Educating Locally. Learning Communally. Living Freely.

Legislative Update from SCHEA

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Many thanks to South Carolina Home Educators' Association for passing this along!
 

Tax Bills - H4624 & S279

There have been several questions about two bills that are currently in the legislature in South Carolina--one in the Senate and the other in the House.  There are some differences in them--one is a credit against your taxable income, the other is a deduction against your taxable income.  One would go into place this year, the other next year.  Neither one of these bills is tied to family income.  Since both of these bills are deductions or credits, they would not have the strings attached that a voucher would have.  Essentially they would allow you to keep what is rightfully yours anyway and would help to offset some of your expenses.
Here is the problem.  S 279 was introduced in January of 2013 and has been sitting in the Senate Finance Committee ever since.  H 4624 was introduced in February of 2014 and is currently sitting in the House Ways and Means Committee.  In order for either one of these bills to pass, they need to be passed before this legislative session ends in May of 2014--just two months from now.   After that, they are null and void and the process will need to begin again in January with a new legislature.   That means the bill needs to come out of committee, be voted on on the floor, be sent to the other chamber, go through committee and be voted on there.  All of this is possible--but not likely unless our legislators begin to feel some pressure. 

 If you like either one (or both) of these bills, this is the time to do something about it. Waiting until Home School Day at the Capitol will be too late.  You can go to www.bosticlaw.com  to sign and share a petition.  There is also a Facebook page for H4624. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SCHomeandIndependentSchooling/. Either send your representative an email thanking them for their support or an email to encourage their support; ask them to sign onto this bill as a co-sponsor.   Your legislators need to hear from you!  They value your input.   You can find more information at www.schea.net/legislation
 
H 4624 Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, a parent or legal guardian who teaches one or more qualifying students at home as authorized pursuant to Section 59-65-40, 59-65-45, or 59-65-47 may claim a credit against their State of South Carolina taxable income of up to five thousand dollars but not to exceed amounts spent on instruction-related expenditures. The credit allowed by this subsection may be claimed fully for the tax year in which the home school term begins provided the qualifying student completes the school term for that school year.
 
S 279  Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, a parent or legal guardian who teaches one or more qualifying students at home as authorized pursuant to Section 59-65-40, 59-65-45, or 59-65-47 may take a deduction against their State of South Carolina taxable income of up to two thousand dollars per home school student for instruction-related expenditures.  This deduction is limited to a total of two thousand dollars per child per year regardless of the number of taxpayers incurring home school instruction-related expenses on behalf of that child. The deduction allowed by this subsection is fully deductible for the calendar year in which the home school term begins provided the qualifying student completes the school term for that school year.
South Carolina Home Educators Association
PO Box 2707, Irmo, SC  29063
803-772-2330
schea@schea.net
www.schea.net

Great Resources: Multiplication Mosaics

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Amazon
  I started the school year with fresh resolutions to help my daughter memorize all her multiplication facts.  I had a nice pack of multiplication flash cards to help us, and we worked very hard for about three weeks - until we got sidetracked by other projects.  I tried a few times to pick back up on the flashcards, but I wasn't able to get them into our school day on a regular basis. 
  So I was very excited (probably more than my daughter) when she unwrapped a package from Grandma and pulled out this book: Multiplication Mosaics by Evelyn Christiansen.  I quickly added it to my lesson plans for the second semester, and we are now merrily working our way through the book - and memorizing math facts at the same time!
  The book is set up as a fill in the blank.  Each problem is set up in the following manner: 8 X __ = 16 (orange).  The student must fill in the missing number.  Then using the multipliers she finds the appropriate box and fills it in with the listed color.  If the student works each problem correctly, the chart quickly becomes a beautiful pattern or picture. 
  There are 30 mosaics in the book, so we don't do one every day - I reserve them for days when we have lighter math lessons.  So far we have made trees and flowers, dinosaurs and trucks.  It is fun to see the pattern emerge as we work each problem.
  The problems are presented in a fairly sequential order, so most of the first patterns are colored in the bottom left of the grid.  As we have progressed, adding problems that take us into the 7 and 8 multiplications facts, the patterns have spread across the grid.
  And the math facts seem to be sticking pretty well too.  Where she often had to stop and calculate problems like 4 X 6, now my daughter fills those in quickly and moves on to the harder problems. I haven't told her this, but she is also getting some good practice plotting items on a graph.
  The publisher, MindWare, also has books for addition, subtraction, division, decimals and Pre-Algebra.  Each book is $12 or $13.  You can find them on Amazon.com or on Fat Brain Toys.  Fat Brain Toys has sales pretty often so keep your eye out for a better price.
  If you or your student are discouraged by flashcards, I highly recommend Multiplication Mosaics.

Logic - Or What Do They Teach in Schools These Days?

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Pinterest
"Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "What do they teach in schools these days?  There are only three possibilities.  Either your sister is lying, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth.  You know that she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad.  For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth."    -  The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  This is one of my absolute favorite parts of the entire Chronicles of Narnia series.  I love how Peter and Susan, trying to be so mature in the way they handle their squabbling brother and sister, go to Professor Kirk for advice, and he stands them on their heads with logic, forcing them to think through the situation rationally.
   Until this fall, I quoted this to my kids a lot.  One of them would draw a rather nonsensical conclusion from a conversation, and I would wonder aloud, "What do they teach in schools these days?"  But as I was mulling over our curriculum for the current year, I was rather chastened to realize that as my children's teacher, I am the school and perhaps I should stop wondering why logic is not taught and teach it already!
  So why teach logic?  In short, because it doesn't seem to come naturally to many people.  Some people are really good at putting two and two together.  They can look at an argument for or against something, compare it with information they already have and reach a logical decision or conclusion.  For other people relating information they are receiving to information they already have doesn't seem to happen easily, if ever.  And I have noticed with my own children that this is something I must guide them in rather than expecting this skill to be innate. 
  Learning how to think and reason and come to rational conclusions really is the basis of all learning.  Without the skills to consider a topic and compare it with other information, memorizing facts and dates is useless.  It is learning how to apply those facts and dates to the issue at hand that is important.
  And so, as we go through our English and our Math and Science and Social Studies, I try to show my students how what they are learning builds on what they already know, and stretch their minds to further applications of the principles we are learning.  I am trying to connect the dots of all the things we discuss into a cohesive education that will prepare them to go into the world with good thinking skills.  And along the way I am trying to help them learn how to connect the dots for themselves so that even when their formal education is over they will go on adding to what they have learned.
  This year I picked a couple of books that would help me teach more formal logic. These books use examples to explain how to think about various arguments which are presented.  For example, my daughter just finished a section on "All Statements".  In an all statement, students are given a sentence which applies to an entire group (All cats are mammals) and then asked to evaluate a second sentence based on the first (This animal is not a mammal; the conclusion then is that the animal is not a cat.).  It seems very simple to spell it out like that, but learning on simple sentences helps students to identify the same structure when they are confronted with more complex arguments.
  As an added benefit, my kids really look forward to our logic lessons (it is the first thing they want to do on Friday mornings).  They enjoy looking at the words and learning how they relate to one another.  They enjoy seeing the patterns and sequences in the logic book, and I gladly apply them to our other subjects when it seems appropriate.

What about you?  Do you teach logic?
 

Connecting with Other Homeschool Families

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Pinterest


Community Question:
  My family lives in a rural part of the state and we attend a small church without many children.  Co-op classes or sports programs are not a good option for my family.  How can we connect with the homeschool community?

  You may not be as alone as you think.  There are support groups all over the state that get together on a regular basis for activities, and unlike co-ops and other classes, there is often no fee to join or participate.  Check out the support groups page on www.schea.net to find a support group in your area.
  Try your local library.  Libraries are a great source of fun, free activities.  Our library offers activities specifically for homeschool students at many of its branches.  They also have a great variety of offerings for all ages from toddler classes to family film nights to knitting groups.
  Consider taking part in some of the statewide events coming up this spring.  The Home School Day at the Capitol is coming up on April 30th.  All events are free, and if you get the code from the SCHEA website the week of the event, parking is also free.  Homeschool families from across the state will be there so this is a great time to connect with other families - and you never know you might just find that some of them live nearby.  All the information is on the SCHEA website: http://schea2.azurewebsites.net/
  In a similar vein, the Teach Them Diligently conference is coming up April 3-5 in Spartanburg.  Admission is $65 for the whole family, and there are plenty of events planned for the kids as well as the parents.  For more details check out the website: http://teachthemdiligently.net/locations/spartanburg-sc
  Be sure to check out the recent ads page of the blog for other events coming up.
  Finally, if you are looking for a little encouragement for yourself, consider getting involved in one of the online communities for homeschoolers.  Our curriculum provider has a forum where parents can ask questions and connect with other parents who are using the same books.  I did a quick search of general homeschool forums and found several to choose from.  Please do note that while the internet can be a great place to connect with people, you should be careful about giving out personal information.
  These are just a few ways to get involved in the larger homeschool community.  But I'm sure there are other ideas out there.  If you have an idea for connecting with the community please comment below.

Why It Matters - A Word from the Administrator

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Thursday, March 6, 2014



   Written by Martha Freitag        
            This has been an interesting week in the PHEA office . . . one where someone is asking the question, “Why does it matter?” while someone else is experiencing the pain of finding out the hard way that it really did matter.  What is ‘it’ you ask?  RECORDS.  Records and more specifically turning them in to PHEA.
            This week we have had two families wanting to register with us.  They have high school students – seniors actually which makes the issue even more critical.  Neither wants to turn in grades to us, so they are asking, “Why does it matter?”
So here is the answer to why it matters.  First, we all know that the home schooling law in South Carolina requires us to do semi-annual progress reports.  By the time your student is in middle school, these reports should be in the form of numerical grades.  (The exception to this is with our special needs students.)  This means you do have the records, so the real question is, “Why do we have to send them in?”
Most of you know this is a fairly new policy for PHEA so let me explain how it came about.  All home school associations are accountable to the State Department of Education.  When they make a law or give the authority to another entity to make the rules, we have to abide by the laws and rules.  These laws and rules (especially the rules) are subject to change.  When they change, we have to change as well.
One of the laws is that we must use the South Carolina Uniform Grading Policy (SC UGP).  We began helping parents with transcripts as the SC UGP can be confusing to work with.  Around that same time, the Commission on Higher Education (CHE) changed the rules of how to apply for the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship.  Originally home schoolers could apply directly to the CHE for the scholarship.  There were so many issues with the GPAs and transcripts that the CHE made a rule that home schoolers could only apply through their associations and just like that we had to change.  In order to apply for the scholarship, the associations had to provide a class ranking.  As leadership at the CHE has changed, so too has the interpretation of the rules that are in place governing this scholarship.  It has gone from 1) telling the top seniors and just providing the names and school districts of the rest of the seniors (no addresses or other identifying information) to 2) doing a GPA for all seniors to 3) doing a class ranking for sophomores, juniors and seniors (because students can qualify in each of those years) to 4) providing a document to the CHE stating our policies on who and how we do the class ranking.  We have to abide by this if we want to be able to nominate students for these scholarships.  So a large part of why it matters is because PHEA has to follow the law and the rules.  When a family does not follow our policies, they actually put the entire association and all its members in jeopardy.  The State Department could revoke our status as a legal association.
There is however another reason, much closer to home for why it matters.  As home school parents, we pour our heart and soul into preparing our children for the life ahead of them.  We would not intentionally do something that would make their future more difficult, but sometimes we are too short sighted and do not follow through with paper work.  I have had countless parents tell me, “My senior is not planning to go to college, so we don’t need to do a transcript.”  This brings us to the family who learned the hard way why it matters.  Every year we receive requests for older records, sometimes from the parents, sometimes for the students themselves.  It may be that there was a fire or flood that destroyed the records or it may be as simple as the parent not keeping the records once the student has left home.  This week we had a young lady ask for copies of her transcript and diploma.  When we went to the file, we had nothing for her.  We checked the family’s file and they were not registered with us during her senior year, though they were registered both before and after that.  We have no record that the family home schooled or that the girl graduated.  Our hands are tied – we are unable to help her because her parents did not follow through with the paper work.  And here is the really rough part, the girl graduated in 2004!  Now, ten years later she needs her records and there are none.
None of us knows what the future holds.  We may have a student that we know for sure will not be going on to college when they graduate.  We do not know however if in the course of their lives, they will decide they do want to go on.  If they do, they will need access to those records.  It is not only for college either, that they need the records.  More places are requiring a copy of the high school diploma for employment.  Also this week, we had a mom call us asking if she could come pick up the diploma she had just ordered rather than waiting for it to come in the mail.  Her daughter graduated in December and was already working.  There was a new law passed that people employed in this field must have a copy of their diplomas in their work files.  If she did not bring it by the next day, she was going to be fired.  We have had graduates contact us to get their records to: to go on to college, to work in their chosen field, and to join the military, even to become a New York City fireman (after 9/11). This young man had graduated from college but the NYC FPD rules required the high school diploma.  Since none of us can tell our children’s futures, we need to do everything we can to make sure they can pursue whatever dream God leads them to.  So next time you sit down to fill out those horrible class ranking forms, do it lovingly, knowing you are making sure your child will have access to their records even if it is ten years from now.  It matters!
 

Great Resources: Spelling Power

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Amazon


Every now and then we run across a book or a website that is particularly helpful.  Maybe it presents a subject in a new or interesting way.  Maybe, like last month’s post on Squeaky Clean Reviews, it puts a lot of great information at our fingertips.  And we want to share them with you!
  For this installment of Great Resources, I want to share a great book that my mother-in-law gave me: Spelling Power by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon.
  As much as I love to read, teaching grammar and spelling are not my strong suits (I’m much better at math where everything is spelled out in black and white and I know not only how the concepts work, but why they work as well).  Until now (third grade), I hadn’t had a good spelling program in place.  Our kindergarten and first grade curriculum didn’t seem to have much of a spelling component, and although we have used the Explode the Code series with some success (and continue to do so), it was clear from my daughter’s writing that we needed to do something about her spelling.  Enter Spelling Power.
  “It is estimated that there are at least 250 spellings for the 44 basic English sounds which exist for each letter.”  Ms. Adams-Gordon points out in her introduction.  Ah ha!  Now I know why we have been struggling.  Sure, short vowel words are easy even long vowel words with a silent e are not so bad, but to as we discovered in our writing assignment on Wednesday, words with ea in the middle can say the long /ē/ sound as in beach or the short /ĕ/ sound as in breath.   
  Spelling Power takes each sound and provides a rule for each of the various spellings along with examples of each.  Then the student has an opportunity to spell various words using each of the options for that sound. For example one rule is: “Words that say /är/ are usually spelled ar as in car.”  This is then followed by a list of fifteen or so words for the parent to read to the student.   The student spells from the given list of words for five minutes, and then studies any missed words using the 10 step study process designed to help students look at words more effectively and remember their spelling.  The remaining five minutes or so of spelling are to be spent on one of the activities in the back of the book to provide extra spelling practice with that day’s words. 
  The words chosen for the book are taken from extensive lists of the words children, teenagers and adults commonly use and misspell.  They are then arranged into ten levels of increasing difficulty.  The level A words are those most commonly used and/or misspelled by younger children (approximately 2nd grade level) while the words in level J are those most commonly used and/or misspelled by high school students.
  At the beginning of the program, the student is tested to determine where to start in the book.  This ensures that they do not waste time going over lots of words that they know.  It also ensures that they will not be spelling so many unfamiliar words that they get discouraged.
  There is a long section at the beginning of the book with all the information you need to get started.  The author explains her method – which she developed for her own daughter who struggled with spelling – in great detail, and provides the answers to why it words.  She also provides tips for how to help a student understand why a word is spelled a certain way.
  One thing my daughter and I both like about Spelling Power is that she does not have to study words that she knows over and over again.  If she spells a word correctly we go on to the next word.  She only has to study and retest words she misspelled.  We usually end up studying a few words from each set – enough to assure me that she does need the practice, but not enough to discourage my daughter. 
  We are nearly done with level B, and I have noticed a great improvement in my daughter’s spelling.  She also has a lot more confidence in her writing assignments; it is no longer a struggle to pull every word from her brain and get it on paper.   
  The Spelling  Power book is a little expensive ($64.95 on Amazon), but the book is designed to be used over several years.  The exercise pages are meant to be copied, so the book can also be used for more than one student.  The book is also available from Life Long Learning Resources in Lyman, if you want to check it out before you buy, you can see Spelling Power at their store.
  If you have a struggling speller or are just looking for something different, I encourage you to check out this book.

Interview with Jennifer Freitag

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Monday, February 17, 2014

  My guest today is Jennifer Freitag.  Jennifer is an author and a homeschool graduate.
  Jennifer Freitag writes fantasy and historical fiction from her home in South Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two cats. She loves reading, especially obscure old works; she loves her family, and she loves tea. THE SHADOW THINGS, a historical fiction, is her debut novel. If you want to learn more about her, check out her website. (www.jenniferfreitag.com)

 From the back of the book:  The Legions have left the province of Britain and the Western Roman Empire has dissolved into chaos. With the world plunged into darkness, paganism and superstition are as rampant as ever. In the Down country of southern Britain, young Indi has grown up knowing nothing more than his gods of horses and thunder; so when a man from across the sea comes preaching a single God slain on a cross, Indi must choose between his gods or the one God and face the consequences of his decision.

You can pick up a copy of The Shadow Things on Amazon or straight from Jennifer's blog.



1.  Tell us a little about your homeschool experience.  What did you like most about being homeschooled?  What did you like least?
Looking back on it, I appreciate being homeschooled mostly because it brought down the dividing wall between life and learning.  Everyday existence included learning English, history, mathematics, etc., and so the mindset of learning was being built into me from an early age, before I even realized what was happening.  I didn’t always like my subjects—what student does!—but as I grew older and more mature I began to appreciate that I was being taught how to learn, and that is something which has stood me in good stead having graduated and begun to work in the “real” world.
2   You started writing while you were still in school.  What made you decide to sit down and write a book?
I didn’t decide, I just did it!  Because my family, bolstered by the curriculum my mother used, was so book-based, I was always reading stories, whether for school or for fun, and I wanted to make stories of my own and write them down.  So I did, and that expression of creativity was fostered in my home atmosphere so that I was able to hone it to the point of being ready to become a published author.
3.  How did your parents influence or support your writing?  Did your mom count your writing as Composition?
On occasion my mother counted my writing as composition, but let’s be honest: my creative writing endeavours at an early age were not always high-grade material.  I do remember having a clash with my mother over my English textbook: I had written a passage a certain way and defended my position by swearing that C.S. Lewis had used the same type of grammatical composition as I used, but my mother wanted me to use the grammatical rules from my textbook.  She won, of course.
In my early years of writing, my family’s support was more a matter of gentle tolerance.  I didn’t show people my writing, so I never got any criticism, but I was allowed to sit for hours at my computer churning out prose and the most ridiculous plots (if plots they could be called), and I was able to gain a degree of confidence that has carried me through many years of maturing and refining so that now I am able to show people my writing and gain a more personal influence and support from them. 
4.  Do you think being homeschooled has affected how you write and what you write?
No doubt it has.  It is no secret that I am an extremely sensitive person: if I had been put in a public school I would probably not be nearly as confident and self-assured as I am today.  That confidence and self-assurance strongly colours the personalities of my characters.  In being homeschooled, I was able to be myself.  Children are tender, impressionable creatures: without the proper nurturing and the right degree of sheltering in their early years while they get their feet under them, they can lose countless opportunities that might have been opened to them otherwise.  I am very glad I was homeschooled for this very reason.
5.  You choose the unusual path of not attending college and obtaining an English or Journalism degree.  Why?  Do you feel that you missed out on anything by not attending college.
There are two reasons why I chose not to attend college, both of which are very personal.  First of all, I didn’t need it.  Every good author I have read (including C.S. Lewis) has learned grammar and then paid only cursory homage to it.  Having an English degree does not an excellent author make.  I am not at all interested in journalism: it would have been a waste of time and money for me.  Second, as much as I deeply appreciate being homeschooled because of the firm foundation it laid for me, I really hate school.  Having been taught how to learn, and to have the fortitude to do so, I am much happier pursuing my own instruction at my leisure when I need it, where I need it, with no respect to deadlines and term papers.  It has been my experience that, nine times out of ten, creative writing courses in school have been the kiss of death for a student’s interest in writing.
6.  In The Shadow Things you center on the upheaval to Indi's world caused by the arrival of Christianity.  What was your inspiration?
After all these years, with such a flow of stories under the bridge, it is hard to remember clearly the embryonic state of my debut novel.  Church history was always one of my favourite subjects in school, partly because I simply love history, and partly because I love Christianity.  I have always had a fascination with Roman Britain, in which time period The Shadow Things takes place: it was a natural setting for the story I wanted to tell through Indi’s life.
7.  For those of us who don't write, tell us a little about what you do.  Do you research?  Do you write from beginning to end or jump from scene to scene?
Yes, I do lots of research: but I tend to hide my sources and I don’t always tell people what I am using as material.  That’s a key play in the art of a writer.  When I start a new story, I almost always begin writing with an opening scene, but I have typically already been plotting it for months, toying with scenes, sometimes even jotting down dialogue or skeletons of scenes as they come to my mind. 
8.   If you could give homeschooling parents one piece of advice, maybe parents with budding authors in particular, what would it be?
If your child exhibits any talent in any particular area, encourage it!  Being creative and loving one’s work goes far to conquer the grinding humdrum of the corporate machine and should be cultivated as much as possible.  Parents want productive, happy children: encourage them to excellence in the things they love!
 

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