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Hooked on Homeschooling, Marin Style

Homeschool student on fishing tripEver wonder if homeschooling is right for you and your children? Marin mom and homeschooling parent Barbara McVeigh writes about her experiences, as well as local resources for homeschoolers, in this guest article.

Last August my daughter’s assigned first grade desk sat empty, and I felt a lump in my throat. Because instead of driving her to our local school, one noted for its academic achievements and containing her kindergarten friends from last year, we decided to take an alternative route. We went fishing that day where we got hooked… with a creative group of homeschoolers, a community growing in Marin. Our homeschooling journey began as we dived into a world filled with boundless schooling choices.

Making an educational decision for a child is such a personal one, and it can be a very sensitive topic. Reasons might be based on pedagogy, religion, health issues, logistics, or finances. We personally chose homeschooling for balance we could not find in private or public schools. And, living in Marin we’ve discovered extraordinary resources that make this journey for our child and family immensely memorable, rich and, of course, educational.

The Marin Homeschooling Community
The Marin Homeschooling group has more than one hundred active families. The approaches to homeschooling vary within the group - some are fully academic or embrace Waldorf ideas, and others have adopted “unschooling” methods, to name a few. The group organizes park days, field trips, book clubs, hiking and art classes. Many museums, science centers, and zoos host special homeschooling days that offer other opportunities for members to connect. “Basically the options are limitless. A family just has to take the time to initiate the ideas into action,” says homeschooling parent Tara Reese, who facilitates the Marin Homeschooling Meetup.

Charter Schools vs. PSA
Various charter schools, such as Pathways or CAVA, support home-based independent study, providing a variety of curriculum, advice, classes, field trips, funds for private classes, as well as facilitating standardized tests. Charter schools are, in fact, part of the California system and are under the same scrutiny as public schools. The advantage is a parent can choose curriculum and make the choices that are right for the child and family.

Some families opt to file a Private School Affidavit with the California Department of Education to essentially create their own school. There is, of course, paperwork involved, but some families prefer the independence from the state and testing requirements. It’s also important to know your legal rights as a private school, information easily sourced from the California Homeschool Network.

Co-ops and Private Tutors
Co-ops with private teachers have formed and are in big demand. Groups of children gather for class and work in private homes, in the woods for Waldorf-inspired curriculum, or another pedagogy of choice. Parents work together with a hired teacher to shape and augment their child’s education. The challenge can be to find that right teacher or the right group for your child.

Nature and Shakespeare
“Richard Louv, eat your heart out,” I say when my daughter comes home from her school day covered in mud. Several nature immersion courses take homeschool kids into the woods all day to explore hands-on map-making, ecology, tracking, and Native American stories under boughs of oaks and redwoods, rain or shine.

Shakespeare is alive and well in our household. The Marin Shakespeare Company has confidence and proven success that children as young as six can learn to be and speak like fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. No doubt, the classes can set the stage for an early connection with and love of theater and literature.

Cultural Activities and Stewardship
Petaluma hosts El Dia de los Muertos and dragons parade in SF’s Chinatown—multicultural learning opportunities surround us, and many cultural centers will prepare special private workshops. Local environmental nonprofits really need help and often welcome homeschoolers. It’s a perfect match for active stewardship and experiential learning.

I no longer have that lump in my throat, but there are still challenges, as there are with any decision. Homeschooling is a full time job, and there are good days and bad days. In addition, we’ve made some hard financial sacrifices, choices that may not be right for every family, nor should they be. Education, again, is a very personal choice.

My daughter said last week “I want to homeschool forever.” So, one can say we are like a fish in a lake—swimming merrily along with our new school in Marin.

Links to Homeschooling Resources


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