Dr. Lybrand and his wife (Jody) of 35 years homeschooled their 5 children from birth to college, where they all excelled in academics and community (University of Texas & Abilene Christian). Dr. & Mrs. Lybrand have combined degrees of 2 BA's, 2 Masters, and 1 Doctorate), Fred and Jody have stuck with their faith and their obsession with practical learning. As a result, the overall theme of "Teaching Them to Learn How to Learn" invades everything they offer. Dr. Lybrand pastored for 25 years and currently coaches, consults, and trains leaders in businesses, churches, and non-profits. Among his client list are the U.S. Air Force, CRU, Be Broken, Continental Resources, State Farm Insurance, and Pioneer Natural Resources. Of course, one of his favorite interests is helping homeschoolers excel, and he does so with the 10 Courses of The Independent Homeschooer Curriculum & directly mentoring parents who belong to the tribe. Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand Jr. www.fredraylybrand.com
No—maybe not early on in your child’s education. Though, if you build it into the system, you’re getting grades every day. For math in particular, we would have our kids do a couple hours of math in two separate hour sessions and we wanted them to maintain a 90% or better over that material. If they dropped below it, we would reduce the number of problems they faced till they got their grades up. If they went too fast through their problems within the hour, we needed to add problems. So we had an ongoing daily grading system.
What you’re facing is when your child graduates high school, you’re going to need a transcript. You’re going to need some information, I’d say, especially for about 9th grade and on. You can check the laws in your area or the colleges you’re thinking of having your kids apply to if they’re going to go to college. But you will need some sort of report card, or transcript of what subjects they’ve mastered, to demonstrate their education.
The easy thing to do when your child is in middle school, is to go ahead and design a transcript for their future graduation. It should show each year, the subjects within that year, etc. Bear in mind that homeschooling has flexibility. We had reading time, but we would fill in books that they would study and maybe even use their writing time to write some reports to cover a subject area. So we had a frame of reading, writing, and math—math eventually became science in the course of time. Writing involved essay writing as well as other kinds of writing. With reading we could throw subjects in like world literature, history, etc. We found this format allowed us to build a transcript the way we wanted it to be. Start with the transcript first, and then just fill in your homeschooling along the way.
There are a lot of places to start. You can ask the advice of your friends who homeschool, you can research, you can google, you can buy books, you can compare curricula, you can poll your kids.
My suggestion is this: get a pad and pen, sit down, and start working on what you want to see after your kids have finished their home education. In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this process is described as beginning with the end in mind.
You want to ask yourself, “What kind of students do I want to produce for this world?” If you value character, that might shape your approach a certain way. If you want your children to be able to work hands-on with tools, that might take you in a particular direction concerning shops and mechanics. If your end goal is to have academic children, especially reading and writing abstract thoughts or mathematics or science—you want to determine what you really want to produce!
Beginning with the end in mind is important because it sets the frame for your schooling. I can tell you what we settled on. We wanted to raise happy adults, not necessarily happy kids. That was a bonus, but our goal was to produce happy adults who could teach themselves. In order to do that, we tried to balance education between art and science and literature. That was our conviction, because we were trying to grow self-taught self-learners.
So where do you begin? I say you begin with a blank sheet of paper, just like an artist with a blank canvas, and start trying to think through what you want your endgame to look like. That’s going to help you pick curriculum, clubs, support, and additional tools for your kids more than anything. Spend time with that and keep revisiting it regularly, because you’ll refine that vision, that picture, of how you want these kids to turn out.
For this question, there are just three things you want to answer.
The first is: Where is your student? If you’re looking to move them to homeschool, figure out where your child is. Determine their grade level, subjects, skills, areas they struggle with. Evaluate where they are, right now.
The second is: Where do you want them to be? I would recommend looking at a year out from now. Where do you want your child to be in math, writing, reading, etc? Having a clear destination is going to help organize your homeschooling. So you understand where your student is now, and you understand where they’re headed.
The final question: What will it take? To make sense of schooling, you figure out where they are, you figure out where you want them to be in a year, and then spend some time making a plan to get them there. What will it take? What will it take to get there? You might get help on that one from other people. Still, it’s important for you to spend time planning the year out. You need to formulate a game plan. Oftentimes, most of us are stymied, or stopped like a deer-in-the-headlights, because we don’t know what to do next. When you work out a plan by answering “What will it take?” you’re going to know what to do next. And you get in motion.
This question is sadly more common than one would think. Why do some kids hate homeschooling?. It’s similar to hating a food, like spaghetti. Two or three of our children hated spaghetti—I don’t know why. Hating school, hating some activity is actually a hint to us, because what’s really going on with hate is probably a reward structure. Your child is actually being rewarded to grow their hate or frustration.
When you see a consistent behavior in your child, that behavior is somehow rewarded by you, or by something intrinsic in the child that connects to what’s going on. So, if a child complains about school and the response is for them to not have to do it, well, that’s reward. So technically you can be training your own child to hate school. I would ask you to consider what exactly do they hate. Get a pen and paper out and just think, “What is it they hate?”
Do they hate math? Do they hate how much time they have to spend on math? Do they hate that they don’t understand it? Is it making them feel dumb? Do we not have some way to measure and show their improvement? Do they hate reading itself, or do they hate what they’re reading?
It’s common for children to hate writing, which is why we developed a whole course on it. This hatred comes from the psychology of your child, along with their griping and getting away with it. What I mean by the psychology of your child, when they write, is that they’re trying to write something perfect, which you can’t do to begin with. As a result, they hate the experience of trying to write something perfect and it doesn’t turn out perfect.
This problem is going on in their head. It needs to be sorted out and I can tell you, concerning the way we humans learn, one of the most important things is to just establish Okay, Get Help, and Make It Great. So, let’s do an okay job for starters, and then we’re going to give you some help, some feedback on your writing, and then you make it great. This is a part of the challenge.
Your child hating something is not authoritative. They need to learn to tolerate school, not disrupt the family about it; in the course of time they may surprise themselves when they become competent with a subject. When their competence grows, children tend to feel good about school. They may even begin to enjoy school, but at the very least they will tolerate it.
This question is personal to us because our first child has cerebral palsy. We didn’t plan to home-educate all the way to college (even though we ended up doing so), but we wanted to get our son far enough along so that he wasn’t labeled by his disability. The risk with testing is that it can function as a labeling game. If you test kids early enough, they can start getting labeled in their mind about where they think they are, if they’re smart, or not smart, gifted, or not. That kind of fixed mindset orientation does not serve anyone well in life.
So when we think about this whole question about needing to be tested, I would say: yes: your student does need to be tested. Chances are, your state may require it. You need to check on those regulations. But how soon do they need to be tested? What we began to make sense of concerning homeschooling was that our testing needed to be really engaged, probably by the time they’re around 12 or 11. When our children were young, we weren’t dramatically concerned about testing them. But when they were older, each day had some form of testing. They would do a certain number of math problems each day, and the goal was for them to score a 90 % or better, and then work on their corrections. Or, they had to read a certain number of pages and then give feedback to show they comprehended what they read. Small tests like that to make sure they understood what they were studying.
But that kind of testing is not the same as a timed test where your student learns the skills that they’ll need for the ACT or the SAT. That kind of testing becomes valuable because it’s a measurement of your student’s abilities. As we know from the management world, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and you tend to get more of what you measure. So this measurement process by testing turns out to be pretty helpful. It prepares your child with the discipline, the knowledge, and the confidence to know that they can survive being tested. It gives you feedback, marks progress, and maybe uncovers some areas where they need improvement. Your student will need testing for sure, but be wary of testing too young and labelling your child as smart or not smart. You don’t want to limit their ability to grow because of a one-time score. Whether or not you have a bright child, they need to develop the skill of working hard. But, eventually testing is useful, especially when determining how well your child is doing in a given subject. It is your prerogative as Mom and Dad to figure out when testing is right for your student, and how to engage in a feedback loop on a regular basis, all within the boundary of what your state and local municipalities require.
I would ask and answer the question: what do you want? What you want for your student and what you consider “homeschooling” will affect your budget. If you want to add supplemental courses or art, music, sports, and activities, the price can certainly go up for homeschooling proper.
Even with those extracurriculars, homeschooling still provides a shoestring opportunity. Lots of homeschoolers are respectful and appreciative of homeschooling, because it saves them a lot of money. They’re not fighting a financial battle in private or public schools. There are all kinds of expenses at private and public schools: clothing, competition expectations, presence, and a variety of things that just make the whole endeavor expensive because of the social dynamics involved.
I would say this: a reasonable budget that you ought to be able to follow very safely would be about 1/3 of what a private school costs. That might even be extravagant in some ways. Check in your area and figure out what private schools cost, and use 1/3 of that as a budget. I think you’re going to find that to be a pretty nice focusing strategy for you. It makes your budget reasonable, but keeps it efficient.
Yes: if it’s helpful, cheers for them, and helps them support other families. It might offer you some valuable material that will help you be protected in case of some legal issues. It’ll probably give you a little more information that you can pass on to other people—so, sure, if you want to join it.
The other answer would be No. If you’re in Texas like us, we were quite protected, legally, and never ran into any problems. Never knew any problems, so there really wasn’t a need. This decision mostly depends on what state you live in. Some states I’d probably join it before I even mentioned the word “Homeschool.”
The third option is just simply the word Later. So if you don’t join now, you can join later. You can join when you need help. You can join when you know more. It’s something to investigate and decide for yourself.
To clarify, learning disabilities are a little bit different than special needs. Learning disabilities are things that are in the way of our learning. My wife, Jody, has dyslexia. As a young girl, she struggled with it and had to go through special training, and still managed to finish school with really great grades and a Master’s degree.
I almost want to rename “learning disabilities” to something like “learning hindrances.” These are just obstacles in the way. Sometimes these “disabilities” are not genuine disabilities. Oftentimes what matters is the environment that you put your student in. Let’s consider someone who is highly distractible. They’re the kind of person that you actually want to put into a context like working in an emergency room, if they have the skills for it, because they can be interrupted. There are other people who don’t like interruptions; they’re not good in emergency rooms. They need to be in a more manufacturing or more consistent office kind of context where they’re working through their data sheets and getting things done.
Sometimes our culture labels biases and personalities as disabilities, so I think that’s something you should consider and appreciate regarding your student.
From there, all you’re trying to do is figure out three things for your child.
1: Where do they want to be? Or where do you want them to be? What are you trying to get them to?
2: Assess where they really are. What exactly is their challenge in this disability?
3: Think up a plan.
We’re trying to move from: where your student is—to where you’d like them to be—using a plan. Very simple process. In other contexts, we like to call that Here, There, and Path. There is where you’re headed, Here is where you are now, and the Path is your plan to help your child with these challenges, these hindrances, to get to a new place.
Number 1: There is value in having insight into your child’s approach to learning. You can help them by rearranging schooling or encouraging their efforts to their benefit. Some years ago, a good friend of mine, who’s quite good at tennis, was frustrated about his backhand. His backhand stroke wasn’t as good as his forehand. One day I said to him, “Why don’t you just run around your backhand and hit the ball with your forehand?” He had quick feet, so he started doing what I suggested. His game improved because he was using his strength to overcome his weakness.
Number 2: Concerning learning styles, the most recent conventional way to learn is from the neuro-linguistic folks, where they talk about VAK: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Generally speaking, children (and all people) resonate with one of those methods more than the others. Some people are more visual by the way they absorb information, communicate, and work with it. Some people are more auditory, and some are more kinesthetic (hands-on). They like to touch what they’re studying and trace it. Montessori schools figured this out with younger kids, how well they like to learn kinesthetically. Kinesthetic learning also can be about feeling the subject, or what the student is feeling. So it has that visceral, human, real world aspect to it.
Understanding which style your child favors can help. I can remember one of our kids had memorized some material, a card deck of vocabulary words, and had learned it by sound. But I dropped the deck one day, so that the words were picked up in a different order, and in quizzing my child I realized they weren’t exactly learning the words. They were learning to mimic them to recite them, but not processing the words into their brain. Which leads to my third point.
Number 3: Your child is a whole person. They’re not just visual, they’re not just auditory, they’re not just kinesthetic. They’re a combination of all of those senses. There may be a one-two-three ranking order, you know, like a general, a captain, and a first lieutenant. But I don’t think you want to dismiss any of them. I think they need auditory, they need visual, and they need kinesthetic. Those things, when you combine them, work all the better.
Number 1: Whatever approach or philosophy you take, does it make sense? Can you articulate it? Does your schooling philosophy make sense for your family, for your child’s uniqueness, especially if you have special issues involved. Does our philosophy make sense?
Number 2: Does it work? Sometimes you just need to be honest and realize some things don’t work. For example, I’ll get political here—from many experiments, we know that socialism does not work. It doesn’t work now, and it didn’t work 50, 60, 80 years ago. It’s not going to work in the future because it doesn’t match human nature. It just does not work. At some point we have to be pragmatic enough to abandon things. If your educational philosophy sounds good, like “I’m just going to let my child do whatever they want,” maybe that works for some kids. Your kid, maybe not. If it does not work, you don’t want to take that approach.
The third and final thing is: Is it proven? Do you have an educational philosophy that is genuinely proven. I would suggest you want to adopt something like our strategy. Ours is proven at least in the context of our experiment with our five kids and their educational experience. Our overall philosophy was this: we want to raise happy adults who know how to teach themselves. Now there are things like tabula rasa, the Socratic method, and other stuff that informed our philosophy, and I discuss that elsewhere. But really our goal was, “We want to raise happy adults.” Maybe they’re happy as kids. I’m a fan of children being happy, but the goal is that when they’re adults, are they going to be happy? To live independently and to pursue their own ambitions, they’re going to have to know how to teach themselves. Can they take any subject and know how to break it and find the right information and put it in their brain, so they can understand and use it? That philosophy worked for us.