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…

Simplify

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You may have noticed that I have been missing around here. With two teens off to college in the fall and my youngest starting his high school years I just haven’t had as much to blog about in regards to homeschooling. I also have been busy starting a new business.

I do want to let everyone know about this business as I am very excited about it. It is called Simplify and it provides homeschool and college counseling.  My great friend Suji and I started Simplify in the hopes of helping other families who need support homeschooling or with the college application process for their homeschool students. I am most excited at the prospect of helping families who have turned to homeschooling as a last resort and who need specific help to get started.

We are also expanding Simplify in the hopes of having experienced and enthusiastic homeschool consultants all across the country. This week we brought on another wonderful consultant, Farrar Williams, who is based in Washington D.C.. You can read all our bios here to learn more about us.

And if you would like to follow Simplify we are on Facebook and Twitter. If you know anyone who could benefit from our services please pass on our information. And if you are interested in becoming a consultant with us and are located in the Southern US, Southwestern US, or Europe please email us at simplifyconsultants@gmail.com. All our consultants must have 7+ years homeschool experience and have a presence online. It is also helpful to have carved out a special niche in the homeschool community and/or have an educational background.

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Looking ahead I do hope to have time to share my youngest son’s journey through homeschooling high school. He is such a creative and passionate teen that I do feel I will have plenty to blog about. I am just finishing up his yearly plan for the next year and as soon as it is finalized I will try to post it here.

A Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Education for Twice-Exceptional Students

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SEA: Secular, Eclectic, Academic – What does that mean and look like? How does this approach benefit students who have been identified as twice-exceptional?

Secular is obvious and I am not going to spend much time on this component. To say the least, the materials that one chooses are free from a religious worldview (to learn more  about why this is important please read Blair’s post here). This is especially important in regards to science materials that one chooses to use with one’s child.

Eclectic means that one draws on a wealth of materials and does not need to stick with just one curriculum provider or one form of homeschooling. Eclectic also allows for one to work with their student on their level in each subject and to try many different methods. It allows a parent to individualize an education plan for each child. This is a wonderful benefit for twice-exceptional students.

Academic is, much like secular, obvious, but worth noting. Having an academic standpoint means that one sees the value in intellectual endeavors. This is also a benefit to twice-exceptional homeschoolers.

So why is a SEA approach such a good match for 2E kids? There are many reasons for this, but before I list them I want to define what twice-exceptional is. I have talked about twice-exceptional students before here at SEA, but I wanted to to revisit the term for those who are not familiar with it. A twice-exceptional student is a student that has been identified as gifted and identified as having a disability or condition. To put it another way:

“This group of gifted children are exceptional both because of their strengths and because of their limitations. Coupled with high intelligence, these children also may have one or more learning disabilities, attention deficit, autism spectrum disorder, emotional or behavior problems, or other types of learning challenges. ”    

(From 2E Newsletter – http://www.2enewsletter.com/topic_2e_what_is.html)

Now, back to why a secular, eclectic, and academic approach is a wonderful one to take for this group of kids.

  1. Flexibility – This approach allows for flexibility, which is such a necessary part of any 2E program. Flexibility in the subjects studied, flexibility in the materials used, and flexibility in the methods used to teach.
  2. Ability to develop passions – Twice-exceptional students often struggle in one or more area and this struggle can sometimes make the student feel like a failure. By taking a SEA approach to their schooling, the parent has time to spend on the areas that their child excels at. The parent also sees the value in doing this, and working on areas that the student excels at allows a child to build up their confidence.
  3. Keep on a schedule – This is where the academic part comes into play. By keeping the focus on academics and on the continual growth of mastering various academic goals, the parent has to stay on a schedule, and schedules are great for 2E kids. For some the schedule may look loose  and for others it may be more strictly regulated. Either way, a schedule helps these kids, for they work better knowing what is expected from them each day.
  4. Work at their own level – Twice-exceptional students are all over the map academically. Being able to meet them at their level is wonderful for them and helps them succeed. Some students may be ready for algebra at 9 but struggle with writing a complete sentence. Others may be writing novels but struggle with basic math problems. Either way, by tailoring their education, you will be able to work to their strengths and help them with their weaknesses.
  5. Option to explore many topics – 2E students tend to have a variety of interests and passions and by choosing an eclectic path you become open to studying those passions. And by recognizing that there are many worthy subjects to study outside of the traditional subjects, you give the gift of exposure to your child. Through this exposure they may discover a passion they never knew they had.
  6. Option to use many different approaches – There are many different approaches to education in the homeschool world. Some parents follow a Charlotte Mason approach, some parents follow a Classical approach, some follow a traditional school approach, and some parents follow an unschooling approach. A wonderful benefit about choosing to be eclectic is that you can use multiple approaches for your student in the different areas you study, which is a good way to match ability, interest, and learning styles to your child.

So what does an eclectic, academic approach actually look like? To read the rest of the article please see the original post at SEA Homeschoolers.

Keep Calm and Homeschool On

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For many homeschoolers the fall signifies the start of a new school year. For some this will be their first time homeschooling their children while others have been at it for a long time. Whether you are new to homeschooling or a seasoned veteran, we have some tips for you to follow to ensure a smooth and enjoyable school year:

  1. Give yourself time to get in a routine – If you have never homeschooled before it will take time to figure out a routine that works for you and your children. If you have homeschooled before but took a summer break it will also take a little time to get back on a schedule. Sometimes it is hard for children to adapt to get used to a new routine. Other times it is hard for the homeschool parent to adjust. Whatever the case, give you and your children time.
  2. De-school – Completely new to homeschooling after a traditional school experience? You may need to de-school. If you have never heard of this term don’t fret. It simply means that children need time to switch gears between a traditional school experience and a homeschool experience. The parent may also need time. Homeschooling is a whole different ballgame and giving yourself a few months (the recommended time is one month per year in school, if you took summer off you may not need to take as long) to adjust and to switch gears may help.
  3. Start slow – Don’t try to hit every subject and activity you have planned on the first day. Ease into your new homeschool routine and start with only one or two subjects or activities before adding more. Take a few weeks or even a month to get up and running at a full pace. This will help you stick to your plan and will guarantee that you and your students are not overwhelmed by all that needs to be done.
  4. Don’t stick too long with something that is not working – Excited by a curriculum you picked out or a study you planned and then find it is not working for your student? Did you schedule a class or activity that your child does not like? Keep at it for a while to see if you can make it work, but if you are still not feeling the love after a few weeks it may be time to drop it and find something else. Don’t worry too much about it and don’t beat yourself up over it. Sometimes our best laid plans simply do not work.
  5. Don’t curriculum hop – On the other hand you don’t want to go from one curriculum to the other spending money when you don’t need to. Many of us veteran homeschoolers have made this mistake and spent more money than we care to admit. That’s not to say you can’t change curriculum when needed, just try not to do it too much in one year.
  6. Find a support group – Whether online or in your community, a support group keeps you connected to other homeschoolers. Because homeschooling can sometimes feel like an isolating experience, having other homeschooling parents and children around you and your family can help you immensely on your journey. Other homeschoolers can encourage you when you need it, provide feed back on curriculum and/or your school plan, and bring resources to your attention that you did not know about. Homeschool groups also provide the chance for your kids and teens to connects with other homeschooled children in a meaningful way. If there is not a homeschool group in your area consider starting one or try searching for other local homeschool families in an online support group.
  7. Get out of the house – Take a field trip, have a park day, visit a museum, go to the library, go out to lunch. If you are having a bad day or are just in need of a break then leave your routine behind and take your children out into the world. One of the benefits to homeschooling is flexibility, so don’t feel tied to the house or your routine. Dropping everything and getting out in the community is sometimes the best thing you can do.
  8. Have fun – Sometimes we as homeschooling parents get so caught up in the schooling part of our role that we forget to let loose and enjoy our children. Yes you will have bad days, yes you and your child will sometimes feel frustrated, but always remember that your relationship is the most important part of this journey. Make time to laugh, to cuddle up together with a book, to play games with each other, to make discoveries together and remember through it all to have fun.
  9. Celebrate – Homeschooling is as valid a choice as traditional schooling so acknowledge what you are doing. Take first-day pictures, share your and your children’s accomplishments with others, and have an end-of-the-school-year party. Also recognize your own role in this journey and reward yourself with a day off, a trip to the bookstore, or a night out. Homeschooling is hard work, so celebrate that hard work from time to time.

Looking for an online support group for you and your family? We at SEA support Secular, Eclectic, Academic homeschoolers online at our Facebook group. We have active members all over the world for you to connect with. We also have free online book clubs for tweens and teens that will be starting up in September, and we would love to have your homeschooled student join us.

This post was originally posted at SEA Homeschoolers – Keep Calm and Homeschool On.

Modifying Curriculum for a Twice-Exceptional Child

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This year I decided at the last minute to order Build Your Library Grade 8’s curriculum for my youngest son who is an identified 2E student. I knew before I purchased the curriculum that I would not be able to use it as it is written because of his unique learning style and because of his learning struggles, but that didn’t stop me from getting it. The Grade 8 core was so intriguing to me, something that I thought he would really enjoy, that I eagerly scooped it up as soon as it came out.

Build Your Library Grade 8 covers the history of science. Here is the description from the Build your Library Website

“It’s time for a whirlwind tour through world history, with a twist. This year, your child will be studying World History through the lens of science. Using Joy Hakim’s excellent Story of Science series, you will follow the trail of scientific thought and discovery from the ancient Sumerians through Modern day. You’ll conduct experiments from the minds of some of the greatest scientists in history and learn how those scientists changed the world with their ideas. The science covered this year is Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics.”

I thought for sure that my history phobic student would enjoy this study of history because it was different and unique. He wasn’t as enthusiastic about it as I was. I wasn’t deterred in my determination to make this work however, and this week we have started slowly working through the program. I thought I would share how I am modifying this for my student in hopes that it will help someone else out there.

First of all I want to address the fact that we are even using a curriculum. Many homeschoolers with twice-exceptional students allow their children to follow their own passions because it is easier than struggling to get the work done. I get that, and I do follow that train of thought to a degree. The boy definitely has more free time for his own passions than more traditionally schooled students. I do feel though that adding in some formal lessons helps us stay on track and keeps him from being bored which is something that we have been struggling with lately. Also having a curriculum makes it easier for me because I am not a planner at all. I need something to work off or I get lost very quickly.

So how do I go about making a curriculum a better fit my child?

  1. Cutting down the amount of material covered over the year – BYOL Grade 8 has a fully scheduled 5 days a week/36 weeks plan. There is no way he and I will be able to cover all that material. I have decided to split the curriculum up over two years, and for now, I am planning to go through week 14 or 15. This leaves weeks 16 through 36 for next year. By dividing this study I am taking a great deal of stress off of us to get it done, and I am allowing us to work through everything at a pace that will give him extra time to do the work and grasp the concepts.
  2. Dropping parts of the curriculum that will not work – Narration/copywork is out. A paper timeline is out. Vocabulary study is out. These activities just do not work for this boy, and there is no reason to waste time and inflict stress on either of us trying to get it done. If you know something doesn’t work for your child do not hesitate to drop it. There are many ways to learn a concept. The ones suggested in a curriculum are just that, a suggestion. Take it or leave it as needed.
  3. Adjusting ways of learning – Many of the books listed in BYL Grade 8 are available as audiobooks. We will most likely listen to these books as opposed to reading them. My son loves audiobooks, and he absorbs the material when he receives it this way. He will also be using his iPad to make a timeline. We found out last year that making a timeline on his iPad is easier for him and allows him to use his creativity. He loves looking for images on the internet for his timeline and spends a good deal of time doing it. I am also changing a few of the readers (not too many though because this core has some wonderful books scheduled) to match his taste and reading level. These are all easy adjustments to make but ones that go a long way in making for a successful year.
  4. Working through the study as partners – The best way to ensure a successful course of study is to commit to learning side-by-side. Although there are many areas where my son soars on his own, the academic study of history and science is not one of them. To keep him invested in the work I have to be invested. If I want him to make connections and to apply what he has learned I need to lead him to those discoveries. Together we will work through the labs, read/or listen to the books, watch the documentaries that are scheduled, and discuss, discuss, discuss.
  5. Be flexible – There are days when my son is just not able to concentrate. There are days when we are too busy with other activities. There are days when he is too focused on writing, animation, art, or game making. It is not always worth it to interrupt his deep concentration when he is involved in a project, nor is it easy to always get to our work when we are busy doing other things. The best thing I can do then is to be flexible. Allow for an off day now and then, plan to work longer or shorter sometimes, be willing to drop a book or activity that is not working. Flexibility is key to homeschooling 2E students.

A few other ideas to help your child succeed: BYL Grade 8 tells you what the main idea is each day. I use this to start our work everyday. Together we go over the key idea, so that he and I both know what we should be learning. The guide also schedules documentaries and hands-on activities which is great for a twice-exceptional kid. Some days we will watch only documentaries, some days we will only do hands-on activities. There are many different ways to learn, so never feel like you aren’t covering enough if you skip the more traditional book work. One last thing I do is try not to worry too much about his output. It really is enough for me to know he is absorbing and making new connections.

Hopefully these ideas will help someone out there. They could easily be applied to any curriculum or homeschool study you take on with your 2E student.

And for more information on BYL’s Grade 8 year please see this sample –  G8_History_of_Science_Sample_week.

Slow start, strong finish

This picture is from September 2009. It is one of the first pictures I ever uploaded onto TAD Town. It is a picture of my oldest working on his math which at the time was basic fractions. He was 10 years old and in fifth grade. In sixth grade he would complete pre-algebra, seventh algebra, eighth geometry, ninth algebra 2, and tenth pre-calculus. That is a good, strong math progression and yet in fifth he was just happily doing his fractions in chalk in our backyard.

Autry working in her sketchbook.

My daughter is working through several AP classes this year, and she is a very strong student especially in writing. We did not use a formal writing curriculum for years, and overall started very slow in this area. She would write what she wanted when she wanted. When she was younger this was mostly in the form of a journal entry or short stories that she would write. We worked on a few formal programs starting in seventh and eighth and completed Writing with Skill in ninth. By tenth she was writing numerous essays for her AP classes, and this year she is writing essays daily. She has become an extremely strong, creative, and capable writer who enjoys the process.

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My point with these two examples is to show that starting slow can work. I touched on this idea previously in this post, but I wanted to discuss it once more as I see more and more homeschooling parents scheduling massive amounts of work for their young children. It is my belief that this is not necessary at all, and in some ways I find it to be counterintuitive. If you have high goals for your child once they are in high school and college that does not mean you have to start worrying about those goals when they are elementary or middle school aged. This only creates stress for the parent and takes away from the joys of childhood and self discovery for the child.

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This is not to say that we did no formal schooling when they were younger because we did. What I am trying to convey is that one can be formal in their studies but do so in a very relaxed and informal way. Academics took no longer than two hours all through the elementary ages for my kids. Middle school became a little more intense, and the kids probably averaged about three hours a day on academics. We never did academics five days a week, and I always made sure they had plenty of free time to discover their own passions and to just be a kid. Whether they were playing outside for hours a day, listening to audiobooks for days on end, or messing around on their computer, the kids had plenty of free time to do what they wanted.

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Slow to start has been very successful for us. The twins now spend hours upon hours a day working because they want to. They have very specific goals that they want to attain, and they feel up to the challenge. They are not burned out from long school days and hours upon hours of school work from when they were younger. Nor have they missed out on any essential skills necessary for the work they do today. Instead they were able to learn these skills very quickly at an older age rather than trying to grasp them when they were younger and not prepared physically or emotionally.

Slow start, strong finish.

Our Homeschool Journey – Part 1

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The twins are about to turn sixteen, and my youngest will be twelve next week. It is crazy to think about how old we are all getting and also how long we have been homeschooling. There has been a few bumps along the way in this journey, but it is something that I would never change. Homeschooling has brought all of us closer and has created a family lifestyle that I appreciate so much. Homeschooling has also helped shape the kids, and I have to say that I love the young adults they have morphed into. Truly, homeschooling has been a blessing to us in almost every way.

Looking back on this adventure I am not sure I could have predicted where we would have ended up. Of course we are not done with this journey yet, but I still could not have imagined the place we are today all those many years ago. When we first started out on this path the twins were 4 and my youngest was a baby. The twins had spent a year in preschool and although it was a wonderful preschool, I knew it was not the place for my quirky kids. I had already decided I was going to homeschool when they were elementary age but our preschool experience pushed me to get started even sooner.

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The kids in our early days of homeschooling. Often they were outside playing or inside playing. In between all that playtime we did school. By nighttime they were all tuckered out, and I would have some down time just for me.

So how did we start and what did those first few years look like? I started with researching on the internet, and I stumbled upon a wonderful site called Tanglewood Education. This small site was run by a mom who was homeschooling her children, and she had put together a year 1 curriculum. I was intrigued by the year 1 package because there were no textbooks (especially no Abeka books that were constantly being recommended to me), and it seemed to be made up of mostly classic books that I would love to share with the kids. Little did I know that my kids would go crazy for the books. This was the start of our homeschool journey.

Actually, no…Although I do think that was the official start, our journey really started when they were toddlers. I had so many board books and picture books in our house, and the twins loved them. They would actually choose books over toys most of the time, and I found myself reading to them for hours a day. In addition to that they had outdoor time and free play time that consisted of Thomas the Train toys or Legos. The rest of our days were spent cooking, playing in the sand, and exploring the world. The twins were learning everyday when they were little, and it was a joyous process to experience.

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Some of the books that were in our Tanglewood package.

Then came our Tanglewood box in the mail and the joy of learning and the joy of homeschooling become known to all of us. In the box was Story of the World and First Language Lessons by Susan Wise Bauer, a few I Wonder Why science books, some beginner readers and a handful of classic books for the kids and I to read together. It was a small little box, there were no extras in there like you might find today in many curriculum sets. It was perfect for our first year though. A nice, gentle beginning to our homeschool journey which I am grateful for. The pace was set for us, the tone of our homeschool was established.

Creativity Runs Wild

At TAD Town we often take breaks in our homeschool schedule when it is needed. Whether it is for an illness or just a mental break, I try not to stress if our schedule does not match a typical school schedule. After all a flexible schedule is one of the many benefits to homeschooling.

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This kid here was in need of a break from academics after a hard year of working. We called it a year in April, and he has been doing his own thing ever since. His days have been consisting of writing, audiobooks, cooking, mini-fig making, drawing, and song writing. Basically he has been using all his free time to be creative.

This is one of his songs that he wrote last month. Somehow the twins and I have gotten it stuck in our head, and we are all walking around the house singing “I Googled it. ” It has been very entertaining to us.

And this is a sped up video of one of his digital art works he did. The boy is starting to become very interested in working on his drawing skills especially on the computer.

Here is another picture he did.

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The boy has also discovered the world of custom Lego minifig making. This, along with baking, has been his primary area of pursuit these last 6 weeks. He has been watching how-to videos on the process and then perfecting it on his own. The only thing he needed for this was Sculpey, acrylic paints, different sizes of paint brushes, and toothpicks. The process of him learning how to do this has been very interesting to see. Boiling Sculpey mini-figs in my kitchen was not something I ever envisioned doing, but it has been fun to see the boy work so hard on a project.

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We have also been baking quite a bit together. I will admit every time he sends me a complex recipe online I am not exactly thrilled about it. I don’t find the joy in baking that he does, but once we start cooking in the kitchen I do find joy in being with him in the moment. Baking brings him so much joy, and it is wonderful to see that.

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Basically he has been having a wonderful mental break these last six weeks or so. We will most likely start up with academics again sometime in June. I know when we get back to it he will be ready for our routine and excited to be back in the swing of things. But in the meantime the boy is also enjoying his free time, time where he can follow his passions and work on all things creative.