Nels Tomlinson

Copyright © Nels Tomlinson 2004, 2005, 2006
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Getting Started

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 ``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.

Just Doing 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.

What to do?

For younger children

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.

For older children

Coming soon.

Free curriculum information

Ann Zeise, of A to Z Home's Cool, has a page of free homeschooling stuff, including curricula.

I have a web page which gives instructions for making phonics flashcards, and for using them to help your child learn to read.

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.

Classical Christian Homeschooling seems to be a cannonical site on classic education. Their reading lists are eclectic, and helpful.

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.

How to afford non-free curriculum

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 Constitution
The 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.

List of statewide correspondence programs

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.

Home Schooling Links for Alaskans (and others).

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.

Quick facts for doubters.

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.

Political Stuff

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.

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