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

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

No One Home on Stanford Day

Homeschooling The Dark Side

Homeschooling… The Dark Side

Episode I: No One Home on Stanford Day, or The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

Our inaugural tale has its beginnings in the first two years of our family’s venture into homeschooling. We started in 2004, a full ten years before it was legal to homeschool in Alabama without a covering. What we didn’t know then is that we had entered the homeschool world during a time of change in our local community.

Our son Mike completed fourth grade in private school. We knew long before that year was over, however, that he would not return the following fall. There was time to get our ducks in a row. I shared the possibility of homeschooling him with school staff.

Mike’s second-grade teacher, Mrs. C., suggested a covering that we might use. We didn’t know a single homeschooler, but Mrs. C. did. She had friends and acquaintances who attended a large Protestant church in our neighborhood with an active covering for its members.

As it just so happened, that covering was opening its doors to non church members for the first time ever. We’d be the guinea pigs. The newness of the situation should have raised a red flag, but it didn’t because I didn’t know any better.

For decades, it was not uncommon for Alabama coverings to be open only to their church members. As the homeschooling movement grew, those coverings that would take anybody were bursting at the seams, especially in metropolitan areas. As the story goes, the administrator of one of the biggest coverings in our county called a few of the other covering admins and persuaded them to open their doors to non church members as well.

Armed with our yearly tuition and ready to learn more about what we’d gotten ourselves into, we attended the first covering meeting at the big church around the corner. The meeting took up a large fellowship hall. Lots of moms, dads, and kids were in attendance.

I filled out the forms, signed the obligatory statement of faith, and my husband and I enrolled our kids. I was optimistic that we would make friends and build relationships. I had underestimated how hard it can be for people to change their ways.

I seem to recall our family being one of only two or three at most who were not already church members. And even numbers two and three had friends in the church. As I was to shortly learn, information was passed around that covering primarily through word of mouth.

Details of new activities or changes in plans made the rounds on a Sunday or Wednesday when folks saw one another in person. Social media was a term as yet unheard of. Email was still the primary source of information for most coverings.

Mandatory covering meetings and business correspondence made their way to my inbox. Field trips that were scheduled far in advance would as well. But the moms in that group did some spur-of-the-moment stuff that was arranged only a few weeks ahead of time. Those events were the ones best-suited for the moms to bond while kids played. It was those events that I needed the most but always seemed to miss.

One church member in the covering (I’ll call her Ann) made an honest effort to be friendly. Ann would go out of her way to speak to me at meetings and turn-in-grades/gym days. I appreciated her efforts.

Ann and I met by accident at the public library one morning. She invited us to attend a play day set up just for our covering at Grand Slam, a local venue that has since closed. Kids could hit baseballs in batting cages, shoot hoops, play laser tag, etc., while moms chatted.

Ann was reasonably sure she remembered the correct date of the event. Those were the days before cell phones. There was no calendar to pull up with the swipe of an index finger. Ann promised to email or call me after she got home if she discovered she’d given me the wrong info. I wondered why my family hadn’t received an email about this event but counted my blessings that I’d run into Ann.

No follow up call or email correction ever came. So on the day of the Grand Slam play date reserved just for our covering, we donned our dark green covering t-shirts and headed out. We were going to have some fun!

The thoughts that crossed my mind when we walked in the door:

“Why are we the only people in green?”

“Those navy blue shirts sure are pretty.”

“I must’ve missed new t-shirt order day.”

“I wonder if they have any extras in our sizes?”

I let Mike and his little sister Kat walk about and decide what they would like to do before paying close attention to the moms. I had not made real friends with anybody in particular in the covering, but I did know the names and faces of all the board members.

Grand Slam was quite crowded. Maybe if I looked hard enough I could find Ann. No luck. I recognized no one.

I decided to go to the check-in desk and see if the nice lady behind the counter could help me. Maybe I could just pay her our money. That was when I got close enough to the other moms in their navy blue shirts to read the logo…

I don’t remember the full title after all these years, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling of my heart sinking as I realized we were crashing homeschool day for a local Catholic covering. Oh, dear….

I explained to the lady at the counter what happened. One of the Catholic moms standing next to me heard the story and encouraged us to stay. I paid our fees and we hung around until Mike and Kat were bored.

At the next meeting of my own covering, I inquired as to what happened. Ann looked mortified. The director was exasperated. I remember wondering if the director was aggravated with Ann for giving me the wrong day or for inviting me in the first place. The director’s complete lack of empathy for either me or Ann convinced me of the latter. For Ann’s sake, I laughed it off and sat down.

We survived the remainder of the spring semester, including the obligatory end-of-year swimming party. I submitted grades and whatever else was required. We had a choice to make about next year, though.

Mostly because of the covering’s convenient location, we decided to enroll again that fall. I know… I know… The thought of starting over with a brand new group was intimidating. Sad thing is that after a full year there, we still didn’t know a single soul outside that church who homeschooled. Besides, I wanted to give the church the benefit of the doubt. Surely they learned something from having non members in their ranks that first year. Like maybe send an email or call when you plan something in between required quarterly meetings.

As it would turn out, I couldn’t go on mommy dates or most field trips any longer. I took a part time job outside of our home that kept me busy until lunchtime. My husband Sam supervised the homeschool in the morning.

To understand the straw that broke the camel’s back, you need to know something about our first covering. The Stanford Achievement Test was required every other year. At least the covering arranged for the test to be given on campus. All we had to do was pay and show up. I wrote the date on the calendar and made sure Sam knew to get Mike to the church in plenty of time.

I would receive a phone call at work mid morning from my husband on test day. He was very confused. No one was at the church. The building where testing was to take place was locked tight. Not a soul in sight.

In fact, every door Sam and the kids tried all around the campus was locked. They finally attracted the attention of a maintenance man doing outdoor work. He unlocked the door and called the church secretary on her off day. She called the covering administrator.

Oh… didn’t we hear? The dates of the Stanford had been changed. Come back next week.

And that, dear friends, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It was already spring by then. Mike took the Stanford the following week. We finished out the second year, but we did not enroll with that covering for a third year.

Ann saw me out in public again not long after that and said the former covering director was being replaced. But it was too late as far as we were concerned. Our impressions of the covering, the people, and even the church were already set. The opportunity to make connections was lost.

It might be easy to shrug this story off as something that couldn’t possibly happen in this day and age. Facebook and smart phones keep us a little too connected to one another’s business, right? I’d tend to agree with you one hundred percent except…

Technology can and does still fail us. NGCHE is run through an open website/blog and has an open facebook page. Information is easily accessible. Yet followers still tell me they miss things. Social media is not foolproof.

What our first covering experienced was growing pains coupled with a heart problem. The growth they were faced with was inevitable. As more people joined the homeschool community, churches had little choice but to adapt to the growing numbers.

Their failure was not an unwillingness to grow. Their failure was in not preparing their hearts to love strangers as much as they loved themselves. That is a necessary component of any ministry no matter where or how you volunteer.

Today we can laugh and shake our heads about no one being home on testing day, and about crashing the Catholic covering’s party. Though we chuckle, we don’t want anyone to experience the same isolation or lack of friendship as we did those first two years homeschooling.

A list of some of the coverings in Mobile County that are open to the public can be found on our Resources page. If you are new to homeschooling, or find yourself in a covering where you do not seem to fit in, don’t suffer in silence! Contact us!

While there is no such thing as the perfect group of people or the perfect church, we know several pastors and administrators who truly have a heart for families and homeschooling. We are happy to share our recommendations with any who ask.

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

© 2017-2018 Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

National School Choice Week

Alabama Celebrates National School Choice Week

National School Choice Week (NSCW)

What is it?

National School Choice Week (NSCW) is a time for families to learn about the educational options available in their communities. Special events are hosted by schools, organizations, homeschool groups, etc., to highlight the options and benefits each has to offer. NSCW advocates serve as facilitators for these events, helping parents make informed decisions regarding what is best for their children’s education.

When is it?

National School Choice Week is observed annually during the latter part of January. Dates for 2018 are January 21-27. Gov. Kay Ivey has also declared this week Alabama School Choice Week.

Where is it?

School Choice events are held nationwide. Parents can find a list of events in their communities on the NSCW website’s Find an Event page. A private or parochial school might hold an open house for prospective families, while homeschool groups might host informal gatherings in public meeting places, churches, or homes.

Who is behind it?

NSCW is an advocacy group supporting options in education and school choice. NSCW describes themselves as a “nonpartisan, nonpolitical, independent public awareness effort.” They recognize all forms of education: public schools (including magnet and charter), private schools, online schools, and home education.

Why attend an event?

Students not only succeed but thrive in the educational environment that best fits their needs. Parents must be well informed to make the best decisions. If you are considering homeschooling, it is extremely helpful to talk to a homeschool veteran in your local community. NSCW offers many parents the opportunity to do just that.

NGCHE will host a Get-to-Know Homeschooling meeting in Mobile County, Alabama. Anyone interested in learning more about home education is welcome to attend this free event.

National School Choice Week Explore Homeschooling Mobile Alabama meeting

© 2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

Mid January Updates 2018

Homeschool Seminar, Outdoor Adventure Skills Class, Bird Banding, Summer Summit

2018 – Off and Running launched the New Year at NGCHE. It’s only mid-January, but already we are tickled pink by the wonderful opportunities for homeschool families along the Gulf Coast! Below are a few of the “big things” on our calendar for the upcoming months.

In conjunction with National School Choice Week, and in partnership with Homeschool Now USA, NGCHE will host a short seminar for families considering homeschooling as an educational option. Our Get-to-Know Homeschooling Informational Meeting takes place Thursday, January 25th from 6 – 7 PM at the Moorer/Spring Hill Branch of the Mobile Public Library. Anyone interested in learning more about homeschooling as an educational option is welcome to join us for this free event.

Brinkley Hutchings of Nature Connect Alabama will host an Outdoor Adventure Skills Class for children ages 8-13 at the Village Point Park Preserve in Daphne on February 7 from 9 AM – 1 PM. Long range forecasts predict a return to “normal” Gulf Coast weather within the next few days. Highs in the 60’s and lows in the mid-40’s are expected throughout most of February. An outdoor class that promises adventure, learning, and fun will be just the thing for youngsters with cabin fever. If those long-range weather forecasts don’t hold up, the class will reschedule in case of inclement weather.

NGCHE will join the Birmingham Audubon Society and its partners for Coastal Bird Banding at Fort Morgan, Alabama. This annual spring event is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to observe the capture, banding, and release of birds on their spring migration toward breeding grounds farther south. The event takes place April 17-21, 2018. Since the event is weather-dependent, we will wait until closer to mid-April to choose the exact day. Please pencil in the 17th – 20th as possible dates of attendance.

Teach Them Diligently comes to downtown Mobile May 3-5th. Several years have passed since a major homeschool conference was held in the Port City. TTD gives visitors the opportunity to meet with curricula publishers, support groups, college reps, and other exhibitors with a Christian worldview. Look for Heather from NGCHE volunteering at the conference.

Mobile’s first Summer Summit is coming to Camp Christian on August 4th, 2018. The summit is a unique event focusing on Faith, Friendships, Food and Fun for homeschool moms. Vendor booths will be available for those attendees with small businesses or used curricula to sell. All homeschool moms are invited to join us regardless of where you live. For our friends driving in from out of town, Camp Christian is conveniently located a minute or so from I-10 in the Theodore community southwest of Mobile.

We are excited about these opportunities and others in the works right now. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want more information about anything you see on our website. We look forward to meeting new friends and old in the Gulf Coast Homeschool Community in 2018.


© 2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

Six Times to Action – A Post About Human Nature

Six Times to Action - Human Nature

Recently I took a short online training course that equipped me to present a homeschooling seminar. For the sake of the seminar and NGCHE, I am keen to learn anything legitimate to help with marketing. (Okay… I’m a bit of a nerd. I must be learning something new or I get bored. But don’t tell anyone.)

As soon as I heard the following little nugget of wisdom, my ears perked right up.

Research indicates that the average person must be shown something SIX times before he or she acts on it.

I gave this serious consideration. I thought about what I see regularly that requires action of some sort. I’m not much of a shopper, and would like to think (probably erroneously so) that I am not easily swayed by advertising for “stuff.” What might interest me enough to act upon it? A field trip! But certainly it doesn’t take a smart girl like me six times to make up my mind?!

Deciding to test out this newly learned rule of thumb, I thought about how I typically respond to a field trip. We’ll use a fictional field trip to our state capital as an example.

1. Let’s say I’m scrolling through Facebook and come across the state capital field trip posted by a friendly homeschool group. What do I do? Probably mull it over for a second or two and keep going.

The event interests me, but I have this irresistible urge to ingest all of my Facebook news feed before I can make any decisions about my future. I reach the end of my feed or attention span, whichever comes first. But now I have a bit of a problem. Since I was only casually browsing, I didn’t bother to record any of the interesting things I saw to act upon them later.

2. Tomorrow rolls around. I scroll through Facebook for more casual fun. But there’s a nagging feeling that I was supposed to remember to do something. It must have been something buried in yesterday’s info. Do I bypass today’s juicy news and go straight to yesterday? Heavens, no! I might miss something! Thirty minutes later I finally reach the 24-hours-ago mark and wade through the information I’ve seen already. There is it! But by now something or someone needs my undivided attention. A field trip will have to wait.

3. Days three, four, and five pass with no action from me on the trip. Why? Well, life. Still that gnawing feeling is reminding me I was supposed to look something up. What was it? The state capital trip! That’s it. Who posted the darned thing? Sigh.

I make it a point to visit each of my favorite homeschool group’s pages. Clicking… Clicking… Clicking… and find it in the third place I look. Here we are at day six and I’m just now reading the description. It’s out of town, could require me to juggle my schedule for the week, and might cost a few bucks. On the back “MAYBE” burner it goes. Before I leave, I do myself a favor and mark “Interested” in the event.

4. Days seven and eight go by. Day nine in Facebook land and I notice that a friend has also marked “Interested” in the state capital trip. Hmmm… Someone there we’d know. The event is on my radar again. I mull it over and decide to message the friend to see if they’re really “Interested” in going.

5. Day 10 arrives and the friend may or may not go. “Interested” for her translated into a distant “plan C” in case everything else fell through. But by now I’ve almost talked myself into going. I check the calendar for that week. Nothing on that particular day to which we’re already committed. What to do? What to do? Off to something else I go while I think it over one last time.

6. If I see it again in my feed, a friend’s or mentioned in some other way, I’ll be ready to track down the host to pay. If not…

It’s at this point that I am on the verge of making a decision about the event. If the host is not an aggressive marketer and only mentions their events once or twice, odds are it will fall off my radar and I’ll never consider it again. But if the group understands the importance of repetition, there’s a strong chance the next mention of the field trip will be the tipping point at which I take action.

And there it is. A real life example from someone who considers herself to be serious and thoughtful when it comes to events. Not marking “Interested” unless I really am. Showing up when I say I will. Put yourself in my shoes and consider any event that might pop up in your social circles: a party, church function (sorry Pastors), fundraiser, etc. Odds are it takes you multiple exposures to act on the event.

The conclusion I drew from this led me to believe the Six-Times-to-Action rule is accurate. It explains why people with a product, group, or idea to sell always seem to be talking about it. It explains why you didn’t get as many responses to your Valentine’s Day party as you thought you would. It’s not that nobody saw it at all. It’s just that the average person takes awhile to process it enough to act on it. And you didn’t want to be obnoxious.

Trying to remember something? Tack it up in multiple places. Teaching your kids a new concept? Review, review, review. Marketing a new idea? Post it. Share it. Talk about it. But don’t give up! If someone asks you why you’re always bringing something up, you can reply in all truth, “It’s just human nature.” They don’t have to know it’s their nature you’re talking about.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl; but, whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Original photo by Haeruman, Pixabay.

© 2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

2018 – Off and Running

Happy New Year, home-educating families and friends!

End of Year Collage 2017

NGCHE got off to a fantastic start in the fall of 2017. We attended shows put on by two student theater groups, volunteered in the garden at an urban teaching farm, learned a ton at the Mobile Medical Museum, said “Thank You” to the veterans at a Baldwin County nursing home, and were the first homeschool group to tour the Airbus Final Assembly Line in Mobile, Alabama. Not bad for our first four months! We made many new friends in our community and are excited for what’s to come.

Our volunteers took a much-needed break over the last half of December and have hit the ground running. We are expecting a fabulous year in 2018. We don’t want to spill the beans until all the details are worked out, but here are a few things you can expect this year.

Field Trips: Several field trips are currently in the works for sites in and around Mobile, Gulf Shores, and Pensacola. As always, our field trips are open to any homeschool family regardless of where you live. We sometimes have donors who make scholarships available to certain of our field trips. If your student needs one, please ask.

Community Service: NGCHE will be working with select agencies and volunteers from the Mobile – Baldwin area to beta test a community service program that matches homeschool students and their families with projects and special needs that arise in our community.

Classes: Nature Connect Alabama is partnering with us to offer a nature skills class for elementary students in February. Details will be posted very soon. We are also entering into negotiations with several parties which we hope will result in quality high school science instruction with scholarships for low income families. Send your prayers and good thoughts for this one. We will post updates as they become available.

Information: NGCHE was asked late last year by staff from the Mobile County District Attorney’s office to assist with information regarding local coverings. We love to share information about homeschooling with the general public. We are happy to make additions to our website that will help Gulf Coast officials and those doing research on homeschooling in our area. We look forward to input from our friends and followers on this project.

Graduation: Our first community homeschool graduation ceremony will take place in May at Robertsdale Church of the Nazarene in Baldwin County, Alabama. Pastor Melissa Aaron has indicated a willingness to offer this ceremony next year as well for homeschool families who do not use a covering or whose covering is out of town. We love and appreciate our friends at Robertsdale Naz!

Meetings and Special Events: We are working towards regular quarterly meetings for all homeschoolers; support groups for homeschool parents who are disabled or widowed; quarterly activities just for parents and grandparents. We are very excited about a new event coming in August, but we’re sworn to secrecy and would have to enter the witness protection program if we spilled the beans on this one!

Articles: One of our volunteers is working on a blog series entitled “Homeschooling: The Dark Side.” This won’t be your typical feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy series, but we hope we can all learn some valuable lessons from it. Homeschool parents will share real-life experiences and honest opinions about the times things didn’t turn out as planned. The series will tackle topics such as field trips, co-ops, curricula, printables, and more.

These are just some of the offerings and projects we’re working on at NGCHE this year. Drop us an email if you have any questions. Keep your eye on our website and facebook page for details. And don’t forget to share us with your friends. We look forward to this new year together.

© 2017-2018 Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators


Engaging the Community Through Accurate Information

Engaging Through Information

Original photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

One of NGCHE’s primary goals is to foster positive relationships between homeschoolers and our local communities. We encourage homeschool families to reach out and engage with others in meaningful ways. Sharing information is often a wonderful first step in developing long-term relationships not only with individuals but community organizations as well.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a website featuring a series of articles on homeschool laws. Each article was written by an author who had lived and homeschooled in the state about which she was writing. I’m not sure what made me stop and read the entry on Alabama. Maybe it was a bit of nostalgia.

I thought back almost 15 years ago to the time when I was on the internet eagerly researching homeschooling and how important accurate information was to our family. We knew maybe two homeschoolers back then, but not very well. All that we could tell you about homeschooling at that point would fit on a postage stamp, and a small one at that.

Back to the present day… The aforementioned article pertaining to homeschooling in Alabama was published in late October 2017. It was written by a mom who had left the state in 2013. Tutors and cover schools (aka church schools or “coverings”) were the only legal homeschool options she gave as those were the only available at the time she left the state. The article made no mention of our third choice.

The owner of the website meant well by publishing a series of posts featuring homeschool law in all fifty states. Though done with good intentions, that’s a grand plan. The content had not been vetted for Alabama, and the article gave out incomplete information.

In 2014 the State of Alabama declared that a private school could be established by any legal entity, not just a church. This included parents. Families who wished to homeschool their children could declare their home to be a private school, register with the Board of Education, and begin teaching their children without enrolling in a cover or hiring a tutor. The BOE has since stopped accepting private school registrations from homeschool families. At this time, it appears to be unnecessary to register with the state BOE to homeschool using the “private school” option.

Long-time residents of Alabama have come to associate homeschoolers with coverings. Despite the fact that the law changed over three years ago, many people in the general public still don’t know that coverings have become an option. This includes a significant number of the local professionals with whom I’ve made field trip reservations or group enrollments.

At first I was a tiny bit surprised that word of the change hadn’t spread much outside the homeschool community. But I quickly came to see this lack of knowledge as opportunity to open dialogue about homeschooling. NGCHE volunteers have been delighted to advise directors, education curators, and even a state coordinator on how to adjust sign-ups and enrollment procedures so that those without coverings are not excluded or inconvenienced.

What are the morals of this story?

For those considering homeschooling: Don’t take for granted that every bit of information you find on homeschooling law is current. Always check trusted, reliable sources. HSLDA is our go-to for issues pertaining to the law.

For veteran homeschoolers: Take each opportunity you are given to pass on accurate information to those interested in learning about homeschooling. Reach out to others. Be relational. Be gracious. A knowledgeable, well-behaved family who receives people with kindness and consideration makes the very best ambassadors.

© 2017 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out

As we are about to embark on our second year of homeschooling high school, I pause for awhile to think about the year that is behind us. Oh, how different this past year was compared to what I thought it would be. It was both worse and better than I could have hoped for. When doors of opportunity closed, or when we found ourselves somewhere we weren’t meant to be, we moved on and made things happen elsewhere.

Our purpose at the beginning of last year was to hone in on the activities and opportunities that furthered our goals. The flip side of that meant that we began to pull away from what no longer interested or helped us. We put that old Polish proverb to good use: “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys.” We became experts at saying, “No, thank you.”

As a result, our social circles shifted. We learned a lot about the effects of social media, both good and bad. We chartered a 4-H Arts Club (the absolute best part of our year). We changed churches. Kat found a congregation where she feels connected. I am struggling to adapt to the 21st century mode of worship — loud, smoky, bouncy. I have been far too long out of the regular Christian fellowship of other homeschool moms.

As the new school year got closer and closer, I wondered how to fold last year’s lessons into our new year in a positive way. Leave it to God to show me how.

In August we caught the tail end of a sermon series by our new pastor. He taught on living with integrity and having a grateful heart. Both of these topics stuck with me as they seem so very relevant to what we experienced personally this past year and how we want to start the new year. I am especially intrigued by his use of the slang term “FOMO” in illustrating his sermon on gratitude.

We begin to get off track in our integrity and become ungrateful when we let FOMO guide our decision-making process. What in the world is FOMO? Fear of Missing Out. How does that lead to an ungrateful heart and a lack of integrity?FOMO Collage 02

When we operate under a fear of missing out, two things happen. First we become “pickers and choosers.” What’s wrong with that, you ask? Aren’t all homeschoolers “pickers and choosers?” To a point, yes. But the truth of the matter is that this mindset can very easily be driven by a heart rooted in entitlement. Where we go off track is the place at which we come to believe deep down inside that we or our spouse or children are entitled to be, do, or have a part of every latest, greatest thing that comes along. We want it. Need it. Can’t live without it. Can’t possibly miss it… whatever “it” is.

This leads to the second thing that happens when we operate under a FOMO mindset. Our integrity suffers. With all this running to and fro, back and forth, picking and choosing, trying desperately not to miss the latest, greatest thing, we can’t possibly keep our commitments. We have no concept of loyalty. We let people down because we change our plans mid-stream to that “something better” that came along, because we can’t say, “No, thank you.” If we’re not very careful, we can become undependable, dishonest, and selfish. Ouch…

It seems that social media is raw fuel for FOMO. New events pop up every day on most of our news feeds. We have invites from this group and that, lots of people and “stuff” jockeying for our attention. But even in a high-traffic world like facebook and social media, it’s really our rotten entitlement hearts that make us waffle back and forth between integrity and our bizarre need to be everywhere at once. We have become FOMO monsters.

Kat says we can’t use the same homeschool slogan as last year. Perhaps she is right. We will continue to apply the Polish monkey test to everything that comes along, taking it one step further. Our goal for this year — maintain a FOMO-free zone by keeping our commitments with integrity.

On the one hand, keeping commitments is super hard with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The temptation to call things off can be strong when pain is a constant companion, your brain doesn’t function properly, and you’re worn to a nub. On the other hand, FOMO is ridiculous to even worry about because who’s got the energy for all that?

So forward we go into this new year, determined to keep our little part of the universe FOMO free and to encourage others to do the same. Our families, churches, workplaces, and communities will be better for it.