Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Homeschooling: A Parent's Choice

Homeschooling is a widely popular form of education for millions of children all over the country. According to USA Today in 2007 an estimated 1.5 million children are homeschooled rather than go to traditional public and private schools which is a 1.7% increase since 1999. Today, homeschooling is becoming a more common and accepted method of teaching than it was several years ago. I was a homeschooled child for several years during my childhood and although I thoroughly enjoyed it, there was definitely negative viewpoints from others. Back then, most of the criticism that was received was people's lack of information. Many people would jump to conclusions and decide that since it wasn't a traditional school it wasn't a 'real' form of education. If someone were to ask you "Why aren't you in school?" and you replied "I'm homeschooled" you generally got the look and comment "Oh, you're one of THOSE kids." Thankfully, today people are much more educated and informed that homeschooling is a personal choice but that children are held to the same standards as children in traditional schools.

Every state has their own laws regarding homeschooling and I am no expert by any means but in Virginia it is a rather simple process to begin homeschooling your child.Parents have a variety of reasons why they decide to homeschool rather than go with traditional schools. Some reasons include a desire to be more involved with their children's education, while others want more freedom to decide what their child will be taught. Many parents find that homeschooling is an ideal choice for them as it lets them have more control over the topics that their children are learning and their child can learn at their own pace.

This will be our first year homeschooling our children so we are learning as we go. We have three children, two of which are school-aged, Tyler who is entering third grade and Benjamin who is entering first grade. In Virginia, we had to file a letter of intent with our local school board and then submit a summary of the curriculum we would be using for each child. It was relatively easy, and we were approved right away! In the Hampton Roads area I have found a great homeschooling store that sells homeschooling curriculum and other resources. Moore Expressions Inc. in Virginia Beach has proved to be a wonderful place to buy all the textbooks and activities that we need, plus they have tons of information on different activities for homeschooled children such as field trips, sports, co-ops, and even support groups. Moore Expressions also purchases textbooks so at the end of the year you can bring your books in and receive credit to the purchase of new items. One of the best resources that I have found is the Home Educators Association of Virginia or HEAV for short. Their website is a wealth of information from everything to Virginia law concerning homeschooling to state testing, upcoming events, support, and even an online store. Another great online resource is The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. They offer many articles concerning homeschooling and have information on upcoming homeschooling conferences in your area.

If you decide that homeschooling may be right for your family I urge you to look up homeschooling co-ops and support groups in your area. Chances are your community is made up with many homeschooling families that will embrace you and help you on your journey!

Be sure to check back on my blog to get updates on how we are doing our first year of homeschooling and find new things that might work out for you!

Happy Learning!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tax Free Holidays

It's that time of year again! Children everywhere are groaning while their parents are giddy with excitement! Back to school time! With the upcoming school year quickly approaching it's time to get out there and find those deals. If your kids are anything like mine, it seems that they have outgrown all their school clothes from the previous year and have no problem letting you know exactly what shoes and clothes are "totally awesome" as my eight year old puts it. With two school aged boys in the house keeping up with everything totally awesome can get pretty pricey quickly. In addition to finding them new clothes through swap meets I encourage parents to take advantage of the Tax Free Weekend. Virginia has several tax free holidays that consumers can take advantage of. Back to school tax free shopping begins today August 6th and runs until August 8th. Most every store is taking part in this tax free holiday and it applies to most all school supplies as well as clothing and shoes. You can check with your stores ads to see which items are included. Each individual school supply item must be $20 or less and clothing must be $100 or less. This can save you a good deal however you must be prepared to spend some time in lines. Every other parent out there is going to be hunting the same deals as you are, so patience is key!

Virginia also has other tax free weekends throughout the year that could save you money on things that you may all ready be planning to purchase. This past May 25th through May 31st was Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness Equipment Tax Free Week. This tax free week includes emergency equipment such as first aid kits, flashlights, weather radios and even generators. I realize that this tax free week has all ready passed but it will be definitely something to keep an eye out for next year.

If you are looking to purchase new energy appliances be sure to hold off until October 8th through October 11th. Appliances must meet the Energy Star and Water Sense qualifications and must be $2500 or less. Keep an eye out in your local home improvement stores circular ads for additional information on which makes/models are included.

Again, with tax free holidays there are bound to be longer wait times at your local stores but if you looking to keep some extra cash in your pocket take advantage of your tax free days!

For further information on all your 2010 tax free holidays be sure to check out the Virginia Government Homepage.

Happy Shopping!