Back to home schooling
For most families, back-to-school time means heading out to take advantage of school supply sales, clothes shopping and stocking up on fruit cups, puddings and other lunchbox staples. It’s a time when kids look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones, and parents return to the familiar school routine—putting kids on the bus, the security of knowing they are in class all day, followed by the ritual of evening homework.
But for families who home-school or cyber-school, the preparation for a new year of learning can be different.
Keep it simple
“We really don’t bother with a lot of fancy stuff,” said Jamey McClintock of Dillsburg, who home-schools six of her seven children. They clean out and reuse the same three-ring binders each year. They don’t need to purchase character-themed notebooks, lunchboxes, pencil pouches, etc. and do not need a lot of expensive school clothes. Instead, they put they money into materials like craft supplies, so they can do a variety of projects throughout the year.
“Back-to-school for us, focuses on reassessing goals,” said Amy Gaskin of Camp Hill, whose daughters Ronnie, 8, and Alexa, 6, attend Agora Cyber Charter School. Gaskin said her biggest chore is to organize all of the cyber-school materials that arrive at the door in August.
For Katie Meo of Harrisburg, who home-schools three of her four children—William, 8, Anthony, 7, and Natalie, 4—getting ready for school means ordering textbooks and planning her curriculum. “I tend to be an organized person, so I’m getting it all done on paper, making lists, daily plans and getting curriculums ahead of time,” said Meo, who plans to start teaching the last week of August or first week of September.
McClintock said it’s also fun to get kids involved with back-to-school time by letting them choose some of what they’ll learn. Her children help decide what they learn by picking what topics to focus on in history, science and spelling.
Also, logistically, since the classroom is in the home, cleaning, organizing closets and getting home improvements done before school starts is also a priority for many families, said McClintock, who is president of the Harrisburg Area Homeschoolers Association.
The Harrisburg Area Homeschoolers Association was created to encourage, support and inform parents who home school. “We have 299 families right now over five counties [Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry and York],” McClintock said.
The group offers classes, activities, co-ops and homeschooling communities through a website, http://HAHAofPA.org.
Gaskin said she believes it’s critical to find opportunities and activities beyond the classroom. “Your real education comes from what you do with you free time and everything else is a supplement,” she said, adding cyber schooling allows her girls to meet the state’s education requirements, while the rest of their home education encompasses their everyday lives and focuses heavily on their personal interests and goals. “I like sewing the best,” said Ronnie, who also enjoys doing art projects and cooking with her sisters Alexa and Penny, 3.
McClintock said she meets many other home-school families and gets ideas during the annual curriculum fair hosted by the Christian Homeschool Association of Pa.
Doing your homework
A key preparation for back-to-school is meeting the state requirements, McClintock said.
Many charter and cyber schools have a streamlined system for submitting forms. For Gaskin, the Agora Cyber Charter School handles all of the paperwork, so she doesn’t have to submit any forms on her own.
But most home-school parents must make sure to submit to their school district a state-required affidavit and a list of objectives for their children ages 8 to 17 by Aug.1.
For Meo, this is the first year she will have to submit the paperwork for her oldest child, William. Like a bricks and mortar school, parents must also submit medical records to show immunizations are up to date.