Creative Learning Connection

Educational Resources from a Veteran Homeschool Mom

Tag: homeschooling high school

Homeschooling high schoolers can be done!

The End of an Era

Missed Deadline

As yesterday was coming to a close I realized I had missed my deadline – the deadline for this week’s blog post.

I won’t apologize. This was a deadline missed for good reasons – I was away for the previous four days with an amazing group of students, and frankly, writing was not high on my priority list.

But I am home, as they all are, and I will write the post today instead.

We’ve Come and Gone to Mock Trial

I also won’t apologize for the context of this post, a topic that I have addressed several times in the more or recent past, and that some of you may be tired of hearing.  But, if you have heard Mock Trial enough times from me to last you awhile, have no fear, it isn’t really the topic of this post, it is merely the context within which my post was born.

I spent this past weekend with twelve high school students, none of whom were biologically related to me (though one registered with my last name and I didn’t protest). I have known more than half of these students since before they were old enough to attend my Government Club or my classes, since they each had older siblings that were attending when they were still quite young. (And we’ve actually known several of these families since before those particular students were even born!) At the other end of the spectrum, I met one of the students less than three weeks ago, when she graciously agreed to fill our last spot for a competition that she knew little about.

Twenty-One Years as Government Club Advisor

This was my twenty-first year to be the advisor for the Way Home Christian School Government Club. It is also the last year I plan to coach Mock Trial (or Youth Judicial, as most others in Alabama refer to it). I knew that that day would come eventually, as my own children grew up, and as my life moved in other directions. But I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to give it up. I’ve taken more than forty teams to Montgomery during these last two decades, and somewhere between 100 and 200 students.  Some of those students came and went over a brief period of time, signing up for a team, spending their two weeks to two months practicing and then competing, and then disappearing again from my life, either of their own accord, or on a rare occasion, when I asked them not to return. (I can happily say that the latter was only the case in a handful of times.)

Most of the students I have taken to Montgomery over the years are now adults, many of them married, and some with children of their own, but the ones I took this weekend are not there yet. They ranged in age from 15 to 18, and from ninth grade to seniors.  I had gone into this fall knowing that I was passing the baton on after this year, and had prayed that God would give me “a good group of kids” for my last Mock Trial. He answered that prayer beyond what I could have even imagined.

Bringing Me to Tears

These kids brought me to tears (not a first for a Mock Trial weekend, sadly). But this was the first time that those were all tears of joy.  I cannot think of one time in the entire weekend that I was angry with any of them, or even slightly annoyed for that matter. In spite of room issues the first night, late nights all weekend, and last minute changes to their trial plans when both teams had their opening lawyers start a day not feeling well, they hung in there, worked together, and continued to do their best. One team even had to do more trials than they felt like they had agreed to (four is the promised number of trials, with some teams getting a fifth, and generally only the top two teams getting in a sixth trial). But this weekend they had the two expected trials on Saturday, followed by four in a row on Sunday (most likely a record!) They were tired, some of them were more than a little overwhelmed by the extra efforts required by the two extra trials, but they all gave it their best, complained very little, and kept going.

Mock Trial Craziness

This year’s twelve students included four who had never attended a Mock Trial competition (two of whom may never have even heard about it until less than a month ago!). But even the ones that have been several times often forget some of the craziness that goes on at these events. And in spite of all of our experience and efforts, there is always new craziness that we didn’t expect. (Wait, you want me to cross this over-the-top difficult witness, keep it under three minutes, and somehow not come across as “mean”? And you expect me to respond to an objection of “unfair impeachment” that I’ve never heard of, isn’t in our list of objections, and that opposing counsel can’t even tell me where came from? Sure, why not.)

Making Mistakes

Throughout our weeks of preparation I always encourage the students to do their best. But I also never wanted them to feel pushed too hard or stressed because of it. For us, this simply isn’t about winning, it’s about the joy of competing, learning something new, and hopefully growing in the process. I’ve never been angry with a witness who has forgotten their answers on the stand, even if it means an impeachment (or a series of leading questions), or a lawyer who missed an objection or made a bad one. We talk about the mistakes and hope they go into each consecutive trial feeling stronger and more prepared. And maybe that will show up on their score sheets. (But often not, through no fault of these students, but that’s an entirely different matter.)

Most Not Future Lawyers

Most of these students will never become lawyers. In fact, it is likely that many of them will never step into a court room again after these competitions. But they still gain so much from participating in this program. I’ve watched so many of them come of out their shells, honing their abilities to argue their points, and learning to think on their feet. And throughout it all I watch so many of them develop friendships that will move into their post-school years with them.  They often comfort others who have become overwhelmed or stressed, moving beyond just thinking about themselves.

An Enjoyable Weekend

I spent the weekend enjoying their company, enjoying their amazing performances, and being thankful, once again, that I had been granted the privilege of sharing this event with these and so many other students. As I pass the role of leading this group on to others, I have no regrets for all that doing this has cost me over the years, in lost sleep, time, or expenses. What more could a mother/coach/teacher/team mom want?

The Score Sheets Said What?

As we finished our final meal together for this event, picnicking at Peach Park, and going over the score sheets from our ten trials, complete with rounds of applause, mixed with hissing (at the judges who seemed to have slept through portions of the trials they were scoring), my heart was full of the joy of having watched these twelve students accomplish so much.

Saying Goodbye

And just as I thought we were going to load up the vehicles and continue our journey home, the students surprised me. They had other plans before we did that. One by one they took turns telling me how much they had enjoyed this experience (and the previous ones for the veterans on the team). They spoke of how much I meant to them, how much this club has meant to them, as well as the opportunities to do these things. I was crying before the first one had finished speaking, and I’m fairly certain I didn’t stop until after they were done.  As a coach for the past twenty-one years, I’ve spent lots of time with countless students. And there have certainly been the occasional thank you cards and gifts of thanks. But I don’t think anything has touched me the way those heartfelt words did yesterday.

The Time I Almost Quit

Six years ago I had threatened to quit at the end of a very stressful mock trial weekend. And when I sat in my hotel room looking at the six or seven students who had caused me so much heartache that weekend, I told them that they would be responsible for the fact that their younger siblings would never have the amazing opportunities that they had had. Fortunately, I went home from that weekend and had time to line up all the negative things and all the positive things that these weekends had brought along. And I had to admit, that in spite of the problems, the positives were still outweighing the negatives. So here I sat, six years later, listening to at least one of those younger siblings thanking me for the opportunities I had given her.

Tears of Joy

As a teacher I have been fairly confident over the years that I have made at least a small difference in many of my student’s lives. Yesterday, twelve of those students made me cry tears of joy by sharing some of those specifics with me. I am confident that memory will stay with me for a long time to come.

Tearfully and Joyfully,

Cathy

 

Concerns about Homeschooling through High School

Our High School at Home Adventures

When my family started homeschooling more than three decades ago, we weren’t committing to homeschooling all the way through high school; at the beginning the idea was to take it one year at a time. It wasn’t until our older students were teenagers that we finally decided we could indeed homeschool through high school.

From then on, the decision was basically made – to homeschool all twelve of our children all the way through to graduation. That didn’t mean that high school looked the same for all twelve of them, or that we didn’t make changes along the way. But we had at least made that initial decision about high school.

As with all other aspects of homeschooling, there isn’t one right way to homeschool the high school years. And while our family decided, for the most part, to homeschool straight through to the end, that isn’t necessarily the decision that all homeschool families will make.

But regardless of different family decisions about how long to homeschool, or how to homeschool, one thing we all have in common is that we want what’s best for our children!  Because of that, we want to be the ones to direct their education – whatever direction(s) that education may take.

And yet, in spite of those desires, many homeschooling parents fear the high school years.  Every stage brings unique challenges and unique pleasures. But, in my experience, there is something really special about the teenage years. The “difficult” tasks (like potty training, learning to read, etc.) are done by then. (Okay – teaching them to drive is not a piece of cake either.  But we survived that twelve times, so I’m guessing you can too.)

I personally like to teach teens. They can generally listen well, read well, and argue well. Call it “discuss well” if it makes you feel better, but with teens the two are basically synonymous. At this stage, our students are well on their way to becoming independent adults, one of our primary goals for homeschooling (or, at least in my humble opinion, it should be!).

Concerns about Homeschooling through High School

So, why are home schoolers so often intimidated by the thought of teaching their own teens?  The answers I usually hear include:

  • Concern over classes (especially “difficult” ones like foreign languages and higher math)
  • Concern over credits and transcripts
  • Concern about getting into college (I covered that question fairly extensively in the Homeschooling Questions and Answers blog post, so we’ll just look at the first two concerns in this post.)

Our first (of 7 and counting) College Graduate with his youngest sister.

Let’s start with the first of those specific concerns:

High School Level Classes

The idea of home schooling through high school causes unnecessary stress in many families.  How to handle higher level math classes, science labs, and foreign languages rank at the head of most lists of potential problems.  But why?  It shouldn’t be, for several reasons:

  1.  First of all, most homeschooling parents can personally handle teaching more of those classes than they give themselves credit for. (I had never read a Shakespeare play all the way through when I started teaching my first Shakespeare classes. And I certainly knew very little about teaching Government when I started that – but with may topics we can learn as we go, right alongside our students.)
  2. High schoolers can handle much more of the load themselves than we give them credit for. (And there are a growing number of online resources, such as Kahn Academy, where they can do upper level work on their own.) But, remember, though, even when they can be self-taught, they are not necessarily self-motivated! Your job at that point may become more of a director than an actual teacher.
  3. Nowadays, homeschooling mothers and fathers (as well as others in the community) are offering many of these subjects as classes. (And again, online options are multiplying!)
  4. Correspondence schools are another option that we’ve tried for high school classes.  It wasn’t one of our favorites – but it did work. (My oldest got her high school diploma through The American School.)  For some families it may be just the answer to these concerns.
  5. And last, but certainly not least, local colleges can fill in just about any other gaps in higher level high school classes.  When my fourth child got to the Saxon Calculus book the summer before his senior year, he decided that while he could do it on his own, he didn’t want to, so he went to the local university and jumped through the hoops to enroll in their Dual Enrollment program. Since then I’ve had several children who did Dual Enrollment and/or Early Enrollment while in high school.  It isn’t the answer for every student, but it certainly adds to a family’s options.

I can’t leave the topic of college without addressing one of my personal concerns after so many years of homeschooling. One of the growing trends seems to be for homeschoolers to rush their kids through their schooling and graduate them early. But I have to ask, why do we want to be in such a big hurry to graduate our students?

They certainly aren’t lacking for subjects that they can study at home. What do we gain and what do they gain by rushing the process, versus what is lost – more time with their family; more time to mature; more time to pursue special interests?  There are exceptions, of course, but I think home schoolers would do well to rethink this trend.

So, as you look forward (or at least ahead) to the high school years, please remember that home education equals parent-directed education.  Helping find the right places for them to study the subjects that they need is an important part of our everchanging role in their lives, even when we are phasing out of being their primary instructors. (When and how that happens will vary between families, and often between students within a family.) We should be anticipating the time that they graduate and move on to their own lives, and we can start that process slowly, rather than the day they are handed their diplomas.

High School Credits

How to award credits for high school classes is another big, but mostly needless, concern.  I know of two accepted standards for awarding a credit.

  1. Starting and completing a high school level textbook. (Or mostly completing one, since in reality, classroom teachers aren’t completing most of them anyway.)
  2. Logging approximately 120 – 150 hours in a specific subject – reading, discussing, listening to lectures, writing about it, and watching related videos all count towards the necessary time.  I found the book Design-Form-U-La to be very helpful when we started keeping these kinds of records, though sadly that book seems to be harder and harder to find.

Our family granted most credits based on the “hours logged” in a subject, rather than through textbook completion, since we used so few textbooks, even in high school.  Textbooks are not totally bad – but they are so two-dimensional! I cover more about that in my blog post, Homeschooling through Topical Studies.

Learning can and should be three-dimensional. In addition to the standard academic classes, high school (even at home) can include:

  • Athletics
  • Drama
  • Essay & speech contests like those sponsored by  the Optimist Club as well as a growing number of homeschool debate clubs
  • Real life political events such as God & Country rallies and election involvement
  • Youth in Government programs

All of my children did Mock Trial one or more years!

And students can receive high school credit for work done before high school, in seventh or eighth grade, if it’s high school level work.

High School Transcripts

Transcripts also intimidate many folks – but they’re really easy to do.  The standard way is to break courses up by school year, one section for the freshman year, one for the sophomore year, etc. But in our family, we preferred to show them by subjects instead, with all the English classes listed together, and then the math, and then the science, etc.  Like so much else, it’s easy to find samples to look at with an online search.

Transcripts need to include the student’s name, date of birth, and school years covered.  Each class listed should include the general subject it was in (such as science), followed by the specific Course title (such as Biology), a grade, and a credit (usually ½ or 1).  Not too complicated.

I hope this has helped you feel a little less intimidated by homeschooling through high school. This is an exciting time to be sharing that time with your children who are on their way to becoming adults.

In my book, Teaching Teens, I go into these and other related topics a bit more, as well as give example forms for counting credits, tracking grades, and making transcripts.

Happy Learning!

Cathy

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