CSMO: When the military wants to move out it orders close station marching orders and hits the road running in order to engage the enemy. Home schooling for some families can start just the same way. When schools, authorities, trends, and concerns about behavior and culture begin to impact our children, it is not uncommon for families to decide to take their children out of the public school system and make a commitment to home school. And what a commitment it is! Taking over the plethora of academic, fine arts, practicum, and social training for one or many children is no small task and can last as long at 60% of an 20-year military career. Here are some observations from a former private and public school principal with a background in K-12 home school education. A Good Beginning: The art of deliberating can often be replaced with reacting to problems and challenges. Of the many home school parents that I have met, all but a handful were careful and committed people who want the best for their children -- and were prepared to alter their own lives accordingly. Starting well demands that we think through why a child is taken out of the public school system. Reacting to personality clashes, misunderstandings, miscommunications, or outright errors by school staff can leave the educating parent adrift in responsibilities, some of which may be beyond their ability to cope. This is a family decision that requires deliberate conversation, research, asking questions of others in similar circumstances, and engaging professional educators both in person and online. Every child benefits not from an acrimonious beginning, but a sound and comprehensive decision that knows well both pros and cons. Competence & Cooperation: Just as we all have positive attributes, so too are there negatives when it comes to providing comprehensive education during our child's educational tenure. Are you a good teacher? And if so, what are your strong subjects? Conversely, what areas did you struggle with as a scholar? These questions are vital, as you will be establishing yourself as your child's educational expert. My experience is that the best home school educators share their task with fellow home schoolers in some formal or informal association -- and -- take the time to seek out other resources within their community and even in their own local school district. You will be amazed how often hard currency benefits, classes, sports opportunities, fine arts, science, club affiliation, and other resources are there for the taking. Woe to the parent who marks out certain agencies as the enemy. A day will come when 3rd graders will want to play varsity baseball or soccer and former little girls will want to swim, run track, or be on the cheerleading squad. To be a home school parent doesn't require you once you begin -- as the Vikings would say -- to burn your child's ship on the beach. Look for bridges and keep the wonder of opportunity alive! Don't Forget Basic Academics: Fine arts, tuba and piano classes, community theater, and dance are all worthy electives for your child. Be careful to measure, though, your child's progress in the analytic disciplines like reading, writing, math in all its forms, foundational sciences (versus earth science and astronomy), and the languages. Most children fight these disciplines and many parents find tutors and jointly-run cooperative class events best. Others choose expensive systems-based learning centers for help but my experience is that help is readily available (and often free) at your local area public school. Critical to developing solid academic foundation is having baseline data on how your child is doing. This can be a problem! Some parents ignore regular testing like those offered by state education associations because there is fear that a child's score will reflect poorly their own skills as an educator. This is not true! We need evaluation to better develop specialized education plans for each child. We home school to get better results. Testing gives us result feedback. So, do not fear testing. Rather, embrace it as a means to educational and career success for your child/children. Medium & Long-term Challenges: In Home school (Part 2) I will explore the art of teaching fine arts, how we get to know our children as others will know them, finding mentors outside of the home, an evaluation of home school educational resources, and healthy options in pro-socializing our children. Many home school parents make this commitment to education look easy. But it is a difficult and challenging commitment. So let me encourage you to start well, find linkages, and target teach through evaluation so that you kids will teach their kids everything they learned from you!
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