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"All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual."
-Albert Einstein

Welcome! We are beginners on the home education journey. Ten-year-old Sarah has been homeschooling since October, 2003 and five-year-old James has just begun his Kindergarten year at home.

We use an eclectic approach. I started by loosely following the classical education model outlined in The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Bauer and Susan Wise Bauer (the key word here is "loosely"). We have also borrowed heavily from another classical model: the Charlotte Mason approach. Charlotte Mason was a turn-of-the-century English educator, whose ideas have enjoyed a revival among modern homeschooling families. This approach is both an educational method and rich philosophy on child rearing and life learning. Recently, when my son began Kindergarten, I also started incorporating many ideas from Waldorf Education (the ideas of Rudolf Steiner).

I created this page to help our homeschool stay connected with our family and friends and with other families to whom our experiences, ideas, and resources may be of some interest.

This site includes a page on narration, a Charlotte Mason inspired method of helping children develop the habit of attention, build their listening and reading comprehension, and strengthen many other skills. The narration page includes a brief article on this technique and some additional resources.

We offer some basic information on the typical scope and sequence of learning early reading and writing skills. We also have a few teaching aids for helping kids learn to read, including a free phonics game and Dolch sight word cards.

We have a page on nature study, with both original articles and links. This includes several wonderful articles by my father, a retired professor and volunteer nature educator, on the many benefits of helping children discover nature. I have also included a list of some resources for teaching science, history and geography. We offer an annotated list of links as well.

I welcome comments, questions, and ideas. Thank you for visiting, and good luck in your own endeavors. Please sign our guestbook!

Our Decision

We moved to our present home, in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, 11 years ago. We lived across the street from a large homeschooling family. It was the first time I had heard of anyone homeschooling. I thought they were kind of interesting and eccentric ;-)

I did not seriously consider the idea of educating our own children at home until our older daughter, Sarah, was in Kindergarten. She was enrolled in an excellent public school, yet we were struggling to understand her unique learning style and to fit it into their system. Although she attended a developmental Kindergarten program, the school was under great pressure to meet standardized educational expectations. I felt that Sarah's developmental needs were being defined to fit these educational standards. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

This is my perspective; of course, others' experiences and opinions may differ. I saw teachers and administrators, most of whom are superb educators, struggling to meet ever-increasing government-mandated standards, many of which are developmentally inappropriate for young children. Along with this came more seat work for the youngest students, homogenized approaches to teaching and discipline, and decreasing recess time. These trends are the opposite of recommended practice for early childhood education. The teachers and administrators probably knew this. That didn't matter.

For years, I was intimidated by the idea of home education. Even if we were sure it was a good choice - how could we possibly afford it? Did any mothers actually teach their children at home and earn a salary too? Was I qualified? How could the quality of my teaching possibly compare with that of professional educators with 10, 20 or 30 years of experience in the public school system? Would my daughter and I drive each other insane with our mutual hard-headedness ;-)? And, of course, the ever-popular question: what about socialization? Above all, would I fail?

Like all families who have considered home education, we had to answer these questions for ourselves, and we continue to do so. There are many written resources and support groups to help you. I have grown in my conviction that a truly individualized education is best for our children. I have been challenged by this role, and have enjoyed developing my knowledge and ability in this area.

As a home-educating parent, I am fortunate to have had excellent teachers: my own parents. They were both professional educators themselves, and were continually teaching us, unhindered by the fact that they worked outside the home and that my brother and I were enrolled full-time in public schools. They taught us to read and write and gave us a foundation in math. They taught us to question everything and think for ourselves. Most importantly, they shared their interests and passions with us. For example, my mother shared her love of fiction and literature, and read to me long after I was able to read to myself. My recent reading of Anne of Green Gables, with Sarah, was filled with her voice. My father shared his love of biology, nature, astronomy, and earth science. Both ignited my interest in art.

One of the helpful things offered by Charlotte Mason's approach, according to eloquent and popular interpreters of her teachings like Karen Andreola, is that she demonstrates that parents can teach their own children effectively, without the need for costly curricula. Parents need not feel intimidated by their lack of formal teaching credentials, and they need not worry if they did not have opportunities to develop interests in things like art, music, and nature as children. Acquiring learning and teaching skills is a life-long process. Education is a way of thinking, and a way of life.

Our Daughter's Individual Needs

Several years ago, we had the opportunity to have both a school psychologist and a private neuropsychologist evaluate Sarah, to better understand her learning style and her needs. The neuropsychologist's evaluation offered a diagnosis of Non-Verbal Learning Disability and mild Asperger's Syndrome. Unsurprisingly, the results of both these assessments highlighted Sarah's superior intelligence, her outstanding verbal skills, her high academic ability, her love of literature and writing, and her sense of humor, among other positive things. It also addressed her challenges, helping us lay out some educational and developmental goals which I hope are reflected in our evolving approach to homeschooling. We are always seeking more information and suggestions. Among these goals are:

Helping Sarah strengthen her organizational skills:

  • Lists and graphic organizers are helpful, and easy to implement at home. These can be used for virtually anything: five things to do to get ready in the morning, steps in getting one's work materials together for home school, stages in the writing process, steps in a project, and so forth.
  • Sarah has a love of organizing books (much like her mommy - whose kitchen - and whole house - looks like something exploded in it, but whose books are all arranged by genre and author, alphabetically of course!) Sarah has often offered to organize teachers' shelves for them. She recently began volunteering with the "adopt a shelf" program at our county library. This is terrific, since the library is her favorite place in the world!
  • Encouraging kids to compile and organize collections an excellent way to develop these skills. At one time, we were organizing a large baseball collection together. This has now fallen into the vast void in our family's life that could be titled "Unfinished Projects."
  • Her interest in science and nature is also helpful, in that she is of an age to begin exploring taxonomy.

    Enhancing her visual and tactile learning skills (through manipulatives, maps, puzzles, etc.) to complement her excellent auditory learning ability:
  • Fortunately, she loves art, and we are very proud of her and her brother's artistic abilities (aren't all parents?) Art is fun for most kids and can be incorporated into virtually all subjects of study. It can also be modified in many ways to be accessible to younger children and to kids for whom art is frustrating due to fine motor challenges. One can experiment with stampers, sponges, wikki sticks - anything that can create a fun tactile and artistic experience without requiring so much intricate finger work.
  • I have been trying to incorporate a lot of map work, making it relatively painless by incorporating it into our nature study (i.e. a map of Africa showing different animals' habitats) since both Sarah and her brother enjoy animals and nature.
  • We have many blocks, puzzles, Wedgits, and other activities like that.
  • She sometimes enjoys working with clay.

    Continuing to help her develop her motor skills:
  • Thank God for her innovative Daddy, since Mommy's ideas for sporting activities are limited to jumping rope (which Mommy never learned to do), bicycling, and "two-square." He built a balance beam in the yard and, to keep things interesting, they practice fencing on it. Since Sarah does not seem to enjoy competitive sports, and money for outside activities is limited, he has introduced her to various things such as boxing, fencing (though we have no real equipment), nunchucks, and using a slingshot.
  • Sarah loves climbing, especially trees and rocks.

    Continuing to work on speech intonation and articulation

    Helping Sarah socialize

    Helping her cope with anxiety and depression.

    Stephanie Marshall Ward

    This main page was last updated on 9/11/04. All materials are copyright of the author.

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