High School Year 1

It's about starting over andcreating something better.

The youngest one is starting his high school years this year. Because he is my youngest, and I have been through this twice before, I feel so much more sure of my decisions this time around. And I feel so much more prepared.

The boy is going to be doing a mix of online classes, classes at home, and activities in the community. He has a full schedule but I do feel that is exactly what he needs. Here is what we have planned:

English – Blue Tent Honors English 1

Math – Key to Algebra

Science – High School Chemistry in the Kitchen

Social Studies – AP Human Geography

Foreign Language –  Latin 1 from the Well Trained Mind Academy

Art – The Drawing Course Level 1 and 2 

Music – Introduction to Music Theory from the Well Trained Mind Academy

English, Latin, Music Theory, and Drawing are online classes that are with a live teacher. Math, Science, and AP Human Geography are classes we will do at home. The AP Human Geography is a course I designed and had approved by the College Board, so I will be able to list it as an AP course on his transcript.

In addition to his formal classes, the boy will be taking drum lessons, participating in band, and taking private music production lessons.

I wanted to get a head start on documenting the boy’s high school years so I have already created his transcripts (without the grades) for his first year. This is a much easier process this time around. He also started The Coalition App so that he may place items in his locker over the next four years. As a creative student, having a virtual place to keep work samples, whether it be a drawing, a music piece, an essay sample, or a film he made, is a bonus. He will be able to store the items and submit them if necessary when he applies to college.

So that is his year in a nutshell. I’ll try to update as the year  progresses especially if there are any changes. Until then…

The Great Travel Plan

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Getting some inspiration from a Rick Steve guidebook.

When I first started homeschooling I had a rough plan of what the teenage years would look like. It’s funny to think about that because when you are a young parent, and you think about the teenage years, you really have no idea what it is going to be like. I did however have one goal for the late teen years that I still have today and that is to travel with the kids extensively. I wanted them to experience the world and to build up some memories with them before they leave home.

I have tried to implement this plan numerous times over the past few years, but I haven’t been successful. There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason was that we needed to stay where we were for health reasons. This is something I did not plan for when my kids were young, but it was something that we had to deal with. Today though we are finally in a place where we can leave our area, pack up everything, and start transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle.

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We have started the overwhelming process of packing up our belongings.

What does this transition look like? First we are boxing up all our belongings and putting much of it in storage. This is a huge job and sometimes, as I am filling box after box, I do question whether this is the right choice. At the end of the day I always feel that it is and so I awake the next day and carry on with the filling of boxes. We are hoping to be done with this stage around the end of August, and then we will be moving out of our apartment and the city we have lived in for most of my children’s childhood.

Where are we going? Well we definitely need a place to live while we save up money and plan our adventures. Luckily for us that the grandparents live in a big house with lots of extra room. It works out nicely because we will have our own space separate from everyone else which is a must for everyone’s sanity. Also they live up in the mountains in a wonderfully peaceful setting which is good for us.

So what comes next? First off we have to save some money. Being a single parent family means we live on a very tight budget. Moving out of our apartment frees up a large chunk of money that we will now be able to save. Our end goal is getting to Europe and that is costly, so it is necessary to save up for a while. The kids also have online classes they are tied to, so we can’t just immediately go trouncing around the world.

In the meantime we are doing two things. We are planning many little trips to take. California and America are great places to explore, so we are going to do just that. Also the kids and I are planning our European trip which is fun and exciting. My youngest is very involved in this process due to the fact that he has more free time than the twins and because he has some anxiety about traveling. By giving him some of the planning responsibility I am hoping to ease his anxiety. It is also a great long-term homeschooling project. He will be learning about finances and creating a budget, how to make an itinerary, and how to research along with a host of other skills.

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The boy reading Paris for Kids in hopes of getting some ideas.

Our Great Travel Plan, as I like to call it, will take time. Time to save up money and time to plan properly. It is not something we thought to do on the spur of the moment, nor is it a plan that we are naively entering.  I have been thinking about doing this since the twins were babies, waiting for the right moment in our lives to implement it. It is exciting and scary, but I am so thankful that we have the kind of lifestyle that allows this. The kids are not tied to any school because we homeschool, and I have an opportunity to provide them with one last adventure as a family before they go off and begin their lives. This is the time, this is the moment. The Great Travel Plan has begun.

Homeschooling in the Late Teen Years – Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride

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This year the twins has been a transition year for my twins. They matured a great deal this year, and they began to think about their future. It is wonderful when your kids begin to take on more responsibilities and when they start to think about their own future. After being the one in charge for so long I happily pass on the responsibility to the twins. It is a wonderful transition made even more wonderful because the twins are very intelligent and very responsible. I don’t worry about their decisions too much (can any parent not worry at all?), and I enjoy hearing about their plans for the future.

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In September of last year the twins decided to apply to Bard College at Simon’s Rock. They were not 100% sure if they wanted to go there, but they were intrigued with the idea of early college. They applied, which was an adventure in itself, and much to their surprise they were accepted. They also received merit aid and need-based aid which was great, but they would still have had to take out loans. They weren’t 100% sure that they were ready for early college so far away from home, and Tru wasn’t sure whether he wanted to take on student loans at such a young age. They spent some time thinking it over and ultimately decided that they weren’t ready for college yet.

After this the twins toyed with the idea of starting community college next fall. I went to community college early, and they thought maybe they should do the same. In California going to community college early is a very good option for homeschoolers. The twins thought this would be a good idea, and they started to plan out where to go and what classes to take.

At the same time they weren’t too excited about this option. The twins have very specific goals for their future, and they both were unsure whether this was the right path for them. I tried to stay out of their decisions and let them find their own path. This was not always easy, and I admit that I spent some time worrying about them and what they would decide, but in the end they made the right decision for them.

And what was that decision? They decided to enroll with Harari College Worldwide full time this year. Last year my daughter took a few classes from them, and my son took one class towards the end of the year. The classes were intellectually stimulating and challenging in a good way. In addition, the online community of Harari has been great for them, and they have connected with other teens all over the world.

And what is their ultimate goal? They would like to study in Europe, and Harari is one of the few schools we have found that will help them meet that goal. Hopefully in two years the twins will be on their way to university in Europe and happy with the decision they made this year. Either way, at this point, I am enjoying watching them grow up and make very adult decisions about their future. I am happy that they have each other in this process, and I am grateful that they are mature enough to make these decisions. After twelve years of homeschooling them I finally feel like I can relax a bit and sit back and enjoy the ride.

India Ink and Rice Paper – Art with Grandma

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The twins do art every week with their Grandma at her studio. They love this time of coffee drinking, art talking, and art making. This week they and a few other students had fun working on rice paper. I was going to write a blog post on the topic, but I wasn’t sure exactly what they did, so I decided to have my mom write up a short post. She was happy to oblige.

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This week in my teen art class I taught the kids how to let go of control and introduced them to moderately uncontrolled drawing! I had the students pick a a few long sticks from their yard or park or wherever the gardeners haven’t been over zealous and cleaned the yard of fallen branches. They brought them to my studio and I supplied india ink and rice paper. Traditional rice paper is an absorbent, white paper that feels almost like fabric. It happens to be very responsive to ink which is why I choose it. Although other papers do some of the same things but I have always liked the way rice paper feels.

I cut long sheets of it and put it on the floor and showed the kids what to do. Here’s what happened: they stood and dipped their long sticks in a tub of ink and without getting too close to the paper proceeded to create an image that reacted in a way they weren’t expecting. Some of them were very abstract and resembled to me, Joan Miro’s work, some resembled the artist Cy Twombly and others looked like self-portraits but in a whimsical way. They had fun and used up almost all of the roll of rice paper! Some of the surprises:

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High School Reflection

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We have made it through the first three months of our first year of high school, and it has been going wonderfully. Last year was a trial run, and it was a disaster (primarily because of health issues my daughter was experiencing). I was worried this year might have been a repeat, but to my pleasant surprise, it has not been. I have been counting my blessings with this year, these kids, their curriculum, and their classes. I am thankful for so much, and being that it is November, it seemed like an appropriate time to go over exactly what it is I am thankful for.

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1. I am thankful that we found out what was wrong with my daughter, and we were able to fix it. It is not fun being sick, nor is it fun being a parent to someone who feels so bad. I am happy that she is starting to feel better, I am thankful that she is enjoying her days, and I am grateful she is engaged in her work.

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2. I am thankful that the twins have a wonderful support group. They belong to a wonderful gifted group, they have a great group of friends and teachers at church, they have wonderful online teachers, and they have family that are very supportive of all they do. One week my mom is giving them an art lesson, another week we are camping with our gifted group, and another week they are up in LA at Griffith’s Observatory with group leaders from church. They are engaged with others, they are learning from others, and they are experiencing so much. I am grateful for that.

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3. I am thankful that I made good choices in regards to the curriculum they are using and the classes they are taking. They don’t love everything, but they don’t hate any of it either. For the most part they find their work interesting and engaging, and what they aren’t crazy about (I’m looking at you Biology), they tolerate because they know it is necessary. This leads me to the next thing on my list.

4. I am thankful they are older, have goals, and know what is necessary to get to the next stage in life. Homeschooling really does become easier when the student takes responsibility for their future. Of course, ultimately I am responsible for their education, but now that they have their own aims, they are just as invested in their education as me.

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5. Finally I am thankful for the twins. They are truly great kids, and often I wonder how I got so lucky with them. They are well-behaved, intelligent, funny, creative, responsible, sweet….I could go on and on. They are not perfect, but they are perfect to me. I have enjoyed these last few months with them, and I look forward to the next few years.

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High School – A Reflection

I have been homeschooling the twins in their first official high school year for a little over two months now. I thought it would be nice to take a moment and reflect on what I have learned so far in that time and what kinks we have had along the way that we have had to work out.

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The twins working hard.

1. Homeschooling in the high school years is hard. – Although I have been homeschooling for many, many years I underestimated just how long our days were going to be and how intense some of the work would be. It might be because I have two in high school, and it might be that they are both very academic, but I have to say I wasn’t quite prepared for our new routine. I think this was especially hard for me because we had been for so long “relaxed” homeschoolers. I never had the twins spend hours a day doing their work when they were little, as I far preferred outside time over seat work, Lego time over math sessions, etc. This year though, because they are both working towards very specific goals, the work is taking longer and involving a good deal of teaching time and grading time from me.

2.  Our time should be protected – I made the mistake of over-extending ourselves this year with far too many outside activities. What once was easy for me to balance is not anymore. It is hard to finish up your work in the afternoon because of a field trip when that work is going to take you hours to do. No one, especially teens, wants to be working until 10:00 on school work that could have been completed during the day. I have had to pull back on many of our activities or tried to schedule things after the school day.

3. Online classes are wonderful – The twins are taking French online and they love it! The teacher is engaging, the students all get along, and they are learning so much. The best thing is that I am not involved. The same goes for Tru’s online math class. This is wonderful for me because I don’t have the time to be involved with all their classes, nor do I have the expertise. It is great for them because they have the opportunity to work with other students and with different teachers.

4. Planning, grading, and scheduling is very important – I am going to admit something here. I have never graded the kids on anything before this year.  Also I never kept records of any kind, even when we were in a charter school. Schedules, record keeping, and grading are my weak spot.  Before this year I usually just kept everything in my head and never worried about whether I had a paper trail of that info or not. However this year, after a rough start, I have made it a priority to keep records of everything for the twins. I have to award credit to them on a transcript, and I can’t do that if I am not keeping track of all their work. I have had to set aside some time every week to do my record keeping, and it has helped me stay on track.

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Homeschooling teens is different from homeschooling younger kids. It takes more of my energy and time, but it is wonderful to see the twins make connections, to discover passions, and to over-come any struggles they may have. I love learning with them and seeing them grow. I am new to this stage, but so far I am loving it. It may be my favorite part of homeschooling yet.

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High School Homeschooling

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I have been officially homeschooling two high school students for four weeks now, and I am starting to feel that I have a good handle on it. All my worry over the past six months or so was really for naught, or maybe it served a purpose, as this year is turning out to be one of our best years yet. Regardless of whether all that worry played into our great year, I do feel that there are several other reasons as to why everything is going so swimmingly (And by the way I am knocking on wood through this whole post, as I don’t want to jinx my good luck).

You will learn!!  This is actually a clip from their latest movie, but I thought it went nicely with this post. :)

You will learn!!
This is actually a clip from their latest movie, but I thought it went nicely with this post. 🙂

1. The twins are enrolled in online classes for the first time this year – I felt that high school was the time to branch out into the online world of classes. The twins are enrolled in a french class with a teacher that meets twice a week. They are also in a writing class, and Tru is taking his Algebra 2 class online through CTY.

2.  Online classes are balanced with parent-led classes at home – The kids and I still enjoy learning together, and I especially treasure this time as I know in a few years it will be gone. It is a joy to discuss history and politics with them, to work through biology labs with them, and to learn Latin with them. Even helping them through Writing with Skill is a joy for me, although some days with Tru’s frustration it may not feel that way.

3. The twins have outside classes that they enjoy – High school is a time to discover and develop one’s passions through classes and lessons in the community. Autry is taking piano lessons and she is in a choir. Tru is getting involved with the local astronomy club. They are both taking guitar lessons, physical training, and they are in a teen book club. These classes also provide them with a social outlet which they both need.

4. The twins have a strong homeschool support group – This is crucial for them, and I am very satisfied with the group we are involved in. There are park days, social outings, and classes available. The teens in the group seem to all get along, and it is a very active and welcoming organization.

5. The twins and I are stressing the joy of learning over the stress of preparing for college – This was an important distinction that I made early on in planning for high school. Yes the kids will eventually head off to college and yes I want them prepared for that, but I also want teens who truly enjoy learning. Teens who find personal joy in reading, teens who feel they are learning because it is important and not so they can score high on a test, teens who are not stressed out by the demands of high school. I know so many parents and teens who are stressed through all four years of high school. I don’t want it to be like that for my kids.

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This is what the high school years look like so far. It will most likely change as they get older, and I am prepared for some teen angst along the way that may change everything. But for now the twins are content with their freshman year, and I am content with our routine. I enjoy having them home, and I enjoy watching them grow up. I am thankful for this opportunity to learn along beside them and to guide them to adulthood.

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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.

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.