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All articles are presented to stimulate thought and assist Christian families in homeschooling their children. Articles may or may not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the management of HomeschoolChristian.com.

The Resourceful Homeschooler

By Pete Storz

Homeschooling requires a fair degree of resourcefulness - the willingness to seek out whatever it takes to make what your family needs and wants happen. There are few homeschooling needs or wants that are unavailable if you look around and sometimes pay. While what is available will depend some on where you live, many resources are so ordinary, so ready at hand, that we may forget they are even there. What follows are some of the most common.

Educational Television Programming

Television was originally "sold" for its educational potential. About half a century later it still has much potential. This has been improving, however, with the ongoing creation of special cable- and satellite-based learning channels, which have taken their place along side the old standby, PBS. Channels such as The Learning Channel, The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet have joined PBS in offering a variety of programs about history, science, nature, and music. Unless it is pure coincidence, the programs' schedules won't fit your family's, but by using your VCR or just being a little more flexible, they can add extra interest and fun to your family's studies. Be aware that with some subjects, there will be shows that have a point of view with which your family will disagree. Use this as an opportunity to teach critical thinking - examining the show's premises, reasoning, and the facts that purport to support the point of view.

Newspapers and Magazines

Say what?! Well, newspapers and news magazines are good for current events, starting how-did-things-get-this-way lessons, and discussions about how morals and ethics apply in every day life. Newspapers also frequently have information about museums, shows, concerts, and other community cultural events. Hidden in the corners of the store's magazine racks, almost crowded out by self-improvement, fitness, glamour, TV, and pop-culture magazines are any number of news, science, nature, home-improvement, garden, crafts, and history magazines. Suitable for supplementing textbooks and pursuing personal interests, these magazines are well worth the effort of seeking, reading, and even subscribing to them. Keep an eye out at your local library and thrift stores since they often sell older magazines for 10 or 25 cents or even give them away.

Look out World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica, there's a new "encyclopedia" in town! It's called The Internet. What began in the '60s as a means for advanced researchers to exchange information efficiently has morphed into a vast network where people, organizations, and businesses have web-published information about their interests, hobbies, processes, and research for the viewing of whoever finds it interesting. The degree of detail varies, as sometimes does the quality, but with a search engine, patience, and a little bit of practice, valuable supplemental information for virtually any school subject (especially history, science, and nature) can be found. Be careful of sites with an agenda, sites that advocate some point of view. Double-checking and verifying sources and facts is a good practice (this doesn't just apply to the Internet). Because of the amount of perverse material that can be found on the Internet, parents should exercise caution and oversee their children's browsing (having the computer in a family area and no browsing without a parent in the same room has been our rule). You can also find websites about homeschooling, sites for curriculum publishers, and discussion forums where you can exchange ideas with homeschoolers literally from around the world.

Support Groups

Homeschoolers are especially noted (notorious, perhaps?) for networking together in groups for mutual support and encouragement. From the members of these groups one can learn about teaching methods and philosophies, curricular materials, how other homeschoolers have handled common or trying situations, and interesting community activities. Fellow homeschoolers can also be a valuable source for help with special subjects, such as music, crafts, wood and metal work, advanced subjects, and much more. Your support group can also be a place to organize field trips and lots of fun for your munchkins.

The Public Library

Homeschoolers are generally frequent users of the library as a source of books for personal reading, pursuing personal interests, and supplementing subjects such as history, science and nature. Some curriculums are built around the use of books from the library. Along with a video collection of the usual recent movies and TV shows, libraries often have science and nature videos, plays, classic movies based on historical novels and classic literature, and history documentaries. Don't forget music - classical, jazz, and more - on audio tapes and CDs! Libraries also have reference sections (encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, and more for research), magazines (enabling you to examine a magazine before subscribing to it), and sometimes even textbooks (so you can preview them before buying). Many libraries have computers in public areas available for patrons' Internet browsing. This is convenient for doing online research while at the library. However, the computers are not well supervised in many libraries, and some users have been known to search for and display pornographic sites and material on library computers. Parents need to supervise their children if they use library computers for Internet browsing, and be aware of what is displayed on those computers as their children use the library.

Community Groups

These can be ministries in your church, scouting, clubs, sports leagues, musical groups, theater groups, foreign language schools, the Red Cross, and service organizations and more. One of your subjects can be, or be supplemented, by your child's activities in such a group. They can enable your children to practice things they have learned, and especially to acquire skills you may lack the expertise or time to teach. Get involved with a few of these groups, and your "socialization question" might be finding enough time for school.

Discount and Mega Stores

Besides offering your household needs at, hopefully, good prices, stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Six Star, and Big Lots (to name a few where I live) can also be inexpensive sources of school and crafts supplies, supplemental workbooks, literature, and books for personal reading. And don't forget to check out the paper supplies stores and bookstores when you visit your favorite outlet center.

Teacher's Supplies Stores

OK, the first couple of times you visit a teacher's supplies store, you might feel like a stranger in a strange land, or wonder if an alarm will go off if you try to buy something. These stores are good places to find things such as maps, charts, posters, workbooks, and even textbooks. My family loves the laminator at the store near us - good for protecting maps, posters, pictures, membership cards, and things like that.

Public Schools

No, I'm not advocating enrolling in a public school independent study program or charter school. I disagree philosophically with doing that, though I realize not all homeschoolers feel the same way. What I am referring to is that public school districts sometimes have resource centers open to all teachers, public and private. Schools also periodically sell surplus books and equipment. The resource centers could be sources for supplies, charts, posters and such. The surplus sales could include textbooks, library books, used encyclopedias, desks, even pianos.

Specialty Stores

This is the kind of store you'll find yourself in when your child becomes interested in things such as music, art, sports, gardening, crafts, etc., etc., etc. Of course, you'll find the equipment and supplies you'll need at these stores. But don't be in haste to go home. Explore the other neat stuff too - who knows, maybe something will catch your child's interest. You also might find a bulletin board where instructors or clubs let interested people know they exist or people offer their services or goods (new or used) to people with that interest. Unless it's really, really busy, ask the store workers about their interests, favorite piece of equipment or supply item, good instructors, clubs, whatever. Your ears may be bent and your wallet may be a little thinner before you escape from the store, but your munchkin will have gotten some good tips on learning and doing whatever it is that has captured their interest.

Netflix, Inc.

The Video Store

Yeah, this one sounds weird at first too, but the video store can be another source for the science and nature videos, plays, classic movies based on historical novels and classic literature, and history documentaries mentioned earlier. Renting isn't as cheap as free, but the video store might have more variety.

Buy Used

One thing you learn about early in homeschooling is the consumable-reusable distinction. One aspect of "reusable" is using the same book for several of your children. Another, though, is purchasing used materials, usually textbooks and literature, from others. Whether informally, just between two families, or in an organized city-wide or regional used curriculum sale, buying curricular materials that have been used before but are still in usable condition is an excellent way to save money. Another similar resource is used bookstores. These frequently sell books for 50% of the original cover price (and the cover price may be lower than the current cover price of new books). These stores are good sources both for personal reading and for books for literature "classes".

Community Events

Most communities, in varying degrees, have low cost or free events that can be education opportunities. The kinds of events will vary from place to place, so use these examples to get the wheels of your imagination turning. County fairs are lots of fun - rides, foods, exhibits, animal displays, and more. Those exhibits can be good opportunities to spark interests and discussions. It's even more fun if you can find and talk to some of the exhibitors. Communities often have arts or music festivals, sometimes free (don't you love that word?!). These may be excellent opportunities to see the art styles or hear the music styles you and your children have been studying. You may be able to meet and talk to the artists and musicians as well. How would you like a music concert that walked up to you? Well, in a sense, that's what you have in a parade. Your family can sit down on the curbside and the music marches right up to you, along with animals, floats, and other neat stuff. Community service groups often have "open houses" or public demonstrations of their activities.

Professional People

Some munchkins want to be doctors, some want to be carpenters. You can get some ideas about what a profession involves - required education and types of activities - from books. However, an interesting and "interactive" source of such information is people you know who are in that profession. Arrange for your child, or even your whole support group, the opportunity to have a professional person describe what they do, how they got there, what in that profession interests them most, and answer questions. Your child may even find an opportunity to work and learn along side some professional person.

Homeschooling offers much freedom - methods, choice of curricular materials, schedule, pursuing interests. That freedom and wise, enthusiastic use of the resources around you will help you take your children's education beyond their textbooks and at the same time, make their learning fun.

Copyright © September 2001, revised 2/27/02, Peter and Becky Storz and HomeschoolChristian.com

About the author: Pete Storz grew up in Woodland, CA, near Sacramento. His family attended a Lutheran church, and for grades 1 through 3, Pete attended the private school run by that church, and public schools thereafter. Pete attended a college in Phoenix, AZ, graduating with an Associate's degree. While in Phoenix, Pete worked in a Christian bookstore and tape library, was involved in a ministry that reached out to Jehovah's Witnesses, and ran sound for several local contemporary Christian music bands. Pete moved to "Silicon Valley" to work in electronics and be closer to his parents. He met Becky in 1978 at a church, and they were married in 1980. They have three children, Suzy, Chris, and Katie. Becky first heard of homeschooling on a Focus on the Family program, and about a video seminar by Dr. Raymond Moore that was to be hosted at a nearby church by his daughter. After attending this and a seminar by Gregg Harris, Pete and Becky were encouraged to believe that they could homeschool their children. Remembering that first year or two, when support was crucial but hard to find, Pete and Becky started a support group in 1992 with a special emphasis on fellowship, person-to-person support, and helping new homeschoolers get started. Though Pete and Becky stepped down from leadership after 4 years, SELAH Christian Schools continues to assist homeschoolers in the San Jose, California area. Pete and Becky continue to publish a resource directory for San Jose area homeschoolers as well as other support activities.