Local Resources All Homeschoolers Should Utilize

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If you are a homeschooler, or are planning on homeschooling, then you have likely had someone bring up “socialization” to you at one point or another. It’s the “go to” argument for people who haven’t been directly exposed to homeschooling. Socialization may have been an issue decades ago, but there are so many programs out there now that it is easy to connect with other families. The following is a list of different local resources all homeschoolers should utilize in order to enhance their children’s homeschooling experience.

Co-ops

The most obvious group that homeschoolers should utilize is their local co-op. If you don’t have one that shares the same ideas as you (i.e. secular, religious, unschooling, or more structured) then start one yourself. Our closest local co-op is religious based and since we are secular homeschoolers  a friend and I have decided to start our own. It’s small now but continues to grow. Here are a few co-ops if you are in the Richmond, VA area.

Parks and Recreation Classes

Parks and rec departments are a great resource for homeschoolers. Our local Parks and Rec offers a wide variety of classes including dance, karate, soccer, drama, art, music… and the list goes on. If you live in the Central Virginia area here is a list of Parks and Rec programs:

Park and Museum Classes

A lot of parks and museums offer classes that are geared towards homeschoolers or school groups (co-op field trips). Here is a short list of classes offered at parks and museums around Central Virginia

Library

As homeschoolers the library will likely become your best friend. If your library is anything like mine they hold story times several times a week and special events scattered throughout the year. Sign up for your library’s newsletter in order to keep up with up coming events.

Sport Associations

Whether you choose to take part in community sports or join an actual homeschool league you have a lot of options out there for you. Homeschool Richmond has a full list of athletics for your homeschoolers.

Community Associations

Don’t forget to consider the community associations that we all used growing up! I plan for my children to be very active in our local 4-H Club.

There are programs and classes out there for every interest. Sometimes it just takes a little research.


Our Visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens’ Butterfly Exhibit

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This past weekend we visited Butterflies Live! at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. We had heard great things about the exhibit and I have to say that it truly lived up to all of the hype.

I think Big B’s favorite part were the tools that Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens put out to encouraged the children to interact with the exhibit. They had magnifying glasses, a scope that allows you to see like a butterfly, and an information sheet with images so you could identify the butterflies.

Throughout the exhibit they had laid out rotting food for the topical butterflies. There was usually at least two butterflies on each plate and because they were distracted you could get a great up close look.

Finally, there was a station where you could see the life cycle of a butterfly.

Lewis Ginter’s Butterflies Live! runs until Oct 14th. If you haven’t been yet I suggest that you go. It was a great experience!


Educational Value of Backyard Chickens

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When I decided to add chickens to our farm I wasn’t thinking about their educational value. I just wanted pretty birds that ate bugs and provided eggs. It wasn’t until after the chickens were grown and had been in their coop for a while that it really hit me how the whole thing was a great educational experience for my son… It just goes to show how much you learn just living life

Educational Value of Backyard Chickens

Building the Coop

I found a picture of a coop that I liked online and asked my husband to build it for me. He and Big B spent the next few months working. I was very pregnant with Little B, so I mostly lounged around.  Big B spent hours outside “helping” his dad build the coop, which mostly consisted of him drawing on the wood and pretending to hammer, but he was there through the whole process and showed interest in each step. Every few minutes you would hear “Ok what’s next dad” and when he got an answer it was always followed up with a “Why?” He was taking it all in and would explain to me what was going on when I would come out to check on them. Months later he is still extremely proud of the work that he did with his dad. If you go within 5 feet of the coop he will tell you all about how he and his dad built it.

Chicks

Big B was not allowed to touch the chicks (see warning) but he loved watching them and observed me taking care of them. Like with everything, he was full of questions and learned a great deal about chickens in the few weeks that they lived in the brooder in the house.

Taking Care of the Chickens

Big B now helps to care for the chickens in many ways. He helps spread scratch, he collects plants (mostly dandelions) around the yard that he knows they like, and he helps “herd” them back into their coop. Since we have hawks, and hunting dogs that make their way onto our property we only let the chickens free range when we are outside. During those times he watches them and observes their behaviors. When we have guest he teaches them about his chickens. He talks about the chicken’s behaviors and eating habits, including the time he saw them catch a frog!

Benefits of Backyard Chickens for Children:

  • Taking care of pets teaches responsibility and respect for animals.
  • Watching animals grow from babies teaches about the life cycle.
  • Observing the chickens laying eggs aids in teaching children where their food comes from.
  • Being able to collect food (eggs) gives the children a sense of self-sufficiently.
  • Observing the chickens free range teaches about chickens’ behaviors and feeding habits
  • And on top of everything having backyard chickens provides your family with wonderful fresh eggs and hours and hours of entertainment.

Warning:

Many suggest that you wait until all children in the household are above the age of 5 before adding chickens to your family. I have known many families, like us, who have had chickens and young children at the same time. The issue is that chicks from hatcheries and chickens can carry diseases, like salmonella, and it is important to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them. It is harder to ensure that children under 5 will keep their hands out of their mouth, nose or eyes while handling chicks and chickens. Salmonella can also have a more damaging effect on young children. Be very careful with your chicks because, even though it is extremely rare, they can pick up salmonella from the hatchery, and be sure to keep your coop clean and take measures to keep rodents and wild birds out of your chickens’ coop and feed, so they don’t catch Salmonella as adults. We don’t let Big B touch the chickens. He helps take care of them without actually coming in direct contact with them. Always keep in mind that they are wild animals and you should never be totally trusted. Keep an eye on your child at all times and practice good hygiene.


Why I Choose to Homeschool

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I spent four years teaching at the local public high school. I loved my job, I loved (most of) my students, and I truly loved the people that I worked with but when it came to making decisions about my children’s education I had a hard time with the thought of sending them to public school.

Unless you have worked in a public school AND have children you cannot truly understand how broken our education system has become.  When I first started teaching I was proud that my kids were going to be attending school in the county where I taught. It was a great school system… still is. Some of the most amazing, dedicated teachers I have ever known currently teach at our local high school.  It wasn’t until my son was born that I started to really see the flaws. I would sit and think, “This isn’t good enough for him.” The class sizes are unacceptable, teachers are forced to teach to a test (as they are throughout the US), No Child Left Behind has made it impossible for teachers to efficiently do their jobs, and funding is constantly being cut to programs that make our children well rounded people. You can have amazing teachers, who are hard working and dedicated, but that only takes you so far.

When I first started talking about homeschooling a lot of people asked why I couldn’t just supplement my children’s education. I considered this for a long time but it just didn’t seem like enough. All of the negatives associated with public school out weighed the positives and the more I looked into it there were very, very few negatives to homeschooling. Those of you who know me, know that I don’t do anything without researching it to death and anyone who has simply been around me knows how seriously I take parenting. So when it came to my children’s education I wasn’t going to make a decision without knowing the facts. I read books and countless studies. I talked to homeschooling families, and even talked to my fellow public school teachers. I met a only a few naysayers, most of whom knew nothing about public education, and none of their arguments were based in any fact, only assumptions about homeschoolers.

Once satisfied with the research I had to really ask myself… can I do this? Can I dedicate the next two decades of my life to homeschooling our children? The answer was obviously yes. If my mind is set on something I will go to any means necessary to achieve it and that is especially true when it comes to the wellbeing of my children. I want my children to love learning. I want them to be exposed to people of all ages, ethnicity and religions. I want them to learn by doing. I want my children to play a role in deciding what they learn.  I want their pacing to be based on them (at least until the high school level classes) and not the 25-30 other student in their class or a test. I want them to see the places they are learning about… And this is why I have chosen to homeschool.

I could go on and on about the advantages of homeschooling, about the countless local programs and classes that are available to homeschool kids, about co-ops, about the studies supporting homeschooling but I wont. I am not here to convince you. My decision to homeschool really has nothing to do with anyone but my immediate family. Me choosing to homeschool is in no way saying that those who don’t homeschool care less about their children. We all do what we can to make the best decisions possible for our children and for us that is homeschooling… it may not be the same case for you but as I respect other parents’ decisions, I hope you respect mine.