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Common Core fails miserably in New York and Wyoming

Does Common Core impact homeschool students? This is an interesting question that I do not have a direct answer to. Arkansas has adopted the Race to the Top and Common Core standards. These standards apply to public schools across the state. As of today, they do not apply to homeschools directly, but that could change. As we have seen with the change over to electronic filing of homeschool forms, the Arkansas Department of Education has no problem changing homeschool law without going through the legislature.

 

New York Public Schools and Wyoming Public Schools have adopted Common Core and joined in Obama’s Race to the Top initiative. Interestingly enough, scores have dropped considerably in both states. The two states are placing the blame on inadequate teacher training for the tests and issues working with a new testing system. These are excuses. If the children were learning, they would know the subject matter on the tests, regardless of the testing format.

 

Educators Oppose Common Core

This is the beginning of the fall-out for Common Core. Parents who are becoming aware of the dumbing-down of public school curriculum based on Common Core, are starting to voice their objection to the standards. The standards are a one-size-fits-all set of rubrics that do not allow for individual schools to come up with programs to fit their students’ needs. This will eventually overflow into the homeschool arena. If Common Core becomes the law of the land, it stands to change or completely eliminate the ability to homeschool our children as we see fit.

 

Parents and educators alike in Arkansas and other states oppose Common Core as it is based on an unproven set of standards. The very same model and standards were abandoned by European Countries several years ago. Reason being—these standards do not improve student performance and they simply do not work.

 

Invasion of Privacy

Another hidden agenda of Common Core is student tracking. States that have adopted Common Core are tracking your kids—not only through test scores but by immunization and other medical records, IEP for special needs students, forms requiring parents to divulge income and employment for school lunch programs, and observations made by teachers and public school staff. The data being collected at the public school level is personally identifiable and there is no protection under the law for these records. They are available to all state and federal agencies.

 

Arkansas law states that information collected through the Notice of Intent and Waiver Forms, and data collected through mandatory testing of homeschool students can only be used for reporting in ways that are not personally identifying. But this goes against the Race to the Top and Common Core mandates that the state must abide by.

 

Oregon’s GOP recently adopted a resolution opposing Common Core Educational Standards. Part of the resolution states “Whereas: Common Core is being used to build a comprehensive database to measure students’ progress and gather other personal, non-academic data…” and “Whereas: Data may be obtained not only by questioning students but by the use of facial-monitoring equipment, neuro-psychological testing and senors which are strapped to their bodies and…””

 

The invasion of privacy associated with Common Core is real. Before Arkansas travels down a path that it cannot easily undo, let’s talk to our legislatures and educators and have Arkansas opt out of Common Core.

Posted on 13 August '13 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Homeschool Politics, News, Politics. No Comments.

Parents beware of electronic filing of homeschool forms in Arkansas

I should have written this sooner, as the deadline to file your Notice of Intent and Waiver forms in Arkansas is coming up on August 15. According to state law, you must have your form postmarked by midnight, August 15, in order to be in compliance with the law. Parents can hand deliver the forms to their local Superintendents office. Families new to homeschooling in Arkansas must hand deliver the forms. This year, parents can file the form online—I strongly advise against this.

 

I am not against the concept of electronic filing. Actually, it is a good idea. When this option first appeared, I was all for it. Finally, I thought, Arkansas is entering the 21st Century.

 

The parent instruction manual (32 pages) for the online filing option and the emails that are sent from the Arkansas Department of Education contain wording that gives the ADE the legal ability to approve or deny a homeschool application. Nothing in the homeschool law gives the ADE this power. The law specifically states that only the local Superintendent of Schools can deny a homeschool application if one of the following conditions are met:

 

1) The homeschool student must be transferring from public school to a homeschool AND one of the following:

  • The student is currently under disciplinary action and that action has not been completed or the student has been expelled.
  • Or, The student has chronic attendance and discipline problems and the Superintendent of Schools believes the parents are attempting to circumvent truancy laws.
  • Or, there is a person living in the household who is required to register with the National Sex Offender Database. This does not apply if the person being homeschooled is the offender.

 

If a parent is not transferring from a public school to homeschool during the year, then the above situations do not apply (except for the sex offender criteria.) As long as a parent files by August 15 for the first semester, December 15 for the second semester or files within 30 days of moving into the state, then there is no waiting period or approval period.

 

Second, the law states that all new homeschoolers must hand deliver their forms to their local Superintendent of Schools. Online filing is not hand delivering. This is a change in the law and it must go through proper channels to have this changed.

 

Do not file online this year. Doing so gives the ADE the ability to change the law by default. Make the ADE go through proper legislative channels to change the homeschool law. Too many of us have had to fight too hard for too long to see our right to homeschool be taken from us without a legal fight. Keep the ADE within its legal guidelines. Until the wording in all communications from the ADE is changed or until they post a public notice or press release on their website stating that they are not approving homeschools and this is indeed an error in wording, I strongly advise homeschool parents to file by mail or in person. Do not file your forms electronically this year.

 

–Lynda

Posted on 13 August '13 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Homeschool Politics, News, Politics. No Comments.

Arkansas Homeschool Families Should Not File Notice of Intent Online

Finally, the state of Arkansas wants to make things easier for homeschoolers by allowing us to fill out and file the Notice of Intent and Waiver forms online. While it may seem that the state is trying to simplify the process, this is actually a power grab by the Arkansas Department of Education(ADE) and it should not be tolerated. I am urging parents to forgo online registration this year and to keep filing by mail.

 

According to Lisa Crook at ADE, the new electronic filing is a way to track parents who are trying to circumvent truancy laws by homeschooling their children. If you read the Parent Tutorial very carefully, the language changes from review of the parents Notice of Intent and Waiver forms to approval of the forms. This is in direct conflict with the current homeschool law (see the links at the right side of the page) . Nothing in the current law gives the ADE the power to approve or deny a parent’s right to homeschool. The only way a parent can legally be denied the right to homeschool is if their child is currently under discipline by a public school and that discipline measure has not been met, the child is expelled or someone in the home is a registered sex offender.

 

Another change to the law is the requirement that all homeschoolers file online by 2014-2015 school year. The written law states that all new homeschoolers must bring their forms into the local Superintendents office in person. Requiring new homeschoolers to file online (which by the way is a good idea) is a change to the law which must be done by the legislature or by the governor through an executive order.

 

Why the uproar? As a close friend of mine put it, “this is a power grab” by the ADE. If enough homeschoolers file online this year, they can claim that they can approve or deny your right to homeschool by default. This new format for filing forms is not about making it easier for homeschoolers, it is a way for the state to start tracking homeschoolers in the same manner as they track the public school kids. It is about taking advantage of homeschoolers who do not know the law. And finally, it is about giving up our rights without consent or knowledge.

 

Do not give the ADE any power to approve homeschool forms? This is outside of their legal bounds. I contacted the Home School Legal Defense Association about this, but because I am not a paid member they blew me off and suggested that I join HSLDA in order to speak directly with one of their legal representatives. Shows you where their loyalties are, either you have to be an Evangelical Christian fleeing a country that is not homeschool friendly or you have to be a paid member. So what if the Arkansas Department of Education is trying to take away your right to homeschool and to illegally change the law—if you’re not a member, it is not their problem.

 

I have to admit, I am at fault here. When I submitted my forms online, I only glanced through the parent tutorial (located on the right sidebar, Read it carefully before deciding to fill out the forms online.) It was not until I received the email stating my forms were waiting approval from ADE did it raise an eyebrow. If you look at your pending forms, it will state waiting approval from ADE. These are legal documents and the ADE has hijacked the homeschool law and placed themselves as overseers of homeschoolers.

 

6-15-502. Rules, regulations, and procedures for monitoring and enforcing provisions.

“ (a) The provisions of § 6-18-201(a) shall be self-executing, and the State Board of Education shall have no authority to promulgate rules, regulations, or guidelines for the enforcement or administration thereof.

 

 (b) The board is empowered to make such reasonable rules and regulations required for the proper administration of this subchapter which are not inconsistent with the intent of this subchapter.

 

History. Acts 1985 (1st Ex. Sess.), No. 40, § 7; 1985 (1st Ex. Sess.), No. 42, § 7; A.S.A. 1947, § 80-1503.10; Acts 1995,

No. 1296, § 15; 1997, No. 400, § 1”

 

If you read provision (a) above, it clearly specifies that the ADE cannot change or make any rules or regulations outside of what is stated in the homeschool law. But this whole wording of approval by the ADE for those that file electronically only is in direct conflict with the above quoted law.

 

As homeschoolers, we should all inform Dr. Tom Kimbrell, Commissioner of Education, that we will not stand for this hostile takeover of homeschooling by his department. It is time to exercise our rights under the law and get the wording of the electronic filing to fit within the current homeschool law. Hold the ADE accountable and make them abide by Arkansas law. If we sit by an do nothing, next year we will all be waiting for state approval before we can legally homeschool.

Posted on 31 July '13 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Politics. No Comments.

Gauging Success: Why Standardized Tests Miss the Mark

I am opposed to standardized testing for a number of reasons. It does not give an accurate picture of a student’s ability or progress. Some children, mine included, do not test well. For some reason when my youngest son knows there is a time limit on a test, he freezes. This is a talented and gifted child, yet if you were to look at his standardized tests score—you would think otherwise.

 

My youngest struggled with reading after I pulled him from a charter school. At that school, they grouped 1st grade students by reading ability. In his group—he was forced to read out loud. This was something that he was very uncomfortable with and when he struggled, the teacher allowed the other kids to make fun of my child. Now, entering the 8th grade, this still haunts him and I believe this is why he does not test well.

 

Standardize tests are supposed to show you where your child is academically as compared to other children of the same age and grade. But what happens to kids who have test anxiety? Their scores are low. Low scores can keep these kids from getting into gifted programs like the Duke Talent Identification Program.

 

So how should we judge a child’s progress? Use a record book system like 4-H. The record book tracks a child’s accomplishments, community service, awards, and projects over the course of five years. Why not apply this to the school system? The record book provides a much better picture of the child’s true ability. Although it would be difficult to use on a national level, maybe we need to get away from having a plethora of standardized tests that cannot be compared to each other and instead go to a record book format for tracking student progress. The record book should have a standard format, so it can be used by teachers even if a child changes schools.

 

Standardized tests just do not work. Public schools and the No Child Left Behind Act  created a “teach the test” atmosphere at most public schools. Teachers and administrators have been caught changing grades and some have been brought up on criminal charges. This is insane. What is needed is a way to accurately judge a student’s ability without having such high stakes.

 

This brings me to the topic at hand. If I ignore the standardized testing scores for my son, how do I judge where he is academically? He shows me in other ways how well he is doing. My two youngest children are very active in competitive shooting. One of the events, YHEC (Youth Hunter Educational Challenge), demands that the competitors take a written test as well as show mastery in wildlife identification, safety trail, compass and map skills, and mastery in shotgun, .22 rifle, archery, and muzzleloader.

 

My youngest, age 13, took 3rd place on the written test. Out of 190 kids in his division, he had the 3rd highest score. That is how I measure his success. He studied, he practiced and he performed well.

 

My next youngest is 18 and will be heading off to college in the fall. His goal is to become a biology specialist for Arkansas Game and Fish. He has plans to get a master’s degree in biology and possibly a doctorate. That is how I measure his success.

 

It is time to do away with a system that is not working. I would rather have my kids put together a record book highlighting their accomplishments over the last 5 years than have them subjected to standardized tests. Especially since the test results are arbitrary at best and they do not give you a good idea of where your child is academically—unless you have one of those rare kids who test really well.

 

–Lynda

Posted on 10 June '13 by , under Standardized testing. No Comments.

The Romeike Decision: Why it benefits U.S. homeschoolers

Romeike Decision

Don’t misunderstand the title of this post. I believe that the Romeike family should be allowed to stay in the United States. However, their defense attorney, Michael Farris, from the Home School Legal Defense Association failed to prove his case and now the family faces deportation. I would rather see the U.S. go after those who are in this country illegally, lets start with those in jail, instead of picking on a family who just wants to homeschool their kids. But, that is not the purpose of this post.

 

What everyone seems to be missing is that this decision is good for U.S. homeschoolers. It turns out that the press, especially Christian based press, which was claiming that homeschoolers in America would loose their right to homeschool if the courts ruled against the Romeike family, was wrong. In fact, the Romeike Decision strengthened parental rights in the U.S. You can read the entire decision by clicking on the link at the top of this post. It is a copy of the court document.

 

The Romeike’s appeal for asylum was denied on May 14, 2013. A unanimous decision of the Sixth District Court stated that “…the United States Constitution protects the rights of “parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control,” Yoder, 406 U.S. at 233; see Pierce, 268 U.S. at 534–35; Meyer, 262 U.S. at 400–01…”

 

So, although the ruling states that homeschooling is not grounds for asylum under political and religious persecution, the ruling reaffirms parental rights for U.S. residents. The Romeike’s lost their appeal, but U.S. homeschoolers won a battle – reaffirmation of homeschooling as a Constitutional right. Every time a court rules in the favor of, or supports homeschooling in a decision, it helps to keep our right to homeschool alive.

 

I feel for the Romeike family. My heart goes out to them. Having to live with the possibility of losing your children must be awful. But this is out of our hands. The family can continue to fight the court’s decision and face possible deportation, they can look for another country to take them in, or they can return to Germany. The latter would be the worst option for them if they decide to continue to homeschool. Losing their children to the state is a very real possibility for them. But this is how it is in Europe. Most European countries have very strict rules regarding homeschooling.

 

In the United States, we are fortunate to have a Constitution that recognizes individual rights and freedoms. The recent decision against the Romeike family supports and reaffirms our rights as homeschooling parents. Justices of the Sixth District Court did an outstanding job. They found that the Romeike’s defense did not prove their case, but the Justices also managed to protect the rights of parents in the U.S. to homeschool their children. It was a good decision. I wish the Romeike family peace and happiness in their quest to find a place to homeschool their children.

Posted on 22 May '13 by , under Homeschool Politics, Politics. No Comments.

Choosing Your Words: A lesson for parents and children

Sometimes, being a parent is not all that it is cracked up to be. When we see two of our children engaged in fisticuffs; we pull them apart and tell them “Unacceptable, use your words, not your fists.” Conflict is a part of the human experience and everyone needs to learn conflict resolutions skills. We teach “use your words,” but how often do we teach “choose your words.”

 

Words are powerful. They can move us to action or they can hurt like a fist. Teaching children to choose their words is the one of the most important gifts a parent can give to a child.

 

Why this post? I realized that I failed in my attempt to teach my daughter to choose her words; or maybe I taught her too well. She has always been my challenge. Her teen years were a constant battle. Now, as she enters her 30s, nothing has changed. I had hoped that she would grow and become an amazing young woman. Instead, her life choices continue to bite her time and time again.

 

Since my diagnosis with breast cancer, I try to focus on the positive and to see the joy in everything. While I still take joy in my daughter, I realize that we can no longer have the relationship I wanted us to have. Our relationship will have new boundaries that cannot be crossed. I will always take joy in her accomplishments and be saddened by her failures. Her pain, physical and emotional, will always tug at my heart strings.

 

No longer will I be her enabler. I cannot be the dumping ground for her emotional baggage nor will I continue to be the target of her misdirected anger. My job is to step back. She, in turn, will have to learn a hard lesson—she needs to take responsibility for her actions. This includes the things she says to others. It comes back to choosing your words.

 

I will not share the details of the ugly scene that took place between my daughter and I. However, I will share what it taught me—choosing your words. The incident opened my eyes as to how I have enabled her to push the blame for her failures onto anyone other than herself. She has made poor choices as an adult. Now, she needs to learn that every choice has consequences.

 

Verbal abuse, cursing, and personal attacks never bring you to a good place. Words like that poison your soul. As a parent of adult children, I find that I am still teaching them well past their primary years. This time the lesson learned will be a difficult one. My daughter will learn that words alone can change a relationship. She chose the words she used. It changed me and how I view our relationship. The words she spoke hit me like a brick shattering a window. Gone is the protective veil of motherhood. She made it clear what she thinks of me as a human being, a parent, and a woman struggling to regain her life after breast cancer treatment.

 

One of the joys of parenthood is that you constantly learn from your children. This time I learned about setting careful boundaries and limitations. The new boundaries are set in stone and cannot be crossed. This time the lesson for me is bittersweet, but it should improve our relationship over time. I know that even perfect parents (if they exist) have conflicts with their children. Hopefully, this post will remind you to teach your children to choose their words carefully. Once words leave your mouth or are published in some form, they can never be taken back or undone.

 

With words, you do not get a do-over, there is no Mulligan. So think before you speak or write. If angry, take a breath, count to ten; decide if it is better to win the argument at all cost or if it is better to preserve a relationship. Choosing words—it is a skill set children and adults need to learn.

 

—Lynda

Posted on 4 May '13 by , under Cancer and homeschool, Ramblings and Rumors, Relationships. No Comments.

F is for Freedom

Freedom is a something that cannot be measured in concrete terms. For me, I am thankful that I have the freedom to homeschool my children. I am also thankful that I am now free from chemo and treatment for breast cancer. Now, I have the freedom to take back my life from the doctors and drugs and move on to a better place. My cancer is gone, and I am free to return to a normal life.

 

Homeschoolers understand freedom better than most Americans. For years, many brave parents fought to get the right to homeschool our children. Now, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, although requirements vary greatly from one state to the next. We enjoy our right to homeschool because case after case has ruled that the right exists under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This right is now facing a great challenge.

 

The Romeike family from Germany came here in 2010 seeking political asylum. They homeschooled their children while living in Germany. To make a long story short, homeschooling in Germany is basically illegal with some very strict exceptions. The Romeike family faced fines and they were in danger of the German government removing them from the home. So, the family came to the U.S. under political asylum. They were granted asylum and two months later, everything changed.

 

The family is currently fighting a deportation order. They lost their asylum and the Obama administration is deporting them on the grounds that homeschooling is not a fundamental right. This is where we should all be concerned. It is possible that ruling the Romeike family cannot be granted asylum because homeschooling is not a fundamental right, jeopardizes the legal status of homeschooling in the United States. If parents do not have a fundamental right to educate their children as we see fit, then we have lost everything the homeschool movement fought so very hard to gain.

 

This is not about whether the Romeike family should stay or not, it is about whether homeschooling is a fundamental right and as such protected under the U.S. Constitution. If the court rules it is not a fundamental right, start looking for the gradual erosion of homeschool rights throughout the United States. It all starts with a court decision and setting precedence. This case can tip the scales against homeschooling in a major way.

Posted on 6 April '13 by , under A to Z Blogging Challenge, Cancer and homeschool, Homeschool Politics. No Comments.

Tell the U.S. Government to leave the Romeike family alone

What is up with the U.S. Government? In a case that I find mind-boggling, the Department of Justice is looking to deport a German family who came here under the promise of political and religious asylum. After being granted asylum in 2010, the Romeike family moved to rural Tennessee and continued to homeschool their children. They are law abiding people. The kids are good kids and they don’t get into trouble. Uwe Romeike supports his family by giving piano lessons. And yet, the Government says they should go back to Germany. Wow.

 

This is not a political blog. I have enough on my plate dealing with breast cancer and getting my high school senior ready to enter community college in the fall. I really am not in a mindset to take up a cause. But, this situation should scare every homeschooler in the United States. Why? If the Romeike family is deported, we all could lose our right to homeschool our children.

 

Is homeschool a fundamental right?

The U.S. Attorney General’s position is this situation is that the right to homeschool is not a fundamental right. That is why the Justice Department is trying to deport the Romeike family. Our Government is claiming that the Romeike family does not have the right to raise their children as Evangelical Christians in a homeschool environment. They say that in Germany that homeschoolers are not a recognizable group because not all homeschoolers are Christian and not all Christians homeschool their children. Since when do you have to be part of a group to seek asylum?

 

What happens to homeschoolers if the Romeike family is deported? It sets legal precedence that homeschooling for religious reasons is not a fundamental right. Get that–not a fundamental right. It removes the protection under the Constitution for us to homeschool our children.

 

Michael Farris and the HSLDA have an alternative agenda

Many people, especially those who are not Christian, feel that Michael Farris does not always have the general homeschool population’s best interest at heart. Sometimes this is true. He follows his path of very conservative Christianity—he is not secretive about that. Other times, he is dead on and this is one of those times. This is all about the possibility of losing our rights to homeschool and to raise our children as we see fit. Check out Glenn Beck on the Romeike Family situation

 

A brave new precedence

Our legal system is a set of laws that are interpreted by precedence. We get to homeschool legally because judges across America interpreted the U.S. Constitution to protect homeschooling under personal freedoms and fundamental rights. This case, brought against the Romeike family says that homeschooling is not a fundamental right. That overturns precedence and sets a new one. The  next time a school district says that parents allowing their kids to be truant or that a divorced parent says their kids must attend public school against the other parent’s will, our homeschool kids will be going to public school if the Department of Justice has its way.

 

I am still confused as to why the U.S. Government would force a family back to Germany where they are sure to lose custody of their kids to the German Government. How is ripping a family apart a good thing. Got to the HSDLA’s website and sign the petition. Yes, it is that important.

 

–off my soapbox now

Lynda

Posted on 22 March '13 by , under Homeschool Politics, News, Politics. No Comments.

Homeschooling Moms: Do you feel the pressure?

Can you do it all? We see examples of perfect homeschoolers. They rise by 6:00 a.m., cook breakfast for 10 kids, get all of the lessons done, clean the house and have dinner on the table at 5:30 when Dad gets home. Their children are always perfectly groomed and entered high school at age 7. But really, who lives like that? Not a single homeschooler I know is that together, and I know some very together moms.

 

As moms, we feel the pressure. We are expected to do it all. When it looks like we don’t accomplish everything we think we should, we call ourselves failures. Stop being so hard on yourself. One person cannot do everything.

 

Cancer rocked my homeschool world

Breast cancer has taught me a lot about life and homeschooling. When I received my diagnosis of stage-two breast cancer in November 2011, it rocked my world to its very foundations. I have 3 kids at home and a husband to take care of. I did not have time for breast cancer. But, I had to take time because my life depended on it.

 

A mastectomy, 5 months of chemo, a year of biological therapy, and ongoing reconstruction surgery has changed my homeschooling schedule. I travel once every three weeks for treatment at a cancer center that is two hours away. I spent an entire day there–when I had chemo I spent the night. This disrupted my homeschool schedule completely. But, it became a learning process.

 

Lessons learned

I learned that my teenage children are very capable and I can depend on them to do household chores and to keep things running somewhat smoothly when I am not home. My oldest son is not homeschooled; he is a legal adult with a job and college to deal with. However, he took a break from college to help out while I underwent chemo—his choice, not mine.

 

My kids are also capable of completing lessons when I cannot teach. Side effects from chemo and the drugs used to treat the chemo side effects took me out of commission for two to three days after treatment. I still deal with debilitating bone pain and on bad days, I cannot accomplish much. We changed our homeschool schedule to allow for me to heal, and to allow for the kids to heal too. Cancer touches their lives just as much as it does mine, just in a different way.

 

Now, if I cannot get to every household chore, it will wait. Instead of daily lessons, we do huge semester projects that involve all of the disciplines. The kids must create something wonderful and useful. The project must be complicated enough to encompass an entire semester. So far, we have built a solar food dehydrator and are in the process of setting up an aquaponics system.

 

I learned not to sweat the small stuff. It is the precocious child that reads at three, and seven-year olds cannot do calculus. Ask for help when you need it. Dads need to be involved too. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect homeschool family. If your kids are learning and everyone is happy (most days,) you have an amazing homeschool. Consider yourself a success.

Posted on 20 February '13 by , under Cancer and homeschool, Ramblings and Rumors. No Comments.

Homeschool is not just the 3 Rs

Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic–the 3 Rs. Sometimes it seems that we as homeschool parents focus too much on them. Granted, reading, writing and arithmetic are extremely important. Our children must learn to read and write and calculate. But what about the other things they need to learn. It seems that we spend so much time focusing on the core subjects (especially when our children are being less than cooperative) that the fun stuff seems to take a sideline. We’ve come up with a system that keeps things fun while covering the basics. In our homeschool, we do quarterly projects.

The projects do not have to be elaborate or something that will win a national science fair, but the project should be complicated enough to challenge your children and to last an entire eight weeks. Since we implemented quarterly or semester-long projects in our homeschool, the basics get covered as they are included in the project.

This school year we started with a solar food dehydrator project. The first one we made was constructed out of cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, tape and window screening. We added the tray from a broiler pan to dry the food. This went well but it certainly did not qualify for a quarterly project. The kids and my husband built it in a couple of hours. But then, the magic took over. The kids got a kick out of dry hot peppers. We use them a lot on pizza. Fresh ground dried peppers are so much more flavorful than store bought. Our cardboard version of a food dryer did not last long. Early morning dew and moisture trashed the boxes in a couple of weeks. The kids wanted something sturdier, so I went looking for plans.

That is when I found the book: The Solar Food Dryer: How to Make and Use Your Own Low-Cost, High Performance, Sun-Powered Food Dehydrator

Our next project is definitely a semester-long undertaking. We decided to start an aquaponics project. This is where you raise fish and food in a symbiotic system. Waste from the fish is run through growing beds. Plants in the growing beds feed off of the fish waste and the clay pellets the plants grow in filter out the solid fish waste. Clean, oxygenated water is returned to the fish and the cycle starts again. So far, we have built a small system in order for us to understand all the concepts.

Again, we turn to books and the internet for help. A plethora of aquaponic videos are available on YouTube. The book we used to get started was: Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together

After doing research the kids decided on a modified barrel system. They found an inexpensive source for food-grade 55 gallon drums and they have built several different models of bell siphons. My boys have shopped around for pumps, growing medium, PVC pipe and tubing. We are currently in the process of putting everything together and deciding where we want to put this operation. Space in our suburban backyard is very limited. Once we get it up and running, I will post pictures.

Mesh your project to your children’s interests. If your kids like crafts, try a woodworking, quilting or needlework project. Perhaps you could create something to enter into the state or county fair. The object is to create something, it could be a garden, a craft, a piece of music or a short-story. You are only limited by your imagination. Start a project this quarter and see how it brings excitement into your homeschool.

Posted on 9 February '13 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Solar Food Dehydrator. No Comments.

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