General F.A.Q. Open Books

What are your qualifications?

I have been a certified New Hampshire teacher since 1995, holding  current New Hampshire endorsements in both Middle Grades (5-8) and  Secondary (7-12) Mathematics. My B.A. in Mathematics and teacher’s  training was completed at Keene State College… but don’t hold that  against me ; ) I have been involved with the homeschool community since  1998, evaluating portfolios since 2003, and teaching online classes since 2014. I am an amazing tutor and craft effective curriculum for each of my classes. I love education, teaching, learning, and curriculum  sales. Every person’s educational taste is different so, in the end,  I’m only as qualified as you think I am.

Am I covering everything my child will need?

This is the number one homeschool question that I get, and my best answer is: Pray. The reality is that a human can’t learn every bit of  phonics, history, geography, world languages, mathematics, science,  politics, public speaking, fine arts, etc… not even over the course of a  lifetime–much less over the course of 12 or 13 years! Your job as a  parent is to prepare your child with basic life skills and the ability  to learn. Bring each child prayerfully before God and teach them as you  believe He would have them go.

In New Hampshire subject requirements are simple; over the course of  your child’s academic career, they should be taught science,  mathematics, language, government, history, health, reading, writing,  spelling, U.S. and New Hampshire constitutional history, and art and  music appreciation. You don’t need to teach everything all at once, and  your student doesn’t need to go over every subject each year. If you are  interested in what New Hampshire schools try to teach, check out the  state’s frameworks… but keep in mind that this is not the final word on  the subject and I don’t know any homeschoolers who even try to match these very theoretical goals.

There are some great “anti-gap” resources out there: Tammy Duby of Tobin’s Lab has a great audio presentation entitled “Are You Leaving  (Gasp!) Gaps?” where she talks about choosing your gaps rather than  letting them choose you. If you are putting together your own  curriculum, consider using Luke’s School List or the What Your Child  Needs to Know series to help you cover your bases. A commercial scope  and sequence such as A Beka or World Book, or an online program of  studies might give you a helpful planning framework. But remember —  these are all suggestions. What your child graduates leaves home with is ultimately between you, your spouse, your child, and God.

A final word: Please don’t ask your child to complete two Language Arts programs or three history programs so that you won’t “leave  anything out”… It’ll just frustrate everyone. Choosing Joy has an  encouraging article about “old fashioned” homeschooling and the comparison trap.

What does a homeschool day look like? Is this right?

This is a great question with a million different answers… literally.  There are over two million children being homeschooled in America today,  and that number is growing by leaps and bounds. Every family will have a  different schedule, with different priorities, interests, and  challenges. At a recent homeschool support meeting, some friends and I  shared our “day in the life” stories. The “Jones” family’s day is here  and here. The “Anderson” and “Smith” families were also gracious enough  to share their days with you. And, of course, my day. [Note: the left  hand side is the “shined up” version… the right side contains those  facts that we’d all prefer not to mention…] As for your day? If your  children are progressing academically and personally, and are getting  what they need, then you’re doing just fine.

Do I really have to learn algebra in order to teach it?

Well, yeah. If you’re going to teach algebra using a traditional math  curriculum, you need to know (or be willing to learn!) algebra.  Thankfully, however, it’s a great time to be a homeschooler — there are  several math curricula written directly to the student. Since the  computer or DVD program functions as the “teacher”, you function more as  a facilitator or overseer. Add in a friend or family member whom you  can call in a pinch, and you’ve got yourself an algebra class! Some  examples would be VideoText Algebra and Teaching Textbooks. Plus, some  motivated students can teach themselves… it’s just not the norm.

How do I teach and/or evaluate my child’s writing?

If you have a number of children and want to be able to affectively  teach them how to communicate in writing, you can’t go wrong with  Teaching Writing with Structure and Style, a teacher education workshop  published by The Institute for Excellance in Writing. It will teach you  how to teach your children. Creation Ministries International has a  great Homeschool Corner with a number of excellent articles on writing,  including one by Ruth Beechick, entitled How Not to Teach Writing. This  is well worth checking out. Finally, if you’re still stymied by grading,  Theresa Moon has a wonderful book on Evaluating for Excellence.

How often, over the course of a week, do you recommend I teach each subject?

This question was submitted via email by Karina… and it’s a great  question! New Hampshire law requires that student be instructed in  “science, mathematics, language, government, history, health, reading,  writing, spelling, the history of the constitutions of New Hampshire and  the United States, and an exposure to and appreciation of art and  music.” But they certainly don’t have to learn all that at once! You  might spread it out over the course of several years (art one year,  music the next, NH history the next) or cover a little bit each  year–it’s entirely up to you.

Karina continues her question “For example, I really like the  Sonlight Math and Science curriculum. Math I want to teach 4 x’s a week,  but History and Science only twice a week…is that too much, too little.  He is only 6 and I don’t want to overwhelm him…thoughts?” Many families  choose to teach fewer subjects per day, or consolidate teaching time,  it all depends on what works for you. I’ve found that most  “knowledge-based” classes, like history or science, really lend  themselves to an every-other-day or twice-a-week schedule. You have more  time for a great project or for digging out those science supplies!  Watch out for attention span issues, however, as some little brains just  can’t concentrate on one subject for that long.

Skills-based classes, such as reading, handwriting, and mathematics,  are another matter altogether. It’s the rare young student who will make  the same progress three or four times a week as they would working five  or six days. It’s not about the time spent, just about the regular,  consistent practice of these skills. I’m not saying you have to pull out  the workbooks five days a week–just that you have your student practice  these skills. Maybe have him write a short note to Grandma, play a math  game, or read a book together. Every family’s schedule will look a bit  different, and that’s ok. Just consider where your child is and step out  on faith… If it’s not working, change things up! That’s the joy of  homeschooling : )

Please note that while you might “do school” lightly and sporadically  with your six year old, I do have the expectation that, as your child  ages, he will spend a larger and larger proportion of his day in the  pursuit of learning. When you’re a kid, work interrupts your play. When  you’re an adult, play interrupts your work… it’s kind of a continuum.