Education is about choices.
And if you’re one of California’s almost 200,000 homeschoolers, or if you’re interested in becoming one, you already know that your toughest job isn’t necessarily choosing your curriculum…It’s in the Legislature.
You need to stay informed about laws that impact your ability to choose how your child is educated.
The State of California currently has several bills before the Legislature which are aimed at the growing homeschooling community. Though homeschooling is largely regulated by states, there are also a couple of bills at the federal level you should know about.
We know that you’ve got lessons to plan, projects to help with, and field trips to go on… you’re busy! So, to help keep you informed, we’ve researched the bills currently working their way through the Assembly and written you a handy summary complete with links to the actual bills so you can investigate on your own.
Purpose: Student Data Collection
This bill wants to use available data to “improve education and workforce opportunities for all students” by using data on test scores, type of education (special needs, advanced courses, etc.) to help develop better educational programs for California’s kids.
While the state already has access to a lot of this information, it’s not in a central database with your kid’s name on it. This bill would assign your student a unique number in a central database and track things like:
- academic performance
- attendance in special education or gifted programs
- whether your student gets a free or reduced lunch
- whether they graduated or dropped out
The bill also requires a review committee of “education stakeholders and experts” that will use the database to develop better educational programs.
The committee will have an expert on privacy issues, but there should be concern over whether or not the database can be kept private and safe. The bill notes that additional legislation is needed to address privacy concerns.
Important to know: The bill does currently state that “Home-based private schools shall not be required to collect or submit data for the database.” However, the bill doesn’t exempt private schools that aren’t home-based, which may leave some homeschoolers vulnerable.
Current Status: AMENDED IN SENATE MAY 23, 2019, active bill, pending referral.
Purpose: Mandatory Fire Inspection/Privacy concern
All schools, public and private, including homeschools, would be required to:
- submit to mandatory fire inspection.
- Private schools would have to include the nature of their school on their affidavit.
The intent of this bill is apparently to prevent child abuse (ex. the Turpin case in Perris, California) by requiring all homeschools to submit to an inspection by the Fire Marshal. In other words, requiring a mandated reporter to come into your homeschool.
Important to Know: In America, private homes cannot be investigated by the government without just cause.
Kids aren’t at a higher risk of abuse just because they’re homeschooled. This bill assumes otherwise.
Current Status: FAILED IN HEARING on 4/25/19
Purpose: Homeschool Regulation
AB 2926 would establish an advisory committee to make recommendations about imposing extra requirements on homeschools.
This bill will give the state the power to:
- regulate private homeschooling, possibly including home visits to observe instruction, as well as home inspection (at the place of instruction).
- impose health and safety inspections on private homeschools.
- attempt to mandate a specific curriculum, whether or not homeschool parents consider it appropriate.
- require privately homeschooling parents to be certified teachers.
Current Status: PULLED, BUT STILL ON THE WATCH LIST
Purpose: Student Health/Suicide Prevention
All schools, public and private, would be required to add a suicide prevention hotline number on the back of their student IDs.
Current Status: Inactive bill, chaptered.
That was a lot, wasn’t it?
But we’re not done yet…
Pop quiz: What’s the percentage of California students that are enrolled in a charter school over a traditional school?
California leads the country with a whopping 11% of students enrolled in charter schools.
That percentage only seems to get larger every year…so it’s no surprise that this next set of bills, largely supported by the California Teachers’ Association, targets the ever-growing charter school community.
Purpose: Limiting the creation of new charter schools in individual school districts.
AB 1505 gives local school districts the sole authority in the approval of new charter schools.
- Traditional schools will be allowed to consider a negative financial outcome as a reason for the denial of a charter. Since state funding follows the student, any charter school that opens automatically negatively impacts the traditional school in that district.
- New charters would be denied the ability to appeal to the county and state Boards of Education if a denial is issued. Currently, the law does allow charters to appeal if a district won’t approve of them.
- Charter renewals would be changed to a period of 2 to 5 years; the current renewal period is 5 years.
Current Status: PASSED THE ASSEMBLY, GOING BEFORE THE SENATE
Purpose: Limits the number of charter schools allowed to operate, both at local and state levels.
AB 1506 would:
- cap the total number of charter schools in California at the number of charters operating as of January 1, 2020.
- new charters would only be allowed in a district if a currently-operating one closes.
- cap the maximum number of students allowed to attend a charter at no more than 10% of all students in the district.
This educational homeostasis is a very blatant attempt by the California Teachers’ Association to keep the charter school movement from growing any further.
Current Status: ACTIVE BILL, IN FLOOR PROCESS
Purpose: Charter schools must operate in the school district which approved them.
This bill is actually worth supporting.
AB 1507 gets rid of the loophole that some small school districts have used to create charter schools – and charge them for services – while those charters are actually operating outside that community.
In other words, you can’t create a charter in Anaheim and have it actually exist in Brea, and cause the Brea district to lose students…and funding.
This is important: the originating district loses absolutely nothing – in fact, they gain money – while impacting another district’s enrollment.
Since the charter is actually not in their community, there’s no incentive for them to make sure it’s operating in good faith and providing a top-notch education.
Current Status: Active Bill – In Committee Process
Purpose: State Education Voucher Program
HR610 establishes homeschoolers as eligible for federal grants.
Homeschooling kids could get financial aid? That’s good, right?
Not so fast.
This bill would likely mean that “homeschooling” must eventually be legally defined by the Federal Government.
This might not matter as much to a charter school, which is already a public school, but private homeschools will definitely be affected. The legal definition of “homeschooling” will most likely include requirements like:
- use of Common Core standards
- supervision by a state-credentialed teacher/parent must have teaching credentials
- faith-based curriculums may be restricted
- homeschool styles may be restricted
- homeschoolers required to be accountable to State and Federal governments
Current Status: INTRODUCED 2017-2018
Purpose: No New Charters for Two Years
This bill caps off the anti-charter bills by putting a moratorium on the creation of any new charter schools in California for two years…unless the charter reforms in the previous bills are passed.
Current Status: INACTIVE
Purpose: Terminating the Department of Education
The shortest bill we reviewed, this one just calls for the termination of the Department of Education on December 31, 2018.
Current Status: INTRODUCED 2017
Hey, you made it to the end of the summary. Whew!
Hopefully, this post gave you an idea of what’s going on in California’s legislative arena this year.
It’s a lot to take in, and a lot to keep an eye on, but you already know about the connection between knowledge and power.
You know that hard work pays off. After all, you’re a homeschooler.
Life is messy. And busy. Stuffed full of to-do lists and commitments overflowing from your plate. Like many families, we’ve spent the first two months of the New Year passing the flu, and stomach bugs, and colds around the house like a hot potato. Zero fun. Now that we are all mostly on the mend, it was time to get back outside and do what we love. Hike. We bought our Adventure Pass back in January and haven’t had a chance to use it yet, so yesterday we shot up the 210 to the Chantry Flat Recreation Area in the Angeles National Forest. It was our first time here.
We hiked the Sturtevant Falls trail, about four miles round trip. The first half mile is down a paved road into the canyon. When you reach the bottom, we followed the dirt trail across the bridge into a magical shaded forest that follows a running stream. The kids loved the cute storybook cabins, comparing them to Minecraft Villages and deciding what type of villagers might live there. There were spots along the stream where the trunks of the trees were covered entirely with ivy and we imagined little gnomes and fairies making homes in the roots of the trees just below the leaves. We hopped rocks to cross the stream three times and only one of us left with wet feet.
We stopped at Sturtevant Falls, a lovely 50-foot waterfall, and had a light snack on the rocks nearby. This is a well-trafficked trail so plenty of people were there also enjoying the view. We made our way back and talked about waterfalls, living conditions in different states, and inflation. Yep, we actually had a long conversation about money, how it has changed over time, and the cost of living.
Maybe we weren’t at a desk or the kitchen table, but we were still learning. I say we, because I learn from them just as much as they learn from me. When we’re not sick, we try to take at least one day during the week to go hiking. I believe being outside and connecting with nature is one of the best ways to decompress, and it’s good for all of us to get the blood flowing and move our bodies. Turn off the TV, put down the video games, and get outside. We all need some time to play.
I teach language arts at home and I bounce around between topics so my kids don’t get bored doing the same activity. We use the LifePac language arts workbooks from Alpha Omega as our foundation. This way we always have something we can open and go to. But workbooks can be dry and repetitive when you do them everyday. So I like to change it up by adding my own activities now and then.
We have journals that we use for different things. My first grader chooses something to learn about (usually an animal) and she draws a picture and writes two to three sentences about what she learned. She can read and write on her own but still needs help with spelling, so she tells me what she wants to write, I write it down on a small dry erase white board, and she copies it into her writing journal. My fourth grader uses his to write short stories or keep notes that he wants to remember and come back to later. He copied down all the roman numerals in his so now he comes back to it every time he needs to refer to it for his math assignments.
I also make my own worksheets. I try to make them interesting, about something they wouldn’t generally learn about in a textbook or frame it in a fun way. The worksheet I’m sharing here is about the Kaluga Sturgeon, an ancient fish that is endangered because it is frequently caught and used for caviar. I highlight and define new vocabulary words directly in the worksheet and include a few questions about the main idea, details, and text features. Download your copy below. Enjoy!
I’m an author. I love coming up with ideas to write about and I love bringing other ideas to life through written words. There was a time in my life that I didn’t think I could be a writer because I didn’t enjoy making things up. Writing fiction was not my thing. When I was in sixth grade I took creative writing as an elective and the teacher told me over and over again that my writing was wrong. My ideas weren’t good. I didn’t set the scene or perfect the plot or use the right voice. She crushed my writing spirit. But I kept going. I never shared anything I wrote because I assumed everyone would think it was terrible, like she did.
Eventually I started sharing my poetry. My friends liked it. And I actually paid to have my poetry published in anthologies stuffed with thousands of other authors – who also paid. I think you’ll find me on page 537, column 2, third row down. I kept writing.
Then something happened. I started college at 19 attending off and on at local community colleges. I avoided English 101 for a while. When I finally registered for it, I was excited (because I like to write), but I expected to get a poor grade and a lot of criticism. When I turned in that first writing assignment – an informational essay about computers and education – I shrugged it off immediately. I did my best. The day she handed the assignment back I was completely ready for the bad grade that was heading my way. But it never came. Instead, I was shocked to see an A+ with curly red comments about being well thought out and nicely structured. Huh. Maybe I’m not terrible.
Something else happened. I remembered a day in second grade. I came home from school and set up a spot on the floor in front of the TV with my markers and a pad of pastel-colored paper. I wrote my own story of the first Thanksgiving, complete with pictures of corn and Indians. And I liked it. I read it to everyone. I hung it up. Eventually I transferred it to my scrapbook. It’s still there. As I remembered this, I realized what my path was – I’m a nonfiction writer. That’s what I was meant to do. It doesn’t matter that I can’t make up stories about unicorns and furry trolls in faraway lands. That’s not necessary for my journey.
I did eventually branch out to making things up. Actually, my last book was creative nonfiction. It was my job to take the characters in the story through time to meet famous scientists who developed advances in electricity like Ben Franklin, Nikola Tesla, and Michael Faraday. It’s one of my favorite projects so far. I can’t wait for that one to be in print so I can put it on my bookshelf.
Over the last few months I’ve received two of my latest books in the mail, and I don’t think that is ever going to get boring. Opening a package to find a book that I wrote, and then watching my kids read it?! Whoa. So mind blowing. And I think back to that teacher who thought I was terrible and sat me down for a conference after class about how my writing just wasn’t very good. How many times her voice echoed in my head, discouraging and condescending. I kept trying. Secretly. But I kept trying.
Today, I get to be role model for my kids. I may not write the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but I wanted to be an author, and here I am with four books under my belt. I did it. So now when I tell them they can be whatever they want if they work hard for it, they know it’s true because I did it.
Do you have a writing journey? I’d love for you to share it with me!
In honor of National Young Readers Week, I wanted to share some thoughts on books.
Everyday I walk through the house collecting the books lying around in the kitchen, the bathroom, on the couch. You name it, we’ve probably got a book there. Sometimes as I try to find shelf space for the misplaced books I catch myself mumbling about having too many books. Hahaha! I get a good laugh every time because having too many books is a good thing and there’s no way I’m downsizing.
There are actually benefits to having too many books. I should clarify that the books should be quality reading material with an educational element of some sort. A bookshelf full of crime drama or erotica is great if that’s what you’re into, but definitely don’t contribute to the benefits I’ll be referring to here.
First, having books means your kids always have access to reading material. Even if they read the same book twenty times, they are going to learn something new from it as they grow. Different ages retain and comprehend reading material differently.
Second, you can teach your kids about primary sources rather than going straight to Google, Siri, or Alexa for answers. When my kids ask what life was like when there were no cities and people were looking for new land to settle, we whip out books like Boomtown or Little House on the Prairie. And we read. And we look at pictures. And we talk about what life might have been like. What the world looked like before houses were crunched together in grid patterns. When a wild animal in the neighborhood was an opportunity instead of a nuisance. When you planted your food instead of buying GMO corn at the grocery store.
Third, books become handy resources for a variety of learning opportunities. I found this book at the library bookstore called From Sea to Shining Sea for $3. It’s a treasury of American folklore and folk songs and includes everything from Native American culture to the Industrial Revolution to America’s favorite pastime – baseball. We can read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech and the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. We can read a poem about Harriet Tubman and how she risked her life 19 times to guide hundreds of slaves to freedom. For $3 we got a book we can use over and over again. For many subjects. For years to come.
If you have a house full of books, it’s hard for kids to avoid reading. It makes it hard for you to avoid reading, too. That being said, some kids do need to be encouraged to read. But if you’ve got shelves of books covering a variety of subjects, there’s got to be something interesting that young readers will gravitate to. Drones, extreme sports, National Parks, rocks, horses, writing your own stories, Shakespeare, mythology – we’ve got tons of subjects in our nonfiction collection. Our chapter books and picture books are also overflowing from the shelves. When you have books available that you consistently share and read with your kids, they will eventually learn to read. And some of them will even grow to love it.
For more information about National Young Readers Week check out the Pizza Hut Book It! program, and pay a visit to your local library. Happy reading!
Did you know that when bees are about 12 days old, they develop glands in their abdomen that produce wax? The wax comes out of little openings on the side of their abdomen. The bees chew the wax and add it to the honey comb.
Bees make honey from pollen and nectar. They feed honey to their young and store honey to eat during the winter. But not all bees make honey.
There are over 20,000 species of bees!
If predators, like wasps, invade the hive, bees will ball together and vibrate their muscles. This generates enough heat to kill the intruder.
My co-leader and I recently took our Girl Scout Troop to Backyard Bees, an educational program at a location in Orange, CA. We are working on growing a tower garden right now and thought this would be a great opportunity to teach them additional information about gardening and help them learn about the helpful bees.
Backyard Bees was a delightful adventure. We started by harvesting seeds from cotton and amaranth. Janet showed the girls gourds and talked about different uses for them. We met her chickens, talked about eggs, and learned about some of the other plants that were growing there. The girls got to meet the resident horse and see where the bee hive was.
Each girl got to plant their own seeds, either cotton or amaranth, to bring home and grow. My daughter chose cotton and my son chose amaranth – he’s a Cub Scout and gets to join us on many of our Girl Scout adventures, too. Both plants are already growing nicely and we are excited to add them to our garden when they get a little bigger.
We went into the honey house where Janet shared a lot of educational information about bees and what they do. We got to see harvested bee’s wax and sample the honey she collected from her very own bees. It’s amazing to see how much can be created from bees and honey. The educational tour and program lasted just over an hour and was packed full of fun and information. We left with lots of ideas about what we can grow in our garden at home. This is a great program for scouts and homeschool groups.
For more information on Backyard Bees visit http://www.backyardbees.net/.
Here are some great books about bees!
I took my dino-loving kids to the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. They have monthly Discovery Days and this month’s theme was Making Monsters: Science in Art. It was our first time to the museum and we instantly fell in love.
For $3 per person we received admission to the museum and got to participate in several awesome activities that blended science and art. We listened to a paleoartist, Brian Engh, talk about how he works with fossils and paleontologists to create the artistic renderings of what they believe the dinosaur looked like and the environment it lived in. What a cool job!
The first activity was about how to draw dinosaurs. We chose from several step-by-step drawing worksheets to sketch the dino of our choice. Next we cut out tangrams and arranged them on the page to create our own dinosaur. Then we chose from a selection of cut-out fossil body segments that we pieced together to create a new dinosaur. Finally, we were given a scavenger hunt list with different Pokémon characters. We had to find the fossil in the museum of the dinosaur that inspired each Pokémon character. Super cool. My Poke-fans loved this part.
The Alf is a fantastic location with imaginative hands-on activities that my junior paleontologists enjoyed. We will go back and I highly recommend it. Such a treat on a Saturday afternoon.
And because we can’t get enough fossils, we went to the Homeschool day at the La Brea Tar Pits a few days later. There were very few activities this time around so I was not as impressed, but homeschool day gives us a chance to go down into the Observation Pit which is usually closed unless you’re on a guided tour. We love it down there!
Resources for Junior Paleontologists:
I think about my time as a child and all the days I spent sitting bent-kneed at a desk with worksheets and blackboards for my view. I am lucky enough to provide a different experience for my own children. One of my favorite things about being a homeschool parent is our freedom to explore. I like to take the kids hiking during the cooler months of the year. Previously, I focused on shorter hikes with interesting elements. But now we have entered a new phase. The kids no longer complain after the first mile. They look for what’s up ahead and keep moving. I can say code words like “geocache” and they’re on a wild hunt to find one. Or I can bring along my secret weapon – my nephew – wherever he goes, they go. I carry plenty of water and snacks and they keep going.
The last two hikes we did were about 5 miles each and we were greatly rewarded for our efforts. First, we went to Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park for a hike to Dripping Cave, AKA Robbers Cave. Legend has it that cattle thieves and train robbers used this cave as a hideout years ago. The trail is relatively easy and mostly flat. We parked at the Awma Road parking lot and hiked the Aliso Creek trail to the Wood Canyon trail. Out and back it’s about 4.6 miles but if you turn off to explore Cave Rock from the Wood Canyon trail you add about another half mile to the hike. When we arrived at Dripping Cave the kids were excited to explore and loved climbing the other nearby rocks. We had our lunch here and then headed back the way we came. We were lucky enough to cross paths with a deer on this hike, which doesn’t happen very often, but the kids were delighted to see it.
This week we decided to explore Red Rock Canyon near Foothill Ranch. We started at the Borrego Canyon trailhead at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. The 1.3 mile trail is very slightly uphill for an easy climb. At the intersection of the Mustard trail we stopped to have snacks and were entertained by a tiny gopher who loves oranges. From Mustard, we connected to the Red Rock Canyon trail and followed a rocky dry river bed, climbing a bit more than we expected. The climbing and rock scrambling was worth it though, as the payoff dropped us in the center of rocky red cliffs that surrounded us with majestic formations carved by erosion. the kids enjoyed climbing and exploring the walls of Red Rock Canyon and we spent a good 45 minutes exploring before heading back. Overall, we hiked about 5 miles round trip for this one, but we enjoyed all of it.
I love these days where we put the books and worksheets and computer assignments aside and get outdoors and walk the dirt paths to wondrous worlds making memories with our family and friends. Never did I imagine that I would be able to spend the days like this with my kids and I am thankful for the opportunity. They always ask, “Do we have to take the freeway?” Well, yes kids. Because everywhere worth going requires a little bit of effort. But soon, it will be time again to stretch your legs.
What’s your favorite Southern California hiking spot?