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Homeschooler Places Second in National Spelling Bee

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 10:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


The national spelling be was held on May 28 in Washington D.C. Homeschooler Tim Ruiter came in second. The 12- year-old from Centreville, VA was also the youngest to make it to the finals.

The word that stumped Tim was “Maecenas”. The word means cultural benefactor. I don’t suppose it would make Tim feel any better but I wouldn’t have spelled it correctly either. I’m not a terrible speller but everyday I’m grateful for the miracle we call a spell checker.


Congratulations to Tim. I think all the kids who participate in our national bee are extraordinary but I’m especially proud that a homeschooler made it all the way to the second spot. Great job!


While researching this topic I checked out the website for the national bee and came across a page explaining the origin of the term spelling bee. I’m kind of a nut when it comes to word origins. I found it fascinating that the origin is a sort of mystery.


To read more about it, explore other fun facts and find out more about this year’s bee, I encourage you to check out the Scripps National Spelling Bee website.


Copyright 2009

Homeschooling by the Numbers

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


I find this article from USA Today interesting. It throws around a lot of numbers and fancy statistics so I thought I should at least share it and let the readers decide what they think of it.


I am not a big fan of statistics. When people start throwing out percentages I usually put up a sort of mental block. Statistics are so easy to skew and I just do not trust the numbers. For example, let’s look at the 36% of parents who homeschool for “religious or moral instruction”.  I am very aware that many families homeschool for religious reasons but the majority of the families I know or have talked to claim they homeschool because they are dissatisfied with the school system. Even families who greatly implement religion into their curriculum claim their main reason is dissatisfaction with the school system. So, does religion truly account for the majority? Couldn’t it be that some parents are dissatisfied with the school system because of its lack of moral instruction? Where does that group fall when it comes to crunching these numbers?


The other thing that caught my eye was the ratio of homeschooled boys vs. girls. According to the article, there has been a significant shift in the numbers. Now 58% of girls are homeschooled compared to 42% of boys. The article theorizes that maybe this is due to “mean girl” behavior in the schools. I do not mean to belittle anyone whose child has gone through that sort of experience. However, it seems to me that there are many other variables that could account for those numbers.


So, read the article and take what you want from it. For me the most profound thing I took from it was the very last statement made by homeschooling mom, Michelle Blimes when she says, “They should be able to enjoy playing and being kids before being thrown into the teen culture.” As a former elementary school educator who witnessed shocking behavior among elementary age students, I couldn’t agree more.


Copyright 2009

Homeschooling and Summer

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


What are your plans for the summer? This seems to be the popular question as of late. I’ve been hearing it a lot. People are surprised when I say we don’t have any major plans and, yes, we will continue our studies through the summer.


We lean toward a more unschooling attitude and that means my kids get a lot of downtime as far as formal, structured study goes. There is just no reason to stop exploring various topics during the summer months. How do you stop a child from exploring their favorite topics anyway?


I was thinking about that when I stumbled upon this article by Faye Kepner. It made me smile because she voiced exactly what I’ve been thinking only she said it even better. I especially love her point about the idea that learning only takes place during the school year, behind a desk. It is sad how many people seem to hold to that attitude.


Our plans this summer include lots of cooking, baking, reading, art projects, exploration of history and some cool science projects. We’re learning all about Easter Island at the kids’ request and have decided to try our hand at sign language. We’re reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia series aloud. The boys have two major creative writing projects to complete over the next few months. Vacation? We plan on going to Sea World but we’ll wait until the fall when everyone else is back in school.


It may sound like a lot but to the kids it is all fun. There is still plenty of time for swimming, video games, movies and fun with friends. We will still enjoy a long, relaxing summer just as we enjoy a long relaxing, fall, winter and spring. That is just one of the perks of homeschooling.


What are your plans? Head over to the discussion forum and share your summer plans or send an email to [email protected].


Copyright 2009

Homeschoolers Perform the Arts

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


Today I came across this article and had to share it. There are those who think that removing children from the public school system means removing them from their community. This inspiring news proves that is not so. In fact, from my experience, homeschoolers are more involved in community than those who attend public school.


A group of homeschoolers in Alabama will spend part of their summer touring nursing homes. The group, Homeschoolers Performing Art for the Young at Heart (I love that name), will perform poetry and music recitals as part of a four-week community service project that will take them through three counties.


I have no doubt that many of you are already part of similar projects but I wanted to post this as inspiration for anyone out there who might be searching for some way to reach out to the community. This is such a great way because the residents of the nursing home are entertained but the kids who perform gain so much from the experience.


If you have a story, event or even a rant you’d like to share you can send it my way, [email protected] or visit’s Discussion Forum.


Copyright 2009

Homeschoolers are not Quitters

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


I try to keep the focus of my articles on positive, uplifting news. I can be very passionate about homeschooling and that passion can sometimes manifest itself in a rather negative voice when confronted by the negativity, or naivety of others.


Today I read a woman’s opinion of homeschooling and it prompted me to respond. So, rather than an article about graduation, or art exhibits, I will respond to the points of Amy Platon’s article, which you can read here. I promise to try to keep negativity and sarcasm out of my voice.


Platon says she is worried about the bigger picture, but is she even seeing the bigger picture? Her first point is that homeschooling is not fair to her child because he would have to put up with his mom all day. If that is the dynamic of their relationship then maybe she is doing the best thing. Most families who homeschool enjoy being together and just because your children are homeschooled, does not mean you’re in the same room, engaged in the same project. Most homeschoolers are not even at home. They are out engaging in fun activities with other homeschoolers. Yes, they actually are a part of their community Ms. Platon.


Her second point is that she isn’t qualified. This view always gets me. Humans are natural learners. We do not need a “qualified professional” to teach us how to learn. When your infant son was learning to crawl, walk, hold a spoon, toilet train did you call in a professional? I went to college for a teaching degree and I can tell you that it makes me no more qualified than any other parent to guide my child’s education; and that is all they need, a guide. It doesn’t take a professional to help a child find and explore the topics about which they are passionate. Platon says she feels more effective as a support for her son. If only she would realize that is all he needs.


She states that she believes many parents homeschool out of fear. After giving this point some thought I found that I agree with her. She is right. I homeschool out of fear. Fear that my children are growing up too fast and I don’t want to miss this precious time with them. Fear that sending them into the school will dumb them down or make them lose their passion for learning. Fear that they’ll be labeled and put into a box from which they’ll never emerge. Fear that I don’t know the people these schools employ and 90% of the time, the schools don’t either.


Platon wraps up her argument by stating that if the homeschooling trend continues that we will have adults who have learned to be out only for themselves and to be quitters. That is how she views homeschoolers, selfish quitters. I ask Ms. Platon, what would you have us do? When faced with something you find less than satisfactory, do you stick with it or do you find something that works better? Homeschool families simply found something that worked better for them. Does that make them quitters? That word does not define any homeschooler I know.


My kids have never been in the public school system. They didn’t quit. I did. I admit it. I quit the public school system. As someone who worked within the system, I’m telling you it cannot be changed. I can share my passion for education all day long and it won’t make a difference as far as the public school system is concerned. It is still an institution that squashes creativity and individuality. It rips the natural desire to learn right out of children. Children are told what to learn and when to learn it. Being a self-starter or thinking outside the box is highly discouraged. I’m sure volunteering in my local school is going to magically change all that. (I was so close)


The bigger picture, as I see it, is that Ms. Platon feels threatened by those of us who have turned our backs on public education. We are doing something she doesn’t quite understand and is afraid she isn’t capable of. Homeschooled children are thriving both academically and socially. Those who criticize it are finding they have nothing with which to make their points because we’ve disproven them all. The new argument appears to be we’re taking the “good” kids out of the school and making school worse than it already was. Is that what Platon is saying?  Platon almost makes it sound like we’re obligated to send our children into the schools so that her child has a good influence.


Platon wraps up her argument by stating, “we (the future society) need you (the home-schoolers) to be checked-in with the rest of us. We need to grow together. We need to learn from each other.”


Checked-in with the rest of you? You mean mindlessly institutionalized. No thanks.


Copyright 2009

Exhibit Highlights Homeschoolers’ Talents

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


Art is kind of a big deal in our house. We are always in the middle of some art project or another and we talk a lot about art history. This last week we were discussing Michelangelo and decided to draw pictures while lying on our backs, to get just a glimpse of what it must have been like to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I can tell you it must not have been very comfortable.


I bring this up because I was reading an article that announced an art exhibit that highlights work done by homeschoolers. Nearly 60 pieces will be on display at Arts United in Davidson County, North Carolina.


The pieces include pottery, drawing, paintings and mixed media. Art teacher, Melinda Hedrick, is a former art teacher for Davidson County Schools. She now works with about 80 homeschoolers all the way from pre-k to 12th grade. This will be the third year that her homeschoolers will show off their work.


Recently I had reason to be in an elementary school and noticed that every wall of every hallway was covered in artwork. It made me think about all the homeschoolers I know and how we should have some kind of exhibit. It would be wonderful for homeschoolers to be able to show off their projects.


My boys have their work plastered all over our kitchen. However, there is something to be said for sharing their masterpieces with others. A few years ago, my oldest had one of his works posted as part of an online gallery. He was very proud and it boosted his confidence.


The homeschoolers in North Carolina will attend an opening reception and then will receive a prize and certificate for having their work displayed. If I were in that neck of the woods, I would gladly attend and show my support.


The opening reception will take place 5-7pm on Tuesday, May 26 at Arts United, 220 S. Main St, Lexington North Carolina. The display will run through May 29. If you live in the area, stop by and support your local homeschoolers.


Copyright 2009

Policy Proposal Unfair to Homeschoolers

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


I stumbled upon this article and found it interesting and worth sharing.


It seems that an Illinois school district has proposed a revision to its policy regarding the credits they will accept for transfer. Grades given to homeschoolers will not be reflected on high school transcripts unless those grades came from an accredited school.


So, what does this mean? It means that any homeschooler who is considering going to public school for high school may have to repeat certain subjects. For example, a mother in the article commented that she is not planning to send her children into public school but if, for some reason, she had to her son would have to retake anatomy. Her son already took the class from an actual medical doctor. However, the credit is meaningless as far as this school district is concerned.


It comes down to the district not trusting homeschooling parents. Again, parents are not trusted to be competent enough to know what is best for their children and to ensure they are learning.


The most frightening part of the article is that the mother they talked to started homeschooling because her son was entering the sixth grade with all As and Bs but was reading at a second grade level and still struggling with fifth grade math.


Again, we have a case of homeschoolers being forced to be accountable, but the public school is held to a lesser standard. The Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources said the purpose of the policy change was to ensure that all students graduating from their district met graduation standards. So, learning anatomy from a medical doctor is an unacceptable standard. But passing children who can barely read into the sixth grade is perfectly acceptable?


And people still wonder why I choose to homeschool.


Copyright 2009

More Graduation Celebrations

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:42 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor

We’re honoring our graduating homeschoolers this month. Reader, Michelle Griswold, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana wrote to tell us about her experience.

 My third child just participated in our local CHEF Kindergarten graduation.  Each of my three children has gone through this adorable ritual.  There are usually about 25 children who participate each year.  They march into the sanctuary in cap and gown to Pomp & Circumstance and take their seats on the stage.  Each year the ceremony is a little different, but often includes the Pledge of Allegiance, a cute song by the graduates, sometimes Bible verses and prayers shared by a few of the graduates, and a short message from a pastor or someone active in the homeschool community.  The planners of the graduation compile a DVD, which everyone gets a copy of, containing photos of the graduates from the year and field trip pictures, all set to music.  The children also bring memory boards to set up in the fellowship hall where we share punch and cake after the ceremony.  The children really enjoy celebrating their milestone with a ceremony all their own.  One thing that makes this such a special day is that the children have met together during the year (the “Kindergarten Klub”) for field trips and story time at the library, so they are graduating with their friends.  Some of them are very active in the Kindergarten Klub, and some just come to a few things or maybe just to the graduation.  It is open to everyone who is a member of our local CHEF chapter.

Thanks Michelle. That sounds like it was a wonderful, and very cute, ceremony. It seems that a lot of groups find ways to celebrate their homeschoolers of all ages for their accomplishments throughout the year. And why not? Our kids work hard all year and deserve recognition for there successes.

Still, there is nothing quite like the milestone of completing all grades and heading off to the next phase of life.’s own Rebecca Kochenderfer wrote to tell of her son’s graduation ceremony. It is posted in the’s News Discussion Forum.

Head on over and share your own stories or send them to me at [email protected] and I’ll continue to share them with the community.

Copyright 2009

Team Reaches Championship

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor

Imagine a gang of kids who want nothing more than to play ball. They are denied participation with their public school because they are “different”. One man decides to take on the commitment of working with these boys and he starts a league for kids with no other options.

The players are described as “scrappy” and it is four years in before they have a good season. Fast forward another four years and we see this league has reached the World Series and garnered attention from college programs.

Sounds like a movie doesn’t it? But it isn’t a movie. It is a true story out of Virginia about the Richmond Patriots, a baseball team comprised of homeschoolers. Eight years ago Gregg Tobey started the Central Virginia Homeschool Athletics Association for homeschoolers who had no other options because of the rules barring them from participating in public school sports.

The Patriots play against public and private schools and other homeschool teams in the state. This year they are in Pensacola, Florida for the national championship tournament. As the tournament began, the Patriots had the lowest ranking of all the teams. Despite this, the team has gone on to beat the top ranked team out of Oklahoma.

The Patriots have another game today. It kind of makes me wish we had a homeschool sports channel. Hey, there is an entire channel devoted to video gaming and I’ve heard there is another devoted to whiskey. Why not homeschool sports or even homeschooling in general? I guess that is a topic for another article. Anyway, I’d like to watch and see how these kids do. Theirs is an inspiring story.  I don’t know a single one of them but, as a fellow homeschooler, I’m proud of them.

Copyright 2009

Celebrating Graduation

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm News Editor

On Monday I posted an article about homeschoolers and graduation ceremonies. I asked you, our wonderful audience, to please send in any stories regarding the homeschoolers in your life and their graduation ceremonies.

I want to send a big thanks to Jill Murtagh of Chicago, Illinois for sending an email about her niece’s 8th grade graduation ceremony. This is what Jill had to say.

I recently attended the 8th grade graduation of my niece, who attends a local branch of A.P.P.L.E.T.R.E.E. (Illinois) homeschool group. The event was held in a rented church auditorium, which allowed some rather elegant audiovisual presentations. This group matriculates 8th graders and high school seniors in one event, which allows the younger students to participate in a ceremony which they can then anticipate for their own graduation. Each graduate read their favorite Bible passage, delivered a prepared speech of remembrances and future plans, and performed a demonstration of (mostly musical) talents. There were only a dozen or so seniors, which allowed them time to embrace their parents when the diplomas were distributed. The ceremony wrapped up with a moving montage of video images of each of the graduates, set to appropriate music, and a prayer for their continued success. An adjoining gymnasium provided a casual place for freshments, and to study some rather elaborate “memory tables” erected by the graduates to honor their time spent with the group. Although my family is not affiliated with any one group at present, attending this ceremony has shown me the importance of such a ceremony, and prompted me to research ways to mark our own momentous passages when the time comes.

Jill, just reading about this ceremony prompts me to research ways to mark our own momentous passages when the time comes. This sounds like it was a truly special ceremony and I think it is great that they honored the 8th graders as well. Another reader wrote to tell me about a small graduation ceremony they’re having for a group of kindergarten homeschoolers. Awesome.

This just further proves that homeschooling isn’t something that takes place in the closet under the stairs. Our homeschoolers are honored for their efforts and accomplishments just like their public schooled peers.

If you have a graduation story you’d like to share please send it my way, [email protected]. I will continue to post graduation stories throughout the month of May.

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