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.

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