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Saturday, November 2, 2013

expert mama - Megan Otash - homeschool teacher

Megan Otash is an Expert Mama as part of our expert series! 

She seems like an incredibly hard working, determined and dedicated homeschool teacher to her children. I want to attend her school myself, with all of those fun activities she is doing! 

I really admire moms who homeschool their kiddos. It's not something I personally see myself doing, so I think any mama who is creative and strong enough to do it is AWESOME. It's hard work being a mother, it's even more amazing when you are their teacher as well. Congrats to you, Megan, and other homeschool moms for sharing your knowledge with your little ones. Thanks, Megan, for sharing, I LOVE your positive energy and excitement about homeschooling!

All photos from Megan Otash 

1. How many children do you have?
4: Courtney, 16, Riley, 6, Zoey, 4, Lacey, 1

2. How/when did you decide to homeschool your children?
The summer before Courtney was entering the 9th grade. She had completed 8th grade at 
Tri City Christian Academy & did not want to go back. I did not want to put her into a large public high school, after spending her previous school years in a small private school. 

I talked to  some people about different options and thats when I heard about VLACS (Virtual Learning Academy Charter School), an online high school in NH that is free for NH residents. The first year was an adjustment period for Courtney, and myself, but this is her last year, it is hard to believe she is a Senior in high school, but she's doing amazing. 

I couldn't be more proud of her!! It was during Court's first year of VLACS that I decided I would homeschool all of my children.

3. What are the best things about homeschooling your kids?

There are sooo many GREAT things about homeschooling your kids! How could you NOT want to  homeschool?! I couldn't imagine not being home with my kiddos and teaching them everyday! I LOVE it! I have the satisfaction of knowing everything my children are learning, I am teaching them! So gratifying! 

I am always with my bambinos! I always know where they are, what they are doing, who they are with, I do not have to worry about their well being. The flexible schedule! aaahhhh! I do NOT have to wake up my son to throw him on a bus! He can sleep in as long as he wants! Sleep is sooo important, I do not believe in disrupting it, EVER!!! 

Lastly, I am learning TOO! It's so great! I learn new techniques, new skills, new teaching methods. I'm learning new things every day teaching my children! I learn about my children every day! It's Amazing! 

4. What are some challenges to homeschooling your children?
I'm not going to lie! It's not always a piece of cake! Kids have good days and bad days, and on the days Riley is not cooperating, it makes for a long unproductive school day. 

The great thing about homeschooling though, is that he CAN have a BAD DAY! If I don't get through all of his reading or spelling assignments because he's being difficult, I say 'OK buddy, but we will have to work on it again later today or tomorrow, it does need to get done.' The boy hates reading and writing, so every day he tells me "I can't read. I don't want to read. I'll learn how to read when I'm 7, I promise.  Can I play on the ipad now please?"!  

Frustrating? Yes! Does he make me laugh? OMG YES! He kills me! 

He's going to be 6 ONCE. I don't push it. If he's had it, I revisit it later and when he's ready to do the work, he does it. 

And the funny thing is, he DOES know how to read and he does sooo well reading!!! He just needs constant praise and affirmation that he's doing a great job.

Another daily challenge I have is my one year old! She does not want to play with her toys while we  are doing school work. Why would she want to play with her toys?! She wants to be on top of the table where I have all my work laid out getting into all of it! She wants to be eating all the tips off of all the nice brand new crayons and/or marker, she wants to be taking all the covers off of the markers and drawing on, whatever, but she DOES NOT want to be in the play room with the zillion child friendly toys :) Frustrating? Yes! How do I overcome this little interference?! 

I'm trying to conduct school time during nap time :) Lacey still takes two naps a day, thankfully! As long as Riley cooperates, we are good to go!

Photo credit on photo

5. Where do you seek resources, get advice, ideas & help for coming up with curriculum to teach your  children?
I have been blessed with a great homeschool community! I started homeschooling last year, my son was in Kindergarten. I spent the year before I started doing a lot of research on homeschooling. My older sister home schools her 4 children, so I talked to her as well, she is a wealth of information! She was using the Sonlight Curriculum, which I ended up buying off of her and using for Kindergarten. It is a literacy based program, which I discovered is not for Riley! He is more of a hands on learner, he is not interested in reading or listening for that matter! We use a TON of manipulatives to keep his little hands busy! 
SCHEA, Seacoast Christian Home Educators Assoc, is also a group that meets monthly at our church for home school parents. 

Every summer there is a used curriculum/book sale at our church for home school families. I spent $53 on a plethora of curriculum books, first reader books, math manipulatives, science projects, geography puzzles, flashcards, counters, and more. I was so excited that we started school a week early because I could NOT wait!!! 

Home schooling is FUN!

For 1st Grade I am using the 'Learn at Home Grade 1' Curriculum book as well as A Beka  Arithmetic. We use a few different Phonics books and we have a ton of First Readers! I love it! Riley loves it! They are so easy to follow and very flexible. They are working out really well! 

We also take advantage of the classes offered outside of our home that our community offers, to stay  well rounded! We attend homeschool gym at The Works twice a week. We take swim lessons and karate during the week. We go to the library once a week. Riley will be starting a science/arts class at the Children's Museum this fall, and the kids attend a bible study once a week. 

We use

We also have home school friends that we play with during the week :) 

There are also many home school websites, blogs, and forums online that I have reached out to when in need of help or ideas.

6. Will you homeschool to a certain grade level or all the way through and why?
It's hard to predict the future :) But my plan is to home school all the way, or up to 8th grade and then use VLACS 9-12, if it works for each of my kiddos. I'm not a fan of public schools, or having my children attend them. 

Homeschool is on the rise, and I highly encourage it!

7. What is your advice to moms who want to homeschool their children?

RELAX! I was completely overwhelmed before I started! 

I researched home schooling for a year before I began. I searched the Internet for all the things I had to do, I read about so many different curriculums, I had NO idea where to start! 

Thankfully, my sister, Shannan, was a HUGE help! She gave me the confidence I needed to be able to say to myself "you've got this!" 

Take every day as a new day! You do not have to cram and get every single thing done! It's impossible!! Do Not Stress!!! Have Fun! Find a local support group & join! Make friends with other home school families so you can bounce ideas/questions off one another!

8. Were there any procedures or paperwork you had to file with the state to homeschool?
In New Hampshire, we do not have to send our children to school until they are 6. When Riley turned 5 I started home schooling him Kindergarten, I used that year as my 'trial run' to see how we liked it...we LOVED it!!!

At 6, if home schooling, you are required to send a notice to your superintendent's office two weeks prior to starting. The notice is pre-typed and downloadable on the State of NH website. We are required to have our children evaluated yearly, to make sure they are where they should be academically, but we do not have to send it in to the state anymore, just keep it on file.

9. Can you give some examples of fun homeschool activities you have done?

We have made a volcano! 
Riley made the alphabet out of sand art! 
He writes his spelling words on black paper with white chalk! 
We play ABC bingo! 

We are learning about our bodies right now, bones, skeleton, organs...we have chicken bones in a jar full of vinegar to see what happens to our  bones when we do not get enough calcium! 

We go on nature walks, climb trees! We cook & clean! We practice making phone calls, talking on the phone, answering the door. 

We use a white board to practice our letters (more fun than pencil/paper). We build with blocks/counters when adding/subtracting. 

We make play dough &  paint. 
We make books! 
We've made a five senses book, a family album, an All About Me book & a Community book!  

Riley does the dishes, vacuums, feeds the dogs, gets the mail, & picks the veggies out of the garden when they are ready! 

We have many more fun activities lined up for this school year!

10. What is a typical school day like for you and your kids?
My kiddos wake when they are ready....I'm up and at it around 5 every morning...we eat breakfast, play and start schoolwork around 9:30/10am.

It takes me roughly 3 hours to get through all of Riley's 1st  grade school work each day. I do an hour and a half in the morning when Lacey naps, then we go outside and play, have lunch, and when she goes down for her afternoon nap we do the second half of our school work. This seems to work best for everybody :)

p.s. I watch other kiddos at my home, with the help of my mom, for extra mula!

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