Monday, May 25, 2015

Homeschooling kids with allergies

Okay, so this is not so much funny as uplifting, okay? This is my 'do it yourself' blog post with a helping of 'you can totally do this!' added in.

When you have a kid with severe health problems, and you have at least one parent making enough money you can get by, homeschooling is something that often comes up. Sometimes even if you don't have enough money to get by.

But the big question becomes for many parents: can I do this? Can I homeschool and not turn my children into raging voids of ignorance and social isolation? It's not so much 'Are you smarter than a 5th grader,' it's 'can you raise someone to be smarter than a 5th grader.'

I have two kids now, both teens, both homeschooled from kindergarten on up. And I will share my copious wisdom, or rather kind of so-so wisdom and stuff I picked up accidentally over the years, in the hopes that it might help you out.



1. I'm not that well educated. How can I teach my kids if I don't know it myself?

Here's the wonder of being human: we learned to read and write, and we can get access to what others have written, and by reading it, we can all learn. You don't have to be an expert in a subject your child wants to learn as long as you can have access to people who are. Or at least their writings. Books exist to teach these things, videos, websites now, too- learn it along with your kids, if you have to. Nowadays, experts often  have blogs, youtube channels, and websites where they will answer questions for you or your child if clarification is needed.

The schools use textbooks for this subject, you just choose your own versions of 'text' book. I'm assuming that a parent reading this would, you know, know how to read. And that's all that's needed, in the end, as long as you're willing to do the work to help find experts who your child can consult.

2. I'm worried my kids will have no friends.

So, yeah, if you're kid is kind of a bully and a jerk, that's a problem, but that's gonna be an issue in school or not. But if it's just the homeschooling itself that's at stake, this doesn't have to be a problem.

I will be truthful right now and say it CAN be a problem. Those homeschoolers who say it can never happen? They have obviously missed some of the homeschooling kids I've seen, whose parents never take them out to play with other kids and who are very socially maladjusted and unable to talk with other people. But if you make sure to arrange things so your kids get time with other kids, it's not an issue. Classes at the local county, sports, playdates and homeschooling playgroups, neighborhood kids, choir, Girlscouts, whatever - if it involves other kids and interacting with them, it works.

Although no matter what, you can end up with socialization issues that have nothing to do with schooling. My daughter has a mental illness that really screws with her ability to make and keep friends. Her brother does not have this, and has no such issues. They go to the same playgroups, do many of the same things, and it's simply a matter of one person's differences.

You just do the best you can with what you can. Fortunately, the human race didn't evolve trapped in classrooms 5 days a week with other children all the same age, so we are able to make friends outside of that environment as well.

3. How will we know what to teach?

Part of this depends on where you live. Different countries have different requirements. Different states in the USA have different requirements (you can check them out here: http://a2zhomeschooling.com/laws/homeschool_laws_legalities_overview/ )

But past whatever is required that you teach? The answer is: you teach whatever the heck you think is important, plus what your kids want to learn.

There is no agreement, world-wide, on what is best to teach at what age, or how to teach it. There is no 'right' way to do this. Anything you hear about how kids need to learn to read at the age of 4, or have to learn to add by the age of 5, or whatever? That's pure speculation, and often crap. Anything you hear about how you have to teach it? Also typically crap.

You'll find entire countries who do things an entirely different way, and somehow, their children aren't ruined by it, as is predicted by other countries' ideas on education.

However, making sure to add in things that your kids want to learn? That's a good way to have more success, in my experience, because they are more motivated to learn when they like it.

The best way to view this, IMHO, is the following: just like physical milestones. Your kid was ready to crawl at a certain age, and walk, and say his or her first word. It may have matched the averages, it may have been early, it may have been late.

Education is just as individualized - it's still based on them, and their minds, and their readiness, and their understanding of the world and concepts. You do better to look at your child and judge what they are ready to learn than to listen to the words of people who do not know your kids and are telling you when they are ready to learn. Sometimes they're going to be ahead, sometimes behind, sometimes right on the average. No big. If there's a problem, and you really think something else is going on, then you can worry. But if they seem to be progressing, just at their own pace? Personally, that's just fine, in my experience.

4. What are some resources to teach with? 

Resources - SO easy to find now, I can't even tell you. Some are free - many are free - and some have small fees and some are massively expensive. Honesty, many of the free ones are just as good or even better than the ones with cost.

But as some examples for free. Some of these I've used, some I literally just picked some common ones I've seen around but haven't used. I don't endorse any of 'em, just giving examples:

The library - haven't been in a while? Check it out. They have the paper books, but many have many online resources now, too. Videos, CD's, you name it.

People - if someone knows a skill, see if they are willing to share it. Sometimes, they are happy to share knowledge, or may be willing to barter rather than charge for their services.

The web - the source for free everything, really.
Free everything:
a website blogging about freebies for education on the web -http://www.freelyeducate.com

Free reading:
http://www.starfall.com
books online for free - http://www.ae-lib.org.ua/texts-c/tolkien__the_hobbit__en.htm

Free history lessons (and more): 
https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse/playlists

Free math programs: 
for a k-12 lesson plan for math, with videos, practice, the whole thing https://www.khanacademy.org
http://www.mathisfun.com

Free art and artist/art history lessons: 
for little kids - https://www.youtube.com/user/ArtforKidsHub
from an artist for more complex ideas - https://www.youtube.com/user/markcrilley/videos
http://www.thepcf.org.uk/artdetective/about
http://www.thepcf.org.uk/what_we_do
http://www.signaturefinder.com

Free resources on government and current events:
http://homeschoolpool.info/home_school_curriculum/home-school-government/
Major headlines and some explanation, aimed at middle and high school age- http://www.cnn.com/studentnews

Free Language lessons: 
Spanish (about.com does many languages) - http://spanish.about.com
Many libraries in the USA have deals with Mango or Pimsleur where you can use their online materials for free with a current library membership. You may have to hunt around for the information or discuss it with library personnel.

Free science lessons:
For many subjects-
http://www.learningscience.org/index.htm
https://jr.brainpop.com

For one subject -
http://www.biology4kids.com/index.html
http://www.geography4kids.com

For specific data within subjects -
Cells - http://www.neok12.com/Cell-Structures.htm
plants -http://www.mbgnet.net/bioplants/parts.html
For specific data taught in certain ways
plants - a site with music involved - https://www.flocabulary.com/parts-of-a-plant/
or worksheets -http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/biology/cells/


Some governmental sites have great information on related subjects -
http://kids.usa.gov
Some state government sites used to have educational resources at first, but less so now.

So do TV stations -
http://science.kqed.org/quest/science-hike/alum-rock-exploration/
http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/math-games/

So do many National parks -
http://www.nps.gov/teachers/index.htm
http://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/education/index.htm

Many museums do as well, world-wide -
http://smithsonianeducation.org
https://www.thetech.org/learning/online-learning-fun
http://www.getty.edu/about/opencontent.html
http://web-japan.org/museum/menu.html
http://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/online_tours.aspx


Pinterest pages based around a subject often have great links - https://www.pinterest.com/tgernt/homeschool-science-cells/
https://www.pinterest.com/greenlifegnv/scienceearth-space/

There are even online fieldtrips-
efieldtrips.org used to be up and claims it will be again, but I'm not sure if it's truly coming back or not
http://k12sites.weebly.com/online-fieldtrips
And many of the museums mentioned above have online tours of their museum.

And sites with free courses of all kinds, for middle school and high school students and adults: 
https://www.coursera.org
https://www.edx.org

And sometimes, sites with a yearly fee can have some good resources too, like this one:
http://store.jason.org - some good online science curriculum, high school level, for a yearly fee. Also some science resources for more money (more than many can afford, IMO) for the classroom, like science equipment.
http://www.bigbrainz.com - this really was a great program, although I tried the trial version when it was being worked on, for free.


If you've got an internet connection and a computer, you can pretty much learn everything in existence, at least up to a point (lab work is gonna be a bit tough, I'll be honest).  There is so much out there right now for a homeschooler to learn from that it's really rather stunning.


And that...that's just my thoughts on homeschooling. Hope that it might be of some use for those of you looking at homeschooling for health reasons. :-)

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