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Holiday Homeschooling

I would like to thank Lee Binz, the HomeScholar, for her blog information that I have used, in part, to put this little post together.

January and February are traditionally difficult months for teachers everywhere; it’s dark outside, it’s the middle of the school year and often hard to keep up with the level of intensity the school year began with, and it’s right after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Our goal as parents is not avoid burnout and stress which is all too common during the month of December. If we can begin the holiday season with the end in sight, we should be able to have smooth sailing through Spring Break. In order to do this, we must prioritize our sanity. To avoid stress and burnout in January and February, prioritize your own sanity first! Think of the airline steward giving instructions before departure: in the event of a depressurization, the oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling compartment; parents, put your oxygen mask on first before helping your child!

Setting clear boundaries will help prioritize your sanity during the holiday season. If you modify and continue to accomplish school or take time off, the newly acquired “free” time in your day will create a void that will be filled with some sort of activity. You must either choose the activities, or let the activities choose you. If you prioritize your sanity and set clear boundaries, you will own the activities and prevent burnout and stress. Ask yourself some questions to help establish what activities you will or will not participate:

  1. What is fundamentally important?
  2. Will this increase or decrease my workload?
  3. Will I really benefit from it? (Yes; just you. If you don’t use your oxygen mask, how are you to help your children with theirs?)
  4. Would my spouse miss a day of work in order to do this?
  5. Is it fun? Is it genuinely fun?

The first strategy for Holiday Homeschooling is intentionally making your homeschool lighter than the rest of the year. I have known families that have chosen to work hard the rest of the year so that they can take off the entire holiday season! And that is okay!! If that is what keeps you sane and able to tackle the daunting January and February months, then do it! A break from academics allows you and your family to be able to focus, truly focus with that academic fervor, on the Holy Days of the holiday season.

Compare your “school calendar” to that of the local public school district. Out of 365 days, only 180 are dedicated to the school year for Alaska schools. Note the school YEAR: those 180 days include Professional Development days (no school for students), Parent-Teacher Conferences (no school for students) and early dismissal (half-day of school) days!  Alaska’s Homeschool Law Required Days of Instruction: NONE. That is right. NONE! Many families try to stay with the public school calendar but we are not required to! We are not required to have 180 days in our “school” calendar! I know other families that choose to have half-days for the entire holiday season. That is quite all right and legal!

A few ideas for intentionally making Holiday Homeschooling lighter than the rest of the year, if you are not going to take the holiday season off and would like to know what to squeeze into half-days, is to cover the core courses first. Alaska’s Homeschool Law Required Subjects: NONE.  According to Alaska’s Homeschool Law, you are not required to teach any specific subjects therefore you are free to determine what your “Core” courses are! No one can dictate these: you own them. “Core” course lessons usually build upon the previous lesson, so your child cannot continue through a curriculum if each lesson is not completed in the sequence. We see this in Math courses: the information presented in each lesson builds upon the knowledge gained in previous lessons. Other subjects can be similar, depending upon the curriculum publisher. Sonlight History lessons, for example, build upon each other. Determining your core courses can simplify your Holiday Homeschooling.

What if all courses are “core” courses? It is okay to modify your core courses: focus on the important aspects of the lessons and eliminate any fluff pieces. Fluff pieces are like the busywork of the assignments and lessons. If your history lesson comes with a mapping assignment, eliminate the mapping assignment. You can modify and change any of the assignments. For Bible, focus on the Christmas story or get more involved with your local church family for the holiday season. It is quite all right to do only 50-80% of what is required of a lesson during the holidays. It is more important that you stay sane than if every math problem in every lesson is completed. You can also change to un-graded subject tasks for Holiday Homeschooling.

Similar to eliminating busywork and fluff pieces of assignments, you can also opt to skip some subjects for the holiday season. To determine what you would drop, think about those half-days. What would be skipped? Certain enrichment activities are okay to skip during Holiday Homeschooling as well. Be careful not to skip any of your child’s weak areas. Cover the weak areas, just not 4 hours a day, every day. Many weak areas can be modified and it is important that the weak areas are not skipped because the weakness will grow.

Some Holiday Homeschool subject modifications can be quite simple. Read Christmas literature or other holiday novels and books. Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens; Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott are three wonderful holiday books that not only inspire, but you can include on your High School Reading List (and colleges really like to see these). Holiday Homeschool writing and composition can include Christmas cards, newsletters for cards, Christmas letters for Christmas cards, Christmas or Hanukkah stories, holiday essay prompts. Your Holiday Homeschooling Senior should take this break from heavy homeschooling to work on his or her college application essay. The holiday season should be the perfect time for this assignment as it allows your Senior to reflect on the possibility of this being his or her last year at “home.” Application essay tip: think about one specific moment in time, a snapshot if you will, and write a short story that happens to be true in that snapshot.

Holiday Homeschooling, whether or not you focus on academics, can also involve the normal holiday tasks without intruding on them! Crafts are art (art credits for high school); baking is culinary arts; Christmas shopping is life skills and, if your child has a budget, Financial Literacy! If you have not considered volunteering your time or have considered but cannot seem to find the time, Holiday Homeschooling can allow time to volunteer at a Food Bank, Clothing Bank, or Soup Kitchen. Younger children are learning while volunteering next to you and, if you have a high school student, he or she can list the hours for a non-academic core and not have to focus as much during his or her senior year.

If you have wanted to try out something, Holiday Homeschooling can give you a chance. Lee Binz, the HomeScholar, did a unit study called Norman Rockwell’s Christmas. Holiday Homeschooling is a wonderful time to allow for more specialization. Let your children study what interests them and does not involve you. Teens, especially, can do many classes alone rather than with you. Some colleges have winter sessions, usually only one month long; a subject is studied intensely for a short amount of time. These are great fillers for an otherwise “bored” older teen and fill your Holiday Homeschool with an added amount of independence.

Some aspects of your Holiday Homeschool you may not have control over. If your child takes outside music lessons, they most likely must continue. You can request Christmas music! If your child is taking an online course through an accredited program, your child cannot just stop taking it and stop turning in assignments. This is one area that you have no control in your Holiday Homeschool due to enrollment in the course and the accrediting requirements. Non-accredited courses, on the other hand, you may be able to work with; you can contact the instructor and inform him or her of a reduced workload for your child because you are Holiday Homeschooling.

Holiday Homeschooling needs to prep you for not burning out in January and February. It should give you a renewed spirit and not stress you out. Enjoy this time with your family because next year will be different. You only get this holiday season once. Think about what is fundamentally important and keep your sanity.


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Cyndi Ringoen, B.A., B.S. NeuroDevelopmentalist Seminar in Fairbanks!

Cyndi Ringoen, nationally known speaker, President, International Association of Neurodevelopmentalists and Certified Master Neurodevelopmentalist, is scheduled to present a seminar in Fairbanks:

The Neurodevelopmental Approach to Overcoming Learning Disabilities
Location: Noel Wien Public Library, Fairbanks, Alaska
Date: December 11, 2014
Time: 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Cost: Free
No child care provided.  Parents must have any accompanying children under their direct supervision at all times.
Please RSVP 907-832-5221 as soon as possible so we can get an idea how many people to expect.  Thank you. Join us for a rare and informative opportunity to hear from this gifted and knowledgeable speaker.To view Cyndi and others presenting at the 2013 Mission Possible Cruise, click here:

Possible discussion topics:

Getting What You Teach To Stick (This will help all your students)
Does your child know something one day, and not the next? Are you constantly looking for new and different approaches teaching the same information? Is much of your teaching more accurately “re-teaching”? If you answered yes to these questions, this is the workshop for you. There is a reason the information is not “sticking”. Children who do not retain the information they learn are usually as frustrated as the parent teaching them. Learn the neurodevelopmental cause and what you can do to turn it around. You do not have to cope with the problem, you can eliminate it! This information will help all your children.
Auditory Processing Challenges? Yes, There is Hope!
There is nothing more heartbreaking than having a bright, wonderful child who is struggling academically, emotionally, behaviorally, or socially. All too often friends and family are quick to point out deficiencies. However, the answers for addressing the problems often fall short. During this workshop we will look at time proven techniques for helping families overcome the challenging obstacles blocking their children.
Frustration with Phonics? Help for the Struggling Reader
If you are committed to teaching your child to read with phonics but are facing nothing but frustration and tears, you will find out why and what you can do about it.  Learn about the foundational skills necessary before phonics can be utilized effectively for a child. And take home the activities to do daily to build this foundation.
Home Educating Your Child With Special Needs
Labels limit. Labels are typically long lists of what an individual will not be able to do or accomplish. – Break free from labels. Development has a systematic hierarchy or pattern. Following this pattern will organize the central nervous system and build the foundation for neurological organization and thus open up efficient, easy learning. Help your child overcome to reach their fullest, God-given potential by learning the necessary tools to build a solid foundation for learning
All about Math (This information will help YOU and all your children)
Most families think about math from a curriculum point of view—- which one is best. In the experience of neurodevelopmentalists, difficulty in learning math is not the fault of the curriculum but a symptom of underlying weaknesses or disorganization in the learning ease of the child. In this workshop you will learn ways to separate the various parts of math and teach to the child’s strength while remediating any weakness. Learn the best and easiest ways for the brain to remember math facts. If you want your child to go on to higher level math what is the most important ability to make sure they excel at? Come and learn all the in and outs of math—— In this workshop you will gain information on how to teach math—from the very first starting points of number recognition, counting and basic addition through teaching math facts and higher level math concepts.
Brain Organization – The Key to Learning
Birth to Six – The Most Important School Years!
When There Are Challenges
Don’t Live with Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD – Overcome It!!!
Cyndi’s Achievements
  • President: International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalists (ICAN)
  • Specialist in learning strategies
  • Special needs educator and consultant
  • Certified NeuroDevelopmentalist
  • Degrees in Developmental and Applied Psychology from Eastern Washington University

Neurodevelopmentalist Cyndi Ringoen of Can-Do, Spokane, WA, will be conducting neurodevelopmental evaluations December 11-13, 2014 in Fairbanks.  She has openings for any of those days for new families who have children (or adults) who are struggling with learning and/or behavior problems ranging from ADHD and autism to traumatic brain injury as well as other labels.  http://ican-do.net/  Cyndi usually gets a suite at the Wedgewood resort in Fairbanks and conducts evaluations at the dining room table.  Kind of informal, but less stressful for some children.  She has also stayed with client families and conducted evals from private homes, but sometimes there can be distractions at someone’s home.  Current fees and scheduling info can be found here:  http://ican-do.net/about-us/our-services/22-evaluation-process-and-fee-schedule   Client families split the cost of Cyndi’s airfare to Alaska.  Of course, more families mean reduced airfare costs for each family.  Public school students are welcome.  Cyndi is able to write an after school program to be done at home which would enhance and complement the services received at school.  She can also make recommendations for families wishing to make the transition from public school to home school.

As an independent homeschooler for nearly twenty years, I have been greatly blessed by Cyndi’s willingness to travel all the way up to Alaska for the past seventeen years to assist us in home educating our son with Down syndrome.  I really believe there is an unmet need in Alaska for quality, cutting edge help for our struggling learners, especially among independenthomeschoolers.  Cyndi has been writing programs for our son since infancy and I can’t tell you how grateful we are to have been able to avoid government programs for our son and still “keep all the bases covered”.

Kim N.
P.S. Cyndi travels quite a bit; the best way to reach her is by email: cdarling@icehouse.net
Should anyone have trouble reaching her, they can email NSIH to forward to her. northstarindependents@gmail.com
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Common Core Alaska: Opting Out

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is increasingly on parents’ radar as more and more schools across the nation are implementing curriculum that aligns to these federally mandated voluntary standards. There’s a plethora of complaints from the anti-Common Core groups ranging from unconstitutional, corporate control of US education, loss of local control, sub-par standards, developmentally inappropriate standards, data-mining, high-stakes testing, and the list goes on. One glance at the CCSS map http://www.corestandards.org/standards-in-your-state/ would lead you to believe that Alaska has not adopted Common Core. Looks can be deceiving. Do not be fooled. Common Core is here under the name of Alaska State Core Standards.

There are many documents and pictures available through Alaskans Against the Common Core https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreAK that expose the intent of the state to implement these standards in exchange for receiving their ESEA Flexibility Waiver and the additional federal funding that follows the waiver. If one isn’t satisfied with the information gathered by the Alaskans Against Common Core, just go to both the corestandards.org website http://www.corestandards.org/read-the-standards/ and the Alaska DEED website http://education.alaska.gov/akstandards/standards/akstandards_elaandmath_bygradelevel.pdf to compare Alaska’s standards to Common Core. It will not take you long to realize that, aside from rearranging some sentences they are word for word.

So what about all of this data-mining that is tied into Common Core? Every state already has developed a statewide longitudinal database specifically for the purposes of tracking students from preschool through career. The federal government funded much of these, too. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.html This has stirred up concerns of student privacy, just who gets to see the data, as well as what data they are keeping. http://pioneerinstitute.org/featured/study-new-technology-relaxation-of-protections-threaten-student-privacy/ There is also the issue of biometric data collection http://eagnews.org/parents-warned-about-invasive-behavioral-tests-growing-human-monitoring-service-in-schools/ especially after perusing the “Promoting Grit and Tenacity” draft on the federal website: http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/files/2013/02/OET-Draft-Grit-Report-2-17-13.pdf (particularly look at page 44, which is page 62 of the pdf document). Editor’s note: as of September 30th, 2014, this document has been removed from the Department’s website. This being a common practice, copies are available in the files section of the Facebook Group “Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/PEACCS/480492928672102/) and at the abolishcommoncore.com website (http://abolishcommoncore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/OET-Draft-Grit-Report-2-17-13.pdf)

Alaska recently requested to amend their ESEA Flexibility Waiver http://education.alaska.gov/akaccountability/esea/AKESEA_FlexWaiverAmended_Principle1_IntentAmend.pdf because it will no longer utilize the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for testing and accountability. Instead, Alaska has signed an agreement with the University of Kansas’s Achievement and Assessment Institute (AAI) to create a set of tests for ESEA accountability. If you have nothing but time on your hands, you can read the entire 923 page ESEA Flexibility Waiver here:  http://education.alaska.gov/akaccountability/esea/alaska_esea_flexibility_request_rev5_15_2013.pdf

Many folks have gotten together to unite those against Common Core and its data-mining agenda by stressing to parents to Opt Out of all CC-aligned, state, and federal standardized testing. Alaska is listed among the states available for opting out. http://unitedoptout.com/state-by-state-opt-out-2/alaska/ Sadly, as of this date, the opt-out information is outdated. The state legislature and DEED have replaced the high school exit exam with either ACT, SAT, or Work Keys assessments. The SBA’s are replaced with AAI’s tests this coming spring… let us hope those tests will be finalized before they have to be administered! The Opt-Out campaign, itself, is starting to receive its own state-led rebellion. http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/09/15/Colorado-Elementary-School-Forces-Student-To-Take-Reading-Skills-Test-After-Parents-Requested-Opt-Out/

So what is a parent to do? Do you just step in line and subject your children to state/federal education? Or do you opt-out?! HOW do you opt-out?!?! In many states (such as all states in the largest circuit, the Ninth Circuit – Alaska is in the 9th) parents have no legal right to opt their children out or keep them home on those days. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and at least one other federal circuit have held that, once parents enroll their children in public schools, they no longer have a fundamental right to direct their children’s education. Either your children are in or out; there is no half way when it comes to government schools. (http://www.thegreateducationstruggle.com/parentalrights/) There are alternatives. Alaska State Core Standards and their accompanying tests and data collection apply to PUBLIC education only. PUBLIC education in Alaska consists of traditional schools, boarding schools, charter schools, correspondence, and alternative (aka home school) programs. Every single one of these PUBLIC options is subject to all requirements set forth in the ESEA Flexibility Waiver. Private schools have a choice in adhering to these, or other, standards. The other opt-out option is home school.

From the Eagle River Christian Homeschool Association’s website: http://ercha.com/en/resources/your-options.php

What are my options?

Alaska is one of the best homeschooling states in our nation. The many veterans who have come before us fought long and hard to gain these freedoms that we all now enjoy. Since 1997, parents have been given the opportunity to fully invest in their children’s’ education with minimal government intrusion. We are allowed to homeschool in the manner and style deemed best for our children and their futures as productive members of society. 

Following in the footsteps of this newly-granted freedom was the advent of quasi-government offerings to home educators. However, with any government program, they have registration, restrictions and regulations…and ultimately result in increased taxes for all in order to pay for it.

Independent/Private Home School: 

Under Alaska State Law, you can exempt yourself from the restrictions by homeschooling independently*. While you are unable to receive monetary assistance through a government program, you do have the freedom to choose the method, style and curriculum with which you teach your child.

So what, exactly, does Common Core have to do with home schooling? For Independent or Private Home School families: not a thing! Through bearing the responsibility of educating your children without government oversight and intrusion, you have effectively Opted Out of Common Core and all of its tentacles. Your children’s data will be safe; it is not collected in the first place! YOU decide if your child’s curriculum should align to Common Core or not! Not sure if it does? Check out http://www.hsroadmap.org/common-core-project/ . Not sure if you are cut out to home school without help? NSIH can put you in touch with someone who can encourage and even mentor you.

Opt out lego man

Your child’s education should be about more than AYPs, ASPIs, Career tracking, or funding. It should primarily be about learning, seeking answers to questions, getting a quality education, and gleaning wisdom. Perhaps it is even about raising the next generation of people who read, write, think and continue our heritage of freedom to maintain our republic – Education for a FREE nation!


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