A Homeschool Day

A Homeschool Day

When beginning to homeschool most parents are mystified by how to do it. How do they spend their time and what does a day in the life look? There are just as many options as there are opinions on how to best spend your and your child’s time and resources. While dissatisfaction with public education is on the rise most people do still want a more structured style of education. Some states will require that you teach for a certain amount of hours everyday and require a certain amount of hours per academic year. For those fortunate enough to not live under a dictatorship, 4-5 hours a day and 4-5 days a week will be all your children need.

We recommend a very structured routine and to document what every child did that day and note what progress they made. This should come in handy just in case the state demands proof that your child is being taught. This also helps you note if your child is stagnating in their schoolwork or needs extra attention. The notes do not have to be profound, but they should be kept especially if you have multiple children. Noting what your child had problems with and what you did to help them is not only important for their development but can be beneficial for others as well. An example homeschool day fro a family of three is given below.

 

Setting up a homeschool area is of the utmost importance. Ultimately the nicest this to have is a room dedicated to homeschooling. However, if you can’t dedicate a whole room to homeschooling, dedicate a bookshelf. This bookshelf should contain all of the students books and finished work. Some states require that you maintain the child’s done work for the past 3 years. If you must make due with only a shelf ensure that each child has their own shelf. Work should be done at a table and they should be seated in a chair. No trying to do math problems on the sofa. Try to set them up for success and prevent procrastination by setting up at a table. The more your child procrastinates the less they’ll learn and it will extend your school day. So, try and keep them quick and to the point school days. Remove distractions.

While we do recommend structuring their routine and curriculum there is still a lot of variance that can be implemented. One of the best forms of variance that also develops your child’s creativity is to dedicate the afternoon to constructive activities. Let the afternoon be the time in which they engage in handicrafts, music, art, cooking, woodworking, programming, AutoCad, and other hands on activities that can become hobbies, life skills, or the basis for what type of job they may want. These activities are also able to reinforce things that they have learned or may want to learn. Spending time learning to play a musical instrument can be a good tie into history by learning where and how the instrument was first made. Learning woodworking is great for reinforcing fundamental math skills such as fractions when measuring.

Initial Homeschool Curriculum Advice

Initial Homeshool Curriculum Advice

After learning the laws, it is now time to pick a curriculum. Most people end up spending more money than they need on their first year. This happens all the time, but that doesn’t mean you should do it! The curriculum could be great, but the way the material is presented might not mesh well with the student. In other words, you just lost all your money.

We recommend starting with Discovery K12 as it is an all in one non-common core online homeschool curriculum.  They have everything you need for: Language Arts, Reading/Literature, Math, Science, History/Social Studies, Visual/Performing Arts, and Physical Education. The primary reason we recommend this service because it is entirely free for the student. And I mean entirely. This allows you to start immediately at no cost. However, free for the student does not mean free for the parent. It does cost $100 per year for the parent to oversee the student account, but the parent account can oversee any number of students. I do not believe there is an upper limit for the number of students either.

Another great benefit of using Discovery K12 and having the parent account is that is has built in attendance, quizzes, tests, grades, and printable transcripts. This is useful for providing documentation of your child’s education. Discovery K12 has been used with success in even the strictest states such as New York. For some parents, the most important part of this will be the grades and pre-made assignments because it does the work in an unbiased way.

To be clear, we do not believe that Discovery K12 is the best homeschool curriculum. Because there is no best homeschool curriculum for everyone. Everyone learns differently and that is great. However, this is an inexpensive way to figure out where the child’s education gaps are. Instead of spending money on an expensive curriculum, we suggest using this inexpensive option as a complete curriculum that works for a lot of people. The first year is all about figuring out where your child is in education. They could be better in some areas and worse in others. Save your money for when you figure out what your child needs help with.

Discovery K12 may be the only curriculum you ever need to use. But the odds are that something will not click with your student and that it perfectly ok. If you do find the gaps and need additional help, we are curating material for each grade by subject. There is a decent amount there right now and we are looking to grow. If you have suggestions, please let us know.

Getting Started with Woodworking

Getting Started With Woodworking

Woodworking is one of the most accessible hands on activities. The cost barrier to entry is very low compared to something like welding and the prerequisite knowledge is much less than something like electrical and circuitry. To begin woodworking the only tools you need are a hammer, nails, a handsaw, a measuring tape and if you are feeling adventurous a speed square is a good initial buy. This puts the initial tools cost of tools to start, on average, about $50 to $70 for tools that you will never truly replace or get rid of. This is far cheaper than other hands on activates such as welding which have an initial cost of near $700 for a good enough machine that will not be replaced until it breaks and the necessary safety equipment. The prerequisite knowledge is also quite low as you mostly only need to be able to measure, read plans/blueprints and at most be able to us the Pythagoras theorem.

Besides the tools the only other thing necessary to start  woodworking is a space to work. If you are starting off with the bare minimum tools listed earlier this can be done in a driveway or an open outdoor space. Just make sure to keep track of nails and small metal bits. Starting with the bare minimum tools and taking the advice of this YouTube video and starting off by building a number of workshop style tables. A few plans and examples can be found (here). As described in the video workshop style tables are a great way to start because it gives you a place to work, store tools and equipment, and they are not expected to be perfect they are only expected to work.

There are a number of long term paths available for woodworking but there is a lot of overlap between them on the basics. These basics can be developed with the Basic level projects on the Woodworking page of the hands on section. Our basics section emphasizes cutting, measuring, and gluing. The first few projects can be done with basic hand tools but as talked about by the creator of many of these projects it is recommended to purchase an electric drill, a jig saw, and a circular saw, in that order. Beyond those tools it is up to you and your interests to decide which tools to get next. For people without anyone to learn from video series like these among many others are a good place to start learning tips and tricks, finding more projects, and for inspiration for your own projects.

The last very important point to make is that the skills that are developed in woodworking are incredibly useful in other trades and hands on activities. The fundamentals of measuring, cutting, planning, patience, and problem solving carry over and are invaluable in life as well as in other hands on activities. All of these skills carry over to electrical work, plumbing, welding, machining and 3D modeling in CAD software. A good amount of the tools carry over as well, you will only need to buy bits and blades meant for metal rather that wood for your drill, jig saw, and other tools.

Community College: The Great Stepping Stone

Community College: The Great Stepping Stone



Before getting into the nitty gritty of the article I want to stress that we at Earth to Mars recognize the frustrations many people rightfully have with Colleges in the US. From continuously lowering standards, oversized classrooms, questionable content being taught, and many more problems. Unfortunately, as it stands right now and will likely be for a while, they are still a necessary evil.

The first and foremost advantage of enrolling in Community College is cost savings. With the ever increasing cost of tuition and ensuing student loan debt this cannot be understated. The cost is on average half that of four year colleges per year. With the average cost per year of Community College being about $4k per year or $130 per credit hour versus about $11k per year or $366 per credit hour. This savings is the equivalent of skipping an entire year at a four year college on tuition alone. If you include the fact that most Community Colleges are local which allows you to commute from home or offer courses online saving additional rent or dorm costs the savings are even higher. 

If you have enrolled in Community College with the intention of continuing on to a four year university it is important to know which classes transfer and which do not. Some states participate in a “2+2 Program” which guarantees admission to participating four year Colleges if you meet the stated academic requirements. The requirements are usually to have completed your Associate’s in an accepted degree and to have met a minimum GPA requirement. (Earth to Mars’s resources are currently geared to the most general degree the Associate’s of Science.) If your state does not participate in such a program all four year colleges do have lists of community college to college transfer equivalents. These equivalents can be found by searching for “[four year] courses and transferable [community college] equivalents”. Even with the “2+2 Program” knowing the transfer equivalents is important because some courses only transfer if both part of a course have been taken. This is almost always true for the Lab Sciences. Other times a course will transfer as something else entirely or not at all. 

Community College is also a good option for people wishing to pursue trades. They typically offer certificates and degrees in trades over a large range. From carpentry, machining, welding, electrician, HVAC, plumbing among many other. The teachers for these programs usually have connections to local employers and are very useful for finding local employment in the pursued trades. For homeschoolers these trade and hands on programs can be used as their VOTEC and shop class equivalent. 

To best take advantage of Community Colleges it is important to start as soon as possible. Thanks to the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 you may enroll at any age if you pass the placement test. We recommend replacing the bulk of High School with Community College and trying to start around 14. Most homeschooled children are typically more than capable of this. This also has the advantage of allowing teenagers to take on more responsibility and grow their independence.  This spreads out the cost of going over a longer amount of time while at the same time allowing them to get a massive head start on finishing their Bachelors. 

The First Step of Homeschooling: Legal

The First Step of Homeschooling: Legal

The first step when beginning to homeschool is to learn what the homeschooling laws for your state are. While homeschooling is legal in every state each state has different rules and regulations for how it can be done and pulling your child out of public schooling can be rather difficult. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is the number one source for finding the laws for your state. There is a large range of regulations for the states from no notice required to take your child out of the public school system to highly regulated where the parent must provide quarterly reports to the state. There are more nuances that those for each individual state and the specifics can be found on the HSLDA website.

The reason that we advocate for the HSLDA is because they are one of the main groups that fights and wins court cases on behalf of the homeschool community. They come to the aid of individuals that are fighting against a system that is unfriendly to homeschoolers. A small sample of their current News Updates at the time of writing this article shows this.  They were one of the first to tell the Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice that they had no legal authority to make a list of homeschooled students in the state of Michigan. They also came to the aid of an aspiring sheriff, Leslie Agro, when his application was rejected because the South Carolina sheriff’s office erroneously believed his homeschool diploma did not meet the minimum education requirements for the position.

Without membership they provide up to date legal requirements for homeschooling by state and links to resources to aid you. The membership is $12/month and is very much worth it. For members they will help in your filing of paperwork, help in choosing a curriculum, and most importantly legal defense for no extra charge. If your state government or local school district is giving you trouble and in some cases harassing you and your family for homeschooling they will be there to fight for you in court. With the rapid increase in homeschooling over the past year that does not look to be slowing down the government will almost assuredly be increasing the legal difficulty of homeschooling and groups like the HSLDA be doing their best to keep them in check.