Timeline of Events for High School Students

Oftentimes homeschooled students miss out on opportunities because they are unaware of available events as well as the deadlines associated with certain opportunities. Planning ahead will help your students successfully complete high school and be well prepared for life after graduation. Below are suggestions to consider for each grade of high school. There are links included that will direct you to sites with more information or past blog posts that address particular subject matters. Some of the information is repeated in more than one grade and, although it may seem redundant, it allows parents to skip to a later grade if their students have already completed an earlier grade.

General Advice:  

Begin helping the student discover his/her gifts and talents. Discuss classes to include in the high school years.  English, history, science and math in addition to classes that interest the student, encourage character, teach computer skills, and more. Include specialized classes or co-ops that encourage the talents and interests of the student when possible. Be aware that there may be state requirements regarding particular courses necessary for a homeschooled student to earn state grants. In addition, some colleges have certain requirements regarding classes that should be included on a student’s high school transcript. Not all colleges require two years of the same foreign language in high school, but some do. Most expect to see four credits of English, three or four years of math, three credits of science (with at least one lab), and three credits social studies. Many states have added a half credit for personal finance to their suggested guidelines. There are no laws regarding the credits a homeschooled student needs to graduate, only guidelines, but knowing the requirements for state grants as well as the expectations of the colleges your student is considering will help you plan to meet your state’s requirements and the requirements of your top college choices. The state of Tennessee does not require a homeschooled student to take particular classes in order to earn state grants, but an ACT or SAT score is required. Some states may require certain GPAs, test scores and/or community service for grants. The grants often have deadlines for application so be sure you are aware of that information before the student begins his senior year. Bryan College does not have specific requirements for high school courses but, depending on the student’s desired major, certain high school classes may be recommended by faculty members. For instance, if a student plans to pursue an Engineering degree, then taking an increased number of math and science classes during high school will help better prepare the student for that major.

Opportunities: Discover local opportunities for co-ops, classes, athletic, music, drama, and additional events that may be worth pursuing. Look into Civil Air Patrol and TeenPact. Join a local speech and debate club (or, in the absence of a local club, start one). STOA and NCFCA are two Christian homeschool speech and debate clubs. One of my regrets after homeschooling my 9 for more than 32 years is not getting involved in speech and debate clubs until my oldest four had completed high school. 

9th grade

Transcripts:  Keep records to be inserted in a transcript including subjects studied along with credits and grades earned. If you would like to use the Transcript Genie offered for free by Bryan College to build a professional-looking transcript (it even calculates and weights grades), go to this link, scroll down and enter your email address. There is also a free eBook called The Journey that you can request and it will provide information on testing, scholarships, and more.

Community Service:  Look for opportunities for your student (and/or the entire family) to participate in volunteer opportunities, ministries, camps, classes, and more. Keep a record of volunteer hours and hold on to any certificates earned.

Portfolio:  Begin collecting and filing documents that provide proof of the student’s participation in community service, mission trips, camps, classes, athletic events, awards, certifications, and more. If your student is featured in an article, add a copy of the article to the portfolio. If your student has work published, include that in the portfolio.

Testing:  Participate in the PSAT testing if possible. This is an affordable test for students offered in October and, in 2021, an additional test date in January was added. Register your student for the CLT10. Students can take this test several times a year at home, for free, on a computer, with the parent proctoring. Parents can order the analytics for a small fee.

Summer:  Check out camps, mission trips, internships and apprenticeships that might interest your student.  A student of this age can often be trained to work at camps, gaining experience, responsibility, and qualifications for potential summer job opportunities. Making money, although beneficial, should not always be the deciding factor when choosing between opportunities. Students may gain more experience and character growth in volunteer positions.

Dual Enrollment: Look into dual enrollment classes for the 10th grade year. Dual enrollment is a great opportunity as it allows a student to earn both high school and college credit at the same time, but it is not without dangers. Homeschooled students often make a few mistakes pertaining to dual enrollment and this post will help you avoid those mistakes. Choosing which dual enrollment class a student should take is also important.  

10th grade

If the state in which you live offers grants and scholarships for dual enrollment and college then find out the qualifications for participation in order to make sure your student meets the requirements. Bryan College allows 10th graders to take dual enrollment classes but the requirements are more stringent than the requirements for 11th and 12th graders, so planning ahead to meet those requirements is important.

Plan classes according to academic needs, talents and interest, and opportunity.

Testing:  Participate in the PSAT testing that takes place if possible. Register your student for the CLT10. Students can take this free test several times a year at home, on a computer, with the parent proctoring. Parents can order the analytics for a small fee. 10th graders taking the CLT10 may qualify for scholarships offered by the CLT. Consider having your student take college entrance exams, particularly if test scores are required for dual enrollment classes. Most colleges accept both the ACT and the SAT. Many Christian colleges accept the CLT.

College Credits: If your student is ready to take college classes, find a college that is a good fit for your student. (Bryan College offers online classes four times a year with out-of-state scholarships.)  Be sure you discover guidelines for dual enrollment because, in some instances, college entrance exam test scores are required. Consider CLEP and AP possibilities for additional college credit. 

Opportunities: Discover local opportunities for co-ops, classes, athletes, music, drama, and additional opportunities. Look into Civil Air Patrol and TeenPact. Join a local speech and debate club (or, in the absence of a local club, start one) STOA or NCFCA

Summer:  Consider dual enrollment classes, camps, mission trips, internships and apprenticeships.  A student of this age can often be trained to work at camps, gaining experience, responsibility, and qualifications for potential summer job opportunities.  

11th grade

Plan classes according to academic needs, talents and interest, and opportunity.

If the state in which you live offers grants and scholarships for dual enrollment and college, find out the qualifications for participation.

Preparing for College: Attend college fairs and visit colleges of interest. Take college entrance exams, pinpoint weaknesses and tutor to the weakness. Purchase materials that will help improve test scores. Consider on-line tutoring for test prep such as 36 University (enter code “bryan” and save $3 a month, reducing the price to $12 a month). Schedule campus visits at colleges of interest. Begin with the virtual tours offered online, and visit in person when possible, preferably when classes are taking place so the student can attend classes. Begin applying to colleges of interest when permitted (find out if there are events or times when the application fees are waived). Research scholarship and grant opportunities offered by the state in which you live, the colleges you are considering, as well as independent scholarships. This article gives suggestions for making college affordable.

Testing:  Discover opportunities for taking the PSAT the summer before, or at the beginning of the 11th grade year. It is the score from the PSAT taken during the 11th grade year that qualifies students for National Merit Scholarships. A National Merit Semi-finalist receives full tuition at Bryan College.

November:  Answers in Genesis sponsors a free college expo for high school students that includes a free ticket to the Ark and the possibility of winning a $500 scholarship.

Summer:  Consider attending camps that are held at the college your student is considering attending. Request a FAFSA ID for student and parent in order to fill out the FAFSA the senior year.

12th grade

Plan classes according to academic needs, talents and interest, and opportunity. If you would like to print a diploma for your student, the free e-resource mentioned, The Journey, includes an editable diploma template. None of my nine children have ever needed a diploma. What they did need was a completed transcript.

Continue attending college fairs and visiting colleges of interest unless a firm decision has been made at this time. 

If the state in which you live offers grants and scholarships for dual enrollment (and college) find out the qualifications for participation early in the year because deadlines are often tied to certain opportunities. If your state offers grants for college, but you know your student will be attending an out-of-state college, then using the college grant (borrowing against it) for dual enrollment will save you money in the long run. Students planning to attend an in-state college may also want to borrow against a state grant for dual enrollment because the cost of dual enrollment classes is often much lower than the cost of traditional college classes.

Make sure all classes necessary for graduation are scheduled to be completed either by participation in class or by testing.  

Apply to colleges of interest. 

Continue earning college credits via dual enrollment classes, CLEP (can now be taken virtually from home) or AP tests (can now be taken from home). Continue taking college entrance exams. As a result of COVID many colleges are test optional meaning they will use a student’s GPA for merit scholarship, without requiring a test score. However, most test optional colleges will accept test scores and use the scores to award scholarship amounts if the exam score increases the amount a student can earn beyond what the GPA entitles the student to be awarded.

Attend scholarship events (when applicable) that take place at the college of interest.  At Bryan College these events take place once during each semester.  These are invitation only events, extended to qualifying seniors who have applied to Bryan College and each participant receives additional scholarship funds of varying amounts based on an interview with faculty or staff.

Be sure your student has developed time management skills. If the student is taking a dual enrollment class or attending a structured co-op then, more-than-likely, the student is honing these skills. This article offers five steps to help students improve their study skills.

October:  Fill out the FAFSA. You may want to wait a few days because the first few days are filled with so many families completing the FAFSA that the site gets bogged down. But, do not wait too long because in certain situations scholarships may be first come, first serve.

November:  Answers in Genesis sponsors a free college expo for high school students that includes a free ticket to the Ark and the possibility of winning a $500 scholarship.

Spring:  Be sure all subjects necessary for graduation will be completed.  There may be state requirements for homeschooled students to complete specific courses in order to earn state grants. Some colleges have certain requirements regarding classes that should be included on a student’s transcript. Make sure all requirements are met. Continue taking college entrance exams if higher scores are needed for scholarships. 

Summer:  Consider sending your student to camps that are held at the college your student plans to attend if that’s an option. At Bryan College a senior enrolled at Bryan will earn a small scholarship for attending Bryan’s Summer Institute. A high school graduate can also dual enroll with Bryan College the summer after graduation. If your student plans to live on campus, then he may very well find a suitable roommate while attending the camp.

The earlier you start preparing your high school student for success, the better it will be for everyone involved. However, if you are like I was with my oldest kiddos, and you are late to the game, do what you can to play catch up and make up for lost time. Even though my older students were ill prepared (thanks to my lack of knowledge concerning many of these issues), they did well after high school. Could they have done better or had an easier time getting to where they wanted to go had I better prepared them? Probably, but I was doing all I knew to do at that time. Give yourself some grace and utilize the information that is available to you and your students now that you are aware of the options and opportunities. Feel free to email me at pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.

Five Steps to Improving Study Skills and Time Management

At a visitation day at Bryan College several years ago, we had a question and answer session set up with a panel of ten college students who were homeschooled. A parent asked, “What was the most difficult adjustment to college life and, what would you recommend to incoming students in order to be better prepared?” All ten students said that time management was the most difficult adjustment. The recommendation made by the students was for high school students to either participate in a co-op or a class where they answer to someone other than mom or, if able, to take dual enrollment classes. Unless the student is taking a class on time management, this skill is not learned through the curriculum but, rather, through the process. The flexibility that homeschooling allows, although advantageous, is often a contributing factor to poor time management. Having to complete homework, turn in assignments, take tests, and participate in group forums (or activities) with deadlines forces students to sink or swim. We don’t want them to sink, so let’s help them swim.

Although dual enrollment is a great way to introduce high school students to the rigor of college classes, your students will do better if they have learned how to manage their time beforehand. Students who are able to organize their schedules, develop good study skills, and manage their time well will have much less stress than students who fly by the seat of their pants, hoping everything will come together in the end. In several of the articles I’ve written, I point out that there are neglected subjects that may be as important, or more important, than the core classes for high school students. Time management is a skill that should be taught long before students head off to college, so let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of how to do this.

  1. Set the Environment: Because students are very diverse in how they learn, there is no black and white, one-size-fits all method, but the principles are similar. Where to begin? Let’s start with where your students study. Encourage them to prepare a study environment that works well for them. When studying, students should put their phone on silent, and put it away so they won’t be tempted to pick it up and check notifications. Create a ritual that enhances their ability to concentrate. For some, that will mean working in total silence while for others, background music may be helpful. Running a diffuser, lighting a candle, or turning on a fan are other suggestions that could be incorporated into the process. Some students can sit at a dining table with activities going on all around them and not be distracted, while others need a setting with as few distractions as possible. When I was in college I doodled while I took notes. It helped me concentrate. For others, that would be a distraction. Do not impose on your students the environment that works best for you if it does not work for them. On the other hand, if a student insists on a certain study environment, but work is not getting accomplished, then changes may need to be made. If your home does not allow for a quiet place, yet that is what your student needs, then purchase a noise blocking device such as headphones, ear muffs, or ear plugs. If you are not familiar with Cynthia Tobias and her book, The Way They Learn, I highly recommend it. This video is part 1 of a two part series that is well worth listening to when you have time. Not only does Cynthia help you understand the differences in how we learn, but she’s quite funny and entertaining too! This site contains free resources from Cynthia including multiple tips for parenting!
  2. Manage Study Periods. Making the best use of the time allotted for study is crucial to successful studying. If possible, it is helpful to schedule specific, consistent study times. One method many students have found helpful is called the Pomodoro method. This method has the student set a timer for short, intense periods of study. When the timer ends, the student takes a break and then resets the timer. According to William Wadsworth, “The benefits of working in intense, timed bursts separated by breaks includes:
  • Better motivation: bolster determination to achieve your goals by having an external motivator (the ticking clock) to get you fired up.
  • Enhance focus and concentration, encouraging you to cut out interruptions and stay on task.
  • Strengthen your determination to keep on trying even when you don’t feel like it, or the work is tough, because you can’t quit while the timer is ticking.
  • Higher levels of energy and intensity because of the mild time-pressure, with breaks serving as opportunities to pause and refresh before going again.”

The Pomodoro method may not work for everyone, but it’s worth checking out. It helped one of my sons when he began using it while in college. The article includes specifics regarding this method, so check it out.

3. Discover the Most Effective Way to Study. There are several types of learners and, for that reason, some methods of study are more effective than others, depending on the student’s learning style. Some students are visual, needing to see notes on the material being presented. Handwriting notes for review is most helpful for many. More than a few college professors do not allow students to take notes on laptops and, for that reason (among others), knowing how to take handwritten notes effectively is important. There are many articles that defend the value of handwritten notes and this article, from NPR, shares research results while giving more than a few reasons for this stance. For those who do take notes while studying, this article describes the Cornell method of notetaking. This video summarizes the Cornell method in less than a minute. Until my son told me about the Cornell method, I had never heard of it. In my opinion, the concept is simple, and brilliant!

While some students are visual learners, others are auditory learners and, for those students, dictating information that they can repeatedly listen to is beneficial.

Thanks to modern technology, studying, regardless of the type of learner, has become easier. There are free phone apps that help with a variety of study methods. When my daughter, Courtlyn, was in nursing school, needing to learn to identify parts of the body visually and by name, she used Chegg to create flashcards that included photographs as well text. She is a kinesthetic learner (absorbs information through touch, movement and motion) and she found that hand writing each slide from her professor’s powerpoint presentations helped her commit the information to memory. Quizlet is another popular app. In addition to learning tools, this app has flashcards and pre-set quizzes (which may have been added by professors or by students). Quizlet even allows professors to create in-class games. According to this article, with Quizlet you can:
– Get test-day ready with Learn
– Put your memory to the test with Write
– Race against the clock in a game of Match
– Share flashcards with classmates (if you’re a student) or your students (if you’re a teacher)
– Listen to your material pronounced correctly in 18 languages
– Enhance your studying with custom images and audio

4. Set a Schedule. If your students do not set aside specific times to study then, more than likely, time will slip by with little or no studying taking place. When setting a schedule, break up assignments into time increments that are doable and that allow for on-time (or early) completion. Be sure to highlight important deadlines and test dates. Set aside a liberal amount of time to be used exclusively for studying and for homework. The time set aside need not be one block of time. If a student has time in the morning, afternoon, and/or evening, several blocks of time can be set aside. Using a white board to write down the student’s schedule creates a visual reminder for the student while allowing the parent to be aware of whether the student is sticking to the schedule, or not. Online calendars are also great for setting up schedules because reminders and alarms can be put in place, ensuring the student’s awareness of the schedule, avoiding missed deadlines.

5. Prioritize. Students need to be intentional about scheduling time to study and time to complete assignments. If your students are not self-disciplined, then they may need to be held accountable for their time and if that is the case, withholding privileges until work is complete may be adequate motivation. Work first, then play.

With intention, good study habits can be learned, time can be managed, and as a result, stress will be lessened.

Choosing Curriculum: A Guide to Planning for Elementary, Middle and High School Students

Whether you are new to homeschooling or you have been homeschooling for a while with students moving up to another level, this article will provide guidelines to consider when making plans for your students.

Although the suggestions I make in this article are general and eclectic, it may be worth your while to take a look at the multiple styles and methods of homeschooling. You may be surprised at the many choices and philosophies available for your consideration. There is no right or wrong choice. You may try out one style only to discover it is not the best fit for your family. In the end, you may find the best plan is to pick and choose from various styles in order to design a plan that works for you and your family.  Two books that will encourage you in your homeschooling journey are Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah McKenzie and Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

For elementary students, keep it simple and keep it fun. Creating a love of learning is the key to raising students who are academically successful. Do not worry about curriculum. It is available for your use, but you have done well teaching your children from birth to age 5 without curriculum, so if you want to continue in the same manner, jerry-wang-0qmXPnZKeLU-unsplashgo for it! The freedom and flexibility of homeschooling allows you to plan your students’ experiences around their learning style and their interests. If you do purchase a curriculum and it is not working the way you envisioned, feel free to set it aside, sell it, or give it away. Do not become enslaved to curriculum. If you feel a need to make purchases then purchase Legos, critical thinking games, a globe and maps, and fun items that inspire the imagination. During the younger years, a huge emphasis should be placed on reading aloud, enjoying nature, having discussions, and playing games. Go on fieldtrips. Visit museums, science centers, and zoos. Oftentimes, the cost of an annual family membership is not much more than the cost of a one-day visit, and many zoos and museums have reciprocal memberships! Involve your children in meal planning and grocery shopping. Reach out to your community and volunteer for opportunities to serve that allow your children to participate. Encourage your students to ask questions, and then guide them towards learning how to find the answers to their questions. No one can know everything, but students who learn how to find the answers to their questions become independent learners, allowing parents the luxury of not worrying about whether their students will succeed academically, or be left behind. Look for an upcoming article with specifics on how to encourage inquisitiveness and how to teach your students to find answers from reliable resources! When you have a few minutes, listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk on How Schools Kill Creativity.

MIDDLE SCHOOL

Although planning for middle school is not quite as important as the high school years, parents should begin getting serious about their students’ academic studies. During the elementary years you have, hopefully, instilled in your children a love of learning as well as having equipped them with the ability to find answers to their questions. The middle school years are challenging because of the physiological changes that start taking place and those changes often result in undesired attitudes surfacing. Expediting an academic plan may be fraught with the need to address character issues. Be sure you address the character issues. If you need to set aside academics in order to restore relationships or repair damage done by students who are acting out, do so. Do not be afraid to have non-negotiable parental mandates, but explain to your students the reasoning behind the decisions and alex-michaelsen-4jcZiXH63fM-unsplashdirections you pursue. They do not have to understand or agree with your decisions, but your students should be required to respond respectfully to you (and to others).

In addition to teaching your students how to answer questions, middle school is a great time to encourage students to question answers, but to do so respectfully. (Are you seeing a correlation to middle school and character issues?) If you have already lived through the middle school years you may chuckle at the advice to encourage your students to question answers because that tends to be natural for middle school students. They tend to question everything, particularly rules and expectations set forth by parents. Avoid answering with, “Because I said so,” if possible. You will gain respect if you take the time to share your heart and, even if your students are not mature enough to understand or agree with your explanation, they are apt to be less frustrated than they would be otherwise. Now that character issues have been addressed, let’s talk about subjects to cover.

Math: During middle school make sure your students have a firm understanding of basic math facts so that they will be adequately prepared to be introduced to algebra and geometry in high school. Being able to multiple mentally, whether by memorizing the times table or using another method to achieve that result, is imperative. Knowing how to divide without using a calculator is also important. Understanding percentages and fractions is equally important to having a firm foundation for higher level math classes.

English: In high school your student should begin writing essays so while in middle school introduce your students to simple writing assignments such as book reports, short stories, testimonies, and more. Continue to read aloud, but assign great literature to be read by your students as well. You may find your students are willing to read more if they are allowed to read the biographies found in the juvenile section of the library. Rather than reading one biography that is over 200-300 pages long, your student can read five or six, or more, biographies that are of much shorter length. There are many resources for literature-driven curriculum.

History: I was that student who thought history was the most boring subject on the planet until I began homeschooling my students and discovered historical fiction! Reading books that brought history to life led me to have a deep love for history! Introduce your students to history through literature or through unit studies! For American history, the House of Winslow series is very historically accurate. If your students are reading biographies, then chances are they may want to further pursue information about the period of history being covered by the biography they are reading. With one of my sons (who loves history), we went through the Timetables of History (a chronological record of history from the beginning of written records) and when something sparked further interest, we looked up videos and articles pertaining to that event. For those looking for a literature-based history curriculum, TruthQuest may be just what you need.

Science: Because your student will be taking biology and chemistry in high school, the middle school years should include an introduction to basic science that includes life, earth, and physical science. If you are going for a more literature based approach, include biographies of great scientists. One of my favorite books to read aloud is Carry On Mr. Bowditch. Books about George Washington Carver were enjoyed as well. As far as text books go, many families choose to use Apologias books for science.

Electives: In addition to the basics, you may choose to add in any number of electives from physical education to music, foreign language, leadership, religions and worldviews, shop, cooking, or anything else that particularly interests your students.

group of people sitting on stairs

HIGH SCHOOL

Now is definitely the time to make specific plans for your students. Although you will have some flexibility, in order to ensure that your students are adequately prepared for life after high school, it is important to plan ahead. Be sure you prepare your students for college, whether they think they need college, or not. It is better to be prepared and not need it, than vice versa. I wrote an blog post that will help you avoid eight common mistakes that homeschooling parents make. If your students have no idea what they want to pursue after high school, help them discover their gifts, talents, and passions. Narrow down top college choices so you can find out what is expected from those colleges as far as admission requirements, transcript expectations, and scholarship potential. Feel free to download The Journey, a free e-resource that will help you plan ahead.

Transcripts: Although most states have suggested guidelines for high school graduation, there are no set-in-stone laws, so you have the freedom to plan according to what’s best for your student. The expectation is that a four-year high school transcript will include 22 to 24 credits. Most states expect a student to take at least 3 math classes, 3 or 4 English classes,  3 science classes (with at least 2 labs), 3 social studies, ½ credit for personal finance, 1 or 2 physical education credits, 2 foreign language credits, and the remainder as electives. Some states are more rigorous while others are more flexible but, again, these are guidelines and not mandates. Be aware that as flexible as you are allowed to be from a homeschooling point-of-view, you may find particular colleges have requirements that your student must fulfill in order to attend that college. For this reason, narrowing down college choices is vital to planning the courses for your students. Some homeschooling families have their students take a 5th year of high school and, believe it or not, colleges will accept a 5 year transcript from homeschooled students.

Curriculum: When I began homeschooling (in the 1980s) our curriculum choices were very limited. That is not the case today. There are online programs that are totally free (Easy Peasy and Kahn Academy are two programs often recommended) and there are many programs that can be purchased. There are textbooks available for every subject imaginable and there are products galore for the students who prefer learning without textbooks whether that is with CDs, videos, or with real books.

Course Selection: It is presumed that your student will take English, math, science, and social studies. Most state guidelines suggest two years of the same foreign language, although there are colleges that do not have that requirement. If you know what major your student will pursue, you can better plan which courses to choose. For instance, students who plan to become engineers should take as many math and science classes as possible while in high school. If your students show a particular interest in a subject, then have them take classes pertaining to that subject in order to confirm or refute that interest. If your students have no idea what they want to do after high school, then provide a well-rounded high school experience while trying to nail down a plan for after high school. My next article will include suggestions for helping your children discover their gifts, interests, and passions.

Beyond the Basics: Although we have all been conditioned to believe that including the classes mentioned above are sufficient for a proper education, I would like to suggest that there are classes worth considering that are equally (if not more) important to a well rounded education. Taking classes in current events, speech and debate, apologetics, logic, entrepreneurship and personal finance are classes that will help prepare your students for life after high school whether that includes college, or not. One of my regrets is not having my students involved in debate clubs until the 5th child (of 9) was in high school.  Once I became aware of the skills gained being involved in a debate club (there are at least three Christian homeschool debate leagues), my students were required to participate in a debate club for at least one year.

Books:  To help plan for the high school years read Celebrate Highschool: Finish with Excellence and More Than Credits: Skills Highschoolers Need for Life both written by Cheryl Bastain.

Test Prep. Because COVID has disrupted the ability for colleges to require test scores for admission and scholarships, many colleges are now test-optional. Whether these colleges will remain test-optional is yet to be known. Before COVID, the highest scholarships were awarded to students with high test scores (ACT, SAT and/or CLT). For that reason, spending time and money on your students so that they could adequately prepare for these tests and, taking the tests multiple times in order to raise their scores, was essential to families needing scholarships for their students (and, to be honest, most of us need all the financial help we can get). At this time, GPAs are being used by test-optional colleges when test scores are not available. For that reason, your students should be encouraged to achieve high grades even if that means repeating classes with poor grades.

Dual Enrollment. Taking college-level classes is a win/win for students who are ready and able to pass college-level classes. Not only will your students receive both high school and college credit, but one college class is usually counted as a full high school credit, meaning your students will earn a year’s worth of high school credit in one semester. This will either allow your student to graduate early or to continue taking college classes during high school. Dual enrollment is free in several states, discounted in some states and, oftentimes, discounted by the college. Bryan College offers dual enrollment classes on line four times a year with a $200 scholarship for out-of-state students and, for Tennessee students, the same scholarship is offered once the state DE grant is used. In fact, a Tennessee student can take 30 credit hours with Bryan College for as little as $600 if the student uses the DE grant, the school scholarship and the HOPE. As wonderful as the dual enrollment opportunity is for high school students, it is not without dangers.

As you make plans for your students’ academic future, take comfort in knowing that you have both the freedom and the flexibility to make adjustments as needed in order to improve your students’ homeschooling experience. There is no black-and-white, or right-or-wrong way to do this. Plan, pray, talk to friends, and research options and everything will eventually come together!

Matt and able at graduation

Starting the School Year With a Bang or a Fizzle

back to school

Summer’s almost over and many are about to begin (or have already begun) yet another school year.  Parents and students are excited to begin using new curriculum with the optimistic plan that this year will go more smoothly than ever before.  Unfortunately, for more than a few, within just a few days frustrations, caused by one or more of the following situations, may arise:

  1. Your student’s attention span is maxed out at five minutes.
  2. The curriculum that looked to be so user friendly is actually requiring much more preparation time than ever imagined.
  3. You realize you purchased far more curriculum than you could ever cover.
  4. The curriculum that looked perfect turns out to be not-so-wonderful.
  5. Teaching children of multiple ages is not as easy as veteran parents promised.
  6. Life happens.  Whether it’s illness, job transition, moving, extended family needs, or something else, disruption seems to be the norm.
  7. Laundry and dishes are piling up.  Meal planning is exhausting.
  8. Outside activities begin to rule the day, leaving little time for school or rest.
  9. Comparing your life with the lives of others who, via Facebook or by observing in person, appear to have it all together only adds to your feelings of inadequacy.

Calgon, take me away! (If you are not familiar with these vintage commercials, take a look. Go ahead.  This one is very short.  You will appreciate it!)

What’s a mom to do? The temptation is to throw up your hands, give up, and muddle through each day the best you can, knowing that you can endure yet another not-so-perfect year of homeschooling.  Do not give into that temptation.  With a few changes, homeschooling can be a blessing to both you and your children.

The first thing to do is to prioritize.  What is the most important objective to accomplish? Make a list of what you want to see completed by the end of the year.  Be realistic.  If your children are unkind and disobedient, then it may be more important to prioritize character training over academics (although it does not have to be an “either/or”).  If your house is in total disarray than perhaps getting the house in order can become the priority and you can train your children to be proficient housekeepers!  If your children have very short attention spans, then be pro-active in training them to lengthen their attention spans.  If your children have short attention spans, then you may want to do what my friend, Debbie (mother of 11), did with her children.  She created a sit time chart that she used with her children to increase the time they could be still. This was a huge help in getting them ready to sit while they waited for her to get her hair done, or at an appointment or the drivers license place – even sometimes when she checked out at the grocery store. There was a bench across from her favorite line at Publix and she would ask them to go sit on it while she paid. They would sit still with their hands folded. They thought it was fun and were just doing what they had done at home all those years. She started with 1 minute sitting sessions and the chart went up in increments of 1 minute – up to 15. If they can sit still 15 minutes, then they can do it for much longer if there is ever a need. Debbie shares, “Attentiveness is the first thing a child needs to be taught – even before first-time obedience, etc.  If one is not paying attention, how do they know what they are being asked to do?”

If the curriculum you purchased is not working then tweak it, set it aside or sell it. Curriculum is a tool we use and not something that should enslave us to a miserable life-style!  And, if there are illnesses, moves, or accidents, adjusting to change is a great lesson in-and-of itself!  Your children will learn a lot by watching how you react to the disruptions of life.  It is okay to stop what you are doing in order to minister to the needs of others. That is a far more important lesson than any lesson a book will ever provide.

Homeschooling can be a joy-filled experience.  If that is not the case in your situation, then make the changes that need to be made in order to restore joy and relieve stress.  If, on the other hand, your year has begun with a bang then, by all means, keep it up!

Mary Hood, the Relaxed Homeschooler, says that for younger children should work on values, attitudes and habits. For older children you should work on skills, knowledge, and talents and interests. Great advice. When your littles have great attitudes, habits, and values, it makes life much more pleasant!

If you need a little more inspiration, take a look at what they have done in Finland to improve their education system or watch this Ted talk by Sir Ken Robinson on How Schools have Killed Creativity.

Two recommended books for encouragement: Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins and Teaching from Rest by Sarah McKenzie.

Here are a few quotes and links to keep around as reminders:

How about making a sign that says “School.” Place the sign over the backdoor. You know, the door leading outside. –  Chris Davis

There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent. – Mahatma Gandhi

[Homeschooling]…recipe for genius: More of family and less of school, more of parents and less of peers, more creative freedom and less formal lessons. – Raymond S. Moore, School Can Wait

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. – Roger Lewin

Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child’s natural bent. – Plato

Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind. – Charlotte Mason

The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men. – James Beattie

What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all. – John Holt

Unless education promotes character making, unless it helps men to be more moral, more just to their fellows, more law abiding, more discriminatingly patriotic and public spirited, it is not worth the trouble taken to furnish it. – William Howard Taft

Here’s to hoping you have a fantastic homeschooling year!

 

 

 

 

Child Not Reading? Do Not Stress!

kelli-mcclintock-Z7uacdEYnd4-unsplashMy oldest two children, both girls, read by age 4.  The next two children were boys and they did not read by age 4, or 5, or 6, or …. I am not sure when they finally learned to read.  They eventually did learn to read, but the process was not pleasant.  And then I read Raymond Moore’s book, Better Late Than Early.  In that book I was encouraged by his research that all children are different, some are ready to read earlier than others, and that requiring children to read before they are ready could actually damage their eyes. Here is a link to an excerpt from the book! Finally being convinced that reading is a lot like toilet training (when they are ready it is much easier to teach/train) I did not stress over the age that my five younger children learned to read.  My fourth child, the one who first benefited from this new found knowledge, became one of my most avid readers.  By the time my eighth and ninth children came along I was so comfortable with idea of not putting pressure on my children to read that I purposefully did not teach the youngest two to read in order to see what would happen.  Would they learn on their own?  If so, when?  If not, when should I step in and teach them?   The Old Schoolhouse magazine includes a more in depth article on what would happen if you didn’t teach your child to read.

As I travel and speak to homeschool moms I find many moms worried about accomplishing academic goals, often at times much earlier than necessary.  I was fortunate to have a mentor in the 1980’s when I began homeschooling who told me the following:

  1.  Do not bring school to the home.  Make learning an extension of life. (That’s what we did from birth to age 4, right?)
  2. You do not need curriculum until middle or high school.  It is there for your use, but do not become enslaved to curriculum.
  3. Read aloud.  Read, read, and read some more.
  4. Spend a lot of time outdoors.

Great advice!  Advice you should consider!

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Finishing the Year Well (or maybe not)

allen-taylor-Im94u5EJsVo-unsplashBy this time of the year many homeschooling moms are looking forward to the end of the semester, ready for a summer break.  We want to stay motivated and remain upbeat, encouraging our students to complete their semester projects/co-ops/classes well.  With summer soon approaching your children are ready for the break and, more-than-likely, so are you.   The following suggestion might rain on your parade and I apologize beforehand.  Academia, education, and parent instruction are not entitled to a summer break.  There, I said it, but please allow me to explain.

Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs us to teach our children 24/7.  If you and your children are looking forward to a break from academia then let me suggest that your philosophy of education may need to be tweaked just a little bit.  Before you quit reading, allow me to propose that a change in your philosophy of education that might actually relieve stress and add joy to your family’s homeschooling adventure.  After homeschooling my nine for more than 32 years total, I am now finished!  In the beginning of my journey I thought of myself as a homeschool parent from September until May.  I, too, loved our summer breaks.  When I was challenged to come up with a philosophy of education I was hit with a BFO (blinding flash of the obvious).  Homeschooling was simply an extension to what we were already doing with our children from birth to age 5, but the necessity of putting in writing a plan with specific goals brought an awareness of the need to change my attitude about having a school year, a start date,  an end date, and a summer break!  In the end I was set free from these time constraints and, as a result, found that this new frame of mind actually brought about a new freedom to enjoy time with my children year-around as we took advantage of learning opportunities on a daily basis.

My husband and I were committed to raising our children to:

  • Have a love of learning
  • Be independent learners
  • Be articulate apologists
  • Discover their gifts and talents in order to plan for life after high school

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Of course we created a plan that would, hopefully, ensure success, but being hit in the face with the realization that parenting is a year-around, 24/7 responsibility I decided to quit compartmentalizing our education goals into a limited time frame.  The day this BFO hit I told my children, “We are no longer ‘doing’ school.  We are doing life.”  We were homeschooling co-op style, using unit studies and, because of that method, my children were already familiar with the integration of subjects into the big picture.  With the exception of math we did not really separate and compartmentalize most academic subjects. Embracing a philosophy of education that includes the recognition of day-in and day-out academic opportunities was both appealing and welcoming.  That particular evening we visited my parents and my dad asked, “What did you do in school today?” One of my children replied, “We don’t do school any more.”  The look on his face clearly showed his shock and displeasure.  I quickly shared with him what the child meant by that statement — that instead of thinking that an education starts and ends at a certain time of the day, or year, we were now going to look at every day, all year long, as an opportunity for learning.  After all, isn’t that true for all of us from birth to death?  My dad was a professor at FSU so this response brought a smile to his face.

How did this realization change our lives?  The biggest change was simply a change in mentality.  We continued to take part in co-ops in the fall and in the spring, but instead of being stressed that we were covering everything that needed to be covered academically during those periods we continued to take advantage, daily, of learning opportunities.  This philosophy of education also meant that we did not have to worry about how many days of the year our children were “in class” because every day included the opportunity to learn something new.  Summers, as with most families, brought changes in the schedule, but continued to provide learning opportunities.

When I was in school from K to 12, I developed a “chew up and spit out” technique of learning.  I did well on tests, but I did not develop a love for learning.  In fact, I found school to be so boring that I could not wait to be finished!  Once I began homeschooling my children I quickly developed a love of learning and soon regretted how many years of opportunity to learn I missed out on growing up!  Hearing students say they can not wait to close their last book and never open another book is so disheartening.  These students are missing out on so much by thinking that learning ends at the completion of a degree.

By now you may be asking, “How does one switch from a school mentality to a ‘life is learning’ mentality?”  Thanks for asking!  Realizing the importance of embracing this philosophy is the first step.  Taking steps to ensure that you and your family have a mindset change is next.  This will come about through discussions and by example.  You teach a toddler to count as he goes up and down the stairs.  As you shop with your children, teach them to be aware of prices, to shop frugally, and explain that math will be a part of their lives until they die.  Throughout the day pose questions to your children that will cause them to be curious and then teach them how to find answers to the questions you ask and, eventually, to the questions they will ask!  Let your children know that learning is both fun and fulfilling and model that with your enthusiasm for reading, attending classes, and teaching!  As a family read biographies of famous people who were life-long learners and make a point of discovering what made them famous.  Oftentimes, people achieve success because they are tenacious, persistent, hard working, and open to new ways of thinking.  Sign your children up for conferences, camps, and workshops that will encourage them to have a desire to keep learning, even after they graduate.  When our children attended Summit Worldview Conferences repeatedly heard the phrase, “Readers are leaders.”  My husband and I, along with our children, have enjoyed attending political, worldview, entrepreneurial, theological, and speech and debate conferences over the years.  We love learning and our children know that.

Learning is a life-long adventure.  The sooner we get this message across to our children, the better it will be!  Rather than looking at the end of the semester as an end to the school year, encourage your children to love learning every single day of their lives!

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