Kate Farrell Photography

Family & Dog photographer
Burlington, stowe & Northern Vt




Vermont MCOS Tips

I’m excited to share some Vermont MCOS Tips for home educating parents looking to minimize stress while writing their child(ren)’s MCOS.

I recently submitted my third round of Vermont Minimum Course of Study (MCOS) forms. Along the way I’ve learned some ways to streamline the process and to make life less stressful.

Girl celebrating near a stream.
Less stress? I’m in!

Your Vermont MCOS Does NOT Need to Include All Your Plans

The State of Vermont needs to be sure each child is going to have their basic needs met. That is the purpose of the Vermont MCOS.

If you are like me and most of my home educating friends, you have many hopes and dreams for each of your children. You are putting lots of thought into carefully selecting materials and activities.

The Vermont MCOS is called the MINIMUM Course of Study for a reason. The state just needs to know that you’ve got the basics under control. I know, you want to do way more than just a bare minimum job. I do too! Create a separate document or space to keep all those hopes, dreams and plans.

Use the Same General Topic for More Than One Child

Quoting my public school 8th grade English teacher might be a funny thing to do in a post about home education, but her advice is spot on. Keep It Simple, Silly! The KISS rule!

Use the same general topic for more than one child. For example, all four of my children are studying geology this year. That’s what I listed on their MCOS. I have specific plans beyond that that are unique to each child, but one broad topic with a 3-4 subtopics was perfect for the MCOS.

As an added bonus, I can take photos on the same adventures to use for the Vermont EOYA. It’s just easier that way. (Have you read my Vermont EOYA Tips post yet?)

Vermont MCOS Tip -- you can use the same activity for more than one child. A trip to a river, like the one shown here is a great example.
Looks like a geology adventure to me!

Give Yourself as Much Wiggle Room as Possible

We all learn early on as parents to expect the unexpected. Hopefully life’s surprises feel like awesome opportunities, but they might show up as big challenges. Regardless, part of why you home educate is to have the time and mental energy to focus on life and parenting as it unfolds.

Vermont MCOS Tip -- leave yourself wiggle room, in case you get a puppy like the super-cute chocolate lab shown here with a 5 year old girl.
Willow, the puppy, was one of our home school opportunities last fall!!

Don’t write yourself into a corner with your Vermont MCOS. Here are a few specific ideas.

  • In Literature, list genres, not specific titles. This gives room to read all the books in a series or ditch one that just doesn’t resonate with your family.
  • Make frequent use of the phrase, “such as.” For example you plan to “study themes in American history such as…” This gives you room to add topics that spark your curiosity and doesn’t force a deep dive on something that you learn your kids aren’t ready for.
  • Always include a study of the scientific method and experimentation in science. Not only is this the cornerstone of science, again, it gives you lots of room to follow curiosity as it unfolds.
  • In writing, include developing as a writer through the writing process. Heck, anyone who writes is always doing this. No need to commit to essays on a particular topic.
  • In math, just list highlights from the program you are using. No need to list every single unit and topic.

Submit It Early

One of the best ways to ease stress is to get the work done. Don’t leave this until the last minute. Make an outline today and submit it next week. Your summer self will thank you for crossing this off the to do list!

If you are looking for a good book to read once you check “MCOS” off your To Do List, check out these three books that inspired me recently.

Vermont MCOS Tip -- submit it early so you can enjoy the beauty of Vermont all summer. Here a young teen examines a budding tree in spring.
One of those beautiful “home” education moments. So much of the learning happens outdoors!

Reuse Your MCOS Document

Once you’ve created one Vermont MCOS, you’ve done the heavy lifting. Make a copy, rename it EOYA and start filling in notes as your child studies various topics.

Next year, make another copy of your Vermont MCOS. All you need to do is update it. That’s what I call working smarter not harder!

A girl collects eggs from her chickens.
Work smarter, not harder!

Now, Go Focus on the Kids!

We home educate to give our kids a rich learning lifestyle free from the constraints of a rigid school day. My purpose in writing this is to free you from a bit of stress so that you can focus on just that. By all means, teach your kids as much as they are ready for and give as much rest as they need. Facilitate immersive experiences. Read together for hours. Let them play and experiment. Let them be kids!

Do all that knowing you have met your obligations with AOE and left yourself lots of wiggle room. That feels freeing and empowering to me. I hope you have a similar experience.

Four children play near a river in Vermont.
Enjoy your kids! They are the best part of home education!

If you enjoy my work…

Please check out the rest of my website. I specialize in family photography. All families bound by love and respect are welcome behind my lens.

I also do senior photography with an emphasis on the graduating teen’s connection to family and community. (And, as a home educating parent, I know that “Graduating” has multiple meanings.)

And, I love to photograph dogs. That’s just fun!

In all my photography work, my goal is always to capture the seasons, stories and connections that make this season special for my clients.

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Kate Farrell is a professional lifestyle family and dog photographer based in Williston, Vermont, serving Burlington, Stowe and Northern Vermont. 

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