July 17, 2008

Preparing for High School, pt. 2

In my last post, I went over some of the ways we began preparing and thinking about high school in our oldest son's middle school years. Rob and I also prayed and talked to Nathan about his interests and abilities to see what kinds of careers he might be interested in and seek God's direction for His plan for Nathan's life (this is ongoing, of course). As Nathan will likely attend college, I did some research on our state's graduation requirements, CLEP testing and dual enrollment, and looked over some popular college's admission recommendations.

As stated in my first post, our current research for our oldest son is based on a college prep course because we are not yet sure what God has called him to do. We are not planning on locking ourselves into a rigid and traditional college prep course. We plan to remain flexible if the Lord opens up other opportunities.

Researching Graduation and College Admission Recommendations

I would like to stress here that it is important to find out your state's graduation requirements for home schools. In Michigan, home schooled students are required to complete one semester of Civics/Government - that's it. Try doing a Google search for "your state's home school graduation requirements" and "your state's graduation requirements," comparing them. It is really up to you, your student and your student's future goals as to how strictly you adhere to state public school graduation requirements if they vary from home school graduation requirements.

I downloaded Michigan's public school graduation requirements, put them in chart format by main subject area (English, Mathematics, Science, History/Social Science, Foreign Language, Fine Arts, Physical Education and Miscellaneous), and noted the number of credits needed to graduate. I will come back to this chart later.

I also bookmarked or downloaded the content expectations for each major subject, available at the Michigan Department of Education high school website. You could try doing a Google search for this information, or check your state's department of education website. I believe that most states make this information available to everyone. I may or may not use this information, but I know where to find it if I need it.

high school credit chartThe next step for me was to compare the high school course recommendations of some major colleges with the state of Michigan's requirements. Since Nathan does not yet know exactly what career he would like to pursue, I chose to look at three popular colleges that vary in the rigidity of their admission requirements. I started at each college's "admissions" page to find this information. Many colleges offer helpful pamphlets with high school course recommendations. I added the requirements for each college to the chart I mentioned above, giving me a quick visual of what colleges look for compared to our state's graduation requirements. We will continue to look at other college's recommendations as we prayerfully narrow down Nathan's career aspirations. I just started with this last year so that I would have a basic idea of what to look for in high school curricula.

CLEP Testing

I found a series of posts by Jeannie Fulbright about CLEP testing that piqued my interest (links to these posts are below). I had heard of CLEP testing and dual enrollment, but really had not done much research about either of these options. Again, you should check your state requirements for home schoolers to see if there are any restrictions. I posted links to some helpful articles below; you can also do a Google search and find tons of information. You might want to do a general search for CLEP testing and dual enrollment and then do a search for more state-specific information.

I have read enough to know that I am interested in CLEP testing, so I went to the same three college websites that I listed in my chart and checked their CLEP policies. I found this information at the admissions sections of the college websites. I was able to download files listing the CLEP tests that each college accepts, minimum scores, and the equivalent college course. If we decide to pursue CLEP testing, I will download the latest CLEP policies from college(s) of interest, compare them and decide which ones are worth taking. We may plan some science and math courses around CLEP tests, as these scores may also be used on our student's high school transcript.

I did everything that I outlined in these first two posts over Nathan's 7th and 8th grade school years. If it seems like it took a lot of time, be assured that it did not. A few strategic searches and a few minutes putting a chart together gave me a quick overview of our state's public school graduation requirements and a few college's high school recommendations. A little searching at the same colleges' websites furnished CLEP test information, which I downloaded and bookmarked for future reference. The real work will be planning Nathan's course of study and possibly some customized courses.

Over the last month or two, I have been doing more research and reading, and we are currently in the process of preparing a course of study for Nathan's high school years. The next post will give our current progress in creating this course of study. I have been reading an invaluable book called Homeschooling: The Teen Years, by Cafi Cohen, that is helping me put high school into perspective. I was able to obtain this at my library, and I highly recommend it.

CLEP Testing and Dual Enrollment Articles

Articles by Jeannie Fulbright

College Without Compromise book review

CLEP v. Dual Enrollment

CLEP for College

CLEP Tests

Articles by The HomeScholar

Search results for CLEP at The HomeScholar's blog

How to Homeschool College

Other Articles

College at 14: spin-off comments 2 at The Mom with Brownies - Shelly uses dual enrollment and explains it quite thoroughly here (hat tip to Kristie, who linked to this post quite a while ago - I can't find her post now)

* Update: Kristie noted in the comments that The Mom with Brownies does not do dual enrollment. However, her son did start college courses at 14, and her post would be helpful to those considering beginning college early or dual enrollment if your state allows it. Thanks for the clarification, Kristie!

HomeschoolBlogger Comments
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Jul. 17, 2008 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Sawickis

I wanted to clarify that Shelly does not use dual enrollment for her son.

After doing some research of her own she found that most colleges will not accept or count dual enrollment classes as college classes. And if they do, then they don't count them as high school classes. I'm not sure if it varies state by state or not.

Andrea you've given a ton of great links for anyone getting ready for homeschooling in highschool.


Aug. 4, 2008 - Wow!

Posted by Angela

I was just going to mention Lee Binz at The HomeScholar. She did an awesome class on this very subject at the Heart of the Matter Virtual Conference. Good luck!!


Aug. 5, 2008 - You wrote my heart today

Posted by bbullard

Our oldest will be an 8th grader beginning tomorrow, and it sounds as if you and I have been flies on each other's walls. In the past two weeks, even, we got back our Iowa Basic Skills results (I test the kids every two years), and I just finished a rich and thought-provoking conference with Heart of the Matter. In fact, the Home Scholar (I forget her actual name) was one of the speakers, and I am so glad that my internet didn't go out when she spoke (I lost it the day before). She was awesome.

Anyway, one of the things she said which stuck with me was to prepare your children for college whether they plan to go or not. We have planted seeds in our children since they were preschoolers, taking them on college tours and talking about what college is like. But the other side of that is, for those who are not going to college, the education you give them now will be the last formal education they receive unless they make a different choice later; why not give them a rich learning environment with interesting living books and life challenges? I had never thought in this way before, but it made perfect sense.

Anyway, I'd love to with you more offline about some of your choices and about Homeschool Tracker. I've not used it, but I know you and another parent on HSB do, and I'm curious about whether it would be a useful tool for me in tracking the oldest's years in school. This would be our practice year before high school. Of course, Texas is a much friendlier hsing state than Michigan, but I have the exact same list of roles that you do, including a part-time job and a business to run, and I need a tool that can track without being overwhelming.

I have your email and will write you offline so as not to take up too much space here. God bless you, Andi.

Belinda @ With a Taste of Chocolate

July 8, 2008

Preparing for High School, pt. 1

Nathan is going to be entering ninth grade this fall, and for the last year or two Rob and I have been trying to prepare ourselves and Nathan for high school. It has always sounded so scary to me. I find myself second-guessing the way we have handled his education so far and laboring over a high school plan. Should we follow Tapestry of Grace strictly? This would be easiest for me, but possibly not best for our son. How far should he go in science and math, and where should we begin in these subjects? How will we schedule time for him to pursue his main interest, music? How will we determine grades? Should he go to college, and, if so, should we pursue dual enrollment, CLEP testing or AP courses?

I am sure that most homeschoolers are faced with at least some of these questions, and I also realize that there is no one answer for any one student or family. That being said, I have decided to share some of the resources and ideas that I have found to be helpful, as well as what we have decided so far. These are just my thoughts and experiences. I do not believe that there is any one "right way" to homeschool; we are all too diverse for that. Nathan is our oldest, so he will be our first child in high school. In other words, we still have a lot to learn!

As Nathan still is not sure what type of career he would like to pursue, we are beginning with a college prep type high school course. However, we also want to give him plenty of time to pursue his interests and passions; we do not want to lock him into a college prep course if the Lord has something else for him. We are still in the process of preparing a course of study, so we do not have all of this hammered out yet.

Additionally, all of these plans are being bathed in prayer. We believe that God has a purpose for each of our children and we have the opportunity to help ease or direct them into that purpose. Because of this, our journey towards high school and life after secondary education will most likely look very different for each child. Please do not take my experiences as firm advice; I am really just sharing what we have done so far. If any of you who are experienced at homeschooling high schoolers have input, please feel free to share it.

Our Preparation in Organization and Grading

Once Nathan began "seventh grade," I decided that we should be a little bit more organized in keeping track of his assignments, developing good habits that would make writing his transcript less difficult when the time comes. Michigan does not require testing or submission of portfolios at this time, although I have always kept samples of work that could be organized into a portfolio if necessary. We began putting completed work in binders organized by subject and I began using Homeschool Tracker Plus to record everyone's progress. I did not keep up with Homeschool Tracker very well at that time, probably because I was trying to enter each and every assignment for all four children. As a full-time wife, mother, homeschooler and homemaker, as well as a part-time medical transcriptionist and part-time church worker, trying to keep up with entering assignments became overwhelming. However, we did have at least some of Nathan's work in one binder that was fairly well organized, which was a beginning. It was really a trial run anyway.

TOG Lesson PlanLast summer, before Nathan's eighth grade year, I decided to use the lesson plan and course tools of Homeschool Tracker Plus, setting up courses and entering lesson plans for Unit 1 of Tapestry of Grace. I did well with Unit 1, but fell behind for Unit 2. At the end of November, I quit doing medical transcription and was able to enter all of the Unit 3 information. At that time, I decided that I would only enter assignments for Nathan and Jordan, as they are doing the dialectic level of TOG. Of course, I also entered information for other academics, but I focused primarily on entering courses for Tapestry of Grace because it covers several subjects and I wanted "practice" keeping track of them. I find that other subjects, like math, are much easier to keep track of if you are using a textbook. We will be finishing Tapestry of Grace Year 3 this summer, and I have not yet entered the Unit 4 information. If I can get to it, then I will enter it. Otherwise, I am not going to stress over it. Nathan and I will have to work on a feasible plan for keeping up with his work; I will post about that after we have done it. All in all, trying various organizational methods has helped me to see what will and will not work for us, so I do not think it has been a total waste of time.

Nathan had also asked for grades at the end of seventh grade, so I set up a grading system for Tapestry of Grace based on points. If you are interested, you will find it here. We have not followed it strictly; I just wanted to have written guidelines for myself. I recently discovered that Michigan's new high school graduation requirements focus on "proficiency in expectations, not seat time." (Michigan Merit Curriculum High School Graduation Requirements) Many homeschoolers seem to focus on mastery for "grading" or passing our students. I was very encouraged when I saw that the public schools in Michigan are now doing the same thing. I am reevaluating evaluation strategies for unit study type subjects based on my research. Most states, including Michigan, make downloads of course expectations available. They are boring to read (imo), but would make good checklists for those interested in putting together their own courses.

Evaluating High School Readiness

In addition to "practicing" organizing and grading Nathan's work, we sat down together last September (the beginning of his eighth grade year) and evaluated his readiness for high school subject matter. Math and writing were the weak points.

I love the "Living Math" approach, but I have never been successful in implementing it (sigh). We put together an eclectic plan for math using living math books, a video tutoring program that my husband won at an HSB contest a couple of years ago and some Key to... Series materials. He made quite a bit of progress using the Key to... books, but other than that there was not much progress. After some research and discussion with Rob and Nathan, and evaluation of Nathan's math progress, we decided to order Teaching Textbooks Math 7 in March. Nathan is halfway through the program right now and is doing well. Jordan (finishing seventh grade) is also doing the program. It looks like TT Math 7 will be enough to prepare them for Algebra I, but I will know more once Nathan completes the program. The question at that time will be which Algebra program to use. That, however, will be a topic for another post.

Now for writing.... This has always been a struggle with the boys. The girls write voluntarily and often, but the boys hate writing. The plan was to stick with the Tapestry of Grace writing assignments, which are excellent. However, as usual, I had difficulty keeping up with the evaluation and Nathan fell "behind." As I look back, though, his writing has improved and he did quite a bit more than I realized. I highly recommend downloading and reading the free copy of Teaching Your Children to Write, available at Cardamom Publishers. This is an encouraging 4-page article that has helped me keep my focus and not stress out about writing. I have it printed out and available for when I need to get back on track with this subject.

This post is longer than I thought it would be, so I will turn it into a series. This sums up some of the organization and evaluation strategies we pursued during Nathan's middle school years. In the next post, I will detail some of what we have discussed and planned over the last couple of months, eventually followed by a post covering our plan of action for ninth grade.

Helpful Related Websites and Internet Articles

Google "your state's graduation requirements" to find all kinds of helpful information

The HomeScholar Helper (a very encouraging and helpful website - sign up for her newsletter here)

Planning High School Courses (a Heart of the Matter article written by the HomeScholar Helper - see a list of her HOTM articles here)

Answers: High School Homeschooling, by Dr. Ruth Beechick

Homeschooling Thru High School (HSLDA - tons of info, including developing a plan, evaluating credits, and much more)

High School Resources (at about.com - quite an eclectic mix of articles)

Older Kids at A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling (another great list of articles)

HomeschoolBlogger Comments
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Jul. 8, 2008 - Loamhedge

Posted by pureone

You can read it as soon as I finish it I am almost done


Jul. 8, 2008 - Untitled Comment

Posted by ApplesofGold

Wow-this is great info. I'm not there yet, but will save your post for future reference. Holly

Jul. 8, 2008 - We are walking together...

Posted by proverbsmomof3

on the road through high school. I'm very lucky though, I taught HS in a private school for 3 years, and my oldest finished his senior year homeschooling, so I have a good idea of what is expected. That doesn't mean I'm confident, just have a bit of a clue.
Don't know if you knew this but HSTracker has Yahoo groups where people post their lesson plans to share. You may find some already set up there that you can use or adjust as you need. Makes it a lot easier when people share. LOL
Love all the website links you shared. Gives me some new reading. Thanks.

Jul. 9, 2008 - You sure are...

Posted by mom2two

...organized and ready to go! Thanks for the book suggestion. This high school season is going to be a journey, but I know God has already made plans for each of our children. We just need to remember to put our trust in Him each and every day.

Good luck on your journey!
Yvonne :o)

Jul. 9, 2008 - Hey there

Posted by SuperAngel

I hope you get everything figured out and I hope Nathan will enjoy his high school years!

Thanks for coming by and reading the carnival!
Prayers and Blessings,
Miss Amanda

Jul. 15, 2008 - thanks

Posted by Anonymous

Very informative post! I enjoyed reading about how you grade your unit study program. I had been wondering how we would do this with MFW this year.


Jul. 30, 2008 - Untitled Comment

Posted by lahbluebonnet

My dd is starting 9th grade and we've been making decisions too. She does know what she wants to study in college. She's had learning delays but has really come up to speed with our curriculum choices the last few years. A major decision for us this year has been how much TOG work to do in R level and how much in D. We now think we have a plan there.

July 7, 2008

Menu Plan Monday ~ July 7

Today is Menu Plan Monday. If you want to see others' menus for this week or post your own, head on over to orgjunkie.com.

I cooked a lot of "base" foods and put them in the freezer over the last several weeks, so I will be using these to throw together quick meals. We have commitments every night during the week, so I am very grateful to have precooked, mostly nutritious food in the freezer. I am thrilled to have found so many tasty recipes that include dried beans and whole grains; these types of foods really help keep the food expenses down and are full of nutrition, and it is definitely a plus when the family likes the food (at least a little).

These dinners are pretty frugal and healthful. I have a few favorite sites for really inexpensive recipes: Lentils and Rice (a new fav), The Family Homestead and Hillbilly Housewife.


Black Bean Burritos (I made two of these casseroles last week and we only ate one - everyone loved it), Corn


Red and Yellow Chowder, Salad


Lentil Burgers (made from frozen cooked lentils & rice), Steamed Greens, Carrots


Chili (from frozen cooked white and red beans), Salad


Leftovers, hopefully


Spaghetti (with meat sauce from the freezer), Salad


Sandwiches, something crockpotty, or something easy to throw together!