April 28, 2020

Homeschool to Public School and Back Home Again

I didn’t homeschool all our children for every grade.   Our firstborn began Kindergarten in public school, but within three months, we decided it was going to be easy enough to homeschool her.  And that is what I ended up doing for her K through 2nd grade.

When she was ready for 3rd grade and our next child was ready for Kindergarten, we chose to enroll in public school for a time.  My Army husband was deployed, and I thought it would make my life easier.  It didn’t. 

This particular public school was a good experience.  It was a block from our house, so we walked to and from most days.  The two were in school, and I had a preschooler at home.  Third grade public school buoyed my confidence that I had been doing a great job teaching her at home for the past 3 years (K through 2nd) because she handled her work easily, she scored well on school testing, and was identified as among the top of her class and invited to participate in extracurricular science club.  The school was fantastic.  We had great teachers and a fabulous principal.  The oldest sang in choir, and I volunteered as their accompanist. 

But for the following reasons, I discovered I wanted to homeschool again:

- I dislike packing lunches

- I dislike getting everyone ready for school in the early mornings

- I dislike that my children have homework after being at school all day, especially in grades K and 3.

- We had no time for laid back fun because we also chose to participate in dance and gymnastics after school.

- I dislike mandatory dress-up days at school (crazy hair day, halloween, school spirit day, etc.)

- I dislike the constant barrage of fliers coming home in my child’s backpack

- I dislike fundraisers

- I dislike that my children only had 10-15 minutes to eat their lunches

- I dislike that with our military life and the regular moves it requires, our children would be constantly adjusting to different academic standards in each new school district we moved into.  With homeschool, my student's learning has continuity of education in spite of our moving every few years.

- I prefer to avoid the pressure of dressing my children cute for public school when we can be more laid back with play clothes at homeschool.

- I didn’t like the way my oldest treated her siblings during this time.  Because she was accustomed to spending time with other children her own age, she acted as though playing with her younger sisters was beneath her at times.  This changed for the better when we came back to homeschool where they interacted with each other all day, and at our co-op where she spent time with various ages of children.  My children don’t focus on the ages of their peers as much as they focus on interests in common.

- I didn’t like the negative social influences my daughters picked up from her peers—snarky attitudes toward me and each other, annoying popular culture stupidity and twaddle. 

So, when the Army said it was time to move, I chose to return to homeschooling.  I’ve not regretted it since.

There have been times we have considered public school again, when the school district we moved to had a good reputation and when our child asked us to consider it.  But prayerfully and as a married team, we discussed the pros and cons and were convinced that homeschooling was the choice we still wanted for our children.

In the beginning of our homeschool journey, we took it one year at a time, making the decision on whether we should continue or change course.  At this point, we have one graduate who thrives socially and academically and is college bound.  The other four are learning and growing equally well in this environment, and I have learned an exceptional amount along the way about my children, myself, teaching, and parenting. 

April 26, 2020

How I Homeschooled High School

Yes!  Homeschooling high school is doable!  If I can do it, you can too! At the time of publishing our oldest child is a few weeks from graduating high school and our second child is almost finished with 9th grade. Here are resources and plans that are working for us.
My first source of information comes from “The Homescholar”, Lee Binz at https://www.homehighschoolhelp.com/ .  Her free webinars and ebooks are encouraging.  She’ll show you it can be done, explain how to plan the right high school credits, how to keep records (report cards, transcripts, course descriptions, and work samples—all that scary stuff), how to find scholarships, and more.  She offers a paid support option as well, but I haven’t signed up for it.  
Other places I've gained guidance and resources include HSLDA.org and https://allinonehighschool.com/ . Since 2013, I made a habit of attending a homeschool convention near me at least every other year.  I recommend attending workshops on teaching at the high school level.  I gained a lot of insight and inspiration from them, and I refer to my notes from them often.

When our oldest was in 5th grade, my husband and I attended a homeschool convention, and spent time visiting the curriculum booths together.  I had spent grades 1-4 bouncing from one curriculum to another and was looking for something I could teach from high school.  I wanted some continuity for our children.  I was indecisive, so I wanted my husband’s input and accountability to stop thinking the grass was greener on the other side of the curriculum fence - you know, where that perfect, dream curriculum lies. We both loved what we saw from My Father’s World (https://www.mfwbooks.com/) because it appeared to be rigorous enough to prepare our children for college, should they choose to go.  We also liked that the books have a Christian worldview and teach critical thinking skills.  It is designed that the student be virtually independent, lightening the load on the teacher / mom, though I am available as needed.  The complete 36-week schedule lays out the lesson plans for the student to follow himself/herself.  There is a parent meeting once a week to go through some discussion questions and check in on how the student is doing.  This independence prepares the student for managing responsibility, due dates, study skills and time management - all valuable for adulthood.

For a Health credit, I wasn't happy with the "Total Health" curriculum which MFW recommended, but we have been using Apologia Science's "Health and Nutrition" this year for our second daughter and have been very happy with it. Total Health seemed to have outdated health guidelines and was unengaging. Apologia's book came out two years ago with current information, a colorful workbook with activities to complete, and relevant information for my growing teen. For example, she often let me know what she had learned that applied to the nutrition content of certain foods or how to stretch a stiff neck.

Our oldest is nearly done with her senior year, has scored very well on the ACT, and is accepted to attend the college she chose.  All that said, we are very happy with MFW and plan to continue using it for high school. 

Lee Binz recommends your student should take the PSAT Sophomore and Junior years to get comfortable with the testing process and to see how well you do in each subject.  Our local public high school allowed our daughter to take the PSAT alongside their own students.  We simply paid the fee to cover the cost of the test. She showed a weakness in math, so we got some tutorial materials to help her prepare for the ACT.  I got “ACT Math for Dummies” because a fellow homeschool mom had recommended the “ACT for Dummies” as a great resource.  I also found ACT Flashcards by Barron's Test Prep to be very helpful to my daughter’s test preparation.  I see that some of these flash cards are available for free use on Quizlet.com (HERE and HERE). Understand that the way the ACT, SAT, PSAT and even the GRE exams are structured, the student needs to have some critical thinking skills and strategies to do well in the time allotted for each test. Even if the student doesn't possess a mastery of all the math skills, knowing how to eliminate some of the multiple choice answers because they don't make sense can help. These study resources help teach an understanding of these skills and strategies.
Our oldest did not do any dual enrollment classes, but she is taking 4 CLEP tests to cut college costs and receive credit for some required core courses in college. If your student is college-bound, look into how many CLEP credits they will accept, which ones, and which credits will apply your student's degree program. Then find a testing center near you and arrange to take the tests. The cost savings of 3 college credits from a passing score on the CLEP exam is well worth the fee to take the test.
Each quarter, I prepare a simple report card with a letter grade for each class, a percentage grade, and the calculated GPA (grade point average).  At the end of the year, I compile and file all finished work into a hanging file box, divided by class/subject, and I complete the transcript for her high school credits and classes completed so far. 
You can view a simple example report card from my Google Docs is HERE
You can also see my format for a transcript on Google Docs HERE.  You'll notice in the transcript, I have created class descriptions.  It's a good idea to have this as some colleges may be interested to know what your classes consisted of, and what resources your student used.  Include in your transcript activities, clubs, and volunteer work your student completes, as well as a list of books and other materials your student has read for school and fun.  Keep samples of your student's best work in each subject as well, as some college or scholarship applications may ask for these.
When I considered what credits my high school student would need to graduate, I compared what my curriculum suggested, what the guidelines were for public high school graduates in my state, and what a few different colleges required - especially colleges which offer degree programs for what my student plans to pursue.
You may need to create a course or two tailored to your student for an elective credit, perhaps Fine Arts or PE.  In that case, you should know that one credit in high school equals about 150-180 hours of work.  A half credit would be about 75-90. 

For a Fine Arts elective, my daughter is doing a combination of photography and photo-book compilation and painting.  I have her record what she does and how long she spends doing it on a one-page paper with 180 squares.  When all the squares are full, I will consider her finished.  I used a free PDF from All In One Homeschool HERE

For PE, she has a combination of volleyball and soccer through our homeschool co-op and some health and nutrition education projects.  She also does self-directed exercise in the back yard or bicycling or takes a brisk walk in our neighborhood to fill some time.

For a foreign language, I have not been happy with Rosetta Stone. Our oldest used it for learning two years of Spanish, and though she gained a lot of simple vocabulary and sentences, Rosetta Stone did not delve much into the conjugation of verbs as a traditional program does. She enhanced her Spanish knowledge by taking a course based on Abeka's "Por Todo El Mundo". Abeka also offers a French course. I would recommend this, either working with a tutor who understands the language well, or using Abeka's video course. Our second child has been doing German through this website. I have created a schedule for her that includes working with the DuoLingo app, as well as learning about the German culture, foods and culture. Our third wants to learn Japanese, so I found a program HERE. The workbooks and textbooks for this program were hard to find, as they are a few years old, and, I suspect, out of print. We found a few on Amazon, and one on eBay.

I hope this gives you the inspiration and resources to inspire you to consider homeschooling your high school student. It has been a rewarding experience for us.

Check out the rest of my series on “How I Homeschooled” for the following grade levels: How I Homeschooled Preschool How I Homeschooled Kindergarten How I Homeschooled 1st grade How I Homeschooled 2nd grade How I Homeschooled 3rd grade How I Homeschooled 4th through 8th grade How I Homeschooled High School

April 16, 2020

How I Homeschooled Second (2nd) Grade

When my oldest began second grade, I decided to buy a complete curriculum for the first time.  We chose Sonlight that year.  I love Sonlight because there are fantastic books to read aloud and learn from throughout the year, and the curriculum comes with complete lesson plans for 180 days (36 weeks) of school.  I just had to open up the teacher’s manual to the week we were on, do each subject with my child for that day, and we were done for the day.  I recall our work taking us between 3-4 hours per day, if we did everything.  

Sonlight is a Christian curriculum.  I love that the Bible is included in our learning, as well as missionary stories and biographies.  Also, many of the read-aloud books correspond with the history or science being studied.  The one thing I didn’t like about Sonlight was that there was SO MUCH to read aloud.  My voice got tired before I finished most days.  I could have omitted some of the reading, but at the time, I didn’t feel at liberty to do so  (I’d only been homeschooling for 3 years at that point).  My younger children caught some of what we were learning while my oldest was being taught (learning is contagious). It was a tricky year with a preschooler and a toddler.  We were most successful doing independent work (things my oldest could do mostly on her own like math and handwriting and writing) in the mornings, and do “together stuff” (things I needed to teach or read aloud) after lunch while little siblings were napping.

When our second daughter was in 2nd grade, I drew from a number of resources.  For reading, she independently read all kinds of library books.  For writing, she kept a journal, sometimes with writing prompts from me.  She did copywork of spelling words and Bible verses for handwriting practice.  For math, she did Singapore Math 2a and 2b which worked well for us.  (Singapore Math has been revised since we used it 5-7 years ago).  We also belonged to a homeschool co-op that year which gave her enriching classes like kitchen chemistry, human anatomy, dance, and intro to the Spanish language.  We also had a number of field trips and family vacations in Arizona and New Mexico that year where she completed several workbooks from the National Park Junior Ranger Program.  Be sure to ask for these free resources at the visitor’s center whenever you visit a National Park or Monument.  

By the time our third daughter was in 2nd grade, we settled on our favorite curriculum, My Father’s World (www.mfwbooks.com).   I’ve used MFW to teach my oldest through high school, a 30 on the ACT, and college acceptance.  The approach is similar to Sonlight, since it includes a complete year’s lesson plans, great books to learn from and read aloud, and integrates Bible education and literature which correspond with the history and science.  I like MFW better because the amount of reading aloud is not overwhelming to me and their 5-year cycle–designed for 4th through 8th grade—combines all of your children grades 4 through 8 for Bible, History, Science, Geography, and Literature.  Not only that, but your 3rd grader can also participate.  I even fudged a little and included my third born, 2nd grade child in our 4th through 8th grade curriculum.  The topic was “Exploring Countries and Cultures”.  I don’t think she remembered much, but she participated, and we are going over that material again this coming year for her 8th grade.  To understand more about how the MFW 5-year cycle works, go to their website.

All that said, the MFW 5-year cycle combines siblings for several subjects, but the students each have his/her own level for reading, writing and math.  So, for math that year, my daughter did Singapore Math, 2a and 2b.

One fantastic resource for this age is the Draw, Write Now series.  Eight books, each on different topics, show step-by-step how to draw something, encouraging background and foreground drawing.  As a non-artist, it helps me inspire my children to draw and color.

Check out the rest of my series on “How I Homeschooled” for the following grade levels:

How I Homeschooled Preschool

How I Homeschooled Kindergarten

How I Homeschooled 1st grade

How I Homeschooled 3rd grade

How I Homeschooled 4th through 8th grade

How I Homeschooled High School