Thursday, December 29, 2016

Homeschooling High School

Howdy! I'm glad you're here.  
This post probably contains run-on sentences, sentence fragments, 
affiliate links, and unnecessary ellipses.  If none of that bothers you, let's be friends.

Interview question three:

"Do you plan to keep homeschooling through high school? How do you assess if your big kids are getting enough of what they need for whatever comes next?"

Ah.  This is a bigly question with sub-questions and sub-sub-questions which you follow until you arrive at tunnels that lead to labyrinths that result in roller-coaster rides through black holes into as-yet undiscovered universes.  But the short answer is "yes." And "with great fear and trembling."

Now for the longer answer.

So far our two eldest are in high school and they are still homeschooled (freshman and sophomore year as we speak).  We do try to look at each child individually and assess their needs each year, though, and (I hope) remain open to where the Holy Spirit is guiding us in terms of their education and growth, so maybe it will happen that some child(ren) will not be homeschooled in high school and that will also be fine.  But for now we are and it seems to be going well.

In terms of assessment, every year I've voluntarily administer the California Achievement Test (CAT) to my kids so that we can see together where they are already strong academically and where we need to focus more of our efforts.  This year I might do something a little bit differently with my high schoolers because I'm crazy like that and can't just leave well enough alone.  We also do things like take practice AP, CLEP, and PSAT tests just to get a feel for what the knowledge expectations are and so far we all feel pretty confident that we are being sufficiently diligent about their education.

Also, and maybe this will do nothing but reveal how poorly prepared I am to be attempting this at all, I often look at what they're working on and say "well, I never learned about that in high school and still managed to get my diploma, so..."  Is that bad?  Is that terrible?  I don't think it is.  I think if I were sending them to school I would be totally happy with them just "getting the grade" even if they didn't retain the information (that is a shortcoming on my part, not commentary on going to school in general!), whereas with this set-up I'm like "ZOMG, you better have the fund of knowledge of a doctoral candidate at Yale by the time you turn 17, okay?!?!?"  Or I WOULD be like that if I didn't actively remind myself of my real-knowledge to high-school diploma ratio when I started college, which was something like 2/100.

Anyway!  I started rambling there, didn't I?  Always.  Always with the rambling.

Lastly, I've been absolutely blessed with an enormous, supportive homeschooling community, both online and "in real life" (a term I kinda hate because that implies that friends who I know via the internet are either not real people or not part of my real life, BUT I DIGRESS).  I throw myself at the feet of these generous ladies whose children have gone on to really real graduate from really real colleges and I say "help me!!!  Tell me everything I need to know!!!  Do I really need to do four entire years of Michigan history based on the advice on this random website I just found at 2 a.m.?!?!?"  If you've not been a recipient of one of these emails, facebook comments, or after-church talks, consider yourself especially blessed, truly.

So there it is.  Assess the needs of each child individually, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, keep tabs on what The World will be expecting them to know depending on their goals for the future, and don't be afraid to ask for help.  Those are my homeschooling high-school strategies as a very, very new new new high-school mom who prays and hopes she doesn't want to pat herself on the head in a few years when she goes back and reads this while saying "aw, bless her heart."

 Posting for the 12 days of Christmas...
12 in 2016 (a photo year in review)
Stuff That Makes My Life Better
Where did all these children come from?!?!
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  1. As someone who was homeschooled K-12 and recently graduated college with my bachelor's degree, I would also say it's AWESOME if you can focus on equipping teens with life skills. I've got my own place now after graduating last May, and sometimes think "WOW THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO KNOW". I mean, who even trains their kids how to budget, buy cars, file taxes, read leases, meal plan, and manage their time? Not many! Trial and error is fun and all, but homeschooling is such a great opportunity for kids to see these more difficult to figure out parts of adulthood being modeled by their parents everyday.

    I feel like high school focuses too much on academic achievement sometimes (not your post, just in general!). Some people love that and have the ambition to go on to get their PhD and use that head knowledge. But for people who don't have those plans or ambition, it is SO awesome to be able to nurture their other creative skills and interests. Cheers to my fellow homeschoolers from someone who lived through it and is doing great so far!

    1. Thank you for saying this, Laura! I often do think about how the life skills things are used literally on a daily basis and many of the other things we learn are not. That's not to say that learning things for their own sake is bad, but having a balance of the good, the true, the beautiful and the useful seems to be a worthy goal.

    2. Amen! Sorry I didn't mean that you were focusing only on academics - that's just a general trend I see in some circles. So good to see this balance :-)

  2. I get asked this question all the time. I don't understand why high school is so different from grade school or what benefits an all day high school has over homeschooling, assuming they have been doing fine all along. Now, the negative effects of all day high school are clear, in my opinion, but not the benefits, so I have a hard time when people ask me this question. What do they really mean? That we can't teach chemistry or physics at a high school level? High school math? That getting into college will be too hard because of their homeschooling? I'm genuinely curious as to why high school itself is some special line of demarcation?

    1. As someone who had homeschooled her children K-8 and then my oldest is now a freshman in high school (at a B&M school), I can try to answer this. First of all, if your goal in high school is simply to pass high school and get a high school diploma, then I don't think there is much of a difference between high school and lower grades. However, if a child is wishing to attend college, then I do think there are certain things one has to consider in high school that you do not have to consider in lower grades. Grades are important in high school because they can affect college...not just getting into college but getting college scholarships. My daughter is a freshman in high school right now. Knowing her abilities, she will probably only do decent-good (but not WOW stellar) on the SAT/ACT yet she is getting mostly A's in school. Those A's can help her get college scholarships, even if her SAT scores are not super stellar.

      As a parent I do not trust myself to an unbiased grader of an English Paper or Chemistry Lab. In fact, I know I'm not unbiased. Even in math that can happen. As an example, a few weeks ago my daughter got a C on an Algebra test. The reason for that grade is that she somehow skipped an entire page of problems. As her mom, I totally would have been all "you skipped a page, here do it now" and she would have gotten an A. However, her teacher in school did not do that for her and she had to suffer the consequences of being careless and missing a page of problems.

      The other thing, is that when my daughter was homeschooled, she was 90% self-taught. She learned most of her subjects from books/curriculum, however, now that she is in high school, she is learning a lot from having classroom teachers, listening to lectures, partaking in classroom discussion, doing group projects. I do think that becomes more important in higher grades than it does in lower grades. I also do not feel I can adequately teach high school subjects without going back and re-learning all that myself. I do not have time to do that. I think in lower grades it is fine and good to be both mom and teacher and but that becomes harder once you get to high school. Some moms do it wonderfully, but I know my own limitations.

      Now, there many options. Most of the people I know who homeschooled high school and whose children went on to college actually enrolled their kids in classes taught by someone else. Co-op classes, dual credit at a local college, online classes ,etc., etc. So, the children had teachers other than the parents, but the parents still directed the education and chose which classes the student took. All those options cost money and we did not have the money for that.

      However, as it turns out, my husband got a new job and we will likely be moving about an hour away from where we now live (so too far for her to attend the magnet school she now attends), so most likely my oldest will go back to homeschooling next year, but we will be enrolling her in things like online classes, co-op classes and eventually dual credit at a local college so she will still have teachers other than me who do classroom teaching and are responsible for grading, etc.

      There are pros and cons on either side. Having my daughter in high school, we are experiencing both those pros and cons right now. My daughter is learning a lot about time management and deadlines from being in school and benefiting from the classroom environment, but she also has less control of her education and a lot of time is wasted on busy work.

      And now that I wrote all this, I realized that I actually wrote a blog post on it last year, when we were considering sending our daughter to high school. So, I could have just linked to that.

    2. I can't speak for everyone of course, but for me a lot of it has to do with the records- the formal transcripts and the "real" diploma. If it weren't for the specter of having to defend what we've done to a college admissions counselor, I know I would have a lot less of the fear and trepidation!

    3. Just had to chime in: there are tons of ways to go about it, but from my experience, very few parents who homeschool kids through high school do all the schooling at home themselves. I took language at the local junior college (which was free and awesome because it also counted toward college credit later on), math with a family friend who's a math tutor, and writing and science at a co-op with other homeschooling families. I've heard of many people doing distance/online classes as well. You don't have to know it all to homeschool! But I get how that would really be a challenge if you don't have resources like that locally. And it's totally a decision every family has to make for themselves. I so appreciated having those experiences of being in a "real" classroom before heading to college - that could be very hard for some kids to adjust!

    4. Amelia, Interesting comment on at home having 90 percent self taught and in school being more group. I was not homeschooled. When I went to high school I thought it very easy. Teachers lectured and I took notes. Memorized. Homework was easy.

      I went to college and I had to teach mysekd, but never had to really before. My chemical engineering degree I was forced to teach myself a lot and I think it helped me tremendously! Open book exams, please try them! Learn a topic and then have to apply it in a way you never tried before. Open book because no example will tell you what to do. Plus, I think it is so important to know how to figure out or where to go to figure something out...Not just memorize.

      If kids plan on grad school, take the GRE senior year. It is good for 5 years and they test high school subjects that you may forget further along in college. Silly really.

    5. Thanks for the responses. I'm thinking on it all. :)


  3. I love reading your posts! I'm so glad you are blogging again! Your high school daughters are beautiful and it sound like you are doing wonderfully with them!

  4. And she's baaaaack!!!! -FarmAndAway

  5. My oldest is a senior in high school this year. We homeschooled independent ly (filed an affidavit in the state of CA), thus the transcripts I submitted to colleges were homemade. I did buy an embosser, so they looked really nice. My daughter took the SAT and the ACT cold, no prep, never took a standardized test before. She did pretty well on the SAT, and knocked the ACT out of the park. I encouraged her to apply to all the colleges that she was even remotely interested in, and hoped she'd get accepted to one or two. She ended up applying to 13 schools, got accepted to every single one, and was awarded merit scholarships to every single one. Throughout high school, she took online math classes, outside lab science classes, and outside language classes. We are fortunate that such high school level classes are easy to find in our area. English was a mix of home studies and outside IEW-style classes. The rest of her high school learning was a mix of her personal interests, volunteering, etc. My opinion now, after having gone through the college application process, is that strong writing skills are important (for application essays), as are SAT/ACT scores. As far as transcripts and courses of study forms go, as long as you've covered the basics, you should be fine. I absolutely did not fib about what she accomplished. When her number 1 choice school asked for a detailed course of study, I put down "Crash Course History" for her American History requirement, and didn't look back. She was accepted there, and was awarded the highest merit scholarship. All of this has made me relieved and grateful that institutions of higher learning aren't looking at some cookie-cutter formula for admissions. I know that every child is unique, and maybe things won't be the same for our next homeschooled high-schooler, but we will approach our next graduate with an open mind and grateful heart.

    1. Aaaah, thank you for this! This is exactly what I'm talking about when I mention mom's who've been through this already. It is so comforting to hear specific details of how it all went down. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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