Veteran Advice

Here are tips, inspiration, advice from veteran homeschoolers; information they want to give to those just starting out. Remember, it is just advice, take it or leave it. What may work for one family may not work for another. All quotes have been kept anonymous. They are here to help you learn about homeschooling. If you would like to share your tips and advice, you may comment to this post below.

Tips and Advice Specific to Maryland Homeschool Law

“The first step in starting to homeschool in Maryland is to notify your county homeschool coordinator. (See This Page) Call that office and tell them that you’d like to register you and your child for homeschooling and he/she will send you the proper forms to fill out. Then if your child is still enrolled in his/her school, you would need to talk to the school explaining that you are withdrawing your child and will be homeschooling him/her.

MD state requires portfolio reviews 2 times per year. You create a portfolio by keeping examples of work that your son/daughter has completed each semester in a notebook. You can read more about the law governing homeschooling in the state at http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/13a/13a.10.01.01.htm

Notice in our law, that we don’t have to show evidence of progression, only evidence of instruction. Also, as you can see in the law it doesn’t require you to necessarily save work for each subject, just a wide variety. Some counties try to specify a certain amount of evidence of instruction which really isn’t required. Because of this ambiguity of the law saying one thing and the counties asking for another, some families register with umbrella groups which are businesses that you pay to keep track of what you need to do for the state. We have provided a list of Umbrella Groups for you.

I have chosen not to be under the supervision of an umbrella group with my children and have done fine with my county reviews.”


“Visit websites, read as well as searching out old posts on our SMHN Yahoo Group that are relevant is very helpful. Attend a park day or Moms Night Out meeting to get to know some families. Check out books or magazines from the library.”

General Advice about Homeschooling

“My personal suggestion (and my oldest HSed child is a very capable, 30 something, mom of two) would be to ‘lighten up’ and find out ‘who’ your kids are, what they like, and what ‘moves them’… once you know that, making sure they are ‘educated’ becomes MUCH easier! Also, go to some local support group events… (bowling, skating, park days, MNO’s–Mom’s Night Outs) and meet some of the HSers in your area… look for someone (or more than one) who’s parenting style, and general outlook on life is similar to yours (I would travel to find this if I needed too… I think it’s real important!!!) and then network with them. All of this, is the best advice I can give you, good luck!”


“I now think that learning in its natural state knows no time. As far as I can tell, an immersed child knows no time. To a child life is learning and learning is being immersed in life. The connections that are mysteriously created in the brain know no time, nor are they always so concretely measurable, nor should they all be…although being with/talking with a child and observing will often tell you where they are today…..Sometimes they are a private process that need the dark room of the mind to develop? Then…some children are very private learners and that is their right.”


“There is nothing so important to be in such a hurry to accomplish. There is no intellectual need that has to be fulfilled that minute in that day. In fact, the act of doing so *can* (not a rule always) feel invasive to a child. Some things/concepts/inspirations need their own time to germinate (and some don’t for a long time)…and the choice to do so. Children need space and time…they have boundaries!”


“The single most important thing I’ve learned is to understand that ‘resistance is a child’s way of letting you know something is not working.’ Someone told me that early on, but when faced with my own child’s resistance, I thought he was just being ornery, defiant, or lazy. What he has *repeatedly* shown me (at least once a year, every single year, even this year) is that it really is true.

‘So if I find the two of us are fighting over schoolwork (more than one or two days), I back off whatever the new concept is. Because that’s *always* the problem: I’ve introduced a new concept, and he just wasn’t ready for it. If I back off and try the concept a month or two down the road, he’ll get it then with no problems.

‘When I think of all the tears of frustration we’ve shed over something with such a simple solution, I cringe. I wish I had realized early on that fighting over schoolwork *isn’t* a power struggle (for us). It’s my son’s way of telling me he can’t handle what I’m giving him, and he’ll be just fine if I move on to something else for a bit and come back to this later. At least I know it now, though!”


“Grab a couple of HS books to read–the library system has a lot.”


“The Homeschooler’s Guide to Southern Maryland might be a good start for some of your questions. There are as many styles and curriculum choices as there are people. My only advice would be to stay focused on your own children and unique family needs – all the detail of “stuff” (what to buy, what to do) isn’t as important.

‘Keep in mind, too, that we needn’t reproduce the school atmosphere – we have choices, flexibility and time on our side (not to mention love, family, relationship, etc). If “what to do” is stressing you, there are plenty of ‘scope and sequence’ ideas out there for different age groups (Hirsch’s_What Your x-Grader Needs to Know_, or just google ‘scope and sequence for 4th grade’ to see what I’m talking about). Also, there are tons of “stuff” to pick from – all rather overwhelming, even for a veteran homeschooler. One step at a time. Get comfortable with everyone being at home. Read a book together. Go over known math difficulties from last year. Review fun science subjects – subscribe to krampf science projects ( http://www.krampf.com ). Get a book at the library for studying an interesting period of history. Discuss the election process and dig into the levels/powers of government.

‘I realize that my simple advice doesn’t answer all of your questions. The truth is, there are so many books on homeschooling, so many curriculum ideas, so many options – that for me to share one or two would be not only a misrepresentation of homeschooling, but a false perspective of what homeschooling is all about. The best way to answer your questions, is to set you off on some web reading.”


“Make things happen,” instead of wishing someone else will. Do you want a book club, a particular field trip, knitting club, etc.? Be the person that starts it and you will have people coming to you. Plus, you’ll be modeling that initiative/leadership for your kids.”


“Un/homeschooling is about creating a responsive, unique family culture of individuals on our terms as individuals in a family that exists in a larger society, but does not have to reflect it.

‘Unschooling is not about not limiting (nor is it synonymous with TCS, nor is it a methodology called trusting your child).

‘Waldorf does not hold the only key to reverence for nature.

‘School time tables (grades and learning objectives) are arbitrary and basically designed for bureaucrats, not children.

‘Children are children and not students.

‘Most all homeschoolers do not have perfectly clean houses.

‘Having choices is not always easy or joyous (but it’s a lot easier than being stuck in a curriculum, a program, a way of thinking) and that’s OK…and even life affirming.”


“Two things: first, that homeschooling doesn’t (and probably shouldn’t) have to be school at home, and second, that there are curricula other than ABeka.”


“I wish I had known that children read at different ages…not just within 6 months either way of each other, but some read at 3 or 4 and some read at 12-14, and that by the time they are 16-18, you can’t tell the difference between the earliest readers and the latest readers.

‘I wish I had known the most important thing was enjoying my children right where they were at the moment, and not pushing them always on to the next thing.

‘I wish I had known how important it was to network with other homeschoolers so that I could feel safe and empowered and confident. Years I spent looking over my shoulder when we went out and dreading that question from the shop clerks or waitresses, “So, is school out today?”


“Here are some things I wish I’d known when I first started homeschooling:

1. There are No Truly UNIQUE Situations
‘As an about-to-be-launched homeschooler, I heard people say beginning homeschoolers are always extremely nervous about it. I was a little bit nervous about the mechanics, of course, but thought the whole thing was blown out of proportion. I KNEW that my problem was not getting started, but (fill in the blank here), and that that was a unique situation that most people didn’t have to deal with when homeschooling. What I wish I’d known was that, although most people didn’t have to deal with my exact situation, I would be able to find people who DID deal with a similar situation and were coping just fine.
‘Lesson: When you’re starting out, look for people who have your “unique” situation, and you’ll find out quickly that you’re not alone and your situation is not unique. Also, if it helps, read about how others have fared so you have good stories about people who’ve succeeded.

2. Not All Homeschoolers Are Alike
‘This is so naive that I’m embarrassed to say it…but, here goes: The first homeschoolers I knew were philosophically just like me, and I extrapolated that to believe that most in our area shared my values and perspective. It ain’t so. I was shocked to discover that there would be homeschooled children with whom I didn’t want my children to play (or even be on the same playground with). Conversely, there would be people who would not want to interact with us at all due to our family not sharing their exact religious beliefs. It would’ve helped to know that, just like any endeavor, one will encounter people of most stripes, but that sometimes, homeschoolers’ stripes are painted more vividly. And, sometimes, they’re not all as loving and tolerant as we’d like to imagine.
‘Lesson: Don’t be discouraged if in your first forays for friends/playdates/co-ops/etc., you don’t find kindred spirits. Think of it like moving to a new location–it may (but won’t necessarily) take time to settle in.

3. Pick Your Own Philosophy
‘In a way, I find homeschooling advice to be a bit like parenting advice in that the most effective parent picks what works for his/her family and lets the rest wash over. Just like there are parenting “experts” of all types who frequently espouse contradictory “truths,” so there are homeschoolers who forget that what works for them might not work for others. It is very easy to be swayed by the veteran homeschooler who has strong feelings about a particular approach/philosophy/curriculum.
‘Lesson: There’s no one right way to homeschool, and don’t let the veteran homeschoolers tell you otherwise.”

Inspiration

“One of the nicest things about HSing is that kids can make friends based on their interests, the area they live in, similar family styles, their faith, or hobbies… not just who’s in my class this year… friendships, and activities together can go on for years. I know of several families that interact together (taking trips, having playdates, meeting at the park, and just hanging out) almost as large extended families. What this means is that all the moms are able to ‘get a day off’ from time to time… and days on are often great times to visit with each other (moms) while the kids play, bowl, or do some other activity.”

The Legalities of Homeschooling in Maryland

Maryland State Law:

Here are links to important websites with information on current homeschool laws and any relevant homeschool legislation occurring that you need to know about.

Current Homeschool Law for Maryland – including the recent changes involving annual notification beginning fall of 2003.

Maryland General Assembly Home Page – This is the website for researching bills and the state legislature.

Homeschooling Information from the National Home Education Network – Probing Questions to Ask about Homeschool Regulation in Your State – NHEN Legislative Information

FAQ on Home Education from the National Home Education Network – Maryland homeschool information.

HSLDA – Home School Legal Defense Association’s Home Schooling in Maryland Page

Maryland State Department of Education Nonpublic Schools – make note that this FAQ page is Maryland State Department of Education biased.

Registration and Homeschool Information by County:

Anne Arundel County

Don Sholl
Home School Coordinator
2644 Riva Rd.
Annapolis, MD 21401

Phone: 410-222-5457

E-mail: dsholl@aacps.org
AA County Public Schools Home Page: http://aacps.org/
Curriculum Resources: http://aacps.org/html/instr/default.asp

Calvert County

Marlene Stewart
Coordinator of Home Instruction
1305 Dares Beach Road
Prince Frederick, MD 20607

Calvert Co. Public Schools Home Page: http://www.calvertnet.k12.md.us/

Charles County

Tom Weirich
Home Instruction Coordinator
7775 Marshall Corner Road
Pomfret, MD 20675

Phone: 301 753-1757 or 301 934-9061

Charles Co. Public Schools Home Page: http://www.ccboe.com/

Prince George’s County

Cyn Hadnott
Home Instruction Specialist
Division of Instruction
9201 E. Hampton Drive
Capitol Heights, MD 20743

Phone: 301-333-1001

E-mail chadnott@pgcps.org
PG County Home Instruction webpage: http://www.pgcps.org/~homeinst/
Portfolio Review Form: http://www.pgcps.org/~homeinst/portfolio.pdf Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader
Administrative Procedures: http://www.pgcps.org/~homeinst/procedures.pdf Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader
Scope & Sequence: http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/%7Einstruct/doc_home.html

St. Mary’s County

Home Instruction Coordinator
23160 Moakley Street
Leonardtown, MD 20650

Phone: 301 475 5511 ext 152

SM County Public Schools Home Page: http://www.smcps.k12.md.us/
Internet Resources: http://www.smcps.k12.md.us/doi/internet/internet-resources.htm

Tips on Dealing with Authorities:

Jumping Through Hoops – by Helen Hegener for Home Education Magazine.

Read your state law and ask questions of knowledgeable people until you understand the law well.

Keep a copy of the current state law on hand.

Answer your superintendents’ queries in a timely manner.

Respond politely and confidently.

Communicate with school officials in writing and keep copies of all papers so you have documentation of all exchanges.

Seek information and support from other homeschool parents in a local support group or discussion list before you look for an organization to act on your behalf.