Tuesday, November 12, 2013

State Tests and Dual enrollment: From one who has seen

The joy of homeschooling in its purest form, is that you do not have to bend to anyone’s core or curriculum. And you certainly don’t have to take any state mandated tests here in Utah as of yet. As a parent, you can control what you expose your children to at some degree. You set the scope, the sequence and the assessment.

Someone asked why I would want to be involved with the new state assessment process. To be honest, I have asked myself this very question. Truth be known, when my children were younger we were home schoolers in the purest sense of the word. We had so much fun traveling and experiencing learning. As they grew, I needed additional resources to make sure they could reach their potential and thankfully the Utah system provided some of those resources.

I could not provide a chemistry lab, the upper maths, or the associates program cost effeciently for my older child in a timely manner and meet the needs of my younger children. Finding private tutors was extremely difficult and the public school system already had the courses with some great educators. I am what some parents would consider a dual enrollment parent. I am very eclectic in my approach to homeschool and would consider myself an opportunist seeking the right mentors for my children. As a result, my children will be subject to the state testing in one way or another.

With the new FERPA laws and the ability to track data, I feel it imperative that core knowledge is tested without the social agendas. A proper test would include facts and not any of the controversial, subjective, social, or the psychosomatic testing. If USOE or our school system is to be trusted, it is imperative to remove all items related to any social agenda or touchy feely stuff and stick to factual knowledge or proven theories. We have enough factual knowledge; we don't need any of the extra stuff.

15 parents were chosen to review the new Utah common Core high stake tests. Those 15 parents selected by USOE, the Senate, and the House of Representatives will have the opportunity to serve on this panel for the next two years and others will serve four. I have chosen to serve four years. This group of individuals are a thoughtful, concerned, and a strong bunch.

The test (for all grade levels) was divided amongst the 15 of us. Each 1/15th was divided into 4 batches consisting roughly of 660 questions. I personally reviewed 9 batches. I scored the questions in the following manner:

•Those I felt were too subjective and inappropriate for a testing situation, I marked no and left an explanation in the comment box.

•Those I felt were appropriate questions, but needed some revision, editing or review of the stimuli,  I marked yes but left comments in the box of possible solutions or options that could be delivered.

•Those I felt were appropriate for a test for example math, I marked yes.

Each question was reviewed twice and some reviewed three times by different parents. Out of the 10,000 questions reviewed, only approximately 600 had concerns. Relatively a small number. Those concerns ranged from content, grammar, functionality and more. In the 9 batches I was able to review, I only saw two questions that really rubbed me wrong. I presented my concerns to the group and we discussed better solutions and helpful comments.

We were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement where we could discuss the test but not the core content questions outside of our time there. So you will not find any content of the test here. If it is in the core then it is probably on the test.

What did I learn?

First, if I had a concern, "write it in the comments box". The people monitoring would not answer questions but would facilitate our ability to comment on what we saw. They were non-partial and very attentive to our needs. A pleasant and wonderful staff. It was a pleasure to work with them and those on the parent panel.

After finding out the vender for the test would be AIR, I was very concerned since AIR's forte is psychological testing. Having seen psychological tests, I walked in thinking I would see the situational or touchy-feely questions. I did not see any such questions. I was pleased to see so many uplifting, informative and local referenced passages. Any passages which appeared to have subjective text, answers that led children to believe an opinion as fact or social agendas were addressed not only by myself but by many of the parents there. Each question was reviewed by two or three parents.

As a former 3-5th grade Spanish Immersion Teacher and Science Specialist, it became very apparent that science and math teachers will need to do a thorough job of covering the core. Also, It was apparent that parents need to take advantage of the sage parent practice tests so that the children are familiar with the new formatting and test taking procedures. It is not just multiple choice. There are drag and drop, highlighting, text responses, and interactive questions in all the areas. Children will need to learn to type before 3rd grade for the writing evaluations.

There is a help portal for parents here:

There will be Training Tests supposedly starting in December which will not have questions from the core but rather a sampling of the prototypes of questions to be used to get answers. Student must learn how to manipulate the mouse, drag, drop and perform other needed computer skills. The typing skills including sentence structure, capitalization and such will need to be addressed much sooner including how to use a mouse and not a touch screen.

What is tested?

Reading, Math, Science, Writing – If it is in the core, then it is covered. As for specifics, I will not address that ever.

Reading/Language Arts were much the same as before. I was surprised there wasn’t a reading level diagnostic but I am assuming the schools will already have that implemented somewhere else. The subject matter comes from all over but what I saw was uplifting. Those I vetted were the ones best left in a classroom discussion situation rather than a testing situation.

Math will no longer have just multiple-choice answers to choose from but rather now they will type in the answer. The ability to solve the problem correctly will be vital. Students will need to know the process and be able to type in the answer to the question. No longer will they be able to figure out the questions by utilizing the answers given. There are fewer multiple choice answers, you have to use the numbers given and type your answer in. 3-6th will not have a calculator and there are no fuzzy answers. Part of the 6th grade test and grades 7-11 will be allowed access to a calculator either through the software, or they are allowed to bring their own approved calculator.

I think Science was my favorite part. In science, they will need to understand the subject matter and how to perform an experiment. There will no longer be any guessing for they will be required to make conclusions from the data they create while utilizing the scientific method. Biology better know biology, chemistry better know chemistry. For those who have been taught well, this test will actually be fun. There will be drag and drops and everything you can imagine. They will need to understand vocabulary and models not just definitions (burn the crosswords!) as well as feel comfortable using a mouse.

Writing will be much easier since there is more than a prompt. There is reading text to draw conclusions from. They will need to utilize the information given and write a composition supporting the prompt using the information provided. The students will have access to spelling check but grammar check will not be allowed. The student will have supporting as well as opposing text that will help the student create their own ideas and formulate their own conclusions. The topics are across the board. The structure of persuasive essay and informational essays will be key. You can listen to the teacher webinar training here: http://connect.schools.utah.gov/p141zhflhsf/

Concerns I have for the test

Since this is history in the making, where parents vet the test, I would hope that the parent panel could be involved sooner so that the subjective questions could be eliminated prior to the technological implementation. It would be more cost effective for everyone involved. There were a few reading texts and science questions that need to be vetted but overall there were far less objective questions than I presupposed going into the evaluation. And it was nice to see that as a parent, I was not the only parent who was concerned regarding the few questions that were subjective and leaned towards opinion verses factual.

I am concerned that schools will be graded upon this test when it still has yet to be piloted. Through the pilot they will be able to gather the necessary statistics to provide a proper mean, and medium for grading. Until the test has enough test questions in its bank, the questions vetted for the children's ability to understand and complete, and the rubrics are properly establish for the writing, there is no fair or proper way to establish a grading system for those who are required to take the test.

I am confident and certain that homeschoolers should not be required to take this test EVER. Most don't teach to this exam. Many of us follow a traditional math sequence so the grade levels may not coincide. And most do not focus upon teaching their children typing skills in the third grade.

I am concerned that we as the parent panel get to know of the modifications and resolutions for the questions for which we were concerned. We are told they will be addressed but at this point we may not get to see the changes until we review the next set of questions. Out of the 10,000 questions there were only a small percentage of questions that need to be addressed. I would hope in some time in the future we could find out if they were addressed or not. By removing any subjective questions and utilizing only facts for the test, I feel that this test can be a fair method to judge learning and growth but only after it is vetted and piloted correctly.

Ways to prepare a child

Remember if you are going to utilize funds or resources distributed through the government, there will always be strings attached. If you want to know which tests will be required of your student go to here:

Let your child have a blog. Keep it private but have them write their responses to the reading, science and anything that could possibly be a writing response. May even use the blog for a nature journal and print the information and paste in their nature journals.

Don't get caught up in fuzzy math. Fluency in math facts are imperative not only for memory but for problem solving quickly and effectively. They don't have fuzzy explanations on the test.

Use a mouse. The touch screen is wonderful! But these tests are not created for a touch screen. (Maybe in the future since iPads seems to be the vital classroom tool.)

Use the practice tests on the new sage site when available.

And finally…yes, you can "opt-out." The problem with opting out is this: Current legislation has it that if you opt out your child, your child is seen as "non-proficient." So "opt-out" carries the stigma of "non-proficient." If a school has a large population that is determined non proficient, then the lower the score for the school grade in turn can effect the school negatively. Currently 5 percent of the schools population can (opt-out/refuse to take the test) without any negative consequences.  How does this effect those who utilize charter schools or alternative online programs?

First,  the schools from which their SIS funding comes from, will only want a few of their students opting-out.  For a charter school with 78 students, three students can opt out.  For a school with 300 hundred students, they can have 15 students refuse to take the test.  This means a form must be signed and an "official opt out" is created.  A student who doesn't show up for testing receives even a worse score. Thus, it is imperative to make sure if you are opting out that you notify your school immediately.  You always take the chance of the school dropping you when notifying them but, even worse yet, a no show has a trickle down effect. The schools will begin to refuse to offer the optional programs to homeschoolers. The charter schools are catching on quickly and dropping the programs of Harmony or My Tech High.  Thus you find mandatory testing requirements for those programs.

They are giving a nine week window for the schools to offer the tests so there is relatively few reasons why a no show occurs. Also this test is not timed.  A child could stop and return back to the test.  The time allotment will be determined by the schools.

Overall, this parent panel and review was an amazing experience. I imagine that if this process was implemented in the former state tests there would be far more trust from the public. If the comments from the panel are implemented as we are told, then I would feel confident that my son could take this test without any negative repercussions. And in four years, when the test is refined, it could be used to evaluate teachers for content and schools for instruction. Although let me make it clear, I don't see assessment as a solution. It is a tool. But that is topic for another blog someday.

UPDATE 11/22/13
Dear Parent Reviewers,

We would like to thank you for the tremendous work you did in reviewing all 10,000 SAGE Summative test items. Outlined  below is the process which USOE will implement to respond to the feedback provided by the parent item review committee:

1.    USOE content staff and AIR content staff will independently review all item feedback and propose resolutions.
Resolutions may include the following: removing item, editing item, and flagging item for further review. After testing all items will have an extensive statistical review including those flagged by the review committee

2.    USOE content staff and AIR content staff will work collaboratively to determine proposed resolution for all item feedback.  USOE will make final determination for any issues of disagreement

3.    Proposed resolutions will be reviewed by content/bias review committees

4.    Final resolutions will be implemented

5.    Parent Review Panel will be provided with summary statistics of item resolutions (number of deleted, edited, etc.)

6.    Parent Review Panel will review all items which were edited (Fall 2014)

7.    Parent Review Panel will review all new items written for 2015 administration (Fall 2014)

John Jesse
Director of Assessment and Accountability
Utah State Office of Education

UPDATE  1/14/14
Dear Parent Review Committee Member,

We want to thank each of you again for your tremendous work in reviewing all the items in the SAGE Summative item bank prior to students responding to them during the operational field test this spring. Your feedback was a critical component in moving this complex project forward.

USOE has now completed the initial review and response to the feedback you provided.  The process included the individual review of each assessment item that contained a comment from the parent review panel by individual USOE content experts.  Items were then either removed from the item bank, edited based on parent and review panel recommendations or flagged for further review after the item is field tested. 

All non-removed items were brought before an item review committee consisting of regular education teachers, content experts, special education teachers, and minority group representatives for reevaluation.  All parent concerns were addressed by checking functionality, bias, style, facts, and content on all flagged items.

The majority of flagged items were targeted for further review after field testing. For example, the identified issue for an item by the parent review panel may have been the item was too difficult for the grade level. The item was re-checked by content experts and deemed grade appropriate but will be reviewed again after field testing by both content experts and the parent review panel. All items flagged by the parent review panel, which were not removed will be presented to the parent review panel next summer for further review.

Listed below is the numeric representation of the process:

Review after Field Test
English Language Arts

John Jesse
Director of Assessment and Accountability
Utah State Office of Education

Friday, September 27, 2013

Things I wish I would have known

When I started to homeschool,  I had no idea. Really,  I had no idea.  There are so many things I wish I would have known.

Here is a list of mine and a few others I captured from the previous WHEN forums before it was deleted:

I wish I would have known how fast time flies. At 18 years old, the government believes a child should be capable of living on their own and provide for themselves.  That means I ONLY had 18 years to teach them all they needed to know to survive in that big, bad, mean  ole' world. For many that step into the world of survival can be a slap in the face or even a huge punch in the nose.  I hoped to soften that blow of  realization by helping them obtain the skills and the confidence to take any obstacles one step at a time.  The hard part is realizing that very little of that time, could I wrap my arms around them and cuddle them.  Time just goes so fast.  My youngest is already off to high school classes.

I wish I would have known that every child's education will have holes in it and the skills and confidence I give my kids matter most.  And the more involvement I could have, the smaller the holes will be.  Thanks goes to a wonderful friend, Cynthia Walker who clued me in on this.

I wish I would have known it doesn't take a brain scientist to home school just a motivated individual who loves learning. And when you love learning, they love learning.

Here are some things others shared:

Michelle Curtiss: I wish I had known that stress and a very specific plan is optional. (The plan will change anyway as your kids begin to discover their own interests) As long as you minimize electronics and make resources available, they learn. Also, thrift stores are a great way to get lots of good book cheap.

My husband and I were saying just yesterday how cool it is to have to constantly be saying "I don't want to ask you again, put your math away and come to dinner!" "You need to stop reading and get ready to go!" "I really love hearing about what you are learning, but I've been in here for over an hour and you really have to go to sleep."

My kids have learned past me in so many ways and I am just grateful to be able to give them the life I didn't have. We don't have to get up early and stay up late just to get to school on time and have a little time together as a family. We can drop everything on a moments notice to help others as needs arise. We enjoy the fresh air when it is available and the cozy indoors when it is cold.

We are living a joyful life! I can't believe I was ever afraid to start homeschooling.

Karen Zea: I wish I had known:
1. That textbooks are optional and mostly a hindrance to learning.  It is much more fun to discover on your own, and do your own research.

2. That requiring too much can paralyze learning.  We had to regroup and put learning on hold for quite a while until the joy came back.  Boys seem to reach this point much faster than my girls.  I don't even start to introduce some elementary skills until age 10 or 11 now.  It just isn't worth it, and the learning happens much faster if we wait.

3. That our kids will not make the decisions we think they will if we give them the chance.  My kids were not interested in what I thought they would be!  But what they are interested in is fabulous!  I wanted to push subjects that I thought everyone needed...and they do to a point, but not necessarily as far as I studied when I was in school.  I'm sad when they don't want to study what I loved, but I am glad that they are becoming their own persons.

4. That homeschooling is finally giving ME an EDUCATION.  I can't believe how much I didn't get when I was in "school"!  And I was no slouch!  I was in "honors" and "advanced" classes and programs from day one. (part way through K they asked me if I wanted to stay all day and read with the big kids and I said YES! and never looked back.)  Now I have taken the love of learning to unimagined heights!!

I hoped...but I wasn't sure.  Now I know for sure - IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT THEY LEARN!!  My daughter went to one of the best Jr Colleges in the nation without some of the "academics" that I thought she HAD to have.  She is successful and happy.  What else could be important?

I echo the sentiments of the others who have answered.  What a joy and a blessing to have to scold kids that are hiding to read and study!!   I have watched my teen aged son completely change his friday night plans to stay home and play games with his siblings, just because his sister was visiting from college unexpectedly.  My heart soars when I see my little ones insist that their big brothers or sisters do something for them, and the tenderness with which the older ones love and serve them.  I had no idea we could be so blessed!!

Laura Lund: The ones that come to mind for me as we finish up our eighth year are:
1. Every homeschooling family is unique. Ours does much better with a detailed plan. We put everything we want or need to accomplish into the plan and schedule in time for free exploration. When we tried a more relaxed approach (unschooling and then TJEd), we were all stressed out!

2. Less is sometimes more, but sometimes more is more. Re-evaluating periodically helps keep us happy and balanced.

3. The program or resources that work for my oldest will generally not work for the next in line (and vice versa). I have grown so much as a teacher because of the various strengths and weaknesses of my children.

4. There are wonderful days when I love everything about homeschooling and there are horrible days when I wish the yellow bus would take them all away for a few hours. Realizing that no one has a perfect family and perfect homeschool helps me keep on keepin' on when things are rough.

5. There are few things sweeter than watching an older sibling help a younger one learn a new skill.

6. I love seeing my children grow in their understanding. I love having discussions with them about what they are learning. I love experiencing the light bulb moments with them.

7. Homeschooling is hard at times, but the perks are great.

I love Laura's last one!  She is so right!  People look at my family and wonder why and how we are so close.  And you know, honestly, not only   was I able to give my kids a step ahead, we are close to boot!  Thank you home schooling.

What do you wish you would have known?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Diploma and Utah's new math requirements

This information only pertains to those who plan on or may use the Utah Public system for graduation and to obtain a Utah high school diploma. Due to the requirements, this means that the decision to receive a diploma must be made much earlier than has been in the past.  Previously many parents could make that decision in 11th grade.  But now it is suggested before you start your 9th grade year.  And pretty much, it is a done deal decision.  I personally make that decision come 7th grade because we prepare our children to take advantage of the available associates degree through high school.
To graduate the math requirement is no longer a number of credits but rather include State Standards Math 1, 2, and 3. 9th grade requires State Standards math 1 (SSM1). 10th grade requires SSM2. 11th grade SSM3 or other options listed below. 
In a nutshell:
If your student’s graduating class is 2015, they can complete the Algebra 1,
Geometry, Algebra 2 (or instead of Algebra 2, an approved applied or advanced course off the list on the chart).
If your student would graduate in 2016 or later, they need to complete Secondary 1, Secondary 2, Secondary 3
(or instead of Secondary 3 an approved applied or advanced course off the list on the chart)
Here are the math standards to make sure students that are interested can pass the competency exams when it should come available February 2014. Just a note, passing off tests currently have a consequence of disqualifying a student from the Regents scholarship.
Methodology is not mandated but the standards are.
I asked whether the traditional Saxon Math series of Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry could fulfill the requirements.
Diana Suddreth of the Utah State Office of Education states, While the state does not mandate curriculum, it does set standards, and it is the responsibility of the schools to choose curricula to support teachers as they instruct in the standards. The Saxon Math series you describe does an incomplete job of addressing the standards and does so out of order. Teachers can reorganize the material and supplement the material, but they must be teaching the standards for Secondary Math I, II, and III as those are the graduation requirements. The Secondary Math sequence is not a check off. The courses must be taken and the standards must be addressed.
Thanks to Martha Rassmussen, she found this update. SSM1 and SSM2 must be on the transcript but SSM3 can have other classes replace it. See this link to the pdf:
According to Mrs. Suddreth, USOE, states:
“The AAF courses listed on this pdf are the courses students may take to fulfill the third mathematics requirement (after Secondary I and II are complete) upon parent request. They do not replace Secondary I and II which are firm in the graduation requirements. Please note that many of the courses have pre-requisites, sometimes including Secondary III.
If you consider the pathways in rows, you can see that the AAF courses line up with (and replace) either Secondary III or Precalculus. There are no courses that replace Secondary I and II.
The pathway describes the trajectory for most students; however, students who are advanced and move through the courses more quickly may meet the graduation requirement by taking Calculus, which fulfills the secondary mathematics graduation requirement regardless of how many credits are earned.”
Here is the link to all the state standards.  The pdf is only 1900 pages.  Leave it to bureaucracy.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Decision- Diploma or not diploma

Stephanie of Salt Lake asks: "I'm sorry to bother you, I saw your post in homeschooling and was hoping I could ask you a question. I've done homeschooling on and off over the years and thought my only option was doing one of the online schools through Utah which is what I've done. My oldest however is really resisting. He currently does BYU IS. He's really smart but hates that he has to do the subjects that he already feels he knows. His philosophy is that he just take college courses that interest him and test out of subjects he already knows. Is this even possible? Here is my question. Do homeschoolers have to get a High School Diploma to get admitted in to college or is there another way if he already has college credits? I need to figure something else out because he's  becoming depressed, angry, and frustrated over this lack of control with what he's learning/not learning. Any advise/help would be greatly appreciated."

Stephanie,  It is never a bother to try and help someone. I will do my best from what I understand so far.  I understand your son's point of view.  Sometimes I feel the exact same way.  There is a lot of fluff and not enough meat to get where you really want to go.  And worse yet so many obstacles to really get where it matters most even when money isn't part of the equation.  I really hate redundancy.

Your question is two fold: Do you need a diploma to go to college?  And second can you test out of certain classes and do only what you are interested in for a diploma?  

First, Yes, absolutely, you can go to college without a diploma. It is definitely possible.  Many kids do and do a great job of it!  Some reasons most people choose to finish the diploma is because of the availability of scholarships to get started, avoiding the front lines should there be a draft for war or desire to enlist,  the opportunity to celebrate their work, the ability to get certain jobs, the lack of funding and the ease of getting federal grants and student loans the first year.  For others it is the social activities, sports, the lack of understanding they can have more control in developing their path for the future and well, some just don't care. They would rather go with the flow, it is just easier that way.  Although, at times I understand the last list, I won't discuss them.

Scholarships: The availability of scholarships is broader with a diploma but it doesn't mean there isn't any scholarships for those without diplomas. The first questions are: Where would you like to go to school? and What would you like to do to earn a living and support yourself when you are on your own?  With that information begin your research and make a game plan. Contact the admissions office directly and speak as high up as possible since usually it is just students who answer the phones.  Go to the people who make the decisions. Those who are proactive have less to worry about and do fine with or without the diploma.

BYU has scholarships for those who do not get a diploma and have less than 15 credits.  They weigh heavily upon the ACT score, essays and experience.  (For example, If you are going into Arts..... the number of leads and types of performances.  Main stage weighs heavier than a small community theater.  If technology.... what classes have you taken and what languages are you proficient in?  And don't forget to have taken two foreign language courses in sequence.)  I can't speak strongly enough about the need for a GREAT ACT score.  That is 32+.  If I remember right, only 34+ got 1/2 tuition academic scholarships.  Nice thing about BYU is that if you prove yourself the first year, with a certain GPA 3.9 or so you can get scholarships to pay for the tuition.  Keep it going and you could get most of your tuition covered at least. Nice but remember things change yearly.  That is why it is so important to know what you want to do.  (http://saas.byu.edu/tools/b4byu/sites/b4/?visiting-student/homeschooled-applicants/)

Now BYU Idaho I believe still requires the GED or compass test.  Although BYU Provo does not.  Thus the importance of knowing what school you would like to attend and the requirements needed.

Remember where you go to school is nice, but what the school offers so you can advance in your career and ability to provide for your family is the key- a vital key.  BYU's master's department is not where you go to medical school.  Kinda a stupid example, but I hope it is obvious that you should choose a school by what it provides and how much you can afford.  If BYU doesn't provide excellent education in technology but UVU and University of Utah do.  Choose from what you can afford and go there.  University of Utah's robotics program is the best.   University of Utah collaborates with Apple.  BYU at this time does not.  University of Utah has great technology camps for kids who are interested in technology to prepare them.  BYU does not. BYU does have a great theater department and fantastic MBA program.

Military: The diploma effects military status upon entry.  Your rank will be determined highly by the accomplishments and educational status which in turn effects your pay rate.  Those without diplomas are all treated the same regardless if you are a dropout or a homeschooler.  The lower the rank the closer to the front lines in war and the dirty work.  It is just a fact. The great difference between a dropout and a home schooler is that the homeschooler has the skills and determination to get themselves up the ranks quickly.  Also, the military now recognizes a home produced transcript showing completion/graduation. So if you have completed any program make sure they know about it. 

Celebrations: Some kids have the need to celebrate.  They want to be recognized for their hard work. And to be honest some parents also feel the need to have their kids walk through a ceremony to feel some sense of closure and success. Thus the need to participate in a graduation ceremony. For us, this can be costly, a lot of pomp and not really necessary but can be a moment of fun and celebration.  And just that- a moment.

Jobs: It was said in the past that most jobs required a high school diploma.  There a few places where on the application they ask specifically if you received a high school diploma, GED or dropout.  I think the last one I heard about was the police academy. Most employers look over those who do not have the diplomas unless they are seasonal or temporary jobs.  They usually work top down with the more experience and college experience at the top. Department of Labor found that high school diploma holders earned a average of $554 a week compared with $396 a week for those who did not have a diploma. But things are changing depending upon what field you talk about.  The technology field is growing so rapidly that is it more about the portfolio/experience verses the piece of paper that states you are qualified.  And some colleges are leaning that direction also. Example, Apple was doing some hiring for their support department and there were many with plenty of Microsoft and computer experience but could not hack the final testing because they knew absolutely nothing Apple and couldn't learn it fast enough to be able to provide Apple Support.  Thus no job. But people who knew the stuff with no degrees are doing quite well.  

Finances: The first year going to school can cost quite a bit even if you live at home, especially if you have not saved or don't have money gifted to you.  I often tell my kids you can pay for college by working your behind off earning good grades, working your behind off while having to go to school and work at the same time or hanging a noose over your head by taking out lots of debt. The much easier route is getting good grades.  Choose which route you want to go.  The first year of college can be a shock for some. Costs do add up.  In the past, some of the federal applications for money require a diploma to get funding.  After the second year of living on their own it is much easier to apply for grants or certain scholarships after filling out the FAFSA.  But the first year can be the pits for some college students.  Some consider it a slap in the face. The diploma can save you some headaches or lessen the blow, when it comes to getting funding that year.

Second, you ask can he test out of certain classes required for the high school diploma?  I understand somewhere in Salt Lake County they do have a test out program.  $85 dollars per credit or something like that.  I will do some homework and find out where.   But currently there is no way to test out of the current common core math SSM1-3.  The first test, SSM1 will be available come February 2014, the USOE hopes. It was supposed to be ready the beginning of this year.  Nevertheless,  testing out has some consequences such as removing your eligibility for the state's regents scholarship.  

So the joy of homeschooling is creating something that meets the students needs and goals.  After reviewing this additional information, a good question may be - What Does YOUR student need? What would they like to do?  Where would they like to go to school? There are more than just courses or course content that affect a student's decisions.  The parameters are much wider than just completing a check off list of coursework. This is an exciting time to homeschool and show your child that you are their champion and want them to succeed.  

I hope this helps.  If you need further guidance,  I will do my best to help.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Utah Online Options Compared

After spending a good amount of time learning about the homeschool options available through the charter schools ie Harmonyed and MytechHigh, I decided to learn more about what is available to students online and compare them. Remember Oct 1st is the deadline for schools to submit for funding so if you don't have your educational plan figured out by then, the less likely you will get them to cooperate in creating an educational plan beneficial to your child.

Before these options existed I used a combination from the lists from a book called The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and the state standards from the state website where we lived. Today so much more is available. Preparing our children for the future to provide for themselves and their future families is different now from when I started to homeschool.

All of these programs I will compare today are free. They utilize Utah state's SIS system to acquire the funds to sponsor the student's learning, therefore, your child is subjected to the state testing programs. This includes Harmony and MyTechhigh who contract using a charter school's SIS system. Realize the incentives and rules change regularly so be sure and do your homework and ask lots of questions.

Today, I will compare:

  • EHS Electronic high school: 7-12
  • Utah Virtual Academy: k-12
  • East Shore Online
  • Utah Students Connect
  • Provo eschool
  • Alpine Online
  • Utah Online (Washington Online)
  • Mytechhigh  (High Tech High)
  • Harmonyed
  • Mountain Heights Academy (Open High School of Utah)
  • Canyon Grove Distance Learning Program
  • Statewide Online Education

Because living in a school district may have special privileges, here is where you can find out what school district you are in.

I have determined the following for Utah county for the 2013- 2014 school year:

  • Worst district: Nebo School District (it is only in recovery mode)
  • Best for online course options: Provo eschool
  • Best for technology courses: Provo eschool for those in the Provo district, Mytechhigh for those outside of the Provo District, ALC (Springville) for brick and mortar.
  • Best for third party providers: Harmony Ed and HighTech High
  • Best for dual enrollment:
    • Grades K-8 Provo eschool if in Provo School District, Alpine Online if in Alpine School District, Utah Online for Washington County if 7-8th grade
    • Grades 9-12 Provo eschool if in any School District
  • District Best for communication: Alpine Online
  • Best third party online provider communication: My Tech High
  • Best for outside a brick and mortar building social activities: Alpine Online, Utah Online
  • Best for a break: Harmonyed
  • Best for middle school options and learning: Provo eschool if in the Provo district. Utah Online in Washington County. (Nebo District has nothing to offer.) 
  • Best access to concurrent enrollment- Mountain Heights Academy
  • Highest incentive or reimbursement for 2013: Canyon Grove
  • Best example of charter school in middle grades which meets the needs of its students through online and brick/mortar offerings: Canyon Grove

In Utah county, Provo Eschool in my opinion wins hands down because of the dual enrollment, the amazing selection to choose from, the ability to dual enroll 9-12 inside and outside of the district and has great options for 7/8th graders. The rest have far to go in regards to selection and options available for learning.

If I was to rank the schools they would rank in the following from best to worst for providing best educational opportunities. Based upon flexibility, number of online courses available to all grades, course content and communication.

1. Provo eschool
2. High Tech High
3. Mountain Heights Academy
4. Washington Online
4. Alpine Online
5. Utah Virtual Academy
6. Harmony Ed
7. Utah Students Connect
8. Electronic High School
9. East Shore


In my own opinion this really is a last resort for class recovery. EHS offers open-entry/open-exit classes for Utah students at no cost to Utah students or schools. Students work with their local school counselor to select the desired classes. Credit earned at EHS can be used for credit recovery, original credit and credit acceleration. Only classes taken in 9-12 grades are placed on the transcripts. Some of the classes can border on ridiculous (Driver's ED) or excessively rigorous (science courses) Not the same as the packet situations used for recovery in some of the high schools.

  • Grades: 
    • K-6 no
    • 7-8 yes no credit
    • 9-12 for credit
  • Districts that can participate: Statewide
  • Charter dual enrollment: grades 9-12 yes
  • Public school dual enrollment9-12, yes
  • Field trips: no
  • Gatherings for Socialization: no
  • Discounted outings: no
  • Testing required: Yes
  • Accredited: Yes
  • Reimbursement: No
  • Available options
  • Graduation ceremony: no

UTAH VIRTUAL ACADEMY (building located in Salt Lake City)

Utilizes the K12 program  where all curriculum is provided. K12 is very rigorous and time demanding according to those I have interviewed.  Everything is there and everything including supplies are sent to you in a box. If you are unsure of how or what you want to teach your children, all the prep work is done and mailed in a box situation. This as well, as all of the online programs listed can allow up to 3 courses for 2013-2014 school year for 9-12th grades.  2014-15 allows for 4 courses.

  • Grades: K-12
  • Districts that can participate: Statewide
  • Charter dual enrollment: k-8 no 9-12 yes
  • Public school dual enrollment: k-8 no 9-12 yes
  • Field trips: yes scheduled by teachers
  • Gatherings for Socialization: Yes
  • Discounted outings: No
  • Testing required: Yes
  • Accredited: Yes
  • Reimbursement: No, but will provide computers to those who are full time starting this year.
  • Available options:
  • Graduation ceremony: Yes

ALPINE ONLINE (Alpine School District)

Primarily utilizes the K12 program mentioned above with optional Saxon math and Rosetta Stone for second language.  Doesn't seem to have all the class options available that Provo eschool offers. Can be very rigid in my own opinion. Very comprehensive but due to the amount of information it can get very overwhelming.  This is the nature of the K12 program. Knowing this, Alpine Online allows for 80 percent completion in language arts and math, and 70 percent of science, history, art and music to show a completed year.  Although if living within the district, you do have the options to attend your local brick and mortar public school but not any of the charter school unless you are 9-12th grade.

  • Grades: K-8 only
  • Options living inside the district: Grades K-8 dual enrollment allowed within district PUBLIC schools only. Only special cases charter dual enrollment.
  • Options living outside the district: K-8 online only split wpu upon approval,very rare
  • Field trips: Yes 3-4 a month, one a month is paid by the program
  • Gatherings for socialization: 4 parties a year
  • Discounted outings: Yes and offerred to anyone in the homeschooling community
  • Testing required: Yes grades 3-8 year end, grades 5-8 writing, grades 1-3 Dibble reading
  • Accredited: Yes
  • Reimbursement: No, but 1-3 children will get laptop for home, 4 or more children get two computers
  • 3rd party reinbursements: No
  • Available options:
  • Graduation ceremony: No

EAST SHORE ONLINE, (Alpine School District, located in Orem Utah)

This school used to be the alternative school for trouble youth in the Alpine School District. But now it is only the online school for 9-12 grades. The alternative school in the Alpine School district has been changed to Polaris. Although located in the same location in Orem. These people provided packets for recovery classes for the high schools to fulfill graduation requirements. Essentially fill in the blank questions. They have now placed it all online and you can enroll through their interface and fill out the packets for credit. These are not for learning, in my own opinion, but desperation and the ability to "jump through the hoops." Just to say you did it.
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Charter dual enrollment: upon approval of charter Maeser uses them
  • Public school dual enrollment: 
    • Grades 9-12 all options available within the district only up to three classes this year- four classes next year
  • Dual enrollment outside Alpine district: Yes but registration fee higher
  • Field trips: No
  • Gatherings for Socialization: No
  • Discounted outings: No
  • Testing required: Yes must come in for proctored tests for courses
  • Accredited: Yes
  • Reimbursement: No, No computer provided
  • Available options:
  • Graduation Ceremony: Yes, separate from the onsite school, Polaris

UTAH STUDENTS CONNECT- Nebo, Davis, Granite, Jordan, Murray, Park City and Tooele Districts

This as well, as all of the online programs listed can allow up to 3 courses for 2013-2014 school year for 9-12th grades.  2014-15 allows for 4 courses. Unfortunately, These districts are far behind the times.  They offer a very slim selection of classes.  No languages and very similar to EHS.  They only offer the necessary and do not have all the common core math as of yet.  They no longer offer Algebra 1. They offer nothing for middle grades. 
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Charter dual enrollment
    • 9-12
  • Public school dual enrollment:
    • 9-12
  • Sponsored field trips: No
  • Private gatherings for socialization: No
  • Discounted outings: No
  • Testing Required: Yes
  • Accredited: Yes
  • Reimbursement/Incentives: No, must have own access to computer
  • Fees: $45.00 per .25 credit for recovery up to $180 dollars for a full credit
  • Third Party providers from the community: No
  • Graduation Ceremony: Yes
  • Available 9-12 options:

(Provo School District, Provo)

What a wonderful opportunity for those 9-12 grades, for those in the Provo School district K-12, and those outside of the district.
Here's their flow chart for those who can participate:

•K-12 graders within the Provo school district have the best online schooling options available in Utah county. A student in the Provo school district, can take online classes and attend their brick and mortar whether it be charter or public. A third grader through eighth grade can take various courses including language courses and attend their brick and mortar if you live within the district.

  • Provo Eschool allows a student from any district 9-12 graders to participate up to three online courses. Next year the student will be allowed four by state law. Wonderful news: a student in 9th grade student in Payson can take an English course at the local public brick and mortar high school, 3 online course through Provo eschool and attend the ALC in Springville for technology courses. They will fill out an online CCA form. This allows each school to get paid according to the attendance at the particular classes.

  • K-8 students outside of the district can only do the entire online program with Provo eschool, Currently has no ability to dual enroll if you are outside of the provo district. No $400 incentive bonus. No day camp type classes (ie.options day, Scholar school).

    • Grades: K-12
    • Charter dual enrollment:
      • K-8 yes, students and charter school is within Provo district
      • 9-12 yes, all options
    • Public school dual enrollment:
      • K-8 yes, students living within the district/ and schools in district
    • Dual enrollment outside Provo district:
      • K-8 no
      • 9-12 yes, limit 3 online classes this year; 4 next year
    • Field trips: once a month
    • Gatherings for Socialization: Picnic
    • Discounted outings: school education discount
    • Testing required: Yes
    • Accredited: Yes
    • Reimbursement: only for recovery courses, no reimbursement for third party groups
    • Available options:
    • Graduation Ceremony:


    Utah Online is an online provider for not only schools within the Washington school district but they are far reaching. Schools in the Nebo school district allow dual enrollment if 9-12th grade. Utilizes primarily the K12 curriculum so the available online options appear very sparse compared to Provo eschool. Additionally Utah online has added : powerspeak, signing time, Read Alive and ALEKS. Can start with two courses and may enroll up to five. Suggested 1-4 standard core and 1-3 electives. Washington County is the school district. Only has had its 9th-12th grade program for two years now. But they are working well within the Washington District. This as well, as all of the online programs listed can allow up to 3 courses for 2013-2014 school year for 9-12th grades.  2014-15 allows for 4 courses.

    • Dual enrollment living within the district:
      • K-6: not in elementary
      • 7-8: yes public, charter school allows it is possible
      • 9-12: yes
    • Dual enrollment living outside the district:
      • K-6: not in elementary
      • 7-8: middle school if the school allows it is possible, not
      • 9-12: yes
    • Sponsored field trips: Yes - see calendar
    • Private gatherings for socialization: Yes
    • Discounted outings:Yes
    • Testing required: Yes
    • Accredited: Yes
    • Reimbursement: No, but do have computers 1-3 students
    • 3rd party reimbursements: No
    • Graduation Ceremony: Yes
    • Available options:

    Harmony ed has it pluses and minuses. For those who would like some time away from the kids this is the best option. They provide one day a week where the kids can go to learn in a day camp kind of situation. Not anything that could count for accreditation type things or even considered very challenging. Some see it as structured play time without any commitments; others see it as exposure to the subject without all the hoop jumping or busy work. They have had problems resolving credit issues for those who want to graduate with a diploma in the past.

    • Grades: K-12
    • Charter dual enrollment: Not with the schools they have contracts for or are listed below as of 8/29/13 even if you live in the area of the school you are assigned to even though that particular school gets the student's funding. Has been fickle about this and has let some do orchestra, band and other similar electives.
    • Public school dual enrollment:
      • K-8 upon approval of the school- very unlikely unless it is orchestra or band.
      • 9-12 yes required by law
    • Sponsored field trips: Yes, but not very often
    • Private gatherings for socialization:
      • Options Day (one day a week day camp like activities in Riverdale and Provo)
      • ESP (Odgen, Provo, Eagle Mountain, American Fork, Liahona)
      • MAP
    • Discounted outings: Yes
    • Testing Required: Yes
    • Accredited: This is NOT A CHARTER SCHOOL. Depends upon the charter school you are assigned to:

      • Aristotle Academy, American Fork-candidate but not accredited at this time need to get going quickly if they are going to have 9th graders classes accredited for this year.
      • CS Lewis Academy, Santaquin- accredited
      • DaVinci Academy, Ogden-accredited K-12 since aug 2004
      • Mana Academy, West Valley-not accredited
      • Pioneer High School for the Performing Arts, Lehi- yes
      • Rockwell Charter High School Eagle Mountain- yes (up for review this year)

  • Reimbursement: $300-$400 per child if you do not utilize any brick or mortar, options, or ESP
  • Third Party providers from the community: yes
  • Graduation Ceremony: Takes place through the school you are enrolled in if interested in participating.
  • Available options:
    •  Independent Learning 
      • $125 per course up to 4 courses
    •  Options Day
    •  ESP
    • MAP

Mountain Heights Academy (Open High School of Utah)

Mountain Heights Academy, formerly Open High School of Utah, is a tuition-free, online public charter school available to all Utah students in grades 7 – 12. Founded in 2009, school work is divided into weekly modules, which empowers students with the freedom to complete their assignments when and where they choose within each week. Lacking foreign language for 7-8th grades and only Spanish and ASL for 9-12 grades.  All open source materials. They have a partnership with Weber State so that the full-time students can take any of the 400 WSU Concurrent Enrollment online courses as long as they are admitted. They also have a program with Excelsior College in NY for a credit by exam program.  Students can do independent study from whichever source they prefer and for $85 per course take a proctored exam to recieve high school or college credit upon successful completion. Personally, this sounds like a great option for those seeking the associates program.  Although I prefer the UVU associates program over the Weber Program due to controversial course content presented. A parent just needs to be aware and hold conversations if you want your value system to be represented. Either associates degree accomplishes the goal.  

  • Grades: 7-12
  • Charter dual enrollment
    • 7-8 upon approval of charter school-very rare
    • 9-12 yes but dependent upon charter 
  • Public school dual enrollment:
    • 7-8 can easily in the Alpine School District, Provo and Nebo are not willing.
    • 9-12 Alpine allows, Provo sometimes does, Nebo does not.
  • Sponsored field trips: Yes. If at a discount, families can join paying the discounted price also
  • Private gatherings for socialization: 1-2 per month, encourage collaboration between students
  • Discounted outings: Yes
  • Testing Required: Yes
  • Accredited: Yes
  • Reimbursement: No, but they do provide a computer to each full time student
  • Third Party providers from the community: No
  • Graduation Ceremony: Yes
  • Available 7-8 options:
  • Available 9-12 options:

Previously called High Tech High. Now called My Tech High. With the changes, My Tech High has made in the past years, they are on much better footing than Harmony at this time. Communications is fantastic. And if you are doing technology, Matt Bowman the director actually knows his stuff. This also appears to be the BEST option if you are in the Provo School district. Wow you sure get just about everything. I am impressed. Out of the school district you get a lot of everything but the onsite day camp like classes offered by Harmony. Professionalism at its best at My Tech High. This appears to be the best option if your child is interested in the technology coursework offered through Giant Campus and not in the Provo School District.

  • Schools they get their SIS count from
    • Gateway Preparatory Academy Cedar City- accredited 
    • American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork-accredited 
    • Provo eschool-accredited
  • Dual enrollment allowed with charter schools it works with: No
  • Dual enrollment with local public schools:
    • K-8 no
    • 9-12th grade - yes
  • Sponsored field trips:
  • Private gatherings for socialization: No options day or ESP co-ops
  • Discounted outings: Not a school 
  • Testing required: yes
  • Accredited: Can not be accredited. This is NOT A CHARTER SCHOOL. But all the schools they currently work with as of 8/13 are accredited.
  • Reimbursement: $400 technology allowance, $150 for certain subjects
  • Third Party providers from the community: yes $300 allottment
  • Graduation Ceremony:
  • Available options:

Newest addition as of 2013

588 West 3300 North, Pleasant Grove
This is a charter school that is catering to the distant learning and is a great model to watch as they offer both brick/mortar with the online options. The Canyon Grove Academy Distance Learning option is an individualized educational journey that takes place outside the traditional classroom. Distance education students learn at home using a personalized curriculum with educational resources provided by Canyon Grove.  Uses Razz Kids, Typing Pal, Waterford Reading Program (K-2) and other programs.

  • Grades: K-8
  • Districts that can participate: Statewide
  • Charter dual enrollment: With Canyon Grove only- They can attend a combination of visual art, dance, music and theatre classes during the day. Middle school students may also take American Sign Language, Spanish, CTE and PE classes. Can use school breakfast and lunch program. 
  • Public school dual enrollment: No
  • Sponsored field trips: Yes
  • Private gatherings for socialization: Yes
  • Discounted outings: No
  • Testing Required: Yes, All testing can be done remotely if needed
  • Accredited: Yes
  • Reimbursement$450 reimbursement that can be used for supplies and individualized approved curriculum. George Mueller, Scera, Best in Music, and Williamsburg Intermediate classes are also reimbursable. 
  • Third Party providers from the community: Yes
  • Graduation Ceremony: No
  • Available options: Contact Laurie Compton (801-541-5530) 

They have 149 unique courses including online seminary.
    This is a state funded national online school.  It is all or nothing.  There isn't any dual enrollment allowed so if you child wants to take any brick and mortar classes or advance with the concurrent enrollment courses it looks like it is not possible.  They do provide a computer for the younger grades but not the older grades.  Both parent and child must finish an online orientation.  Parents required to log in each day to check attendance for each child.  Easy to keep track of classes, assignments, content. A field trip is provided each month. Since national it is common core aligned. May have issues opting out of testing and use it to count against grades but may change with the new opt out laws.  Online math program is Khan and is poor quality. Lots of extra work that don't pertain to lessons and no way to opt out of the excess work. 
    Main office located in Woodscross, Utah
    Enrollment - placement test, provide materials, K-6th received desktop and monitor per household and Internet stipend payments made 3 times a year.  7-12 must provide own computer and no internet subsidy.

    • Dual enrollment living within the district: No it is all or nothing
    • Dual enrollment living outside the district: No it is all or nothing
    • Sponsored field trips: Yes - dependent upon teacher
    • Private gatherings for socialization: Yes
    • Discounted outings: Yes
    • Testing required: Yes
    • Accredited: Yes by Northwest Accreditation Commission June 2014
    • Reimbursement: No other than what is listed above
    • 3rd party reimbursements: No
    • Graduation Ceremony: Yes, they do give a diploma
    • Available options:

Later, but not today, I hope to provide a list of independent accredited online school programs which you pay for but are not subjected to state testing. Place to go,  if you don't care for the Utah common core.  Especially if you don't care for the current common core 2015 math graduation requirements that require SS1math, SS2math, SS3math on a transcript to receive a Utah diploma. I must remind you that these programs are paid for by the parent not reimbursable by the state and are considered private (ie: Park City Independent).

Here is a list of non common core related curriculum: http://homeschoolwise.com/2013/03/02/popular-home-school-curricula-and-common-core/#comment-317

If using a traditional method for math, a student must complete calculus to receive a high school diploma. (See Common core math required for UTAH diploma.) I have learned as long as you have not enrolled in a Utah publicly funded school prior (that is, never before in your high school career) and have taken the traditional math (algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2), those math classes can be applied toward the diploma but the calculus requirement still holds.  Must realize schools are not required to carry calculus in the schools.

The other options is to get your diploma through NAHRS. BYU accepts NAHRS diplomas.

Monday, July 29, 2013

One of the reasons why I like homeschooling so much!

Reason #1:  It helped our family develop an attitude and feel the confidence of self reliance.

I had to prepare my first talk in Sacrament meeting in 7 years. I love preparing talks.  I learn so much and find things I want to do and be better. This is what I learned from Marion G. Romney and Marie Hafen.

Self Reliance- more than a check off list- a principle with a purpose

The October 1950’s Reader’s Digest shared a story called the Gullible Gull.  It tells us of great flocks of seagulls dying in the city of St. Augustine despite the fact that there were good fishing waters nearby. The seagulls did not know how to fish. The gulls for generations had depended upon a fleet of shrimping boats tossing the scraps to them.  But now the fleet was gone.  And the gulls were dying in droves as the fish population was growing.
As quoted in the Reader’s digest, "The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the . . . sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish.  Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.” In other words, instead of teaching their young how to care for themselves, they taught them how to depend upon the free handouts.

President Marion G. Romney once stated, “A dole is a dole whatever its source. All of our Church and family actions should be directed toward making our children and members self-reliant."
I have been asked to speak upon temporal and spiritual self -reliance.  Many people see this topic as a checklist of items that include a year supply of food and a testimony.  Yes, this may be part of your individual program, but may I purpose, that self reliance is not merely a list of items to purchase but rather an attitude or a proactive behavior in which have the courage to act upon the promptings given to us to prepare for our futures. 
Not too long ago, my husband and I found resources to continue our ideal homeschool very limited.  And we needed to make a decision.  In doing research, we determined that we needed to move back to Utah.  Quite surprising, since my husband was doing fantastic at his career at Apple.  After a confirmation at the Temple, the process had begun.  We put our home up for sale.  It was the only home sold within a six months period - selling barely at the top of a market that crashed a few months later below our purchase price.  Although the home sold, we had no job, no place to live and no way to get our items to Utah. As I panicked, cried and panicked more, we worked to solve those issues; The Lord calmly told me all would be fine.  And miracles did occur.  Let me share just a few of them.
As I looked for job options while Rob was traveling, I was directed to a specific website.  To this very day, I am not sure where it is or how I got there.  But it happened to be the very job he currently has which later we were told it had been on hold for two years.  In casual conversation, we find out a family member needs a renter for their empty huge custom home in Orem and we could stay till they moved back.  We had made arrangements to give most of everything we owned away because we had no way to get all of it back to Utah.  And just days before giving all our belongings away, my long lost brother whom I had not had contact with for years, just happened to be working for a moving company called to let us know, he had a load to take to the Bay Area but did not have a load back and wondered if we needed help.  With special permission from his company, he was able to transport every item in our home including a car and a motorcycle in his trailer.  There were other unexpected surprises which is why we now are here in Mapleton with a paid off home. 

In hindsight monetarily, that move cost us a great deal, but the blessings we have received because of that the leap of faith have been priceless.  Money could never buy the gifts compensated by the Lord. Some of which include good friends, a wonderful spouse for my daughter, and children raised with very high ideals.
Elder Albert E. Bowen said, "The Lord must want and intend that His people shall be free of constraint whether enforceable or only arising out of the bindings of conscience . . . That is why the Church is not satisfied with any system which leaves able people permanently dependent, and insists, on the contrary, that the true function and office of giving, is to help people [get] into a position where they can help themselves and thus be free."
 President Romney stated, “The practice of coveting and receiving unearned benefits has now become so fixed in our society that even men of wealth, possessing the means to produce more wealth, are expecting the government to guarantee them a profit."
 Governments are not the only guilty parties. We fear many parents in the Church are making "gullible gulls" out of their children with their permissiveness and their doling out of family resources."
Romney continues: “Parents who place their children on the dole are just as guilty as a government which places its citizens on the dole. In fact, the actions of parents in this area can be more devastating than any government program.”

To avoid being gullible gulls and training ourselves and our posterity to expect free handouts, the church teaches us four principles:

1•  Learn to work effectively and efficiently
            • spend more time teaching our children how to work/ problem solve rather than entertaining themselves. 
My father was a great example of this.  He taught all of his children how to work hard and be reliable.  I started my first job at 12, babysitting and cleaning motel rooms in Nevada. 
As long as we have children at home, and they are capable we work together to maintain the cars, house, yard and anything we deem necessary to prepare them for adulthood. Laws have changed significantly regarding working for others at this age so things are different for our children. Because we don’t have a business of our own, by the age 16, our children are required to have some form of employment whether it is self employment or through another entity.

2• Store food and other essential supplies for a time of need
            • Teach our children how to grow a garden, how to have food on hand, and prepare meals. My mother was a great example to me in this endeavor.  She knew how to can or store just about anything, bake, and make meals from scratch. 
My children work in the garden, help clean and store the produce,  help plan and prepare meals…  and now that Sierra can drive, she will have the opportunity to do the grocery shopping.

3• Manage our finances carefully and prudently by living within our means
            •Teach our children of ways to earn money, demonstrate an honest work ethic, provide stability so they can be reliable at a job, and teach them how to budget and manage a checkbook.  It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we do it with integrity.
Once I had a history lesson on the great depression in high school.  I remember vividly the picture of a woman sitting on her front porch sobbing in her hands as all her belongings were auctioned off to pay debts.  From that day forth, I never wanted to be in that position where I had accumulated more debts than I could pay.
To teach our children about money, we do the 10-50-40 plan. 10 percent tithing, 50 percent savings and 40 percent spending (often they save it).  We don't do allowances.  We reward are children according to their performance at school with predetermined monetary amounts.

4• Gain a good education that allows for mobility.
            Be an example of learning and not guiding your life by fear but rather always moving forward in faith. 
As a former school teacher, my life has primarily been around the success in the educational arena for our children.  We have created our family's essential skills list that we feel our children need to be independent and capable adults. We prepare and encourage our children to achieve their associate’s degree along side their high school diploma.

Since education is my love. Please forgive me if I appear blunt. But let me acknowledge an obvious but often unstated expectations to the youth.

18 is a magical number in our society and has a harsh reality. At this age, you are expected to be able to provide for yourself and live on your own. Your parents are no longer legally responsible for your welfare or financial well being.  Anything given to you at that age is considered a gift not a right or even the responsibility of the parent. 

For boys, young men are expected to go on a mission. The church knows a young man at age 18 can be capable of being on their own, managing and living within a budget, taking care of their basic needs of nutrition and health, and helping and serving others. Although some parents may help a young man/girl pay for this endeavor, it is not deemed a right in our society. Many parents, I know make their children earn the money for such a wonderful experience knowing there is great satisfaction knowing you not only served but you paid for the opportunity to serve.

When you return home from your mission, you will be strongly encouraged to marry, provide for a wife and raise a family avoiding debt like a plague.  Preparing now and taking advantage of the resources available to you will make your life so much easier in the future.

Girls, as well have similar cultural expectations. As a young girl, I always had it in the equation to get married and a constant companion to love and be loved.  I don’t know a girl who doesn’t hope for that. But let me be honest, although ideal, marriage is never a guarantee.

Marie Hafen suggested the following in Celebrating Womanhood: “First, become somebody who can support herself. Young women should prepare for a career, but not because a career is more important than family life. A career isn’t even AS  important as family life. Although Church leaders have counseled mothers of young children to avoid working outside the home whenever possible, they have also urged young women to seek education and prepare for careers and meaningful involvement in society.

Career-oriented education matters for several reasons. For example, at any given time, from 35 to 40 percent of the adult women in the Church are single, whether widowed, divorced, or not having married. (See Twila Van Leer, “Singleness Becoming More Common,” Church News, 6 November 1983, p. 4.) In addition, more than 90 percent of both married and single women must work sometime during their adult lives. An LDS woman is now likely to work more than twenty-five years, and six out of ten working LDS women are supporting not only themselves but others in their families.

What these statistics boil down to is that young women who believe they will always have a husband who will fully support them, thereby making it unnecessary for them to work outside the home, are living in a dream world. Husbands may die, or they may be disabled by accidents or illness. Children grow up, missionaries need financial support, and most mothers live healthy, vigorous lives for many years after their children leave home. Single-adult women cannot expect the Lord to rescue them from life’s natural adversity. The gospel has been given to heal our pain, not to prevent it. The Lord does give us strength to deal with a world that can sometimes be dreary, but often that help comes only as we do all we can do."

Spiritual self-reliance is essential to our eternal well being. When we are spiritually self-reliant, our testimonies do not depend on the testimonies of others.

President Thomas S. Monson: “In order for us to be strong and to withstand all the forces pulling us in the wrong direction or all the voices encouraging us to take the wrong path, we must have our own testimony. Whether you are 12 or 112—or anywhere in between—you can know for yourself that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true” (“Dare to Stand Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 62).         
The spiritually self reliant seek their own spiritual experiences through praying daily, studying the scriptures, and exercising faith in Jesus Christ. We turn to our Heavenly Father for His help to resolve our own difficult problems as we work towards a resolution. We are also able to strengthen others in their times of spiritual need.
Romney states “Self-reliance is not the end, but a means to an end. It is very possible for a person to be completely independent and lack every other desirable attribute. One may become wealthy, have their two years supply (of freeze dried foods) and never have to ask anyone for anything, but unless there is some spiritual goal attached to this independence, it can canker his soul."

President David O. McKay made this profound observation:
"The development of our spiritual nature should concern us most. Spirituality is the highest acquisition of the soul, the divine in man; 'the supreme, crowning gift that makes him king of all created things.' It is the consciousness of victory over self and of communion with the infinite. It is spirituality alone which really gives one the best in life.
He continues; "It is something to supply clothing to the scantily clad, to furnish ample food to those whose table is thinly spread, to give activity to those who are fighting desperately the despair that comes from enforced idleness, but after all is said and done, the greatest blessings that will accrue from the Church are spiritual." (In Conference Report, Oct. 1936, p. 103.)  
I can’t tell you how much I love visiting teaching. Although I am always nervous to go into other people’s homes, I find the friendship I gain motivates me to visit teach as often as possible.  Currently, I am fortunate to visit teach Joyce Morey.  She shared her son’s last email home from the mission with Sister Arbon and I.  Because my mission in Honduras was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life, please allow me to share his thoughts with you.

“Thanks for pushing me to get out on the mission," Trevor writes, “All I can say is that it really has opened up my eyes to a lot of things.  As lot has changed since the day I left and they will keep changing but I know now that it is for the better.  I have been through more in this past year than I have in my entire life. At times I have felt trapped in a darkness having no one to turn to but God.... And the feeling that even He didn’t want to talk to me, gave me little hope for the future.  I was angry because I was in the front lines of a war not knowing who I was fighting for.  I just wanted you to know, I found my team Captain and I am strong with Him.”

Let's not be gullible gulls or inadvertently train our children to be gullible gulls. May we all discover who our team captain is, gain confidence in our future and move forward in faith rather than fear.  May we listen to HIS guidance and have the courage to follow what he has asked of us.   I know for certain with the right team captain and our Savior Jesus Christ, nothing is impossible and we will arrive at the destination he has prepared for each of us.  Your soul is worth everything to him.

Self-reliance another principle with a promise

Celestial nature of Self Reliance by President Romney