Sunday, April 1, 2012

Homeschooling High-School

A recent question about high school on a homeschooling board asks what veteran homeschoolers would do if they could start over with high school.

We've graduated 2 and have a rising senior. Here's the deal- there are so many more options than there were even a couple of years ago and they are expanding. Because of that homeschooling high school is easier and more effective than ever before. My .02 about planning high school at home:
1.    Maximize your resources.
2.    Don’t switch around if you have something that works well (Unless you have an amazing opportunity),
3.    Give your kids a lot of exposure to various opportunities (help your kids find them, interview, be selective)
4.    Pick subjects that teach what they claim to teach.
5.    Be realistic about your abilities.
6.    Be realistic about your kids abilities.

This year ds (jr) is involved in co-op (chorale, art, history unit study), on-line classes (pre-law and copywriting), Tutoring Center; private tutoring (creative writing, Latin, Alg. II), classes at home (history, science), Great Courses & other DVD’s (Shakespeare GC), Bio, Chem). 

This year he's also had the opportunity to travel to GA to campaign, go to Challenge and Back to D.C., and is going to TP Nationals and Challenge staff training in the next several weeks.
He was involved in Drama Camp, Shakespeare Camp and the Festival of One Act Plays last year and this. He works 1 day a week as a farm hand, goes ballroom dancing twice a month and helps with the house re-build projects/gardening and has a serious work-out schedule.

He works, in part, to fund his traveling and travels to fund his sense of adventure. The drama is a great rhetoric exercise (public speaking/performance, memory work) not to mention fun, and has been used to supplement lit. Ballroom dancing/work-out = gym. Challenge, TeenPact events are 2-fers because they are serious apologetics/faith building programs in addition to exposure to politics.   

My plan for my kids has been to give them as many opportunities as make sense and we can afford and have a clear college prep program. We do pass on some opportunities, we don’t participate in every single social event. Our kids don’t do youth groups. We do a lot but we also don’t do a lot. That is part of the challenge for high school-determining where your time and energy should be, what opportunities you have where you live. Our life in NM (activities for our older girls) was very different than the activities/opportunities our 3 younger kids have.

If you have areas of weakness (for me soph and up math and science) bite the bullet, hire a tutor, get on-line, or take classes at the local high school. We tried program after program after program for math for our older girls and the result was that the both feel inadequate about math and didn't get a solid, sequential scope of upper level math. It would have been far less expensive to just hire a tutor every week than switching around.

I see true value in finding something and sticking with it. We are using LoF for math. You can find lots of discussion on-line about the adequacy of it (or not) but we are sticking with it. Our math tutor thinks it's just fine, our son is moving forward, if we change (again, since we had to change and lost time from the fire) that is time not spent moving forward. Otoh, last year ds had the opportunity to take Chem. from a scientist. Adios Apologia, hello Prentice Hall and stellar Chem. teacher.

I also think the idea that every subject needs to be “Christian” is a bit odd. I’ve always taken the approach that I want the curriculum to teach the subject it claims to teach; Bible verses at the top of a math page just seems odd to me and confusing. The vote is in and multi-tasking doesn’t work. I also stay away from vendors that integrate their doctrine in to the curriculum. It’s not that we don’t have a doctrine, it’s just that I don’t really want it taught pedantically. The exception to this, for us, is Rod and Staff grammar.

My kids are not brilliant but they are all pretty smart. They probably won’t go Ivy League. Most of them have more linguistic ability than symbolic. I focus heavily on writing/speaking, lit, history, (my strengths) while my dh does a lot of science exploration, apologetics, strategy focus with them (far less structured, more along the lines of mentoring). If dh was homeschooling, they’d probably all go into a science field because his love and passion for science is catching. Since his pesky day job keeps him pretty busy, they are stuck with moi. As it is they all have a very solid grammar of science. For areas we have resources, ability in, I expect them to move beyond the grammar stage.

I do look at and glean from catalogs each year but the siren song of “new, new, new” can outweigh common sense so I stick with a few vendors that fit with my pedagogy and choose from them. For me, that limits choices, saves money and gives me a piece of mind because I’m not always seconding guessing and wondering what we are missing.

I am also over switching mid-year if things don’t “work” or don’t fit with my kids “learning style.” I believe in learning styles, ages and stages and all of that  (I have a Master’s degree in Human Development) but I also believe that kids need to shore up areas of weakness. This might take more time on my part, but switching curriculum's, catering to a child is costly, too (btdt). I’ve found that generally things don’t work when I am not directing, discussing or involved in what the kids are doing. In other words, it’s rare to find a truly awful curriculum and common to find homeschoolers who want the curriculum to work magic for them. The reality is, in order for homeschooling to “work”, you have to show up.

In conclusion, I'm doing some things just the same for my younger kids as for my older (lots of opportunities, great lit, college prep classes) and totally different (more outsourcing of academic courses) with my younger kids. It's exciting to see the homeschooling world expand and grow and the opportunities that we can offer our kids, and afford, grow with it.

What are you planning for High School?


OrdainedPraise said...

This is very informative. It appears that homeschooling thru high school is not just schooling at home or from Mom and/or Dad. This is good insight for parents who homeschool thru high school. (We have five in our tribe too.)

Mainah said...

I started to get dizzy reading all that your jr is doing. Yet, I guess if I would list what my sophomore is doing it could get long! We've graduated three before her and never hunted down the highest scholarly texts or hired tutors. We don't have a vast variety in Maine! We've never had the funds either. We trade books among friends and co-op a bit. We duked out math the best we could, we were blessed with a family in love with science that organized study groups, and another Mom loved teaching writing. While they were helping with those things, I was coordinating TeenPact,Awana and homeschool support groups. TP changed our lives,(our state class begins tomorrow.) Now with just one very social "student" I'm out of the coordinating "business" and driving her to study groups, drama groups, TP, campaigning, service projects, and babysitting... The boys all had great ASVAB scores and all have joined the National Guard. Two of our four will attend college, one is building his own business, and one will work in his field. The most important thing is finding God's path for you can rest in Him...otherwise the pressure to homeschool high school perfectly can be overwhelming.

Jen @ Forever, For Always... said...

I don't have a high schooler yet, but this is great information to tuck away, we will be there before I know it. I'm glad to see that you recommend getting a tutor rather than just hopping from program to program. We will be leaning in that direction in math eventually.

The Zookeeper said...

I'm so scared of high school years because they will come for me next year and I was able to read some of this!

Meg Falciani said...

Homeschooling high school is a totally different thing than a younger student! I agree that it helps to know your limits - and the limits of what you want your curriculum to be. I think you put it right -- I want math to teach math, not necessarily Bible verses.