Homeschool Curriculum, Lessons, Activities | Everything Homeschooling



Get Outside and Get Your Game On

By Laura K. Marshall

Getting outside and doing physical activity is great for your body, mind, and soul. But getting outside with your friends and family and having a little friendly competition makes it even better. Here you’ll find four fun outdoor activities to get your body moving.

The Obstacle Course

The obstacle course is great fun for all ages and abilities. Each station's difficulty can be modified.

This course has four stations. At the completion of each station the athlete must run to the next station. You can either time each athlete or have a straight race. I prefer timing each participant; that way, each player has an opportunity to get the highest time. Have a piece of paper to write down each athlete's name and time. Have the score sheet up on a clipboard so everyone can see it. This helps with the friendly competition.

Here are the stations:

Sack Race: Depending on the age of the athletes, decide how long the track will be and mark it off with painter’s tape. I recommend 5–10 feet. Each participant hops in his or her sack to the end and back. If you don’t have sacks, pillowcases work well.

Bean Bag Toss: Using different containers from around the house, set up the containers at varying heights, or you can use five-gallon buckets. Determine how many bean bags the athlete must get in the container to proceed to the next station. Mark on the ground with painter’s tape where the athlete must stand to throw the bean bags. If you don’t have bean bags, try small balls or water balloons.

Hula Hoop Twist: There are two variations on this station, depending on the age of the children and how many hula hoops you have.

Version 1: Have one hoop. Each athlete must hula the hoop x amount of times or for a certain period of time.

Version 2: Have five hoops and connect them together in the Olympic rings pattern. Each athlete must make his or her way through the hoops, over the head, and step out of each.

Then on to the next station.

Spray Bottle Shoot: For this, you’ll need to set up a target and have several spray bottles. Set the distance from the target based on the athlete’s age: closer for younger children and farther away for older participants. Each athlete must hit the target to move on.

Then run for the finish line.

The obstacle course is fun to play in teams, kids against adults, boys against girls, or mixed teams. The point is to have fun and get outside.

Stacking Cups Game

For this game, you’ll need plastic drinking cups and a stop watch. Place 6–12 cups in front of each player. See who can stack the cups the fastest. Try this game in teams, also. Want something more challenging? Try stacking the cups blindfolded, or with one hand behind your back. Use your imagination to make this game more challenging. Just remember to keep it safe.

Water Balloon Launch

For this fun game, you’ll need water balloons and a balloon catapult. Building the catapult is fun and easy.

To make your catapult you’ll need:

A square piece of felt or other flexible material
Large rubber bands
Two poles or sturdy sticks

What to do:

Tie several large rubber bands together, creating two long strands.

Tie a rubber band through each corner of the felt or other cloth.

Connect two bands on each side of the cloth to one of the rubber band strands. Do the same on the other side.

Now connect the ends of the rubber band strands to two poles stuck in the ground.

Your catapult is now ready to launch water balloons across the yard. See how far you can launch your water balloon. To make this even more fun, construct two of the catapults, and set them up opposite of each other. Don’t put them too close together. The point is to have fun; not to get hurt. Play in teams and see who can stay the driest.

Lawn Bowling

This is fun to play one-on-one or in teams.

What you’ll need:

12 empty one or two liter soda bottles (if you don’t have twelve, go with what you have)
1 soccer ball or basketball

What to do:

Fill the soda bottles with water or sand for weight, and set them up like bowling pins.

Determine a distance from where to roll ball. Then roll the ball at the pins.

Receive a point for each pin you knock down.

Each person gets two tries per turn. Each person or team takes 10 turns, going back and forth. The person or team with the most points wins.

Make Medals for Your Athletes

Competitive games aren’t complete without medals or awards. Here’s an easy way to make medals for your athletes.

What you’ll need:

Thin cardboard
Tin foil (silver and gold)
Ribbon or yarn

What to do:

Cut circles out of the cardboard. Make them whatever size you like.

Cover each circle in tin foil. You can decorate with glitter or stickers.

Punch a hole through the top of the medal. Then thread ribbon or yarn through the hole. Let dry, if decorated.

Present the medals to the athletes, for highest score, best times, best spirit, participation, etc.

Laura Marshall is the author of a monthly themed lesson plan series, as well as multiple short stories and books on writing. Her love for imagination and make believe has fueled her passion for writing. Laura currently lives in Milwaukie, OR, with her husband, two boys, two cats, and a dog. See

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Learn through Questions: Use the "5 W's" to Learn and Explore New Topics

By Sherri Linsenbach

The benefit of learning by using the "5 W's" lies in the many directions you and your children can go with the topics. Here are just a few ways you can have fun and learn by asking questions.

Who was Nellie Bly?

When you ask Who a particular person is, you won't want to stop there. Continue delving deeper to find out what she's known for, what she accomplished, what her real name was or what her nickname was, where she was born and how close that might be to where you live. Find out where she went, the places she visited, the people she met, and the events that occurred during her lifetime. From those details, new questions and learning possibilities will arise, which, in turn, will lead to even more learning fun!

What is magnetism and how was it discovered?

When you ask What something is, read and research the history of it, and explore the different properties of it. If it's magnetism or dirt, or the sun or the moon, or a plant or an animal, keep delving further. Not only will you learn about the topic at-hand, you will learn the History of it, the Science or Math behind it, possible Myths or Legends, or Literature or Poetry, about it. In addition, you'll learn about Inventors and Experiments, and you can even create your own Experiments based on the topic.

When did the "Gold Rush" take place?

When you ask When an event occurred, you learn about a specific time and event in History. But, of course, don't stop there! If you're learning about the Gold Rush, learn about the People who were caught up in the Events. Who became rich, and who did they know, and how were they remembered? What did early settlers or pioneers know or think about the Gold Rush? Research and follow families that traveled across the country in search of riches and gold. Pinpoint the routes they took, and learn about the states they crossed, and discuss the hardships or challenges that people faced in 1849 or 1850.

Where is the Cape of Good Hope and why was it named that?

When you ask Where something is, you'll naturally enhance geography skills. You can spin a globe and select hundreds of thousands of cities, towns, landmarks, or places of interest! But travel even further, too, by asking open-ended questions about the places of interest. Ask "Why" a place was named what it was, such as the Cape of Good Hope, or a town named Gnaw Bone, or a River named Snake. Ask "When" the places were discovered and "How" there were discovered, and you'll be covering History, in addition to Geography. Determine "Who" lives there and you'll be engaged in Social Studies. Create your own maps based upon latitudes and longitudes, and determine how near or far the places are, and you'll be using Math and Science skills.

Why did the American Civil War occur?

When you ask Why something happened, there might not be easy answers. Looking into the "Whys" of events can mean looking into the mistakes of People, the misunderstandings of an era, the changes in attitudes, and how people readjusted their ways of thinking or of viewing life, itself. The "Whys" of war can lead in many directions, whether it's the Civil War or a World War. The questions surrounding war will teach much about History, as well as Social Relations, World Relations, Government, Geography, Economics of War, Events leading up to and following War, and the many, many people involved in -- and affected by -- Wars.

How can Cooking enhance Math Skills?

When you ask How something happened, it can be lots of fun! This can mean actual hands-on experimentations! How can Cooking enhance Math Skills? Start cooking or baking something together and find out! How fast does a pot of water boil? With close supervision, experiment and find out! How fast does water freeze? Experiment and find out! How does heat create energy? How do molecules move faster? How do molecules move farther apart? Use creative thinking, make hypotheses, do experiments, take pictures, record your findings, and have fun learning!

Learn More

You'll learn more when you ask questions about a wide variety of topics or ideas. Keep asking questions, keep finding answers, and keep learning a world of information!

Sherri Linsenbach is the author of The Everything Homeschooling Book and publisher of the homeschool website,, which provides weekly homeschool lessons, unschooling ideas, and hundreds of fun homeschool activities.

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Graduation: The High-School Diploma, College, and
Financial Aid

You can issue your child a high school diploma through your own privately established homeschool and by keeping high school transcripts of your child's credits earned.

Diploma Definition

A high-school diploma is simply a document stating that your child has completed his or her high-school education according to the standards you set for your child's overall education. The diploma you issue is proof that your child did meet your standards, did earn the appropriate number of credits during the high school years, and has completed his or her high-school education.

You may order your child's diploma through home-school companies such as Examples of a diploma and high-school transcript can be printed from our "Homeschool Forms" page. (See the "Homeschool Forms" button in the menu on the left.)

For more on issuing your child's diploma, see this article: You Can Issue a Diploma.

Educational Goals

What's more important than the diploma is the education that takes place during the high-school years. These things are important: Your child's happiness, your child's character, your child's knowledge base, your child's capabilities, growth, development, future, your child's desire to learn (now and in the future), your child's quality of life, your child's future career, and your child's happiness in his or her future career and life.

Happiness, knowledge, the ability to learn and be self-dependent, to have morals and values to believe in and adhere to, to have goals and desires, to awaken each day with excitement and enthusiasm for life and learning -- these are true, meaningful accomplishments. No diploma, nor certificate, nor piece of paper can adequately measure and convey these accomplishments as accurately and realistically as the child or young person with that glow of excitement and enthusiasm for life and learning.

Remember that you can award your child a high-school diploma, your child can attend college and apply for financial aid, and your home-educated child cannot be discriminated against.

College Admittance and Financial Aid

As stated by the Department of Education:

"Home schoolers should be admitted to colleges and granted financial aid without having to take additional tests beyond what is required of traditionally schooled students. Ignoring a home school graduate’s diploma and requiring him to take a GED, SAT II, or ability-to-benefit test, while graduates from traditional high schools are not required to do so, is discriminatory." (Quoted from HSLDA's website: Home School Diplomas for College Admittance)

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Keep Your Homeschool Interesting and Successful - Whether You're a Beginner or Veteran Homeschool Family

By Sherri Linsenbach

Midway through the school year, some families take the first steps to homeschooling their children. Other, veteran homeschool families seek new ideas to explore. Here are some helpful points to keep in mind as you proceed through the coming months.

Yes, You Can Homeschool

If you’re a new homeschool family, you’ll want to double-check your state’s homeschool requirements. The best way to do this is to contact your state homeschool association. They can explain exactly what your state might require.

Homeschooling is legal in all U.S. states, and compliance is much easier than you might imagine. If you need help in locating your state’s homeschool support group, contact me, Sherri Linsenbach, at and I’ll help you.

When you’ve determined your state’s homeschool requirements, you might begin worrying about a curriculum or doubting your abilities to “teach” your child or children. Don’t worry! If you can love and raise your child, you can also homeschool your child.

Not “School at Home”

Some people confuse “homeschooling” with “school at home.” But homeschooling is not “school at home.” The term “homeschooling” has simply become the most-used word to describe learning in a more comfortable, more logical, more interesting environment, whether it’s at home or on the road.

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll be teaching at home as if you’re in a school classroom, or that you’ll need textbooks or need to give tests or quizzes every week or so. Trying to do these things will often lead to an unhappy or frustrating experience, resulting in reduced learning.


Before you start worrying about a curriculum or about your ability to “teach,” sit down with your family and have a discussion with your children. What would they like to learn? What new or different things would they like to try? What goals do you and your children have for learning, for new experiences, for hobbies, for careers, for a happy, interesting life?

Don’t be surprised if your children “don’t know” what they’d like to learn or try. They’ve been programmed to have few choices when it comes to education and learning.

The curriculum they’ve been following in school has been a generic, one-size-fits-all program. Therefore, you’ll want to help your children get back in touch with themselves and with their own interests, desires, and goals. As you do this, “curriculum” ideas will naturally unfold before you.

Discussions and Interaction

Daily discussions and interaction with your children are a critically important part of education. Through discussions and interaction, each person can share his or her ideas, opinions, experiences, emotions, brainstorms, creativity, inventions, experiments, projects completed, books read, movies seen, topics researched and explored. The list is endless.

As you and your children connect with each other on a daily basis, you will gain new, inspirational insight into them and into their abilities to think, reason, create, design, solve, and much more! Through daily interactions and discussions, you’ll see that testing is not required to evaluate or assess your child’s learning. Their accomplishments and successes will speak for themselves and be quite obvious to you.

Goals as Homeschoolers

Whether you are a new homeschool family or a veteran homeschool family, there are times when we need to remind ourselves that what we’re doing is for our children – and not for some other entity or someone else's standards. Our main goal as homeschoolers is to provide the best foundation possible for our children – educational, moral, social, civic – so that they can achieve their goals, dreams, and true happiness in their lives and careers.

For homeschool help, ideas, tips, or questions, contact me at Enjoy your homeschool adventures in the coming months!

Sherri Linsenbach is the author of The Everything Homeschooling Book and publisher of the homeschool website,, which provides weekly homeschool lessons, unschooling ideas, and hundreds of fun homeschool activities.

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Single-Parent Households Take on the Challenge of Homeschooling Our Children

By Michedolene Hogan

Homeschooling is becoming more sought after by families across the globe, leading to more support and opportunities to families.  Every state within the U.S. has instituted laws to protect families that choose to home school; whether through charter programs or independent study.  Among the growing number of homeschooling families lies a small group of parents, whose determination to make homeschooling a success, deserves an honorable mention.

While some parents are finding any opportunity to walk away from their responsibilities as a parent, others are demonstrating an extraordinary sacrifice to provide what they believe to be the best education possible for their children: a home education.  These are the parents in a single-head household.  To make home education a success in these households there are key factors that need to be considered.

Always Remain Flexible

Homeschooling provides an opportunity for parents to be in control of their child's education.  This includes what days or hours of scheduling and the location their schooling takes place.  Single parents can take advantage of this flexibility by completing structured schooling during hours the parent is home and independent study while the parent is at work.  In some work environments, parents may even have the option to bring their older child with them for supervision during independent studies.

Lean on Others

Home schools run by a single parent often places a concern of childcare while the parent works during the day.  Many families are finding support from friends and family.  It is important for a single parent to surround themselves with a positive support group that they can lean on for child care, academic structure while the parent works and a second set of shoulders to carry the stress.  Most communities offer homeschooling networks that families can participate in to provide support to both the parent and the student.

Take a Leap of Faith

Some single parents are taking the plunge to work out of the home.  These families often need to accept a lower income but make up for the decreased income by learning to cut corners when shopping and by adjusting their budget.  There are numerous opportunities to work out of the home, including the possibility of arranging a work-from-home schedule with their current employer.

Behavior Problems

A concern some parents may have when it comes to homeschooling as a single parent is their child having behavior problems as a result of too much freedom.  Although any child can develop behavior problems, parents can feel confident that home-schooled children are less likely to develop major rebellious tendencies as a result of limited exposure to negative influences.

If behavior problems do arise in single households, how a parent succeeds in stopping their child's bad behavior is the same as any other. Calm, consistent discipline is the key to changing the desired behavior.  In addition to consistency, parents must readily set the example of the desired behavior they are wanting to instill.

In single households it is crucial that bad behaviors be monitored consistently, as well, and the parent may need to lean on support groups more frequently for assistance during this time while they are at work.  No matter what the circumstance, parents who are determined to provide a home education will be able to find a way.

Child-taught Curriculum

One area that deserves mention as a powerful resource for single parents is self-taught curriculum.  This is any curriculum designed to be self-taught.  Robinson's curriculum is one such program.  This curriculum was designed for a single-parent household after the sudden death of the sole educator of the home.

It utilizes a thorough reading curriculum and record keeping that can be done by the child.  Saxon Math is recommended for self-teaching math, due to its thorough direction written to the student.  Self-taught curriculum makes home education in a single-head household a real possibility.

Raising a family with only one parent is a difficult and courageous task.  It requires you to be able to lean on family, friends and others in the community for support.  The single parents who are going that extra length to home school their children deserve an honorable mention as they place their children's education before all else.

Michedolene Hogan is a homeschooling mom of her four younger children. She enjoys writing, spending time with her family and discovering ways to better parenting. Michedolene enjoys sharing tips for building strong families and hosts an online support community for parents at her website, Unique Parenting.

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Why Homeschooling Is Not "School at Home"

By Sherri Linsenbach

As you go through your homeschool year, remember that homeschool is not "school at home." Home education is simply a natural part of living, thinking, imagining, creating, learning, doing, and growing each day.

School Models That Won't Work

The "school" system was unfortunately modeled on authoritarian Prussian schools. Intents were not necessarily the "intellectual training of children but the conditioning of children to obedience, subordination, and collective life."

The state viewed itself as "the true parent of children."

As a dissatisfied Albert Einstein said about his experience with Prussian schooling: "It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry."

An early proponent of state control of education in America states: "Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property." - Benjamin Rush

Sociologist Edward Ross believed in giving the child a teacher to imitate, instead of his father. He saw the school as the means for gathering "little plastic lumps of human dough from private households and [shaping] them on the social kneadingboard."

"Education reformer" Horace Mann said: "We, who are engaged in the sacred cause of education, are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause."

These are just a few of the reasons why it's important to understand that homeschool is not "school at home."

Encourage Imagination, Creativity, and Inventiveness

As parents of wonderful, curious, eager children, spend time talking with your children to determine what interests them, what they want to explore this year, what they want to learn or delve into, and their ideas on how to go about learning these things.

What amazing things can your child imagine? What fantastic creations can your child conceive of, invent, construct, create, bring to life? What unique capabilities or qualities can your child share with others or use in a way that makes a positive difference in his or her life, as well as in the lives of others?

As author Joel Turtel stated: "Parents, for your children's sake, walk away from the public schools. Also, don't depend on vouchers or charter schools, which are few and far between. Take control of your children's education and the values you teach them by homeschooling your kids or enrolling them in a low-cost Internet private school of your choice. Your children's future is at stake, and so is, by the way, the future of our Republic and our liberties."

Success and Joy through Home Education

So, as you begin your homeschool year this year, remember that it's not "school" you want to model your homeschool upon. Rather, it's your family's values, morals, and educational goals of your children that you want to keep in mind. It's the way they learn best, that you want to model your homeschool upon. It's their curiosity, eagerness, and joy of learning that you want to follow. It's the excitement of guiding them and helping them to learn, which results in a positive educational experience for your entire family, a lifetime of wonderful memories that you will all treasure forever.

Sherri Linsenbach is the author of The Everything Homeschooling Book and publisher of the website, which provides weekly homeschool lessons, unschooling ideas, and hundreds of fun homeschool activities.

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"How Children Learn" - "Their curiosity grows by what it feeds on"

By Sherri Linsenbach

"Love lies at the heart of all true learning."

I recently reread How Children Learn by John Holt, an early advocate of education reform and learning at home.

The last paragraph, in the last chapter, continues to echo through my mind. It states:

“Gears, twigs, leaves, little children love the world. That is why they are so good at learning about it. For it is love, not tricks and techniques of thought, that lies at the heart of all true learning.”

That bears repeating and digesting: “It is love that lies at the heart of all true learning.” Not tricks, as John Holt pointed out. Not techniques. But love.

"Curiosity grows by what it feeds on."

Earlier in this book, Mr. Holt states:

“People have often said to me, nervously or angrily, that if we let children learn what they want to know, they will become narrow specialists, nutty experts in baseball batting averages and such trivia. Not so.”

He goes on to explain that healthy children, still curious and unafraid, are not boxed in by their learning.

Rather, their learning:

“… leads them out into life in many directions. Each new thing they learn makes them aware of other new things to be learned. Their curiosity grows by what it feeds on. Our task is to keep their curiosity well supplied with food.”

I believe that all of us who have homeschooled our children know exactly what John Holt means. We have seen it with our own eyes, in our own children, in our own homes.

"Keep their curiosity well supplied with good food."

“Keeping their curiosity well supplied with food doesn’t mean feeding them, or telling them what they have to feed themselves. It means putting within their reach the widest possible variety and quantity of good food,” explains Mr. Holt.

When we provide encouragement and guidance, plus an interesting environment filled with a wide variety of topics and ideas to explore – along with the time and flexibility to follow those interests – there’s no stopping a child or the learning that will result. Because “their curiosity grows by what it feeds on. Our task is to keep their curiosity well supplied with good food.”

Sherri Linsenbach is the author of The Everything Homeschooling Book and publisher of the website, which provides weekly homeschool lessons, unschooling ideas, and hundreds of fun homeschool activities.

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Confessions of an Autodidact

By Andrew Tipping

I was restless.

I was a homeschooled student in a rural area with very few friends. I had an excellent curriculum—math, science, history, English, logic, and whatever bits and pieces my mother passed along to make my brain buzz with a little extra fervor. Hunky-dory.

Not my thing.

In public and private schools, children are allotted a particular number of years of a particular number of subjects that they must complete. This makes a great deal of sense when the system has to work mechanically and the only efficient way to operate is to put kids in large groups when you regale them with facts unadjusted to their levels of understanding.

Teaching Oneself

Some biography I’ve long since lost told me that when Winston Churchill was a young soldier in India, he spent his afternoons earning the education he had never bothered with at school. He read classics, he read old newspapers, and he read the Parliamentary register. His idea grabbed my attention. My (dedicated, long-suffering) mother had already given me all the tools I needed to pursue Churchill’s plan—I could read for comprehension, I could think for myself, and I loved scholarship. Without dropping my already-established course load, I started adding whatever I wanted to learn.

The plot began by crashing with grand style. Math was a weak point, so I tried to teach myself geometry. It was a horrible idea. I didn’t know how to do proofs, and my mother is of my camp when it comes to math, so I had no one to explain it to me and I gave myself failing grades on my first six tests.

The geometry fiasco failed to dent my thick skull. The endeavor continued. Whatever books I could find, I delved into. Online shopping and public libraries were my best friends. I worked on both strengths and weaknesses with equal enthusiasm, often turning the latter into the former (literature and grammar were bad points in high school; I am now at college and an English major).

Higher Learning

Our house had a spacious attic and a black roof. There was no earthly reason that the attic should be unused, except that in the summer heat no sane person would go up there. Since books and Churchill had absconded with my sanity, I made the attic my bedroom and filled it with supplies and projects. For the best part of the summer of ’06, I sweated my way to a better education.

That August, my parents took me to the admissions office of Truman State University on a whim and I was admitted. I began school that September on scholarship. I was 16.

Flexibility Is Key

There are many such stories out there featuring far more impressive and more rapid progress—there are so many because flexibility is one of the biggest advantages homeschooling sends the way of its participants. Whatever the student’s aptitude and enthusiasm, the opportunity is there for that student to get ahead of the curve or to take extra time and broaden his knowledge. He/she can enter the college or world whenever student and parents find that readiness.

There are a few things I’d like to point out about how it turned out for me—particularly with regard to my passage into college. The transition, at least for an introvert of my caliber, can be rocky. As much as there is to be said against the kids-have-to-be-social-butterflies mentality, it was tougher for me to integrate at college because I had very rarely had contact with other teens.

College Admissions

When my parents and I went barreling into the Truman State admissions office, the first thing the counselors asked about was standardized test scores. I didn’t need a GED, and I was told that in light of my scores, my application essay was not very relevant. I don’t mean to suggest that GEDs, application essays, and other aspects of the application process should be ignored, but that a homeschooler’s standardized tests are likely to get more attention than a public- or private-schooler’s because homeschoolers’ GPAs are not broadly viewed as reliable. Not necessarily fair, but true.

Follow Your Curiosity

If you are a parent and have driven kids, I strongly encourage you to give them every chance to pile on the electives or speed up their core curriculum progress. If you are a bored homeschooled student, consider following your curiosity a step farther and carving out your own plan. It’s well worth it.

Andrew Tipping is a grateful former homeschooler and now a junior English major at Truman State University in Kirskville, MO. He enjoys reading, writing, boxing, wrestling, and just about anything having to do with music.

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Taking a Look Back

By Michelle N. Healey

Eight years ago I was handed a high school diploma from two very proud parents. Ironically, that is the same amount of time my parent’s spent educating me at home. Now, for the first time, I am a homeschool alumnus as long as I was a homeschooled student. Those eight years have been a rollercoaster ride of exciting adventures and overwhelming challenges and have fulfilled the dreams of that excited high school senior who was ready to embark on a new life. After receiving a full ride scholarship at a private university, I graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelors of Arts in History and a Bachelors of Science in Information Systems Management. From there, I moved away from home to Santa Barbara, CA, where I worked for two years before making the trek East to work as a Vice President at a management consulting firm.

Eight years at home and eight years in the “real” world. Wow, time really does go fast. This seems an appropriate moment to look back and reflect on those sixteen years and how homeschooling prepared me for life after my high school diploma. Hindsight is 20/20 so I would like to spend a few minutes sharing with you a little about what I consider some of the most valuable aspects of homeschooling: the lessons I never forgot, the principles that have had the largest impact on me and the training that still plays such an important part in my life.

Family Bond – A homeschooling family spends more time together than any other group within society. And spending so much time together ensures that you know every button to push and each irritating habit of your family members. However, it also gives you the incredible blessing of spending a majority of time with the people who will always love and be there for you. Looking back, I do not wish I hung out more with my “cool” friends but I do miss my family and wish I could spend more time with them today.

Of course, growing up there were the times when I didn’t really want to homeschool, especially when my friends seemed to have such exciting and fun lives. However, God taught me patience and the importance of seasons in life. Growing up was a time to receive the lessons, principles, and training my parents needed to teach me so that when I was ready, I could leave the nest and stand strong.

Godly Principles – Spending so much time with my parents gave me the opportunity to watch them live their lives. Actions speak louder than words and how my parents lived their lives, the decisions they made, the times they choose to do what was right and the sacrifices they made are how I really learned what it meant to be a Christian. You cannot hide your true colors and what you believe – not just what you say – from those who are constantly around you. My parents choose to homeschool because they wanted to raise Godly young women who are not afraid to take a moral stand in a very ungodly world. Their example taught me about my God as they instilled in me the Godly principles they so strongly believed in. I am sure my parents were all too often discouraged and frustrated by our actions and choices but they never gave up and their lessons never stopped. Even today, I can hear their voice when faced with a difficult decision and knowing how they would handle a situation makes me be less prone to compromise.

Education – Today, former homeschool critics are being forced to admit that homeschooling provides children with a solid education. I still believe that my mom was a tougher teacher than any of my college professors. Why? Because she intrinsically knew what I was capable of and never settled for anything less. This instilled in me discipline and a habit of always doing my best. Homeschooling also afforded me the opportunity to become an independent learner who could successfully manage time and complete assignments responsibly. Thankfully, I learned this valuable skill long before my peers, which gave me a head start both in my past studies and in my current career. But, perhaps one of the most important things I took away from homeschooling was a love of learning. Education eventually comes to an end but learning lasts a lifetime. Thanks to homeschooling I will continue to learn—not because I have to—but because I want to.

In college, I remember one of my favorite professors approaching me one day and asking what high school I had attended. When I responded that I was homeschooled he immediately commented that in his 40 years of teaching he came to realize that students with my ability and discipline have either attended exclusive prep schools or been homeschooled. This comment is proof that the education my parent’s provided and the habits they formed to study hard, manage my time, not give up and most of all, give a 100% effort, 100% of the time really paid off.

Communication – Communication skills are often the most overlooked but priceless training parents can provide their children. This means teaching students how to communicate with individuals of all age levels, proper introductions, speaking well in public, writing succinctly and even knowing which fork to eat a salad with at a formal dinner.

Little did my mom realize when she was stressing the value of communication skills that I would one day have the opportunity to dine with Senators, Congressman, Cabinet Members and some of the wealthiest people in the country. Or that I would be interviewed on live television and have the opportunity to discuss homeschooling with a former Attorney General of the United States. Acquiring strong communication skills has been one of the most valuable assets I have gained from homeschooling. These lessons have served me well time and again and instilled in me a confidence to face new and overwhelming situations. A good GPA is important and extracurricular activities are helpful but without communication skills, a student will never go as far in this world as they could have.

And that brings me back to now -– far from home but pursuing my dreams. I have been blessed with many incredible opportunities and have traveled the world experiencing new things. Growing up, my parents took to heart the verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” And all I can do is thank them for the sacrifices they made and the lessons they instilled in me that have molded me in to who I am.

Before signing off, I’d like to offer a quick thought to homeschooling parents —- live by example and remember that your children/students are always watching; instill in them a love for God; challenge your children to always do their best; provide them with an exciting learning environment and a solid education and, finally, keep teaching them communication skills even when they don’t like it. Believe me, one day they will thank you for it!

Michelle N. Healey was homeschooled from the 5th grade through high school. She attended California Baptist University where she graduated summa cum laude with a double major in History and Information Systems Management. Michelle now lives in Washington D.C. and currently works as the Vice President of A.C. Fitzgerald & Associates. Michelle looks forward to one-day homeschooling her own children.

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5 Tips on Dealing with Negativity

By Hannah Glenn

My name is Hannah Glenn, and I have been homeschooled my whole life. I am 17 years old, and I have two younger brothers who are also homeschooled. Preparing to finish high school in just a few months, I've been thinking lately about all the preparation it took to get up to this point, and the fun (yes, fun!) and challenges I had during my schooling. With another semester arriving, I'm reminded that I'm not done yet, but the end is not so far away as it always seemed. A new ID card reminds me of the looming dual credits I registered to take to get a head start on a nursing degree.

I have thrived in a homeschool environment that has given me more of everything: more motivation to reach my goals for the future, more resources to develop my talents and more time to worship God than many public school students. I have an independence that is unheard of in a typical school setting. Yet, even in such a comfortable situation, it is easier for the-grass-is-greener syndrome to set in, and I'll admit I've been sick with it before.

I know that my parents have put a lot into making my education the best it can be, and I am now confident that they made the right decision for my future -- but not everyone agrees with this. I have dealt with more than my fair share of nay-sayers. Inevitably, if you are a homeschooler or a parent who has chosen to homeschool, you will encounter negativity. It is easy to get frustrated when faced with an unwelcome reason why someone believes what you are doing is “wrong”.

A few negative comments can easily become a damper on your homeschooling enthusiasm. It can build to the point that you might second-guess your decision to homeschool. Or, as a student, it can be easy to slip into comparing your grievances with day-to-day homeschooling to what appears to be interesting or exciting in the life of a public schooler. Suddenly you find yourself looking over the hedge, wondering that maybe the grass is just a shade greener. Negativity only serves to set in our doubts and fears and lose confidence in the path we have set on taking. Following are 5 tips gleaned from my own experiences, that I hope will help you to deal with negativity before it gets to this step.

1. The label. Maybe you've heard- homeschoolers are nerds. Really? Rather than passing off a comment, question the person who proposed it: why do you think so? Letting a negative comment go will probably only affirm a person's misconceptions. Instead, respectfully listen to a person's point of view, then lay out why you disagree. Or, rather than getting into a discussion, take a label as a compliment. For instance, if you were called a nerd, you might politely state: “Thanks, I'm trying my best to appear intelligent. I'm glad it's working.” Then, set an example by refusing to label public schoolers.

2. The assumption. All homeschoolers get to wear their pajamas during the daytime, and they only have to spend an hour on their school work. Or, at least, so I've heard. The things people assume to be true about homeschooling can range from the provocative to the plain bizarre. Rather than getting offended or irritated, take people's faulty assumptions lightly. Use them as something to laugh about, rather than to be angry over. If you've been homeschooled for most of your life, you might have your own theories about the public school system that need debunking. Use the opportunity to ask questions about a person's schooling, and be open to their answers.

3. The proclamation. “Homeschoolers don't socialize enough.” Tells the majority. This is, perhaps, the most common argument used against homeschooling. Those who make this or a similar proclamation are usually very sincere. Depending on the situation, it may or may not be appropriate for you to talk with a person about their preconceptions. Unless they are willing to listen and take something away from your discussion, it is not likely that you will make an impression on what they choose to believe. It's worth a try, but in the end, sometimes you will have to take a step back. If worse comes to worse, agree to disagree, and be content in the knowledge that you are right.

4. The infamous question. The inquiry you are likely to hear from people most frequently when your method of education is revealed is an indignant “What?! Why do you do that?” Referring, of course, to homeschooling. In the case of the homeschooling student, the question may be phrased “What made your Mom do that?”, as if a student could not possibly have any motivation to be homeschooled. Plan ahead: take advantage of these opportunities by laying out a few of the pros you believe are true about homeschooling. Instead of giving a “because”, which might dull any further interest a person may have about homeschooling, share the truth and see how others respond. Whether or not anyone ends up agreeing with you, at least they'll know where you stand.

5. The relatives. There are likely one or more relatives in your family who oppose your homeschooling decision. Snide remarks can easily ruin your time together. If a relative brings up homeschooling in a negative fashion, make a cut call. Decide whether or not discussing the issue will pull you and others into a dangerously heated argument, or, on the contrary, whether it might bring about a productive conversation. Sometimes causing others to be angry may be unavoidable. There are times when a relative must know that there is a limit to how much they may interfere with your personal decisions. Still, relatives have a right to be curious about your life, so don't shut them out, but do make decisions that promote peace and protect relationships.

Homeschooling can be a beautiful thing. By implementing these five tips and using patience and your own judgment, I hope it can be that much better. Happy Homeschooling!

Hannah Glenn is a teenager who has been homeschooled all her life and is now pursuing a nursing degree.

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An Unschooler Goes to School

By Laura Flynn Endres

Radical unschoolers say if your child wants to try school, make home better.

It’s wise advice, and something I’ve taken to heart. Veteran unschoolers always seem to have just the right advice; shocking in its simplicity, easy to implement, and incredibly helpful.

In the beginning, unschooling simply meant learning without curriculum. But over the years, unschooling in its more radical form slowly took hold and bit by bit, we overhauled every aspect of our lives. No area was safe from scrutiny. Homeschooling was merely the jumping-off point; implementing radical unschooling principles meant a radical overhaul of how we view not only learning, but also living.

For eight years we’ve worked to find our footing and learn how to trust each other. Freedom from curriculum led to freedom from rigid bedtimes. Freedom from rigid bedtimes led to freedom in screen time. And so on. No previously-held belief has gone unexamined, no mainstream parenting practice unchanged. I had to learn to see my children’s interests as valid, despite my earlier biases, and found great joy in doing so. My husband had to learn to evolve – and quickly. Just when he’d settle into what he thought was our final philosophical resting place, I’d spring a new change on him. “What if it’s really ok that the kids play video games whenever they want?” The kids, though, were least hindered by these changes, as every adaptation resulted in more freedom for them to know themselves, to do what they enjoy, to follow their own rhythms, and to express their feelings and opinions. Who wouldn’t embrace that?

Successful Unschoolers

Both boys have been successful unschoolers, if by successful one means happy, eager, and engaged. As they happily engage in their activities of choice, they learn more than I could ever impart in any series of lessons. When measured by school standards, there are gaps, yes. But in their place, knowledge on certain topics approaches expert level.

My oldest son, Brady (15), has taught himself several computer programming languages, designs video games, and builds computers from scratch. He knows how to build a shed and raise chickens. A local computer company offered him a job doing web design when he was only fourteen, and his current passion includes writing lyrics and guitar, keyboard, and bass parts for his rock band.

My youngest, Jonathan (11), is arguably one of the eminent Pokemon experts in our homeschooling community. He holds his own in any game involving numbers and takes self-discipline in physical exercise to a new level for an 11 year old. His current passion is designing a massive football project. He is researching all the NFL teams, their records (through the first Super Bowl), the players and their positions and skills, and game highlights, and then compiling a "projected season" where, say, the '85 Super Bowl Bears play the ’99 Rams. He's charting whom he believes would win each game based upon what he knows about each team's actual players and their strengths, then detailing MVPs, game statistics, and game highlights in a 16-week season format.

The Administrative Assistant

When people ask how I “got” my kids to become good at certain things, I can only answer that I didn’t. Their competence is the natural result of acting upon intrinsic motivation; in supporting their choices, my role is to make it possible for them to do things they could not do on their own. I help them find resources, mentors, and supplies. I answer questions, reflect back to them, and participate when asked. I respond when they say, “Mom, I need help with something” and I brainstorm with them when they’re stuck. I drive them where they need to go, arrange and keep track of schedules, and seek, provide, and create opportunities. I am a partner in their learning, not a teacher who imparts unneeded information. I am the ultimate administrative assistant!

But I also celebrate their successes, mourn their disappointments, laugh at their jokes, and listen to their stories. Because their desires and needs are honored, they have free reign to explore their interests fully and the confidence to do so. In fact, lack of confidence is rarely a problem because we focus on finding ways to make things happen rather than focus on why something can’t.

There is no bell to tell them to move on to something else. There is no authority figure telling them their interests are a waste of time or less important than something else. There is only pure, enjoyable learning. It’s a beautiful way to live.

But I now have an always-unschooled child in school. A college-preparatory private school, to be exact.

It was the club soccer coach who opened the can of worms. (I have to blame someone, don’t I?) Because our local public school doesn’t have a soccer team, he suggested Brady play for his private high school’s team. Brady was intrigued. He applied. He got accepted.

And now we find ourselves in the precarious position of having an unschooler in school.

Transitioning into School

After several weeks of transition, we’re finding it’s not all bad. And all thanks to unschooling. Because of unschooling, my son entered school with a profound amount of perspective. He knows exactly what he’s giving up and exactly what he’s getting and can make an informed choice whether or not to be there. Because of unschooling, my son sees that kids rebel for lack of choices and freedom; he doesn’t need to, because he made a conscious choice to be there (and can make a conscious choice to leave). Because of unschooling my son already knows who he is and what he likes, and is less dependent upon the opinions of others in navigating social dynamics. He takes it all in and chooses from the palette before him.

The restraints of the system have frustrated him many times already, but so far he likes it enough to stay. He speaks with teachers after class and asks for clarification when he doesn’t understand something. He offers to create online study games for his teachers using his programming skills. By incorporating his own gifts and interests into the curriculum in this way, he makes it more palatable and demonstrates his diverse abilities to his teachers. He takes his time making friends, sees as much of his homeschooling friends as possible during evenings and weekends, and manages to pursue his love of programming and playing guitar late at night and still fulfill his homework obligations. In participating in a system that is known for squelching individuality, he is learning more about himself.

But that’s only because he’s had eight years of unschooling to build his foundation; to discover who he is, what he likes, and trust in his own worth and ability. As hard as it is to be without him eight hours a day, I marvel at his maturity, his insights about school and life and peers, and his ability to navigate – and succeed in – a foreign world for which he’s had no traditional preparation. I am grateful for the beauty unschooling has brought to our life. And I am grateful my son has such a solid foundation to build upon.

Unschooling has prepared him well.

Laura Flynn Endres is a former public school teacher turned unschooler. She is a staunch unschooling advocate who can't believe her luck in discovering this incredible philosophy while her kids were still young. Laura tutors school children, does publicity for her local community theatre, and facilitates classes on theatre, creative writing, Artist Trading Cards, and Pokemon for Rockford HOUSE, their local homeschooling group. She's also the former leader of the Stephenson County HOUSE group. Laura blogs about living and learning at, enjoys writing, biking, organic gardening, and a good steaming cup of Earl Grey tea, and lives on 10 acres of family land in the cornfields of northern Illinois with her husband and two boys, Brady (15) and Jonathan (11). They have been radically unschooling for nine years.

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Unschooling: What Is It?

You've heard of "unschooling", but aren't certain of its merits. Although you believe in "homeschooling" and know it works, you might be wary of "unschooling." Just what goes on in an unschooling situation, anyway? The answer to that is: a lot!

Learning is a natural part of living. If you're hesitant to engage in "unschooling," observe your child closely this summer when school is, technically, out. As the summer months slide by, you'll become more aware of the hands-on learning that is taking place in your child's life every week.

As long as a child, or person of any age, has the opportunity to explore or investigate the world he or she lives in, learning will take place. If your child spends the summer in front of the television, watching meaningless shows, then, understandably, not much worthwhile learning is occurring. It is important that the child's world includes much more than television! And it's up to us to help our children see the many exciting and interesting things there are to explore in the world.

Brainstorming Ideas
If your children aren't sure what they want to do this summer, help them brainstorm some ideas. Maybe your 8-year-old wants to build a doll house. Or your 12-year-old wants to hike through parks or across nature trails in your area. Or your 14-year-old wants to see how many books she can read in one summer. (Also, see some of the ideas sent in by readers, following this article.)

When you determine what desires and interests they have, you can help your children devise a way to pursue those things. In building a doll house, your child can learn about designing the house, figuring the dimensions, drawing the blueprints to scale, shopping for the wood and materials, the actual construction of the house, and much more.

If this is out of your league, perhaps your daughter's uncle, grandfather, or a neighbor can help with the project. She might also enjoy learning about the first doll houses built in the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries, and seeing photos of what those houses looked like. In exploring that information, she will no doubt learn much about the era in which early doll houses were built.

Children's Interests
What about your children's interest in building models, drawing or painting, getting a new pet, roller blading, the martial arts, writing stories, building Legos, cooking and baking, gymnastics or dance class, music or piano lessons, water skiing, the theater, their curiosity about the Yukon or Africa, their curiosity about famous pioneer women, or medical discoveries, or the next space shuttle trip?

Encourage your child to follow these interests and delve into the areas they are naturally curious about. If they enjoy roller blading, maybe they'd enjoy learning about who manufactured the first roller blades. When did the roller blade fad first take off? When were roller skates first made and when did that fad take off? What events were going on around the world when roller skates first came out? They'll be able to surprise their friends with this information the next time they go roller blading together!

If your children like writing stories and drawing, they can make their own book or create a comic book over the summer. Visit the library for information on how to make books.

If your children enjoy cooking and baking, they could concoct their own dishes and desserts with friends and family. Then compile and create a cookbook full of their own recipes.

Maybe your child and some neighbor friends would like to try constructing the largest Lego structure possible. (And, by the way, who invented Legos? Maybe they would like to research this!)

Putting Thinking Skills to Work
There are hundreds of things in this world that interest kids. It's simply a matter of helping them pinpoint what they are, and allowing them to explore those things in a fun, interesting manner. When activities are fun and interesting for children, there's no stopping the learning that will take place. This is why unschooling works so well!

Perhaps your child likes video or computer games, and maybe he'd like to create his own. Help him locate books on computer programming or sign up for an online course that will teach him to create a basic computer game. Although it may not be as complex as commercial games, he will feel proud of his abilities and will enjoy having his friends play the game he created.

All of the above activities, and nearly all activities that come to mind, will require some creative thinking on your child's part, plus critical thinking, analytical skills, reasoning skills, reading skills, processing skills, small and large motor skills, and much more. These are all superb skills to exercise and refine.

If there are other areas of interest your child has not yet pursued, it's only natural to want to research those areas. You will see him or her thumbing through your set of encyclopedias for more information on the topic, or searching for relevant information on the Internet, or asking if you could take them to the library or the bookstore so they could find additional information.

The ripple effect
When it comes to unschooling, there is no limit to the ideas and activities that can extend from special interests. One thing often leads to another, and then to another, until you're amazed at the large amount of information your child is exploring and absorbing all on his or her own.

I see it as the pebble that is dropped into water. The ripples created by that one small pebble extend out from the pebble, ever-widening and ever-moving, expanding into a much larger area, and finally touching shores never imagined, when that pebble first touched the surface of the water.

As you help your children find and follow their interests this summer, you will see "unschooling" in action. And you might be surprised to see their "fun summer of unschooling" continue right on into the "school" year this fall!

Playing is learning. And playing and unschooling go hand-in-hand, resulting in natural, long-remembered learning.

Have fun -- and don't forget to indulge yourself in your own areas of interests, fun, and learning, too!

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