by Cheryl R. Carter, May 2022

I did not earn my nickname the Educational Hound Dog by accident. I can sniff out the best educational approach faster than a rabid dog can pounce on an unsuspecting turtle. I won’t flaunt my academic acumen because I recognize that my zeal for scholastic matters may be a bit excessive at times. But I do have some advice that may sound conflictual to some parents. I won’t try to sugarcoat this recommendation, so, here it is: If you have serious developing writers, you should give them time off from their academic studies for some focused writing time. I know. I know. Some of you probably think your kids put me up to that declaration. They have not. However, even if they had, it does not make my statement any less true.

Give me a bit of time to make my case. If you are raising serious writers or novelists, they need time to explore the muse seriously. It has been my experience that young writers tend to be scholastically gifted. However, their grades might not always reflect their genius. There are reasons for this phenomenon. Schools often emphasize linear thinking skills, while writers are more creative. Creative thinkers differ from linear thinkers in that they must be actively involved in their learning. Albert Einstein, by the way, was a creative thinker. He discovered the theory of relativity while doing what might be called daydreaming. Some have speculated that he mused over the thought of falling—of someone falling and not feeling their weight. Thus, daydreaming led to the discovery of the Equivalence Principle, which basically states that the way the force of gravity is felt is the same as a fictitious (not real) force felt during acceleration. 

Einstein’s brilliant discoveries essentially occurred because he had the time, space, and academic freedom to be alone with his thoughts. Writers, particularly serious writers, need such time. In my writing workshop classes, gifted writers are sometimes frustrated because their lives are so regimented that they have little time for the serious muse of writing. Lest you think “well, they are just children,” Mary Shelley was a mere nineteen years old when she penned the classic Frankenstein, having begun the novel at age seventeen. S.E. Hinton was fifteen when she finished the renowned novel, The Outsiders. Christopher Paolina wrote Eragon when he was fifteen, and Harper Collins published nine-year-old Alec Graven’s book, How to Talk to Girls. These successes do not surprise me because I see similar skills in my writing scholars and my developing authors every day.

My writing workshops, clubs, and classes create an atmosphere for writing freedom. In my workshop classes, I inspire young authors to develop their muse and to give and accept criticism from other young writers. In this environment, young authors find the freedom of expression and creativity. All great writers thrive in community. Although writing is a solitary activity, history has taught us the importance of writing communities. 

From your high school English classes, you probably remember learning about the famous and historic writing colonies, settlements, and communities. My online writing workshops and classes seek to recreate these environments.

Budding young writers need dedicated time with peer-creators to have their writing cheered and affirmed. The Internet has provided a means for young writers to connect with writers of similar genres and ages. My writing scholars tell me that they enjoy my classes because they get writing advice that is not just from the teacher. 

I hope you decide to give your child a bit of creative freedom this school year.

 

Our guest blogger today, Cheryl Carter, and her husband, Derek, are two of our featured speakers at the upcoming Thrive! Conference. Cheryl is a professor, author, homeschooling mom, and the developer of the Young Author and College Prep Writing classes where through rigor, practice, and targeted skill building, students develop their collegiate and creative writing skills. Visit www.Learn4college.com/about to learn more.

 

Cover photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

by Jessica Frierson, May 2022

Attending a homeschool conference can be a great get-away for mom to recharge, find new materials, and get motivated for the next school year. It can serve the same purposes for the whole family, but the idea of taking everyone along may be intimidating. Here are some tips for having a great experience at the conference with the whole family.

 

Stay Onsite

The number one thing you can do to make the weekend easier on everyone is to stay at one of the onsite hotels. The two hotels at the Benton Convention Center are the Embassy Suites and the Marriot. Having a hotel room accessible by simply taking the elevator up or walking across the skywalk takes a load off your shoulders at the end of a long day. You will save time by eliminating the daily commute and finding parking each day. In case of inclement weather, you can entirely avoid going outside by using the skywalk or tunnel to go back and forth between the hotel and the convention center. In fact, each of my other tips is made simpler by staying onsite.

 

Switch Out with Another Parent

If both parents come to the conference, you can look over the schedule of speakers, highlight the ones that are the most important to each of you, and either divide up the kids or take turns attending sessions and staying with the kids in your room. An alternative is to partner up with another homeschool mom whom your children are familiar with and who has children of a similar age range. Then, you can split up the day with one mom going to the morning sessions and the other catching the afternoon sessions. Bring board games, a big puzzle that everyone can work on together, and other activities that you can do in a hotel room. Note: don’t make the mistake I did one year when I brought non-washable crayons for a child who had not yet outgrown the desire to leave their mark on the world!

 

Quiet Activities

You are welcome to bring your children into the sessions with you as long as they do not disturb others, of course. In order to make this as pleasant as possible for the children and yourself, you will want to make sure they have something to occupy themselves with while you are listening to the speakers. 

A floor blanket gives them a clean surface to sit on and helps those who tend to wander stay oriented where they need to be. Non-messy snacks go a long way in helping children pass the time. You may want to prepare a small backpack for each child that contains their activities. Or, you may find it more efficient to bring a small wagon that holds everyone’s items. 

Activities that my children have enjoyed include paper dolls, coloring books with colored pencils (don’t forget to bring a sharpener), “Barbie”-type dolls with several changes of clothes and hair accessories, a small container of Legos and a baseplate, card or board games that don’t require talking among the players, books, Matchbox cars, small toy animals, and various travel games such as this magnetic wand or Dogpile.  You can find many items that fit this list in the vendor hall. A fun way to start your conference weekend might be to walk through the vendor hall first thing. Let each child choose one item to purchase that they can enjoy right away, such as an interesting book or new card game.

 

Children’s Program

NCHE also offers a program that your children, aged 3-11, can attend while you are at the conference. The program is provided by Giant Cow Ministries and includes drama, music, Bible memorization, mentoring, and loads of fun activities such as inflatables. The pre-registration deadline is May 13. Onsite registration will be offered if there is available space. 

 

Easy Meals

Rooms tend to sell out more quickly at the Embassy Suites, at least partly due to the included breakfast. However, If you have small children or a large family, you may find it less stressful to avoid the morning crowd and eat in your room anyway to take advantage of the rooms still available at the Marriott. Cheese sticks, instant oatmeal, cereal, granola or cereal bars, and pre-cooked boiled eggs can easily make a healthy and quick breakfast without even leaving your room. 

For an easy lunch, you can purchase food from vendors on the lower level of the convention center or walk to a nearby restaurant. Or have an indoor picnic with chicken salad on croissants, ham and cheese sandwiches, or egg salad tucked into pita bread. (My children view pita pockets stuffed with any filling as a festive food–maybe yours will as well.)

Everyone will probably be tired out from the day by dinner time. Pizza delivery may be just the thing. With Door Dash now readily available, getting take-out delivered from any nearby restaurant can be a simple solution for dinner. For a more budget-conscious approach, many families bring a slow-cooker, liners for the cooking pot, and pre-prepped ingredients for a hot meal that can be started before leaving your room for the day and ready on your return. Disposable plates and plasticware will quickly fill the small trash cans in the hotel rooms, so you may want to bring an extra trash bag from home.

A frequent request by my children that makes for an easy but nutritious meal is what they call “snack dinner.” Fresh or dried fruit, roasted nuts, hummus and whole-wheat pita wedges, cheese, crackers, olives, carrot and celery sticks with dip, pickles, and slices of deli meat offer a variety of choices for even the pickiest eaters. It’s a winner since no cooking is required, and clean-up is easy. 

 

Active Time

With all of the focus on quiet activities, leaving out a crucial element of every child’s day would be a mistake. Although your children may be worn out from all of the walking they will likely do, they may still need an active period built into each day. Plan an activity into your schedule that will give them a chance to let out some energy. For example, a swim in the hotel pool, dancing to music on the television in your room, or a brisk walk around the block should help them get the wiggles out. 

 

Amazing Benefits

Bringing the whole family to the homeschool conference takes a bit more planning and preparation than if mom goes alone. However, there are many benefits to having them along with you. It will be a memorable experience that they will look forward to each year.

It is a great way for them to see how many other families are doing this crazy homeschool thing like them. The opportunity for your kids to look at curricula in the vendor hall may spark the fire of enthusiasm for their studies and give them a sense of power in having a say in their materials (something they would never get to do in a public school!). If they are interested in playing chess, they can participate in the chess tournament held on Thursday afternoon (preregistration is required). Watching the Talent Showcase may inspire them to try a new skill as they watch fellow homeschool students sing, dance, play instruments, and exhibit a variety of talents. And depending on their age and personality, they may be interested in some of the speakers as well. 

For families with teenagers, check out the special events we have planned for them. Thursday night is filled with a cotillion-styled dance that is sure to be fun. Following the Talent Showcase on Friday night is a game social for the teens. The college fair on Friday afternoon will give them an opportunity to speak with representatives from numerous colleges and to pick up some college swag. There is also a special teen track with workshops designed with teens in mind. 

It is always a blessing to walk through the convention center and observe all of the families there. My children count down the days until the next conference as soon as we get in the car to head home. It is the highlight of the year for them, and I hope it will be that for your family!

 

 

Jessica Frierson is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling her ten children since 2000. She serves as the secretary for NCHE, writes for GREENHOUSE, and is the lead blogger for the NCHE Blog.

by Evelyn Bickley, May 2022

When I was a public-schooled child in Pennsylvania, the best day of the year was the one day we went on a field trip. First grade was the Philadelphia Zoo. Second was Washington’s Crossing State Park.  Third was a visit to the Audubon Center. Fourth was Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. To me, those days felt like play, but they were certainly learning experiences—and obviously memorable!

As a homeschool parent, I have continued to love field trips and count them as school days. Field trips to museums and places of historical interest are easy to identify as school. Williamsburg for a week—no brainer that this fits into American history. But what about some less usual things? When we travel to the beach, I don’t count playing on the sand as school—but I do count going to an aquarium while we’re there. Going to Disney World doesn’t count—but your students participating in Disney Imagination campus workshops would. What about touring a factory like the BMW plant in South Carolina? Yes! What about something cultural like the Greek Festival in Charlotte? Yes! What about the state fair? Well—did you just ride the rides and eat funnel cake? Then, no. But if this activity broadened your child’s horizons like getting to interact with farm animals, engaging with animal exhibitors, and learning more about what they do, or even taking a first-ever train ride to get to the fair, then I’d say yes. Whenever and wherever we travel, I try to include at least one learning field trip day into the itinerary.

Summer camps are another area that you may—or may not—count as school. If the camp is more on the recreational side (think sleep-away camp featuring swimming, crafts, and games), I would not count that. But if your community offers a day camp at the local nature museum or science center, I would. Summer camps are also a great way to see if your child wants to pursue an interest for a longer term. My kids each tried week-long summer theater, robotics, culinary, equestrian, and athletic camps, and I happily recorded those on our school days calendar. What about Vacation Bible School?  Yes, the kids are learning something, but, personally, I did not count that anymore than I counted weekly church attendance. The choice, however, is up to you.

Many students, especially as they are in their teens, engage in community service work. These opportunities give the student the chance to learn about work ethic, showing up when expected, taking supervision from a “boss” other than the parent, and putting in a full-faith effort. These hours, as well as hours worked eventually at part-time jobs, do not count as “school” even though they are learning a lot. On the other hand, documenting these activities (especially the number of hours served if there has been significant commitment in some areas) should be included on transcripts and activities resumes if your child is going on to college.

What about other skills of everyday living? Laundry/cooking/yardwork/car maintenance? Time management?  Financial management? Price comparisons in the grocery store? Compassion for a sick or injured friend or relative? I categorize these into just things you pass on to your kids regardless of the kind of public/private/homeschool in which they are enrolled. Education does not stop at the edge of a textbook for all facets of life are true learning opportunities. We cannot and do not need to quantify everything we pour into our kids or encourage them to explore.  The opportunities to help them grow and learn can be boundless.

 

After homeschooling and graduating all four of her children from birth through high school, Evelyn Bickley continues to invest in students and their families by serving as NCHE’s Activities Director and the advisor for a teen Gavel Club.  She enjoys the hobby of letterboxing and traveling to just about anywhere but especially places that have historical significance or scenic beauty. 

 

photo credits: laundry photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash, kids with parachute photo by Artem Kniaz on Unsplash, museum photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

by Cheryl R. Carter/April 2022

This week I met with a mother whose daughter was transitioning from a brick-and-mortar high school to homeschooling. She wanted to make sure her daughter was adequately prepared for college. More importantly, she wanted to make sure her daughter could get into the college of her choice—a very competitive, top-tier college. 

I suggested the following:
One: It is imperative that you find out for yourself what courses are necessary for admittance to competitive colleges. Do not just speak to other parents, although other homeschool parents can be a great resource. Go directly to the college’s website, open house, table at a college fair, or a homeschool college admissions officer. For some reason, rumors abound in the homeschool community regarding college admission because the process of moving our students on to college seems a bit mysterious, we rely on other parents, who, though meaning well, may not fully understand the process themselves.

For instance, I once spoke to a mom who insisted her son should receive a scholarship. Further, she insisted he did not need to adhere to college deadlines because he was a stellar student. The fact of the matter was the family was in dire financial straits due to her husband’s health crisis and resulting unemployment. As a result of these factors, her son got a lot of need-based aid—not scholarships! Further, he was admitted to a local university that had rolling admission. The college did not have a solid deadline. Hence, there was no deadline to miss. Truly, she was blessed that he was admitted to the college so late and was provided financial aid. However, her situation was certainly not the norm. Lesson to be learned: College admission as a homeschooler can be quite an individual matter.

Two: Make sure that your son or daughter has taken all the required classes for college admission. This effort sometimes means going beyond the standard state homeschool regulations. For instance, in New York, home-educated students are not required to take a foreign language, and while there are schools that may not require a foreign language, the more competitive schools do.

Three: Become familiar with the application process. Some schools require supplementary essays and alternative admission assessments, such as videos, portfolios, and standardized testing, such as the SAT subject tests. Note that post-COVID, some colleges have altered their admission processes. You can also help your student gain what I call the homeschool advantage by knowing what your student needs to do to become a standout candidate on their admission application. 

These were just some basic tips I gave her. All homeschool parents can give their students the homeschool advantage in college admissions if they approach the college admission process with just a bit of planning.

Cheryl Carter has helped many students get into the college of their choice. Her advice is always practical and strategic. She prides herself on giving parents the homeschool advantage college admission advice. She is the author of Homeschool College Prep. Visit learn4college.com for information on her. Cheryl and her husband, Derek, are featured speakers at this year’s Thrive! Conference. 

by Jessica Frierson, April 2022

Does the very thought of testing make your heart race and your stomach sick? How do you overcome testing anxiety when the time comes to meet our state requirement for standardized assessment? 

NOT the Same as EOGs

It is important to understand the difference between the testing requirements that homeschoolers have and the end-of-grade testing that public schools do. According to DPI, “the North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests” for public school students “are designed to measure student performance on the goals, objectives, and grade-level competencies specified in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.” The results affect both teachers and students. The standardized testing requirement for homeschooled students is entirely different.

The administrator of the homeschool is responsible for administering a nationally standardized achievement test–not an EOG–within the first twelve months of opening the homeschool and once annually thereafter. Who sees these results? What is done with them? NCDNPE mandates that the “records of the test results…be retained at the home school for at least one year and made available to DNPE when requested.” In the case that DNPE would request to view the test results, that is simply all they would do: glance at them to confirm that testing was done. The results themselves are irrelevant to DNPE. 

Purpose for Testing

What, then, is our purpose for testing our homeschooled children? The primary purpose for many families is simply to adhere to our state law. This is often difficult for those leaving the public school system to grasp. The pressure on their child throughout the school year to be prepared for the end-of-grade testing culminates in an intense week of nail-biting tension. Did they perform well enough for promotion to the next grade? 

As homeschoolers, our school structure is not based on the results of one week of testing. We, the parent-teachers, design an educational program uniquely shaped to our child’s needs. As one concept is attained, we move them on to the next one. We can move on to the next level of one subject while continuing to work on another one that they may be having more difficulty with. Promotion can be done separately between subjects rather than by the grade in general and is done entirely on a timetable that is customized for that child. 

Results Are a Tool

The most important thing to remember about the test results are that they are simply a tool for us to use to gauge what areas need to be strengthened. There is no pass or fail. With most tests, the results will only show a comparison of how the child performed compared to other children who took the test during the year that the test was normed.

Some types of tests offer reports that are more precise in revealing specific areas for improvement. The Woodcock Johnson, for example, can be done with additional subtests that can give more detailed information on specific areas that you may be concerned about. Some achievement tests can be paired with a cognitive test to help determine learning difficulties, such as dyslexia.

Whichever test you decide to use for your child, the results are for your use alone. They are a tool in your large box of resources available to enhance your child’s educational experience. They neither define your child nor restrict his or her promotion. So you can both take a deep breath, relax, and approach test day with a fresh perspective.

Make It a Fun Day

Instead of testing day being a thing to dread, make it a special day that your family can actually enjoy. You could start out with a nice breakfast. Incorporate several breaks in the testing schedule. Be sure that your child gets up and moves around or goes outside for some fresh air during their break. Have some snacks available. If the weather is nice, our family often plans a picnic lunch for testing day. If it ends up rainy, we have an afternoon tea time instead. End the day with a family movie time or play a board game. 

If your child is showing signs of fatigue or anxiety, call off testing for the day and give them a fresh start tomorrow. One way my children have turned testing into a fun event is by looking at it as something of a game in itself. I have even had them ask me if they could do it again when the test had been completed! They have guessed ahead of time which area they think they will do best in and have often surprised themselves with the outcome. However, I never permit them to compare themselves to each other. 

Limit Testing’s Impact

Our children need to share the mindset that testing can have a useful purpose but is never a weapon to use against ourselves or others. It does nothing to gauge who we are as a person or to indicate that someone is better or less than another. This means that I don’t show them the percentile rankings on the test scores. 

In fact, the only element of the test results that I ever share with my children is occasionally telling them, “we will work on multiplication facts next week,” if their test results indicated a weakness there. More often I will tell them, “you’ve really improved in your math skills,” or “you are really learning to spell well this year!”  For the most part, we schedule a day for doing the achievement tests, make a fun day of it, then move on. After printing their results, I file them in my school folder and that’s the end of testing’s impact on our lives until the next year. 

Stress-free testing is one of the many benefits of homeschooling. Test day can actually be a pleasant experience for both you and your child. Test results that are viewed in the appropriate light are a useful resource. For additional information on testing, visit NCHE’s Helps page, check out this article on selecting the best test for your child, or watch our free testing webinar.

 

Jessica Frierson is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling her ten children since 2000. She serves as the secretary for NCHE, writes for GREENHOUSE, and is the lead blogger for the NCHE Blog.

by Diane Helfrich, March 2022

A feeling of exhaustion, constant concern that you are doing the right thing, a new-found cynicism or sadness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, no sense of purpose or satisfaction, changes in health—these are all signs of burnout (Mayo Clinic). It’s a common problem for moms who are trying to be wives, moms, teachers, friends, and often employees. The Super Mom is a tough role, and we all handle it at times better than others. The key is recognizing when the burn is too much and taking a break. The old saying. “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” (an old southern saying put into song in 1998 by Tracy Bird) is truer than we’d like to admit. Because we play such a central role in our families, our moods and life swings affect them greatly. 

Let me introduce a concept of rhythm and margin: a conscious focus on a balance between working hard and playing hard—an intended cycle of change-up in activities. In physics, we learn and understand that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It’s a universal constant that applies to our psyche as well. 

Dolly Parton once said, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” Think about it. The storm comes, followed by the calm and the beauty of the rainbow; in a way, they are opposites. Trees lose their leaves and have complete rest before the work of production during the spring, summer, and fall months, again a type of opposite. When someone pushes you, you push back. So, think about the work/play balance and how you might create some “opposite” time. 

Are you refreshed when you sleep in a bit? Do you have more energy when you get outside and move? How do you feel when you get away on vacation? Have you tried mindfulness exercises? These are all the “margin” parts of the equation. The point with any of these is that you do them with a degree of intensity or focus. Make your mind and body do something very different than what you are doing with your responsibilities (the “rhythm”). Don’t change up a little. Change up a lot! But, more than that, change up with a conscious focus on how you feel in the activity as you change the tempo of life. 

I think it’s very easy to passively take a nap or a walk. Next time, focus on every aspect of the nap or walk, and focus on every aspect of how you feel when it’s time to don your Super Mom cape again. Think about how every inch of your body feels against the chair or bed. Clear your mind by focusing on breathing. Or, while outside, in addition to focusing on breathing, feel the sun, hear the birds, see the sky. Think about how your body feels as you work up a sweat. I think you will find that the very act of concentrated thoughts will help you better shake off the “tired” from your day.

 Do you wait for burnout to try all this? Heavens, no! Build it into your schedule. You just completed a heavy effort deep cleaning the house. Now, having planned the time, sit outside in the sun for an hour, soak up some warm rays, and feel it on your skin. Smell the air. Hear the birds and the sound of a car going by. Experience every aspect of it before you go in to prepare the next meal. Did you know you were going to have a particularly trying session of working on math Monday and Tuesday (rhythm)? Plan now to head to the park Tuesday afternoon and play (margin). Play hard and laugh. Focus on your kids’ reactions to the environment. Focus on how your body feels as you move. Focus on breathing in the fresh air. Then, focus on how you feel as you head home. Did you work hard for several hours with the kids prepping for the next speech and debate tournament and then had to do taxes in addition to all the other household chores (rhythm)? Plan ahead of time to have a couple of down days after the tournament (margin). Maybe plan a beach trip, a relaxing afternoon with a friend, or a drive in the country listening to worship music. 

It’s so easy to focus on what must be done. Yet, we never have the same focus on that other space when we aren’t in our major roles. We plan the rhythm. We tend not to plan the margin. Start giving it a conscious focus and see if it changes the way you rebound. Give that hard work an equal and opposite reaction of play or relaxation.

By the way, it’s a great life skill to teach your kids. They will see you do it. You can talk with them about it. They will model what you do, whether you include intentional margin or not. Part of the luxury of homeschooling is to have a way to teach life skills and character development by example. Teaching rhythm and margin serves to help develop balance. Balance helps with emotion control. Emotional control helps keep the mood swings more manageable, whether it’s us or our kids. Putting a little rhythm and margin into your life is one of those little five percent changes you can make that yields much larger results. God created the first rhythm and margin as he created the earth and all that is in it, including humanity, in six days. At the end of each day, He took time to evaluate His work, and said, “It is good.” On the seventh day, He rested. 

 

Diane Helfrich is a retired homeschooler of fourteen years. She and her husband David have two children that have both gone on to receive graduate and postgraduate education. Now, she serves as the NCHE Development Director and enjoys cooking, reading, and playing ukulele in her spare time.

by Jessica Frierson, April 2022 

Graduation season is approaching. As homeschoolers, we can begin and end our school year whenever it works best for our family, but many families choose to keep with the traditional school schedule. Whatever time of year, the culmination of your child’s high school studies is a reason to celebrate! 

Along with the flexibility to tailor our educational approach to our child’s individual needs, we can also plan a celebration that fits their personality. For example, some grads want a formal ceremony while others prefer something intimate. For homeschool parents, our hard work and dedication to reach this milestone also deserve recognition. 

What are some ways to honor your graduate?

 

Formal Graduation 

Many homeschool support groups or co-ops host a graduation ceremony for their members. When my oldest son graduated, he was in a class of a dozen peers with whom he had spent the past few years going on field trips, competing at the science fair, and playing flag football at the park. A member of our group who was a professional photographer took pictures. One of the fathers gave a short talk, and each graduate read a letter of gratitude to their parents prior to receiving their diploma. 

For an even more formal experience, NCHE hosts a commencement program at the conclusion of the annual Thrive! Conference held in Winston-Salem at the end of May. It is a memorable affair, complete with cap and gown, “Pomp and Circumstance” played for the entrance, and diplomas handed out by each graduate’s parents. For more information, visit our Graduate Central webpage. There, you can order diplomas and extra copies of the special graduation edition of the GREENHOUSE magazine and find a template for printing your graduation announcements.  

 

Private Commemoration

You may find that your son or daughter would prefer to stay out of the limelight. You can honor their achievement with a private observance in your home, backyard, a local park, or your church. With your graduate’s input, keep your guest list to the size they will feel comfortable with hosting. You could ask friends and family to share memories or words of encouragement before mom or dad bestow the coveted diploma. A backyard barbeque, taco bar, or potluck dinner will keep the event festive yet relaxed. 

 

One-on-One Recognition

Respecting and embracing the uniqueness of our children may mean that our tribute to the end of their high school years is even more personal. When one of my sons completed his coursework, I could barely get him to don a cap and gown long enough for me to snap a quick photo. For some, the occasion is anticlimactic; they are done and ready to move on to the next thing with no need or desire to make a fuss over it. A nice dinner at home or a trip to their favorite restaurant may be the appropriate setting to present their diploma to them. 

If your son or daughter flees the spotlight faster than a lightning bolt, you may be left feeling a bit deflated. After all, a homeschool parent has invested considerable time and effort into reaching this point. Although they did the bookwork, you are the one who selected, purchased, planned, taught, and graded it. You have an accomplishment to celebrate as well. Watching your child walk the aisle with their tasseled mortarboard atop their head is a crowning moment you may have long-awaited. But keep this in mind: you likely embarked on this homeschool journey with a plan to create an individualized education plan that suited your child’s specific strengths, weaknesses, interests, and goals. You can complete the journey in a manner that is customized for them as well. 

And as you likely had to do at times during their school days, when it comes to acknowledging their graduation, you may have to push your child a bit to have them do things they don’t want to do. Sometimes they need us to make them do something that they wouldn’t choose for themselves. Although they may not agree with us at the time, they will appreciate it later.  

 

Celebrate!

Whatever method you choose to herald this momentous occasion, be sure that you do it in a manner that celebrates the uniqueness of your child. The same principles of flexibility, creativity, and customization that applied to your homeschool days apply to the culmination of those days. Whether you go with a large-scale ceremony or a quiet family dinner at a special restaurant, let your graduate know that you are proud of them…and give yourself a pat on the back as well. You both deserve it!

 

 

 

Jessica Frierson is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling her ten children since 2000. She serves as the secretary for NCHE, writes for GREENHOUSE, and is the lead blogger for the NCHE Blog.

by Jessica Frierson, March 2022

Everyone loves a good surprise, and one of the best surprises I’ve had in life was when having less turned out to be more. This tactic is not simply a clever home decorating trick–it is one of the hidden treasures I have discovered that has enriched my life. 

When I was a child, my mother had a cookbook with a very intriguing title. The More-with-Less cookbook contained “recipes and suggestions…on how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.” Over the years, I have realized how valuable that concept was when it came to life in general. As it turns out, it is also very applicable to homeschooling. 

We all have limited resources, whether it is time, finances, or our emotional energy that is being taxed. Learning to safeguard those resources and manage them carefully will lead to a more peaceful and joyous experience in our homeschool. In addition, it helps prevent burnout and the drive to compare ourselves to others.

 

Use What You Have in Your Hand

 

As a homeschool alumnus, I have seen the immense growth in homeschool resources available to families today compared to what my mother had back in the early 90s. I can vividly remember the feeling of amazement mixed with a dash of being overwhelmed by all the curriculum displayed in the vendor hall at my first state homeschool conference several years ago. 

When I related the experience to my mother later, she remarked that while it is nice to have so many choices, she didn’t necessarily wish that she’d had them. She had used what she had, adapting it as she needed for each child. As a result, there was less stress to find the perfect curriculum. 

And you know what else was missing back then? The Internet! We spent no hours scouring the Internet for the best deal, posting questions on a Facebook forum, or signing up for online classes. Yet, the homeschools from that period thrived and produced well-educated, resilient graduates, many of whom have gone on to homeschool a second generation of home scholars.

 

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do 

good as long as they live. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:12

 

There have been many years when my finances were very limited. It is easy in that situation to start to feel despair that I couldn’t afford to get the school books I had put on my wishlist. However, after praying and turning my needs over to the Lord, I regained a sense of peace. I felt encouraged to make the best use of what I DID have instead of focusing on what I DIDN’T have. Surprisingly, those years ended up being some of our best school days. 

Find Joy where You Are

 

The key to those years being the best is that I learned to find joy in where I was. In my Bible study time, I discovered that Jesus offers us the priceless gift of joy. He wants us to be filled up with it! 

 

 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you,

and that your joy may be full. ~ John 15:11

 

We will always see more THINGS that we want or think we need. Today’s society constantly tells us that we need the new and improved version of things that we have been perfectly satisfied with. We see what someone else has or does and start to believe that we need to keep up with them. For homeschoolers, keeping up with the Jones can have more to do with music lessons and dual-enrollment classes than with swimming pools and sports cars. 

 

Put Your Energy into People, Not Things

 

When we shift our focus from things that we could fill our homes (and schoolrooms) with to the people that already fill our lives, we often find that we already have all we really want. Homeschooling gives us a wonderful advantage in spending more of each day with our loved ones. We can take the time to nurture our relationships with our children, even as we are working on a math lesson or doing a science project. 

For many families, choosing to homeschool means sacrificing a second income they had grown accustomed to. Substantial budget cuts resulting in drastic lifestyle changes may cause them to second guess their decision, but the dividends they gain will prove to be worth far more. 

 

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing

 the capacity to enjoy less. ~ Socrates

Take Time to Nurture–Ourselves and Others

 

When the covid pandemic caused the shutdown of businesses–and life as we know it–many people faced an unexpected break from the forces that tug on our attention and time. Since we couldn’t go anywhere, families began playing games and working puzzles together. Closets were organized, gardens were dug, and the old-fashioned art of bread baking became a new trend. Although many aspects of the pandemic have not been good, the season of rest and refreshment that many families experienced were the very thing needed. 

In my own life, I have been greatly impacted by the effects of covid, as I have previously written about. I have had a long recovery from the damage that covid caused to my lungs. For many weeks after I was discharged from the hospital, I was able to do little more than light activity. Our typical school routine was out of the question since talking for any length of time led to coughing fits and an asthma attack. However, this was a season of nurture for my children and me. Often we would sit outside and paint with watercolors while trying to identify the bird calls we heard. Our days were emptied of busyness, but filled with the appreciation of being together and finding delight in simple things.  

 

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and striving after wind. 

~ Ecclesiastes 3:12

Enjoy Simplicity

 

Finding delight in simple things is a child’s specialty, as any parent knows who has given their child a gift in a box. Regardless of how exciting and captivating the contents were envisioned to be, it is the box from which the child often gets the most enjoyment. 

Our world is filled with exquisite treasures that lay in wait for us to discover. The intricacies of a seashell, spider web, or butterfly rival the most incredible artwork or engineering feat accomplished by any human. The dance of a dragonfly over a marsh pool, the ripple of cornfields in the summer breeze, the wonder on a child’s face as the ladybug he held lifted its shell to reveal translucent wings…the beauty in these simple moments leaves a soothing balm on one’s soul. When we begin to place more value on simplicity, we see that our lives are filled with rich treasures that we had not noticed before. 

 

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is

fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

~ Psalm 16:11

 

Applying the principle that less is more has enriched my life in many ways. Using what I have in my hand instead of grasping for more utilizes better stewardship and is more rewarding. Finding joy in the midst of my circumstances brings gratification and fulfillment. Investing in relationships has proven to be far more profitable than tangible items. Cutting back on outside distractions in order to take time to nurture our spirits has been, ironically, very productive. We are “eating better” while consuming less of our limited resources. I can’t say that I have made a meal with a recipe from that old cookbook, but it revealed a hidden treasure that has been very valuable to my life. 

by Jessica Frierson, March 2022

There are five requirements for crystals to form: ingredients, temperature, pressure, time, and space, according to Gem Rock Auctions. 

If you are the parent of more than one child, you know that all of these ingredients are present in your home. Take a road trip with those children, and you will see the temperature and pressure grow in proportion to the space decreasing and the time increasing! But take heart; all of that pressure and heat work together to produce something beautiful. 

Riches you hold in your hands are inferior to treasures you store in your heart.

Matshona Dhliwayo

“The majority of gemstones are formed by metamorphism. This is when minerals are forced together under great pressure and heat…. The minerals are forced together and they metamorphose into different minerals, sometimes without melting.” This sounds like a portrayal of our last family vacation, about five hours into an eleven-hour drive.

The formation of gemstones is an apt description of sibling life. As writer Harper Lee says in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” Brothers and sisters will live together in the same house, often sharing bedrooms, for the formative years of their lives. Their shared experiences will shape their characters and greatly impact their futures. 

 

I thought how great it would be if we could trade in Fudge for a nice cocker spaniel. That would solve all my problems. I’d walk him and feed him and play with him. He could even sleep on the edge of my bed at night. But of course that was wishful thinking. My brother is here to stay. And there’s nothing I can do about it. 

Judy Blume, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

One of the hidden treasures in life is having another person in your house who calls the same people “mom” or “dad” that you do. Although you may (or rather, will) get on each other’s nerves at times, children who grow up with a sibling likely have a built-in best friend, teammate, co-conspirator, and sounding board. While sibling rivalry can certainly get out of hand, a little friendly competition can motivate children to work harder and do their best. In speaking with parents with an only child, their child’s lack of a sibling has been one of the most challenging aspects of homeschooling.

Who has brothers or sisters and hasn’t argued like cats and dogs with them? It’s almost a prerequisite for moving through childhood! There’s hardly a sibling that doesn’t have at least one good fight story to pull out. But if the tables are turned, you know who you can count on to always have your back.For homeschooled children, there is no break from being together while each goes to their separate classroom or school campus for the day. This can result in increased tension and quarrelsome behavior. A telltale sign that it’s time for some space from each other is when “he’s looking at me” becomes grounds for war to break out in your house. Giving them opportunities to have time alone in a quiet place can help reduce the strain and strengthen their relationships with each other. It is important to take the means necessary to nurture the growth of such precious gems as you have in the making. You want them to treasure the many benefits of having their brothers and/or sisters to walk with through life.

Someone to get in trouble with

Every parent knows that feeling of sudden dread. The children are playing in their room, their shouts and laughter filling the air. Then, suddenly, you realize that it is quiet…very quiet. Too quiet! And every parent also knows that silence almost ALWAYS accompanies trouble. 

When children are doing nothing, they are doing mischief.

Henry Fielding

Years down the road, your children will probably shock you with recounts of the close encounters they faced together—stories that they were sworn to secrecy over at the time they occurred. Yet, watching their faces as they relate their tales of silly pranks and near catastrophes, you will see the reflection of joy exuding from their hearts. Like diamonds enshrined in gold, shared shenanigans have a way of forming an unshakeable bond. 

 

Someone to laugh with

If you can’t let your guard down around your brother or sister, who can you be yourself around? Children make up games at the dinner table that consist of nothing other than, “betcha I can make you laugh first!” and then simply staring at each other with a goofy expression. They can share a joke between themselves that no one else will ever understand. Growing up with such shared experiences as siblings do gives them an abundant supply of inside jokes and a treasure chest full of material for future roasting. 

 

Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child

Dr. Barbara Alpert, MD

 

Someone to share your sorrows with

Whether it is spilling ketchup on your favorite shirt or your first heartbreak over unrequited love, your sibling is likely to have the shoulder that you cry on. Just as they know why you are laughing without any need for words, they also feel your hurts as if they were their own. 

 

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. 

Proverbs 17:17

 

 

Someone to play with

My children get so accustomed to having their siblings around that they can easily take them for granted. On the rare occasion that everyone else has gone off somewhere and they are the only one left home, they mope around like a lost puppy. Having an on-call playmate that doesn’t have to be penciled in on the calendar makes for lots of impromptu fun. Since they are on virtually the same schedule, they can be ready in an instant to join in on whatever imaginative ideas are ready to be explored.   

                   

There can be no companion better than a brother and there can be no friend better than a sister.

Anonymous

 

Learn how to care for and about others

Shortly after our youngest was born, his four-year-old sister wanted to hold him. She quickly informed me that his diaper needed to be changed. I jokingly told her that I’ve changed over 80,000 diapers in my life (he is the youngest of ten, plus years of babysitting), so she was going to have to do them from now on. She looked at me in disbelief but then cheerfully approached the task. Although I had been teasing her, I decided to let her do what she could. She was so cute trying to pull off his pajamas, unwrap his diaper, snap the new diaper together and fit the wool cover over it, then gently wrestle his arms back into his sleeves under my guidance. 

When it was over, she looked at me so proudly and said, “I did it! I really did!” Then she smiled so contentedly and sighed, “Babies are the BEST!” I was so glad I had stumbled into creating this special moment for her. It reminded me of the many times I had helped my mother care for my younger siblings, especially my youngest brother, who was born when I was twelve. The seeds of joy from helping to care for a small child were planted in my heart and grew to shape my lifelong dream to be a wife and mother one day.

I see the same satisfaction that comes in nurturing others in my older sons as they show a younger sibling how to throw a football or take a fussy baby for a walk outside to soothe them. I know that their experiences with their siblings will help my children be more compassionate and prepare them for the day when they will be parents. 

Every family is precious and powerful in its own way. For those who have the added joy of more than one child (and more mess, noise, work, and everything else that each additional person brings!), you have the chance to see the marvelous formation of some of the world’s most precious treasures. As the space, pressure, and interaction of siblings living and growing together combine over the passage of time, beautiful gems emerge to shine like jewels in your crown. 

You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Isaiah 62:3

by Jessica Frierson and Spencer Mason, March 2022

You have likely seen the recent WRAL news article regarding Tuesday’s Joint Oversight Committee meeting. The article has left many homeschool advocates concerned that the meeting will lead to more regulation of homeschooling in North Carolina. 

As NCHE’s president, Matthew McDill, said in the WRAL story, one of our primary roles at NCHE is to protect your right to homeschool. NCHE’s legislative committee, headed by NCHE’s law and policy director, Spencer Mason, has been actively monitoring the situation. We spoke directly with several members of the joint oversight committee and consulted with other family advocacy groups. Our conclusion is that there is no cause for alarm at this time. As is often the case with news articles, many details have been left out. 

 

Here are the facts you need to know:

 

The purpose of DNPE’s presence at this meeting was to give testimony demonstrating their need for increased funding.

The NC Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE) requested increased funding to carry out their duties. They specified that funds would be allocated in two ways. First, improvements to the DNPE website would make it easier for homeschool administrators to access and update their online accounts. Second, three additional employees are needed for the many tasks the office carries out. An example of tasks DNPE is required to do is mailing hundreds of Driver Eligibility Certificates (DEC) each week for homeschooled students who have completed driver’s education classes. They must have a DEC in hand when they apply for their learner’s permit. 

 

There are many new homeschools in North Carolina!

Here are some of the statistics that DNPE presented at the meeting

  • Before the pandemic, the average number of Notice of Intents (NOIs) to operate a homeschool filed was ~9,000.
  • During academic year 2020-2021, 19,454 NOIs were filed.
  • Between July 1, 2021, and January 31, 2022, 12,314 NOIs were filed.

During the pandemic, private schools and charter schools showed a healthy growth, while the student population in public schools showed a marked decline. At the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, there were 112,614 open homeschools. DNPE estimated that there were about 1.6 students per homeschool for a total of 179,900 students. NCHE believes that a more realistic estimate is 2.0 students per homeschool for a total student population of 225.228. This represents about 13% of the total North Carolina K-12 student population. Since most homeschools with only students below the age of 7 do not officially open a school (the law does not require it and DNPE doesn’t allow it), these households aren’t counted by DNPE.

 

There is NO THREAT to homeschools at this time.

NCHE has spoken with NC senate and house members of the joint committee. They have assured us that there will be no new bills filed at this time to add regulation to NC homeschools. Furthermore, the house co-chairman of the joint committee is a homeschool father and the senate chairman is known to be a strong school-choice advocate. 

 

As always, NCHE will remain watchful!

Following the conclusion of the session on Tuesday, NCHE checked the legislative record for all bills that were filed and found none to contain any items germane to homeschools. There will be little to no opportunity to add anything until the next session opens May 4. The legislative committee will continue to monitor the proceedings. You can count on us to be ever vigilant and to keep you informed as the situation unfolds. 

 

What can you do?

  • Be sure that your information is updated at least annually with DNPE and that you follow the basic requirements that homeschoolers have in our state. Encourage others, especially new homeschool families, to do the same. Being good stewards of the current laws will help show lawmakers that further regulation is unnecessary.

For example, when a homeschool no longer has students or when they move, they are required by law to notify DNPE. Unfortunately, many homeschoolers are ignorant of the law, forget to do it, or don’t care. In the August-September 2021 time frame, DNPE mailed approximately 25,000 postcards to homeschools open at least 11 years. More than 17,000 cards came back as undeliverable. By October 2021 DNPE had attempted to email and call those 17,000 homeschools. Ultimately, 21,000 homeschools were removed from the active database.

 

  • Stay tuned to NCHE to ensure that you are always up to date on the facts. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and MeWe. Watch The Homeschool Show on Youtube or listen on your favorite podcast provider. You can also subscribe to our weekly email, which will include any legislative alerts that may come up. 
  • Join or donate to NCHE! Your donations enable us to travel to Raleigh to meet with legislators, maintain our website, and produce the content that you can count on for all of your homeschool needs.