Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Planning Your Homeschool High School - Independent Study Model

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Ok, I'll be honest.  When we first started, Luke was already done his first year of high school.  We never planned to homeschool to begin with, so we were diving in the proverbial deep end.  In our state, there is no official guideline of requirements for homeschoolers, but colleges want to see that the student has taken generally the same type of courses. We found combining what the state requires for a regular from-a-Board-of-Ed diploma with what colleges want helps give a good guide of what to study.  Often, the two don't always meet -- for example, our state only requires one year of foreign language study, while Luke's top choice for college requires two and "suggests" four.   We've decided that even if one of our homeschoolers chooses not to go to college, it won't be because he's unprepared. That means studying a wide range of subjects, and not doing the "minimums" to graduate. of the blessing of homeschooling is being able to choose both required courses and electives.  For example, our state has a "visual or performing arts credit requirement.  Yes, art is important, but having sat through an art history course memorizing the names and dates of buildings, paintings, and sculptures where my eyes glazed over vs. earning a theater degree, it makes a huge difference when you're interested and engaged in the topic.  Luke decided to take a course on the architecture of churches and cathedrals.  He's been fascinated by the common features of the basilica, stavkirke, and Gothic cathedral, but how different they all are and reflect the local culture.  This fills the "art" requirement but engages him, making it an easy class.  (Not necessarily easy in terms of content, but in topic.)  The state "requires" only World History plus two years of American history, but most colleges would like to see four.   In order to make him more marketable to a college, and has chosen to study Political Science as his senior year option.  (I've always said this kid would debate anything.)

Putting together an Intro to Poli Sci course has been...interesting.  If there's a pre-fabricated high school course out there, I haven't found it.  Instead, we are building our own independent study style course.   One of my biggest sources of stress when I'm planning a course is "Is it enough?"  High school credits generally mean somewhere around 120-150 hours of work, between instruction and activity (writing reports, papers, etc.)   What helps me is to research other syllabi and compare to make sure we're covering a similar amount of content; even if it isn't something on a high school vs. college level, it can give ideas of what is appropriate to cover.  I also try to talk to other families and see what they are doing.  Certainly, we make our own decisions, but in talking to others I've come to the conclusion that two or three books over the year is not enough to create a good high school course, but expecting a kid to read 15 or 20 books in ten months is unrealistic, too. 

We've put the course together using varied resources.  He completed two 8-week courses fom FreedomProject Education, and is currently working on two introduction to political theories courses from The Great Courses.  (The Great Courses has become one of my favorite resources for in-depth lectures.)  Combined, these give him about 50 "instruction hours" to combine with another 70-100 of reading, research, oral discussion and writing.  We've worked The Great Courses lectures as a spine to the course, pausing in the lecture to then read "textbooks" on the current concepts.   For example, he's read Machiavelli's The Prince and written examples of how the theory has remained in action today; he is currently working on the interplay between John Locke, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson.  The goal with this course is not to create a political viewpoint, but to learn compare all the sides, attempt to understand party and individual platforms, and create an adult with both a working knowledge of political history, political theory, and critical thinking skills. 

Now that it's Matthew's turn for high school, it's a whole different game because we are planning everything from the ground up.  While we have a framework of "four Englishes, three Maths, foreign language..." we're planning the course of study completely on our own.   On one hand, he has more time - he started high school courses last fall, with the idea he would have 5 years to do 4 years' worth of requirements, but there are some things he's going to be done some things sooner -- he's already nearly done Spanish II and will "officially" start 9th grade in August.   Right now, we're following a more "university-style" model of focusing mainly on core requirements, with an elective here or there to help diversify so that things don't get "boring," and then as they get crossed off, filling that core space back in with electives that cater to his interests. 

The biggest thing I've learned with him is to not be afraid of choosing a "lower level" course spine that can then be bulked up.  For example, Veritas Press has a fantastic self-paced history program that is multisensory and interactive.  Its presentation is perfect for him, and in reality, the amount of time it covers is fairly in-depth for a middle elementary program.  However, the other reality is that it just isn't deep enough for high school credit -- if nothing else, there's not enough time working to meet the 120-hour minimum.  Here's where other programs can dovetail with it to help increase content, but also tailor to the interests.  Matthew is also using The Great Courses as a lecture resource, studying with the course entitled Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon.  As he studied ancient Greek and Roman history with Veritas Press, he also studied the civilizations' engineering practices with a course presented by a top Army Engineer who taught for more than twenty years at West Point Military Academy.  I have to admit, considering what the Greeks and Romans had to work with -- shovels, axes and files, some paper and pencil, their brain and some brute strength -- it's amazing what they came up with that still influences modern engineering.  Matthew also is fascinated by the practices, and eagerly shares what he learned as each  episode ends.  He's then applying that to other experiences, going so far as to explain to a National Park Ranger how the keystone in the Skew Arch Bridge over the Allegheny Portage Railroad balances internal and external forces to keep it together using just hewn stone and no mortar.  (She got quite a lecture!)  For Matthew, balancing a more basic core study with appropriate but interesting supporting lessons helps maintain interest in learning because he wants to learn, not because he wants a good grade.

There are as many ways to plan what your homeschool high school will be like as there are high schoolers. Check out how our friends plan their courses:  

Chareen at Every Bed of Roses with thoughts on Planning to Homeschool through the High School Years
April from ElCloud Homeschool shares Homeschooling High School: Planning For High School
Debra over at Footprints in the Butter asks: You mean I have to PLAN our Homeschool High School?!?
Michele at Family, Faith and Fridays shares Here's the Plan
Lisa at Golden Grasses says Don't Panic! Homeshcooling High School Blog Hop
Debbie at Debbie's Homeschool Corner Planning Out a High School Program
Gena over at I Choose Joy! shares her The Top Tip for Planning Homeschool High School
Kym at Homeschool Coffee Break shares on Planning and Preparing for Success
Tess from Circling Through This Life shares on Planning the High School Years
Erica over at Be The One shares Planning and Record Keeping for High School
Jennifer from A Glimpse of Our Life on Planning For Homeschooling Highschool
Carol over at Home Sweet Life on Making A Plan
Wendy at Life at Rossmont shares thoughts on Planning for High School
Cristi from Through the Calm and Through the Storm shares on Making High School Plans
Dawn Oaks at Double O Farms shares Planning for the High School Years
Leah from As We Walk Along the Road shares her thoughts on Making Plans for Homeschooling Through High School

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