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Government Budget Cuts: Time to Think Alternatively for Education

Posted May 20 2009 11:27pm

With the budget shortfalls directly affecting our schools (Oregon is experiencing HUGE education cuts), I’m looking at alternative education options for my five children.

I’m opting for traditional home education, but for those who feel that route isn’t for them, other options are out there!

Connections Academy … a FREE (public) online/charter school.  Elementary students are provided with a computer (one per family) and all students are supplied with books and materials free of charge.  There is a great deal of online work and a full staff support.  This program (and others like it) take most of the work out of (home) schooling for parents.  We used this program for a while for our 16 year old, but she wasn’t able to focus with so many hours spent on the computer.

Part time public schooling … according to our district office, a parent can choose to send their child to school for certain subjects, half days or even selected days of the week.  The rest of the schooling can be done at home by whatever methods the parents chose to employ.  I’m slightly intrigued by this option because it would allow me to rest my social conscious by knowing that the school will still receive funding for my children (and that we are not adding to the already failing budgets).

Private schools and Charter schools… in most areas, these are easy to find.  Charter schools are usually tuition free and provide various educational styles.  We have one that focuses on “place education” meaning the kids spend a great deal of time outside, on farms and in open spaces while learning.  Math might take places while figuring out how many crops can be planted per acre.  Private schools come with varying price tags, but offer the option for a secular education or one that is geared toward immersion or any number of specialties.  Many private schools offer financial assistance.

Since we’ve decided to home school, its important to me to not waste resources (whether that be money, time or products), so I’ve been on the search for used curriculum, internet resources, education in everyday experiences and any other avenues that do not require the purchase of a full set of new curriculum books.

I’ve searched our local library for curriculum and home school resources.  To my surprise, our (small) library has a good selection of curriculum near the children’s and parenting section.  The resources from our library are FREE and RECYCLED.  The downfall… I can only renew three times before they must go back, so I can’t use the same books year round.

We are watching for local (day trip distance) places to visit which afford educational opportunities.  These include area falls, parks, rivers, lakes, museums, outdoor markets, farms, etc… Our family will have an outing once a week, the children will use their sketchbook journals (made from recycled paper and found at Stubby Pencil Studio ) to record drawings and words from their day.  Many of these outings will be free (some parks have a day pass charge of $3-$5) and some, such as museums may have a per person or per family charge for the visit.  Our goal is to keep things cost effective.

The children will also participate in normal daily activities… helping prepare snacks and meals, which will incorporate sanitation, food groups, basic math, service and more!

Other actions I am taking are to watch Craigslist, used book stores, library books sales and garage sales for educational items.  We found our globe in my Grandparent’s storage room and purchased books at a library sale, $5 for a grocery size bag full!  Our art supplies come from Stubby Pencil Studio and our paper is always recycled and recyclable.

We are also adding a morning yoga/meditation time to our schedule to help keep everyone grounded.  Now, instead of spending 7 hours a day in a stuffy classroom (virus central), my children are spending several hours outside each day… soaking up the vitamin D and enjoying all that nature has to offer (even when some of that time is spent in neighborhood clean-up, collecting trash and recycling everyone else leaves behind).

My argument for home education is that my children will be healthier, more active, in tune with their body and their surroundings, better prepared for real life, and have an awareness of planet conservation in addition to (excellent and valuable) book learning. I’m organizing and planning all our curriculum, but for those who feel unprepared or unable, there are wonderful programs that do all the work for you regarding planning and organization, you just present the work and help your children (using your teacher resource guides).

I can’t afford to send my children to an elite private school like the Obama’s, but I can give them a superior educational experience and help protect our precious planet (while educating the next generation so that they will continue conservation efforts).  Maybe it’s not for you, but it’s definitely a win-win for us!

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