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Easy Steps to Filing Your FAFSA

by Sylvia Miller

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If your child is applying for any financial aid to help pay for college, you or your student will fill out a FAFSA every year they attend college. This is for graduated students only, not high schoolers participating in dual enrollment. In Arizona, you can file a FAFSA for the 2020-2021 school year between October 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by September 12, 2020. You can file online at fafsa.gov.

FAFSA Determines Financial Need

The purpose of the FAFSA is to evaluate a student’s ability to pay (their expected contribution) and to help a college determine how much help the student needs (unmet need). The form asks questions about income based on your last tax return. It also uses family size and number of children in college as part of the equation. The results determine whether the student is eligible for Federal and State aid and is used by colleges in part to determine eligibility for need-based scholarships.

Filing Steps

There are seven sections or steps in the FAFSA. The first section is general information regarding the student, including contact information. The second section asks for income and expense information from the student’s tax return, if applicable. step three determines if a student is required to list parental information (those under 23 years old, single, listed as a dependent typically do). The fourth section is for parent information, if required. Step five asks household size, number of students in the household attending college, and two questions regarding other governmental assistance. In step six, the student should list any college to which he or she intends to apply. (NOTE: write them all down, even ones that seem out of reach.) The last section is signatures.

Student Aid Report

See? Easy! If, after submitting your FAFSA, you find you’ve made a mistake or omitted a piece of information or school, never fear! It is easy to file a correction online once your data have been processed. If you apply online you will receive an email confirming receipt and then, once your FAFSA is processed, another with a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR gives basic information about what your expected contribution is and whether you are eligible for federal grants (free money), loans (money you must pay back) or work study (money you can earn). After receiving the data from the FAFSA and a completed financial aid application from the student, a college will send an award letter with these federal awards listed, along with any school-based financial aid they have given, such as academic or need-based scholarships (free money, although with some strings attached usually).

For more information about student aid, go to studentaid.gov or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

Sylvia Miller lives in Phoenix. She and her husband, Kevin, have the privilege of co-discipling their four children through homeschool. Sylvia works part-time and is going to school verrrrrry slowly with the goal of becoming a nurse in the next eight years. She finds joy in flowers, people-watching in airports, and phone conversations with friends.

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AFHE Home Blog Field Trip Ideas Uncategorized

Arizona Field Trips – Montezuma Castle and Well

Article and photos by Megan Allison, Glendale

Growing up in rural Indiana where farm lots meet wooded, deciduous forests, the seasons greeted me
with endless beauty: trout lilies, purple grape hyacinths, redbud blooms, and spring peepers in the springtime. In the summer there were quiet light displays of fireflies and noisy cicadas. Fall brought displays of color as maple trees shed their summer green. Winter gifted our region with pure white, powdery snow with an occasional red cardinal or squirrel darting across the cold terrain. I’d describe myself as a nature lover, and I fondly remember watching Marty Stouffer’s Wild America episodes with my dad, dreaming of being right there filming the scene of clashing, battling rams.

My move to Arizona as a young adult, specifically, the giant metropolis of Phoenix, was quite a culture
shock to this Hoosier. However, springtime in the desert is like coming across a buried treasure that might be missed if you aren’t intentionally looking for it. It is a most wonderful time of the year to be raising and homeschooling children in Arizona. Now is the time to go outside and enjoy the pleasant weather and the state’s natural riches. One of my family’s favorite places to visit is Montezuma Castle in Camp Verde; it’s a quick 90-minute drive north of Phoenix. Well-preserved Sinagua ruins rise above the riparian area in Verde Valley. Montezuma Castle is Arizona history: a cliff dwelling that bears evidence of the remarkable past culture in our state. It’s a short, easy walk to the dwelling, and the surrounding area is beautiful.

Plan a field trip with your family, and you’ll quickly unearth the truth: the ruins are inaccurately named
for Montezuma. Make it a true nature study and observe the trees, birds, reptiles, and insects that call this area home. Beaver Creek supports thriving vegetation. Day trips with our children break up the monotony of the school day. It’s an opportunity to learn with your children by exploring the area together, inviting young minds to communicate from their perspective. Can you see the order, attention to detail, beauty and intelligence wrapped up in nature? There is significant value in discovering the world through a child’s eyes, and in homeschooling time is on our side. We instill a love of learning by experiencing it outside a textbook. When Dad gets to come along, we all benefit from making memories and participating in the learning process.

 

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Don’t pass up visiting Montezuma Well, a nearby natural limestone sinkhole. Its origin remains a
mystery, and it hosts some unique organisms that you’ll definitely want to learn about. There’s a nice picnic area between the castle and the well with Arizona sycamore, cottonwoods, and lush green grass: a perfect place for a packed lunch. Look for the original canals built by hand that have calcified over time and were used to irrigate the fields of the past. As you climb the hill to reach the well, imagine being the first Sinagua to see it.

On our first visit we picked up Jr. Ranger Programs for the kids from the Park Service, and they earned their
commemorative Jr. Ranger badges by taking part in age appropriate activities. I pray that as you take time to enjoy the great outdoors here in Arizona in the springtime and in all seasons, whether it’s observing nature in your neighborhood or driving to Montezuma castle and well, something resonates in your heart about the beautiful memories to be made with your children.

While attending the AFHE Convention a few years ago as I took those first steps toward homeschooling. I realized I have a legacy to pass to my children. I want to give mine my very best effort. I looked back at my own school years and decided to take the great parts mixed with what I was learning about being a good teacher from other seasoned homeschoolers. I remembered that my favorite days involved field trips. So, I’ll be packing many more into our school years, and you should too. This is the freedom of homeschool. May you have your best family adventures this season!

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AFHE Home Blog Field Trip Ideas Uncategorized

Arizona Field Trips – Mini Time Machine Museum, Tucson

Article and photos by Cindy Duell, Tucson

According to Smithsonianmag.com, only five museums in the US are devoted to the art of miniatures.
The Mini Time Machine Museum exists right here in Tucson,Arizona due to the generosity and vision of a passionate hobbyist whose private collection became the foundation for this marvelous museum, and it offers many delightful displays to discover.

You might primarily think of miniatures as dollhouses, and that is partially correct, but visitors here see
so much more than that! Guests of all ages find plenty to fascinate and spark the imagination. Beyond the welcome desk, seeing the enormous “tree” inviting you into the Enchanted Realm Gallery is irresistible! Here you may look down on a little wintry village through the glass floor beneath your feet, find cohorts of dragons and elves, and admire collections of vintage toys (perhaps some of your – or your grandparents’ – favorite childhood playthings). For scavenger hunt lovers, the quest to find Caitlin (the resident fairy) keeps you looking around every corner throughout your visit.

Moving on from the Enchanted Realm, you enter the History Gallery. Featuring historical recreations,
antiques, and scale models of actual buildings, these creations reflect a great variety of time periods and
settings. My favorite is the model of the Gamble House in Pasadena, a celebrated example of the
Craftsman style of architecture from the mid-20 th century. Your favorite might be the “Little House on
the Prairie” log cabin! Some of the models here are quite old, themselves, constructed as long ago as
the 1700s!

The MTM has a third permanent gallery, dedicated to Exploring the World. The models and items here
depict architectural styles and furnishings found in very different cultures, and they also demonstrate
how miniatures themselves are used in other countries. Throughout the museum, visitors will see
exquisite (and yes, amazingly small) examples of handicrafts such as pottery, needlepoint, jewelry,
carving, sculpture, and clothing.

Temporary exhibits have featured such marvels as miniatures carved on the tips of pencil leads, hand-
built figures of famous people throughout history, mechanized miniatures, and much more. There is a
gift shop with souvenirs, dollhouse furniture, and kits to construct on your own. Classes and seminars
are offered throughout the year for children and adults. You can even take a virtual tour at the
museum’s easily navigated website, theminitimemachine.org.

I hope you will enjoy the Mini Time Machine Museum as much as our family has!

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AFHE Home Blog Field Trip Ideas Uncategorized

Arizona Field Trips – Sky Harbor Airport

Article and photos by Megan Allison, Glendale

Through the giant glass windows minute after minute we watched commercial jets of all colors take off and approach for landing. From our high view at the PHX Sky Train platform you could see the long length of the runways, the mountains in the distance, and the beautiful blue Arizona sky. It’s a perfect viewing spot for my boys who are fascinated with airplanes. Dubbed America’s friendliest airport, I understood why as the pleasant tour guides described their passion for air travel and passenger comfort at Sky Harbor Airport.

At the beginning of this school year, our family visited this major airport for a guided tour. Airport staff and volunteers were ready for us with a headset for each attendee. First we visited the different aviation levels starting in the baggage area. Then we learned about the airport’s history, operation, and amenities. Next we spent time at the art museum, and took a ride on the PHX Sky Train. In addition there is an outdoor eating area.

Unquestionably, my children’s favorite part was the sky high ride. We stepped into a large pod without seat belts and glass windows from the floor to ceiling surrounded us for the ultimate viewing experience. Traveling above the ground at a good speed is like something out of the movies for a young person. Who else gets to spend the middle of their school day standing on the platform at a busy airport watching massive jets haul packages and people from one destination to another?

Some of my family’s best elementary years are spent stepping into the real world and getting up close and personal with the people who work in areas that interest my children. Arizona has endless opportunities for us to meet the world. My children make connections between what they’ve learned and real life when we do field trips together. It’s fascinating to learn about airport work: the sights and sounds help sear the learning into my children’s memory. I love these special times with them.

The tour at Sky Harbor continues as volunteer navigators explain the current airport improvement projects including the modernization of terminal 3 and how the airport operates daily to ensure safe, timely flights. With 44 million passengers every year it takes great organization and efficiency to meet the needs of each traveler. Sky Harbor works hard to help put passengers at ease as they proceed through the airport. Free pre-scheduled airport tours are offered each month. Your family can do a self-guided tour or organize a trip. We enjoyed one with our support group. Overall, this family friendly tour satisfied every child’s desire to ride elevators, escalators and watch air traffic go in and out of one of the world’s busiest airports.

With a little bit of prep work you can easily tie this trip in with a study on aviation. Be intentional and use field trips to enrich your lesson plans. Sometimes I have my boys think up questions they can ask during a tour. How do the 1,200 planes a day keep from crashing into one another? Where does the baggage go once it leaves the check-in area? What skills are people using during a work day at the airport? What education do you need to become a pilot? Questions can be used to encourage learning and focus the attention to certain things we want our children to pay attention to during the trip. I follow up our trips with asking my children to retell the best part of the trip or what was something new they learned. Older children can write a summary. Sometimes we’re spurred on to do more research. Whatever direction the wind sock may be blowing today, one thing is sure: you cannot go
wrong with adding a little air-venture to your school day.

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AFHE Home Blog Homeschool Help Special Needs Uncategorized

Top Five Benefits of Listening to Audiobooks

by Jim Hodges

I’ve been recording books for 20 years now. My desire to record books was actually a selfish one. I loved reading out loud and thought that recording books would be a fantastic at-home business to start after I completed 20 years in the U. S. Navy. While I knew that listening to audiobooks could be fun, what I didn’t realize at the time is that listening to an audiobook has lots of other benefits to the listener. Here are the top five.

Benefit #1: Audiobooks Improve Time Management

One of the greatest benefits of audiobooks is that you and your kids can save a lot of time by multitasking—provided the other tasks do not require too much of your attention, of course! Times like when you’re driving to soccer practice, piano lessons, or church, at nap time or bedtime, or together as a family in the evening. Other times people love listening to audiobooks is in the gym, or while going for a walk, or while carrying out daily routines such as cooking or cleaning.

The best routine I’ve heard is from a homeschooling Mom in South Carolina: Every day at lunchtime, Mom puts on the next chapter of a G.A. Henty audiobook. Everybody gets to listen to a chapter while making and eating their lunch. Chapters are typically 30-40 minutes long so that works about right. After the chapter is over Mom gets to ask questions about the chapter. This makes sure everyone is following the story. She can also define new  vocabulary words (or look them up!) or clarify relationships between characters or show on a map where the
action took place.

Once the book is completed and everyone’s had a chance to listen together as a family, there’s a drawing to see who gets to listen to it alone first, and then everyone takes turns listening on their own devices when it works for them. Everyone hears the story.  Mom gets to ensure they all followed along and comprehended it. She also ensures that the moral lessons exemplified are clearly understood and emphasized and that there is a connection made between good morals and good outcomes.

Benefit #2:  Audiobooks Improve Pronunciation and Fluency

As the narrator reads, you will notice and learn—quite passively and accidentally—the way he is pronouncing different words. Not only that, but you will notice his reading speed, his pauses, stresses, and intonations, which are crucial in having fluency and command over any language. What you may not know is that I spend nearly a month preparing a book for recording before I ever turn on a microphone. While reading the book quietly to myself, I’m underling words I’m not sure how to pronounce. Specifically, I’m looking at the names of rivers and mountains and cities and actual people from history.

I own a regular dictionary, a geographic dictionary, and a biographic dictionary which I use to look up unusual words, places, and people. It’s been a huge help to me. You can also do an internet search for “how to pronounce [insert word]” to hear how a word is pronounced.

If your children follow along in the text of one of my recordings, they will see that words often aren’t pronounced the way you’d think based on their spelling! Think of the word Versailles. It’s pronounced ver-SI. Who’d have thought that? Nobody, unless they were French.

Benefit #3: Audiobooks Are Wonderful for Struggling Readers

You may have noticed an increase in the number of people diagnosed with reading difficulties. Maybe, just maybe, it’s really that we are just better at identifying their issues. It is now widely believed that Thomas Edison, Nicolas Tesla, Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, and Jules Verne were all dyslexic. There was no diagnosis, of course, but all the evidence appears to be there.

Do you think they would have loved audiobooks? I’ll bet they would have! Do you have a child who is a struggling reader? Or who has been diagnosed with dyslexia or any related issue? What benefits would accrue if you included audiobooks into their day?

Benefit #4:  You Get an Interesting and Lively Experience of the Story!

Not to toot my own horn (well, maybe a little!), but the personality of the narrator can really enhance the flow and feel of a story. My goal when I record a book is to translate the written word into mental pictures for you—of people and places and situations—and also help you to understand the plot better. When you are watching a movie, everything is done for you. Facial expressions, tone of voice, actual appearance of a character, seeing where the story takes place—no imagination required! On the other hand, when listening to an audiobook, it’s almost entirely up to the reader to take the words of the author and help you visualize all that in your head.

Of course, the author’s descriptions form the foundation of the story, and many authors are quite descriptive, which is really helpful—not only to the listener, but to the reader. If it weren’t for the author’s description, how would I know anything about the character? How am I supposed to translate that into their voice, their attitude, their story?

The narrator’s job is to get into the author’s head—to take the words of the author and accurately present the story and bring the personality of each character to life. I do this with character voices of course, but also by varying my inflections, emphases, pauses, accents, and cadences. So much of a story can be told with those elements, in addition to the actual words spoken.

When a narrator uses all of the tools available to him, it really does transform the words of the author into an interesting, lively, and fun experience for the listeners!

Benefit #5: Audiobooks Build “Critical Listening” Skills

Not surprisingly, listening to audio books assists in the development of listening skills. In life, it’s vital to be able to really listen when people speak. Whether it’s a teacher or pastor or parent or employer or friend or spouse, truly listening is one of the most important skills you can develop.

First and foremost, you want to ensure that you completely understand what is expected of you or what an authority over you has required of you or what your friend or spouse is feeling. If you haven’t developed the critical skill of listening, how are you going to know if you got the information right? Anyone can just listen to a story or a book. However, the purpose for listening—or reading for that matter—is not just to be a recipient of a story or information. That’s great for younger listeners, for sure, and what many people refer to as “pleasure reading” or “pleasure listening.” But eventually, we all need to develop the skill of analyzing the logic of the information being transmitted, determining if the author has “made the case” so to speak, and judging the accuracy and legitimacy of the information being shared.

A popular speaker at the AFHE Convention, Jim Hodges produces audiobooks treasured by homeschool families nationwide. Check out his website at jimhodgesaudiobooks.com

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AFHE Home Blog Early Education Homeschool Help Special Needs Uncategorized

Getting an Evaluation for a Special Learner

by Megan Allison

You have concerns that your child might be struggling to learn or communicate. Sometimes the signs present themselves early in a child’s development and oftentimes a student compensates for their struggles through the younger elementary years. Even among professionals the screenings for disorders and challenges may begin early or only happen after a parent’s request. In recent years, autism has received widespread attention; it is common for pediatricians to begin screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder at 18 months. However, what do you do when you suspect dyslexia, speech difficulties, ADD, or another learning challenge? In young children these are classified as developmental delays and identifying these early can equip you to assist your special learner.

Identify Signs of Delay

Identify the signs of a delay with the help of a number of great online resources.  See a list of typical dyslexia signs here: homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com. If you suspect dyslexia, Lexercise offers a free dyslexia test. Other families I have talked with recommend Susan Barton’s program. She manages Bright Solutions for Dyslexia. I found Dianne Craft’s website helpful in understanding how children learn differently. Her website has great videos describing right brain learners and how to teach to their unique learning pathway. If you are looking for speech, language or hearing delays visit asha.org.

Three Avenues for Evaluating Children

Some parents find it beneficial to have their special learner evaluated, and it’s helpful to know your options:

1) Public Evaluations

In the state of Arizona Child Find requires Public Education Agencies to locate, identify, and evaluate children with disabilities birth through age 21. Visit the Child Find website to have your child screened. Generally, evaluations are done periodically in group settings. If the school year has already begun, deliver a written request for evaluation to the school district’s office of your residence. It is important to include any documentation you have that will help the office determine the need for an assessment. Remember you have spent time with your child and should write down what you see him or her struggling with academically. In a school setting the teacher would normally document the difficulties. It can take up to 45 days after the request has been delivered before an evaluation is scheduled.

District Determination: A Team Effort

Once your child has been evaluated, the district determines if your child has needs that qualify for services. The school district is interested in determining whether your child can access their education. Their assessment is built around those parameters and it takes a team, including you, the parent, to determine if your child struggles with learning. When I say the district is focused on your child’s ability to access their education, it is important to understand that parents may have different expectations. For example, my son struggled with speech which is considered expressive language delay; however, he could hear (receptive language), follow directions, and point to what he wanted. Therefore, he could access most of his education even though I wanted him to speak in full sentences like his three-year-old peers.

It is also crucial to understand that the school does not diagnose your child because only medical doctors determine diagnoses. A medical professional’s opinion may be useful to the team in determining the academic needs of your child; however, again, the doctor’s criterion and goals may be far different than what the school decides.

If the evaluation team concludes that your child qualifies for services such as occupational therapy or speech therapy, then an IEP (Individualized Education Program) or a service plan is put in place depending on what the parents choose. An IEP is for students fully enrolled in public school and a service plan is for private or homeschooled students. Regardless of the child’s age, you can homeschool while your child receives services through the school district.

Services for Homeschoolers

Furthermore, it is important to know that services are limited for homeschoolers as the district determines funding on a yearly basis. This is known as proportionate share and is the share that goes to both private school children and homeschool children receiving services in each district on a yearly basis. Families might best utilize this path as a starting point especially if you know very little about your child’s struggles. This was the very spot I found myself in when my son was little and unable to speak, and I knew nothing about helping him speak.

This is typically the least expensive route; however, it was my experience that therapies are delivered in group settings. It was the least effective avenue for reaching the goals I had for my son. Although a child has an IEP (individualized program), group therapy is not targeted to each individual student.

Additional Resources

Three helpful organizations that come alongside you on this journey are HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), SPED Homeschool  and Raising Special Kids. If you are a member of HSLDA, their educational consultants can go through the evaluation results with you and help you develop an IEP for you to implement at home. SPED Homeschool is an organization led by homeschool mom Peggy Ployhar, and excellent resources are provided for parents of special learners. Raising Special Kids is 501c3 in Arizona that was formed to support families of special learners from birth to age 26. It’s families of special learners helping other special learning families. Their website is full or resources, online parent training, periodic magazine, and you can connect with an experienced family for encouragement and support for the journey.

2) Find a Specialist

Another evaluation option is to visit your pediatrician’s office and ask for a referral to a specialist. A referral speeds up the process in scheduling an appointment with a specialist. You’ll need to describe your concerns to your doctor. Write them down ahead of time so you will not forget to share everything. If you’re familiar with delays and are seeing them in your child be sure to note these so you can discuss your concerns at your appointment. It can take up to six months to be seen by a specialist.

This is a more costly route; however, therapy is delivered to the individual child and was most effective for our family. The expectations were higher and my son quickly reached goals. I also had a more direct hand in communication between therapists and working on goals at home. We found faster results with our son going through a private practice.

AFHE members suggest getting evaluated at

While some specific therapies may need to be outsourced, especially in the beginning, observe the specialist, research and educate yourself so you can deliver therapies at home. This, ultimately, saves your family money and guarantees that you are a vital part of your child’s success. Many of the brain balance activities, speech therapy homework, and dyslexic challenges that my son has we worked on at home. I was shown some of the therapies to work on at home. Some I utilized resources from the internet. Finally, others I implemented after reading books about my son’s challenges.

Did you know AFHE has a number of recommended resources for Special Needs Education?
afhe.org/resources/special-needs

3) Consider the Division of Developmental Disabilities

Finally, your child may qualify for services through the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Families of children who have a child with an intellectual (cognitive) disability, autism, epilepsy, or cerebral palsy should consider reaching out to DDD to determine if the child is eligible. I recently spoke to one mother whose child receives habilitation services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy as well as respite and habilitation care on a regular basis. As her child has aged goals have included life skill training. Because she has other typically developing children at home, she expressed that the respite and habilitation care has allowed her child with special needs to have activities outside the home while she spends time with her other children.

Continue Learning Every Day

On a final note, as you wait for your evaluation appointment date, as you execute therapies and throughout your child’s education, he or she does not need to postpone any learning. Lessons continue by hearing the English language read aloud. Education not only happens through print but also through auditory medium. This was life changing for me to know we didn’t need to pause or delay learning because he couldn’t read on his own yet.

I highly recommend incorporating audiobooks into your regular school day. All special learners benefit from this as it increases their vocabulary, allows them to hear the natural rhythms of sentence structure, pick up rhyming words as well as learning about the world around them. Sometimes we use solely audiobooks and at other times pair them with the printed text. It can be helpful for early readers and struggling readers to both hear and see the sentences in a book. There are a number of free and affordable audiobook resources, including:

Looking for encouragement as you teach your special learner? Read Teaching Special Learners: A Good Work

Disclaimer: The author strives to give up to date information regarding special education, but parents should verify details as they seek evaluation(s). Laws and regulations change frequently. This blog post is for guidance and informational purposes only and does imply an endorsement of the websites or professionals mentioned. Article updated 4.15.20

Megan Allison lives in Glendale. She enjoys raising her three boys to love and serve the Lord. Megan actively serves on the board of her local support group where she encourages families in their homeschool journeys. She is passionate about equipping homeschoolers with the tools for success in their homes and communities. She desires to live out Titus 2:3-5. In her spare time, Megan likes to jog, spend time in nature, and date her husband Tim.