Are you facing financial strain, and having trouble buying the homeschool curriculum you need? Or do you have homeschool curriculum you no longer need and would like to pass on to another family? Or are you looking for a charity that would benefit needy homeschooling families and would like to contribute? Check out The Book Samaritan: http://www.thebooksamaritan.com/. They are a Christian organization but do accept and distribute secular materials if available.
A homeschool list for sharing ideas and insights on helping kids to learn reading, including helping kids with learning differences: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HeartofReading/?yguid=397895047
SciStarter: http://scistarter.com/ A huge database of citizen science projects, so kids can do real science and provide data for important studies.
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has an extensive list of authors and illustrators that make classroom and homeschool group visits. Their database is searchable by location. http://www.scbwi.org/
Clickschooling: http://clickschooling.com/ Six days a week, a link to a different free internet learning resource, from homeschooling maven Diane Flynn Keith. You can get them emailed to you, or read them on her archives. Each of the six days are devoted to a particular subject, and she lists the suggested age range for each one. She makes a point of finding many learning opportunities that tie in with seasons and holidays. Some of them are for online learning, and some are resources for learning without screen time. I've found quite a few useful and free resources this way that I never would have thought to search for. She's also the author of the book Carschooling: Over 350 Entertaining Games and Activities to Turn Travel Time into Learning Time - For Kids Ages 4 to 17, a long list of mobile learning tips that range from the ridiculous to the absolutely brilliant.
Free craft instructions: Artists Helping Children, with a huge searchable database http://www.artistshelpingchildren.org/
High-quality Videos and still photographs of thousands of animals, with a focus on endangered species: http://www.arkive.org/
Awesome science videos: The Happy Scientist http://thehappyscientist.com/. He has a huge sampling of free videos on his site, and offers tons more with a small annual subscription. They are short, clear, usually demonstrate a simple experiment you can do yourself. He is very, very good at describing very complex ideas in really straightforward terms, to appeal to a wide age range.
You may have noticed that there's a whole genre of children's fiction about school. If you'd like to find some fiction for your child about homeschooling instead, check out this blog: http://homeschooladventurers.blogspot.com/ which has lists and links to many more lists. There's another long list here: http://www.homeschoolliterature.com/.
Wood products for crafting: Casey's Wood Products http://www.caseyswood.com/
Brass charms for crafting: Fancifuls, Inc. http://www.fancifulsinc.com/
Lots of places offer educator discounts that are available to homeschoolers; they include office supply stores, book stores, art supply stores, stores that sell organizational supplies such as The Container Store; and sometimes museum memberships. Don't forget to ask about discounts before you go there to shop, so you will know what proof of homeschooling status to bring. Here in Portland, OMSI has begun offering teacher discounts on memberships to homeschoolers. Powell's Books famously does not offer special discounts specifically to homeschoolers; instead they offer discounts on bulk purchases which are available to anyone purchasing large quantities of the same item.
Oregon Christian Home Education Network http://www.oceanetwork.org This group is more narrowly focused, but have some pretty good services. They offer their own summary of Oregon homeschooling law and offer an email service that will send alerts whenever Oregon homeschooling law is being debated. Which is pretty rad!
Facebook groups for local homeschoolers have really been mushrooming lately, as Yahoo is going out of fashion. There are perhaps hundreds, with widely varying levels of participation, so things can be very confusing for anyone jumping in and trying to find the right ones for them. Also this makes it extra difficult for anyone hoping to offer educational opportunities to the homeschool community to know how to get the word out. Here are some of the message boards that aim to serve larger portions of the homeschool community.
Homeschoolers of Portland: https://www.facebook.com/groups/162552263797664/
Oregon Homeschool Support: https://www.facebook.com/groups/196211110550216/ Oregon-wide Facebook group.
Portland Westside Homeschoolers/Unschoolers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/196211110550216/
ECHO East County Homeschool Org Events: https://www.facebook.com/groups/117528705121441/
A page on the Oregon Dept. of Education's website with FAQ on homeschooling in Oregon: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=2082
One of Portland's best-kept secrets: Oregon Homeschool Science Club. OMSI offers a lot of single session science classes, and one homeschooling mom and OMSI volunteer dynamo has been setting them up as a series of classes so your child can take a different one every Tuesday during the school year with a consistent group of homeschoolers. Her program is currently the only way to take OMSI's semester-long Lego Robotics course, which has a beginning and advanced level.
Saturday Academy http://www.saturdayacademy.org/ offers Saturday, break, and summer camp enrichment classes in Portland. Among their cool offerings are Lego Robotics and Technics classes. Engineering for Kids http://www.engineeringforkids.net/location/portlandmetro/homeschool currently has five different areas that they can teach by special arrangement: Lego Robotics, Electronic Game Design, Civil Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Little Engineers http://www.little-engineers.com/index.html offers classes in all things Lego. Play-Well http://play-well.org/schedule/class/state/state/Oregon?type=class teaches Lego Technics. If you have a suitable location and enough participants, I've been told they are available to teach homeschool classes. The umbrella organization for competitive Lego Robotics teams in Oregon is ORTOP: http://www.ortop.org/
Gem and Mineral Clubs are a great way to learn about geology. Most offer special youth activities, guest speakers, field trips to collect rocks or fossils or pan for gold, the opportunity to participate in rock shows, and the chance to meet other rockhounds. Field trips not available to the general public on both public and private land where clubs have obtained special permission to collect are a huge benefit. Three local ones are the Clackamette Mineral and Gem Club of Oregon City; Tualatin Valley Gem Club of Forest Grove; and Mt. Hood Rock Club of Gresham. If you especially love collecting agates and fossils on the coast, the Oregon Coast Agate Club is worth checking out!
If you are interested in collecting fossils, the North American Research Group is for you! Like the gem and mineral clubs, they work collectively to find great places to hunt for fossils with permission from landowners, and often have great guest speakers at their monthly meetings.
Mushrooms are a popular passion in the Pacific Northwest, and the Oregon Mycological Society can help you learn more about mushrooms than you ever thought there was to know! In addition to mushroom foraging field trips, they offer help with mushroom identification, culinary skills, cultivation and dying fabric and yarn with mushrooms. Non-members are welcome to come to meetings and hear speakers.
If your child is fascinated by archaeology, check out the Oregon Archaeological Society. Their monthly meetings are free and open to the public and feature interesting speakers. Members have the opportunity to tour cool archeological sites.
If your 5th -10th grader loves writing, check out the free Young Willamette Writers, the youth group affiliated with the highly respected Willamette Writers Group.
Willamette Valley Grotto is a club for those who love to explore caves, and the public is welcome to attend their monthly meetings.
The Bug Chicks are local entomologists who can do their amazing bug show for homeschool groups, and are occasionally found around town doing their show at nature centers and libraries. They also offer some wonderful educational videos online.
There are quite a few amazing reptile experts who put on shows locally and are available to homeschool groups. I recommend Mr. Lizard and The Reptile Man.
A few lesser known museums you just gotta check out: Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals (one of the best of its kind in the country); Kidd's Toy Museum; Portland Police Museum; Antique Powerland; The Venomous Reptile Museum, and The Albany Carousel. Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve probably has the best visitor's center of any natural area around, with wonderful exhibits, most of which are hands-on. Ed's House of Gems is a store, not a museum, but there are many wonders of natural history to see, good prices on rocks, seashells, and fossils, and a friendly staff. Paxton Gate is another store with some eye-popping natural history items, and as a bonus they sell professional butterfly nets!
If you need any kind of ceramic supply, check out Georgie's in North Portland: http://www.georgies.com/
Check out SCRAP http://scrappdx.org/ and see what wonders await you inside! Started by art teachers who wanted to pool resources, SCRAP has lots and lots of trash that can quickly become treasure, all neatly organized and priced at ridiculously low prices. They even have an art gallery and gift shop full of arts and crafts made from recycled materials, and I have to say, the quality of the art is quite good. Your homeschool group might be interested in their field trips!
Want to take your family camping? Don't own a tent? For super cheap you can borrow a tent, sleeping bags and pads, and have two nights to enjoy them! Someone will even show you how to set them up! Check out Oregon's fabulous "Let's Go Camping" program: http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/PARKS/Pages/lgc_intro.aspx Tents, sleeping bags and other camping equipment, snowshoes, and more can also be rented from REI stores: http://www.rei.com/stores/rentals.html
Places to find local service learning opportunities: SOLVE (environmental projects such as litter pickup, weed pulling, and tree planting; most are kid friendly but it's a good idea to bring your own kid sized gardening gloves); Hands On Greater Portland (a database which is searchable by age and location); and Depave (helping to remove asphalt for creating community gardens; bring kid sized gardening gloves).
A post listing my favorite local nature guides: http://stagbeetlepower.blogspot.com/2011/03/favorite-nature-guides.html To this list I would just add the brand new updated edition of Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine: The Portland-Vancouver Region's Network of Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas.
If you live in Clackamas, Multnomah, or Washington Counties, your library card entitles you to library cards from the other two counties. This can really come in handy. Washington and Clackamas Counties offer free cultural passes to local museums and cultural institutions that are simple to reserve and use: http://www.wccls.org/lending_library/cultural_pass and http://www.lincc.org/ (click on "cultural passes" on the bottom right).
Multnomah County allows you to double your limit of reserved items with an educator's card, and keep materials for up to 6 weeks. They require a letter of acknowledgement from the ESD as proof of homeschooling, so it is therefore not available either to homeschoolers with children under the age of 7, or the many families who choose not to register. (One word of caution- use of an educator's card is limited to checking out "educational materials", and I have heard that occasionally a librarian will question use of this card.) The Central Library has an Eco-roof, and offers brief tours by reservation only. Multnomah County also has a Homeschool Liason on their staff, and has an extensive list of homeschooling resources on their website.
Clackamas County will allow you to double the number of reserved items and check out 30 more items if you apply for "high volume user status". Teachers and homeschooling parents qualify, and I have been told that they do not require proof of homeschooling status. They also offer Mango Languages, online language tutoring in 44 languages, free through their website.
Washington County does not offer homeschooling parents specific benefits, because all library patrons are all allowed to have up to 50 reserved items and up to 100 items checked out. Washington County also offers a very detailed guide to how to search their online catalog for optimum results, and a page of resources for homeschoolers.
Most libraries are happy to offer tours for homeschool groups to acquaint children with how to use the library. All libraries have storytimes for preschoolers, and many offer storytimes in second languages., the variety of which may surprise you. Other things you may find free at our local library include chess and Lego clubs for kids, simple craft workshops, monthly book discussion clubs for kids (often with free copies available to the kids given out the month before), and "read to the dogs" programs for beginning and struggling readers. Be sure to familiarize yourself with everything your library card can do for you.
Curious how many homeschoolers there are in Oregon? Turns out the state does compile yearly statistics by Educational Service District here: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=2081 Only problem is, this list is definitely incomplete. It's an open secret that not registering is a very popular option, especially for those who wish to avoid any and all compulsory standardized tests. Also it doesn't include families that use Oregon distance-learning programs, and these families are still teaching their own kids!