Monday, September 3, 2012

Coaching High School

PhotobucketYou know, one of my earliest experiences in telling people we had decided to homeschool was high school related.  Our kids were 4, 2.5 and about 6 months. Adorable tiny things.  I mentioned we had decided to homeschool, and the response was a gasp of amazement, and the question...

"But how will you teach chemistry, and what about the Prom?"

I was a bit stunned.  I knew I had a decade... a DECADE... before I needed to worry about Chemistry (and how did they know that chemistry was the high school subject I most feared?) and that was absolutely forever away.  And the prom?  Seriously?  That is not something that remotely made my list of homeschooling concerns.

I was wrong.  Not about chemistry.  Not about the prom.  I was wrong about high school being absolutely forever away.

That decade (plus a year) has passed, oh so very quickly.  Both that two-year-old and that four-year-old are taller than me, though I still look down on that 6-month old.  The oldest is in 10th grade.  The other two are in middle school. 

So, let me just give you a list of what Connor is doing for his sophomore year... and I'll make comments as I go through that.  Because I'm finding high school to be far easier than those early years, and I want to share some of that here.

English:  For tenth grade, Connor will be using two semester-long courses from Lightning Literature, and he will be working through half of IEW's Student Intensive Continuation Course.  There will be a few other things, here and there.

These two programs don't require me to be doing the teaching.  Lightning Lit is written to the student, and basically we sit down and meet on Monday to see what is going on for that week, and discuss what direction he wants to go for writing projects.  During the week, we'll discuss his reading, or talk about his writing project, but that isn't something scheduled.  I also have to go over his papers (Lightning Lit averages two writing assignments every three weeks).

The SICC is just as easy.  The teaching is on the DVD.  I try to watch that with Connor.  The assignments are pretty well laid-out, and he knows what to expect.  He rarely needs any input from me until it comes time for me to look at the paper he has written.  I try to watch the appropriate section of their teacher DVD series (Teaching Writing: Structure and Style) too.

High school English scared me.  But by investing in non-consumable programs like these, I have assistance with the teaching, and I get to have the fun of the discussions.  The papers still give me little butterflies, but I'm feeling much more confident about those now too.

Science:  Connor is working through Chemistry this year, the subject I feared a decade ago.  We have the Apologia Chemistry and Advanced Chemistry texts, and the DIVE Chemistry program.  Connor plans to take the AP Chemistry exam in May.

We actually started this last year, for 9th grade, and went in a different direction.  This year, we are getting things printed out up front (the DIVE materials), and spending a bit more time making sure we both understand what all is involved.  Part of our problem last year was that I assumed Connor could figure out what to do on his own... and he got through the first few lessons missing HUGE chunks of the information.  He simply didn't know they were there.  So then he had to go back to do what he had missed, and he got overwhelmed, especially in light of a May AP exam deadline.  So we did other things for science last year, and are starting over this year.

So, my experience here is that while DIVE is pretty much self-teaching -- he watches a lecture, does the readings, watches labs, does labs and lab reports, etc. -- where I failed him as a coach ("teacher" doesn't quite fit) is that I did not go through the materials to be sure he knew exactly what needed to be done and where everything was.  This year is going to be so much better.  And I don't have to do much besides correct some tests and check some lab reports.

Math:  For 10th grade, Connor will be finishing up Algebra II (using Pearson's MyMathLab materials, which we adore!) and then we have to make some decisions about what to do from there.  He'll start something new in January, but I don't yet know just what.  Oh, and even though it isn't likely to count for anything in college, he is probably taking the CLEP algebra exam when he completes Algebra II.

The thing is, there are lots of options.  Math U See is something we'll consider.  ALEKS is another option.  And then there are programs like Thinkwell, which is really tempting too.

All of the above take the pressure off of me.  Math U See would require me to correct his work, where both ALEKS and Thinkwell would track everything for me.  The big advantage with Math U See would be that I can use the materials again with my younger kids, just needing to get them the workbook.

I keep hoping that Pearson will come out with a Pre-calculus course before we get through Algebra II though.  I've been very impressed with that, and the price (though also a consumable thing) is reasonable.

History/Social Studies:  For 10th grade, Connor will be using TruthQuest Age of Revolutions I for history (I still have to purchase it... but he isn't quite through Renaissance & Reformation -- his 9th grade history, so I just haven't done it yet), and he is also going to be using Sonlight's Economics program, and taking either the AP tests for both micro- and macro-economics OR taking those CLEP exams.

I have chosen to go with a subject-based transcript, so it doesn't really matter if Connor completes a particular course all within one school year or not.  His Renaissance/Reformation course will go under "Social Sciences," not half under 9th grade and half in 10th.  I love having that kind of flexibility.

What we are doing with TruthQuest is that I read the guide information aloud (so that I have a clue!) and Connor does additional reading and research on his own, using suggestions from the guide.  Having the curriculum CDs from Heritage History helps a lot.

Economics is something he can do completely on his own, but I love econ, so we will be discussing this.  A lot.

He also has an idea as to where he wants to go for college, so we have researched that in regards to things like AP exams and CLEP tests.  We discovered that for economics, the CLEP test is counted the same as the AP exam, so we are probably going to go with the flexibility of the CLEP (that can be scheduled any time) instead of the AP (which happens in May).  That means that in April/early May, he can focus on the Chemistry exam and not have to worry about two econ exams as well.

PE: I require a 1/2 credit of PE each year in high school.  For 10th grade, Connor will be utilizing the Family Time Fitness program -- both the regular program (or parts of it) with his younger siblings, and the new high school program, which focuses on strength training.  In addition, he is starting on a program that is intended to take him from running a 5K (which was a goal of his 9th grade PE) to running a 10K.  He plans to at least do the 10K at the Fargo Marathon next spring, if not the half-marathon.  His 9th grade PE was composed of work towards his Personal Fitness merit badge, plus the training for the 5K

Spanish:  Right now, he is using Mango for free from the library.  The plan is that in late October, we will start using Homeschool Spanish Academy.  We just can't swing the payment right now, or he'd start this week.  So, Mango is giving him at least some familiarity with the language.

Fine Arts:  For 9th grade, he will have earned 1/2 credit in art history, as we are taking the artist sections of Truthquest and expanding those through materials from Khan Academy and Zane Education.  For 10th-12th grades, he will probably earn another 1/4 or 1/2 credit by studying the artists we encounter in Age of Revolution.

He will earn a credit of Music History and/or Music Appreciation by working through the materials from Discovering Music over 10th-12th grades.

Again, I love using a subject-based transcript, as I don't have to fit the entire music or art course into a year -- we can spread it out and enjoy it more.

Driver's Ed: We are still exploring options here, but it is going to happen this year.  One requirement will be the traffic safety merit badge

Electives:  Connor is looking at a computer programming 1/2 credit, and we are probably going to work on another 1/2 credit of Logic.  Those are still undecided, probably for 2013.

My role for high school, if that isn't clear in what I wrote above, is mostly as a coach.  We've "hired" teachers via DVD and other programs.  My main job is to listen and discuss.  And correct some papers now and again.  Far easier than elementary school.

You can read what my Crewmates had to say about homeschooling high school -- starting tomorrow -- at the Crew page!


Jennifer said...

We got that question, too, when my oldest was in kindergarten and since "Are you going to homeschool high school?" It is surprising to me that it is flowing so much better than the earlier years did.

Jen's Busy Days said...


I just wanted to drop in and say thank you for sharing what you do in your homeschool. I am not sure if you remember me but I was on a Yahoo group back in 2002/2003 for a couple of years and I watched every choice you made for Connor.

When I was just starting out it was so overwhelming and over here in Australia it was not easy to see much curriculum in the flesh so to speak. I listened to a lot of people and realised that you and I had similar goals for our kids with similar types of learneres. I got SMaths, SL PreK, and Critical Thinking Co books on your recommendations for my eldest. I have gone on to use them for all my boys.

I am very grateful for your time and effort in reaching out to, and sharing with, other homeschoolers. Now I am helping to guide others as they start out and I am grateful for the start you gave me.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz

Debra said...

Jen!!!! Of course I remember you!

How exciting that you get to be an light for other homeschool mums in Australia! :)

Thrilled to see you are still homeschooling your boys...

Debra said...

Jennifer -- yeah, I know. I'd never have thought that high school would be easier than the early years. Of course, the vast majority of what I am using didn't exist back when I started. High school looked a lot more intimidating a decade ago. Didn't have these amazing online resources, didn't have the iPad apps, and it seemed like all the homeschoolers I knew back then stopped once they got to middle school or high school.

Different world now.

Kym said...

I got that question too when we started out with a first grader. I mentioned it in my post because it seems like such an odd question.

I agree that in many ways, homeschooling high school is easier - in that it doesn't require nearly as much hands-on time from me.