Minecraft Homeschool – Q&A

I was browsing some homeschooling forum and came upon a thread discussing Minecraft Homeschool. My boys really love Minecraft. Jared and I even went to the Minecon convention in Orlando last year. Talk about an expensive trip! But that’s pretty interesting that children can learn from this video game. I emailed them (info@minecrafthomeschool.com) some questions, and Ms. Jody responded.

Q1: On what date can I start to enroll my kids for the 2014-2015 Session 1 class? What is the deadline?
A1: June 2nd Session 1 opens for enrollment. Deadline is always 2 weeks before the class begins.

Q2. It looks like the Core Classes are $15.95 for a 5-week session. Is that correct?
A2: Yes. Plus a bonus 6th week with no curriculum to “say goodbye” to the sever.

Q3: Do you offer any sibling discounts?
A3: No. We feel that we offer an unbelievable price on the program already. We expect kids to spend 4 to 6 hours per week in our program so that is a rate of 0.66 per hour.

Q4: Is there an option to sign up for all Sessions 1-5 before September 2014? If not, how far in advance would one have to enroll for subsequent sessions?
A4: Not at this time. We are considering the option to allow you to enroll in a single set of classes, but it would be 100% nonrefundable. Our single enrollments allow you to request a refund up to the end of the first week of class. The group enrollments would allow you to sign up for all US History, or all Creative writing… We are still working through the details of that and if we offer it, will have it ready by June 2nd.

Guilt…and then…not so much

As this school year nears its end, the onslaught of school concerts and programs and other events occur. Just the past 2 weeks have included Li’s Pre-K play, Hayden’s outdoor class erupting-volcano project, volleyball games and tournaments, Jared’s guitar concert, and Michela’s choral concert. And there’s still a few more upcoming 8th grade events Michela has.

I love watching my kids interacting with their friends and just seeing them get excited about their performances.

And then I feel guilty.

I hate that my 3 kids that I will be homeschooling for 2014-2015 will no longer be involved with their friends in anymore of these school events. I feel guilty that Jared won’t get to experience all the fun 8th grade activities – trips and graduation – with those he’s known since Kindergarten. I feel guilty that Hayden won’t get to join the basketball team next year with his friends. I feel guilty that Li won’t get to grow up with those kids she met this year.

But then I look at the positive.

I love that I will no longer receive a note from a teacher about how my 4-year-old daughter “did not get a sticker this week” for not listening or for not sitting still in circle time. Did I mention she’s 4??

I love that I will no longer receive a note from a teacher about how my son could “not sit still” in class and so she had to move him away from the rest of the class.

I love that I will no longer receive a note from a teacher about how my child was not paying attention in church (because aren’t all adults 100% attentive at church?).

I love that I will no longer hear about my sons being bullied in school.

I love that I will no longer hear from my kids about how some teacher was “being mean” or has their favorites (admittedly, Michela is a favorite of one of her teachers) or how some teacher was being condescending or rude or only being nice when the parents were around (you know who they are!).

I love that I will no longer get a call from the Assistant Principal saying my son has detention for having his ipod (which the teacher assumed was a phone) at lunch, or for having his ipod in church (how many adults have been on their phone in church?), or for talking in class, or for interrupting the class, or for questioning a teacher about a subject (in which the teacher thought he was being rude), or for being out of uniform (ie not having a belt, not wearing the right shirt, not wearing the right shoes, having his hair too long). I understand I signed up for all those rules when enrolling them in a private school, but now that I can reflect on this, really, who writes up these rules? And does it really help the kids in the end?

I mean, I think back to all the times for which my kids have “gotten in trouble,” and really, none of them were “OMG! SHE/HE DID WHAT?! THAT’s JUST TERRIBLE!” Stop the presses. My child hugged another child, and they just can’t do that. Really?

It will be SUCH A RELIEF to not have to deal with such trivial things anymore!

And then I feel guilty that I actually punished my kids for not sitting still or for not listening in class or for whatever reason the teacher gave in her handwritten notes. I hate that those notes made me anxious, and yet, I had to act cordial in front of these teachers.

I don’t want this to sound like I hate their teachers because I can understand their situation. No way would I want to teach 20 kids at the same time in the same room for a whole day for a whole school year. NO WAY. So I can understand they may have their frustrations; although, I’m guessing you do know what you’re signing up for when you study to be a teacher. But, I mean, I get it. I do. I have friends and family who are teachers. I respect them. I think my kids’ teachers have done a great job teaching my kids the curriculum they intended to teach. I just don’t like some of the nit-picky things they have had to write home about. Just because I don’t agree with some of the things they’ve said or done, it does not mean I think they are horrible teachers. They’re not.

And, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s OK for my child to bite someone. And I don’t think it’s great that both Li and Hayden were able to cut a hole in their shirts during class. But, there were times when I would see a teacher’s note, and think, “Yeah. So what?”

Now that I will be homeschooling, I love that Li and Hayden will be able to focus on expressing themselves and learning through their “projects” and that they won’t get in trouble for not putting their stuff away because “it’s not time for that.”

I love that Jared will get to learn some computer programming skills on his own, which the school doesn’t teach. He’s already teaching himself how to program now! I think he will be my IT Geek.

I love that I will get to be with them and see them have their lightbulb moments.

For now, Michela will be in a traditional Christian high school with all their policies and procedures, and she’s good with that. Some kids like that and learn well that way. I wonder, though, how different her life would be had she been homeschooled from the start.

HomeLife Academy (HLA) – Q&A

The following are some notes from a couple of emails between HLA and I. These questions were initially sent to David Parkerson (admin@homelifeacademy.com), but they were answered by Lynn Knowlton (lynn@homelifeacademy.com). Lynn Knowlton is an HLA Counselor; phone # is 1-888-560-0774 ext. 3509.

Message: I live in TN and plan on having my kids finish the school year in May 2014. Then I plan to start homeschooling them (for the first time!) for 2014-2015. I have been researching Church-related Umbrella schools and have seen HLA keep coming up in my searches. I have a few questions about HLA.

Q1: Let’s say I were to decide to enroll with HLA this week. If I decide to register for 2014-2015, will HLA contact the kids’ school before the end of May? I just want to be sure their school won’t be confused and think I’m pulling them out for the 2013-2014 school year.

A1: HLA will begin requesting records for all student’s enrolling for the 14/15 school year on May 15th. If you need HLA to request records at a later date you can make a note at the top of the Educational Plan box of the application.

Q2: One of the reasons I am looking to homeschool is because my 4-year-old daughter, who is in Pre-K at a private school, although she passed her Kindergarten screening, her teacher still wants to hold her back for maturity reasons. I disagree with this, but because it is a private school, we would have to abide by their rules if we stayed. I noticed HLA has this question as part of their application: “Has the student(s) been charged with truancy, suspension, expulsion, misdemeanor, or been on probation?” How would you expect me to respond to that knowing my 4-year-old’s situation?

A2: You would answer “no” to that question because being held back is not the same as being kicked out of school or receiving disciplinary action by the school.

Q3: I also noticed that HLA requires an “Educational Plan“. This is very confusing for me since HLA states “An educational plan is a list of books and other materials your student will be using at home for each class. It is the parent/guardian’s responsibility to determine the courses and materials/books your student(s) will be using for his/her classes.” What is confusing is if I decide to use an online curriculum such as Time 4 Learning (www.time4learning.com). I did find their online curriculums for my kids:

Is that good enough for HLA? If so, would the information on those pages need to be entered in the application, or would the links suffice? If the information on those pages are not good enough for HLA, then does that mean HLA does not support online home schooling where no specific books are listed?

A3: The Educational Plan is a list of the classes and the resources being used for each class. If you will be using Time4Learning for each class, you will simply list the information as follows: Math – Time4Learning, Language Arts – Time4Learning and etc, on your application. You will do this for each class.

**I emailed Lynn a followup question to this asking what are all the subjects that HLA expects as part of our curriculum. Here’s the Q&A to that:

Q3 Follow-up: I’m still hung up on curriculum. Are the following subjects ones that HLA is specifically looking for? Am I missing anything, or are there ones I don’t need to submit? This will be for a Kindergartener, 4th Grader, and 8th Grader.

Language Arts
Social Studies/History

A3 Follow-up: HLA does not have specific “requirements” until high school. However, all students in grades K-8th should be focusing on the 3Rs (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic) at minimum.  Any additional courses can be based on the student’s interested or whatever you feel is necessary.

Since you have an 8th grader, now is a good time to begin looking over the High School section of our website to become familiar with our high school requirements. This information may help you determine what courses the 8th grader needs to focus on the most over the next year.

Q4: If our Educational Plan changes, and I switch from Time4Learning to something else, would I have to notify HLA anytime that happens?

A4: If you change resources for a class, simply log into your account and update the information as needed.

Q5: Does HLA give any sort of “It’s time to renew” reminder towards the end of the school year for their existing students?

A5: HLA sends out notices by email advertising Pre-registration discounts beginning in January of each year. You must be re-enrolled each year by the time school starts in your area. Discounts are greater the earlier you re-enroll and the fees increase in August.

Q6: Do you think it is necessary to register with HSLDA.org?

A6: Yes, we recommend that families sign up with HSLDA.

Q7: Also, I noticed on our school district’s webpage, it states:

It is the responsibility of these schools to notify the school system when they enroll a student from our school district. Parents enrolling a child in one of these schools should take the initiative to see that this is done.

I’m sure we’re not the first family in this area who has used HLA. 🙂 I’ve emailed the Policy contact person from our school district about this, but have yet to hear back. Do you know if HLA will notify our school district after we sign on with them? Or, will I have to do that?

A7: You do not have to notify anyone about homeschooling. Simply let the private school know that she will not return in the fall. HLA will take care of requesting records from that private school. This will serve as the schools official notice that the student is officially transferred so they can send records. HLA sends a list of students to the county each year notifying them who is enrolled.

Homeschooling Curriculum: Time4Learning?

Homeschooling Curriculum. Can you say OVERWHELMING? There are SO MANY choices to choose from.

After searching and reading reviews and knowing that I want primarily an online one, I am going to try Time 4 Learning (http://www.time4learning.net) to start with. At least, they have a pay month-by-month option which is good. I don’t want to waste money on an entire year’s worth. I’m not sure if the 8th grade one will be challenging or even interesting enough for Jared.

I’m wondering if I even need to get one for Li since she’ll just be in Kindergarten. And she likes Starfall.com. I wonder how that compares to Time4Learning.

I’m still a little confused, though. I mean, I know homeschoolers will pick certain curriculums for certain subjects. But can you use more than one curriculum for a specific subject? Hmm…I guess I could ask HLA (HomeLife Academy) that.

Google: Homeschooling in Tennessee

I forget why, but years ago, maybe when Michela and Jared were 5 or 6, I did look into homeschooling. I was even on the HSLDA emailing list.
This time, when I researched homeschooling, of course, I turned to Google. Oh, dear. A plethora of information! I was bookmarking links and reading homeschool forums and articles and advice and policies. Lots and lots of reading. And all these questions just kept arising. I contacted a former colleague whose wife I knew homeschooled their kids. I emailed her a bunch of questions, but she never got back to me. I probably scared her off. I had a lot of questions. 🙂
I think if anyone wants to homeschool, you should first look into what your state’s policy is on that. I found Tennessee’s rules:
But even that page made me think of so many questions. I was getting very confused with companies that supplied curriculums versus the schools that applied to each of the 3 Tennessee options. I really wanted to do an online curriculum for the boys, but I wasn’t sure which of the options on that page it would fall under. All I had heard about as far as online curriculums go was K12, but then I kept reading bad reviews on that. And then after emailing with my husband’s cousin’s wife, I found that A LOT of companies have online programs!
But anyway, as far as which Tennessee Homeschooling option I chose goes, I thought I would’ve wanted to go with #1, but then that option had a lot of paperwork and testing requirements. And #3, I saw the word “online” in its description, but I really didn’t find much helpful information online about it. And since I still want some form of religion in our teaching, I decided to go with #2 (Church-related Umbrella School); thankfully, there’s a lot of information about CRS, which I guess is the acronym for Church-related School(s).
I found this page pretty helpful to help explain the options: http://tnhomeed.com/Start.html
So then I was like, “Ok. I know I’m going to go with a CRS. What does that mean?”
I went to this page: http://tnhomeed.com/crschart.html
From reading that a few times, I then understood that to mean I had to sign up with a CRS “Umbrella School” which is different from the LEA (local education agency). There is a list of these “Umbrella Schools” that are located on:
I decided to go with HomeLife Academy based on feedback on a homeschooling forum. Plus, the cost to enroll seemed pretty reasonable. I also contacted them with a few questions, and they responded the following day.

What about my job?

My husband and I have fulltime IT jobs where we each have to work onsite. Plus, we have a lot of bills (mortgage, 2 vehicles, private school, credit card bills etc). Having a one-person income would not work, and actually, part of me enjoys working.

I’m currently working fulltime as an IT Contractor. Unfortunately, my boss is not supportive of working from home because she would have to deal with other members on her team asking, “Why does so-n-so get to wfh (work from home) and I can’t?” And she would have to maintain hours and tasks etc for people who do wfh. In other words, she doesn’t allow wfh because it is more work in the end for her. That’s understandable, but what annoys me a little is she feels (she doesn’t have kids) that if your child is sick, you shouldn’t be working from home; rather, you should be at home taking care of your child. But those of us with kids know that if our child is sick, there are times when they’re just sleeping! So I could be using that time to actually be working! She does, however, allow for wfh if we’re on a tight deadline.

Thankfully, I receive calls and emails all the time from recruiters. Since deciding to go the homeschool route, for any recruiter who has called me, I have told them that I would only consider leaving my fulltime job if they found me a fulltime, permanent, wfh one. Most recruiters either would not reply back, or they would try the “does it have to be wfh? I have a lot of other openings with really great companies, but they are onsite.” NOPE.

Surprisingly, one recruiter responded with, “I may have something.”

Long story short. I have a new job where I will be able to wfh! I am super excited! I start this new fulltime job in about a week.

Also, around the same time the whole fiasco with Li not getting accepted into K was occurring, a friend called me. We had both worked together at a previous medical company who got bought out; the new healthcare company that bought them was in need of some of us former IT folks to help out for a few months, but I suspect, they will need us for longer than a few months. Of course I said YES! I am SO BLESSED because with this part-time healthcare gig, I get to work from home and set my own hours!

I love that I will get to be home with my kids AND still work remotely for TWO companies in my field.

I am SO EXCITED for this!!

A Blessing in Disguise?

From what I’ve been reading, I think our situation would be referred to as Accidental Homeschooling. ie I never planned on homeschooling, and our kids have always been enrolled in private school, but because of a situation, I have now turned to homeschooling.

Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.

Like I said earlier, our daughter, Li, is the only one of our 4 kids who we decided to enroll in the private school’s Pre-K program. It just worked out because all her siblings were already enrolled in the school. When the time came, she was immediately accepted into their Pre-K program just because the school doesn’t really have a stringent exam for those incoming Pre-K students.

In a way, Li is very similar to Hayden. She is very sociable, spirited, energetic, and “immature.” Similar to Hayden, she is one of the youngest in her class. She did have a few biting incidents in the beginning of the school year where she bit a student and would be sent home for the day since that’s the school policy. After the 3rd incident, a conference between the teachers, assistant principal, and principal was called; Michael attended that meeting since I wasn’t able to. They didn’t really know how to handle the situation since this had never happened before with any of their previous Pre-K students; ironically, though, another child in Li’s class also ended up in a similar situation biting 3 students as well. It was decided the teachers and we (as the parents) would give Li a sticker for every day she did not bite someone, and then she would get some sort of reward every week. She has had no biting incidents since we implemented this system, although, we stopped doing it after a few months just because she seems to understand it now.

During Li’s first parent teacher conference in October, her Pre-K teacher did tell me that Li is “great cognitively” but just not as mature as the rest of the class and that they may recommend, when the time comes to decide, that she is not ready for Kindergarten. In January, her teacher requested another parent teacher conference. During our meeting, she said that although Li is very smart cognitively, they still felt she wasn’t ready for Kindergarten. But Michael and I disagreed with her, and towards the end of the conference, she had even said, “So there’s nothing I can do to change your mind about holding her back?” NO.

About a week later, Li’s Pre-K teacher emailed me saying she had spoken with “the administrators” (ie the assistant principal and principal) about how she felt Li should be held back and that we did not agree. “The administrators” decided that Li should take the Kindergarten Screening just like any new (ie not a current Pre-K student at the school), incoming student would. This really irritated me especially seeing as how none of this talking-to-the-administrators was mentioned in the conference. But whatever. I knew Li would pass the K test.

My friend and neighbor works in the business office of the school. A couple of days after the K exam, she was asking around about Li’s status – did she pass or not? She found out that they wanted to “observe” Li some more, along with another Pre-K student who also took the K exam, in their class. So first, it was Li had to take the K Screening, and now, they’re saying they have to observe her more? One has to wonder why all this delay in the process? They also have never “observed” the other new, incoming (ie from other daycares) students. I found this to be really frustrating. A few days later, my friend asked one of the K teachers about Li’s acceptance. The K teacher’s response? “Oh yeah! She’s fine. She passed.” That K teacher’s assistant also agreed. I still hadn’t received any official confirmation that Li had passed, though. About a week later, I received an email from the other K teacher (the same one Hayden had when he was in K); this email was basically inviting all new Kindergarteners to take her 3-day summer camp.

A couple of weeks later, I saw my neighbor/friend at home. She confided in me that the school was not going to pass Li because even though she passed the K Screening, her Pre-K teacher and the K teacher (who emailed that camp information) are buddies, and it basically seemed as if that K teacher was just siding with Li’s teacher saying Li was not ready! The K teacher and her assistant who had initially said Li had “passed” disagreed with the decision to hold Li back. Not only did all of this make me mad, but it really seemed to be just a “numbers” game. My friend told me that the school only received THREE applications for new Pre-K students, and all of those students are kids of the school staff! No wonder they were trying so hard to hold Li and a couple of other current Pre-K students back! So for the 2014-2015 school year, they have now lost the Pre-K assistant and the other Pre-K teacher because they do not have enough students for two Pre-K classes. And so it kinduv feels as if Li is just a number to them.

Apparently, in the past, they have let other “immature” Pre-K students go on to K, so their screening criteria has not been consistent. If we had just let Li stay in daycare and then go on to taking the school’s K exam, this would’ve never happened.

I decided to contact “the administrators” for final confirmation. Their response (or what I deem as an EXCUSE) is they are still holding Li back because they look at “the whole child.” More like they’re looking out for the welfare of their jobs! I pointed out how that was nice and all, but that was not what was agreed on. I told them that we were led to believe that all she had to do was pass the K Screening, which she did, and that that would be it. What was the point in Li taking the K exam if they were just going to hold her back anyway? So they basically lied to us. The Administrators never responded.

It’s a shame, really. Our oldest, Michela, is graduating from 8th grade this year. It is a good school. All my kids have enjoyed it and have a lot of friends there. But we have always stated that if one of our children does not get accepted to the school, all of them are getting pulled out. Our kids will finish up this school year, but they will not be returning.

The school didn’t think we would actually do that. They told my friend, “Are you sure they’re not just saying that?” But I will not support a school that lied to us no matter what they’re LAME reasoning is. I will not have my daughter repeat a grade where she would be re-learning her numbers, colors, letters while the rest of her class moves on. She is already reading and writing. Holding her back will not help her at all.

How do the kids feel about not returning to their school next year? Of course, Michela doesn’t care since she’s all set for high school. Li doesn’t care since she’s so young. Initially, the boys were sad because they thought I would transfer them to a different school. Jared won’t get to graduate with his friends next year. That part does make me sad, but one of them is transferring, and two of his friends have already transferred to a public school due to a bullying situation. He still can keep in touch with them thanks to technology. I could easily transfer them to the school Michela will be attending since it is a PK-12th grade school; however, it’s a tad bit more expensive. Or, I could transfer them to another private, Catholic Elementary school, but how do I know we won’t just encounter a similar situation? I took this as a sign as you know what? It is time. Take that leap into homeschooling.

When I mentioned homeschooling as an option, the boys were really excited about it. Hayden announced in his class to no one in particular, “I’m getting homeschooled next year! OH YEAH!” Jared likes the idea of being at home and just doing school work in his PJs at the computer. Michela is concerned about their social situation. hmph. 🙂 I was apprehensive to mention this to Michael, but when I explained how much we would be saving by doing homeschooling, he was very much for it. And when I said, “I’m excited about it,” he said, “Then that’s all that matters.”

The crazy thing is, almost half the student body of the school, for some crazy reason have not returned their contracts signifying that they will be returning for the 2014-2015 school year. Each grade, since we’ve been with the school, has always had 2 classes (ie two 8th grade classes, two 7th grade classes etc), but with the low return of contracts, there will only be ONE 6th grade class next year. Of course, there is only going to be ONE Pre-K class, probably just made up of the 3 students that are kids of the staff. HA. The school is implementing a new half-day program for 3-year-olds; I’m not exactly sure what the enrollment turnout for that is. But that move just screams to me, “WE NEED STUDENTS!” The priest will be retiring, and he fired the principal only to replace her with the assistant principal. So much drama.

Maybe this IS a blessing in disguise.