For a time we had a small school in our home using the Charlotte Mason approach with elements of classical education. Part of that time, we had an unlikely “class” of almost full time instruction. Our next door neighbor’s nephew lived with them while his father drove a truck for a living. Andrew was in Kindergarten. We had another student in the 6th grade – Drew. Other students formed part of our Charlotte Mason home school learning center. Many in that group grew up with us and later graduated from Academy Northwest. Once that happened, possibly because of a downturn in the economy, our groups were in middle and high school. Those were enjoyable days.
Over the years we did a number of field trips that helped us understand the Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark’s Journey of Discovery and other Pacific Northwest History highlights. On one occasion we went to Oregon to see The Oregon Trail museum and Fort Clatsop. Further, on another occasion we stayed overnight at the Pioneer Farm closer to home. Each of these occasions provided time to bond with our families and, of course, to learn about our past. We can learn much by understanding how our home developed.
Many state home school laws require some sort of assessment either annually or during specific grades. Even if it is not required, it can provide you with additional helpful information. Most Teacher Consultants of Family Academy / Academy Northwest’s provide standardized assessments and / or non-test assessments because Washington State’s home school law requires home school students to have either a standardized test or a non-test assessment each year.
Standardized testing usually requires the student to fill in circles on an answer sheet. Scoring is according to norms (sample group of students) and produce grade equivalents, percentiles and stanines relative to that sample group of students. This requires that the test be given under specific guidelines prescribed by the test makers. Examples of these standardized tests include: California Achievement Test (CAT), Stanford Achievement Tests (SAT – not to be confused with the college entrance SAT of College Board) and Iowa Test of Basic Skills. These tests take 2-3 days of testing.
In the Washington homeschool, a non-test assessment must be administered by a certified teacher currently working in the field of education. However, the law does not define that assessment. Therefore, when looking for a test provider, be sure and ask what the process entails and what kind of information the parent will receive. These assessments usually are only one session.
Our learning center administered group testing of California Achievement Tests for many years. We also provided one-on-one settings for SAT and ITBS. Further, we offered non-test assessments in person for years and continue to provide non-test assessments via Skype.
Graduation, 2006 – Academy Northwest’s graduation program tells the story. All over Western Washington we have “learning centers” operated by Teacher Consultants. Our title, Teacher Consultants includes two of our functions. We teach classes to our students and we consult with their parents. Our model forms a triangle; each part has responsibilities and benefits. Visit our website to see the “Family Academy Way” which illustrates how our affiliate school, Academy Northwest, operates.
Here is an excerpt from that page:
The Family Academy Way includes, but is not limited to:
- Learning within meaningful relationships
- Individualized learning plans
- Professional guidance
- Documentation of completed work (transcripts)
- High standards (raising the bar)
- Personalized help
- Academic and personal excellence
- Reinforcement of family values
If you ask the students, I would venture to say that field trips played a big part in their learning. Over the years we often visited the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum and then we would go across the street to see the Botanical Conservatory. The Karpeles had rotating exhibits on many topics – always interesting and sometimes they fit right in with what we were studying. Then a stop to see exotic plants at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright’s Park in Tacoma topped off the day.
While our students needed to visit the public library for much of their research we did provide them with a lending library that grew over the years. When we moved to Oklahoma, much of our library found a new home in Arrow Academic Center, another Academy Northwest learning center in Bothell.
Some of our activities included a group of students and other included one-on-one studies.
Our students learned about different historical figures through reading biographies. Also, they gained public speaking / acting skills. You probably notice that we had a broad range of ages, 7th – 12th, in our learning center during those years. It is great to know that biographies are available at different reading levels so each student could work on his own level and participate with the class. Some students could have a low reading level, but still presented well in class.
From experience we know that small learning centers can do many things that larger learning centers and schools can do. One thing we did somewhere along the line was a learning center “History Day” as part of our history studies. Our administrator, Candice Childs, came to judge the entries. We had much to learn but we had made the first step.
On another occasion, we had a Toastmaster member come to teach us the art of speaking. Even this Teacher Consultant participated as a student. Sadly, this precious lady planned to retire so we could not get her to come for future students.
Such valuable experiences our students accessed!
As our group began to grow we branched out with more activities. One memorable trip was to Olympia to see the State Capital, meeting with the late Michael Carrell then State Representative and later State Senator. Also, pictured is former State Representative, Gigi Talcott. Further, we went camping with Claire. Claire, a mom of one of our students, contributed greatly to our science program taking over much of the Biology lab work with the students. If I started listing all of the contributions of all of the parents, I would surely forget many. One father of two students actually enclosed our one car garage so that it could be our “learning center” for about a year. We outgrew it quickly. For a while it was our living room, for a while our bedroom and finally it was Ronnie’s office. At this time Family Academy and its affiliate school comprised one organization. Often we have said that the students preferred the Academy Northwest name because it represented the official private school status. At the same time the parents preferred the name Family Academy because the parents remain the primary teachers while the Teacher Consultants come along side to provide support for the students and their parents.
Deuteronomy 6:6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
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After being involved in the lives of missionary children at Evangelical Christian Academy in Madrid, Spain (see photo) from 1979 to 1991, finding my niche in my new home took some time. I tutored for an organization in Tacoma and taught at Heritage Christian School in University Place. While components of these two experiences were similar to what I was doing in Spain, it wasn’t the same. While it didn’t need to be exactly the same, it needed to be right for this new chapter in my life. God used these experiences in my life for His glory and for my good.
While Ronnie and I were corresponding long distance, he still owned and operated a Christian bookstore in a retail location in Lakewood. There had been some opportunity for me to test homeschooling families in Spain, so I imagined that I could offer testing and consultation services through his bookstore once we were married. Meanwhile, Ronnie looked at his situation and knew that marrying entailed additional financial responsibility. Since he gave great discounts and limited his inventory to books that he believed to be consistent with Scripture, it was not supporting himself, much less two people. Several months before we were married, Ronnie closed his bookstore, but maintained much of his inventory.
During the first years of our marriage, we worked for other people, but eventually God led us to work from our home. In 1994 I became of teacher consultant with Family Academy / Academy Northwest as an independent contractor. Family Academy offers services to independent homeschoolers (Able to Teach class and webinars for parents, 1 day academic classes for students and 3 day Outdoor Schools for families) and Academy Northwest offers learning centers throughout western Washington and beyond – a blend between independent homeschooling and private school. Both organizations promote “Family-Directed Education.” Ronnie continued to manage our finances and eventually we began offering homeschool curriculum, Christian books and neurodevelopmental program supplies. Along with my increasing responsibilities with families, Ronnie’s work load of keeping track of the finances and selling materials increased.
As a teacher consultant with Family Academy / Academy Northwest the Lord brought many families to me that faced academic challenges. I had earned a Master’s of Art degree in Special Education in 1989 and developed a program for struggling students in Spain. By 2002, I was looking for more tools to help these students. My Academy Northwest learning center was going well, but I wanted to get to the underlying cause for these challenges and not just supply accommodations. In my search I learned of the neurodevelopmental approach to learning. I began an independent study / internship with the International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalists in 2003 which culminated in certification in 2007.
Follow www.unlockinglearningpotential.com for more Personal Reflections this summer.
One -It’s Legal
In the State of Washington a parent who is homeschooling independently (regulated under the public school sector) must:
- Qualify (45 qt. Hrs. of college OR work with a certified teacher equivalent of 1 hr a week OR take a parent qualifying course OR be deemed qualified by Superintendent of Schools).
- File annual “Declaration of Intent” (ages 8-18).
- Teach the eleven subjects for Grades K-8 (reading, writing, language, spelling, math, science, health, social studies, history, art and music appreciation and occupational education). Or follow the high school graduation requirements for your school district.
- Assess annually (standardized or non-test assessment) (ages 8-18).
With Private Extension Program (regulated under the private sector) a parent must:
- Enroll in program and child meets with the teacher a minimum of 1 hour a week average.
- Teacher plans with parent and evaluates progress.
For the more information regarding homeschool laws in Washington check with www.washomeschool.org. If you are planning a move or currently live in another state, check what other states require by visiting: www.hslda.org.
Two -It Works
Dr. Brian Ray, PhD has conducted research and compiled research done by others to establish that homeschooling works. These studies have looked at different angles – academics, socialization, cost etc. Students who homeschool score high on standardized tests in contrast to public school students.
Home Education Reason And Research
Common Questions and Research-Based Answers about Homeschooling
by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. (available in Store on website below)
National Home Education Research Institute
Home School Legal Defense Association
More and more colleges accept homeschoolers; some even recruit them especially.
Three – It’s Individual
One reason public and even private school does not work for everyone is that we are all different in abilities, interests and learning styles.
- In homeschooling each family can customize an educational program that fits the family and each child.
- You can consider learning styles and learning difficulties.
- You can adjust the schedule according to your family’s needs.
Four -It’s Social
- The family unit is the ideal place to develop social skills.
- What kind of socializing do children get in a room of their peers? Where else in life do we associate with only people our own age?
- There are many opportunities available for homeschoolers to socialize with people outside the home: homeschool band or choir; YMCA physical education classes; sports teams; church groups; scouts etc.
Five – It (Can Be) Inexpensive
Because homeschooling is individual, I can only say that it CAN BE inexpensive. If you choose a very structured, “school-like” homeschool, it can be very costly. However, there are ways to do it with less expense. Options are virtually endless.
- Used curriculum sales.
- Library Materials / living books.
- Multi-level curriculum.
- Field trips / free places and events, seasonal memberships.
- Support groups.
- Homeschool Cooperatives.
- Internet websites.
Maggie Dail, M.A. has been working with homeschoolers since 1994 through Academy Northwest / Family Academy (www.familyacademy.org). She instructs Family Academy’s online parent training course. She began working with International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalists in 2003, becoming certified in 2007. (ICAN – www.icando.org) Now in 2013 she is beginning to work with homeschooling families through Family Academy Online. Maggie and her husband, Ronnie operate Center for Neuro Development. Visit their website www.centerforneurodevelopment.com) where you can find new curriculum items and you can e-mail Maggie for a current list of used items.