What Does the Law Require of Your Homeschool?

by Jessica Frierson, September 2022

There is much confusion about the legal requirements for a homeschool. Parents opening a new homeschool have many questions. Often, much of what they have heard from others is not entirely correct. Even homeschool veterans are often mistaken about the exact requirements of the laws governing homeschools. To add to this, although they have now changed their website, DNPE previously had a somewhat confusing format on their webpages where suggestions were easily construed as requirements. The true requirements for homeschools in North Carolina are actually fairly simple.

A good place to start is to understand that in the United States, governance of homeschools is left up to each state. There are no federal guidelines for homeschools. State law can greatly vary from state to state, creating further confusion for those who have made a move from one state to another. North Carolina created the Department of Non-Public Education (DNPE) to oversee all non-public schools, which includes both private schools and homeschools. This is important to note because many people mistakenly quote rules that apply only to public schools as if they applied to all schools in North Carolina, when there is a strong division with very different rules. So let’s take a look at what the law actually says.

 

Legal Foundation

The basis of our legal foundation to homeschool is found in the policy section of Article 39 of Chapter 115C: “In conformity with the Constitutions of the United States and of North Carolina, it is the public policy of the State in matters of education that ‘No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience,’ or with religious liberty and that ‘religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind . . . the means of education shall forever be encouraged.’” 

General Statute 115C-563 defines a homeschool as “a nonpublic school consisting of the children of not more than two families or households, where the parents or legal guardians or members of either household determine the scope and sequence of academic instruction, provide academic instruction, and determine additional sources of academic instruction.”

This definition answers many questions that arise over homeschooling legalities. As you can see from the definition above, you may homeschool children from ONE additional family other than your own. To state the obvious, this would mean that a group of parents may NOT hire a teacher to homeschool all of their children. (They can open a private school and, following those separate rules and regulations, hire a teacher to teach their children, but that is not a homeschool.) This also shows us that the teaching is primarily to be done by the parent, and at a minimum, the parent or legal guardian is determining what, how, when, with what curricula and resources, etc. their children are being taught. “General Statute 115C-563(a) as amended changes the definition of a home school to allow parents to hire tutors, let their children participate in group settings where they receive instruction (co-ops, 4-H classroom instruction, etc.) and be instructed by an expert that is not a part of the household in the established homeschool (apprenticeships, a homeschool doctor teaching biology, etc.)”.

 

Testing

G.S. 115C-564 gives us more guidelines. First, it releases homeschools from the safety and health inspections that would otherwise be required if the school were not operating from a residence. Second, it differentiates that annual standardized testing is required, as opposed to only in certain grades as it is for private schools. DNPE gives clear guidance on how to meet this testing requirement and NCHE offers more information, as well as a listing of testing services that can be used. 

Standardized testing is not the same as End-of-Grade (EOG) testing that is performed in public schools. A major difference that should be understood by both parents and students is that while the public-schooled student’s outcome on their EOGs can determine promotion to the next grade level as well as have an effect on the teacher’s performance rating, the standardized test used by homeschools is not seen by anyone other than the parent unless the parent chooses to show it to another person. It is simply administered to the student – in nearly all cases at the residence and often by the parent – and the results maintained for one year (by the parent) and “…shall be made available…at the principal office of such school, at all reasonable times, for annual inspection by a duly authorized representative of the State of North Carolina.according to G.S. 115C-549 and 115C-557. This annual inspection in the “principal office” is mandatory but rarely requested. In recent years, families met the representative at a local library, and these meetings are voluntary. Now it is now being done virtually, and DNPE believes that these are mandatory because their legal counsel has determined that it meets the “in the principal’s office. DNPE is not concerned about how your student scores on the test, just that you meet the requirement of the law by administering it annually. So as you can see, there is no need for stressing over the standardized testing done in a homeschool, as I have written about in more detail here

 

Instructors

Finally, G.S. 115C-564 states that the person who is doing the academic instruction must at least have a high school diploma. This does not preclude a sibling, for example, assisting their younger brother or sister with their school work or instruction from another individual on a particular subject, but rather that the parent who will be doing those tasks laid out in section 563 holds the minimum of a high school diploma. When opening a homeschool, you will be asked to submit a copy of your diploma or proof of graduation. This proof can also include any other verification that you had a high school diploma, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or a college transcript.

 

Attendance

Additional records that must be maintained and shown for annual inspection include immunization records (or exemption) and attendance records. Attendance records can be kept using any method desired by the parent, including checkmarks on a wall calendar, a school planner, or this simple one-page pdf offered by DNPE. How many days must the student be in attendance? The law does NOT have a required number of days; but rather must “operate on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year.” (G.S. 115C-548) You, the administrator, determine what it means to operate on a regular basis over those nine calendar months and which months you wish to operate your school. 

So the logical next question would be: precisely who is required to be in attendance? The North Carolina compulsory school attendance law (Article 26, Chapter 115C) requires that “parents and/or guardians, of children who are at least age 7 but not yet 16, ensure that their children attend school.” This brings up a common question from parents who wish to withdraw a child under the age of seven from a public school in which they had been enrolled. The schools, being notoriously – and somewhat understandably – uninformed about homeschool law, often insist that the parent show proof that the child has been transferred to a new school (the homeschool). However, this is contrary to the compulsory attendance law and to DNPE’s website, which states: 

  • “DO NOT send a Notice of Intent to DNPE for the present school year if the only students to be enrolled in your home school: (a) are currently under age 7 and will not turn age 7 in the present/current school year, or (b) are currently 18 years of age or older.
  • Please send your Notice of Intent five days prior of your home school’s initial opening date. If any of your children will turn age 7 before this coming June 1, please send your Notice of Intent at least 5 days before the child’s 7th birthday. One Notice of Intent per school, please – not per student.”

Parents whose oldest child is under the age of seven may begin homeschooling their child as they wish to do so without opening a homeschool. Then as the oldest child is turning 7, they can officially open their homeschool.

 

Subjects

You may now be wondering what subjects must be taught to your child. Although the standardized testing must include English grammar, reading, spelling, and math, there are no mandatory subjects that must be studied. A good guideline to follow in this regard is to consider how best to prepare your child for life, including future career options, college or university attendance, and any unexpected circumstances such as a need to transfer to a schooling option besides homeschooling. You will want to give your child a well-rounded education which would most likely include language arts, mathematics, science, social studies/history, art, music, foreign language, health, and other subjects. A good suggestion that I have heard is to look at the minimum requirements for several different colleges or universities to ensure that your student will be able to meet those, and then work your way backwards to the level your child is currently at. 

 

Graduation

Another noticeable absence from the list of requirements is any mention of graduation. Since the state of North Carolina regards a homeschool as an actual school in itself, the school administrator sets the graduation requirements for their school as is done in any other nonpublic school. So mom or dad, YOU decide what it will take for your students to graduate from the [home]school that you oversee. The suggestion I gave above for selecting courses of study applies to this as well. What do you think your child will need for the next step of their life after high school? Set your conditions for graduation based on that. You may find that it will even vary slightly from one child to the next, depending on their post-graduation aspirations or individual circumstances. This is particularly helpful for those families with special needs children. 

Once your child has completed the courses prescribed for graduation from your homeschool, you will issue them a diploma. You can design one of your own, purchase one from a company that sells them, or order one from NCHE. Whatever source you use, the authority behind that prized piece of paper is the homeschool administrator. This is a legal document recognized by the state as proof of your child’s completion of their high school education, on equal footing with a diploma issued by any other high school in our state. If your child wishes to become a homeschooling parent one day down the road, this diploma will be what they use to open their own homeschool, as I did when I opened my homeschool several years after graduating from homeschool and receiving my diploma from my mother. Another thing to know about your high school diploma is that diplomas from online private schools which are located in other states are not recognized by the state of North Carolina. If your student graduates from one of these, you need to issue a diploma from your state-recognized homeschool. 

As you can see, homeschooling in North Carolina is fairly simple. NCHE has worked hard to keep it that way, beginning years before there was any specific wording in our state statutes regarding homeschools, and continuing over the years to diligently guard the rights of parents to choose what they feel is the best educational path for their children. You can count on us to maintain that attentiveness as our lawmakers periodically attempt to introduce new legislation. We have a team dedicated to monitoring the happenings in the General Assembly, visiting our legislators in Raleigh, and building relationships with our lawmakers so that they can see firsthand what a wonderful educational choice homeschool truly is. 

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.

Quotes from DNPE taken from NC DOA: Home School Information and Home-School-Guidebook-2020-2021.pdf (nc.gov)

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

by Jessica Frierson, August 2022

Many of us in the homeschool world are transitioning back into school mode from either a summer break or, for year-round schoolers, a mini-break. Our family falls into the latter camp. We took July off intending to use the time to reorganize our school room (or rather, where our school books and other materials are primarily stored) and to begin lesson plans for the new books we will be starting. Now, we are at the end of August, and I have not made much progress on either front. Sometimes it can be tough getting back into the swing of things!

We have this same problem after Christmas or upon returning from an out-of-town trip.  Transitioning from vacation mode to school mode can be a challenge for anyone. Our style of homeschooling blurs the lines to some degree since we approach all areas of life as potential learning opportunities. For example, when we visit an area on vacation, we look for places of historical significance or interesting museums to check out. This style of learning is so much fun and definitely more memorable. Knuckling down and getting back to the books upon our return, though, requires the application of much self-discipline.

 

Pros Can Become Cons

One reason it can be hard to get back into school mode has to do with all of the wonderful reasons we homeschool to begin with. If we do not take care, the pros of homeschooling can become cons. The many bonuses tip the scales in favor of home education. But, as with all things in life, moderation in all things is needed to keep them in check.

 

Flexibility

The freedom we have in homeschooling to schedule schoolwork around the rest of our daily schedule can wreak havoc on our school time if we do not find a good balance. It is nice to be able to take advantage of appointment openings earlier in the day instead of waiting for after-school slots. Park visits and other outings during school hours are a favorite for homeschoolers. The restrictions of typical school hours do not apply to us. I have found, however, that I need to impose restrictions on our school hours in order to control the reins on what can easily turn into a runaway horse.

As a mom to a large family, I feel pulled in many directions. Although educating my children is one of the strongest pulls on my heart, the busyness of our household tends to have a greater pull on our schedule. I fight a constant battle between enjoying our flexibility and the flexibility becoming our enemy.

 

Student-led Learning

Another great aspect of homeschooling is that the schooling can follow the child’s lead. However, that too, can go in the wrong direction if we get complacent. Sometimes children don’t want to do their schoolwork. After we’ve had a break, some of my children are eager to return to our school days. Others have a hard time getting back on track. They need to learn that being responsible means doing things they don’t feel like doing at times. We have to tackle subjects that aren’t our strong points. We must pull out the books when we would rather play or do crafts. This builds character and teaches diligence, time management skills, and good stewardship practices. 

 

Freestyle

Our family takes a fairly freestyle approach to education. I make use of a variety of resources, curriculum materials, and hands-on activities. We are not tied to a boxed curriculum or a strict school calendar. If a child brings up questions about a subject that I think might be a good path to go down, we will adapt our plans for that day to follow that line of interest. The beauty of this learning style is marred, however, if I am not careful to maintain a balance of order and structure. My weak point is consistency and following through with the lesson plans that I created. I am striving to find a better balance of freestyle and planned lessons this year. 

 

Time with Children

My most compelling reason for choosing to homeschool is the opportunity to spend each day with my children. I love being an integral part of their education and walking through the learning process with them each day. When we homeschool, we often spend twenty-four hours a day with our children, most days of the week. This is truly a blessing and is part of my goal in mothering. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need some space for myself occasionally. There are days that I get really “mommed out,” as I call it. 

When I had a baby, a toddler, and school-age children all at once, it was a rare opportunity to get some quiet time alone. Now that my children are a little older, I make a habit of being intentional about doing this several times a week. It may be reading a book in my hammock chair in the cool of the evening while the kids are getting ready for bed. I might read my Bible early in the morning before anyone else rises for the day or announce that, “Mama is having a short rest time, so please do not knock on my door unless there’s an emergency.” I find that I am much more equipped to handle all the stresses that life brings around when I have had these short sessions of alone time to rejuvenate. 

 

Back in the Swing of It

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this idiom as, “fully involved and comfortable with (a regular activity, process, etc.).” As we approach the end of the summer season, it is time for us to get back in the swing of our studies. That familiar feeling of mixed emotions has hit both me and my children as we feel excitement over becoming “fully involved and comfortable with” our school days and yet half-heartedly reluctant to jump back into a more disciplined regimen. How about you? Have you already begun a new school year? Does your homeschool operate on an entirely different schedule? Don’t feel you are alone in excited reluctancy. I imagine most of the homeschooling community is in the same boat!

 

 

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.

Embrace the Call to Freedom

by Jessica Frierson and Emily Schrum, August 2022

As summer draws to a close, many of us homeschool moms (and dads) are prepping for a new school year. As we peruse the Internet, gather our curriculum, and glean from the ideas of others, we must guard against allowing ourselves to unknowingly be drawn into a trap. As the sparks of inspiration fire up in our minds, they can be quickly reduced to a smolder by the feelings of inadequacy that so easily creep in. 

How can we successfully fight this battle and avoid the snare of discouragement? What steps can we take to not be enslaved by the expectations of others…or even worse, the expectations we place on ourselves? One of the most beautiful aspects of homeschooling—freedom—is easily tossed aside in our vain attempts to recreate the perfection we falsely believe others have achieved. 

The words of a sweet friend offer some excellent advice. Emily has a winsome way with words that hit me right in the heart every time her posts come across my newsfeed. Her words are raw; they are real. They cut right to the point. Today, I want to share some of those words of wisdom with you.

 

Don’t get caught up in the perfectly-captured Pinterest homeschool post. 

 

Some days don’t turn out “picture perfect.” Rarely. Like one in a million.

 

 

But most days look like this. 

 

People tell me all the time, “I could never homeschool. I’m not made for that.”

 

They’re right. We’re not made for the facade of what homeschooling looks like. But we ARE made to rise into whatever calling the Lord beckons each of us to.

 

I wish I was someone who did everything with excellence as described by social media. But I believe with my whole entire heart that my humble, imperfect, messy surrender, and sacrifice is enough.

 

So, my days won’t look like 20 classical subjects completed with composer studies and poetry included. They won’t always look calm and under control.

 

Most days, my “yes” looks like getting done what HAS to get done while two out of the three binge on tv and eat Lord knows how many snacks. 

 

I give my best. It’s not enough for everyone. But it’s enough for me, for my family, for the calling that God has called me to.

 

Don’t be enslaved by illusions of how it’s supposed to look. Walk in freedom that your “yes” is enough, whatever that looks like for you.

 

I’m cheering you on. However your homeschool, or mothering, looks today, I am cheering you on.

 

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

 

So to all of you worrying if you will be ”good enough” and if you will be able to “do it right,” to those of you pinning another cute Pinterest tip that 99.99% of us will NEVER nail, to each and every one of us that are slowly slipping back into the shackles we had unlocked when we decided to homeschool: be warned! 

These attempts we make to “measure up” are like the sirens of Greek mythology. The sirens were subtle but dangerous creatures whose enchanting music lured sailors to shipwreck on the rocky coasts. We place ourselves in danger of shipwrecking our own homeschool and our families when we listen to the alluring calls on social media, try to catch up with the seemingly perfect veteran homeschooler we met at our new co-op last week, or attempt to meet the goals placed by the doubting family member we’re trying to prove ourselves to. Listening to these voices puts us directly in position for the yoke of slavery to drop back onto our shoulders. 

But we do not have to succumb to these burdens. The call to homeschool is coupled with the call to freedom. This is the call we must listen to and set our course to follow. So set your heart to stand firm and embrace the call to freedom. 

 

Emily Schrum is a homeschooling mama to three precious children. She and her husband view home education as a high calling from God and one of their greatest missions in life. Emily has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Christian Counseling. Right now however, she is content to stay at home, raising children and chickens all to the Glory of God.

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.

Update Your Homeschool Files!

by Diane Helfrich, July 2022

Out in Facebook-land, I’ve recently seen a flood of questions about DNPE contacting schools open longer than seven years. So, it’s time for a bit of background and encouragement for everyone to update their files on a yearly basis.

The Background

We’ve known the DNPE database has had inaccuracies for a long time, primarily because people forget to close their schools when they are finished homeschooling or move out of the state. When people move within the state, they fail to log in and update their addresses. As a result, when DNPE sends out any mailing, the number returned with “undeliverable” is staggering. Once DNPE improved online accounts for administrators, they encouraged everyone to update their files annually. 

Knowing that many people have not closed their schools or updated addresses, for the past couple of years, there has been an effort by DNPE to clean up the data. Notices went out to people with schools open longer than seven years with no updates to their DNPE files. They received notices that their schools could be closed if files were not updated; some people found their schools unexpectedly closed. These notices tended to go out regionally because DNPE had a small staff working hard to support home and private schools.

Fast forward a bit to last fall. DNPE requested funding from the NC General Assembly (GA) for a database server because the capacity was too small, especially given the number of new schools opened during COVID. The reported growth was significant enough to prompt questions from the GA. Not surprisingly, when the GA found out the database was inaccurate, they started asking more questions, which brings us to today.

The Current Status

In the budget bill currently before the GA, DNPE is now required to gather a significant amount of data about homeschools to help the GA know the picture of schools opened during COVID and subsequently closed, numbers of homeschooled students by grade, etc. Money has been given to DNPE to hire temporary help to work on the database. This funding is not for the needed new server. There are plans to contact every homeschool that has not updated the database with current enrollment and test information (date and type only). How and when this might begin is not yet clear, but there is pressure for DNPE to be able to accurately report data to get the funding to handle more homeschools. Homeschools that have been open for seven years or more and haven’t contacted DNPE in the past three years will receive an email request to update their records or to call DNPE to confirm that the homeschool is still operating. DNPE will use email, US mail and the telephone in an effort to contact homeschools. If DNPE is unable to get a response from the homeschool administrator, the school will be closed.

What You Need to Do

First of all, don’t panic! It is appropriate for the GA to expect reasonably accurate data according to the law. It is also proper to have good information when increased funding is requested to give a more precise picture of the homeschooling community.  Update your file as soon as possible, and then review and update your data every year from here on out. A good time to update your file would be when you have completed testing for the year. If you are finished homeschooling in NC, by law, you must close your school; please do so immediately if you haven’t already.

DNPE has begun to ask that you enter your testing information into your online records. While this requirement is not spelled out in the law, NCHE recommends that you provide this information. They do not want to see your scores—only confirmation of completion. Think of it in terms of an online inspection. If you add the test used and the date (never put the scores in), then, DNPE knows that you did, in fact, administer a test and are therefore legally continuing to homeschool. It’s nothing new and nothing you aren’t already required to have for DNPE.

If your school was closed by DNPE when you are still actively homeschooling, contact DNPE, and they will be happy to help you get it reestablished. It will be helpful if you have two to three years of test scores to show continuity and give credence to the fact that you have continued to homeschool. Minimally, you should have the last test results by legal requirement.

If we all do our part to keep the data current, there is less reason for increased scrutiny regarding the homeschooling community. It’s an essential part of our roles as school administrators. Let’s all work together to keep NC one of the best states for homeschooling! 

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.

Cover image by Pexels from Pixabay.

Teaching Children to Value Their Food

by Jessica Frierson, June 2022

Do your children know where their food comes from?  If their answer to that question is the name of a grocery store, then it may be a good time to head to your local farmer’s market or, even better, an area farm. Why is this an important concept for them to understand? Giving a child a better understanding of the source of their food helps them to eat smarter, eat healthier, enjoy the food they eat, and develop an appreciation for what they eat.

We gain a greater appreciation for things when we understand their worth. When a child sees a bag of potatoes or a cluster of grapes on their table at home, they cannot begin to comprehend all that went on behind the scenes in order for that to be produced. Seeing fields being prepared for planting, intricate irrigation systems set up to keep the crops watered, and learning about the effort that goes into harvesting crops will help children value their food more. 

This in turn will help our children become more conscious consumers who understand the importance of supporting our local and regional economies. According to Michigan State University Extension office, in 2012 only ten cents out of every dollar that was spent on food made it back to the farmer who grew it. One way we can help our local farmers get a greater return on the investment of their time, cost, and labor is to shop at a farmer’s market as often as possible. Although summer is the season where you can find a greater variety of fresh produce, don’t forget to visit in the off-season as well. Many communities now offer year-round farmers markets that carry seasonal produce, honey, hand-made soaps, fresh baked goods, and farm-raised meat and dairy products. Many farmers markets now accept EBT/SNAP and even double the value of it, further helping out many families. 

Shopping at the farmer’s market not only helps our local farmers, it also gives our families the chance to eat healthier.  The fresher our food is, the healthier it will be. Purchasing directly from the person who grew your food gives you the opportunity to be more informed about it. You can ask what, if any, chemicals were used for pest control or as fertilizers. You can get recipe ideas and cooking suggestions. When I was purchasing a cantaloupe last week from a local vendor, they asked me if I was planning to eat it that day or needed one that would keep a little longer. You may also find varieties of fruits and vegetables that are not available at the supermarket, such as the golden zucchini I also found that day. 

Many farmers markets now include far more than just the produce of their fields and orchards. As the advantages of free-range eggs, farm-raised meats, and fresh milk have become more recognized, consumer access to these products has improved. Family farms often welcome visitors to explore their facilities where they can see firsthand the cows grazing in the pastures or their milk parlors. Local butchers are also a good source of fresh meat as well as a great learning experience. Many will be pleased to show you where the various cuts of meat are taken from on the animal and offer advice on how to best cook different types of cuts. 

As you shop with your child, you can discuss what vitamins and minerals your body needs and which foods are good sources of those. When children have a part in selecting their food, they are more likely to eat it. The colorful artistry of a vegetable display may inspire your picky eater to try a food they would normally reject. Knowing that their body needs vitamin A to build a healthy immune system, fight cancerous cells, see better, and prevent acne may make a child more likely to eat some carrots, sweet potatoes, or red peppers. Teach them to “eat a rainbow,” then let them help to plan out a rainbow-inspired menu. 

Meeting the people who grow the food they eat helps a child to be more connected to their community. They learn to see the interconnectedness of the world around them. Integrating them in the process of choosing and acquiring their food transforms them from a passive consumer into someone who uses critical thinking skills, values relationships, and understands healthy farming means. 

I have written before about how much a child can learn from growing their own garden, whether it is a large plot in the backyard or a few containers on your patio. This is another way you can help your child understand where their food comes from. Just starting one tomato plant from seed and watching its growth until they are able to pick a juicy red tomato ready to slice can give them an idea of the hard work and dedication it takes from the farmers of our nation in order for us to enjoy the vast array of food available to us. 

Teaching our children to value our food supply and food sources is an important lesson. Like many lessons they learn while homeschooling, it can be very hands-on and enjoyable. So check your local listings for a farmers market, pick-your-own farm, or produce stand near your home and be ready to plan a delicious menu from your purchases!

 

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.

Homeschool Victory Moment

by Jessica Frierson, June 2022

“Mom, when are we going to start school again?”, asked my daughter, looking up from the school work I had given her to do one day this spring.

“You’re doing your school work right now,” I replied with a laugh.

“No, Mom, I mean our REAL school work!” she answered back before filling in the rest of the chart she was making to show the difference in germination times for the various seeds she had planted that day.

Score another point for homeschooling! That moment was one of many that I consider homeschool victory moments. My children were having so much fun learning that they didn’t even realize that was what they were doing.

We put our schoolbooks away for several weeks each spring and learn in other ways. We often take a family trip to a new destination. We get a head start on our garden by sowing seeds indoors. Summer projects get planned. New crafts or hobbies are explored. But most of all, as the world awakens from its winter nap, we spend every moment we can watching the new life spring forth.

All of these activities encompass a host of learning opportunities. Wherever our travels may take us, I research the area as well as the route to get there ahead of time. I look for historical points of interest, museums, and unique landmarks that we can include in our visit. We look at maps to see what new places we will travel through. My children each keep a running list of the states where they’ve been. As they add a new state, they look up some facts about it, including its capital, neighboring states, chief resources, and events of key historical significance that have occurred there. We have even driven an hour out of our way simply to give them a new state to add to their list!

Planning home improvement (or self improvement) projects hones important life skills, involves higher level thinking skills, and helps a child see that they have a role to play in family life. Learning to coordinate projects with other events on the calendar and working within the family budget helps young people learn to prioritize, distinguish between needs and wants, and make decisions that are for the best interest of all. We may WANT to pressure wash the fence, paint the front porch, build a treehouse, and put in a backyard pond, but time and money may only let us choose a couple of these projects to complete this year. Including the children in the decision-making process for this has many benefits, not the least of which is preparing them to be wise and conscientious adults one day.

Enough could not be said about all of the ways a garden enhances a child’s education. Even a young child can start some seeds in a homemade greenhouse made from recycled produce containers and be enthralled with seeing the cloud formation that takes place inside it each day when the sun’s rays shine on it. The excitement on their faces when they discover the first tips of green poking through the soil is all the reward I need to know the value of gardening for a child. And then there’s all the math and science they can do—without even realizing that they are doing math and science, as my daughter demonstrated. Pollination, germination, soil ph, evaporation, condensation, seed preservation, bed preparation, the needs of each plant for soil drainage, direct or indirect sunlight, pruning…the list is virtually endless of all the hands-on learning they get as they plan, plant, tend, and (hopefully) harvest their fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. 

The transition from spring to summer is a season of new life and growth. The world around us is full of the business of creating. This often has the effect of inspiring us to create as well. Whether we use watercolor paints, oil pastels, or a basket of broken crayons to capture them, we find a plethora of ready models beckoning to us outdoors. The birds returning to last year’s nesting place under our eaves, bees buzzing around the blossoming apple tree, squirrels scampering up and down the oak tree, and drifting pillows of clouds floating across the azure sky summon us to join them in the celebration of life. 

The spirit of industriousness is contagious, and we soon find ourselves trying a new recipe or searching for the perfect crochet pattern. My sunroom table is quickly covered with paper clay castings of animal prints discovered in the woods, special rocks, a butterfly wing, and many other wonders of nature that are the newest treasures brought to me. One child wants to know how the bees will help bring about a harvest of apples. Another is looking through a field guide to identify a new kind of bird she spotted on the fencepost. She uses an app on my phone to listen to bird calls to confirm that she has properly pinpointed it. Oh, the learning that is taking place is so great, and yet not what is typically considered “school.” 

Spring is rapidly disappearing in our rearview mirror now. As the hot summer days arrive, our textbooks and workbooks will make a reappearance on the dining room table. We will time our outdoor activities for the cool of the day and read our way through the heat. We will take a lighter load through the summer months, balanced with lots of board games, puzzles, and some fun indoor projects. The dolls have been promised a new wardrobe so our sewing skills will be put to the test. Watching a series of baking shows has generated a list of tasty culinary experiments to eat our way through. The nature of homeschooling allows us to gift our children a love for learning about the world around us and an insatiable desire to add something beautiful and useful to that world. 

I anticipate many more homeschool victory moments ahead, whether we are in a season of book learning or have shelved the books for a while. “School never really stops, does it?” my daughter so aptly determined after I explained to her that we had been doing school for the past few weeks even as we traveled, painted, hiked, and planted. My wish for her is that it never does. That would be the ultimate homeschool victory for me.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

2022 NCHE Scholarship Winners

by Evelyn Bickley, June 2022

2022 NCHE Scholarship Winners!

Since 1998, NCHE has awarded scholarships to deserving North Carolina homeschooled high school seniors. In that time, we have been blessed with support and donations from homeschool families and organizations and have been able to award more than $170,000. This year, the judges selected six amazing students.

 

The 2022 recipient of the Molly Nichols Memorial Academic Scholarship is Andrew Esther, son of Julie and Charles Esther of Chapel Hill.  Andrew has been active in his church’s worship band as a musician and as a leader in organizing Christmas toy drives for children.  He has won several awards through Science Olympiad competitions and has been an active member of the National Homeschool Honor Society.  He plans to attend Chapel Hill with an ultimate goal of becoming a cardiologist.

 

The NCHE Academic Scholarship goes to John Clay, son of Debbie and Mark Clay of Fuquay Varina.  John has earned the President’s Gold Service Award for three years.  His major focus in community services has been with Food Pantries where he has worked weekly for five years.  He plans to continue food pantry volunteering while a student at Western Carolina where he will be studying Electrical Engineering. He hopes to one day use his education and life experiences to serve with Baptists on Mission or Engineers without Borders. 

 

The 2022 Ernie Hodges Scholar Athlete Award goes to Calleigh Wilson, daughter of Jeana and Andrew Wilson of Winston Salem.  Calleigh has been an active member of Forsyth Home Educators sports programs including swimming, softball and most notably volleyball where she has received 11 awards.  She has been active in her 4-H chapter, Operation Christmas Child and Project Linus.  Calleigh plans to attend Liberty for a degree in social work and hopes to one day work with children in the foster system. 

 

The NCHE Community Service award this year is going to Sam Pasquale, son of Sam and Theresa Pasquale of Apex.  Sam has been active in Civil Air Patrol where he and his CyberPatriot team placed 6th in a nationwide competition.  He has trained in search and rescue exercises providing disaster relief and conducting radio communications.   He has worked as a tutor at Mathnasium.  Sam plans to study computer science at NC State and wants to use his skills to protect society through cybersecurity.

 

Kara Lewis, daughter of John and Regina Lewis of Moravian Falls is the recipient of the 2022 Arts award.  She is an accomplished pianist and composer, active in American Heritage Girls, Beta Club and Uplands Reach Ministry.  She is intrigued by how music scoring can add to the story line of a film and plans to pursue a Bachelors of Music in filmscoring with a cinematic arts minor at Liberty University.

 

The Apologia Missions and Ministry Scholarship for 2022 goes to Kimberly McClain, daughter of Jareb and Amy McClain, currently of Durham.  The McClains, however, have served for many years as missionaries to Indonesia.  Kimberly is very well-rounded, participating in a variety of sports and artistic endeavors.  She is an animal lover, having served as a junior wrangler at a summer camp and as a veterinary assistant apprentice at Camp Glory Farm in NC.  Kimberly plans to study Christian Ministry/Education at Grove City with a hope to return to Indonesia and continue missionary work.  

 

Please consider helping NCHE to continue to award scholarships to North Carolina homeschool seniors by donating at https://www.nche.com/scholarship-donations/

 

 

 

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 travelling to just about anywhere but especially places that have historical significance or scenic beauty. 

 

Money photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Five Tips for a Conference Trip

by Jessica Frierson, May 2022

1 Look over the schedule ahead of time to see which sessions you want to attend most.

As much as you may want to, you can’t be in two places at once! There are so many great speakers at the Thrive! Conference that it can be hard to choose. If you are coming with your husband, one option is to divide and conquer. Plan ahead of time which sessions you will each attend. Take notes and share the highlights of each session with each other over dinner that evening. You can also purchase mp3 downloads of the sessions you had to miss. 

Take note of the times for events outside of the speaker sessions. The keynote addresses are always a source of inspiration from our featured speakers. The talent showcase is a nice break from a day of taking in information. Our mentor table is staffed throughout the day with veteran homeschoolers who are available to share tips and strategies with you in a one-on-one setting. 

 

 

2 Dress appropriately.

You will do a lot of walking at the conference. A lot. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. You may want to dress in layers or bring a sweater as the rooms tend to be on the cool side. Bring a small rolling cart to the vendor hall to carry your purchases. 

 

 

 

3 Use your phone camera to note items in the vendor hall that you might wish to purchase.

Hundreds of curricula options + conference specials + no shipping costs = a great opportunity to find everything you need for your upcoming school year. To avoid impulse buying and ensure that you get just the right item, take a walk through the vendor hall on your first day. Take photos of the items that catch your eye. If you have your kids along, get their ideas as well. Look over the pictures that evening and make a shopping list for the next day. 

Many of the vendors are (or were) homeschool parents themselves. Take time to talk with them about what your curriculum needs are. I have found that they truly care about helping you find the right fit for your child. 

 

 

4 Take time to recharge. 

Fit some downtime into each day. Take time to relax and have fun. Don’t skip meals. Staying hydrated is important also. Enjoy a hot bath at the end of the day, and be sure to get a good night’s sleep. 

If you have brought your children along, making sure they have time to rejuvenate is essential to a successful conference trip. If you have come alone, take advantage of what is probably a rare opportunity to be refreshed. 

 

 

 

5 Make new friends. Meet up with old ones. This is your time to connect!

Check out the time and location of your Regional Gathering, where you can meet other families from your area. If you don’t know your region, you can find it at the same link. Our Special Gatherings are another great way to connect. The special gatherings for this year will include: military, special needs, single parents, new homeschoolers, parents of preschoolers, parents of gifted children, multicultural homeschoolers, and homeschooling with a chronic illness. 

One of my favorite things about the conference is the chance to reconnect with old friends. Some go back to my early years of homeschooling in another town. Since I’ve moved, I look forward to catching up with these gals at Thrive! each year. Others are friends I have made at the conference, either while chatting at the mentor table, both grabbing for the same book in the vendor hall, or in one of the gatherings. Even my kids have formed some of their strongest friendships through encounters at the Thrive! teen programs.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Photo credits: sneakers photo by Benjamin Sow on Unsplash, schedule photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash ,pillow photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash, coffee photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash, phone photo by Ghen Mar Cuaño on Unsplash. 

 

Creating Master Writers

by guest blogger 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

Thrive!, a Family Affair

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.