Homeschooling 101 (laws and unschooling)


I was pretty certain I was going to screw up my kids if I did it.  I wanted to be a teacher for a while.  I majored in English.  I love all things academic…except math.  But, what if I didn’t do it right?  The kids had been asking for a few years, off and on, to be homeschooled.  I had read in one of my favorite books, Radical Simplicity by Jim Merkel, the recollections of the grandmothers in a village in India where they talked about how once the children went to school they became more immersed in television, consumerism, and a culture that did not reflect that of the previous generations.  The children were losing the knowledge of plants and skills and it felt like a great loss to the elders.

I, too, wanted to teach my children how to garden and about herbs.  I wanted them to read great books and explore the woods on a weekday and breathe in life.  I remembered so clearly being a child sitting in a classroom gazing longingly for the mountains and wishing I were at a nearby park writing poetry and feeding ducks than being cooped up learning who knows what that I would eventually forget.

Meanwhile, Andrew was in his first year of high school.  Near the end of the school year Andrew had a poor grade in one of his classes and I had emailed the teacher a few times with no response.  At the teacher/parent conference I asked her how he was doing.

“Great!” she replied.

“Really?” I retorted.  “Then why is he failing?”

“What is his name again?” she asked as she shuffled through her papers.

I could do this better myself, I decided.

I had always done what my son called, Mommy School.  Workbooks, library trips, writing club, museums, additional things to help them learn more without seeing it as “education”.  So, with that I began researching homeschooling.  I found a lot of information that I had to glean through.  So, here it is in a comprehensive format.  It is specifically for Colorado but most places do not have too many variations.


What?   Homeschooling is the realization that often times parents are the best teachers and that the wide world around children is often kept from them in favor of a classroom where someone else determines what your child will (or won’t) learn.  Homeschooling is an important aspect of homesteading as it teaches children self-sufficiency skills, teaches them values, and lessons, as well as providing plenty of time for reading books they wish to read in trees.

Why? Homeschooling is recognizing that information is retained far better when used and learned on their own accord.  It is unfortunate that the standards in schools have gotten out of hand.  All children are different, yet the standards are ridiculously rigid.  For instance, all children must be able to read by the age of five or they have something wrong with them.  The truth is, children can learn to read anytime from the ages of four to eight, and making them feel as if something is wrong with them starts the cycle of self-esteem issues early.  Children will learn what they need to learn and retain it, much more so if it is on their own terms.

3 kids

When?  Anytime you want.  If you work then it is after work or on weekends.  Think about how much time is wasted in schools with passing periods, settling in time, time getting to and from school.  You can have the equivalent class time in about two hours at home.  This also allows homeschoolers to take vacations when others are in school.  We used to take the kids to New Mexico or Wyoming or Kansas to see hot air balloons (science), art museums (arts), history and science museums, and horse back riding adventures. We would study geography by using workbooks and for each country we would research the clothing, art projects, and foods.  We went to a fantastic African restaurant in a rough part of town that we would never have tried on our own had we not been looking for it for school.  We put cardamom in our coffee and grew seedlings in windows.  We read books and participated in events at the library.  And a lot of the time was spent playing and building forts in the large open space near our home.

Where?  Anywhere you wish.  Learning is everywhere and the sooner we figure out that we don’t stop learning at eighteen years old or twenty-two from college, the better.  We ought to learn our entire lives.  Perpetual homeschool!  

How?  So, you have decided that you would like to give it a go.  Really, worst case scenario, you can always sent the kids back to school.  First alert the school system that you are intending to homeschool.  A NOI is required first.  A Notice of Intent is simple.  Just drop it off at the closest school.

To Whom It May Concern;

This Notice of Intent is to notify you that I will begin home educating my child, Emily Lynn Sanders, 5 days from today, beginning on October 1, 2012. My child is 15 years old and resides at 203 Ute Street, Kiowa, CO 80117. Mailing address is P.O. Box 2012, Elizabeth, CO 80107. The number of attendance hours this school year will be at least 688 hours.

Sincerely, ___________________________________ Date ________

From here, your requirements are to get them evaluated on the odd year, 5th, 7th, 9th grades, etc.  There are two ways to do this.  You can either subject your children to the battery test they offer at the school (which is not intended to help your child succeed.  The schools get pretty testy when they lose your tax dollars for that child) or get someone to write you an evaluation.  It has to be a teacher or a psychiatrist.

The first year we found a lovely lady on a homeschooling Yahoo site.  I sent her the children’s resume and she wrote out a statement that the children were at or above grade level.  This was submitted with a copy of her teacher’s license and we were free and clear for another two years.  She became ill and wasn’t able to help us the next time.  Our lovely waitress at the bar that we shot pool at happened to be a high school teacher and was happy to evaluate the kids.  I sent her their extensive resumes (you would be surprised how much your kids learn) and fifty dollars a kid and she sent in the evaluation and copy of teacher’s license to the school district that we resided in.


Different Ways to Homeschool

You could choose online schooling where the children take online classes and the online school takes care of everything from NOI’s to evaluations.  This to me seemed not unlike the school programs I was taking them out of so I didn’t opt for this course.

You could set up around the dining room table with workbooks from the teacher supply store and books and a fun teacher ledger.  I tried this for four months.  I enjoyed it immensely.  I could make the kids read what books I found the most fascinating, had them learn all the important sciences that I deemed pertinent, and did math drills.  It wasn’t long before the revolt began.  “This is just like school, Mom.”  They were unhappy.  Learning is not supposed to be unhappy.

andy guitar

And that is when I heard of Unschooling.  Sound like the kids are just running buck wild around the farm (or suburbs at the time, in our case)?  They are, kind of.  And learning every second of it.  Once I let them have their freedom the children took on their own studies.

Shyanne became very interested in baking and spent her time reading cookbooks, writing recipes, performing fractions, halving and doubling recipes, writing grocery lists, and figuring finances to afford items.

Andrew was obsessed with music and taught himself how to play the guitar, recorder, banjo, piano, harmonica, and composed his own music with beats and wrote poems to fit the songs.  He also wrote a children’s book, read everything he could on pirates, designed a board game, and completed a finance workbook for real world math.


Emily followed her siblings learning along side them.  She became interested in photography and her business, Emily’s Art and Photograpy, now brings in a little extra cash.

All three kids were active at the library and in youth group.  They were in a writing club and read fervently, whatever they pleased, and often at a higher grade level.  They had more time to find themselves and really embrace their own passions.  They can all spell, read, love history, know science, can keep a budget, and love learning new things.

One of the benefits to homeschooling is that the children do not just interact with peers their own age.  My kids have always been just as likely to befriend someone fifty years their senior as the kid next door.  They have manners, we instilled what values we felt were important (of course, now as adults, they have to find their own way and ideals, but we didn’t let a secular government institution decide their morals for them), and they had a great time being kids.  Playing outside on nice days.  Reading books in trees.

shy and andy

But, I warn you, children raised in this atmosphere are not followers.  They do not do well working for other people their whole lives.  They are ambitious, confident, entrepreneur types.

The kids can still participate in school events.  Shyanne went to prom and participated in a school play.  Emily participated in Cross Country Running.

Where are they now?  Andrew works for a large, growing company in Denver and is the Chief Supply Chain Officer (fourth in the company).  He is twenty-one years old.  Shyanne works at a hardware store, was baking professionally, and was just hired on at a graphic design company to create logos and art on commission.  She will be nineteen Sunday.  Emily works for a restaurant, has her own photography company, and homeschools her toddler.  She is not even eighteen years old yet.  It may sound like a mom bragging, but my point is, I didn’t screw up and you won’t either!

The gist here is that if you feel that it is time to homeschool, then by all means try it.  There is a learning and teaching style for everyone.  For us it was running buck wild in the woods and reading books in trees.





2 Comments Add yours

  1. debweeks says:

    I have one that LOVES book learning. She wants and needs curriculum.

    The other can’t focus on book learning for long and would much rather play and explore.

    At ages 7 and 5, each are experiencing many different things and learning much along the way.

    I believe their education is enhanced tremendously because of homeschooling.

    In the State of IL, homeschools are considered private schools. We don’t have to contact our local school district or seek permission to homeschool. We have no reporting or testing requirements. Illinois state provides homeschoolers a tax credit for monies spent on curriculum and other education expenses.

    I feel fortunate to be in a homeschool friendly state and to be provided the opportunity to educate my children at home. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it to me and especially to my kids.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and letting others know how successful homeschooled kids can be.

  2. Llza says:

    We have just started our Homeschooling journey 15 weeks ago for the first time ever! It’s a challenge, but my hopes for this next semester is to be filled with more hands on field trips and more sanity breaks for me ;-). You inspire me in so many ways!!!

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