I just got the new Homeschooler magazine and it is terrific. This issue is the best I’ve seen in years. The range of articles was great.”
~Rebecca, Southern California
Words of Wisdom
Getting Tech Savvy
Minecraft: Teaching the 3 R’s
Hot Links for Homeschoolers
Let’s Go To a Conference!
For 25 years, the Homeschool Association of California (HSC) published The California Homeschooler. Every member of the organization received a copy of this publication, showcasing the lives of homeschooling families in the state of California.
That magazine has been expanded, redesigned, renamed and is now available to subscribers across the United States. Our writers, while many live in California, also come from around the country.
HSC knew that other states were not as fortunate as California with its plethora of options for homeschoolers. For years, various regional, state, and local organizations used HSC’s strong support components as prototypes for creating options of their own. Camping trips, email lists, newsletters, support liaisons were all duplicated around the country.
Susanne, Managing Editor
Sue has been married for 27 years during which she homeschooled three children in Texas, Alaska and California. Her children’s interests took the entire family on a variety of adventures over the years and now she lives with her husband in a little suburb outside of Austin, Texas. The kids come and go. One is in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, another is an actress in L.A., and the third is a hair stylist and recently married. She was a founding board member of the National Home Education Network and was active in homeschooling communities at the local, state and national levels. Sue joins The Homeschooler with considerable experience in writing, editing and publishing. She is currently working on a book, sharing insights from homeschooling teens and grown homeschoolers. Online, you can find her writings at Lifelong Learning.
Willow, Content Editor
Writer, instructor and activist Willow resides in the Bay Area with her amazing son, loving husband and adorable puppy. Her goal is to fill each day with laughter, compassion and empowerment. She can usually be found hiking fantastic trails, knitting on
is a non-profit quarterly national magazine filled with helpful articles and resources for homeschoolers and anyone interested in children who learn outside of a conventional school environment. Readers will find articles that will inspire, encourage, and support their choice to homeschool.
For 25 years, the Homeschool Association of California (HSC) published The California Homeschooler. When that magazine was expanded and redesigned to appeal to a wider geographic audience,The Homeschooler was born. It is now available to subscribers across the country. This magazine is unique because it is published by a non-profit volunteer-run organization. The Homeschooler is sure to be appreciated by all kinds of homeschooling families nationwide!
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The News & You
Unschooling in the World
The Most Repeated Unschooling Questions of All Time
Nurturing Number Knowledge
Getting Past Your Own Math Anxiety
The Homeschool Therapist Column
Dealing with Anger
As a homeschool teacher, do you think of science as a “hard” subject, that is one that requires serious learning and deep discussion? If your goal is to get your kids excited about science, then you are going about it the wrong way. Because young children are instinctively curious about the world around them, it’s natural that they prefer poking and prodding and testing and testing it – in other words playing with science. And that leads to the wonderful ideas that promote science discovery and help them learn more about the process of science.
Play versus Learning Facts
In the traditional science classroom, children are taught to memorize facts; the focus is on rote learning. It’s no wonder that so many kids today are uninterested in pursuing science topics above and beyond what is required in the classroom!
Unfortunately, the rote fact teaching methodology does not involve real science. It is concerned more with helping kids return the right answers in a passive learning framework which involves no risk, no decision-making, and no demands on a child’s inquisitive nature.
Real science has a tangible substance. Real learning of real science involves active participation and teaching kids how to use science by learning the process, not the facts. It encourages them to think, compare, investigate, and experiment. And that can be considered “play” because it’s fun and exciting for kids to learn science in this manner.
Teaching Science In a Playful Manner
When teaching your kids about science, it’s important to get them involved both mentally and physically. There shouldn’t be any concrete answers in their science textbooks and workbooks; instead the curriculum should encourage questioning and help students probe for their own answers based on experimentation and observation. As E. Duckworth states in the 1987 work The Having of Wonderful Ideas and Other Essays on Teaching and Learning, “Any wrong idea that is corrected provides far more depth than if one never had a wrong idea, to begin with. You master the idea much more thoroughly if you have considered alternatives, tried to work it out in areas where it didn’t work, and figured out why it was that it didn’t work, all of which takes time.”
Children want to try to understand the world around them. As they make observations, they will come to conclusions, some of which will be right, others will be wrong. Science becomes fun when kids can take their beliefs about the natural world and compare them to the way things really work, as noted through experimentation. This allows them to play with science and observe the results to form factual conclusions that get them excited about learning more. This teaching methodology encourages kids to let their imagination run wild with new ideas and promotes the continual use of curiosity to form other hypotheses they can test.
Inquiry and discovery lie at the root of the process of real science. This is how scientists work in the real world and it works well for helping your kids get excited about learning science in a homeschool setting.
Many parents believe it is easier to teach homeschool science using the more traditional curriculum that focuses on rote learning. Actually, the reverse is true. A science curriculum that helps the homeschool teacher and student together discover whether or not a hypothesis is correct allows both of them to apply the process of science to everyday life. And that results in real learning of real science.
Pre-existing knowledge is always a factor in how a student learns something new – it’s just how we, as humans, are wired. Even babies, with their very limited knowledge, use what they already know to learn new things, such as basic concepts about spatial relationships, movement, and facial expressions. Previously learned information functions as a filter through which all new information must flow. During this process it is categorized and connected – sometimes accurately, sometimes not – to fit into the existing framework of knowledge.
Knowing that all students – even our own kids – have very personalized ways of thinking about things based on prior experience and knowledge, the homeschool teacher can use it to his or her advantage in the classroom. Here are three ways that students’ pre-existing knowledge can positively affect homeschool teaching.
The setting in which a child learns influences how information is processed. For instance, if you have set aside a particular room in your home for teaching or perhaps even a dedicated space where science experiments take place, that association is important to your child. It is up to you, as the homeschool teacher, to ensure that the associations with this space are positive and do everything possible to encourage investigation, exploration, and “what if” questioning.
Another way you can use the learning environment to your advantage is by taking your child out on “field trips” to places associated with science and other school subjects, such as a museum. Your child’s pre-existing knowledge tells him or her that this place is for both fun and education and that association is a positive one upon which you can build by using innate enthusiasm.
When teaching children, it is important that the methodology helps them properly organize new information to fit with pre-existing knowledge. This helps them transfer the new information learned to future, unique situations.
This can be achieved through a building block process of learning where the student is given a strong foundation of core concepts. Only after those core concepts are firmly in place should advanced learning occur so that students know how and where to organize complex information. The solid foundation becomes the pre-existing knowledge to which new information is added over time.
And finally, the way a teacher manages the homeschool classroom (consciously or unconsciously) also has a bearing on the application of pre-existing knowledge to new concepts. Teachers who rule their classrooms strictly and do not encourage exploration set that norm. It could be that you expect so much from your children they are reluctant to ask questions when they don’t thoroughly understand a concept you are teaching. When it comes to science, this is often reflected by parents setting a goal of rote memorization (the periodic table, the solar system, etc.) when it’s really much more beneficial to help your kids learn scientific inquiry. When you make this the expectation in your homeschool classroom, it will come easily to your students and allow them to expect the freedom to experiment and investigate science.
Pre-existing knowledge always plays a part in learning. Homeschool teachers who discover how to take advantage of this fact by providing the right environment, a learning structure that encourages organization, and a set of expectations congruent with exploration will do the greatest good in helping their children learn.
The dominant image of homeschooling involves one child, or several siblings, studying with their mother in a socially isolated household. While those homeschoolers exist, they appear to be a definite minority, at least among New York City homeschoolers. One reason that most homeschoolers are far less isolated than many people assume is the popularity of small group classes.
Group classes take many forms. Some are taught by parents, others are taught by professionals; some are highly academic in nature, others are primarily intended to be social; some are traditional in their format, others are highly innovative. As a tutor who serves many homeschool families, I have come to strongly support group classes, since they provide an opportunity for a dynamic exchange of ideas among students and an affordable way for parents to ensure that their children are well educated, even in areas where the parents may not be comfortable teaching the material.
My primary personal experience with group homeschool classes is in the area of science. Science is particularly well suited to group classes, for two main reasons. First, it takes quite a bit of effort to get together the materials necessary for lab classes. As an illustration, I recently completed a unit on simple machines with a small group of upper elementary school-age children. his relatively simple unit involved spring scales, three different kinds of the pulley, two kinds of plastic tubing (to make Archimedes’ Screws), as well as copious amounts of odds and ends such as cardboard, rubber bands, and popsicle sticks. It took several hours of concentrated effort and about $45 to get all the required materials together. While this was hardly a heroic level of preparation, it is far more involved than the preparation that normally goes into preparing lessons in arithmetic. The cost/benefit analysis simply makes more sense when that effort is going into a lesson for several children rather than just one.
The more important reason why science is an ideal subject for group lessons is that many parents feel inadequately qualified to teach science. Even at the elementary school level, they may be intimidated by their lack of knowledge and their own perceived failures in the subject. Of course, as the material becomes more sophisticated, these perceived shortcomings only grow, and in fact often turn into real shortcomings. It is my belief that most educated adults could muster enough science to teach their 4th grader with the benefit of some good books, but the same can’t be said for a 10th grader. It really does take specialized knowledge to effectively teach high school science classes well.
Just as a lack of real or perceived knowledge in science means that group classes are particularly valuable in science, other topics that many parents are uncomfortable with or lack knowledge in also make good candidates for homeschool group classes. Poetry, second languages, and more advanced mathematics are all fairly obvious candidates.
Since New York Academics has multiple teachers with different specialties, we are well-placed to offer group classes for homeschoolers in a variety of subjects including a wide range of topics and levels in science, most areas of math, Spanish, poetry, writing, and literature. We make it our policy to tailor the content of our small group homeschool classes to the needs and desires of each group that we work with (although all of our instruction is academically rigorous and secular).