A Risky Business

During these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been encouraged to support small and shop local. You can’t get much smaller or more local than Tools for the Home Educator! I’m a one-girl shop, centrally located to much of the South Bay in Torrance, CA.

I very much appreciate the recent online article “Meet Penny Ross: Homeschool Consultant” posted by ShoutOut LA. This organization’s mission is to help people spend more of their money with mom-and-pops, small businesses, independent artists, and creatives.

I was featured as part of their Risk, Reward, and Life conversation. Although I do not consider myself a risk-taker, as I was thinking through the questions for this interview I began to consider how unusual my path in life has been. I began homeschooling before it was widely popular (and definitely before distance learning became the norm!) and I started my own business at a time when many my age were retiring.

I invite you to take a few minutes to enjoy this article and learn more about me and my business, Tools for the Home Educator. And then I hope you’ll check out some of the other businesses featured by ShoutOut LA.

Do You Think You’re Too Young?

Did you happen to notice an article published by the Journal of Experimental Orthopaedics (JEO) on December 6, 2020? Unless you follow arthritis research, you probably didn’t. But what if I told you that the first author of this article in a highly respected peer-reviewed professional journal was only 17 years old? Let me introduce you to this exceptional young researcher, Elisha Johnston, in the hopes that his accomplishments will encourage you in your own pursuits, no matter your age.

Though homeschooled in kindergarten and again this year in 12th grade, Elisha spent much of his education in the public school system. In middle school, seeking another outlet to engage his interest in science, he pursued participation in the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair (LACSEF). When his school declined to sign up, LACSEF allowed Elisha to register directly as a homeschool student.

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Location, Location, Location — Does it Apply to Education?

As homeschooling has grown in popularity over the last 40 years, so have stories of its successes. And so, the question could be asked – how much of its success is due to where the education takes place? Is there truly no place like home when it comes to learning? Our current experiment in distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic should help answer this question.

Though the hard data is still being collected, we are hearing many parents and teachers voice concerns about a steep learning slide due to the school closures. Anecdotally, it does not appear that the mere act of moving education from school building to home has positively impacted learning outcomes.

So if homeschooling seems to be successful and distance learning less so, we should investigate the factors that could contribute to this discrepancy: Continue reading

A Tale of 2 Headlines

The term homeschooling – how would you define it? Merriam Webster says it’s “to teach school subjects to one’s children at home.” As someone who homeschooled her own 3 children, I agree with that definition. As least I did – until 3 weeks ago!

I’ve been active in the homeschooling world for over 30 years as a parent, homeschool program administrator, and independent consultant. While I often imagined a world in which many more parents would discover the joy and excitement of teaching their own children, I always assumed that they would be willingly choosing this lifestyle. I never dreamed that the entire state of California would be staying at home while all education moved online.

With my heart and mind still reeling from the abrupt cancellation of everyday life, I encountered the following headline: Continue reading

Your First Week of Homeschooling — Was it the Perfect Storm?

storm-cabinAre you feeling horrible about your first week of emergency homeschooling? Was it frightful, frustrating, fractious, or all of the above? But let’s ask the key question:

Are your children still alive today?

If so, then stop – breathe – and relax for a moment! You’ve survived an extremely difficult week in 21st Century history! The process may not have been pretty, but give yourself some grace for the simple fact that the little humans are still breathing.

However if we take a more realistic look at the past week, then we’ll realize that the difficulties are not all due to homeschooling and that it’s not all YOUR fault! It’s been the perfect storm of childrearing and homeschooling and more! Continue reading

5 Tips for Homeschool Temps!

Perhaps you’ve watched from afar when family or friends began teaching their own children at home and thought, “I could NEVER do that!”  Yet thanks to school closures resulting from the coronavirus, you have found yourself doing exactly that!

I’ve been homeschooling my own children and working with other homeschooling families for over 30 years.  Let me offer some tips to help you through these next few weeks: Continue reading

The Middle School Squeeze

“Whstress-624220_640at do you recommend for teaching essays to middle school students?” queried a customer at my bookstore for gently-used homeschool curriculum.  Upon further discussion, I learned that her sixth grader hasn’t ever written more than a few sentences and now she wants him to master an essay within the next month! Has she succumbed to the dreaded Middle School Squeeze?

This very specialized form of a Homeschool Mom Panic Attack has lain dormant since she began homeschooling preschool or kindergarten. Continue reading

What is Different about Homeschooling High School?

Penny was invited to write this article as part of CHEA’s “Homeschool 101” series.  CHEA is the Christian Home Educators Association of California and you can read the entire series on its blog, Homeschool411.

High school is different even if you’ve been homeschooling for multiple years already. It’s all about the “D” word – diploma! Applications and interviews for the rest of your student’s life will likely ask if a high school diploma was earned.

A diploma is more than a certificate of attendance for grades 9-12. It usually means completion of a certain number of classes in specified subject areas: a course of study spelled out by the institution granting the diploma. And, yes, a homeschooled student can earn a diploma!

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If your School Year is not Progressing as You had Planned

Are you discouraged, disappointed, or depressed as you reflect upon your homeschooling so far this school year?  Let’s take a few minutes to evaluate the symptoms of your dissatisfaction and consider possible solutions:

“It’s Too Hard!” 

Is your student prepared and ready for this level of academics?  Just because a text has a certain grade level printed on its cover that seems to match the chronological age of your student does not mean that your student can handle all of the work within its pages.

If your student is struggling to write a sentence or a paragraph, this may not be the right time to teach an essay.  If your student hasn’t really mastered subtraction, that “hole” will impact long division as well.  Backtrack!  Review!  Re-teach!  Be sure your student demonstrates proficiency in the basics of a particular skill or subject before expecting him or her to advance.

Assess developmental readiness.  We don’t expect babies to walk until they are pulling themselves up to a standing position.  Likewise, is your student demonstrating readiness for the particular concept or skill you are trying to teach?  For example, there are important developmental integrations that need to happen before your student is ready to learn to read and hormonal changes in puberty that add key aspects to student’s abstract reasoning abilities.  Sometimes delay is the best teaching strategy.

“I Don’t Like It!”

If you spent hours researching different curriculum options and were really excited when you found this one particular resource, it is exasperating to hear this comment from your student. Continue reading

The Changing Face of Homeschool Community

“Go to a Park Day! Make some new homeschool friends and ask your questions!” I see this advice over and over again on Facebook groups in response to someone’s first post woman-1586499_640or initial question or two about homeschooling.

Park Days have been the traditional gathering place of homeschool families. Children are free to play and run off their excess energy while moms befriend and support each other. The encouragement shared among themselves ranges from parenting advice to curriculum ideas to easy dinner recipes. Many a life-long friendship has been forged in these early days of homeschool community.

But now in 2018, I am seeing Park Days fade and fold. Some of this is due to the aging of those original Park Day families. They are graduating their last children and while some continue to attend Park Days to support the newer moms, others have become too busy in their new season of life. Continue reading