Homeschooling High School? Start Here!

Hi, I'm Lee Binz, The HomeScholar. This blog answers commonly asked questions about homeschooling high school.

Search a topic. Browse the Quick Links and Archives. Add a comment. Visit my website to learn about my Products and Services. Dig Deeper into some tough high school issues. Finally, shoot me an e-mail if there is a specific topic you would like to learn more about. Make sure you bookmark or subscribe to this blog because I update the content (almost) daily. Enjoy your visit!

The Latin Road Pays Off!

>>>Please comment on the Latin Road <<<

I used Latin Road for 3 years. My kids were VERY successful with it, and my son still remembers all his Latin even after 3 years without cracking a book! He had to take a college placement test at the college he's going to, so they could see which class would be appropriate for him. He passed all 3 levels of Latin, and started the university in Junior level! Yippee! He enjoyed Latin Road so much that he has continued his Latin studies in college.

Latin Road uses a lot of memorization, rote learning, flash cards, and practice, practice, practice. It took as much time as a math program, and we had to do some Latin translating everyday, just like you do math problems everyday. It was very mom intensive, as you say. I used to spend about 2 hours on weekends getting my own lessons done, so that I would know how to teach it the following week. Her lessons are well laid out, and I never had any trouble figuring out what to do each day. It was VERY clear, and each lesson was about the same length of time to complete, and each lesson was very clearly labeled. Again, sort of like a math book, I guess! It was written for homeschoolers, so that's part of why it was so easy to use. Each day we would do some flash cards, recite some memorized lesson or read aloud, and do some copy work or translating. It was a LOT of work, and hard, but my kids really seemed to like it, and it really paid off in the end.

Hope that helps!
Get your daily dose of wisdom from my blog via e-mail:

Ideas for Marine Biology

>>>>Do you have any ideas for Marine Biology?<<<<

This is what I would suggest:
  • The Seaside Naturalist: A Guide to study at the Seashore by: Deborah A. Coulombe
  • Marine Biology Coloring Book
  • National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures.

I would encourage you to do some dissections. I would order some critters for dissection from Home Science Tools as well. You can dissect fish and all sorts of stuff, look at the Biology section of their website, and then ask your child which ones they would like to discuss.

Get some Sea Monkeys from Home Science Tools, and watch the little sea creatures grow for a while. You also might consider an aquarium for a time.

You could go on a field trip to somewhere with an aquarium, or even just a beach. If you choose a beach, go at high tide AND low tide.

You could have some literature books as well: The Old Man and the Sea, and The Pearl by Steinbeck are Jr/Sr High level. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch and Island of the Blue Dolphins are a bit younger. There are MANY other sea-themed literature selections. There is also a great non-fiction book we used called "Dive" by Sylvia A. Earle, a female marine biologist. It has great pictures.

Get some videos from the library by Jacques Cousteau, or other videos from the library to supplement. Our library carries the "Eyewitness" series of videos, and I'm sure they have a Marine life movie.

Hope that helps!

Sign up for my free email newsletter (

English and Grammar Every Year!?

>>>Do you think it is necessary to teach English and Grammar every year?? <<<

No, I don't think it's important every year. We taught grammar one time, in 7th grade, with Winston Grammar and that was that. My kids did great on their SATs, so it was obviously plenty for them. We did do foreign languages in high school, so that was another way we got grammar without "teaching grammar" if you know what I mean. We focused more on writing.

Sign up for my free email newsletter (

Homeschool Art Without the Mess!

>>>Did you plan the art studies or let them do it as they wanted? I debate a lot about whether its worth setting aside the time for art study.<<<

Art is really, REALLY my weak area, so I actually set aside time for art study, otherwise we would never do it! We never had a problem getting math or science done, just art, LOL! I scheduled it for 2-3 times a week, 1-1/2 or 2 hours at a time, depending on the year. Even so, it was something that we sometimes just didn't do. (Art is so messy, you know.) We did the book "Art Fun" the first year, the Feed My Sheep for two years, then Draw Today. We also did some pottery classes, and that was fun. I have some art games that they played, and there were some books on artists that I had them read over the years. If your kids just "do" art, then maybe you don't really need art study. We NEEDED art study, because my kids didn't ever DO it otherwise. In high school I taught them art mostly from an art history perspective, and art appreciation. I suppose in high school, it's good to have some art appreciation course, but maybe other kids just naturally end up studying art without any help at all. Hey, Alex studied economics without any help! Kevin studied Russian History, of all things, without any encouragement! Just not art....


Get your daily dose of wisdom from my blog via e-mail:

A Desperate Mom's Plea: How Do I Pay for College?

I want to tell you that the "desperate mom" feeling is completely normal! This is the absolute WORST time of year for that feeling. Most students have already chosen a college, and have already applied and are eager to leave home. Yet most parents are looking at the sticker price of the college and feel completely overwhelmed because you haven't received any financial aid yet.

Almost everyone pays less than sticker price for a college. If your son has SAT scores of 550 and above in each area, then he is probably an above average student. If he doesn't, there is still time for him to take an SAT review class and retake the SAT test in March in order to increase his score, and increase his financial aid award.

In general the state colleges don't have as much financial aid as the private colleges do. If you can convince your son to apply to other schools, private schools, he may actually pay less that he would at the state schools.

I think you are already doing everything right, I think you are just in that crisis period when you don't know how you are going to pay. That feeling will get worse once you get his letter of acceptance and you STILL don't know how to pay. Most colleges tell you that you are admitted first, and then seems like a LONG time later until you hear about your financial aid! That's the worst time.... The only thing that I can really suggest is that you apply to a few other schools over the holidays; private schools where your son might be OVER qualified, and the BEST candidate they see all year.


The HomeScholar
Sign up for my free email newsletter (

Using "Total Health" for Homeschool Health

>>>>"I know we have discussed Total Health in the past. Do you recommended getting the high school edition or the middle school edition? Also, should I get any workbooks? Is it necessary to use workbooks to get the full credit for high school health? Do I get the student text or the teacher's edition or both? And, do I need to get the tests and quizzes?"<<<<

We used both the Jr. High and the Sr. High texts. The boys liked them both. If you are getting just one, I would get the one that best meets the age of your child. If they are 9th grade or under, or if they are highly sheltered and older, get the Jr. High. If they are over 9th grade, or hang out with their youth groups, other secular kids, etc., then I would get the Sr. High version.

When we did Total Health, I chose not to get the workbooks. I wanted them to learn the content but I had so many other high powered courses at the time, I didn't want to have yet another thing for them to be tested on. We were doing Latin and Biology and stuff at the time, and it would have been just too much.

Both times I used Total Health, I combined it with their sports activities to make it a PE credit. I didn't list Health separately on their transcript. With their sports activities, I did have an EASY 150 hours of PE, and I did give them a full credit, but they were doing soccer, swim team and baseball at the time. If I had listed Total Health alone on the transcript, I think I would have given it 1/2 credit, because even with the tests and stuff, I don't think it would take the time for a full year at 1 hour a day to complete. In Washington state, we are required to teach health at some point in their lives, but they don't specify when or how much, so I had no requirement as to it being a whole credit in high school.

If you want to supplement, consider taking a CPR or basic first aid course, that would be great!

Total Health is a wonderful books, and both of my boys loved it. In fact, when I bought the first one, the kids ended up reading it on their own over summer before school even started. It had a wonderful tone, and had a nice balance between conservative concerns and some of the issues that Christian kids might face at school or youth group.

Get your daily dose of wisdom from my blog via e-mail:

Get Your Money's Worth with Apologia Science

Now may be a good time to say that I found Kevin with his Apologia Physics book again! Every time he gets to a new concept in college physics 202 (electricity and magnetism, physics for engineers) he likes to get out his book and review the concepts first. He's used the Chemistry textbook for some of his college calculus homeworks. I'm sure he'll review the Biology book when he starts college biology next year. We've decided to keep ALL the the Apologia books and send them to college with him: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. They seemed so expensive when we bought them, but now I see that we MORE than got our money's worth.

Hope that encourages somebody,

Resources for Homeschool Records

>>>>Can you recommend a certain book or website that helped you with high school credits?<<<<

I bought myself one high school book a year, and considered it part of my curriculum expenditures. I started with Barb Shelton High School FormULA, and it was pretty good. She leans a lot on the unschooler approach - less structured approach, I should say. Lots on how to write up your high school experience after the fact, a lot about learning naturally in high school. She does seem to like forms, though. I always thought it was interesting that someone who was so into what appeared to be a go-with-the-flow style in curriculum would be so uptight about recordkeeping! She has tons of forms and stuff, lots of intricate stuff on how to make grades. I didn't use that stuff. But her overall theory of "write it after you do it" was helpful. She has a very VERY personal writing style - like she's just emailing you.

I also liked Mary Schofield's book The High School Handbook. She had some great course descriptions that I used a LOT in writing my own. It was a little less scary than Shelton's book, because there were fewer forms to fill out. She has quotes from a variety of homeschoolers using different techniques, but her advice is more concrete and straighforward, as if she's a textbook homeschooler. I got a lot out of her book.

Cathy Duffy's High School Curriculum Manual is good for choosing curriculum, and deciding what courses you should have. She doesn't go into the construction of a portfolio.

And I love Cafi Cohen's book on College Admission.

The HomeScholar
Sign up for my free email newsletter (
Get your daily dose of HomeScholar wisdom
( )

Let's Talk Latin!

>>>>How is Latin even possible? I printed samples from Latina Christiana, and I'm feeling overwhelmed. Declensions? Conjugations? Possum? Sum? Help! <<<<

Be brave, little Piglet! (Quote from Winnie the Pooh, from all who are wondering - my brain also stuffed with fluff!) I remember having those EXACT same fears when we started Latin! I would look at the book and, well, it was all Greek to me!

As you take it one step at a time, it begins to make sense. Really, it's just like following complicated directions in a recipe or something. Just take it one step at a time, and then it begins to make sense. I promise! Plus, remember the advice that Dori gives in Nemo and "Just keep swimming" and you'll get it figured out.

That being said, I did use Latin Road, and they do assume that 1) you're homeschooling and 2) the teacher is a mom who doesn't know Latin. That may have been why it was OK for us. I did look at Wheellocks' Latin and couldn't even BEGIN the first chapter in that one. I believe that Latin Road is for 5th and up, but you'd have to check the website.


Do Community Colleges Accept CLEP Credits?

>>>>A client writes: "In Florida, the state universities have a reciprocal policy with the community colleges if complete your AA. So, we'll probably go that route and do his AA via CLEP and dual enrollment."<<<<

That method didn't work out for us, but it may work for you. It turns out that our community college did not accept more than 2 CLEP exams, so even though the university DID accept more, the community college didn't. That meant that we couldn't combine CLEP and dual enrollment to make a AA degree.

What we did instead was to very carefully pick and choose classes from the community college that were perfect matches for our university. In other words, some math courses transferred and some didn't, and we were careful to choose only classes that would transfer into the university for their degree.

However, it also meant that my boys didn't actually start college with an AA degree. If you don't start college with an AA degree, then there are certain prerequisite course that you have to take. My kids are required to take 6 prereq classes at the university instead of the 3 prereq classes they would have been required if they had an AA degree. That will vary with the university of course, I just wanted to give you an idea what it looked like.

If they had gotten an AA degree from community college, then there are classes they would have had to take that I didn't want them to take. Like PE, and diversity classes that have controversial content. I'm glad we didn't go that route. I had to be really careful about my 15yo started college, that we didn't expose him to too much adult content.


Is the AP or CLEP Exam Better for Homeschoolers?

>>>>Can you compare AP and CLEP exams? Why did you choose CLEP?<<<<

AP tests are much longer, more expensive, and have ambiguous essay questions that irritated me. I chose to use CLEP exams because they took MUCH less time per test, were a little less expensive, and they were all multiple choice. You know "math & science Lee", always looking for those right-or-wrong answers! AP tests are longer, so they have lots more questions. Since the CLEP exams are shorter and have fewer questions, their questions are all obscure. You have to know the detailed stuff in order to pass it. Of course, that's also why it's college level.

AP exams take a tremendous amount of study, as does CLEP. The difference is partly that if you take the AP exam, you also have to study how to take an AP exam! It's a real skill to write those essays and stuff...If you buy an AP prep book, you can see what I mean. Practice, practice, practice! For a CLEP exam, it's just like taking a very in-depth IOWA basic test - much more familiar looking. But that may be just me :-)

Blessings, Lee
The HomeScholar
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"
Sign up for my free email newsletter
Get your daily dose of wisdom from my blog
( )

Hilarious Homeschool Video!

I thought this was great fun and worth sharing:

"A Homeschool Family"

How do I give a credit in Bible to my homeschooler?

>>>>A client writes: I want to give my kids credit for Bible...but I haven't asked them to write a single thing down this year. What do I do?<<<<

When we did Bible, I just had them read books, mostly. No tests. Rare papers. Sometimes one of them would teach Sunday School classes, or read scripture at church.

May I suggest that Bible may be one good area to count hours? Just estimate how many hours per day or week they spend reading and talking to you about these issue. 1 hour a day or 5 days a week would be a whole credit. 2 hours per week might be 1/2 credit (rough estimates are OK.) Once in a while, when I wanted "proof" I would ask them to write their English paper on something about their Bible or the books they were reading. They did it INSTEAD of an English paper, though, not in addition.

Do you remember all my stories about Alex and economics and Kevin and chess? They just did all this reading for fun (totally freaked me out, actually.) Now with Alex, I gave him CLEP exams in economics, and figured out real fast how many credits of economics he had learned. With Kevin it wasn't so easy. Surprisingly there is no CLEP exam in chess! (LOLOLOLOL!!!!!) I still gave him credit for it. No tests (duh!) and no written work. I kept track of the books that he read, and the chess classes that he taught. When I wrote his course description, that was all it included :-)

You CAN cut out the busy work. Stop thinking in terms of how SCHOOLS evaluate learning, and think about how YOU evaluate learning. From what you say, it sounds like you do most of your evaluation by oral report, right? Oral reports are a perfectly acceptable way to evaluate. Alex's college final in French yesterday was an oral report. It's really fine to do that!

If you want "proof" and you just must have proof, then write a list of the books they read, and write the topic of your discussions. "Nature of Hell, 1 hour" or "Nature of Grace, 1 hour." If that makes you feel better, than more power to you! Then you'll have "proof" in case you ever wanted to use your proof. I just don't recommend that you change what you're doing, because what your doing is working!

Does that help?

The HomeScholar
Sign up for my free email newsletter (

Should you use E-mail or Snail Mail to Say Thank You after a College Visit ?

>>>>A mom asked if she should send an email or snail mail thank you note after visiting a college....<<<<

I think that the answer is BOTH. If you don't intend to go to the school, then sending them an email thank you note is fine. But if you DO intend to apply to the school, then I would send both an email and a snail mail thank you note. Some colleges keep a record of how many contacts you make, that is, how many "touches." For that reason, it can actually benefit you to write a snail mail letter. Use my answer for a school assignment! You can have them write it today.

Do Colleges Accept Homeschool Grades?

>>>>A friend had a question about homeschool grades.<<<<

I have a page on my blog about grades and credits that might help:
Keeping track of grades and credits can start in 9th grade. Grades 9-12 are considered high school, and those are the only grades and credits that colleges want to see.

Most (but not all) colleges will accept homeschool grades and credits, given by a parent, typed on their home computer using nothing fancier than a Word document. In my experience, most (but not all) colleges will use your credits as real credits *if* you have test scores to back them up. If you don't have some evidence that your grades and credits are true, then colleges tend to look only at your test scores, and look at the transcript as if it's just a list of classes, rather than real numbers they can use for scholarships or whatever.

I hope that helps!
The HomeScholar
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"
Sign up for my free email newsletter (

HELP! Homeschooling High School Isn't Working!!

>>>>Included in one mom's desperate lament was the following: "I don't think homeschooling is working!"<<<<

With high school, remember that if it works you use it. If it doesn't work, then stop using it - try something else.

Another major theme: You don't have to teach. They just need to learn. You don't necessarily have to teach ANYTHING in high school. What good does teaching do? You only have to make sure they learn it.

I didn't know the answers to math or science either (and you would think I would, because I'm a nurse, but it's not true!) I completely lost it with math about a month into Algebra 2. Everyone loses it in high school math - everyone. But it's not our job to learn the stuff, you know. We just have to make sure the student learns the stuff.

My kids did chemistry and physics completely alone. They did Algebra 2, pre-calculus and calculus completely alone. I only gave them the tests, and had to look up the answers. By the time we got to calculus, I didn't even know what the symbols meant anymore. I only knew that the answer had to look like the answer in the book.

Look at what you wrote about writing ..."they are better writers than me - and I'm a professional." Can I just point out that homeschooling appears to be working? They ARE succeeding. Once you get into high school, writing is mostly about practice. Edit the papers for spelling and grammar, yes, but it's mostly just having them practice, practice, practice. It's working! Your homeschooling writing class is succeeding beyond measure! They are good writers!

I couldn't keep up with the books either. I have confessed before that I didn't do "literature analysis" with my kids. I just asked them if they liked the book (to which they usually said "yes" and not much more.) They have grown up and done fabulously with the honors literature courses in college, so I know they weren't damaged by my weaknesses. I couldn't keep up with my kids reading either, but you know what? They were reading thousands of books for fun, and I didn't stress out about reading those books ahead of them. So why did I stress out about reading their school books ahead of them? I don't know!

Consider public school for a moment. Would the teacher pre-read every book? No, just the one or two they used in a year. Would the teacher be able to help with writing more than you? No, likely it would be just grammar and spelling. And anyway, YOU are a professional writer, not a teacher at a school. What about science? I didn't help my kids at science at all, but Kevin and Alex both got straight-As in college science after homeschooling, so I know that it works.

My concern with the comments that "Homeschooling isn't working" is that people forget the alternative. Homeschooling may be hard (OK, it absolutely IS hard) but it is much more effective than a public or private school. It is the 1 to 1 tutoring, the mastery before moving on, the absolute love for the student that make homeschoolers succeed. None of those things are available at a public or private school.

There are lots of resources for homeschoolers. Online courses, tutors, co-ops, video programs, and curricula for every learning style. You may need help, but that doesn't mean that homeschooling isn't working OR that putting your child into school is THE one and only answer to problems.

The HomeScholar
Sign up for my free email newsletter (

Our Love/Hate Relationship with Saxon Math

>>>>One mom's co-op uses Saxon Math and it makes her want to cry<<<<

I hated Saxon, too. But when I "lost it" in math, I told Kevin to choose his own math book, and he chose Saxon! I couldn't believe it! No pretty pictures, no NUTHIN! He just wanted to use Saxon - and he succeeded with it.

Can you let your daughter make the decision about math books or coop classes? She may know how she learns best. You may be focused on how YOU would want to learn, you know? That's what happened to me.


The Write Stuff - Homeschool Journal Writing

>>>>What did you require for journal writing? Did you have any assigned topics or insist on a certain length per entry?<<<<

What is your purpose for journal writing? Perhaps it's different than mine. My goal was to get my children to write quickly on any subject, in their own handwriting. That's what they have to do for the SAT essay question. In high school, my children wrote a longer paper every week, and they practiced essay writing each week as well. For both of those I would correct grammar, punctuation, and style. They did so much writing, I didn't feel like it was necessary for me to edit their journal, and editing it was not my goal.

Keeping my goal in mind, I didn't much care WHAT they wrote about, so much as I cared about the length and how quickly they did it. For that reason, I gave them each a small 4x6 or 5x7 spiral ring notebook. When I assigned them a journal writing activity, they were allowed to write about anything they wanted, but they had to fill one whole page in their journal. As they got older, they wanted it kept private, and that was fine with me. I just wanted to be sure that they wrote a whole page. For that reason, I had them hold up the book from across the room, and if I could see from that distance that they had filled a whole page, then they had met my expectations. I tried some books for journal writing, but my kids felt frustrated by being told what to write. Again, my goal was for them to write, and I wasn't interested in the topic. For that reason, I allowed them to not use a guide, but just write from their daily lives.

So my advice would be to consider what you are trying to achieve. Then adjust your journal writing requirements to meet YOUR needs for YOUR children. I'm sure that varies from family to family.

I hope that helps!

How to Fail in High School Math

>>>>Dorette asked: Why did you use Saxon Advanced Math when it looks like you used another program for Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry?<<<<

A wise homeschool Mom once said, "If it works, use it. If it doesn't work - Change!"

We used Addison-Wesley math books through elementary school. When we started Algebra, the next book in the series was Algebra 1 by Paul Foerster. It was highly rated by homeschool suppliers, so it seemed like the "right" thing to do. I chose that book because it had a solution manual. Really, that was my whole reason - it had a solution manual!

My son Kevin is very mathematically minded, but he really struggled with this book! It just didn't seem to say things in a way that Kevin could understand it. By the end of the year, Kevin scored about 75% on the final. I really wanted Kevin to succeed before he moved on, so I searched for another math book so that he could do Algebra 1 over again. We chose Jacobs Algebra. I was planning to use that in the fall, and just have Kevin repeat the course. Instead, Kevin studied it by himself, took the final exam in the Jacobs Algebra text, and got a fabulous score, so in the fall he was able to move on to geometry. We used Jacobs geometry for that course. When it was time to do Algebra 2, I bought Paul Foersters Algebra 2 and Trigonometry. Don't ask me why! This author hadn't worked for us the first time, so I don't know why I thought it would work a second time through! After a month, I realized that we simply couldn't go forward with this book. We had to make a change, and Jacobs didn't have an Algebra 2 book.

Following a friend's advice, I gave Kevin the choice, and he chose his own math book. I was SHOCKED that he would choose Saxon! Saxon had no appeal to me, because I like books with color, and photos. But Kevin loved math, and he liked the look of Saxon because it was mostly numbers - problem after problem! That's what appealed to him! (Who knew?) So we switched to Saxon Math at that point. Since Kevin had already completed Algebra 1 and Geometry using different programs, he took the Saxon placement test, and we started him with Saxon Advanced Math.

I think almost everyone "loses it" at some point with high school math. It was during Algebra 2 that I simply couldn't DO the teaching anymore. That's when I began to use DIVE CDs. You can find more information at this website:

So now you know the story of our math curriculum choices! Our choices don't matter to your family, of course. What really matters is the underlying philosophy: If it works, use it. If it doesn't work - CHANGE!

I notice that a lot of homeschooling families work like this. They expect their student to really master a subject before moving on. I think that's why homeschoolers have higher standardized test scores than other students! We simply want them to know it before they move on! That gives them a better foundation for more advanced learning, and ultimately makes them more successful. My son Kevin is currently a sophomore in college, studying engineering and computer science. He takes upper level math classes "for fun" with his free credits. I'm really glad we encouraged mastery in math. And I'm really REALLY glad I let him choose his own math book!


Art Instruction for the Artistically Challenged Homeschool

>>>Did you plan the art studies or let them do it as they wanted? I debate a lot about whether its worth setting aside the time for art study.<<<

Art was really, REALLY my weak area, so I actually set aside time for art study, otherwise we would never do it! We never had a problem getting math or science done, just art, LOL! I scheduled it for 2-3 times a week, 1-1/2 or 2 hours at a time, depending on the year. Even so, it was something that we sometimes just didn't do. (Art is so messy, you know.) We did the book "Art Fun" the first year, the Feed My Sheep for two years, then Draw Today. We also did some pottery classes, and that was fun. I have some art games that they played, and there were some books on artists that I had them read over the years. If your kids just "do" art, then maybe you don't really need art study. We NEEDED art study, because my kids didn't ever DO it otherwise. In high school I taught them art mostly from an art history perspective, and art appreciation. I suppose in high school, it's good to have some art appreciation course, but maybe other kids just naturally end up studying art without any help at all. Hey, Alex studied economics without any help! Kevin studied Russian History, of all things, without any encouragement! Just not art....


HELP! It's my First Year Homeschooling!!

>>>This is my first yr to hs. I think I get a handle on what needs to be done for a 4th grader and then I find something else out. On top of trying to weed through all the curriculum choices. I am about to give up. I am so frustrated and overwhelmed. I just want it spelled out for me.<<<

All the choices are so overwhelming! And many of the choices are wonderful, which makes it even harder to decide! I began homeschooling when my kids were in 3rd and 5th grades. We started with Sonlight Curriculum, just for those reasons you stated: I wanted everything spelled out for me! Sonlight was a great start, because it sort of "held my hand" while I was learning to homeschool. It taught me what subjects I might want to teach, reminded me not to forget things, and showed me how much to do each day. Plus it's a great curriculum But really, I only started to use it so that someone would "hold my hand" while I started my first year of homeschooling. It's a little pricey, but lots of things are pricey, and investing in your first year will help you get off to a great start. Their website is:

Hope that helps!

What about teaching homeschool grammar?

>>>>Dorette asked a questions about our Sample Comprehensive Record. "Did you ever do any "intensive" grammar course with your boys? I see that you did a Latin course that includes grammar. Was that enough?"<<<<

Before beginning Latin, we did a one-time through course called "Winston Grammar" that I just loved! It's a hands-on, no-writing grammar program that was perfect for my boys. It does not teach writing, it only covers parts of speech (noun, verb, articles, etc.) It was very helpful, though, because it gave us a common language that we could use to discuss their writing. I could say, "this sentence has two adverbs" and they would know what I meant. After doing Winston Grammar Basic, we moved straight into The Latin Road to English Grammar, and that was the only other grammar we used. It was enough grammar, yes. The boys had excellent scores on the SAT test. Of course, how well they WRITE is the real judge of a grammar program, though, and I had them doing some writing every single day.

Other people like to cover Grammar every year, instead of one time one year, and that's fine. Personally, I felt that we covered enough grammar in their writing each year. I do warn people about it duplicating courses, though. If you are doing Winston Grammar, don't do Easy Grammar and Editor in Chief as well, because the student can get frustrated.

This brings up an interesting point, though, about our Sample Comprehensive Record. You can't really tell by looking at it, unless you know our family quite well. My sons started Latin when Kevin was in 7th grade and Alex was in 5th grade. They continued it for 3 years, and completed the program entirely. I put Latin on the transcript for both children, because I knew that it was a high school level course and that they had succeeded in learning a high school amount of material. We put each high school credit under "early high school credits" instead of 9th, 10th, or 11th grade. It may help you to see how those "early high school credits" worked in our family. I am confident that I did the right thing. Alex has continued Latin in college, and he's getting straight A's, taking senior level Latin courses. Not only did I put that 5th grade class on his high school transcript, the colleges accepted it (possibly because he graduated early, though) AND he went on to successfully continue the course in college.

I hope that helps!

How do I "do" Current Events?

>>>>How do I incorporate current events into our homeschool?<<<<

Hi Michele,

In 7th grade we were doing Apologia Biology, Sonlight 100, French, Algebra, SAT prep, and piano. For current events, I bought World Magazine, but that's because my kids are very *into* current events. I think the easiest and most fun way is just to get the newspaper daily. The last two years, I have used a yellow highlighter to circle any articles that they are "required" to read, and I found that they would read other things in the paper as well. You can also ask them questions that they have to answer: What time is low tide today? (Of course, that only works along the coast!) We also listen to a responsible news commentary show during lunchtime. That really helps them to get interested in the topics of the day, and we can discuss the callers opinions. I haven't had them do any written summary, because we do a lot of writing in our homeschool anyway. I usually make current events "required" twice a week. I have found that by using the newspaper, they seem to enjoy reading it on their own more often than I assign. I confess that I sometimes HIDE the newspaper when the stories are especially gross. Hope that helps.


Feedback on Homeschool High School Plan

>>>>A mother wanted feedback on the classes she was choosing for high school. Here is what she had planned:<<<<

Bible- Sonlight
Core 200-Sonlight History
Science-Apologia Biology
Photography class at co-op once a week
Smart Money class at co-op once a week
Algebra 1- Teaching Textbooks
She worried that it would be too much - too little! She asked if she should add Spanish, and what to name her Bible class.

Every student is unique, of course, but your plan looks great to me. I think that as long as your student works reasonably well, it should all go OK. If you want to add Spanish, I would just make sure to stick with only 15 minutes a day, and not try to do any more per day than that. I
think it sounds like a great freshman year!

I counted Bible as...... Bible! In Christian schools, they will list credits for Bible. I gave my boys 1/2 credit for their Bible courses each year, because they did about 1/2 hour of work each day. Christian colleges like to see that the Bible is covered as a subject. Secular colleges like to see "electives" that provide a variety to the course work. You COULD have the Bible course be part of your literature, but Sonlight Literature is plenty for that. I did combine my Literature and my writing course to make ONE English credit, not two. It did make my English credit pretty beefy, but it seemed somehow unnatural to me to separate writing from reading - maybe because of the years of elementary school or something, I don't know. If you want to be sure it's two credits, you can estimate how many hours it will take to finish it. Generally 150-180 hours is one high school credit, so two credits would be a total of 300-380 hours of work to be two full credits. I did actually give two English credits one year. That year we did Sonlight history, literature AND their entire English program, and at the SAME time we did Learn to Write the Novel Way. That was nuts! It was crazy! What was I thinking! LOL! I made sure to never do two complete English programs in one year ever again! LOL!

It is overwhelming to look at the big classes like high school level courses. Remember, though, that "literature" is really just "reading good books", so it doesn't seem like much work. My kids felt the same way about Sonlight History, that it was FUN and not work. Remember, too, that high school is supposed to be harder than younger years. It's part of becoming an adult, this working harder business, kwim? I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, though. High school is fun! Try to make sure that your daughter knows "THIS IS HIGH SCHOOL" so that she's expecting it to be a bit more challenging.

Remember, each student is unique. For my kids, this schedule would have been perfect. I hope that helps to soothe your nerves.

ds Kevin 18yo
ds Alex 16yo

Why you SHOULDN'T Teach your Homeschoolers

As homeschool parents, our goal is NOT to teach something. Our goal is for the kids to LEARN. I could have taught my kids "at grade level" and they would have not learned a thing. Instead, I gave them curriculum at their ability level, and then they had to learn something that they didn't already know.

I believe that older teens MUST learn how to teach themselves. If they go to college, they will be expected to learn all the textbook material on their own. College lectures are most often supplemental to the textbook - not the same. If they don't go to college, they will still have to teach themselves some computer skills, or online banking, or how to buy a car - whatever.

My kids taught themselves Advanced Math (pre-Calculus) and Calculus. They taught themselves physics. I know they knew the material because I gave them the tests. I didn't know what the calculus symbols meant, but I knew that my kids answers matched the answers on the key! I could have taught them Biology and Chemistry (because I'm an RN and I know that stuff) but they actually taught themselves that as well. It just worked out better for us when they were teaching themselves, while I just checked up on them from time to time. Alex taught himself economics, and is now doing graduate level work in economic thought (we've been told by his professor.) He even taught himself psychology and business law, because he got fabulous grades on the college level CLEP exams in those subject.

Here's my point: kids will teach themselves something when they are interested in it. It's fine for kids to do that, and it works out great for kids that are working on an intensely academic, college-prep curriculum as well as for kids that are in a relaxed homeschool environment.

I have seen SO many notes about "getting it all done" that I just want to put in a plug for mom having prayer and quiet time. I found that when I was consistent with those things I could "get it all done" and when I wasn't consistent with those things I got frustrated. Either I was expecting too much, or was frustrated too easily. When I spent time with God, then things went much more smoothly in our homeschooling.

What do you think?


Is it possible to homeschool college?

>>>>One woman was expressing frustration with community college, and said that he son asked if it would be possible to "Homeschool college." <<<<

Hi Debra,
Ironically, one of my squidoo lenses is "How to Homeschool College"
I would encourage you to buy the book "Accelerated Distance Learning." Another good one is Bear's Guide to Earning College Degrees Non-traditionally" by John Bear. Both books are available on my Squidoo website for purchase. Check this you-tube to give you a jump start:

You Tube on Affording College
The presenter, Gary North, suggests 7 alternatives that will help defray college costs. He has a website with additional information.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions!

Public School Jumps in Front of Homeschooler's Parade!

>>>>The following was a letter I wrote to our local school district after discovering an email they sent out identifying my son as a National Merit Commended Scholar from a local public high school.<<<<

Dear Highline School District,

I was online looking for an article that my son had published in the newspaper, and I came across his name in Highline School District newsletter. In the March 30, 2007 edition of Highline eHighlights, you said this about my son:

National Merit Scholar Finalists Named.

Highline and Mount Rainier High School Students Recognized

Three students from Mount Rainier High School and one from Highline High School have been named finalists in the National Merit Scholar program. They are: Anna Cunningham, Maxwell Ferguson, and Jacob Schual-Berke from Mount Rainier, and Kari Olson from Highline.

In addition, Eva Ghirmai from Mount Rainier and Alexander Binz from Highline were named Commended Scholars.

My son Alex never attended Highline. Although he took the test at Highline High School, he was NOT a Highline student. At the time of the PSAT, he was 15 years old and doing Running Start.

Alex is now 17 years old and has senior status at Seattle Pacific University, on a full-tuition scholarship. He has interned for two years at a national think tank and won the Olive Garvey Fellowship from the Independent Institute. His writings have been published in the Seattle P-I and in Liberty magazine. This summer will be the third consecutive year he has presented his research at an international economics conference. This year he is a candidate for the Truman Fellowship.

Alex was homeschooled independently since the second grade.

Had he been in public school, he would still be in high school. He would have graduated high school this year - if he passed the WASL, of course.

Please check your National Merit Scholarship awards each year before listing them, and ensure that you don't claim homeschoolers as if they are your public school students. Homeschool families work hard, and they deserve the credit.


Lee Binz

What grading scale should I use for my homeschool?

>>>>Melissa wanted to know what grading scale I used, because she had seen
a wide variety of scales used in books and other schools.<<<<

I used this grading scale:


I chose it because I wanted my kids to work for mastery, but not necessarily perfection. If they demonstrated mastery, with 90% or more, then I gave them an A and a 4.0.

I also chose that scale because it made the math on the transcript easier.

I don't think it matter WHICH grading scale, I think it just matters that you have one for the purposes of your transcript. Just choose a grading scale - ANY grading scale. If you simply can't decide, then throw a dart at it!

When my children started college, I saw the different teachers all choose different grading scales for each class. The college itself chooses another grading scale. There is a huge variety out there! Just do what's right for your child.


How to Give Homeschool Grades

Sometimes it is hard to figure out how to give homeschool grades if you don't always give tests. This article suggests an approach.

read more | digg story

Homeschooling Upper Level Math

>>>>Karen asked me what my family used for upper math. Every family is different, of course, but I described what worked for us.<<<<

We used Saxon Advanced Math with DIVE CDs and it was very successful. Advanced Math is supposed to be a 1-1/2 year program that includes Pre-Calc and the bulk of formal geometry, but since my son had already had Geometry before switching to Saxon, we figured he could skip those lessons. He did it in one year, and it was his first time ever using Saxon. The next year, with Alex, we also supplemented with The Teaching Company lectures "Calculus Made Clear." I don't think it helped him too much with Advanced Math until the end of the year, but it did help him with calculus the following year, so I think it's a very useful supplement. My kids like those lectures so much they actually watched the whole thing twice, and some sections 3 times. Very few curriculum choices actually go all the way through calculus, and fewer still have some visual tutorials - that's how we ended up with Saxon. The boys did use it completely self-taught, however, and that CAN be done. I only corrected the tests, and even that was difficult for me, since I didn't even understand the symbols! I can tell you that IN GENERAL pre-calculus is the most difficult level of math to learn. At least that is what the college and high school kids I know have told me. I think that Saxon IS self-teaching, so that's good. As for concise, I've talked to a lot of people that say even at the pre-calc and calculus level there are too many problems in each lesson, and have done odds or evens for the problems sets. If it works, do it! I always made sure that Kevin passed with an 85% or better on every test, or we repeated the lessons.

The only other alternative that I can suggest is community college, but even at that you never know if you're going to get a good teacher or not. My advice would be to start with Saxon Advance Math plus DIVE CDs. Call the Saxon help line if you have any questions (we did that 5-6 times that year, and they were VERY responsive!)

Hope that helps!


How in the world do you homeschooling boys!?

>>>>Cindy wanted suggestions for her Junior High boys. She said "Until now, I haven't talked to anyone who has successfully homeschooled boys. I am really looking forward to it, but of course, I'm a little nervous. My son is a sports NUT!!!!!"<<<<

AHA!!! A sports nut!!! Now I have all sorts of ideas for you! Listen, Cindy, with guys, you really need to wear them out, sometimes, before they will sit down and study. Keep him REALLY active in sports everyday, and I think you'll be more likely to succeed in getting him to curl up with a good book. We also did weekly skating/bowling, etc., with our support group, and that was a GREAT way for my boys to meet other homeschooled teens. We didn't do "coop classes" per se, but I did sign them up for a "World War II Naval History Class for teens" in the hopes that they would meet other homeschooled boys - and that worked great for getting to know other friends. Is he involved with a church? That can also provide for that social outlet.

There are some curricula that are geared toward sports (Baseball Math comes to mind.) It could be that your "sports nut" is also a hands-on learner. You might want to use Moving With Math or other hands-on math program. For art, we did a local art class called Teen Pottery Wheel that was a fun way for them to do art in a messy way :-) Look carefully at ideas that are hands-on. One art curriculum we really liked was "Discovering Great Artists." It's a book that has art projects based on famous artists - a very hand-on way to study the history of art.

I would also encourage you to look at Sonlight, especially since it's your first year. I used Sonlight my first year, and I really felt like it "held my hand" while I was figuring out how to homeschool. After a few years of using Sonlight, I decided I could make my own curriculum
schedule by myself, and I was able to do it more cheaply after that. But at first, having Sonlight hold my hand - well, it was worth its weight in gold! You might want to try it for a year, and then branch out after that - then it will seem a lot easier.

Take care!


HELP! My homeschool daughter is reading too much!!!

Homeschooling mothers can have panic attacks about many things. This mom worried that her daughter was reading too much.... and her math book was too easy. Sure these are nice problems to have, but it can still be stressful! Here is what I suggested.

>>>Is there any reason I should have her stop reading so much? She is not avoiding any other assignments. I just want to make sure I am not overlooking something.<<<

Hi Kelley,

It sounds like your daughter would be a PERFECT fit for Sonlight! My kids were like that, reading like crazy. The nice thing about SL is that it exposes the kids to a LOT of different kinds of books to read. I mean, I don't think my kids would have naturally picked up some of the books on our SL schedule, but once they did they loved the books. That really helped us, because then I could assign more books from the same author. For example, once they read ONE of the Little House books, I had them read the WHOLE series. In high school, when they read ONE Agatha Christie book, they read about 20 of them for fun. Sonlight is just GREAT that way.

Things to look out for? I notice that my son had some problems with pronunciation. Because he was advanced in reading, he would see words in print LONG before he ever said them aloud, or heard us say them aloud. My Alex, the economist, even said the WORD economist wrong for the longest time, because he'd read so much about them before he learned how to say the word. My advice for that is to make sure you read aloud every day, so that you come across a varied vocabulary. That should help.

The other problem we had was that even though my kids COULD read a variety of books, and WANTED to read a variety of books, some of the books were just not appropriate for a kid their age. That was a very difficult situation to handle, because even though they liked to read a lot every day, I didn't have the time to do that as well. I did pre-read all the books that I assigned for school. I didn't pre-read all the books from the same author, though. Be careful of assigning books that are too mature in content level. Get the book by Jim Trelease, called the Read Aloud Handbook. It helped us choose books as well.

>>>So far she isn't having problems with Saxon math but I may have her in too easy of a book. I picked the one that corresponded to her ps grade level.<<<

We started homeschooling when my kids were in 3rd and 5th grades, and I picked a grade level math book for them as well. I quickly realized that my youngest was pretty bored. You can easily determine if it is too easy for her. Just give her a TEST from the book each day. As long as she passes the tests with, say, 90% or better, then move her along to the next test. Remember that your job is to make sure she learns. You do not have to make sure you TEACH it. If she already knows it, move forward. Pretest her in the book, and start teaching the concepts once she gets below a 90% on something. A couple of years, my son was able to do 2 math books in a year doing it that way.

I graduated both my boys after homeschooling for 8 years. We used Sonlight for 5 of those years. I hope that helps!


How Can a Booklist be so HUGE!?

>>>>A clients asked:
"I really enjoyed the Comprehensive Records! It really helped to see how you scored your grades, particularly in areas where you did not use a textbook. I also enjoyed your booklists. I have two question about books. How do you select the books for your courses? Do you have any favorite resource? "<<<<


First of all, I'm really glad my Comprehensive Record is helping you. Of course, every family will have completely different records, and they will (hopefully) demonstrate each students unique area of specialization. That's why the book lists look like that on my records - because that's how my kids love to learn. I can't KEEP them away from books. This summer, when Alex was home from college, for fun he read Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie, and Shakespeare. He didn't just read ONE of each of those, he read the whole SERIES of each one. That's what they love to do, and that's why the book list looks like that. In fact, I actually didn't quite manage to capture ALL of their books, because they were much better about reading books then actually writing down the titles for me.

For example, with our Bible class one year, I set 35 books in front of the kids, and told them to read for just 1-2 hours a week from those books. I was expecting them to read, perhaps, 10. They read them ALL. It was amazing to me, but that's what they loved to do - and they still love it.

We started homeschooling with Sonlight Curriculum, and that started them on reading. I supplemented using Jim Trelease Read Aloud Handbook. By the time they were in high school, we included book lists from The Well Trained Mind, and various college reading lists that I found online.

We didn't use literature guides, really. They mostly just read the books. When I would ask them about it, the just said it was good, and asked for the next one. It's nice like we dissected each book in an intense way.

The classes that I failed in (art, state history, etc.) I found that it worked better when my kids learned from literature. So when I got completely frustrated by a subject, I just schedule them to do reading. So instead of studying art, we read art history. Instead of studying 3rd year french, we read french books, and books about France. It's like it's my kids' love language. You're kids may not have the same love language.

Don't feel like you have to read that many books with your kids. Many kids may be doing good to have 1/2 of one page of books on the reading list. It's all about encouraging your kids to do their best, and then be satisfied.

To keep a reading list, you can have the kids write down every book they read, but that didn't work well for me. You can also keep all the receipts from the library and from the bookstore. Keep all your assignment sheets, if you use them, because that may have the names of books you have used. You can include books on tape, and you may want to include plays that are books (like Shakespeare, Death of a Salesman, etc.)

I hope that helps! I'll get to your scheduling questions next time, OK?

Question about CLEP Exams

I read with interest your article on CLEP exams and have a question. How does taking the exams affect your GPA in college? I understand that in some instances you can get college credit for passing the exams, but are you assigned a grade that factors into your GPA?
Thank you, Maureen

Hi Maureen,

I'm glad you found the article useful to you! Every college has its own unique policy about CLEP exams, and some colleges give a grade that affects GPA and other's give credit but not grade, and others don't give credit but do give placement into upper level classes. 3 of the schools we applied for provided CLEP credits, but none of them gave a grade, so our GPA was not affected. I haven't read about many college giving an actual GRADE for a CLEP exams.

In contrast, AP exams usually do have a grade that is applied. Generally for an AP exam, a score of 5 (perfect) is an A, 4 is B, 3 is C, and less is not given college credit. I do know one homeschool student who took an AP exam and scored a respectable 4. She was disappointed, though, because that was the only "B" for her entire college career.You might want to check the colleges your student might apply for, and see what they have for their own unique policy.

I wish I could give you a more direct answer to your question, but each college makes up their own rules. I can suggest a website that provides some free lessons plans for CLEP study available online: I hope that helps!


How valuable is a formal literature program for my homeschooler?

>>>>A reader asks: I am considering doing some sort of formal literature with my 7th and 8th grader. We have never done any formal literature.......Or should I just assign them some reading and have them write about it?<<<<

I vote for just reading good books :-) I always felt guilty that we didn't do a "literature program". We just read lots and lots of books. I rarely thought to do intensive discussion. I did read ahead all the books they read - I wasn't a total goof up! But really, our discussions were something like, "what did you think of this book?" answer: "it was good!" I wasn't sure I had prepared them well, but then Alex took the American Literature CLEP exam and passed it with flying colors. Plus the books they choose in the library and at the bookstore tell me that they do appreciate good literature. The only really formal literature we did was to do "Learn to Write the Novel Way" which teaches information about character development and setting and stuff. I just want to give you the freedom to NOT do a formal literature program if you don't want to. It's all about the books, in my opinion, and not so much about the program part.

Hope that helps!

Are "Great Illustrated Classics" Worthwhile?

>>>>I was asked if using "Great Illustrated Classics" was a good idea...<<<<

I'm very familiar with those books, and I have actually suggested them for parents to use when their kids simply won't read college reading list material (which can happen for a variety of reasons.) They do have illustrations, which can help remedial readers but annoy older teens. I believe they are written at a 5th grade reading level. An adult reader can get through each book in perhaps 1-2 hours. The editing isn't in beautiful prose - in other words, they aren't that well written from a literary perspective. They ARE true to the story line, however. I really think a student will get a sense for the book by reading them, and that can benefit them. They just won't be getting the vocabulary or the "ear" for great literature.

A similar idea is to have kids read the GABB, "Great American Bathroom Book" which has a concise 2 page synopsis of great literature. You may be able to find that at Amazon. They don't have pictures, and it's meant for adults, so the reading level is more challenging.

Again, you don't get the vocabulary or the "ear" for literature, but you do get the story line.

Hope that helps!

SAT or ACT? Which is better for homeschoolers

>>>>One mother asked if it was better homeschoolers to take the SAT or the ACT.<<<<

I have read that the SAT is more commmonly given on the coasts, and the ACT is more commonly given in the center of the country. For that reason, both tests are accepted at colleges (every college I've ever spoken to HAVE accepted both.) One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that we can choose which test is right for OUR student, and they don't have to take the same test as their age-mates in school. I always recommend that students take a sample test in both and see which one they score best at, and then study for THAT test. They can raise their score more that way - and it can mean saving many thousands of dollars every year on tuition. I read a statistic that said 30% of kids score better on the SAT, 30% score better on the ACT, and 30% score the same on both tests. I found a link from Kaplan, that compares both tests for you. It also mentions that both tests are accepted by colleges:

I have heard that some colleges require the "optional essay" from the ACT. I would encourage her to use the test she scores better on - the SAT - but also make sure she does the essay on the exam. Some homeschoolers do have "just mommy grades" and do well. For those people, colleges use their SAT and ACT scores as external documentation of learning. If you have distance learning classes AND test scores AND homeschool grades, then you're doing more than enough. In my opinion, she will not be at a disadvantage at all. In fact, she will have the advantage! Way to go, Mom!


One great way to evaluate a college

<<<This mother was asking how to find a good college for her daughter that wants a PhD in Biology. She was asking for a school in New Jersey, and I don't know the schools in that area. I was able to give her some general advice, though. >>>

If you are asking about undergraduate schools, make sure you compare their graduate school admission rates. One local school has a medical or law school admission rate of 100%. (Seattle Pacific University - but I can't remember if that's their medical or law school statistic.) Once you find a school you are interested in, then find that statistic in a college comparison book (US News and World Report has one, but so does Peterson's, and Kaplan. You can usually find them in the library reference section.) The graduate school admission rate can imply how well students are prepared academically in general, can suggest how well the are advised by academic advisers, and may tell you how much help they get in applying for graduate schools.


Is there such a thing as too much homeschooling?

A homeschool parents asked me how much is TOO much. Here is our email conversation.

>>> Here's her schedule, tell me what would you do? At co-op she takes volleyball, speech, creative writing, newsletter, Peacemakers (the teacher is going through the book sort of like a Bible Study). She has a speech due at least every 2 weeks and for creative writing she is working on a novel and she has to critique everyone else's writing every week. She has to turn in all her revisions every week to her creative writing teacher. This is very time consuming, but she loves it a lot.>>>>>

My Response: PE is important, but speech, creative writing, and newsletter are all 3 basically an English credit. English credits that are requiring a lot of work. It's OK to have too many of one kind of high school credit (good in fact) but it has to be balanced with the need for other subjects.

>>>> Tuesday: Community college: she leaves the house about 10:30 am and returns home about 1:00 pm. She is taking Spanish there 2 days a week.<<<

Spanish is good, and colleges usually require 2-3 years of foreign language. But community colleges pack one year of high school foreign language into just 4-5 months of school! That makes it three times as much work as a high school class. Again, that's do-able, but you have to make sure she balances that with her other subjects.

>>>>> Wednesday: Volunteer work: She works with a local ministry which does after-school kids clubs. This group is so awesome, they go into the public schools and reach out to the kids with the gospel. <<<<

Being a group leader is huge. Doing volunteer work is huge. Plus if she likes it and can continue with it, that will be great. That sounds like a great area of specialization for her.

>>> In addition to the classes she takes at co-op and cc, she is doing SL400, Civics, plus their literature and Bible programs. There are a LOT of writing assignments involved with SL and I am trying to only assign one or two a week, but she isn't even getting those done>>>>

I would eliminate all writing from all components of the Sonlight program. One year Alex asked for SL 10 for Christmas, and I gave it to him, and he read it for fun. (Passed a CLEP exam even!) You don't have to do all the assignments, just take what works from it. She is obviously getting enough writing elsewhere. Does she enjoy the reading? IF so, I would just have her read, and maybe speak to you for a few minutes about the book she reads. Because her program is so thick with writing already, you might even consider eliminating some of the reading material in the SL program. The only thing she "needs" from that Sonlight is the Civics. All the English and Bible are repeats.

>>>She is also doing Apologia's Human Anatomy and Physiology course, but she is so far behind it's ridiculous. I don't even feel I can give her a credit for it at this point.<<<

If she wants to go to college, she will probably need 3 sciences. Give her credit for it when she does get done. You could suggest that she does that on her Wednesday or Thursday morning, first thing, and you supervise that. Her strength is obviously English, so this is the part where you need to invest your energy: the science, math, and civics.

>>>> She is doing Geometry when she feels like it and she is supposed to be studying for the SAT.<<<

What are her career and college goals? Does she realize she needs math? Again, I would have her do math every day when she is at home, again, first thing in the morning. Perhaps a "can't leave until it's done" attitude. That's hard with teens, though, I know!

I would completely drop the SAT prep. You're just hitting your head against the wall at this point.

>>>> Oh, and I forgot to mention she's on the student council for our hs co-op. This requires about one meeting a month or so plus she is the PR person. I haven't seen her spending a whole lot of time here, so it isn't really a huge concern compared to everything else at this point.>>>>

Leadership is a big deal to colleges, and it seems like this is her area of specialization. One of them :-)

>>>> As if all of this isn't enough, she works part time at an ice cream shoppe. She cut her hours back to about 10 a week, and she needs (we need) the money. She has to pay for her car insurance, and she is trying to put away at least a little money for college.<<<

Jobs are good, and can make a kid more efficient in their school work. Ten hours a week seems reasonable, but if she were my daughter I would absolutely insist on math and science (since she's doing all the other subjects) every week.

>>>>>I know she has too many classes to keep up with. <<<<

She does. It is not humanely possible. Add up her hours that you're expecting from each class, and I'm betting you're up to about a 60-80 hour week. Not possible.

I think that when kids get older, we have to let them make choices. Basically she has chosen her English credits, job, leadership, volunteerism, and foreign language, and that's GREAT. You need to somehow get her to choose math and science, in order to complete the package. Try to tie those in to how she plans on achieving her goals
for college and life. If she were my daughter, the few days when she was at home in the morning, I would do the science WITH her, and make her do the math before leaving home (or she couldn't go out at night until she was done.)

>>>> UGH! I could go on and on. But this is already too long. I could really use some advice from those of you who are or have homeschooled teens. Do I need to insist my dd let some things go?
> Thanks for listening!<<<<<

Hang on! Those teens can make you nuts! She's trying to make her own choices, and it sounds like it general they are good choices. She just needs to find a balance in her subjects - especially math and science, since the others are getting done.

I hope that helps at least a little bit!

What to do about a critical husband

>>>>This woman wanted suggestions on how to respond to her husband, who was critical of her homeschool. It seemed that he was complaining that she wasn't doing enough, even though she was working 4-5 hours per day on school with her elementary age students.<<<<

Hi Becky,
I'm sorry! This is a difficult situation. It's a rough one for a committed Mom.

What if you asked your husband what he WANTS you to do for homeschool. What if he indicated what subjects he wanted covered, etc? Another idea might be to go with a curriculum like Sonlight, that has all the checklists, so he can see some progress. Then again, you mentioned Read Alouds, so maybe you are already doing that... OR you could just make your own schedule, and fill in all the little squares like they do in Sonlight instructor's guides. Then ask your husband BEFORE the week starts "This is what we are planning to do. Would you like me to add or change anything?" I'm suggested this because he may not be aware of what you do all day unless he asks. But if you tell him FIRST, then perhaps he'll feel on top of things, and won't be as
negative about it when he asks.

Just thinking out loud here. I hope it helps!
The HomeScholar
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"
Sign up for my free email newsletter!

Keeping your kids up on current events

My kids are 10 and 12. I get the God's World News, and have them read it and answer the questions on the TM sheet. This is also my only work on reading comprehension, as I always forget narration. That is why I like using God's World. It gives them a little practice with multiple choice quizzes. If there is a story we are following (like now we are following the convention) I will call them into the room when the story is on the news. Otherwise, I don't let them watch the news. It is too overwhelming to them to see all the crime stories, if you know what I mean. I also have them read certain stories from the newspaper. I will ask them "What section would the hurricane be in?" so that they can learn their way around the paper. If there is a lot of disgusting news, child rapists or whatever, and I still want them to see an article, I will use a highlighter to circle the article, and tell them to read that one.

Lee (August 2000)

What about "narrative" transcripts?

>>>>Catherine asks: How important is it to have a typical looking transcript with grades and a GPA vs a more narrative type of transcript or even one with courses listed but no grades, since our goal is mastery and so they'd all just be A's anyway?<<<<

Hi Catherine,
Maybe you could try to think about it a little differently. Think of yourself as a foreign language translator. Your job is to translate what you have done in your homeschool, into words and numbers that colleges understand. Your job isn't to change your homeschool - just do what works for you. You job is only to translate your experiences (whatever they are) into the "love language" of colleges.

I know that some colleges don't mind a narrative explanation of a homeschool. I went to a Christian college fair last Monday, and there were a handful of colleges where 15-20% of their student body had been homeschooled. Those admissions people talked about narrative records in a very warm and open way. This weekend I'm going to a Homeschool College Fair, and I'm sure it will be equally welcoming to all sorts of homeschool records (otherwise they probably wouldn't be at a fair just for homeschoolers, right?) But I think the majority of colleges may not understand anything other than a transcript because it will seem like a foreign language to them.

You might want to just group your student's learning experiences together into groups that are approximately 1 credit worth. Label it something that sounds like a class title. Once he has put in a year's worth of math work, for example, you could call it "discrete math" or "concepts in math" or something. You could look at CLEP exams, and see which ones look like academic content that your student has learned, and then list those subject names on your transcript. Have you looked at Barb Shelton's Homeschool Form-U-La book? Her book is not for everyone, but she does have a good explanation of how to take what you have done and explaining it in college-friendly language.

I hope that helps.

Pre-Calculus Question Part 1

A friend of mine was having a problem with her daughter taking pre-calculus. After doing well on the first test, she had failed the second. She thought it might be the curriculum and was looking for advice on what to do.

I responded:

A wise woman once said: "When it doesn't work, stop using it." Time to switch, if you ask me. First thing I suggest is going online to The Teaching Company, and getting a video of either Algebra 2 here:

Or calculus here:

The next thing that I would do is purchase Teaching Textbooks, because it provides another way of explaining things. That same wise woman once said "Invest in your weaknesses" which right now is pre-calculus. The final thing I would do is ask your English speaking friends who are engineers if they can help. Please, tell me you have some friends that are engineers, right?? Ask them to spend a few moments just on this chapter, while you are waiting for the remaining curriculum to arrive. If that doesn't work, you can try googling "Math Tutor" and see if you can make a phone call over the internet to an english speaking tutor. Try, or "High School Hub" or even Teaching Textbooks (once you order from them.)

No matter what, do NOT panic. Pre-calculus IS hard, and it's worth the struggle. Once you have done this, you can do anything! This struggle will one day make a marvelous college application essay. And you know, Pre-calculus is already a VERY impressive accomplishment, so pursuing more will be "gravy"!! Keep at it, don't panic. You can do it! Go team Go!
The HomeScholar
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"
Sign up for my free email newsletter!

Pre-Calculus Question Part 2

My friend developed a plan and I wanted to encourage her to implement it.

I wrote:

Do you remember when the kids were babies, and things would get really hard and miserable? One thing that helped me at THAT stage of life, was realizing that those things only tend to last for a week or two. I was never sure whether it was me adapting to them, or them adapting to me, but after two weeks the thing that freaked me out wasn't freaking me anymore.

It's like that will high school, too. In two weeks, this crisis will be over. Somehow, someway, it will have gotten better (not perfect perhaps, but no longer a crisis.) So hang in there! Maybe in two weeks, you will have moved to the next crisis, LOL!

You have some great, concrete, specific steps that you are working on. You have as many resources as anyone here in the states (SOME math help, not perfect math help, is really the norm.) You have a great, step-by-step plan. This is going to be OK. You are doing a great job!

I hear Bill Cosby on Oprah the other day, and he said something I loved. He said that parents are "love-givers" not "care-givers" and that it's the LOVE that makes a difference. Here your daughter is at home, learning pre-calculus, and you really are invested in whether or not she knows the material because you LOVE her. She isn't just forced to move on to the next topic, but you're finding resources to help her understand. That, my friend, is why I never hesitate to give a 4.0 in a homeschool high school class. But really, if she were in ANY other learning environment, she would be moved forward in math whether she understood it or not. YOU are doing a GREAT job, because you love your daughter.

I wish I could help, but I personally don't know pre-calculus :-)

The HomeScholar
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"
Sign up for my free email newsletter!

The best record keeping ever!

My client this week uses the best record keeping I've ever seen! She had her daughter keep a computer log of every moment she spent in every class. The excel spreadsheet for English has a line that says: 11/3/06 read "The Giver" 75 minutes, for example. Her "Voice" spreadsheet says how many minutes she spent each day practicing vocal techniques and taking lessons. She has spreadsheets for ever single course, and has the minutes spent on each one per day. This is incredible! Pages and pages of documentation! I've never seen anything so wonderful, and it was SO easy for me to write her Comprehensive Record using the 50 or more pages of data that she gave me. Oh my goodness!

I have to confess, though, that I could have NEVER talked my boys into doing that. I remember trying, but they would do it once and then "forget" from then on. Maybe this is just a strategy that works for just this client, but I have to say she wins the prize for the best kept records!

Whatever strategy WORKS for you, is the one that's best for you to use. Whatever works, do it! Just make sure to keep records SOMEHOW, so that you can create the documents you need when you are applying to colleges. Keep it all!


Homeschooling Grandmothers Unite!

Joyce in Maine wrote to me today:

"Thank you!! we are late to homeschooling. I am a grandparent of an 11th grader who is now raising her. Our decision to home was just made this week and we are doing ok, but floundering around at times. My daughter (her aunt) homeschools her kids and has been an enormous help. I have found your letter to have some really great stuff in it. We want her to go to college but she is so much happier doing this at home and I can use all the help I can get. great newsletter, thanks so much"

It reminded me of how many homeschooling grandmothers I met at the last homeschool convention. Here is my response to her:

"Dear Joyce,
You are so welcome! Boy, I'm seeing more and more grandparents homeschooling these days. Schools are just SO different than they used to be! I'm really proud of you for taking on such a big job. I must say, I've seen grandparents be EXTREMELY successful when the teen is willing and eager to stay home. If you ever feel like you are in over your head, my DVD is a nice overview. It's intended for homeschoolers with 9th and 10th graders, but since you are just starting, it would be perfect.
Have a great day!

Need Help Finding a College?

It's hard to have a high school Junior! Even when they want to go to college, they sometimes lack motivation to research the possibilities. There is a new website designed to help. Seattle PI reporter Amy Rolph writes "A new Web site was introduced with the intended purpose of making it easier for the next class of freshmen to pick the right college." Read her article here, or go directly to the U-CAN website and see if it can help you find a college. Hopefully your high school student will enjoy using the computer to search for colleges. Remember that there are also college fairs to help you choose - and many of them are this month!
Pacific Northwest Homeschool College Fair
National College Fair
Christian College Fair