Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why Secretary King is Wrong About Homeschoolers

Secretary John B. King, Jr. of the U.S. Department of Education has made some comments recently regarding homeschoolers.

And it looks like the Secretary of Education needs to be educated!

If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading Secretary King's ridiculous remarks, take a look at what he said here.

The man is wrong. On so many levels, he is just wrong.

1.  He claims homeschooled students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.”

Has this man been living under a rock?!

Homeschoolers are presented with so many amazing opportunities that the amount of choices and the number of options can be dizzying! Having so many unique educational and extracurricular options is one of the beauties of home education. We get to choose the curriculum and activities that are best for each individual student.

And now like never before we have so much to choose from!

My boys are involved in many valuable and enriching activities that they would not have time for if we did public school!

Homeschoolers actually have time for practicing musical instruments; taking field trips at less crowded times so they can actually enjoy and learn something from the experience; and participating in extra clubs, classes, projects, and volunteer work.

Homeschoolers have time to play, explore, and develop their creativity in a safe and secure environment.

Homeschoolers are not only accepted into every major college, but they are being actively recruited by them! Trust me. I was a homeschooled student myself once upon a time, and when I was in high school there were colleges all over the country daily bombarding me with so many letters and phone calls I was tempted to change my name and move away! You see colleges have long ago figured out that homeschoolers have developed the skills it takes to be successful (both in college and in life). Homeschooled students not only consistently out-score their public schooled counterparts on college entrance exams, but they are independent learners who take responsibility for their own education.

Sorry, Secretary King, but just who are you saying has limited opportunities?!

And who is he to say what is "good for all kids" anyway? He's never even met mine (and probably not yours either), so how dare he claim to know what is best for them!

2. Secretary King says that “students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school”—unless parents are “very intentional about it.”

Rapid instructional experience?


He's got me there.

Because my children are learning, growing, and developing according to their own unique God-ordained time-tables. My boys are not being force-fed standards-based "education" in an attempt to get higher test scores and more school funding then passed along with the rest of the herd to the next grade level year after year without ever truly mastering the material that has been thrown at them.

Wow. I had no idea my children were missing out on getting a "rapid instructional experience." (I am being sarcastic, in case you weren't sure.)

And as for homeschooling parents being "intentional" about it:

Homeschooling is an intentional act! I do not know of anyone who is homeschooling by accident, do you?

We know that in order to educate our own children we are going to have to actually do it. Homeschooling parents are some of the most intentional when it comes to making curriculum choices, seeking opportunities to socialize, or picking out extracurricular activities.

Sorry Mr. Secretary, but the parents who you should worry are not being "very intentional" about their child's education are the ones who blindly send their child to be babysat by your flawed system all day everyday.

3. According to HSLDA, "King said the school experience includes building relationships with peers, teachers and mentors—elements which are difficult to achieve in homeschooling, he said, unless parents focus on it."

Again and again I see public schooled children who have no idea how to interact with anyone outside of their narrow age group. One way homeschooled children are often quickly identified is by the way they are comfortable conversing and interacting with people of all ages.

Big Brother has good friends who are anywhere from age 2 to 82. And he can relate just as easily to one as the other!

He has meaningful relationships with his sibling, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc.

He has good relationships with his piano and horseback riding teachers, our local librarians, 4H leaders and club members, and the other students and families in our local homeschool group.

Most importantly, my son does NOT have the "adults are our enemies" or "school is bad" or "little kids are not cool" mentality that is so common among public schooled students who have so much of their lives dictated by their age and their rank in the "system."

Sorry again Mr. Secretary, but homeschoolers are way ahead of your students when it comes to developing healthy and meaningful relationships.

And please don't just take my word for it!

Grab a copy of The Well-Adjusted Child and see just how homeschooling really is best for a child's social development.

Take a look at all the studies that have been done by the National Home Education Research Institute that show homeschooled students out-scoring and out-succeeding public schooled students every.single.time.

Take the time to read just a few of the host of amazing homeschool blogs out there written by some of the most intentional parents you will ever meet.

Visit some of the many homeschool conferences held all over the country each year and be totally overwhelmed by all the options that are presented.

Pick almost any town in America and find a homeschool support group or co-op (or several) full of families who are involved in all sorts of activities and have meaningful relationships with each other and their community.

Walk up to almost any homeschooled student and immediately see the difference in how they respond to you in conversation. And listen to what they say. You could learn a lot from a homeschooler!

Yes, I truly hope Secretary King gets a clue about what he's talking about before he ever mentions homeschoolers again!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Homeschool Field Trip: Mammoth Cave

In my last post, I mentioned that our homeschool group was planning a field trip to Mammoth Cave National Park. We took that trip earlier this week.

Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the world. It is located in Edmonson County, Kentucky. Getting there is about a 2 hour drive for our family.

We passed the time in the van listening to Little Bear Wheeler's Historical Devotions on CD. Big Brother is interested in learning about the Battle of Little Big Horn right now, so we listened to Little Bear's stories about it.

Along with 3 other homeschooling families, we had reserved our tour tickets several weeks ago. Because we had a toddler in our crew and some adults with back problems, we picked the Frozen Niagara tour. This tour is shorter and less strenuous than some of the others that are available.

If you plan to tour Mammoth Cave sometime, I recommend reserving your tickets ahead of time, too. Tours sizes are limited, and they fill up quickly.

The Visitor's Center is nice. There is a small museum with various displays and a short film to watch. And of course there is a gift shop.

All the rangers we encountered were knowledgeable and helpful. Big Brother saw a display advertising the park's Junior Ranger program. So he picked up an Adventure Booklet before we departed on our tour.

For the Frozen Niagara tour, we had to board a bus and ride a few miles to a different cave entrance. My husband and boys had never ridden on the "school bus" type of bus before, so that alone was an adventure for them!

Poor Little Brother. He loved the bus rides to and from the cave. And as long as our group was walking and exploring the cave, he was fine. But when the tour guide would have everyone stop so he could talk...not so much. I honestly cannot remember anything the tour guide said along the tour. I really hope the other folks around us were able to hear him!

Oh well. Little people have limits. That was precisely why we had chosen the shorter tour!

Big Brother had a great time. He had taken one of the longer tours once when he was about 3 years old, but he did not remember much about it. Because we had done some learning about caves before the trip, he was proud to be able to point out to me the stalagtites and stalagmites and to tell me the difference between them.

There were some stunning formations along this tour, and there were a couple places where we did have to duck down to get through some passages. But it was nothing extremely adventurous. Just a brief introduction to the cave.

After arriving back at the Visitor's Center, Big Brother used some of his Spend money to buy a nifty little Mammoth Cave ink pen. He bought the pen so he could use it to fill in the worksheets in his Adventure Booklet.

Each completed worksheet was worth either 1 or 2 "bat points," and he had to earn at least 9 of these points to become an official Junior Ranger.

So my husband took Little Brother outside to explore while Big Brother and I found a comfy spot to work. Some pages were simple word searches and crossword puzzles, others were about preservation or cave safety.

Big Brother's favorite page was about bats. He learned that a bat can flap its wings up to 600 times in one minute! So for an exercise, he had to flap his arms and count how many times he could do it for one minute. We found a clock on the wall, and I timed him as he flapped his arms like wings. He was able to flap only 62 times. We marveled at how amazingly God has designed the bat!

This completed Big Brother's requirements, and we let one of the rangers check his booklet. The ranger awarded him with a nice certificate and an official Mammoth Cave National Park Junior Ranger badge.

Big Brother was so proud of himself I thought he was going to cry. It isn't easy for him to sit down and fill in worksheets at home, not to mention on a fun field trip with all his buddies around. But he was determined to earn that badge, and he had worked diligently. For him, it was a huge accomplishment!

And here it is a couple days later, and he is still wearing his badge.

If you go to Mammoth Cave:

- Be prepared to hear and see a lot of references to evolution and "millions of years." I recommend watching Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD with your family first to get a Biblical perspective on the subject.

- Bring a jacket or sweater. It is always cooler inside the cave.

- Choose your tour and reserve your tickets well ahead of time. Remember Mammoth Cave National Park is located in the Central Time Zone so plan accordingly.

- Use the restroom before your tour starts.

- Pick up a free Junior Ranger Adventure Booklet from the Visitor's Center. You have to ask for them at the information desk.

- Be patient and understanding with little ones, whether your own or someone else's on the tour. It is dark in there, and some children might be sensitive or even a little scared.

- Have fun!

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Christian Homeschool Science Co-op: Learning About Caves!

Our homeschool group has a field trip to Mammoth Cave coming up.

To help us get ready for the trip, I taught a one-day science co-op class. There our students watched an exciting video, conducted a cool experiment, and learned some interesting things about caves.

We watched Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD. The children loved it! Buddy goes exploring deep inside of a cave, crawls on his belly, squeezes through tight passages, and repels down into deep caverns. He meets several interesting cave-dwelling animals such as bats and blind cave fish. Throughout the episode, Buddy shows how real scientific evidence found in caves support the Biblical belief in a worldwide flood during the time of Noah. The children were totally fascinated by Buddy's adventure, and now they are even more excited about going on a little cave adventure of our own soon! (Although our tour will not be anywhere near as extreme as Buddy's was!)

I highly recommend this DVD!

The following science experiment let the students watch a demonstration of how caves form as they made their own clay caves. The homeschoolers in my class yesterday ranged in age from 2 to 11, so this activity is fun for all ages.

Clay Caves Science Experiment

Materials Needed For Each Student:

* 1 regular size can of play-doh
* 3 or 4 sugar cubes
* clear plastic cup or bowl
* warm water
* paper towels or napkins
* pencil & paper

1. Briefly discuss with students how caves like Mammoth Cave form. A layer of water soluble limestone is dissolved over time by water. Sandstone and shale, which are not as water soluble, form the roof of the cave. Contrary to popular scientific belief, millions of years are not necessary for this process to happen. Most likely the layer of fossil-filled limestone was laid down by the waters of Noah's flood, and the cave formed sometime thereafter.

2. Give each student a can of play-doh (or some type of modeling clay). Tell the students to flatten their clay into the shape of a little pancake. This clay represents the sandstone.

3. Give each student 3 or 4 sugar cubes. These represent limestone. Have the students place one sugar cube touching the edge of their clay pancakes. The remaining sugar cubes should be placed in a row behind this sugar cube. Make sure the cubes touch one another.

4. Now tell the students to roll their clay securely over the sugar cubes to form a ball around them. Make sure the sugar cube touching the edge of the clay is still exposed.

5. Fill each student's clear plastic cup or bowl with warm water. (Make sure whatever plastic cups or bowls you use are big enough for the clay balls to be covered completely with water!)

6. Give each student a pencil and sheet of paper so they can record their experiment. Ask them to write down a hypothesis (what they think will happen when they put the clay ball containing sugar cubes into the warm water).

7. Now let the students drop their balls of clay into the warm water. The water should cover the ball. Make especially sure the exposed sugar cube is completely submerged. Have students record what they see happening right away onto their papers (probably nothing, or perhaps some students may see bubbles).

8. What starts happening next? Students should continue watching the clay balls and writing down their observations. The sugar will start dissolving in the water, and it will leave a trail of bubbles as it does.

9. After 10 to 15 minutes or so, hand out paper towels or napkins to each student. Let them carefully remove their clay from the water and place it on the towels. Have students look inside the ball where the sugar cubes were. They should see a little cave left behind!

10. Have students finish recording what happened onto their papers. Review how this demonstrated cave formation.

This co-op class was fun and easy to teach. Try these activities with your own students and post back here in the comments to let me know how it goes! You might even want to share pictures of your own clay caves on my Facebook page!

And don't forget to grab your copy of Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD!

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