Outschool Classes

Copy of It's about starting over andcreating something better.

This fall I will be teaching classes over at Outschool. I am running several year-long book clubs for various ages (including a mystery book club which I am so excited for), a Hitchcock film class, a 90-Second Newbery class, and a Common App essay class for those teens who will be applying to college this year.

I will be running these classes for students of all abilities (2E kids and teens are encouraged to sign up) and the teaching environment that I will be creating is one that is supportive and one in which all students have a chance to share their opinions and ideas. I strive for inclusion and positivity and look forward to sharing my knowledge with homeschoolers all around the world.

If you are interested in signing up please visit Outschool. If you have any questions let me know.

Accommodations for College Admission Exams: A Guide for Homeschoolers

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This post was originally published at Simplify.

Homeschoolers are often judged more on their test scores than their public and private school peers because of the fact that their education is evaluated at home and often by parents. Having an outside test score or scores to back up the information on a homeschool transcript is essential. In addition, test scores are often used in awarding merit scholarships at many colleges and universities and AP scores can be used for awarding college credit. For many homeschoolers the SAT, ACT, and the APs are a very important part of the college application.

For homeschooled students with disabilities, whether they are physical disabilities or learning disabilities, this is also true. But the process to get accommodations approved can often seem overwhelming and confusing to a parent just starting out. This guide is to help you get through the process.

The first thing you need to decide which test you need accommodations on. If your student will be taking the ACT then you will be working with the ACT only. If your student will be taking the SAT, SAT Subject Test, the PSAT, or the APs you will need to go through The College Board for accommodations. Both of them do work with homeschoolers but the process is different for both. One thing to remember is to start early on accommodations as sometimes they are not approved in a timely manner.

ACT ACCOMMODATIONS

Step 1: Register for the ACT first – you have to actually register your student prior to requesting accommodations. When registering indicate that your student will need accommodations. Select the type of accommodation or accommodations that are needed and complete the registration. ACT will send you an email about working with your school. As an independent homeschooler you will not need to worry about this.

Step 2: You will need to complete the Request for ACT-Approved Accommodations Supports form. It is also recommended that you, as a homeschool teacher, fill out a Teacher Survey Form to provide more information on your student and the accommodations your student receives in your classroom.

Step 3: Gather all supporting documentation that you have in regards to your student’s disability, the teacher survey form, a copy of your student’s ACT admission ticket, and the support form you filled out and email it all to actaccom@act.org.

If you are unsure about what supporting documentation you need please see ACT Policy for Accommodations Documentation.

After ACT has received your request they should get back to you within a timely manner. Depending on what test date your student has signed up for the deadlines are as follows:

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COLLEGE BOARD ACCOMMODATIONS

For anyone wanting their student to have accommodations on the SAT, PSAT, SAT Subject Tests, or the APs you will have to work with the College Board. In previous years the College Board was very hard to work with and more times than not accommodations were not approved not only for homeschooled students but for public and private school students as well. With accommodations so hard to come by there was a great deal of backlash and in response the College Board has made some changes to the process and made it simpler for qualified students to get their much-needed accommodations. Remember to start the process early in the year especially if you are trying to get accommodations for the AP exams.

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Step 1: When you begin researching accommodations through the College Board you will see that they have moved to an online platform. Homeschool parents will not be using this platform to request accommodations. Instead you will need to email the College Board at ssd@info.collegeboard.org and request a paper Student Eligibility Form. Make sure to include your physical address in the email as the form will be sent to you through the mail.

Step 2: You and your student will need to fill out the Student Eligibility Form. Instructions will be included with the form The first half of the form is easy to fill out as it is just student identifying information. Sections 13 through 16 deal with the accommodations requested, the student’s disability, and documentation. Make sure you, as the parent, fill this section out and read the instructions for each step prior to filling in your student’s information. Section 17 is for schools only. As a homeschooling parent you do not need to worry about this section.

Step 3: Gather all supporting documentation you have to justify the accommodations. You can get more information on what documentation to send by visiting the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities here.

Step 4: This is not a required step but I do highly recommend it. Download the Teacher Survey form from the College Board and fill it out. This form gives you, as the homeschool teacher, a chance to explain accommodations that you use in your homeschool for your student. You also have an opportunity to discuss if you give your student extended time and what the impact of having accommodations has on your student. If you have another teacher that works with your student and has insight into their accommodations they may also fill out a form. Remember: when it comes to getting accommodations, the more documentation and information you have on your student the better.

 

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Step 5: Place all the forms and documents you have in the envelope that the College Board sent you and send it back in. You can send it via regular mail or if you are worried about the highly personal and sensitive information you may want to send it via trackable mail. After mailing the materials you can expect to hear back from the College Board within seven weeks. The decision will be mailed to your student and will be available online if a student has an account on My Organizer.

Step 6: If your accommodations have been denied, don’t give up yet. Usually, they are denied because more documentation is needed. Or, they may be partially approved. Either way your letter from the College Board will explain everything and give you your options to proceed. For more information on denied accommodations head over to the College Board.

Having a student who needs accommodations in order to perform at their optimal level can sometimes feel overwhelming. Hopefully, this guide helps you work through the steps needed in order to receive accommodations for whatever test or tests your homeschooled student needs to take. If you would like further help with this process or any other part of the college admission process please contact Simplify. We would love to work with you!

An Eclectic, Academic Approach to a High School Course of Study

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What does an eclectic, academic course of study look like for homeschoolers in the high school years? It can take a variety of different forms depending on the teen and their strengths and weaknesses. It can also develop differently based on their interests and the resources available to them. Regardless of these differences, a rich eclectic, academic study will be one in which the student learns at a meaningful level through a variety of resources and opportunities.

At the beginning of my son’s high school years he became very interested in astronomy, and his natural curiosity about the subject matter gave me the idea of incorporating it into his school year as a science credit. Building upon and nurturing a high school student’s interests in an educational capacity is very important at this phase, as intuitive curiosity leads a student to want to pursue an area of knowledge at a deeper level. As a concrete example, here is what I did with my son for his study of astronomy.

Astronomy first caught the attention of my son when he discovered Black Holes Explained, a short series from the Great Courses. Because of his interest I decided to order a longer title from the Great Courses titled An Introduction to Astronomy which included 96 half-hour lectures. The guidebook to this series included several reading recommendations which we purchased and he eagerly worked through. It also came with questions which he answered as he watched the lectures. In addition to this I picked up a standard astronomy college textbook and he worked through parts of it.

After going through all of these my son’s passion for the subject of astronomy had not diminished and he applied to attend an Astronomy Camp at the University of Arizona. Upon being accepted he and other camp mates spent seven sleepless nights on top of an isolated mountain in the desert of Arizona learning about astronomy hands-on. He also had the opportunity to partake in a radio broadcast talking to the crew of the International Space Station, where he posed the question of how fast could the crew evacuate in an emergency. Through these hands-on experiences his love of astronomy grew.

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My son returned from camp with a truly enriched understanding of the subject and a desire to delve even deeper into his studies, so I turned to other online options and found a Coursera class on Astrobiology from the University of Edinburgh, and then he and his sister joined our local astronomy club where he attended monthly lectures by experts in the field from local universities including Cal Tech, UC Irvine, and Chapman. He also rented a telescope from the club and used it to study the stars, planets, and the moon on clear nights. Along with his sister he attended a few “star parties” or large-scale stargazing events attended by experts and enthusiasts with a wide array of telescopes.

One thing that’s important at this level is that your teenager has an output of work which at the high school level should include essays, labs, and essential assignments and projects which engage them fully and challenge them to broaden their horizons. When you homeschool not everything has to be done traditionally but there should be enough work done to earn a credit. This course of study began in the spring of what would have been his eighth grade year, went on through the summer, and ended in the winter of what was his freshman year and for it he earned one full science credit and a half lab credit.

Although this study was rich and eclectic the cost was actually quite manageable which is important to point out as I know cost is a factor for many of us. We got the Great Courses used on Ebay for a very affordable price, and all of his books were used copies that we found on Amazon. The Coursera class was free and my son was lucky enough to receive a scholarship for the astronomy camp which is what made it possible for him to participate. Participation in the local astronomy club was very affordable, and they lent us a telescope for six months free of charge. My point here is that even if you are on a tight budget like I am there are resources out there for you to create a meaningful academic experience for your child.

This is just one example whereby a student-led course can lead to a gratifying pursuit in the high school years. Not every class is going to be like this; not every credit earned will be earned like this. Still, it is a wonderful thing that we have the opportunity, as homeschool parents, to craft at least a few high school courses in this way, and it is wonderful that our teens have the opportunity to learn through an engaging and memorable process.

Homeschooling the Teen Years – Be Prepared for Changes

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Recently I was reflecting on my twins and their homeschooling journey, and as I was thinking about the last few years, I was somewhat surprised at how much they have changed. I thought about how at thirteen my son was the astronomy/math guy who spent hours studying these topics and spent his first big summer camp studying astronomy in the mountains of Arizona. I thought about my daughter who was in a school of the arts for classical voice and was spending hours a day practicing singing and was entering national voice competitions. I remember looking at these two and thinking about how great it was that they had already figured out their future and that they were on the right path for these futures.

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And then the twins started to grow up. They started dealing with puberty, hormones, and other issues which changed them. They began exploring different areas of interest (as all teens should) and began questioning who they are and what they want out of life. The twins began that long journey from young teenhood to adulthood (a journey they are still on) and everything that I thought was planned out and in stone changed. Their interests, passions, challenges, and strengths altered. Their college plans began to look different. Their future I envisioned suddenly started to become hard to imagine, and I realized that their future was not something we could predict or see.

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This hazy future, one that I cannot know, is not a bad thing. It is a joy to see the twins grow and change. It is exciting to think that their future is their own and it is an unknown. It is wonderful to know that they have been given time to explore their many interests through homeschool and that they can continue to grow and change for many years to come.

I write this post as a reminder to my future self (as I will be going through this same journey soon with my youngest son) and to other homeschooling parents. It is so easy for us to craft our child’s education to their interests and passions because we do homeschool. It is exciting to know that we are able to give our children opportunities that their peers may not have in traditional schools. The ability to be able to create their path and to be able to work on just one interest is a very attractive option but sometimes it does get in the way of a person’s growth. Remember this as you go through the teen years. Be flexible, allow your child to explore freely, and be supportive. They will get where they are going in the end even if the journey does not look the way we imagined.

High School Year 3

Amazingly these two great kids are juniors this year. I can hardly believe it.

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They have been back to school for a while now as they take classes online at Harari. Harari goes year round with their first quarter having started in June. In addition the twins are running an online book club this year over at SEA. They even made a video introducing the club for anyone who is interested.

Outside of Harari and book club the twins do not have a great deal of down time. When they do have free time they work on their own projects, mostly art, music, and making games. In addition they like to hang with friends (what teens don’t?) and are making plans, lots and lots of plans for their future. Basically they are just being teenagers which is great because honestly teens are so much fun!

Here are their school pictures for the year. They took a great deal of interest in their photos this year as opposed to all the other years we took school photos. The pictures came out great and really captured their personalities.

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I am looking forward to the future too. I can’t wait to see where it takes these two. At the same time I find myself feeling a little sad at how fast time passes, at how quickly the twins have grown up. It is a cliche but time really does pass by in the blink of the eye. These last two years will be gone before I know it. In the meantime I am going to sit back and enjoy watching these two make their final journey towards adulthood.

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

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Connections Academy

The California High School Proficiency Exam