At some point in your kids' homeschool career, you'll probably have to explain what they've been doing and learning to the outside world.
If you're talking to a friend or relative, then it might be helpful to discuss the ways homeschooling differs from public school.
You may also want to create homeschool records that document their accomplishments for a school or college. The best way is to describe your children's activities using the same terms used by teachers. I think of it as "Educationese."
Talk Like a Teacher
If you're not familiar with education jargon, you can quickly get up to speed by flipping through the kind of school review workbooks found at discount stores or bookshops.
Scan the table of contents or look for the topic listed on the page to find out what categories your kids' activities fall under.
For instance, "identifying the parts of a whole" is fractions. For a fifth-grader, listening to or telling a story comes under the heading of "narrative fiction."
Using State and Common Core Standards
Another way to figure out how to describe what your kids do all day is to browse through the schools' own guidelines. But don't be intimidated by them.
Unlike the schools, you don't have to design your academic year around them. Instead, use them to see how to classify things your child already knows or is in the process of learning.
Your state Department of Education learning standards in various subjects are usually available online. These guidelines are often broad enough to describe any type of learning activity, from worksheets to hands-on projects to field trips, etc.
The Common Core standards for Math and English have been adopted by most states, and are due to go into effect by 2014. These standards are much more detailed, but again, they provide a glimpse into how schools categorize what they hope students are learning in the classroom.
Don't forget to include all the "usual activities" your child may have been involved with while still in school, such as ceramics, Girl Scouts, or dirt-bike racing. They can be used to fill in many subject areas.
Translate Your Life Into "Educationese"
- Learning to tell the day and time is math.
- Anything your child lines up, stacks or counts is a math manipulative.
- Blocks, Lego bricks, and other building toys count as geometry, art, architecture and engineering.
- Playing or helping you cook with measuring cups and spoons is math and chemistry. (Especially if it changes states from solid to liquid or gas -- and especially if anything blows up!)
- Chess and other games of strategy are logic; card games are probability. File both under math.
- A visit to the dentist or doctor is health. So is learning how to read the nutrition labels on food containers.
- Talking about stories in the news is current events. Attending a Memorial Day service or accompanying you into the voting booth is civics. Both count as social studies.
- Anything they read or write is language arts. Anything. So is being read to, or listening to a storyteller. Watching a movie based on a book is literature. Ditto plays. If it's a movie with an original screenplay, it's film studies.
- Building a website, designing an app, programming a robot, or upgrading the family PC is computer science. Helping Mom program her smart phone is technology.
- Starting a lawn-mowing service, running a lemonade stand, or opening an Etsy shop to sell hand-painted miniatures for role-playing games is economics, marketing, and business math.
- Babysitting and baking a cake are life skills, along with decorating a room, repairing an engine, sewing a vest, or designing and constructing a bookcase. Some of these also qualify as shop, materials engineering, and interior or industrial design.
- A visit to the park to identify trees is nature study. Finding tadpoles is biology. Looking at the night sky is astronomy.
- Stopping by a construction site or playing with toy trucks is physics. Taking a trip to an amusement park, or building a roller coaster with K'Nex or a Ferris wheel with Tinker Toys is too.
- A stop at any tourist attraction, from the Empire State Building to the World's Largest Ball of String, is a field trip. Even taking a tour of the local bakery, firehouse, television studio, farm or factory qualifies.
- A visit to an art museum or gallery is art history. A walk around town with a guidebook, camera or sketchbook to see outdoor sculptures, murals and architectural landmarks also counts as urban planning and geography.
- For that matter, any activity that gets your kids out of their chairs for a reasonable amount of time, from a dance to a walk around the block, is physical education. Likewise swimming, bowling, bike riding, roller skating, or climbing on the monkey bars.