a clip board for each child so that they have a firm surface to write on.
     
  • When you have different age children, the younger children benefit by being exposed to the more difficult level work that their older sibling is doing. If your children are only a couple of years apart you can probably teach them the same science and history lessons.
     
  • Let's talk a minute about schedules. Some homeschoolers love schedules and some hate them. Some homeschoolers like to type out daily assignment sheets for each of their children. Some like to work on a rotation schedule and each child has a special time when they get to work with you. Some homeschoolers like to have each of their children working in a separate room in the house so that they don't disturb each other. You decide what will work best for you.

Before we go on to the next topic, I want to give you some action steps to take. If you have young ones, put together a special homeschooling box or basket just for your toddler. You may also want to have some educational videos and educational software programs on hand that you can use to keep one child busy while you work with another. And if you think you might be interested in unit studies, why not give it a try this summer. Pick a topic, like sign language or dinosaurs or the history and geography and sites in your area and do a unit study on this. Your kids won't even know they are doing school.

How to organize your time and get everything done without going dingy.

When I survey homeschoolers and ask them what their #1 challenge is they almost always say "time." This is why people think we are insane when we say we are going to homeschool our children instead of sending them to school 6 hours a day. They think we are nuts to add on another big job when life is already busy enough. How DO we get it all done and still keep a smile on our face? How do you work, run the house, make healthy meals, take time for yourself, AND homeschool your kids? This must be why when you ask homeschoolers what change they would make in their homeschooling, they say they wish they were more organized.

Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to organization. I have been accused of having a "high tolerance for chaos." And it's true! I can have 15 kids over, making mud pies, and I enjoy it. My husband, on the other hand, hates it when there is a dirty dish in the sink. Be true to yourself and develop an organization plan that works for you. That's the only way you'll be able to stick with it. It has to be natural and easy for YOU. So here are some suggestions to get you started. If another, better idea occurs to you, be sure to write it down right away so that you don't forget it. Here goes...

  • One of the best suggestions I've ever heard came from an organization expert I interviewed for one of our summer teleseminars. She said to walk through your home, room by room, and identify honestly just how you use that room. One family discovered that they used their coffee table for science experiments and model building, so now they store those supplies right next to the coffee table, under the coach. And she suggested that since homeschoolers use their kitchen table so much for studying, that we should keep our learning supplies near the table for easy clean up. Perhaps you can put book shelves in the TV room so that you have easy access to your supplies and so that the kids can put things away when they are done.
     
  • One homeschooler I know buys plastic kitchen dishpans for each of her children and the schedule and books for each child is kept in that dishpan. They just take down their container, do their studies, and put the container back when they are done.
     
  • I am a big fan of leaning centers. When my children were young I had learning centers for everything. I had a special reading nook, a piano/guitar area, a microscope and science center, and an art center. I loved the way our house looked and felt like a real home school. If this appeals to you, you can go to Amazon.com or your local library and do a search for books about "learning centers."
      
  • It's a funny thing, but in our surveys our Product Testers said they wished they were more organized time-wise so that they could get more homeschooling done, but no one said they wished the house had been cleaner. Interesting. What this says is to relax about the house more. Don't let these little things stress you out. When you are lying on your death bed are you really going to wish that you had spent more time dusting? Enjoy your children. Enjoy this special time with them. Lower your standards and keep the house in the type of order where it doesn't make you crazy, and then forget about it. Focus on how lucky you are to be able to spend so much time with your kids. They'll be grown up and gone in the blink of an eye.
     
  • Time-wise, our Product Testers have some good suggestions for you. If any of these ideas appeal to you, write them down so you can try them out after the call. For example, one mom (obviously a morning person) likes to get up a couple of hours before the kids wake up so that she can exercise, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, look at her calendar, and write out a schedule for the day. Having a daily routine does seem to help. You'll change this throughout the year just to shake things up so that things don't become boring, but it is helpful to decide now what your daily rhythm will be.
     
  • Will you have a theme for each day? Monday is park day, Tuesday is science experiment day, etc. Will your rhythm be that everyone has to have their clothes on and hair brushed/teeth clean before breakfast? Then, studies between breakfast and lunch, chores after lunch, and then free time once the studies and chores are done? What will work best for your family? Or will each child have their own study and chore list that they work on each day? Or maybe you just have certain things that you expect to be done each day and you don't care when they do it. For example, maybe they are expected to read for 30 minutes and write in their journal every day. Or will you do studies together for an hour, break to unload the dishwasher and switch the laundry, do some more studies, and then break for another chore.
     
  • In my house we call it the "dash and stash." I set the oven timer for 30 minutes and we all run around the house putting things back in order. I explain to the kids that this is the power of synergy. By five of us working together for just 30 minutes we get 2 hours of cleaning done.
     
  • One unschooling mom does her lessons WHILE she does her chores. They do state capitals and multiplication tables while folding laundry. They talk about history while making the beds. And her children score in the 90% percentile on standardized tests.
     
  • So now, before we go on to the next topic, write down some ideas on what the rhythm of YOUR day will look like. And be sure to get help if you can. Homeschooling is equivalent to working a part-time job. So try to get help with the cooking and cleaning and driving. Everyone has their specialties and teaching is one of yours. So get help for the stuff you don't love doing.
     

About the 5-week coaching class

I will cover time management and organization in more detail during my private 5-Week Coaching Teleclass. During the 5-week teleclass, I'm going to hold your hand to help you create the best homeschooling plan you have ever had. The cost for this coaching program is $195 for the five weeks. So that equals out to $40 per LIVE teleclass, plus all the live email support just for you during those 5 weeks, plus all the bonuses we'll be sending you. If you can't make the LIVE teleclass you can pre-order the online version for $95 and we'll send you the recordings and class materials in September, as soon as they are available. The signup page for both of these options is www.Homeschool.com/coaching. If you scroll down that page you'll see a link that says "Yes! I want to purchase the live coaching program" or "Help! I can't make the live event and want to preorder the recordings."

Here's how it works:

1)  The Monday before each class, I email you that week's lesson materials.

2)  At the time of the class, you telephone a conference call number and enter a special passcode. (Like we did today)

3)  We will be recording each teleclass so if you can't make the LIVE class you can telephone in right away and listen to the recording.

4)  At the beginning of each teleclass, I answer any questions you might have about the previous week's material. Then I will teach for about 60 minutes and will give you your homework action steps for that week. At the end of the class, I'll again answer any questions you might have.

5)  When you have questions while you are doing your homework, you email me and I will get back to you right away.

6)  By the end of this 5-week teleclass:

Your house will be organized

You will know your child's learning style and will have found your
          curriculum for the year,

You will have worked with your child to set semester and
          year-long goals,

You will have a day to day schedule that works for you,

You'll have a plan in place for high school and college, and

You'll have motivation plans to keep you going all year long.

You'll be amazed at how much you accomplish.

Motivation

I love the way one homeschooling mom put it. "I may not always be motivated, but I am always committed." Just like school, homeschooling seems to have times when a lot is getting done and when practically nothing is getting done. Remember when you were in school? Pretty much nothing but art was done in December during the holidays and during the last couple of weeks of the year nothing much got accomplished because everyone was tired and burned out. The beauty of homeschooling is its flexibility. You get to create a daily schedule that works for you and you get to create a yearly schedule that works for you.

Try to break up the school year into sections. Do you tend to get a lot done between September and November? Then set some challenging goals for that time period and decide ahead of time that if you reach your goals you will take December off. And if you know that you tend to get tired and distracted by May, then plan ahead to get a lot of studying in between January and April. When my children were younger we homeschooled year round. It was such a natural part of our day that no one wanted to stop. And because I knew we were going year round, I felt comfortable having days where no "official" homeschooling seemed to be taking place. Now that my children are older they seem to need that big break in the summer. They take a lot of group classes and they are tired and burned out by the end of May. What type of yearly schedule will work best for you? Think about that this summer and get out your calendar and think about what type of schedule will work best for you this coming school year. Give yourself plenty of breaks throughout the year to rest and recharge. And be sure to celebrate whenever you reach your goals.

The comfort of knowing what the yearly schedule will look like it that it eliminates the feeling of "Will this ever end?" By dividing your year up into sections and setting goals for each time period, you get the satisfaction of checking things off your list and feeling like you have really accomplished something. And the kids get to celebrate and feel good about what they are doing.

Once you have a picture of what your yearly schedule will look like, you may want to decide ahead of time what your weekly schedule will look like. Will you have a theme for each day? Will every Friday be outdoor day or fieldtrip day or art day? What type of weekly schedule will give the kids variety and break things up a bit? You want to keep things from becoming too much the same day after day. That's boring for everyone.

The keys to staying motivated are:

1) feeling like you are accomplishing something,

2) celebrating along the way, and

3) building flexibility into your yearly, your semester, and your daily schedule.

I asked you earlier to picture what your daily rhythm would look and feel like. Most likely you will want to keep this rhythm for a couple of months (for the fall semester, for example) and then switch over to a different rhythm for the winter months where you may decide you want to sleep in until the house warms up, or so you can read aloud for hours together at night in front of the fire. After that, you may want to have a different rhythm planned for when the weather gets good and you want to spend lots of time outdoors. By anticipating the holidays and the weather changes you can decide ahead of time how much and what type of homeschooling you are planning to do during each time period. That way you've planned ahead that you are going to spend lots of time on Christmas projects during December, lots of time for snow sports in January, and lots of time outdoors in the spring.

Your homework after this call is to plan out ahead of time:

1) What your yearly calendar will be. When you'll be actively homeschooling and when you will be taking a break.

2) And what your daily rhythm will look like for each semester or quarter.

3) Then, I'm going to help you come up with specific goals for each of those time periods.

And my last bit of advice having to do with motivation is the most important. Remember to pace yourself, take plenty of breaks, and take good care of yourself. No one is at their best when they are tired or stressed out. Make sure you celebrate and pat yourself on the back for the wonderful job you are doing. And be sure to pat your children on the back too and celebrate all the neat things they are learning, the great things they are accomplishing, and the wonderful person they are becoming.

How to save time & money, but still give your child a complete education

Let's talk a minute about the costs and time involved to homeschool. As I said, you don't have to break the bank and homeschool 8-10 hours a day in order to do a great job. Remember, homeschooling can cost a lot or a little. You choose. And the dollar amount does not determine the quality of the homeschooling. So that's a comfort. If you don't have a lot of money, you can still do a great job homeschooling.

Now let's talk about the time involved. Homeschooling (which is basically one on one and small group learning) is a lot faster than classroom learning because you don't have classroom management and behavioral issues to deal with. But homeschooling does take time and most homeschoolers wish they had more time to devote to their homeschooling.

Once you've done your homework and have decided what your yearly and daily rhythm is going to be like, this will help you a lot with your time management. Because now you know your priorities and you will be less likely to let interruptions derail you from your homeschooling.

Let's talk a bit about goal setting. I love setting goals and I've found this to be a huge help in my life. When I was younger I had a tendency to start something and then quit it and move on to something new. This was awfully bad for my confidence and I never seemed to accomplish anything. So now I set specific goals for myself and I always make sure I celebrate when I accomplish them.

And I've encouraged my children to set fall, spring and summer goals for themselves. I ask them what their goals are and I write these down on a piece of paper. Then I tape their goals to the refrigerator so they are a daily reminder and we celebrate every time they accomplish one of their goals. When my son was 9 he said his goal was to learn to drive every kind of boat. I thought to myself, "Good grief, how is he going to accomplish this one?" So I asked around and discovered that there was a summer boating camp in our area that taught canoeing, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, and motor boating. Can you believe it?!

I give them a lot of guidance when they are writing their goals for the semester. I'll add things to the list like:

  • Read 5 books this semester.
  • Finish half of the multiplication workbook
  • Pick a state or a country and research and write a killer report on it
  • Memorize all of the state capitals
  • Learn to knit (if that's something they really want to learn), or
  • Make 5 new friends.

Then I take these goals VERY seriously and they know that I will do everything in my power to help them accomplish these goals. And when they do, I take a photo of them holding the 5 books they have read, and I print out their 'killer' report, and I take a photo of them with their knitting project, and I put all this together into a simple stapled portfolio. I have these portfolios going back years and the kids still love to look at them. And when people ask them, "what do you do in homeschooling?" They know the answer and have specific examples of what they have learned. It's such a confidence builder!

So now your homework for after this call is to help your child set some goals. Are there a certain number of books you want them to read this summer? Do they want to take an online babysitting class? Or is their goal to sleep in, write in their journal, and swim a lot this summer. These are important goals too.

My 16 year old son's goals for this past spring semester were to:

1) turn in all of his assignments on time to his teachers (he takes local homeschooling classes for Writing and Geometry),

2) pass the AP Lit exam (if he can),

3) earn the 'most improved' trophy at his ping pong club,

4) get his driver's license,

5) exercise every day,

6) and he did biology and history, too, but he worked on these at home and didn't feel he needed to add them to his goal list.

When he took the AP exam we went out and celebrated. I told him that we were going to celebrate twice. Once for when he had the courage to stretch himself and sit for the exam, and once if he passes the test.

Next year his goals are to finish and publish a book, start a role-playing website, and ace the PSAT and SAT exams. Because these are such big goals, we know ahead of time to take it easier with his other subjects. No matter what happens next year and no matter what comes up, these three goals are top priority and they help us to keep focused and motivated all year long.

And let's talk a minute about ways to save money on your homeschooling. The advice from our product testers is to:

  • Use the library as much as possible. (I listen to a LOT of audio books and I get these for free at the library instead of having to pay $50-$60 dollars for them at the bookstore)
     
  • Buy used curriculum when you can, but be careful not to buy a product used if it has a lot of little pieces to it. You'll just end up frustrated and waste your time.
     
  • Use the Internet. You can homeschool for free just by accessing the free lessons available on the Internet. Be sure to organize your bookmarks so that your children can easily go to their math site or their science site, or their art project site.
     

By the way, when I asked out Product Testers to tell me which websites they liked the best, about 40% of them wrote in the name Enchanted Learning. If you have younger children, go to www.enchantedlearning.com. You're going to love this site. And Homeschool.com has a list of the Top 100 Educational Websites. Just go to www.Homeschool.com and scroll down towards the bottom of the page. You'll find it listed there and it's a great resource.

How to prepare for high school and college

Lastly, I want to talk about high school and college planning. This is an intimidating topic for most of us. We want to homeschool all the way through high school, but the idea of homeschooling the harder subjects and making sure that our child can graduate and get into a good college if they want to, can be a bit scary. Homeschooling high school is a different game.

I'm knee deep into this right now myself with my 16 year old so I'm learning as I go. When I asked our Product Testers for advice they had some great suggestions.

The #1 suggestion is to have your teen take classes at your local junior college. Dual enrollment is great! If your homeschooled teen takes a class at the junior college, they receive high school and college credit for that same class. Plus, they get to have that college experience and the classes are relatively inexpensive. And colleges like to have outside verification of your child's learning so they are comforted to see that your student can do well in the classroom too.

In the cheat sheet, I've included some other great suggestions for you too. So be sure to read through this list.

If you think your child will want to go to college then start talking now about which colleges they might enjoy. This will determine what subjects you study and which tests you take.

Your action step for this topic is to do a Google search with the name of your state and the words graduation requirements. Print this out. Then find out what your 1st choice college is looking for and add these requirements to that diploma list. Then know that the PSAT is given in the fall of the Junior year and then plan on taking the SAT two or three times – in the spring of the junior year, in the fall of the senior year, and in the spring of the senior year. College applications and financial aid applications are done the summer after the junior year, so plan on spending a lot of time that summer on paper work. You can take campus tours at any time, but most people do them their Junior year.

My son would like to go to Stanford (and BOY would I LOVE for him to get in). And fortunately, Stanford loves homeschoolers (26% of their new enrollees were homeschooled). We did our research and discovered that they like students who do neat, challenging projects. And since my son wants to write a book and start a web business, we are hoping that he can have these things done before the end of his Junior year so that he can put this on his college application.

I'll have more specific information for you on homeschooling high school this September when my new book is done. So I'll be sure to let you know when that is ready.

It looks like we are out of time now so I want to thank you very much for participating in this call today. I enjoyed it very much and I hope you got a lot out of it.

If we can answer any questions for you please feel free to email us at: Advisor@Homeschool.com


   
 

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