Up next in “Homeschooling in the 50 States…and Beyond!”, we hear from Kelly, an experienced homeschool mom in the state of Maine.
Kelly Warner has been married for 16 years and has four children, two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 13 down to three. She is a work-at-home mom, homeschooler, and avid reader. She is also the author and owner of Hope In The Chaos, a site that focuses on helping families find the hope in the chaos of their own lives. Topics covered include faith, family, and of course, homeschool.
Please note that these experiences, while they may discuss state requirements, are not legal advice, legislative summaries, or compliance recommendations. I encourage you to do your own research on your state’s current homeschool laws and seek help from official sources if necessary. The Home School Legal Defense Agency is a great place to start though you may find a more state-specific organization that you prefer to work with.
“We live in the beautiful state of Maine, and homeschooling here is a pretty easy task. There are two options:
- Option 1 is to report to the state and local school district at the beginning of the year. At the end of the school year, you simply complete a portfolio review with a certified Maine teacher or have your child sit for standardized testing. The results of the portfolio review or test are then submitted to the district and state.
- Option 2 allows you to register with an attendance reporting institution (RAPPS) that will accept parental reports about academics and deal with the state and local school districts on your behalf.
We are a currently an option 2 family. What this means is I am able to determine the best course of study for our children and how to run that study, and I don’t have to deal with the state. Twice per year I report using scope and sequence information on the progress and assign grades as well.
If we create our own course of study, we simply report the objectives and goals, materials used, and grading method. This allows me to determine which courses are best, which curricula we want to use, and allows my children to pursue their own independent interests.
We are looking at making a change this year to an option 1 family and are currently coordinating with a certified Maine teacher on that change. Regardless of how we register in the fall, we will still be a homeschool family.
Requirements for homeschoolers in Maine are few compared to many other states. We are required to complete a minimum of 175 student days, but we do not have to track hours. The state does want to see kids learning about the four core subjects of science, math, history, and language arts, as well as covering extra courses such as the arts, gym, health, and technology. Maine also requires a one year study of state history sometime during grades 7-12.
Due to the lax requirements for homeschoolers we enjoy a lot of flexibility in our decision-making when it comes to what we are using for materials, subjects we study, and our daily schedule. Our main focus is to make sure the children are learning and developing a love of learning. As we continue our journey as a homeschooling family we are all becoming better about balancing out their interests, their goals for their future, and making sure we are giving them a quality education.
We have been homeschooling for three years. Our first year homeschooling was a partial school-year as we started in March. Due to the minimum number of student days required we had to complete an additional 60 days. Those two months were some of the most stressful and chaotic of my life, and at the end I cried tears of joy convinced that I was done. After a short break I realized that the reasons we decided to homeschool had not changed so I started researching better options and we began our second full year as homeschoolers that fall. Today we are still learning, still tweaking, and still growing together.
Our schedule is constantly changing and getting more and more flexible as the years go by. When we started out, I was determined that we were going to get up, get dressed, and sit at the table for hours on end. We were going to do school at home. Over the years I have relaxed and learned a lot more about homeschooling. Today we run a more lax schedule that allows us the flexibility we need to get it all in. Our school year starts in mid-August and is typically completed before Memorial Day.
Planning for the upcoming school year starts just after we wrap up the current year. I start by reviewing what we used for curriculum, how well the kids learned, and what we did and did not like about the year. During the school year I am always looking for better curriculum options and seeing if we need to make changes anywhere.
We start our school year with a list of goals, rather than a list of due dates (a mistake I made in the beginning). We use those goals to guide us as we complete the curriculum. Having goals for completion rather than hard deadlines allows us more flexibility in our day-to-day learning.
Two of our favorite daily activities include our morning basket, which consists of read-alouds, spelling practice, and fun little bits of information I find to share with them. The other is our looping schedule which is where we cover things such as physical education, health, art, and typing. Looping was something new this past year and makes it much easier to get in all the other items we wish to include.
The biggest thing I wish I had done differently when I began is to draft a mission statement – a written purpose for homeschooling – and to have found a network of support sooner. When we started homeschooling I thought I had it all figured out, so when things came crashing down quickly, I was at a loss. A mission statement and a better network would have surely been beneficial.
One of the biggest blessings of homeschool for our family has been growing closer together. No longer are we all going off on separate ways for the majority of the day, rather the kids and I are together the majority of the time. While this can lead to some boredom and frustration, it also leads to wonderful memories and strong sibling bonds. There is a 10-year age difference between our oldest and our youngest, and yet they have all day together. My children are able to grow, learn, play, and interact with one another and I truly love it.
The state of Maine is a wonderful place to homeschool and allows for a lot of parental decisions. We are lucky to have the ability to school our children in the way we think is best. One of the greatest things about homeschooling in Maine is the ability to register your children at the public schools for courses such as band, art, music, physical education, and sports programs. This has been a wonderful opportunity for my two older children. I have one who participates in band, and the other participates in band, chorus, and sports. The kids really enjoy the opportunity and we work hard to maintain a good relationship with the public school to ensure continued cooperation.
For those currently homeschooling, I leave you with this: if things are not going well don’t be afraid to change a curriculum, add a course, or deviate from a plan. Some of our best learning experiences have happened outside of the scope and sequence. Watching the kids follow their own passions has been truly amazing, and can only happen in homeschooling.
If you have been thinking about starting homeschooling my advice to you is to stop considering and start planning! There is no time like the present to begin a new journey! My only regret is that I let fear hold me back from beginning this journey sooner with our family.”
Do you homeschool in Maine? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments!