Keeping It Legal—Plus, Learning Resources

2017-08-22T11:51:15+00:00 Categories: Ideas, Intentions, Resources|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Do You Worry about Keeping it Legal?

Homeschool regulations/laws are defined by individual states, yielding a variety of outcomes when it comes to planning, approach, and curriculum. For example, Washington State (my state) calls for instruction within specific domains, while other states do not mandate coverage of specific subjects. Also, our state law is flexible about methods and quality of instruction. And while that pleases me because method and quality are in my wheelhouse, it’s often baffling if you’re looking for a model on which to base your own DIY efforts.  Approaches and curriculum decisions vary from practitioner to practitioner across the nation, throughout the state, and within a single neighborhood.

So how do you deal with state regulations—specifically, those related to required subjects?

Our Take

As DIY educators—with an approach heavily influenced by software development practices and various pedagogical philosophies—we deal with state regulations just as we would any other set of requirements. We fold it all in during our planning phase. That is, state requirements are added to larger list of requirements based on Duncan’s interests, our learning objectives for him, and professional development objectives that we’ve all established together (such as, “build graphic art and design skills”).

But, how does it all look in practice? How does it play out in terms of our approach and the curriculum (or resources) we select support state requirements? For us, it looks like the following:

Approach: We facilitate learning through:

  • Outsourced training (e.g., online) to develop desired skills in composition and music production
  • Piano lessons
  • Practice
  • Ample free time to explore the instrument (no structure, just play)

NOTE: For now, I’m Duncan’s piano teacher because I have nine years of piano lessons and two years of voice under my belt.

Why? We believe free play fosters a life-long appreciation for music and a desire to play the piano, while lessons cultivate skills development.


Approach:  Rather than a prepackaged curriculum, we facilitate learning through:

  • Self-directed/curiosity-driven investigations
  • Outsourced training (e.g., art school and online) to develop desired skills
  • In-house coaching (by me) guided by personally developed objectives

Why? Duncan studied art at Medallion Art School for five years, developing skills in drawing and painting. After this, he wanted to research the masters and learn digital art techniques from me and through Youth Digital (referral link, below).


Approach:  Rather than a prepackaged curriculum, we facilitate learning through:

  • A mix of labs, books, and discussions  (in-house)
  • Outsourced training (e.g., tennis lessons) to develop desired skills

Why? While living healthy is something we value, study, and discuss (frequently) as a family, it’s more fun to engage in athletic activities with others. Additionally, the activities that keep us physically fit teach us more about ourselves and how to live healthy lives.

Physical Activity Resources:

Social Skills/Health Resources:

Older Resources (Used When Duncan Was Younger):

Approach: We facilitate this through self-directed/curiosity-driven investigations (e.g., no prepackaged curriculum).

Why? Duncan enjoys studying history—specifically, the historical context that resulted in technological advances world-wide.


Older Resources (Used When Duncan Was Younger):

Approach: Our approach focuses on practice and feedback—both general (e.g., pinpoints typos/mistakes) and targeted (e.g., a deep-dive on a specific concept like, metaphor, point of view, conflict, etc.). In addition, mechanics, grammar/syntax concepts, and language/spelling are key concepts included within the scope of feedback and lessons. Further, through our lessons, we investigate various writing concepts (e.g., voice, pacing, etc.). To facilitate this:

  • We utilize/study multiple writing references, discussing specific concepts and philosophies behind the concepts
  • We read a variety of works aloud (e.g., short stories, essays, procedures, science texts, etc.) and discuss the how, why, and relative success of other authors as they apply specific concepts within their work
  • I serve as a content expert and co-editor

Why? I have a minor in writing and years of professional writing under my belt. And, both experiences have cultivated a belief in me that a writer needs to write (both technical and creative works), share their writing, receive solid feedback, and adjust their writing (and understanding) to grow and develop their skills. To me, practice and feedback are royalty. However, it’s important for an author to have a grasp of the concepts, too, so that they may wield them with skill. Finally, I value studying other authors and the craft of editing. I see these as indispensable vehicles for driving critical thinking about writing. Plus, these practices have a way of cultivating self-reflection.

Writing Resources:

Speech Resources:

Older Resources (Used When Duncan Was Younger):

Approach:  We facilitate learning through:

  • Deeper concept lessons with hands-on projects and provocations
  • A variety of math textbooks and workbooks

To develop the deeper concept lessons, my husband and I call on our engineering experience, published studies, and ideas from a variety of respected mathematics teachers/researchers.

Why? To sharpen and keep hard-earned calculation and problem solving skills, it’s important to practice. However, as a math tutor, I’ve found experimentation, modeling, and real world applications guided by curiosity and specific intention are better at sparking student interest.

Student Resources:

Older Resources (Used When Duncan Was Younger):

Parent Resources:

Approach:  Rather than a prepackaged curriculum, we facilitate learning through:

  • Self-directed/curiosity-driven investigations
  • Outsourced training (e.g., to develop desired skills
  • In-house coaching (by Erik and me) guided by personally developed objectives
  • In-house coaching (by me) in project management fundamentals

Why? Duncan is interested in computing/programming, game design, graphic art, 3D modeling, and electronics. Between Erik’s and my expertise, local community education programs, and all of the online sources available, we’ve got this covered in a way that far surpasses any specific curriculum.


Older Resources (Used When Duncan Was Younger):

Approach: In addition to texts covered through other studies, Duncan selects at least one book for himself per month—fiction and non-fiction—to read for enjoyment. Also, we add books to the shelf on a regular basis, visiting the bookstore and library when we can. (Our family is a little bit book crazed!) Finally, we’ll pick one or two a year for an old-fashioned book report, just to assess that he comprehending the material well.

Why: Erik and I are avid readers and we believe that given the freedom to read, Duncan will be, too. So far, so good!

NOTE: Through his other studies, we evaluate his ability to read aloud (e.g., literacy), comprehend the material, draw inference, cite evidence, analyze, and determine central themes and ideas, as well.

Approach:  We facilitate learning through:

  • Online lectures, note-taking, and essay
  • Field trips, labs, and calculations practice (especially, for physics and astronomy)
  • In-house coaching (by Erik and me), directed reading, and a variety of projects (developed by Erik and me)

Why? Duncan enjoys studying science and is interested in various questions and ideas over a broad range of science topics. So, he is highly motivated/driven by self-interest and reads a lot of science-related books and articles. However, he hasn’t had much exposure to lecture and note-taking activities. Therefore, we’re devoting about 50% of our time this year to online lectures and note-taking. In addition, we’ll continue to investigate natural science and explore color and light through field trips. Finally, we’ll explore lecture concepts through labs as a way to reinforce ideas communicated through the lectures.



Older Resources (Used When Duncan Was Younger):

Approach/Resource:  We facilitate learning through Complete Spanish Step-by-Step by Barbara Bregstein and coaching from me (I’ve had just enough college Spanish to introduce Duncan to the language).

The Big Idea: It Comes Down to You

While I’m happy to share an example of what we do, it’s important to remember this: A major advantage of DIY education is customization and there isn’t one “right approach” for everyone.

How you approach educating your learners depends upon your state regulations, personal values and philosophies, and the needs of your learners and family. Your needs, preferences, values, and the specific laws impacting you and your learners will guide your decisions and development of your own homeschool.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here to cheer you on.

In the Comments Below…

Please share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with folding legal requirements into your learning objectives.

Thanks so much for reading, commenting, and sharing!

Wishing you many good things,

– Liz