Project-Based Learning?

“I’m looking for curriculum to help my child get into [a particular university program].”

The woman got upset when I suggested that she might let him spend a lot of time working on projects related to his specialized interest. She seemed to think that was only for younger kids, not for high school students interested in a rigorous academic program.

Continue reading Project-Based Learning?
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How Did You Prepare Your Children for College Writing?

The person who asked how I prepared my kids for college writing was likely expecting to hear the name of a fabulous writing curriculum that we used. But we didn’t. There are several well-known intense writing instruction programs that are popular with homeschoolers, but I didn’t use any of those. Honestly, I haven’t had my kids spend a lot of time writing; we don’t work on it regularly every day nor necessarily, every week. I don’t teach my kids that way. To me that’s boring and tedious and isn’t likely to bring about a lot of learning. Instead, Continue reading How Did You Prepare Your Children for College Writing?

RIP Documentation

Suggestion: At least once a year, check that you have a clear plan for your homeschooling written up. If your kids are in high school (or doing high-school-level work), make sure you have a transcript and course descriptions for each of their classes that are fairly up-to-date. Perhaps even a plan of what you hope to work on in the near future or goals or such. And keep them in a place that’s fairly easy to find.

Cheryl Trzasko (who took another call from a concerned relative who is suddenly in charge of the education of a child who was homeschooled after the homeschooling parent passed away and isn’t sure what to do)
chavivah@yahoo.com

P.S. If you know you are facing an illness or condition that’s likely to be fatal, tell someone near and dear to you. Give them time to think about how they’ll carry on, an opportunity to ask questions, a chance to help you through it, etc. Don’t leave them more devastated when they have to face additional burdens and challenges while grieving.

Dual Enrollment–Starting College in High School

My teens just signed up for their first college level class through Florida’s dual enrollment program which allows high school students (including those who are in home education programs) to take college courses for free. These courses can be used for credit towards high school graduation as well as college credit. The classes count twice–both for high school and college.

A lot of homeschooled friends have been asking for details on how the dual-enrollment process works. So here is what I’ve learned….The rules regarding admission vary from one college to another. There’s no consistent set of rules. Some allow students to start at a certain age and for others it’s based on their grade level. Other rules vary too–for example, books are free at colleges but those designated as universities may or may not charge fees for books or materials.

Continue reading Dual Enrollment–Starting College in High School

Testing–They Did It!

Testing is such a HUGE thing in public schools these days. The public is told that testing not only determines who passes a grade level or graduates from high school, but it determines teacher pay, school grades, and ultimately funding. Students are tested regularly. They practice testing skills and take practice tests. They take multiple types of tests. And this is in addition to the less formal classroom tests given (and perhaps designed) by individual teachers for their specific classes–the math, spelling, history, and other sorts of tests. Testing seems to take up more than half of the time spent in local public schools.

So when a parent starts to homeschool, most worry Continue reading Testing–They Did It!

High School Prom

Last year at about this time of year, my daughter and a couple of her friends started talking about prom. They wanted to experience a prom and had decided to put together their own. We talked about all that would be involved (picking a venue and setting a day and time well in advance so people could plan, setting a budget for all that would be involved–a DJ, decorations, insurance, rent for the venue, food and beverages, security, etc., advertising and selling tickets, setting rules/guidelines about appropriate wear, behavior, etc., and so on) and starting to plan right then in order to make it happen. They got another friend to help and the four teens (along with a couple of parents) started work.

Last weekend, they hosted their prom. Over 50 teens came (and a few parent chaperones, a hired security guard, parents to check tickets and make sure they left afterwards with their parents, and a DJ). I loved that the majority felt free to come on their own or with a group of friends rather than feeling that they must come with dates. Of course, there were more girls present than boys, but after an hour the majority of the kids (boys included) had warmed up enough that they were all dancing and having fun.

I had my teens take 6 weeks of ballroom dancing classes beforehand. Not that they did any ballroom-style dancing at the prom, but I think it’s a skill they should have just in case. (Especially for the one who’s interested in joining the military since balls are a big thing in the military.)

The security guard, an off-duty policeman that we were required to hire, had a lot of questions about homeschooling. He was quite surprised when we told him that most homeschool parents are very careful about their kids–even their teens–and that while we hadn’t allowed most parents in (in order to make it feel like a prom rather than a parent-child dance), most peeked in to see the venue and then went a couple of doors down to a cafe where they hung out until the prom was over. The more we talked, the more questions he had. Eventually, he revealed that his wife had asked him about homeschooling and he’d known nothing about it, but he said that now he planned to go back and talk to her some more about the idea. He definitely knows that socializing (and proms) are something homeschoolers don’t have to miss out on!

PTSD: Post-Traumatic School Disorder

PTSD. Post-Traumatic School Disorder. If it’s not an official variant of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it should be.

There are times when I’ll be going about my business and someone says something that sets off my Post-Traumatic School Disorder. Like tonight. Someone asked whether colleges might give students grief about using religious curricula and a helpful woman Continue reading PTSD: Post-Traumatic School Disorder

A Typical Homeschool Day?

New homeschoolers often want to know what a typical homeschool day looks like. I understand that they are trying to get a feel for how other people do this thing called homeschooling. And realistically, as an experienced homeschooler, I like to read about how others do it, too. I know each family does it differently. Some try to copy schools with highly regimented schedules. Some set clear schedules for when each subject is done, but we’re a lot more relaxed than that. In fact, it’s hard to pick a typical day for us since they vary so much. So let me describe three from this past week for those interested.

One day.
This morning, the kids are up around 7:30 (which I aim for daily but don’t always achieve). After breakfast, we spend the morning at a park for a homeschool support group meeting. This particular time, the teens spend part of the time playing a board game and plan some activities with other kids; there’s definitely plenty of socializing going on there. Sometimes during the school year, the teens will participate in running activities for the kids in the group through our homeschool support group’s Student Council. Other times, they’ll take photos to use in the yearbook that we’ve helped make for four years now. Often they’ll get a game of soccer, or kickball, or tag, or whatever going, definitely making it P.E. time. Our littlest guy plays on the playground equipment, uses chalk on the sidewalk, and gathers twigs for some sort of game that he plays with friends. At the same time I participate in the adult part of the meeting (looking over at the kids regularly); the adults discuss topics and share ideas, go over announcements about upcoming activities and events, and more. There’s a table where people place items they’d like to give away; it’s one way we help each other out. And we chat, getting some adult time and helping each other through our homeschooling journeys.

We come home for lunch and shortly thereafter several other families arrive for an SAT prep co-op class for the teens; the other moms and kids watch my littlest while I work with the teens. After they leave, we eat snacks, do a few chores, and then the teens work on assignments in their rooms while I work on dinner.

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Another day.
The kids get up and we get started as they sit eating breakfast. We usually start with math as it seems to work best first thing in the morning. Otherwise, we don’t have a set order for doing lessons in, but generally go to whatever subjects we didn’t spend time on the previous day. We certainly don’t have a schedule with set times for each subject. In fact, we don’t spend a certain amount of time on each subject; generally, we aim to do one lesson and then move on. I record the time spent on each subject for the teens to help me figure out credits earned; after math, I usually glance at the list to see which subject we’ve spent less time on as I decide what to cover next. This particular day, though, we start with music appreciation as it’s easier to do while they are eating breakfast and we’re in a hurry today. For music appreciation, we use a lot of internet resources that we can listen to and discuss while eating.

Soon, other families arrive for our chemistry co-op class. We have rearranged the furniture in the dining room to make space for more kids. There’s a side table set up with a triple-beam balance that I bought used from eBay for a fraction of the cost of a new one, along with vials of substances, glassware, and a variety of other science equipment. Setting the class up as a co-op makes it easier for me to buy equipment because I split the costs, and the kids like having friends along for lessons (which makes for less friction over lessons). It also helps me have time to work with the teens without interruption while the four-year-old is kept busy by the other parents or the other younger siblings.

Most of the time, the four-year-old tends to sit alongside us doing lessons. For example, when we do math, he likes to try to draw on the bottom half of the large whiteboard, often copying the problems we work out on the top half because he wants to be part of what’s going on; other times, he sits with a calculator and diligently uses it to figure out the answers to simple addition problems. Sometimes he’ll ask to work on his own lessons though mostly he does what he’s interested in with lots of playing, listening to books, looking at books, and sometimes watching educational videos.

Chemistry meets for an hour and forty-five minutes once a week. Most of class time is taken up with group activities, hands-on activities, and labs, but there is some instruction, review, and a test. The kids have assignments to do over the course of the week, including some projects and a meeting with our STEM Club later this month.

We break and have a quick lunch. One of the chemistry students stays and eats lunch with us. After lunch, my kids work on assignments on their own while I tutor the other student in math. His mom and I worked out a deal in which I teach him math and she teaches my kids Spanish; she’s a native Spanish speaker and I have a degree in math. So far, it’s working well.

After math tutoring, another group of kids arrive for the Spanish co-op. We thought about having my kids privately tutored in Spanish but other people were asking to join and we figured that conversation worked better with various people, so the Spanish lessons became group lessons. While they work together on Spanish, I work on a project with my four-year-old.

When Spanish is over, I make snacks for the kids and we sit down and do some English–discussing a couple of grammar assignments and then we continue reading through “The Man in the Iron Mask.” I read it aloud since they are eating and we discuss as we go along. Previously we had been listening to it on audiobook, mostly while driving places, but when Hurricane Irma was threatening, we switched to the book version; in the aftermath, we’ve alternated between the two versions.

Then I take the kids to the library. The teens volunteer there once a week for two hours. They’ve been volunteering there since they were each 11 years old.

We have a day like this once a week, but I don’t consider it typical since our other days look nothing like it.

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A third day.

This day the kids are dragging, and we don’t actually get to work until closer to 9 a.m., about an hour later than I aim for. I pop a load of laundry into the washing machine and have the dishwasher running before everyone is actually in the room together, dressed and ready to start the day. We do math and chemistry lessons together, then everyone goes their own way. Some chores are done. Some reading is done–not necessarily reading that’s assigned. The kids spend a lot of time doing what they want, though I do interrupt at times to remind them of deadlines for various assignments. We do a mixture of using textbooks and assigned work along with letting the kids explore their own interests–sometimes with help and direction from me on the latter and sometimes without.

In the early afternoon, we get into the car and drive to the HTML programming class taught by another homeschooled teen. This is the second series of computer classes he’s taught; he’s clearly gotten better organized and has put a lot of time and energy into these classes. (The first series was good, too, though there were some hiccups in the beginning. This one works well from the start.)(My kids have organized and/or taught some classes before, too. It’s a great way to learn leadership skills as well as improve their own learning.) After an hour and a half, we head home again, listening to some more of our audio book along the way. I pause it periodically as we discuss the action, terms used, what we predict will happen next, and so on. We’re coming near the end of the book and I’ll look for a movie version of it that we can compare and contrast to the book, plus I’ll have them write a paper on it. Otherwise, I don’t usually give assignments on the reading; too many assignments on reading seem to destroy the love of reading.

Cheryl