Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Making a Plan ~ Homeschooling High School

Most people think the first step along the way to Homeschooling High School is to have a plan. Actually, the first step is to decide you are going to Homeschool High School, the second step is to make a plan, and the third step is to have that plan, follow it, and tweak it along the way.

Since you've come to read this installment in our Homeschooling High School Monthly Blog Hop, I'm guessing you've already decided yes to the question of whether or not to Homeschool through High School. Good for you! You have just made one of the toughest, yet most life-changing decisions, along this path of parenthood.

Homeschooling High School - planning

Now let's move to step two and think about making a plan.

First up you're going to want to print out copies of your state's laws and High School Diploma requirements. These vary so much from state to state that you NEED your own printed copy to refer back to again and again. We currently live in Indiana, a fairly easy state to homeschool in, where the actual requirements are few for the day-to-day part of homeschooling. While this has been wonderful as the girls have grownup, once they got to High School age, we wanted to make sure they would be getting a diploma that could roughly equate to one from the local schools. This didn't mean we changed our philosophy, or how we approach education, it simply meant I needed to spend some time looking at what a standard diploma required, and figuring out what we wanted to do.

Indiana currently assigns a credit for each semester of High School level work, and the basic diploma issued is called the Core 40 diploma... thus there is a list of what those 40 credits should contain. Some are electives, some are specific (directed) electives, and most fit into the courses you would typically expect in High School - like math (6) credits: (2) credits in Algebra 1, (2) credits in Geometry, and (2) credits in Algebra 2. Any additional math classes can go under additional math credits, or possibly electives - it's expected that most students will have more than 40 credits when they graduate!

My goal in mapping out a plan for each of our daughters was to make sure they take courses that they need, while also fitting in as many of the ones that they want as well. To help me see what the local school might be offering, and what scope those classes usually covered, I found a PDF put out by the state Department of Education to help local schools label their courses. It is called Indiana State Approved Course Titles and Descriptions. I sent it to the local print shop, where they printed it out double-sided and three hole punched it for me. At 288 pages, I didn't want to tackle that task at home! I keep this in a three ring binder, along with the Core 40 requirement pages, and my general overview pages for each of our girls.

If you're been following us for a while, you'll remember that we are not traditional book-based learners, we are much more eclectic! We have always followed a Charlotte Mason philosophy of Living Books, nature study, and outdoor play. We also LOVE field trips! I sum this all up as Eclectic Experiential Education. While many people think that has to all stop when your children enter High School - let me assure you - it does not! Yes, our girls do use textbooks more now than in elementary school, but they control the textbook, not the other way around. The textbook is the spine, and the activities and learning are the focus.

We use the state guidelines to help decide what to call each credit on their transcript, not to tell us what to do for High School . Let me give you an example. When I went to High School (public school,) my art classes were listed as Art 1, Art 2, Art 3, and Art 4. Pretty basic right? Now our state has delineated what each credit is listed as by the subject and medium matter. The broader art category now includes dance, band and chorus (which used to be listed under non-art electives,) as well as traditional art-subjects covered like: photography, drawing, 2D art, ceramics, painting, printmaking, studio art, and sculpture. Also in the Arts category are: acting, theatre, musical theatre, and art appreciation.

The times have changed, and I want to make sure to list Emily and Arlene's credits on their transcripts in a manner similar to what other local graduates will receive. Since Emily only need 2 actual credits in Fine Arts for the directed electives section of her transcript, the other credits will go under general electives. She currently has art credits in: Theatre Arts, Drawing, Art History, Advanced Acting, Photography, Music Arts and Appreciation, and Fiber Arts. She is currently working on credits in Piano and Electronic Keyboard, and Beginning Chorus. I expect her to have an additional credit in either Acting or Theatre Arts before she graduates. Arlene is younger, but still has already accumulated many art credits: Fiber Arts, Painting, Drawing, Photography, Theatre Arts, and Acting.

Homeschooling High School - planning

So what about the traditional classes? Those can be as simple or complex as you want to make them when you’re planning out High School. Here is a tip - make them simple! It is so easy to go back and add things to your student’s list for the year, but often difficult to take something major out and find it a suitable home in another year. So start with a general plan. If your student needs 6 semester of science (like we do) and 2 semesters MUST be Biology, then have them do Biology their 9th or 10th grade year. Don’t put it off too long, especially if it needs to be a lab science. We wanted Biology to be one of the two lab science courses for both of our girls, so I needed to decide when to have them take it. Even though they are only two years apart in age, we chose to not have them take it at the same time. Emily has already finished Biology, but Arlene will probably not start it until at least late this fall. When Emily needed another person to do labs with her, either Arlene stepped in for the day, or we met w/ friends whose daughter was also taking Biology at the same time. I have no qualms about Arlene getting her labs done for Biology because she loves, loves, loves to be outdoors, and to explore things. Arlene will probably dissect plants instead of animals for her labs, but with all the resources available online, we can watch some dissections together.

There are two points I want to cover that I get asked about quite a bit when it comes to Homeschooling High School.

1- How do you choose which curriculum to use?

2- How do you assign credits when you’re using living books and field trips instead of a standard curriculum?

Let’s start with #1. We are NOT traditional textbook style learners, but we do use textbooks frequently. Let’s face it, just because I COULD teach the girls all of their math courses one concept at a time doesn’t mean I want to. We have been fortunate to review quite a few High School level curriculum items as a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Many of those have been worked into our overall plan for High School. For other subjects where I wanted at least a spine of a text to work from, I researched.

How to best research for High School? Ask your friends (in person or online) who have homeschooled High Schoolers. Seriously, just ask. I’ve let friends look through our books, as well as having skimmed my friends’ shelves for titles that I thought might interest me. This is a prime time to set aside some money to attend a homeschool convention. Being able to look inside the books that are competing for your money and time, while asking questions of the authors, or fellow homeschooling parents who have used the curriculum that are helping man the booths, can really give you insight into HOW a curriculum works in the day to day of life. You might love the idea of how QRS brand history interacts, but if you find out that it takes hours of prep work each week by you the Mom, you should probably look for something else for High School.

First, I made a broad list of what I wanted the girls to cover during their 4-ish years of High School. Then I worked on what we already had resources for and pencilled it into those years. Finally I looked at what I needed to purchase or acquire for each school year and made a budget. If I knew the curriculum I wanted to use was too expensive, I looked for used copies, or I changed my mind. One year we didn’t need to purchase any major curriculum ( thanks to review items,) so I went ahead and bought the next level of math that each girl was going to need early.

Please know that you do not need to purchase curriculum to get through High School, but a little bit does REALLY help. There are thousands of available online resources, plus books you can get at your local library, or through inter-library loan that can totally cover everything your student needs. Just know that if you go the free to almost free route YOU the parent will be doing a lot more of the work to get it all organized!

I have held a job outside of the home for all the years we have been educating our girls at home. That job is not just for fun things, that income helps keep the lights on and the refrigerator full. I am blessed to work at a job with flexible hours, and that makes Homeschooling High School easier, even if I miss sleep sometimes. Part of the reason we have chosen to use some purchased curriculum is because there are certain subjects the girls can do almost completely independently. That leaves me more time to help as needed with the tougher subjects, like chemistry or Algebra 2.

Homeschooling High School - planning

Now, for point #2, How do you assign credit when you’re using field trips and living books, I’m going to give you a brief look and then refer you to a post I wrote for the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog for more details. The quick answer is: easily. Ok, I realize this will be harder to do in some states, but it’s not impossible. If you went to public school growing up, let’s think back for a minute. How many of those textbooks did you actually finish? Me? I can’t remember actually finishing any book except the ones we read in English class. Secondly, how much time did you spend in class actually learning something new? I went to a school with 55 minute class periods for 180 days each year. That means I was supposed to be in class for 165 hours each year. Umm… convocations, pep rallies, snow delays, taking attendance in every class every day? Yup. All those things happened and shortened our class time. I’ll hazard a guess that we had 120 hours of class time per subject each year. So about 60 hours a semester per class. I use this as my rough guideline to decide when they girls have accumulated enough hours spent on a subject to give them life-hours credit. 

For their Fiber Arts credit, we used the fiber section in ARTistic Pursuits’ Sculpture Technique: Model, which took about 25 hours. Then I had them read a couple books from the library about textiles in history, and talk with the historic clothing and spinning/ textiles staff at Conner Prairie, where they volunteer. They each wrote a short paper about the history of textiles, and then spent time spinning wool on their teams at Conner Prairie. This all added up to WAY MORE than 60 hours.

The girls have also earned credits for Theatre Arts and Advanced Acting during their hours volunteering at Conner Prairie. It’s one thing to portray a character in a written play, it is even more challenging to take a brief bio sketch and create that character and then portray her amongst the other people in town.

We also plan to credit Emily in either Life Science, or Life Science- Animals for her hours spent caring for the animals in the barn at Conner Prairie, where they feed, care for, and clean up after them, all while interesting and explaining them to guests. 

To read more about this somewhat usual way we assign credits, click on over and read my post: Putting Experience Based Learning on a Traditional Transcript.

I just want to remember to mention a terrific resource to help you sort out and keep track of High School~ High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide to Excellence by Jean and Judah Burke. This gem of a book helped both Emily and I to better understand what to cover, and what records to keep for High School and beyond. Even though not every student will want to go to college upon graduation, it is up to you as a parent to keep good enough records that they can go if they feel called. If they decide on another family or career path after High School, it won’t hurt you to have a log of their volunteer hours or course of study to refer back to if needed.

Homeschooling High School Blog Hop 2015
Be sure to read all the other posts about planning for High School, and join us next month for a focus on Electives! 

Electives, electives…our favorite things… oh wait, field trips are our favorite things! You need to come back next month to find out how we combine field trips with other resources to have a blast getting our electives done!

Happy Planning!

Meg from Adventures with Jude on Planning Your Homeschool High School

Chareen at Every Bed of Roses with thoughts on Planning to Homeschool through the High School Years

April from ElCloud Homeschool shares Homeschooling High School: Planning For High School 

Debra over at Footprints in the Butter asks: You mean I have to PLAN our Homeschool High School?!?

Michele at Family, Faith and Fridays shares Here's the Plan

Lisa at Golden Grasses says Don't Panic! Homeshcooling High School Blog Hop

Debbie at Debbie's Homeschool Corner Planning Out a High School Program

Gena over at I Choose Joy! shares her The Top Tip for Planning Homeschool High School

Kym at Homeschool Coffee Break shares on Planning and Preparing for Success

Tess from Circling Through This Life shares on Planning the High School Years

Erica over at Be The One shares Planning and Record Keeping for High School

Jennifer from A Glimpse of Our Life on Planning For Homeschooling Highschool 

Wendy at Life at Rossmont shares thoughts on Planning for High School

Cristi from Through the Calm and Through the Storm shares on Making High School Plans

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Carol. I needed this! I'm right in the midst of planning our first HS year next year.