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A View From Home

by Cyndy Rodgers

I find homeschooling fulfilling for many reasons. Of course, there’s the impact on my relationship with my children and my influence over their development, but also for the connections we have in our community. You see, we are fortunate to belong to a homeschool group that is really more like a large family. We share many memories. We rely on one another. It’s as if our children have many aunts and uncles and we have dozens of nieces and nephews. Through the years the families in our group have celebrated each child’s triumphs. 

So, I begin this column with a little bragging. We were all filled with pride that our own Kendra Yoshinaga, age 10,won the Ventura County spelling bee and will now go on to Washington D.C. 
Kendra won our Conejo Valley Homeschoolers Spelling Bee competing against other students in our group. She then went on to compete against 10 students in the area, either in private school or homeschoolers. Once she triumphed there, she then moved to the whole county, which encompassed 200 schools. There were five 8th graders, six 7th graders, four 6th graders, two 5th graders and one 4th grader (Kendra) in the competition. One of the contestants, Marc Chua, was the county winner last year and went to DC as a 6th grader.

Kendra’s parents, nervous as the competition began, hadn’t focused on beginning words. Instead they had focused their work on roots, prefixes, suffixes, and foreign languages. However, they felt Kendra would do well because she reads a tremendous amount of books and has an excellent memory. 

Capturing the excitement Steve, Kendra’s dad, goes on to describe the competition “In the fifth round, Kendra correctly spelled gastroenterology, a straightforward word for her, but a crowd pleaser nonetheless. That drew ‘aahs’ and ‘oohs’ from the crowd. I think this may have given the general audience the first indication that Kendra was something special.” he states.

By the 15th round, and now in its second hour, only three kids were left, Marc Chua, Abby Sassoon, an 8th grader, and Kendra. Then Marc, last year’s champ, was out and Kendra and Abby were not competing for second place anymore. It was the county championship and a trip to DC on the line. 

The words Blitzkrieg, phaeton, baignoire, revanche, cantatrice, yttrium, cantankerous, and decile were all spelled correctly. Suddenly Kendra’s parents realized something frightening. “I didn’t remember studying decile and cantankerous. Whoa, we were out of the 3700-word list (Paideia), says Steve! (Writers note, many of the spelling words in this piece were not recognized by spell-check, people are smarter than computers)

In the next round Abby spelled her word, apoplexy, but Kendra missed her word, cryophilic. 

“That was the first word Kendra had ever missed in a spelling bee.” Her mom, Brenda says, “To win the Bee, one must spell an extra word correctly” She explains. “Luckily for Kendra, Abby missed her winning word. It went back and forth like this for many rounds with Kendra and Abby both having chances at the winning word, but missing, sometimes by a single letter.” 

For hours both girls tried to spell words -- some they had never heard before -- in front of approximately 200 people and a local TV camera! After a half hour of these two young ladies struggling with the “off list words’ there was a break during which time the judges decided to go back to the Paideia. First, Abby got lansquenet and then Kendra demurrage. Then Abby misspelled chevesaile, which gave Kendra the chance to win with kathak and manes. 
Three hours and 45 rounds later Kendra emerged as the Ventura County Spelling Bee Champion!

The National Champ wins a $12,000 cash prize, a $1,000 Savings Bond, a trophy, a plaque for the school (homeschool that is) and numerous goodies. Her dad says, “We don’t have such lofty goals as winning the National Championship. She will work hard to properly represent Conejo Valley Homeschoolers, Ventura County, and the VC Star (newspaper), in the National competition with the best spellers in the country! She will train diligently, enjoy the Nationals experience and Washington DC, and build a solid base for the future. Winning county was a main goal, going to Nationals was the prize.” I will keep you posted on how Kendra does in D.C. She has lots of cheerleaders from her home school family. 

More than five years ago I joined this homeschool support group. I had come from a three-year involvement with a highly-recognized public school. Parent involvement was spent in committees and seems to be mostly about raising money. I found this work unfulfilling.
One Summer I found myself connecting with a few of the women who homeschooled. In their eyes was a sense of calm. I later came to realize that what I was recognizing came from a basic fundamental philosophy about life . . . Family comes first, a belief in one’s own power and an understanding that the world is the classroom. 
I also found another lovely thread running through these families. The desires to have their children connect with the outside world. Many families choose community service as a way to accomplish this. I’d like to highlight a few projects my friends enjoy, in case you wish to do the same. First, is Meals-on-Wheels. 

Meals-on-Wheels is a nationwide, community-based program designed to feed the house bound. Whether ill or just elderly, recipients have nutritious meals delivered to their doors by volunteers. My friend, Judy, chose this program for a variety of reasons. 

She says, “I wanted to show my boys that service was a gift.” She goes on to explain that she hopes to show her two sons Nick, age 14, and Vince, age 8, that life is about sharing their gifts. “Don’t just give a portion of your allowance, act . . . I want my boys to be givers not takers. We are fortunate to have this car, one day a week we can make a difference to someone.”

Volunteers receive a route each day and need only donate one day a week. Judy and her boys give about an hour each week, however, their weekly visit’s impact on the recipients is powerful. Last Christmas she arrived at an elderly woman’s home with lunch and found her struggling for a half hour to plug in her tree lights. This was a quick fix for her boys, that later turned into a discussion on the gift of a healthy body. 

Being around the elderly is another benefit of this work. Seeing their world and gaining an understanding is important to what Judy calls “Real-life learning” a cornerstone of her home school philosophy. 
Although community service is about the real world, academic learning does spring from it. Recently Judy and her sons delivered lunch to an elderly gentleman with a tattoo on one arm. Her always friendly and inquisitive children questioned him and found out he was a holocaust survivor. For the next day’s lesson, World War II was the topic. 

She had their interest and the real impact of history had already been conveyed. She says, “This work shows them a part of life that I want them to know.” 

For information on a Meals-on-Wheels project near you go to 

My friend Ericka, a mom of two girls, London age 13 and McKenna, age 8, also uses community service as part of her homeschooling. She even started her own project “The girls Handwork Club” 
“The reason we started this group was two fold. I wanted to add more ongoing community service to our lives and I also wanted to help create a social group for my then-11-year-old daughter.” explains Ericka, “During our meeting time we knit, crochet, and assemble baby blankets for our local hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.” 
Although Ericka started the group for her daughters she also enjoys the twice a month meetings in her home. 
She says, “Over this last year I have become so fond of all the girls, I think I have been more blessed by this group than anyone!” London participates in other projects throughout the community like Junior Master Gardeners and The Teddy Bear Brigade. JMG is a program designed by Texas A&M University and run through our local botanical garden. For info go to 
The Teddy Bear Brigade provides London once a month the opportunity to care for young special-needs children while their parents meet with other parents and educators. She sings, plays games and supervises them during sensory motor activities.
Ericka sees many benefits in community service work for her girls; like the chance to work under the guidance of adults other than their parents, learning about possible future career opportunities, experience with leadership and public speaking, and a nice addition to a college resume. 

But more importantly, she says, “They learn that they can make a difference in someone’s life. Starting community service at a young age increases the chance of it becoming a natural part of one’s lifestyle. It is healthy for the young soul, keeping a child/young adult from becoming narcissistic.” 

Ericka sees this work making positive changes in her somewhat shy daughter. “She is turning into a vibrant young lady who loves life. I am so relieved that I am not seeing the same self-absorbed, depressed young girl that I was at that age. I can only hope and pray that we are doing something right!” says Ericka.

Another project Ericka brought to our group that helps kids is “Dr. Laura’s Stuffed Bags” Volunteers work in an assembly line placing items of comfort in a backpack for children who will be removed from their homes and placed into foster care. 

Radio talk show host and author Dr. Laura Schlessinger started her foundation and the My Stuffä program in 1999. To date over 200,000 My Stuffä bags have been filled and delivered to children all across the U.S. This was a half-day project for our older kids. If you would like more information go to or call 866-3MY-STUFF (toll free)

If your family loves animals and you can make a full time commitment, then the Barson family may inspire you. Amy Barson and her daughters Anna, age 11 and Sara, age 13 have chosen to adopt a puppy. They’re training it to be a guide dog for the blind. Amy says, “Raising a puppy takes a lot of time and work, but is a great opportunity to teach kids responsibility and caring for others.“ she says, “Raising a Guide Dog puppy is a 24-hour, 7 day a week commitment but it can be a very rewarding and educational experience.” 

The Barson girls have gained quite a few skills from this project. It’s about more than animal behavior or the needs of the blind. They have acquired perseverance, patience, organization and goal setting skills. It also provides them opportunities for public speaking. The bib-covered pups get a lot of attention when out in public.

Anna says, “The most-frequently-asked-question she is asked when she is out with her dog is “May I pet your dog?” She says the question is a good one. “It is always important to ask before you pet any dog but especially working dogs.” She explains, “Usually a raiser will let you pet the dog, since learning to be calm when petted is part of their socialization, but may want the dog to sit or lay down first as part of it’s training. There may be times when the raiser may ask you not to pet the dog. Perhaps the raiser is working on a particular command or the dog is very distracted and needs to refocus. If you see a working guide dog, it is very important not to distract him from the job of guiding. Never pet a dog when it is working; always ask permission first.”

The primary lesson the Barson girls learn from this volunteer work is selflessness. The family is often asked, “How can you give up such a sweet dog?” The Barsons do this work with the end purpose in mind. They know their puppy will grow to make someone’s life easier. Amy, Anna’s mother explains, “One thing that raisers know from Day One is that the puppy does not belong to them; they are simply taking care of it until it is old enough to go to school. Some raisers compare it to sending a child off to college. You also know that by raising the puppy, you are giving someone a freedom they could otherwise never have. Veteran raisers talk of the pride and emotion they feel when they see the pup they raised at graduation, part of a Guide Dog team.” 
If you are interested in volunteering to raise a guide dog here are the specifics. Puppy raisers receive pups between 8 and 10 weeks old for housetraining, teaching basic obedience and good manners and to socialize them in many different situations. The raisers keep the puppy for about a year, until the puppy is between 15 and 18 months old. Raisers are given Puppy Raising Manuals, which cover all sorts of information such as training techniques, appropriate playtime, grooming, etc. Raisers also attend required meetings with a puppy-raising club at least twice a month.

The Barsons received their pup from Guide Dogs for the Blind located in San Rafael, CA. They handle mostly Labrador Retrievers, though there are some Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden/Lab mixes. Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) currently has more than 1,000 volunteer puppy raisers throughout the Western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Raisers must be at least 9 years old; some kids raise puppies through 4-H, but with the help of a parent co-raiser, they can also raise a puppy with any puppy-raising club in their area. GDB pays for all vaccinations and up to $250 of veterinary care. The raiser covers most other expenses, including food and toys. Many expenses are tax deductible. For more information, or to locate a puppy-raising club in your area, contact Guide Dogs for the Blind at 800/295-4050 or go to the web at

Sunny Legal Topics
On the legislative front there seems to be a lot of good news, especially if Driver’s Education is on your horizon. Iowa just passed H.F. 2394 which supports parent-taught driver’s education. It’s now awaiting the governor’s signature. Vermont’s bill supporting parent-taught driver’s education H.B. 560 is currently in committee (Transportation). 

Additionally, Kentucky is considering legislation dealing with driver’s education. However, H.B. 304 would restore the “No Pass/No Drive” law, which was struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court. It ties driver’s licensees to grades. 

Homeschoolers in Kentucky may also want to watch H.B. 610, which establishes a certification requirement for home schools. Opponents say this bill would give the Department of Education new powers to define “standards” for home education.

In Virginia, homeschooling families may find freedom if H.B. 675 is signed. It eliminates the Bachelor’s degree requirement for parents teaching their children. This would bring Virginia up to meet 48 other states, which require only a high school diploma. The bill passed the senate and now awaits signature of the governor.

Home educators in Arizona are on the winning side with S.R. 1280. It expands Scholarship credit from being only private schools and gives more power to parents. 

In Minnesota H.F. 2772 expands tax credits for homeschoolers. Both bills are currently in committee.

Bills lowering the age children start school and/or raising the age they must stay in school, are pending in the following states: Illinois S.B. 2918, Massachusetts H.D. 4568, Arizona H.B. 2548 and Idaho H.B. 740 and H.B. 750.

For those of you in Pennsylvania, your legislature is currently debating several bills dealing with this topic. Introduced last year, H.B. 1221 expands the age which children are required to attend school. The bill lowers the age from 8 years old to six and raises it from 17 to 18 years old. House Bill 36 also targets lowering the age and H.B. 340 establishes kindergartens and lowers the age.

Other bills affecting homeschoolers in Pennsylvania are H.B. 374, which mandates health and dental exams, and Senate Bill 384, which allows homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities.
Extracurricular activities was the subject when Nevada revised its statute. (NRS) 392.070 now exempts homeschool children from the compulsory attendance requirement making them eligible to participate in extra curricular activities.

New York home educators need to write or call your legislators. They are currently considering a few bills, which would gives homeschoolers, more freedom. Senate Bill 2060 and Assembly Bill 4598 now pending, would eliminate many of the current requirements like Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP), quarterly reports; required subjects at all grade levels; it also would permit an alternative method of evaluation (instead of standardized testing) every year and allow parents who wish to test their children to choose any nationally-norm’d standardized achievement test. The bill would eliminate the requirement that the local superintendent consent to the person who administers a standardized achievement test or who conducts the alternative method of evaluation. It also lowers the minimum standardized test score from above the 33rd percentile to above the 23rd percentile; and eliminates the provision for home visits while a home instruction program is on probation. WOW!
College-bound homeschoolers in New York should watch Senate Bill 6094. It is designed to eliminate GED requirement for homeschooled students applying for college. 

I hope the mostly positive legislation news and the stories of community service opportunities inspire you to go out into the world and get involved. Together we can make a better world . . . Peace.
Conference Calendar

The 2004 Alabama State Home School Convention and Curriculum Fair will be held July 9 and 10, 2004, at the Montgomery Civic Center. Our special guest speakers will be Gregg Harris and Jessica Hulcy.

Conference just held March 5&6, 2004 For updates go to

July 23 and 24, 2004 Phoenix Civic Plaza go to

May 28 and 29, 2004 Little Rock 501-375-7000 or

June 10-13, 2004 The Link Homeschool Newspaper’s 8th Annual “Kid Comfortable” Homeschool Conference Pasadena Hilton Hotel in Pasadena Featured speakers include Dr. Oliver De Mille, Andrew Pudewa, Dr. Mary Hood, Katherine Levison, Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis & Victoria Kindle-Hodson, and many, many more!!
July 9-11 Christian Home educators of California Ontario 

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary Generations: Rejoicing in a Heritage and a Legacy June 17, 18 and 19, 2004 Holiday Inn- go to 

June 11 & 12, 2004 The First Cathedral 1151 Blue Hills Ave. 
Bloomfield, CT For more information, visit: 

No conference planned. Check for updates

May 27- 29 2004 The 20th FPEA Florida Homeschool Convention For more info contact or 877-ask-fpea

Just held May 1 For updates 

No Conference planned, check 

June 11 & 12, 2004 in Nampa, Idaho at the College Church of the Nazarene. Go to 

May 20-22, 2004 Calvary Church, Naperville, Illinois For more info go to 

Held March 5 - 6, 2004 For updates go to 

June 11, 12, Iowa’s 12th Annual Home Educators’ Conference and Curriculum Exhibit at The First Federated Church Des Moines, IA Hall For info on

Held April 16-17 For updates 

July 16 &17 For info go to 

Held April 16 & 17 Updates at 

Held April 16 & 17, 2004 For more information 

Held April 23 - 24, updates at 
Held April 3rd updates at

Held April 23rd and 24th updates at 

May 14-15 Lansing Center 333 East Michigan Avenue Lansing Michigan for info go to

Held April 16 & 17 for info go to 

May 14-15, 200419th Annual Spring Conference 
Mississippi State University Starkville, MS go to 

June 4-5, 2004 FHE Conference 2004 Blue Ridge Bible Church and Christian School Kansas City, MO 

June 25 & 26, 2004 8th statewide convention. Billings Hotel and Convention Center in Billings, Montana go to

Held April 2 and 3 for more info go to

June 18 & 19 Calvary Community, 2900 N. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas go to
August 28 “Borderless Education.” For info go to 

New Hampshire
July 16, 17, 2004 New England Homeschool & Family Learning Conference, Boxborough Woods Holiday Inn Conference Center, 242 Adams Place,
Boxborough, Massachusetts for info

New Jersey
June 18 & 19, 2004 ENOCH 14th Annual Conference New Jersey convention and Expo Center for info go ton 

New Mexico
Held in April, updates at

New York
June 3-5, 2004 The LEAH 2004 Convention “The Lord Preserves the Faithful” will be held on at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse for info 

North Carolina
May 27-29, 2004 for location info go to

North Dakota
Held March 4-6, For info

June 24-26, 2004 The CHEO 20th Annual Convention Veterans Memorial Hall Columbus, Ohio for info go to 

Held April 30 and May 1, go to 

Aug. 20 - Aug. 21 Oregon 10th annual Christian Home Education Conference Beaverton Contact: OCEANetwork
or go to

May 7 & 8 2004 For brochure and registration information call 717-661-2185 or 

Rhode Island
No conference planned email at or go to 

South Carolina
No conference planned check for updates

South Dakota
July 15-17, 2004 14th Annual South Dakota Christian Home Educators Convention for info

Held in February for updates go to
June 4 & 5th Also check for dates from

June 4 & 5, 2004 18th annual Gulf Coast Home Education Conference 
August 13-14, 2004 Annual THSC State Convention and Family Conference in The Woodlands for info go to 

Saturday June 12 2004, 24th Annual Homeschool Convention and Curriculum Fair, 7:30 a.m. to 7:00p.m. at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Held March 19 & 20, info at 
No conference planned go to 

June 10-12 21 HEAV State convention and Education Fair
Greater Richmond Convention Center, For info go to or

June 18 - 19, 2004, WHO 19th Annual State Convention And Curriculum Exhibit Puyallup, WA for info 
Held April 16-17. For info go to 

West Virginia
May 21-22 Christian Home Educators of West Virginia 2004 Annual conference Trinity Assembly of God, Fairmont, W.V. for info go to 

May 20-22, 2004, September 23-25, 2004 for info 

May 21-22, 2004 Laramie, Wyoming for info