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!
Blessings,
Lee
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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!

Blessings,
Lee
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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.

Blessings,
Lee
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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....


Blessings,

Lee
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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.

Blessings,

Lee
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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.

Blessings,
Lee
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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,
Blessings,
Lee

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.

Blessings,
Lee
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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.

Blessings,
Lee

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.

Blessings,
Lee

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
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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?

Blessings,
Lee
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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.
Blessings,
Lee

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:
http://thehomescholar.blogspot.com/search/label/Grades%20and%20Credits
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!
Blessings,
Lee
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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.

Blessings,
Lee
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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.

Blessings,
Lee

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!
Blessings,
Lee

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: www.diveintomath.com.

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!

Blessings,
Lee

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.<<<

Bridget,
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....

Blessings,
Lee