- Getting Started
- Just Doing It
- Free curriculum information
- How to afford non-free curriculum
- Home Schooling Links for Alaskans (and others).
To get started homeschooling, you first need to research the laws in your state. You can begin with Home School Legal Defense Association's List of states. Select your state on the map, or go straight to their writeup on Alaska's laws.
In Alaska, begin with our compulsory attendance law. The relevant portion for us is Section AS 14.30.010.10.(b) ``This section does not apply if a child'' (12) ``is being educated in the child's home by a parent or legal guardian.'' That is, if you are educating your child at home, the compulsory attendance law does not apply. That means that there are no reporting requirements, no need to notify anyone, no paperwork, no nothin'. Just do it.
In Alaska, all you have to do is keep your kids home, and start teaching them. It's as simple as that. There are some details, of course: you have to figure out what you want them to learn, and how, and when.
Many families initially fall into the trap of trying to recreate school at home. They purchase a program from company like Calvert or A Beka, and recreate, poorly, the very thing they're trying to get away from. For most families, that's the road to failure. Instead, if you're switching from classroom school to homeschool, I recommend that you concentrate on ``de-schooling'' for a few months. Get accquainted with your children, find their strengths and weaknesses and learning styles. Go a little while without goals and schedules. This will give you some time to figure out what might work for you and your kids, and what your goals and schedule ought to be. If you eventually decide that what they really need is some schedule and structure, you can always go to that.
For younger kids, you need to concentrate on reading, listening and repeating, and memorizing. Listening, repeating and memorizing are their strong points at this age, and that means memorizing the sounds that letters represent is right up their alley.
One place to start figuring out what to do, if you have younger children, is by reading Ten Things to Do with Your Child Before Age Ten. The gist of their recommendations is: Reading & Writing (using phonics only), Oral Narration (read them a story, then have them tell it back in their own words), Memorization, Hearing & Listening (read them good, age-appropriate literature), Family Worship, Arts & Crafts, Field Trips & Library, Work & Service (chores at home, mainly), Discipline (this is training, not punishment), Play & Exploration.
Ann Zeise, of A to Z Home's Cool, has a page of free homeschooling stuff, including curricula.
I also have posted a little book by Linda M. Williams, How to Teach Phonics, which was written in 1916, to show classroom teachers how to teach children to read using phonics. Be warned that this book was intended to help teachers who were required to use ``whole word'' (today called ``whole language'') methods. It assumes that the children are being taught to recognize words as if they are Chinese ideograms, and speaks highly of that method. You'll find much of what I advocate in my flashcards page, but you'll also find an emphasis on ``sight words''. I'd advise you to not teach ``sight words'', but let them come naturally, as the children learn to read via sounding out words.NEW! Why should you teach your child a second language, and why Latin? In 1901 Charles Bennett gave a complete, informative and convincing answer to this in his book: Teaching Latin and Greek in the Secondary School. I have scanned and typeset his first chapter ``The Justification of Latin as an Instrument of Secondary Education.''
Ambleside Online has a free curriculum package. No strings, just download and use it. It's modeled after Charlotte Mason's philosophy, so it emphasises reading, narration, spelling and grammar, rather than texts, worksheets and tests.
Project Gutenberg has thousands of books, including many on the reading lists above. They have around half of G. A. Henty's many books. The Project Gutenberg books are plain text files, which you may download free of charge and use freely.American Heritage Education Foundation has three sets of lesson plans and resource lists for American history lessons. There is a set of 17 for elementary students, another set of 17 for middle school students and a set of 13 lessons for highschool students. They are written for classroom teachers, but look as if they'd be valuable for use at home. In the Beginning has a wonderful set of 14 (with a 15th on the way) lessons in Koine Greek. That's the language of the New Testament, and close enough to Attic Greek to be better than nothing. You really can't learn English grammar thrrough English: you have to learn an inflected language like Russian, German, Latin or Greek to really understand grammar. You'lll learn some practical logic, too. I've chosen to start my kids language education with Latin, but Greek is another excellent choice. There are a number of free resources for Latin and Greek at TextKit. They have Charles E. Bennett's A Latin Grammar, and a number of other resources for learning Latin and Ancient and Koine Greek. They also have many classic works in the original language. This site is a real God-send for those who are serious about learning the classics. National Geographic has maps. You can download free, printable PDF maps of the whole world, with or without country and city names. This looks just right for some basic geography.
In Alaska, we have the option to accept money from the State to help purchase curricula and materials. Whether this is the right thing to do, or not, is between you and God. The legislature is required to:
SECTION 1. PUBLIC EDUCATION. The legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution. Article VII, Section 1, Alaska State ConstitutionThe legislature is required to make the public schools ``open to all children of the State'' (what a noxious, arrogant way to lay claim to my children). That includes, among others, the children who are educated at home. So, the constitution pushes the state to make public funds available to homeschoolers. This is done by a number of statewide charter schools, which offer an allotment which you can spend with the usual restrictions about ``no religious (meaning Christian) materials''. Notice the phrase ``direct benefit'' in the last sentence: that phrase is there to specifically allow indirect benefits for private or religeous schools.
We don't give up the right to teach our kids what we want, the way we want, using the materials we want, including the bible. Of course, we still have to pay for the bible.
We do have to give up a bit to take the State's money. Our kids have to be tested every year or so (starting in the third grade). So far as I know, there are no consequences for failing the tests (not much chance of failure, either!), and we don't have to tell the kids their scores or put any pressure on them. Since they don't get to talk to other kids about the tests and learn that they are supposed to be scary, they can enjoy the experience. I think that it is good for the kids to get this free, no-pressure test taking experience, so the testing seems like a plus for our family.
We also have to spend some time on paperwork. I'd guess that we have to spend a few hours per quarter on paperwork, and it probably comes out to an average of around one hour a month. Even for one kid, even if we don't spend all the allotment, that is still a pretty good hourly rate for our time. I don't make that much at work!
We do have to be careful not to become so dependent on the allotment that we couldn't give it up. We are very alert for any possible infringements on our parental rights and responsibilities, and if we see any signs of problems, we'll have leave the program right away. So far, so good, for our family.
I think that the secret of being comfortable with one of the programs is to have a local representative who is willing and able to work with you to make sure that your Individual Learning Program covers everything you want to do, and uses accurate descriptions which the school finds innocuous.
- Alyeska Central School Since 1939 Alyeska Central School has provided free instruction to any Alaskan who does not have a high school diploma and chooses to study outside a traditional school setting. This was formerly Alaska Centralized Correspondence Study. For many years this was a part of the State Department of Education and Early Development, but is now part of the Yukon-Kuskokwim School District.
Copper River School District Correspondence Program The Copper River Correspondence Study Program has been helping families school their children at home, Kindergarten through 12th grade, throughout the state of Alaska for over 15 years.
Our program provides financial assistance to all students residing within the State of Alaska for curriculum, technology, tutoring, activity instruction and other various instructional aids to assist you in the delivery of an outstanding home program through public education. In addition, we offer instructional aid and accountability through on-site teacher support and through the teaching services of our approved curriculums.
The program remains small and therefore personable for those of you who do not care to wade through pages of information, or red tape to accomplish your goal. When you call our office, you generally will get the same person on the line who can answer almost all of your questions immediately, and if not, will seek to have your questions answered as quickly as possible.
- Cyberlynx CyberLynx is a statewide K-12 correspondence program for Alaskan home schooled students. CyberLynx is designed to facilitate schooling that takes place in the home under the supervision of a parent. Operated by the Nenana City Public School District, CyberLynx was expanded in 1997 from a District-wide program to a statewide program in order to serve all Alaskan students. CyberLynx has the capacity to serve 2,000 home schooled students.
- Denali PEAK Denali PEAK is a state-wide correspondence school program dedicated to standards-based home school education.
- IDEA Welcome! IDEA is the home schooling support program of Galena City School District, serving the needs of students throughout Alaska since 1997. Our mission is to provide resources and support to parents who have chosen to educate their children at home. Our relationship is one of partnership based on honoring the hard work and dedication of the homeschooling parent, respecting parental choice in curricular materials and instructional approach based upon the needs of each individual child. We have contact teachers and experienced homeschoolers (Field Reps) on staff to assist you. Juneau Office: (907) 789-6106
- Iditarod Distance Learning Center The Distance Learning Center offers a Home School Program using several innovations in education which meet state and district guidelines and standards. Students' educational needs are met through a means of flexible academic schedule and by utilizing various educational resources. Parents, as partners with teachers, are involved in their children's education and are responsible for delivery of curriculum.
- Pace PACE is a statewide correspondence school that serves students in grades K-12. The PACE Ketchikan Learning Center is located in the Plaza Mall on the second floor, across from Shear Magic and above H&R Block. Office Hours Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm.
- Raven The mission of the Raven Correspondence School is to provide educational choice and opportunity with first class service, while advocating for the home school ideals. Juneau Office: (907) 796-2112
- Yukon River Academy The Yukon River Academy allows parents to regain control of their children's education. Our dedicated and highly trained certified staff is available to support parents in their effort to teach their children at home. Educating a child yourself is a daunting task. Our goal is to ensure each parent the personalized tools and guidance which will enable each child to reach his/her highest potential.
Here is a list of misconceptions about public schools. There are a number of myths about public schools: that they are under-funded, that our teacher shortage is caused by low pay, that they socialize our children ... and many more. These myths persist because they're half true, and often heard. I've tried to give some facts, so you can judge for yourself what's true about the public schools in the U.S.
My bibliography of research on home schooling. I've tried to avoid puff pieces, and concentrate on scholarly articles, with data.
Mr. Shier's spreadsheet of how four public school systems in Alaska spend their money, and where it comes from. If you want to feel good about how much money the statewide correspondence programs are saving the State and the local taxpayers, look here.
Separation of School and State: a secular movement to get government out of schools.
Learning in Freedom: a secular site with a wealth of editorials and links.
If you are in or near Juneau, you may be interested in the Juneau Home Educators Association, a support group for home schoolers in and around Juneau.
See the DMOZ list of Alaskan homeschooling links for more useful and interesting sites on homeschooling in Alaska. I'm the category editor, so please let me know if you know of any other Alaskan-specific sites which belong there. Just use the ``suggest URL'' link near the top of that page, or this one should do the same thing.
Home Schooling Achievment is a pdf file full of many cheerful facts about homeschoolers, their achievments, and their families. There are many brightly colored bar graphs to wave at doubting relatives. The data come from Rudner's The Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998
Homeschooling Grows Up is a report on adults who were homeschooled. It gives details on their post-secondary education, careers, patterns of civic involvement and attitudes. Again, oodles of easy-to-find facts, backed up by brightly colored bar graphs. One interesting fact is that only 74% of us are choosing to homeschool our own children. The data comes from a recent, large-scale study.
Find your state senator and representative. This takes you to a list of legislators, by community. Find your community on the list, and you will be able to get a list of your elected representatives.
Who's on what committee? This takes you to the legislature's list of standing committees. There are five committees with the word education in their title, so make sure you know which you're looking for.
Some house committees we might find especially interesting are: the House Education committee (chaired by a homeschooler) and the House HEalth, Educatin and Social Services committee.
How do I track a bill? If you know the number of the bill you are interested in (SB269, HB476), you can enter it on this state website and find out where it has been, and where it is now.