To All Bored, Depressed, Struggling, and/or Bullied Teens…

Me at 16 shortly before I started at Pasadena City College

A 16-year-old me before I started at Pasadena City College

Lately I have been spending a good deal of time trying to plan out Tru and Autry’s high school years. In doing this I have thought back to my own school years, specifically my high school years, and how it led me to this point in my life. I wonder if I had experienced the typical high school experience and enjoyed it would I even want to homeschool the twins for high school?

I didn’t enjoy high school though, which was very typical for me. I also did not enjoy middle school, elementary school, and I even remember being quite upset at nursery school. School and I were not a good fit at all, and obviously there was nothing that I could do about it.

A seven-year-old me

A seven-year-old me

Why was school such a bad fit? Lets just say I was an unusual kid from the get go. I had my own ideas, and I felt quite out-of-place in the public school mold. I was often bored at school, I had a great deal of anxiety, and I was shy (and it didn’t help that I blushed whenever any teacher called on me). It was not a great combination.

When I was a teenager my school career changed, for I moved from Indiana to California. I had to start a new high school, and it could not have been any more different from my old high school. My new high school was a small, private Catholic school in California. My old high school was a giant public school in Indiana. I was fascinated by how different everything was in my new high school world. From the lockers (only half a size and some outdoors?) to the cafeteria (small and such different food) to the kids and teachers (diverse and laid-back) it was all so different.

And for a while the differences were great, and I felt a little more at ease at this school. I liked being in a small school, I liked being in Southern California, and I liked hanging out with all my new friends. Then I got bored, so very bored. I also felt different. I was into old movies and music while most of my friends were not (although they all supported my love of all things old). I found myself skipping more and more days of school (for I finally had my license and a car) to go to the beach, to museums, to state parks, to Hollywood. I was craving a different education, one that no school could provide me with.

I had never heard of homeschooling when I was in school. I had no idea that anything like that existed, but I did know that I had to get out of school. It was not for me, and I had already mentally checked out. I missed numerous days of school, and my grades suddenly dropped due to my disinterest.

But what was I to do? I would never just drop out of school with no degree. I wasn’t that brave or stupid. But I was determined, and in the days before internet, I headed to my public library and did research. It took me a while, but I found out about a little test that all high school kids in California could take. It was called the California High School Proficiency Exam, and if I passed it, I could leave high school with an equivalency degree and start college immediately.

So I signed up for it, I took it, and I passed. This was halfway into my junior year. By next August I was a full-time student at Pasadena City College. I was young, and I needed a little time to adjust to this new experience, but I loved it. I loved that I could take classes when I wanted to, I loved that I could take classes on such different topics (anthropology? film studies? philosophy? I was in heaven!), I loved how knowledgeable all the professors were. I thrived in this new environment, and I had absolutely no regrets about leaving high school. None at all.

The College Me

The College Me

So I write this blog post today to all the teens out there right now who are struggling in school for whatever reason. There may be a way for you to get out of your situation and into a better one. In California the proficiency test is still an option. Homeschooling is another option. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and there is so much support out there for anyone who decides to do it. There are also numerous charter schools (where essentially you are still a public school student working at home) and online private and public schools for homeschooling. In short homeschooling is quite easy to do if you are a determined, self-directed student, and it may be worth looking into. Who knows, it may just be the best decision you ever made.

Links that may help:

Lets Homeschool High School

High School Board at the Well Trained Mind

High School Graduation Requirements

K12

Connections Academy

The California High School Proficiency Exam

An Update from Autry

‘Ello, guys! This is Autry, here on Tad Town. I am here because I know my mom’s passwords to everything, and she doesn’t know what to write this week.

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*****Okay but stop for a moment and read my blog, if you havent!*****

Okay, back to Tad Town. We have decided to forsake our Spring Break and to take a “Midwinter Break” instead. I think it’s a good idea, since Easter is on a Sunday, so we’ll have that day off anyway. So this break is a more EFFECTIVE BREAK!!! Yesssss!!!

So, what have we been doing?

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Does this answer the question?

We are so obsessed with LOTR, GUYS. SEE IT’S MAKING ME PUT THE CAPS LOCK ON AND NOW I’M IN BOLD BECAUSE I’M SO FREAKING OBSESSED WITH LORD OF THE RINGS!!!!

Okay, so the Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey isn’t out on DVD, but it’s on Amazon instant video! So we bought it in HD last night and watched the whole thing! This is the third time I’ve seen it!

Here was the first time:

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And here was the second:

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And so now, oh happy day, it’s on amazon! We watched all the behind the scenes videos because it’s interesting to see how big movies like this are made. So much work goes into it! And mom thinks it would be interesting if we wrote a paper describing the differences between the 1977 Hobbit cartoon and the 2012 movie.

So also we’ve been freaking out more about high school. Sometimes we want to go to Community College and sometimes we want to homeschool ourselves. It’s an ongoing debate. Me? I like the idea of community college. I went to OCC when I was 11. But apparently regular high school can get you more scholarships! So at the end of the day, I’m not sure…

Also, we are enjoying our homeschool group! It’s a group for gifted homeschoolers, and it’s really fun! Decca has made a friend there, and Tru and I like to sit on a blanket with the other teenagers in the group and draw, and make jokes that we find incredibly amusing, but that the passers by don’t seem to appriciate.

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(That’s the edge of the creek, where we set up our picnic blanket)

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And our drawing.

So Decca’s been busy with Scooby Doo. He writes thousands of words a day about that cartoon dog and his crazy adventures. Sometimes I’m like, “Decca stop…” And sometimes I’m like, “Well I’m just as much of a LOTR nerd, so never mind.” Tru and I like playing this story game where we take turns writing sentences. It’s on google drive so we can both do it at once!

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Oh, and our dear cat Newspaper passed away this week 😦 he was such a good cat, too. He will be missed.

On that happy note, this is Autry, signing off to do more break-related things!

~Autry

About High School

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The twins are getting closer and closer to high school, that most dreaded time in a homeschool parent’s life. I put off thinking about it for most of this school year, but the time has come when I need to figure out exactly what we will be doing next fall. We have many choices, but I have yet to figure out which one is the right choice for us.

Choice 1 – Send them off to high school.

We actually live right next door to one of the best high schools in the country. It would be so easy to enroll them and send them on their way.

Pros – 1. The school is close to us. 2. It has very strong academics, including a great science department. 3. The kids would be with kids they know. 4. They offer Latin. (Yay!)

Cons – 1. The twins would most likely be stressed for the next four years. 2. The competition is fierce at this school. 3. Homework would take up most of their time. 4. They would be getting a public education that I feel lacks in many areas, even at the best of schools.

Choice 2 – Enroll with a distance learning school for homeschoolers.

I was thinking about Clonlara or Oak Meadow.

Pros – 1. The high school years are mapped out for you. 2. The students receive an accredited diploma when they are finished. 3. Credit given for learning done in a non-traditional way (Clonlara).

Cons – The biggest is cost, especially since I will have two to enroll. Also I wonder if a service like this is necessary.

Choice 3 – Homeschool high school on our own. I would map out a high school plan with the twins, pull all the resources together,  grade their work, and create transcripts for them.

Pros – 1. Education plan would take in their interests and their strengths. 2. They would use the best resources available to them. 3. Work on our own schedule (making travel much easier). 4. More free time for outside interests, such as choir and astronomy. 5. Time to take numerous classes at the community college for dual credit.

Cons – 1. This can get expensive, especially with AP classes and community college classes. 2. Huge time commitment for me. 3. Stressful for me as I worry about doing everything correctly, especially the transcripts.

Choice 4 – Unschool the next two years then have them take the proficiency test. Following this they would go to community college at 16. This would allow them to transfer to a four-year college at 18 as juniors.

Pros – 1. They could develop their passions. 2. Graduate school early and begin their college career. 3. Very little stress for me as I would not be responsible for transcripts or making sure they are meeting all the requirements.

Cons – 1. They would have to be ready for community college at 16. 2. The cost of community college classes. 3. Not as many scholarships available to transfer students.

So there it is, all of our choices.  The twins and I both need to spend some time thinking everything over and coming up with a plan. I’ll let you know what we decide. Hopefully it won’t take us too long to decide.

Biology

The twins have started Biology this year. I wanted to create a class for them that did not involve hours of reading, and one that was engaging to both of my learners. I decided that I would use Khan Academy for the main part of their lessons, but I was not sure what order to watch the films in. I wanted a little structure for this resource, and I soon found what I was looking for.

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A homeschool mom has put this curriculum guide together for those wishing to use Khan Academy for biology. It is a very short guide, basically just an outline of the videos to watch, correlated to California standards, with vocab words to know and a short question to answer after every lesson. Again I will state it is very basic, but it is free if you have a kindle and a prime membership, so it is worth a look. For me it was perfect.

In addition to the Khan Academy videos I have scheduled CrashCourse videos which the twins and I love.

For the lab portion of our class I wanted a guide that would walk us through the lab process step by step. I looked at many different choices and decided on Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture.

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From The Home Scientist website – Experience the magic of biology in your own home lab. This hands-on introduction includes more than 30 educational (and fun) lab sessions that let you explore this fascinating field on your own. Perfect for middle- and high-school students and DIY enthusiasts, this full-color guide teaches you the basics of biology lab work and shows you how to set up a safe lab at home. The Illustrated Guideto HomeBiology Experimentsis written with the needs of homeschoolers firmly in mind, as well as for adults who are eager to explore the science of nature as a life-long hobby.

At the website you can purchase a lab kit with nearly everything you need to complete the experiments.

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In addition to all of these materials we will be adding in living books and some readings from the CK-12 biology flexbook. This textbook is available as a free download, and I have read  many good reviews of it.

I believe I have put together a fairly good biology class for the twins. Hopefully they will have a productive time with all these resources. I feel fairly confident that they will.

A New Year – A Fresh Start

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Many of you know that although I was so happy to have Autry come home from school in October, I was not prepared to adding her into our day. Because she and Tru are very different students with very different interests she couldn’t just pick up what he was doing. Also I found that even though she had only been in school for a little over a year, she needed some deschooling time to switch her gears from a public school mentality back to a homeschool mentality. Because of all of this we didn’t do too much academic work over the last few months of the year.

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I spent much of that time thinking about what we would do in the new year. I wanted to incorporate their interests and meet my goals in a fun, creative, and engaging way. Two of my children are creative learners, my other is a deep thinker. I needed to come up with a plan to meet all their needs without going crazy with all the materials. I also wanted to have plenty of time in our week for lessons, nature walks, fields trips, and doing nothing at all.

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Today was our first day back to work, and it went better than I expected, especially considering that two of us have a terrible cold. It wasn’t perfect (is it ever?), but it was fairly close. When I get feeling a little better I hope to make a post about our new curriculum choices and resources we are using.

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High School Freak Out!

I have been having a wonderful, relaxing time here in the Midwest. The kids and I are taking a break from school, so I haven’t been busy with that. In addition I left all the pets at home (of course),  and so I have also been free of that responsibility. Add to this the fact that I hardly need to cook or clean here, and my days have been relatively free of worry and responsibilities.

While I have been enjoying this free time and filling it up with bird watching, great movies and books (I just finished A Northern Light which I highly recommend) I have also been using this time to think ahead to next year when I will have two high school freshman on my hands. I hate to admit it, but I am more than a bit worried about this stage. I don’t want to make any wrong decisions that may affect their future. I mean how guilty would I feel if I messed up their high school education? I would feel terrible!

So I am spending much of my free time worrying (perhaps unnecessary?) about this. I am thinking about all the different options out there and wondering which one will be right for us. It seems to me that there are far too many options out there nowadays making it hard to choose a plan, although I far prefer having too many options to having too few.

I still haven’t quite figured out what we are going to do, but I am starting to formulate a plan. I need to talk it over with the twins and see what they think. Then we will fine tune it and talk it over some more. I may not know exactly what I want to do, and I may be nervous about the whole thing, however I am sure about one thing. I want them involved in the process every step of the way. It is, after all, their education, and I want them to feel that they are the ones controlling it.