Alabama Bicentennial Schools – An Invitation to Homeschool Families

Alabama Bicentennial Schools

Alabama Bicentennial: Educate & Celebrate

The Alabama Bicentennial takes place on December 14, 2019! Commemoration of this special event began in 2017 and continues through the end of next year. ALABAMA 200 is a helpful resource for facts pertaining to statehood, educator materials, and community involvement.

Turning 200 years old is cause for celebration. However, Alabama did not achieve its many accomplishments by looking only to the past. Profound events in history were made possible by Alabamians actively working toward a better future for themselves and their state.

The Civil Rights movement had its roots in Montgomery. Our state also made possible the first rocket to put humans on the moon and the first open heart surgery in the Western Hemisphere. We are also proud to claim the first Miss America with a disability. Dedicated citizens who believed in a better tomorrow achieved these milestones.

Connect

The Alabama Bicentennial Schools program encourages the youth of Alabama to continue looking toward the future by making connections with local communities. The program is open to all students — public, private, and homeschool. More information can be found here.

We are all encouraged to improve the locales we call home. Achieving these goals requires that we go beyond our classrooms, fellowship halls, and kitchen tables. The key is to engage with the people and places around us.

Engage

Engagement with our local communities is a core belief at NGCHE. One of the state’s greatest untapped resources is its homeschool families. This labor force is available at a time when most other students must remain on school campuses. In many cases, homeschool parents or adult club volunteers can work alongside their youth. Modeling sacrificial behavior and instilling core values in our young people will serve our state well for lifetimes to come.

If your homeschool covering or co-op would like to become involved in the Alabama Bicentennial School program, we urge you to do so. Contact information can be found here on the Be a Bicentennial School flyer. Staff at the Alabama Bicentennial Office who oversee the program have issued a warm welcome to homeschoolers to take part. Project suggestions are available at the Alabama Bicentennial Schools website. Participants may also come up with their own ideas.

Whether you take part in a community-wide initiative, become involved through a covering or civic group, or just decide to volunteer on your own, set aside some time this spring to get to know your communities and the needs within them. Homeschool families have amazing potential to impact the world for good. Let us heed the call to service and be counted among those leading Alabama forward into a very bright future.


To find out how home educating families from Mobile and Baldwin Counties can serve their communities, stay tuned for the launch of the Northern Gulf Coast Homeschool Service Initiative coming in March.


Alabama Bicentennial Schools

Alabama Bicentennial Schools

© 2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

An Update On Our Progress

New Host, New Goals

Spring is almost here, and change is underway indoors and out! Our website’s migration process from the old host to the new is complete. A self-hosted site opens a world of interesting possibilities.

Our website shouldn’t look any different to our followers than before. However, if you do encounter any broken links or irregularities, please report them to us via email. You may also leave a comment on an individual post or page.

Current email subscribers will continue to receive notifications of new posts. Nothing more needs doing in that regard. Our fellow bloggers who follow us on WordPress.com will see our new posts in their WP Readers. Click on the “Follow On WordPress” button to once again receive email notifications when our new posts hit your Readers.

From the start, we have had both short-term and long-term goals for the NGCHE website. We just met one of our long-term goals by self hosting. When it comes to our short-term plans, sometimes we find ourselves responding to needs and circumstances that we had not necessarily anticipated. Such is the case at this point.

The Importance of Email

A common complaint among those who market themselves on social media is the unreliability of today’s platforms. Often algorithms change, with no explanation as to why. Organizations like NGCHE are at the whim of these algorithms when it comes to our content appearing in our followers’ feeds. Many of you just don’t see our posts. The general consensus is that email is the only reliable way to reach people in a timely manner.

At NGCHE we write and share a variety of articles. Some of our content is evergreen, such as our “Dark Side” series and PayPal® article. Other information is time sensitive. We don’t want to receive any more messages like this comment from one of our followers: “Wish we could have gone on that field trip. Saw it too late.”

Visitors to our sight will soon be asked if they’d like to sign up with us via email. The purpose is not to sell, share, or use your information for personal gain. We simply want to communicate with our families as quickly as possible. We can no longer do that by relying strictly on Facebook®, Pinterest®, and the like.

More to Come

Quite a lot has been happening behind the scenes at NGCHE this past couple of weeks. We love to share potential opportunities with homeschool families; but, we have learned the hard way not to count our chickens before they hatch.  Sometimes even sure things don’t work out.

We do have several substantial opportunities to present in the coming weeks. We are never offended if you say, “No thank you. That does’t work for us.” What we don’t want to happen is for a family to miss out on something important to them simply because they didn’t hear of it in time.

And, truth be told, the writer over here at NGCHE headquarters is thrilled with the possibility of generating a regular newsletter. So… What’s keeping you busy this spring?

© 2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

The Henny Penny Homeschooler

Homeschooling The Dark Side

Homeschooling: The Dark Side

Episode III: The Henny Penny Homeschooler

Last week’s Episode II: The Homeschool Pajama Blunder was a comical look at the dangers of relaxing one’s wardrobe a bit too much. This week’s episode is much more sober.

Remember the childhood story of Henny Penny? “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Poor Henny believed something that just wasn’t true. She convinced her friends of the same fallacy, and they came out big losers in the end.

The Henny Penny mentality is alive and well among homeschool circles. In our world, Henny Penny isn’t a high-strung baryard fowl with anablephobia. She represents a segment of well-meaning homeschool families who operate under a belief that is fundamentally flawed. Their mantra is not, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” but “The state is watching! The state is watching!”

What is meant by “the state” and who are they watching?

This is the easy part. The “state” refers very simply to local or state levels of government with the authority to pass or enforce laws. The “who” in this scenario is describing homeschool families.

What is the truth behind the motivation for the Henny Penny homeschool mantra?

• Nobody wants a visit from “the state.” Fewer experiences are more unpleasant than a social worker knocking at the door. And while you might think that homeschoolers on the up-and-up should have nothing to worry about, consider this.

DHR has been called on homeschool families for a variety of reasons, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with actual negligence toward the children or their education. Custody battles. Disputes between neighbors. Feuding homeschoolers have even reported one another. We’re seeing that play out in our own community. (This series isn’t called “The Dark Side” for nothing.)

False reporting is a gross violation of a family’s right to privacy. It diverts resources away from at-risk children. In some states it is a criminal violation. At the very least, the parties who falsely report neglect open themselves up to counterclaims for abuse of process or defamation.

• Nobody wants to be heavily regulated by “the state.” In a place like Alabama where homeschool regulation is low, families want to keep it that way. The general belief behind the homeschool movement is that parents have the right to direct every aspect of their children’s education without government interference. Each new law has the potential to add more reporting requirements or oversight, eroding freedoms that we will never hope to regain once lost.

• Nobody wants “the state” collecting data on their families. Data collection is big business in today’s world. It is collected on school children, in census records, through cell phone usage, at the doctor’s office. Go to a government-run healthcare clinic for sinus problems and you’re likely to have to answer at least one mental health survey before they’ll even discuss your throbbing headache. Even the ACT has begun to ask probing questions about their customers’ access to food and finances.

Who’s securing all this data? How will it be used? Will our particular responses be tied back to us or used in an aggregate data pool? When we don’t know or don’t like the answers, we tend toward caution.

What is the fiction behind the motivation for the Henny Penny homeschool mantra?

Fiction creeps in when we apply the definition of “state” incorrectly. “Local or state levels of government with the authority to pass or enforce laws.” Worthy activities sponsored by state-affiliated organizations are too often snubbed for fear that we’re encouraging some sort of regulation.

The name of an organization does not give it legislative or executive powers. A group called “Mobile County Homeschoolers” exists in our local community. Their name in no way, shape or form means they make or enforce laws, or help to regulate homeschoolers. That’s patently false and ridiculous. They’re just a nice bunch of people who want to communicate their location to others as part of their identity.

Let’s extend that logic a bit further to organizations or agencies that might be affiliated with the state in some way but have no legislative, regulatory or enforcement powers like Alabama 4-H or Alabama Bicentennial Schools. Do we really want to throw them in the “Bad Guy” box and slam the lid?

What is the fallout of being a Henny Penny homeschooler?
The fallout comes when we keep our own children out of programs and opportunities that benefit them and our communities. Many reputable organizations also perform community service. Being a Henny Penny in that situation has a double negative impact. Why would we turn our backs on opportunities to enrich our children’s lives and benefit our communities as well?

I was a vetted Alabama 4-H volunteer for several years and helped to charter an Arts Club. More than once I heard, “No thank you. We don’t want to be part of a state organization that collects data on our kids.” Yes, we took roll. Yes, we asked where your kids lived and how to contact you. Yes, the camp forms asked for medical information. This data was not used for nefarious purposes. If your kid has an allergic reaction two hundred miles from home, the right data would help the nurse and medical personnel know the probable cause and which pediatrician to call.

The data collected at local meetings was examined to determine the effectiveness of our programs and whether we were reaching minorities and under-served segments of the population. Parents did not have to provide any more information than what they felt comfortable giving at our monthly meetings. Empty blanks were acceptable. But somehow, the vision of the state monster lurking right outside the door was stuck in the minds of more than a few.

I serve as a homeschool consultant for two wonderful statewide organizations with public and private school enrichment programs. These groups are reaching out to the homeschool community with warm invitations for involvement. I’ve begun to sing their praises to my inner circle before the posts are up on our website about these fabulous opportunities. Guess what I’m hearing? “The state is watching! The state is watching!”

How is the Henny Penny homeschool mantra a self-fulfilling prophecy and what can we do to change that?

The goal of homeschooling our children is not to shelter them from positive experiences. It is not to deny our communities the talents and gifts that our families possess. It is absolutely not to encourage additional regulation of home education. But the Henny Penny course of action achieves all that in one fell swoop.

When is the rallying cry for additional regulation on home educators the loudest? When can we most expect “the state” to become concerned and consider tightening laws? Almost without fail that knee-jerk reaction follows a case in which a homeschool family has become unreasonably detached from society and something goes terribly wrong.

Are those extreme examples typical of homeschooling? Of course not! How do we prove that? We engage with our communities. We don’t hide under a rock! We enter that state-affiliated history fair that opened its registration to homeschoolers. We volunteer in the community. We meet with our city and county officials. We don’t let fear rule our hearts. Wisdom and discernment? Yes. Fear? No. Only then do we have concrete examples to show what homeschooling really looks like and why there’s no need to further regulate it.

If we are truly concerned about preserving homeschool freedom, shunning organizations like Alabama 4-H or Alabama Bicentennial Schools is simply barking up the wrong tree. We must stay in touch with our state and local representatives. The legislature is the key to preserving the freedoms we have and preventing future encroachment. That’s where we want to turn a watchful eye and be ready to respond appropriately to alerts about changing laws.

As far as the unwarranted DHR visits, there will always be people manipulating others for their own personal gain or amusement. Engaging the services of an attorney can go a long way towards minimizing the fallout from an encounter with such a person. See our Resources page for law agencies that work with homeshool families.

We are each free to choose the mark we make on our communities. Will we be Henny Penny homeschoolers? Or are we brave enough to engage with a world that extends the invitation to show them just what we have to offer?

© 2017-2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

Creative Writing Class for Homeschool Students

Creative Writing for Homeschool Students

“Worried about your kids’ writing skills as the school year winds down? Let me help your child finish strong!”

Published writer Margie Sims teaches fun and affordable Creative Writing classes beginning February 22, 2018. Classes will meet every other Thursday for seven weeks from 11 AM – 12 PM at Mars Hill Cafe in Mobile.  Age range is fourth grade to high school. Cost is $10-$18 per class, depending on number enrolled. Limited spots remaining.

To ask questions or register your student, email Margie at mrgsms@gmail.com.

Syllabus

February 22 – Four elements of children’s stories

March 8 – Copy Writing/Travel Brochure

March 22 – News Writing

April 5 – Book Reports

April 19 – Speeches

May 3 – Poetry and Greeting cards, Review for exam

May 17 – Final Exam

© 2017-2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

Original photo by Dan Counsell on Unsplash

The Homeschool Pajama Blunder, or The Day the News Came Calling

Homeschooling The Dark Side

Homeschooling: The Dark Side

Episode II: The Homeschool Pajama Blunder, or
The Day the News Came Calling

Last week’s Episode I: No One Home on Stanford Day was a bit on the “heavy” side. So this week we’re going to lighten it up with a completely embarrassing though funny story on the homeschool wardrobe.

Ditching public or private school uniforms is sometimes listed among the many benefits of homeschooling. Makes sense. While we’re sharing the ways in which parents get to take back control of their children’s lives, wardrobe deserves to be mentioned. No more buying two sets of clothes. No more wasted instructional time as the assistant principal conducts random wardrobe checks or teacher writes up the kid wearing the wrong color socks.

Sometimes we homeschoolers can even get a little silly with our lists of things that make us happy. Wearing pajamas all day is often at the top of the “Fun Benefits of Homeschooling” page. Especially when we get to brag that parents can do it, too.

This is not the shocker it was decades ago when homeschooling was in its infancy. Social standards have relaxed… a lot. Even a short trip out of the house to the grocery store or pharmacy might mean a run-in with a whole family in pajamas. If you go to a certain discount store that starts with “W,” the pajama-clad patrons are probably among the more modestly clad folks on the premises.

Regardless, the image of an adult still in pajamas by mid morning is not a positive one. We assume we’ve encountered someone so lackadaisical about their appearance that they deliberately choose to not dress properly. The sight of adult pajamas brings to my mind the horror of a mom with the most unexpected of company standing on her front porch, all thanks to an incident from fourteen years ago.

During our first year of homeschooling, I was enjoying the benefits of not having to put on street clothes before the start of our “school day.” Mike and I were in his bedroom getting down to business with A-Beka History & Geography sometime between 9 and 10 AM. He had on a pair of shorts and t-shirt. I wore my purple Pooh-Bear pajamas. I expected no one, had no errands to run, and so figured the choice to remain very casually dressed would be just fine.

And then, we heard it… The knock at the door. I expected a door-to-door salesman we could easily ignore. Or could it be a neighbor — perhaps my cousin from across the street?

We peered out Mike’s bedroom window to see Fox10 News reporter Renee Dials and her cameraman standing on our front porch.

I was so stunned at the sight, I forgot what I was (or worse, wasn’t) wearing.

Me: “What in the world are they doing here?”

Mike: “Whatever it is, I did NOT do it.”

Me: “Don’t be silly. They aren’t here because you did anything.”

In that brief moment of wondering why a news reporter was on my front porch, I completely lost my bearings. First thought that came to my mind was that maybe — just maybe — I could make a good impression as a homeschool family in our community.

What on earth would Renee ask? Would the conversation present the opportunity early on to explain why my kids were home? What eloquent answers would roll off my tongue about the benefits of homeschooling?

Confident in myself and our choice to home educate, and very nosy as to the actual nature of the call, I strode to the wooden door and flung it open wide. Oh, yes, I did. Me and my purple Pooh-Bear pajamas.

As soon as I reached for the latch on the glass door, I could see the expression on Renee’s face. She looked me up and down, and down and up. Why was she looking at me like that?

My reflection cast back the whole sordid truth. I was about to represent homeschooling to a news anchor wearing my purple Pooh-Bear pajamas. Great day in the morning!

It was too late to do anything but face the music. Though I wanted to slam the wooden door and crawl under something large, I opened the glass door and spoke.

Me: “Can I help you?”

Renee: “Uhhhh…. we’re doing a story on Griggs Elementary School and want to speak to the parents of some of their students.”

Renee was referring to the public school at the end of our street. Mike popped out from behind me. Renee gave that, “Why isn’t your kid in school?” glance that veteran homeschoolers are so used to seeing.

Me [in the cheeriest voice I could muster]: “Oh! We homeschool! That’s actually what we were doing when you knocked on the door.”

Renee heaved a huge sigh of relief and backed away quickly: “Ok. Thank you anyway!”

You’d think I’d have let well enough alone, but that just wouldn’t do. I called out to her as she and her cameraman all but sprinted toward the street.

Me: “If you ever need to interview someone about homeschooling, please do call again!”

Funny thing… I’ve never heard from Renee or Fox10 News since that day.

© 2017-2018 Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators