Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Homeschooling High School: What it Looks Like From {Almost} the End of Sophomore Year

There's been some talk with my other Schoolhouse Review Crewmates about the lack of blogs about
high school.  It gets harder and harder to blog about high school, because life gets more personal for a teen.  My goal is to be honest and transparent about home education in our house, but I do not want to regret anything that I may post about my homeschooled high school student -- now or in the future.

And to be most brutally honest: sometimes it isn't fun to blog about homeschooling high school. Sometimes, this is just a hard task and I don't want to talk about it.

But, maybe a post like this will help someone:  Homeschooling high school is 100% doable.  It is a blessing to be able to talk, discuss and watch this man develop from my little boy.  There are many resources out there for helping with the high school journey.  Do not be afraid.

If God is calling you to homeschool high school, you will be able to do it.

I think of the homeschool journey like this:

The elementary years are fun and play.  Introducing ideas and discovery. The middle are more serious.  Solidifying skills.  Writing.  Seeing connections.

But high school -- that is the fruit.  The relationship you built during the "fun" and "skill" years blossoms here:  this is where you tackle ideas and faith and The World and My Place in It.  The work you've put into the younger years bears fruit now.  Wouldn't you want to be the one to nurture that fruit?

I am sharing these glimpses of our two years of homeschooling high school with you.  Some of these memories came with a little more lecturing (from me) than necessary.  Some come with laughter and teasing between my son and I.  Some come with muttered prayers for grace for both of us, and even tears (from both of us).  But, it is all couched in love and the joy of seeing my boy mature.

Homeschooling High School.... 

It is staying up late with your child the first night before a big project is due, so he won't feel all alone downstairs...
...and it is saying "good-night" at 11:30pm a few weeks later as your high schooler reaps what he has sown in terms of time management lessons.

It is agonizing over the enormous multitude of ways a high schooler can be educated at home, worried that a wrong decision will forever doom your child from The-College-of -His-Choice...
...and it is remembering that you love your child more than any other teacher or administrator in the world, and that your decisions are guided by the hand of God, and all is well nestled in His palm.

It is watching your student say, "No, I like doing all the math problems," when you tell him he doesn't have to do each problem on each worksheet...
...and it is sending him back to research more supports for his paper's thesis.

It is watching that kid discover passions and pleasure in learning new things...
...and holding him accountable for the work and deadlines, hopefully with encouraging words, but sometimes having to apologize for less encouraging words.

Homeschooling high school is when your son asks your opinion on his English paper...
...and making him re-do a Biology test because he really needs to understand it better.

It is the advice often given out of love and experience ("take notes while you read")...
...and it is not shouting out "I told you so" when advice is not heeded.

Homeschooling high school is looking at your son's literature reading list and being intrigued enough to read one of the selections ahead of him...
...and reading a second of his lit. books because he reported it was his favorite book of the year.

It is pulling out an air horn to wake him up in the morning...
...and receiving a nightly kiss while he jokingly calls me "Mommy."

It is struggling to grade his paper not for a grade...
...but to encourage his growth as a writer, a thinker, and a debater.

Homeschooling high school is seeing yourself in your son...
...seeing your mistakes and your successes, and remembering that experience (not advice) is often the best teacher.

It is knowing if he is eating his veggies at lunch...
...and not caring if he doesn't eat breakfast until 10am, pj bottoms still on.

It is encouraging your child to take his training run mid-day because he's been working hard...
...and supporting his work ethic when he chooses to sit out a Saturday because he is behind.

It is looking for opportunities for your child to explore their area of interests...
...and teaching perseverance because sometimes, you just have to jump through the hoops to achieve your dreams.

It is listening to thesis statements, questioning word choices...
..laughing and teasing one another all in the same breath.

It is being able to finish up one math course half way through the year...
...and start the next right away.

Homeschooling high school is seeing your son mature in his faith in slow steps and great leaps...
and praying, praying, and praying at each movement.

*  *  *

Homeschooling high school is one of the hardest and scariest things I've ever done...

I hope it hasn't ruined my relationship with my son due to our constantly being together....
...and yet that struggle of constantly being together gives me hope that both of us are experiencing character growth through Christ that will honor one another and Christ throughout our lives.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Orphs of the Woodlands {Crew Review}

This is, by far, Levi's all time favorite review in the history of all reviews.

A creative company called Star Toaster (I mean, really, isn't that an awesome company name?) has created a fabulously interactive online tool called Orphs of the Woodlands that (1) gets kids reading while (2) playing an online adventure for (3) humanitarian (or mouse-atarian) aid while (4) brushing up on academic skills, character skills and life skills.

It is a home run in all aspects.

Orphs of the Woodlands can be purchased for a 60-day subscription for $19.99 for up to 3 students (WOW!).  If you need to extend your subscription, you can, for just $6.99/ month (30 days).  You will need an internet connection to use this program each time.

Getting Started:  Your student will log on to the website with their own password to access their story.  Parent accounts also have their own password, which allows you to see their progress through the 15-chapter story (over 300 online 'pages).  You can even view their work in the quizzes and 'jobs' and see their correct and incorrect answers.

After logging in the first time, students are given their mission. They become a squirrel spy -- naming themselves and indicating identifying information about their character.  Levi chose to become "Joey," an honest and diligent gray squirrel who loves the color red. Their job is find the treasure of High Tower. Along the way, you save orphan animals -- squirrels, mice, and chipmunks -- who live in the woodlands.  The 'bad guys' are the Night Creatures, who are also trying to get the treasure.

Goldstars (the currency of this land) are awarded after you finish reading each of the chapters of this adventurous story.  You earn this money by completing various "jobs."  For example, after the first chapter, you earn money by working in a print shop.  Here, your child will work through several vocabulary exercises -- using words that were highlighted in the text of the chapter they just finished.  These Goldstars can then be used to purchase food, water, medicine, etc. for the care of the Orphs that want to be with you.  The more you are able to care for your Orphs, the more Orphs will come to you.

Jobs: Each of the jobs has a teaching component prior to the quiz to earn the Goldstars.

If you successfully complete the quiz, you earn you pay in Goldstars.  These Goldstars are used to help care for the Orphs.  More Orphs will start coming to you after you care for your Orphs. Goldstars can be used to purchase land, food, water, and even an orphanage (if you have a LOT of gold stars).  Here's a snip from Levi's screen, showing some of what he's purchased and what needed to be purchased next (He finished the book, and has no option to continue earning, so he's at a standstill):

How We Used This:  
Levi had no trouble using this product -- he absolutely LOVED it, and would work through it for HOURS at a time, if I'd let him.  As a matter of fact, I had forgotten he was working on it one morning, and didn't realize until lunch that he had been on nearly all morning -- oops!

Levi is not a hesitant reader, so there had never been any struggle in getting him to work through the program.  He really LOVED the entire premise as well as jobs.  Although it is designed for 4th - 7th graders, Levi (3rd grade) had no difficulty using it or understanding the story.  He reads above grade level anyway.  When we were discussing the story, however, he decided that it may not be for every 7th grader -- unless they particularly like animal based adventures.

One of the things that we never did during this review period was actually COOK one of the recipes that was shared in the program.  In order to complete the quizzes for the nutrition jobs, students did not have to actually bake or cook any of the recipes, but rather they were quizzed on the nutritional value of some of the ingredients.

Our Recommendation:  Levi has really LOVED this product and it has introduced him to some concepts that we haven't covered yet in his schoolwork, but he has remembered so much from the learning jobs!  We have plans to make one of the recipes soon, and he was THRILLED about that.

I definitely think this is a great {sneaky} tool to get kids reading and working on a variety of skills.  It would be a great summer "computer time" product!

If you are curious to know how older students fared with this product, please click below:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

{Not So} Wordless Wednesday - Easter 2015

The anticipation for Good Friday and Easter was a little different this year.  Not only was I looking forward to a nice, Spring-like Easter (which didn't happen -- the Spring-like part), but we were also looking forward to the Friday part of Good Friday.  

Dave had been working during the week on the other side of the state since before Christmas. Although he came home on the weekends, we really missed him during the week....especially the younger boys.  

So Good Friday was Good Good Friday -- the culmination of Jesus' mission on earth and the completion of Dave's assignment and his homecoming for good. 

The Thursday of Holy Week, our church middle school (and their moms) prepared a Christ in the Passover meal for us:

We did not eat a complete meal, just learned about the elements of a traditional Seder meal and the symbolism behind them.  We also watched a video done by a rabbi which explained how Jesus is revealed in the meal.  This is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of Easter.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Weekly Reports: A Season of Read-Alouds

One of the blessings I've enjoyed this year with Luke and Levi is all the read-alouds we've done this year.  I'll admit that last year (our first in Classical Conversations), we were very lax in the read-aloud department because I felt so overwhelmed with all the (good) changes it brought.  

But this year I made an effort to collect a bunch of books I wanted to re-read;  many of the books I had read to Ben when he was in elementary school and Luke was a toddler or kindergartener.  Luke wasn't much of a listener back then, preferring to run off and play with toys.  So, these books are basically brand new to him, just like they are to Levi.  

Most of the books have a relationship to our Cycle 3 American History theme in CC this year, but not all -- The Phantom Tollbooth  was a huge hit as our first read aloud of the year.  

Some favorites from this year:

Amos Fortune, Free Man
Diary of a Real Payne: Oh, Baby!
Rush Revere books
Toliver's Secret
The Sign of the Beaver

I hope to finish off Mr. Bowditch soon, and then read another few Challenge A literature books. My goal is to finish at least two more before the end of May and the beginning of summer.  I think it would be fun to switch things up and delve into A Door in the Wall as well as Number the Stars.  

While I've been reading the boys have been enjoying building structures:


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Homeschooling High School: Dual Enrollment Options at Christian Colleges & Universities

A few months ago, when I realized that Ben's sophomore year was halfway over (aack!), I started searching ot dual enrollment programs in which we might participate.  Honestly, I was specifically searching out Christian colleges, because I want that bit of worldview in his courses while he is still under my roof.

So, I started just googling myself.  There are already a few Christian schools on my radar, based on the fact that I live in the Northeast region of the US.  But then I inquired on some facebook groups I'm in, and my list got a bit longer and more diverse.  Please note that I have no experience with any of these (yet). I'm just including this as a jumping off point for myself and others like me who want to offer this to their students.

Most of these programs do require you to be 16 and/or a junior or senior.  Programs are always popping up and changing, but here's some interesting options (in no particular order). Several of the colleges allow these credits to easily flow into a college experience and help to significantly reduce on-campus costs when students matriculate.

Please note: I'll come back here to update information as I learn more about these programs as well as if anyone has comments about these or other programs.  Visit back!

Bluefield College in VA offers dual enrollment classes for only $130/ course (6 credit maximum per  semester).

Liberty University offers their EDGE program for dual enrollment at $495/ course.

Regent University has a program called "early college" at $155/ credit.

Maranatha Baptist University provides a 50% tuition break on their dual enrollment courses.  I actually know a student who is working through this program, and he and his mom are both very happy with the program.

Letourneau University offers dual credit for $120/ credit

Cedarville University in Ohio has many different programs for dual enrollment homeschoolers (espeically if you live in Ohio!).

At $165/ credit, Grove City College is another option.

Belhaven University seems to be a comprehensive program, not a per-class program.

Master's College offers courses (with shorter 8-week terms) for $150/ unit

Ohio Christian University offers courses for $160/unit through their Trailblazers Academy.  Semesters are 13 weeks long.

The University of Valley Forge  has a program called Early College start for $99/credit.

Bethel College in Tennessee offers dual enrollment for high school juniors and seniors at $375 per course (3-credits).

Davis College in New York State also offers courses for $375/ course. This program advertises to sophomores in addition to high school juniors and seniors.

Finally, Bryan College (Tennessee) offers several dual enrollment classes in connection with Classical Conversation's upper level Challenge courses.  You must be enrolled in CC in order to take these courses, which cost an additional $300 each. You can learn about the program at the CC+ site.

Do you have any experiences with Christian college dual enrollment?  Please let me know.