June 2012

Prison in Bolivia

The setting for Rusty Young's Marching Powder

San Pedro prison in La Paz, Bolivia is a small place; a high walled, nearly windowless building that occupies a city block. There's a nice courtyard across from the main entrance. I used to sit in it for several hours a day during the three weeks I spent in La Paz, talking with locals and playing guitar.

I didn't realize it was a prison at first. Women and children came and went all day through the guarded entrance, the women with boxes of foods or goods for sale and the children with little school backpacks.

Take advantage of your hometown

When you homeschool, like I do, it can be fun to insert a field trip into the schedule at least once per month. You don't have to spend a ton of money or even travel outside of the state to do this.

Just yesterday, I took my two girls and one of my daughter's best friends (she has two) to the local Naval Air Station Museum. My daughter's friends are also homeschooled. Honestly, I didn't even know this museum existed until a friend told me about it. It's only 15 minutes away from my house.

The benefits of joining HSLDA

HSLDA stands for Home School Legal Defense Association. I joined this group last year after receiving a scholarship to purchase my daughter's curriculum for the year. The benefits of this organization are many and I highly recommend it to all homeschooling families.

Perhaps the biggest benefit offered by HSLDA is its legal team. They are ready and willing to help any family that has their homeschooling freedoms violated or threatened. Although the organization is Christian based, they will help families of any religious background.

Next, HSLDA provides detailed information on the homeschooling laws in your state. If you are new to homeschooling, you will need to understand your responsibilities. Some states don't require any reporting, such as New Jersey. Other states are much more strict and require letters of intent to homeschool in addition to reporting and keeping portfolios.

Guns, Germs and Steel

Big questions answered.

As a teacher in Mexico I sometimes get asked by my students why the U.S. and Europe are so advanced while Mexico and Latin America have so many problems. What happened? Why is there such a gap in development between the two geopolitical (as opposed to geographical) halves of the continent?

Or, more specifically, why was it that Europeans colonized America and not the other way around? Why didn't the Aztecs or Mayans build clipper ships, sail to Europe and decimate the European population? This is the fundamental question posed by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel, although the book isn't limited to America, but is about the whole world.

Create your own curriculum

I recently finished creating my own spelling/vocabulary/poetry curriculum for my daughter's eighth grade year. It wasn't that hard, and only cost me a few cents for the paper I printed it on. There are a few steps you need to take if you are going to develop your own curriculum.

First, you need to know what your state's homeschool laws are. I live in the state of New Jersey, which is extremely lenient when it comes to homeschooling. I don't have to report to anyone or even keep records. That gives me a lot of freedom when it comes to creating a curriculum. Other states require much more in the way of records.

Second, do some research to see what should be covered in the grade level of the subject you are developing a course for. I did a ton of searches for eighth grade spelling and vocabulary lists before choosing which ones were right for my daughter. I was shocked at some of the lists, which included words my daughter learned three years ago. This is why it is a good idea to go over a lot of material before making a choice.

Get a head start on college

Homeschoolers don't have to wait until graduation to start earning college credits. I plan on having my daughter take advantage of these opportunities, as they will not only give her a head start on college, but will save money in the long run on the high costs of college.

First, you can enroll your child in AP courses. This can be done by utilizing an online school. Online schools are available for both children who prefer a public school education, and those who seek only a religious education. AP stands for Advanced Placement, and carries with it college credits. Students must pass a test at the end of the course in order to secure the college credits.