Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Filing, Planning, Ending, Beginning

 Officially, our school year is over.

I've been filing and reviewing, documenting, keeping and tossing, and taking old artwork off the walls as I await fresh replacements.  

I've also started to think about what lies ahead. I will have (roughly speaking, since we don't entirely "do" grades) a junior, a freshman and a third-grader.  Hmmm.

That makes it, as I said last year:
That time of year
thou may'st in me behold
when curriculum catalogs
or none or few
or many
do hang about the house.

If you are homeschooling a high schooler, I'd love to hear more about what you're doing.


Meredith said...

Ooh, I didn't know your 2nd girl and my Violet were the same "grade" ;-) Fun, fun fun AND Ramona and my Seamus will be duking it out in third grade too, oh JOY!

Karen E. said...

Fun, Meredith -- why is it that I didn't have them in roughly the same place, either? My mind is too noisy these days ... that's the problem! :)

Red Cardigan said...

We're in that "shorter and shorter days until we finally finish up the scraps of things except high school math which will keep going all summer..." phase. I get more excited about the end of school than the girls do!

One high schooler this year, and two next. In reviewing the year I think my biggest mistake was to try to make our school at home correspond too closely to what the area public high schools think of as a "college prep" curricula. Funny--I've never felt pressured to reproduce the school experience at home before, so why the sudden pressure to do that?

I ended up feeling like our oldest dd was overextended, with too many textbook subjects and not enough time for learning and absorption. We muddled through most of it, made a major math change (hence the "over the summer" math situation) and are winding down, but I think I need to stand back and re-evaluate my impulse to cram so many "courses" into each "semester" just because that's what the public school kids do.

Karen, since you have a junior in h.s., may I ask--how do you view the whole "college prep" thing? Do you follow a specific sort of "core" of subjects, or do you take a more flexible approach? I'm looking for alternatives to the "seven or eight daily subjects" grind we did this year--my poor dd was doing eight total subjects daily and it just seemed like way too much.

TIA for any advice!

Karen E. said...

Well, I mostly view the college prep thing with fear and trembling. :)

Seriously, anything I say should NOT be construed as advice! What I am feeling these days is that homeschooling high school is like starting all over -- remember when you first homeschooled and you were finding your style, and the right curriculum (or absence of it) and it all felt experimental, but things kept working out? That's where we are these days. I'm sure my younger girls will benefit from my oldest's experience.

We've done a mix (the last two years) of more structured core subjects and more flexible stuff. Math needs to be structured and solid for us; we did a biology course, dissections and all, because Anne loves that stuff. And American History was a Teaching Company lecture course. I'm a lot more flexible with reading and writing, because that comes more naturally at our house. This year, we did a weekly writing group with a couple other homeschooling friends -- the girls shared their writing with each other, and then I offered corrections and critique. The group was a big hit.

But, I don't pretend that I have it all figured out. That's what I'm looking at right now -- what do we want junior year look like? How do we make sure all the learning and absorption that you mentioned happens?

What ideas are you looking at for next year?

Shirley said...

My oldest will be a senior(ish) next year. I have continued what we do at the lower levels... a lot reading & conversations & writing (and did I mention lots of reading and writing?).

Much of the reading is self-chosen by the children (I present the topics & sometimes a list of example books or the appropriate 'dewey decimal' range... the children pick what appeals to them for the most part).

Although math is mostly structured and I will put together structured units here and there, we do tend to mostly follow the rabbit trails of interest in-depth.

I will say that in our state, starting with 11th grade, the students can participate in "dual enrollment"... this is for any student, not just children educated at home. In this program, they can take classes at the local college (any class as long as they have the necessary testing score and/or pre-requisites). They receive credit for both high school and college. It does start a "permanent record" with the college system, so make sure the child is ready! But so far, it has been an excellent experience for my son! He didn't get the straight-A's he was 'assuming' he would get, which was actually a benefit to have him realize of his own accord areas in which he needed to develop more self-discipline!


Red Cardigan said...

Karen, I feel like I'm starting over, too! We had such a "rhythm" going with the grade school, and even though I tweak things all the time (who doesn't?) at least I sort of felt like I more or less knew what I was doing. :) Not so much with the high school!

I love the idea of a weekly writing group--may run that one by a mom I know whose daughter, like mine, loves to write...

With math, we finally gave up on Saxon and switched to Math-U-See. I used Saxon myself in high school, and thought I could handle it--but we found it frustrating and lacking in the kind of daily practice the girls need.

I agree with you that science needs structure, but we ended up doing an Apologia book this year and I haven't been happy with it. Would love science recommendations from anybody, but especially from moms of "science-resistant" children; my oldest is not fond of science.

Other than that, though, I think what I want to find for next year are more courses that go beyond the "textbook with assignments" paradigm and into interactive, hands-on, etc. My oldest is really benefiting from the Math-U-See weekly DVD lessons, for example, and the Mavis Beacon typing course changed her from a two-fingered hunt'n'peck typist to a qwerty typist in the course of this year.

Just putting this down in a comment box is helping! I'm realizing that where the frustration has come in it's from treating everything, even electives, like hard-core subjects with textbooks, daily assignments, and frequent tests. That may have worked for us in grade school b/c some subjects were easy "workbook" sort of things, but it's pretty hard to transfer that over to high school.

Karen E. said...

Shirley, like you, we do a lot of discussion and I truly do consider that part of our curriculum. Whether the trigger is a book one of us has read, or a news item, or what have you, some of the best learning happens when we're just talking. And lots of reading and writing. :) It all "counts."

And, I forgot to mention the early enrollment for Anne, too, through the community college here (they call it "early enrollment" here, for homeschoolers, and "dual enrollment" for kids who attend public school.) It's a great opportunity/time to hone study skills, etc., and to get a feel for academic expectations in another setting. Sounds like your son learned about that, Shirley! I expect that to be the case here, too.

RC, I think that the "starting over" feeling, for me, was kind of scary at first, in the same way that beginning homeschooling was scary -- it's uncharted territory, so we're lighting out all over again. BUT, just as homeschooling the younger ages was a time of discovery, this is, too, you know? So, rather than worry *too* much, I try to embrace the adventure. Some days I do that better than others. :)

But, that's made it fun to research again, and think about new approaches. Just as I read a lot of books in the early years about homeschooling, I've spent the last couple of years reading things I'd never read before (because, you know, all that high school stuff was too far in the future to worry about.)

So, I continue to pray for God's provision, and to be surprised at what He sends our way.

And I know what you mean -- just writing about it in a comment box *can* help. This sort of sifting and discussion is always good for me, helps me regain some perspective.

Karen E. said...

Oh, one other thing --

Your original comment, RC, you said:

Funny--I've never felt pressured to reproduce the school experience at home before, so why the sudden pressure to do that?

I think that's so common! And I think it's why so many people, at least in my area, end up putting their kids in school. The stakes suddenly seem higher, don't they? Not that we didn't take our kids' educations perfectly seriously before, but suddenly, some things seem out of our reach. I maintain that we can still reach high and do well, and that there are so many resources to help us (including Grace ...) if we persevere.

If anyone had told me ten years ago that I'd be dissecting frogs at my kitchen table for high school biology, I may have run very quickly away from homeschooling. Instead, I jumped into it with as much enthusiasm as my daughter had! God provides. :)

Anonymous said...

from scotch meg (who can't figure out how to use the google account she set up)

If you want science suggestions, here are a couple:
- I don't have one for biology
- for chemistry, try "The Spectrum" from Beginnings Publishing (
- for physics, there is, of course, Saxon
- for physics, there is also a REALLY good online class with a man named Derek Owens in Atlanta. He charges $58/month, everything is online (you do have to download and fax or mail assignments and tests). I hope this doesn't sound too expensive because it is VERY good, self-paced, and worth every dime (

I am no expert in the sciences, but my husband (with no time to teach) has an undergraduate degree in physics, a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and an MD. All science must pass muster with him and these have, so far. Also, science is a really good place to use local community colleges with dual enrollment. The admissions people know who the good teachers are and will find a way to tell you.

Karen, thank you for this post, which led to Red Cardigan's post, which led me here. I am homeschooling a high school junior in my first attempt at high school, and it has been extremely stressful. It has taken us most of the year to figure out where the problems are. It's nice to know I'm not alone in feeling I am wrestling with a whole new creature.