Sunday, January 22, 2012

Planning a Homeschooling or Unschooling Camp? A Few Tips and Suggestions.


by Beverley Paine
I’ve planned and organised a few camps in my time, including complex ones that combine parent sessions, conference programs, specialist activities as well as simple bush camping retreats. If you are planning your first camp and want to keep it simple but still fun, engaging and inviting, the best advice is to keep it simple – sometimes it is difficult to keep them small, especially if you advertise them through your local or regional home education networks!  
For a first camp I'd say aim for autumn, make it a caravan park that has lots of natural areas and good tent sites (some powered, some unpowered - not many caravan parks seem to cater to for tents anymore, so be choosy). Cabins will increase the number of people who will come - some with little children don't like camping and some who have disabilities find it too difficult. Access to hot showers also boosts attendance!
Weekends are good because it allows working partners to attend. Mid-week is great because parks are usually less full... especially during the tourist season.
An extensive playground and trees suitable for clambering over or sitting in the shade under are essential. If the weather is going to be at all warm, water play is a good idea - either a pool, creek, beach, but remember that you can create safe water play areas with sprinklers, plastic sheet water slides, etc if the park allows that.
Children love to play chasey and hide and seek - keep that in mind when choosing a venue. Safety is a big concern, but look for areas that have lots of neat places that encourage fantasy play.
Start each day with a morning circle for everyone. Some people will do yoga, etc before the circle, but if everyone comes together and play a few circle games that really helps people to meet each other. Plus it gives an opportunity for everyone to have a say what they'd like to do that day - plan the games and any activities, say if they are going on an excursion (fishing, walking, etc) and invite others along.
If the camp has a communal kitchen, plan to use it for cooking meals. It is so much easier for everyone to prepare their own, but you can pool food for one celebratory meal without too much hassle. Using the camp kitchen brings everyone together. For a short camp I would simply use the BBQs and see how inventive we can all get with recipes and menus!
Quiz nights are hugely popular. They don't have to be elaborate, like the ones local clubs do for fundraising. They can be less 'academic/intellectual' and more physical, role playing, etc. If two families live close to each other they can take on organising this - better if a couple of parents take on this responsibility as it is a reasonably sized task!
If everyone who goes brings an activity to share - and it could be as simple as getting a game of french cricket started - you will have enough to fill every day. Someone could bring a box of books and a rug for a reading nook under a beach umbrella... Networking beforehand allows for brainstorming ideas like this.
I personally like the idea of everyone wearing name labels for the first few days. An early activity could be to make labels and perhaps play a few games so that people begin to recognise who is who. Name labels also helps late arrivals feel part of the group faster.
Two to three nights is a great short camp and whets the appetite for more. Longer camps can be exhausting for younger children as well as for large families. Nothing beats spending five days away with like-minded families though – the bonding and friendships that are made at a long camp last years, if not forever. 
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If you haven’t already done so, please think about joining our Homeschool Australia FAQ, it is a friendly, on-topic homeschool Yahoo group. We encourage people to share information and tips, as well as reviews on favourite homeschooling resources and where to get them. And, of course, to ask questions about any and all aspects of home education! To join send an email to HomeschoolAustraliaFAQ-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HomeschoolAustraliaFAQ.Our Learning Naturally Yahoo Group aims to cooperatively widen our understanding of how learning occurs naturally in the home and community, and to share advice, tips, trials and tribulations so that we may all grow! We want to help dispel some of the myths that are out there about Natural Learning and Unschooling and make it easier for everyone to capitalise on these approaches as home educators. To join send an email to: learningnaturally-subscribe@yahoogroups.com, or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/learningnaturally.And once subscribed, don’t forget to post an introduction and begin asking questions, sharing tips and ideas, etc!
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Create Your Own High School Curriculum for this Year



Many families faced with needing to withdraw their teenage children from high school hit the panic button at the beginning of the year and automatically think that they will need a supervised correspondence course to teach their children at home. Queensland is the only state to offer private primary and secondary online education through religious educational institutions: the other states offer public distance education but the students need to meet strict criteria. There is another option and it is cost effective and not too daunting: write your own curriculum using the vast range of resources available to classroom teachers.
Take a look at the range offered by long-term home educators, Frank and Valerie Marrett on their Homeschool Supplies website
http://www.homeschooling.com.au/catalogue.asp?time=0&id=&doc=1&page=newcatalog&k\
eysearch=1.
Campions are also suppliers of school materials and have a huge range:
http://www.campion.com.au/. Another supplier is Wooldridges:
http://www.wooldridges.com.au/. Ask if these companies offer discount to home educators – you might be pleasantly surprised. If you are operating on a budget, check out AussieHomeschool Classifieds http://aussiehomeschool.com/ for second-hand high school materials and books: home educators have been using this popular forum for over a decade.

You can purchase text and student work books and simply work your way through them. This way your home educated student will be using similar materials to what she would be using at school. Of course, his or her education isn't 'supervised' by a teacher but the scope and sequence will be appropriate and suitable for her developmental stage and academic needs. Plus you can mix and match 'grade' levels - for example, she might be Year 9 in Maths and Year 10 in English, etc - you don't need to stick to the same year level across all subjects. If your child is self-motivated this approach will work brilliantly. If not, you will need to offer help, guidance and supervision as she works her way through the books, but you’ll find you will need to do this anyway even if you enroll her in a school of distance education.

Most text or workbooks have 'tests' in them which will help both of you evaluate progress, plus you can use the contents as 'checklists', ticking them off as she completes each area of learning – this would become part of his or her homeschool records.

I created a 'report card' recording system for home educators (available from http://alwayslearningbooks.com.au) that is based on 'assignments'. You can fill it out retrospectively or use it as you progress through the year. The idea is to pick a topic if interest or concept and create a unit study or assignment (that covers set objectives). There is space for 10 or a dozen of these to be
reported on in the report for each subject area. The report lists general objectives for each subject area for that stage of development (early adolescent is the one that would suit you). I used this recording approach for my sons (now adults).

For example, for English one assignment could be 'comparative texts' and included reading and watching different versions of the same story, lots of discussions, plus a few activities. 'Reading log' was another - this could include a brief 'book report' or 'summary' as well as simply log what was read. Suitable book lists can be found by browsing through catalogs such as Campions. A science unit study on animal husbandry could evolve from pet care – the complexity of the study evolves as the child ages. For a teen the unit could focus on animal rights as well as the particular care needs of a pet, or it may involve an enterprise such as breeding and selling chickens or their eggs. If such unit studies are drawn from areas of personal interest to the child, such as hobbies or passions, then motivation will remain high and learning relevant to the immediate and future needs of the student. There are many excellent maths texts available which teach the concept, offer examples, drill exercises, revision and extension activities. Or you could avail yourself of one of the many excellent online learning programs which, for an annual or monthly fee, offer 24 access to a maths tutor.

It isn't too difficult to create your own curriculum and supervise your child's learning. You won't get a certificate of completion at the end of the year... you can print your own! Plus your daughter will also have the flexibility and time to look into and perhaps do accredited distance education courses - either
through open learning university, TAFE, adult colleges etc. Think about pathways to apprenticeships, universities etc - have a look at TAFE websites and see what is on offer. Even a few short courses - for which she will get a certificate that will add to her personal portfolio and stand her in good stead when she needs to write a resume.
The flexibility and relative cost saving expenses of creating your own personalised secondary school curriculum will surprise you. There is always help on hand through homeschooling forums and online groups, as well as local homeschooling groups, to support you and guide you over any bumps or sudden losses of confidence. There are thousands of young adult home educated graduates that can attest to the value of ‘going it alone’. 
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If you haven’t already done so, please think about joining our Homeschool Australia FAQ, it is a friendly, on-topic homeschool Yahoo group. We encourage people to share information and tips, as well as reviews on favourite homeschooling resources and where to get them. And, of course, to ask questions about any and all aspects of home education! To join send an email to HomeschoolAustraliaFAQ-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HomeschoolAustraliaFAQ.Our Learning Naturally Yahoo Group aims to cooperatively widen our understanding of how learning occurs naturally in the home and community, and to share advice, tips, trials and tribulations so that we may all grow! We want to help dispel some of the myths that are out there about Natural Learning and Unschooling and make it easier for everyone to capitalise on these approaches as home educators. To join send an email to: learningnaturally-subscribe@yahoogroups.com, or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/learningnaturally.
And once subscribed, don’t forget to post an introduction and begin asking questions, sharing tips and ideas, etc!
Please become a ‘fan of our Homeschool Australia page by copying and pasting this very long url into your browser... http://www.facebook.com/pages/Homeschool-Australia/102822156428377?ref=ts


Monday, January 16, 2012

A Few Tips for Registering as Home Educators for the First Time

by Beverley Paine

At this time of year the home education community is swelled by new families just beginning this amazing adventure with their children. While some of us choose not to register for personal reasons and some the registration process is very simple and not at all daunting (lucky Victorians!), we can all sympathise with those applying for approval to home educate from the relevent government authority for the first time as it can be very intimidating.

If you are in that situation, here's a few tips that should lessen any anxiety you might be experiencing:

Prepare a basic learning plan for the year ahead, using dot points under the eight subject areas: English, Maths, Science, Society & Environment (Geography, History), Technology, The Arts (visual, performance, drama, craft), LOTE (language and culture other than English), Health & Physical Education. Think about what your child will be developmentally and educationally ready to learn in each of these areas over the coming year and create some activities or unit studies around that, add a few well chosen student work-books, text-books or online learning programs. Can you build some activities around personal or family interests? Most can be easily related to one or more curriculum subjects. Add them in too!

Keep it simple, keep it basic! There is no need to write reams: most of us go way overboard when we write our first home education learning program. We worry if we are covering everything our child needs to learn. But it is like most things in life - as we travel along the path the detail becomes visible, we fill in the gaps, switch direction to focus on something in more detail. That's okay, it works, and the person interviewing you and assessing the suitability of your program knows that. Create a personalised simple plan that includes learning objectives in all eight subjects that you can confidently talk about. There are sample learning plans on both Homeschool Australia and Home Education Association sites.

Ask for advice and pointers on where to find appropriate resources: remember that the person interviewing you has teaching experience and will have lots of ideas. See them as a someone there to help you build an excellent education for your child, not as someone there to judge you, your child or your home.

Remember that your home education program is only a plan: it isn't set in concrete and is likely to have changed quite a bit by the end of your first month! The authorities understand this too - your end of year report doesn't have to look anything like your initial plan. And that's true for families who have been home educating for years as well as beginners: life happens and we all take advantage of whatever educational opportunity or resources come our way throughout the year.

Keep records of your children's learning and their progress. This should only take a few minutes several times a day. Try different approaches to keeping records until you find one that you are happy to use on a regular basis. Our confidence grows exponentially when we record our home education journeys. And it will mean a lot less work come the end of the year!

Make it obvious you have support from other home educators: leave homeschooling magazines and books on display and talk about your local and online support groups.

And most of all, don't stress too much. If your plan isn't instantly approved, ask why. Ask them to tell you what is missing so you can include activities and resources in those areas. Don't take no for an answer: negotiate. It has been my experience that families who persevere eventually get approval.

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If you haven’t already done so, please think about joining our Homeschool Australia FAQ, it is a friendly, on-topic homeschool Yahoo group. We encourage people to share information and tips, as well as reviews on favourite homeschooling resources and where to get them. And, of course, to ask questions about any and all aspects of home education! To join send an email to HomeschoolAustraliaFAQ-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HomeschoolAustraliaFAQ.Our Learning Naturally Yahoo Group aims to cooperatively widen our understanding of how learning occurs naturally in the home and community, and to share advice, tips, trials and tribulations so that we may all grow! We want to help dispel some of the myths that are out there about Natural Learning and Unschooling and make it easier for everyone to capitalise on these approaches as home educators. To join send an email to: learningnaturally-subscribe@yahoogroups.com, or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/learningnaturally.
And once subscribed, don’t forget to post an introduction and begin asking questions, sharing tips and ideas, etc!
Please become a ‘fan of our Homeschool Australia page by copying and pasting this very long url into your browser... http://www.facebook.com/pages/Homeschool-Australia/102822156428377?ref=ts