Home School Answers and Resources for Families

If you know me, you probably know I was home educated. I’m the oldest of six kids and grew up traveling the western half of the United States. My family didn’t really settle down until I was well into my twenties.

For families looking at the confusion and screwiness of education as school districts “look” at going back to school this fall, I’d like to encourage parents that home school is a valid option, for parents that can tag-team it or have a stay-at-home parent, or for families where grandparents are the care-taker of the children. Masks aren’t good for young children. As a matter of fact, I know my professors and employers would have called them abusive eight months ago when I was working in the early childhood education field. Children can’t breathe with them and it will impact their physical development.

This past spring I earned an associates degree in early childhood education from Western New Mexico University. As a first-born in a home school family, education probably seems like a natural field for me to follow, it interested me as a teenager, but I ended up getting into politics instead. Since pre-teens I assisted with, and absolutely loved, curriculum development. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to be part of the development of education over the last twenty years. From spiral-bound books in the mid-1990s when I entered Kindergarten, to the world of e-readers and iPads which developed about the time I graduated from high school, I’ve seen education completely transform. The last few years I have spent much of my time working in an education setting, first in children’s camps and serving as a lead for an after school program, but also as an education assistant working in the public school system and as a work study at my university’s infant/toddler program. I’ve worked with children from six weeks through to elementary school. With my background out of the way, I’d like to share a few things about home schooling.

Home schooling isn’t as difficult as you’d think! For New Mexico residents, getting registered and set up to home school is easy. Just check out the state’s website HERE, follow the directions and sign up. Next you can choose some curriculum to follow and plan out a school calendar. If you want your child enrolled in extracurricular activities or a specific class or two in your local school district, choose the home school option that gives your child a unique ID. You still have to talk with your district about what programs are available, but this helps open the door to that option.

Early Years: For young children (ages 4-8), home school can begin with as simple as approaches as teaching phonics or early reading with online tools, playing with blocks and number “toys” for math and using geometric blocks, to having paper, pencils and markers available for the child. Cooking dinner can turn into an experience in social studies (ethnic food) as well as math (measurement) and reading (a cookbook) and science (dry food textures and discussion on how veggies grow). For young children the options for teachable moments go on and on. At this age, children are learning to read. Later they’ll be reading to learn!

Elementary School: Over the past four summers I’ve worked in a summer camp, which also led to substitute teaching during the school year. As I’ve worked with elementary-age students, I’ve learned the importance of allowing children at this age to explore their interests. Setting up a schedule is important. It’s also important to allow the student to explore his or her interests. A child might be interested in electronics? Encourage her to complete important reading and math assignments so she can take apart an old printer and figure out how it works (science). Similarly, if a boy wants to research the history of a local historic landmark, allow him to shape his learning around that interest so that he’s completing his grade-level assignments while pursuing an interest. Teachers who have helped me to grow along the way have stressed the importance of getting children involved in what interests them and helping their curiosity to shape their learning.

High School: While I have zero experience working with high school students in a classroom setting, I can say that I found that during my high school experience (in another state), learning new skills such as auto-mechanics, helping the needy in my neighborhood and home economics helped me as I became and adult. I encourage parents looking at home school for older children think about having their children learn life skills in addition to academic learning. A local charter school I’ve been connected to in my community requires students to fulfill an “internship” when they’re in high school. Students work one day a week (at least) to fulfil graduation requirements.

Choosing Curriculum:

Curriculum is such a difficult discussion to have without knowing each family and individual child. As a Christian, my family always chose religious curriculum for everything but (sometimes) math. I’d be happy to share my personal perspective in a more personal platform, but the biggest thing I stress is to do what will cause your child to be most engaged. What “experts” say is good, might not be the best. For example, as an assistant working in New Mexico Pre-K, I can’t say enough about how awful the “expert-recommended” Pearson curriculum is for Pre-K. I haven’t met a teacher who believes it is appropriate and great for kids, but it has great reviews supposedly, and is encouraged by the state of New Mexico.

FREE Helpful Tools for elementary and high school students:

Kahn Academy for STEM. While I didn’t use this as a teen, my siblings did, and they have found Kahn super helpful.

Project Gutenberg for classics. Just add a cheap Kindle from Amazon or eBay. I love this website.

ABC Mouse (possibly free). ABC Mouse is free for teachers, so I would argue it should be free for home school students as well. If you can’t get it free as a home school parent, I would talk with your local school district and see if a teacher can sign your child up free. If your child has the unique ID from the state, your school district may cooperate (it’s a local decision, usually).

CLEP/AP Tests and Classes. Since 2012, I tested out of over 50 college credits and it cost me about $1,200 (the credits paid off when I was paid as if I had an associates degree at one job). Add 3 online classes I took that were regionally accredited through ACE, and I transferred 60 college credits into my university before I took a single class. The tests were mostly easy. Some I took after studying two or three hours (like the marketing class, when I was working in marketing). Either way, it is worthwhile for a college-bound high school student to look at making her time worthwhile and take a little extra effort to get college credit for the material she’s already forced to study in her daily classes.

Modern States offers free curriculum for students who want to test out of CLEP tests. I would recommend students consider using this because it could fulfill most academic requirements for a student for at least two semesters, and a student could use it to jump start herself to college.

 

Rebekah Stevens for 2nd Congressional District Vice Chair

Rebekah Stevens is a resident of Silver City and has spent the last ten years working on nearly every level of New Mexico politics, from Taos County volunteer headquarters staff and Grant County GOP Vice Chair, to representing New Mexico at the RNC and running winning campaigns in her home town, including helping a Republican win her own district‘s county commissioner’s seat!

In 2015, Rebekah helped charter the New Mexico Young Republicans and has been the organization’s chair since 2017. This leadership opportunity helped her to meet national Republican leaders and even led to a trip to Israel with other young Republicans as a guest of the center-right Likud Party (led by Prime Minister Netanyahu).

As the eldest of six children Rebekah was raised with the values the Republican Party holds dear– faith, family and life. She’s been active with organizations across New Mexico and in her community including New Mexico Center for Family Policy, Jobs for all NM (pro-right-to-work), Americans for Prosperity, the Republican Party of Grant County, Indian Hills Baptist Church of Silver City (including a children’s ministry director), Silver City Wild, Wild West Pro Rodeo, Calvary Christian Academy of Silver City, the Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce, Grant County Friends of the NRA and many more.

Rebekah has a variety of interests and continues to work as a consultant and contractor for clients in conservative circles in New Mexico and around the nation. Rebekah has also worked as an office administrator for her local newspaper and an educator at a local private school.

Rebekah hopes to bring her varied experience and the hundreds of hours of training as an operative she has received to the Republican Party of New Mexico. Over the past five years she has visited a dozen states and Washington D.C. learning from trainings conducted by the RNC, Young Republicans and center-right organizations including Leadership Institute and Americans for Prosperity.

Please support Rebekah Stevens for 2nd Vice Chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico.

Faith, Trust and Hope in a Challenging World

Oh, the FAITH!

Recently, I was challenged to think about what hope, trust and faith mean to me through an incorrect use of the word hope by a politician (go figure) equating hope in God to their own efforts. I don’t appreciate that…it’s disrespectful at best.

This causes me to think about faith a bit…what does Faith mean? Where will it take me? Why do I believe it? I found these scriptures so encouraging! For me, Faith means a lot. It’s what is there when I can’t count on my family, my friends or other people to meet my needs when I’m struggling! I love these scriptures!

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear…

These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded by them and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…

But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a City. And what shall I say more? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and of Barak and of Samson and of Jephthah, of David also and Samuel and of the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword. Out of weakness they were made strong, waxed valiant in battle, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens…

Seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 11 & 12, Excerpts

The Passion of the Old City: Israel 2017

Visiting Jerusalem, the Old City, was powerful and sobering. So much ancient history, so many stories, hopes and many dreams…this is where so many important events occurred in the Judaeo Christian faith.

Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Streets of Jerusalem in the Muslim quarter
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Streets of Jerusalem in the Muslim quarter

It’s easy to see why the Jewish people would want to return to Israel, the land God gave to them, and Jerusalem, the site of the temple, but it doesn’t take a religious person to see and value the importance of this land to the Jewish people– they lived here for thousands of years, why wouldn’t they want to call it home again?

The Old City, is divided into four inequal “quarters” the Jewish, Christian, Muslim (largest) and Armenian (smallest) quarters and they were not difficult to distinguish by the end of the trip.

Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Visiting the Muslim quarter
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Visiting the Muslim quarter. Notice how covered up the women are. All you see is their hands and faces.
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: YRs and our Jewish friends as we visit the Muslim quarter
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: YRs and our Jewish friends as we visit the Muslim quarter

I toured the old city about four times, but still didn’t see everything. In one of the most powerful tours of the old city, our guide took us to not only ancient historical sites, but gave us a perspective on the boundaries of the Jewish state in modern times, before the old city was in Israeli hands and when the green line defined the border of Israel.

Sure Ive read modern history, but to see it first has was unique. The green line was apparently a war zone, with a middle “no man’s land” zone where gun shots were frequently exchanged, and death by a sniper’s bullet awaited many of those wandering into this territory until 1967 when Israel was given control.

Rebekah Stevens in Israel: This is a shopping mall now, but in 1967 this was a dangerous street
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: This is a shopping mall now, but in 1967 this was a dangerous street
We also visited the Mark Twain museum in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem with our Jewish guide, learning about how one of America’s greatest authors helped shape the view of Israel through his newspaper stories compiled into Innocents Abroad, shattering the idea that the Holy Land was a romanticized utopia, while trying to paint the [few] Jewish inhabitants and Arabs fairly, though seemingly impacted by the prejudices of the time.

Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Visiting the Mark Twain museum in Israel, at the hotel where Mark Twain stayed over a century ago
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: This is a shopping mall now, but in 1967 this was a dangerous street

Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Israeli flag flies high over Jewish complex in the Muslim quarter Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Israeli flag flies high over Jewish complex in the Muslim quarter
Perhaps the most impactful non-religious part of my tours through the Old City, was seeing Israeli Zionists who reclaim land in the Muslim quarter to integrate cultures. To do this, Israelis must purchase a home from Muslims (and Sharia law mandates a death penalty for selling property to non-Muslims) and move to the Muslim quarter, where, with the political tensions of the middle east, there’s high risk in moving to that area. But young families take the risk and choose to do it anyway, not for self-gain, but for their country.

Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Great view from Jewish complex in the Muslim quarter
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Great view from Jewish complex in the Muslim quarter
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: More great views from Jewish complex in the Muslim quarter
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: More great views from Jewish complex in the Muslim quarter
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Israeli soldiers visit Muslim woman in Muslim quarter.
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: Israeli soldiers visit Muslim woman in Muslim quarter.
For me, this passion for the Zionist movement is remarkable and one of the many cultural angles I fell in love with. Few Americans have the same desire and drive to make their culture more integrated and move out of their own neighborhoods to impact the culture of their nation. Yes, I am inspired by the Jewish people and truly admire them!

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘They shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces.’ ” – Psalm 122:6-7

Experiencing Israel’s Modern-Day History: Israel 2017

History isn’t everything, but it would be nearly impossible to understand modern-day Israel without first looking at the history of the Jewish people and various leaders in Zionist movements. It was so powerful to experience the history and walk where so many important leaders helped shape the future and building of the nation of Israel.

My experiences in Israel began in Jerusalem with visits to the Menachem Begin and Rabbi Kook museums. Menachem Begin, who became a member of the Likud party, entered politics as a Zionist leader heading an underground movement that helped lead to the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Begin was a member of the first Knesset and set his sights on becoming the prime minister of Israel from the very beginning.

Rebekah Stevens in Israel
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: At the Menachem Begin museum.
Rebekah Stevens visits Jerusalem, Israel
Rebekah Stevens in Israel: At the Menachem Begin museum.

At Begin’s museum my group learned about how this hard-working leader refused to move out of his small one-bedroom home, despite having several kids, until his goal of becoming premier was accomplished. The sacrificial leader, eventually did become prime minister of Israel and was the first Likud Party PM.

As prime minister, Begin negotiated peace between Israel, Egypt and the U.S., something he was extremely proud of, and something that he felt would change the direction of the Middle East. Peace with Egypt was a big deal– looking back to Ancient history, the Jewish people have had wars with Egypt for thousands of years.

Rebekah Stevens visits Jerusalem, Israel
Visiting with Jewish friends at the Rabbi Kook museum.

At the Rabbi Kook museum we learned about the religious Zionist movement led by a Russian Jew who became the first chief rabbi in Jerusalem under British control. Rabbi Kook became a rabbi in the nineteenth century and sought to unite all Zionists including non-religious secular, toward working toward their common goal of returning to the land of Israel. When he passed away, in the late 1930s his work lived on.

Even with a push to make Israeli government less religious in areas related to the mandatory draft (Hasidic and other ultra-orthadox sects are exempted from the military draft in many cases, the current policy is referred to as the status quo), religion is a great part of Jewish government. (more on this later) No doubt some of the integration of religion and government is due to the work of individuals like Rabbi Kook.

It was impressive to see how hard these leaders worked and the sacrifices they made, not just to better their families, but the cause they believed in– Zionism and the establishment of a strong Jewish state.

Rebekah Stevens visits Jerusalem, Israel

I learned a lot about the foundation of the nation of Israel through these leaders and along the way made new friends with the Israelis.

Visiting these museums, filled with the writings, the books, the furniture of these Jewish leaders leaders was very powerful and helped me to experience history.

Just the Beginning: 2017 Adventure to Israel

Earlier this month I had the honor of being a member of the Young GOP Leaders for Israel group visiting Israel to learn about the nation and discover more about how everyday Americans can become advocates to strengthen the bond between Israel and the U.S.

I found the trip deeply meaningful in political, spiritual and historical ways as my group was led by Likud party members, visited the old city and saw so many historical sites that have political and historic meaning to the nation of Israel.


During the ten days I spent in, I witnessed the excitement leading up to the announcement that the U.S. will move its embassy to Jerusalem. Israelis I spoke with certainly wished President Trump would recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capitol of Israel, but the outrage of the Muslim occupied Israel would have been significant.

I learned so much about the Jewish culture, the state of Israel, and the turmoil of the Middle East that impacts citizens lives every day. In Israel, terror is a horror citizens experience all the time– from rabbis stabbed in the streets, to trucks that tear through a crowd killing half a dozen people. How often is it we’re faced with seemingly random religiously-motivated acts of terror in the U.S.?

The culture respects religion like no other I’ve ever seen and for me that is inspiring. Israelis by and large also accept the idea that politics and faith can and do work parallel, after all, for many people around the world, religion and ideology are intertwined because religion impact ideologies in many instances.

For me, the visit to Israel was life-changing. Everyday citizens are so passionate about their culture and the state of Israel– they’ve been willing to sacrifice and even die, to reclaim the traditional homeland of the Jewish people and freedoms for their children.

In a war-torn, poverty stricken region, Israel is with us, as an ally, but much more. I now value my freedom so much more after seeing how liberty and security are fought for in Israel.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about what I learned and experienced while in Israel. Stay tuned.

(cross-posted on my political blog: politicalfireball.com)

Day 2 in DC: Trump Sworn In

Friday began pretty early as we were up before 3 a.m. to drive into D.C., walked to the Metro and found our way to the beginning of the Silver inauguration ticket section.

We were in the first 100 to arrive of the Silver ticket holders– folks waiting for the mall-area inauguration viewing section.


Ready for a race?  We were!!  We toed the line and prepared to be among the first few dozen to have our tickets checked.

The ticket checking process was anything but organized and once a dozen tickets were checked the entire crowd, I impeded by any tape, gate or even an attempt at a human barrier, ran forward to the final security gate.

As seen below we were among the first twenty close to the gate. 


At about 6:30 a.m. the security checkpoint was finally opened and we were among the first dozen or so screened. It was awesome to sweep through the line, then race to the front to grab two seats at the front, chain link fence, barrier of the mall standing area.  There we bunkered, watched the capitol as the sun rose and waited until the inauguration ceremony began at about 10:30 a.m.




An excited crowd gathered this morning in front of the Washington D.C. capitol. Thousands wore red caps that represent the working class, imprinted with the slogan Make America Great Again. 


Many seniors that I visited with were first time attendees to any inauguration and were early supporters of President Trump. Other attendees were energized millenials. One young City Council member from a small Connecticut town explained how millenials were becoming involved and backing Trump in his town.

In his address, Trump offered the crowds hope and inspiration, declaring that we as a people will bring back our jobs, borders, wealth and dreams.

The inauguration was fantastic.  I’d probably go again…the tempature was not bad and the crowd was friendly.  We did not encounter any protesters, except as we left (hours later)…we observed as about half a dozen members of local law enforcement escorted about as many protesters down the Metro out of town.

For me it was just awesome to feel reality hit. We have a new president. We will have a new Supreme Court Justice to replace Justice Scalia.  God is blessing us, protecting us.  But it is not our duty to sit back and watch.  It is our duty to be informed, active and stewards of what He has created and rulers He would have us to be…

History is in the making.  What part will you play, what part will I play?

Trump Inauguration!

I’m more than excited to be reporting from Washington D.C. where the weekend’s inaugural activities are taking place and where tomorrow at noon Donald J. Trump will be official sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Today I toured around with New Mexico friends, visiting Congressman Pearce’s office where we picked up our inauguration tickets, and visited with friends at the office (even ran into Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry) and then headed over to other festivities in town. 

What do you think?!  While we didn’t cross paths with any protesters we did see their signs about.  We shall see what happens be tomorrow.



The Family Research Council had a nice event and reception.  There was also a great prayer event at the Greater New Hope Baptist Church featuring members of the Israeli Knesset and Congressmembers.  It was great to see U.S. and Israeli leaders pray for the future of our nation– former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann opened the prayers and many others followed…Christian and Jewish leaders offered up prayers regarding our Nation, the Trump Administration, the media, millennial and relationships with Israel and recognizance of Jerusalem as her Capitol.

The building was packed, but it’s a shame there wasn’t a line of folks waiting to get in– we need more prayer in this great nation…

A highlight was the recitation of the Aaronic blessing in Hebrew by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn.  It was beautiful!



Afterward our little crew headed over to the National Portrait Archive, a part of the Smithsonian that houses scores of gorgeous portraits of famous Americans.  Aren’t they lovely?!  Many of my favorites were of the presidents…



 



What a fantastic time.  I finished off the evening with a surprise picture with Donald Trump!  What do you think?!  Impressive?  I thought it was awesome!! 😜