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!

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Blessings,

Lee

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You Are Capable!

This time of year people start considering options for next year. Some parents are considering accessing classes in a school environment (public, private or co-op classrooms.) Whatever decisions you make, I encourage you to just make sure that you are the person in control, not a school or a school teacher. The control issue is very important. It means that you don't have to jump through hoops in order to get the class that you want. It means that if the class works, you use it. If it doesn't work, just stop using it and go to something else. Don't wait out the term! If you are accessing it for one class and it works, then great!. But don't feel like you "must" use their classes. Beware if you start feeling incapable. Sometimes situations like that can feed your fears, and make you feel more and MORE incapable. But we know different - you ARE capable. You're able to decide whether each class is the right thing for your child, and you will remain capable to making good decisions even if you sign up for a class at a school.

No matter what -- make sure you always feel confident in your abilities, and remain in control of the education of your child.

Blessings,

Lee

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Failure is an Option!

Have you ever notice that everyone else's children seem perfect? They are smarter, nicer, more musical or athletic, right? We all know that nobody is perfect, but why do other kids seem more perfect than our own?

Rarely do mothers and fathers share failures and short-comings of their kids. Usually they share successes and strengths! I often share my children's strengths - does that mean they are perfect? No Way!

This past month I have really been faced with "to err is human" in an up-close and personal way. Both of my young men (now 18 and 20) received their first traffic tickets. Both of them - two weeks apart. Each was driving about 20 mph over the limit. Each is faced with a huge ticket and a visit to traffic court. Both are considering how they will compensate financially if their insurance rates go up.

Apparently, I'm not perfect either. I taught them both to drive! And look at what happened! I'm trying hard not to feel like a failure in this area. I try to remember that I give instruction, but they make choices like adults make choices. But still, you would think that homeschooling would come with some sort of guarantee. Shouldn't it?

Take heart. Nobody is perfect!

Blessings,

Lee

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Thinking About High School Already??

The best time to consider homeschooling high school is.... now! I love it when parents of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders tell me that they are beginning to learn about homeschooling high school. It's a great training time for parents! You can learn all of the issues around record keeping, academics, and encouraging specialization. At the same time, there is no pressure to "perform" or be perfect, since it's all just for practice.

When my oldest child began 7th grade, that's when I started reading about high school. By the time it was my turn, I felt like an "old pro"!

Blessings,

Lee

Getting serious about homeschooling high school? Try my 3-hour crash course. It's everything you need to succeed in homeschooling your teenagers through graduation!

How to Use Family Math

My first week of homeschooling I took my one and only "class", and it was on Family Math. I learned how to play about 10 or so of the games. The basic idea is to start at the top of the directions and work your way down, and the game WILL eventually make sense. Usually my kids understood the game better than me: I'm just there to read the directions!

This is how I used it: I looked at the math lesson that my kids were learning that day. Say it's fractions. I looked in the index in the back of the Family Math book, and look up fractions. It lists 4 or 5 games and activities with fractions. I looked at the top of each game for the grade level (primary, elementary, or middle school). Then I looked at the game to see what I need for supplies. I kept a shoe box with math stuff: sugar cubes, dice, cards. Mostly the games just required paper and pencil.

We played a math game almost every day. I used it as my math manipulative. This math manipulative is directly related to what they were learning in their math lesson (also in some of the Building Thinking Skills lessons.) It helped to teach the "why" of math concepts that may be difficult at first. When my eldest was 11 years old, he would usually begin his math lesson with "I don't get it." If I could find a good game for that lesson first, then he would start his lesson with "This is so easy." There was never a middle ground, by the way!

To make my life easier, and on the advise of the Family Math teacher, I made copies of all the game boards that I needed at the beginning of the year (when copies were 1 penny!) I made about 10 copies of each game. The book is reproducible. I paper clipped the copies together, and stored them in a 3 ring binder in numerical order. If the game on page 92 requires a copy, I slip one out of the folder. I have my hubby make more copies when one set gets low. Not all games require copies, though.

I loved Family Math because it is multi-age (k-8th grade) and inexpensive to use. Much like Spelling Power!



Blessings,

Lee

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Continuing Education for Homeschool Professionals!

In many states nurses, doctors, and other professionals are required to take a certain amount of continuing education courses each year. They need to stay up-to-date on the latest research and trends.

Homeschooling parents have a similar need for continuing education. Soon it will be homeschool convention time, and I encourage you to put them on your calendar now! If you don't have a convention in your state, go to a neighboring state. Conventions can show you the newest curriculum, and you can find the resources that will be perfect for your child. Conventions provide wonderful classes that will instruct you on how to teach, or encourage and inspire you to continue along this sometimes challenging path. You'll find educational games and activity suggestions that will spark interests in your children. Conventions aren't 100% perfect, and I know they can be very overwhelming at times. They can also help you plan ahead, learn more, and become motivated again.

Take a moment to put your homeschool conventions on the calendar! Here are the 2008 conventions in Washington State. When you are there, make sure you stop by my booth and say "Hi!". You can also hear me speak on the topics shown below:

Christian Heritage Conference
April 17-19
Redmond, WA
more...

NW Catholic Conference
May 2-3
Tukwila, WA
Topic: "College Preparation"
more...

WHO Convention
June 13-14
Puyallup, WA
Topics: "Gifted Education" and "Transcripts"
more...

WATCH Conference
August 8-9
Seattle, WA
more...

Blessings,

Lee
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"Stand By Your Man" - Homeschool Addition

In our Sunday School class on "Love and Respect" I learned a new strategy for dealing with teenage boys! Women tend to relate best face-to-face while talking. The book suggests that men relate best shoulder-to-shoulder without necessarily using words. If you are struggling with your teenage son, try to spend some quiet time doing nothing, saying nothing, and accomplishing nothing. Just be by his side, whether in the car or doing another activity he is interested in. Chances are, he will interpret that outing in a positive way.

In my own life, I have seen how that strategy can work. When I have a difficult subject to discuss with my boys, it goes over best if we are NOT talking face to face. It helps if we are on a walk, or in the car, and are both looking forward rather than at each other. It's almost as if these guys feel threatened when we look them in the eye. Like a pack of wolves, they can perceive eye contact as a threat and fight back.

If you are struggling with your boys and desperate for ideas, it may be worth a try. Shoulder-to-shoulder, avoid eye contact. Let me know if it works!

Blessings,

Lee


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Only "Actual Teachers" Should Read This!

A virtual school had an advertisement with a parent testimonial stating:

"We have found the K12 curriculum to be far above anything we could have done on our own, plus we have the added advantage of an actual teacher for help"

Don't be fooled! Homeschooling parents ARE actual teachers - the best possible teachers for their children.

That same virtual school had another advertisement that said:

"Student/student interaction is also actively encouraged, so (this virtual school's) students are always well-educated and well-socialized."

In my opinion, any group that worries about children being "well-socialized" are NOT homeschooling groups. It's one of those "ah ha" statements that really indicates a lot about a group. Any time someone tells you that you need a classroom experience to be "well-socialized" you can confidently stand your ground. Be polite, but firm, and explain that your homeschooled children ARE well-socialized, and they didn't need a classroom environment to get that way. Friends and family, people of all ages, and the normal comings and goings of your life provide all you need to "socialize" your children.

Remember: you ARE an "actual teacher!"

Remember: you are providing your children with all the social skills they need to shine in this world.

Blessings,

Lee

The HomeScholar provides a free monthly e-newsletter, daily blog support, low cost videos and private consultations -- everything you need to successfully homeschool through high school.

The Intangible Benefits of Homeschooling

From Eeyore to Tigger:

The tangible benefits of homeschooling are many. You can see the benefits of academics, socialization, and specialization. You can see the quality of the kids that receive moral and ethical values, with lots of time for family. There are also intangible benefits of homeschooling.

I recently worked with a family who decided to pull their student out of public school as a sophomore. While he was a very sweet child, I noticed that he was withdrawn - never looking me in the eye. I briefly wondered about depression. After a month of homeschooling, I saw the family again. The child and mother we teasing each other and laughing - poking each other in the ribs as they walked! The student looked me in the eye and said, "hello" while smiling! The cloud was lifted!

This is not the first time I've seen an Eeyore become a Tigger. This is one of the intangible benefits of homeschooling. When the constant negative feedback of school is removed, and the student is molded and shaped through real life experiences and a loving family, the cloud can be lifted.

Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Shocking! A Positive Homeschool Message on TV!!

Check out these amazing videos. They are glowing reports on the "how and why" of homeschooling. Pretty surprising given the usual tone of homeschool reports on network TV. I was particularly taken by the discussion of "Thomas Jefferson Education" since this is what we did in our homeschool without knowing there was an actual name for it! TJEd is all about finding your child's passion and building on it throughout their homeschool years. Similar to what my husband talks about in his articles on "Raising Superheroes." Read them here and here. I think you will enjoy these clips.


Part I
"Three ways to homeschool"
http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=3917028n

Part II
Why Families Homeschool
http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=3916700n?source=search_video

Blessings,

Lee
The HomeScholar
www.TheHomeScholar.com

Help spread the good news about homeschooling high school. Please add my button to your blog and website. Get the code from the the upper right corner of this blog. Thank you!!


Is Your Child Bored with High School?

If your child is bored with high school topics, you can consider two choices: college options and non-college options.


College options include going to a university at an early age (either as a regular student or "Non-matriculated" student) or attending a community college before going to the university. College policies vary on non-matriculation. College like to get money, however, and usually non-matriculated students pay the full price (no scholarships). Since it's basically "free money" for the college, they are highly motivated to accept those students. With these options, the student is in a classroom with college-age people on a daily basis.

Non-college options include homeschooling college and other distance learning opportunities, where most of the academic work is done at home, similar to homeschooling. View this quick video on the process:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evJeAAJedbY

Also check out my Dig Deeper page on homeschooling college:
http://www.squidoo.com/How_2_Homeschool_College

These are the books I recommend on the subject:
"Accelerated Distance Learning" by Homeschool Graduate Brad Voeller.



or Bears Guide To Earning Degrees By Distance Learning



Here's how it works: You pick and choose from online classes across the nation. All the work is done at home. All the results from those different online experiences are all sent to one university. If you choose to do it all four years of college this way, some (but not all) of the upper level courses require you to fly to the distance location for testing once a quarter. That University will provide "accreditation" for all the credits that are earned. Those accredited transcripts will be sent the next University your student wishes to attend. It's possible to homeschool college from one quarter to all four years.

Blessings,

Lee

Looking for a college? Try my Teachable Moments DVD, "Finding a College"


Obsessive/Compulsive Mathematics

My husband asked me, "Do all homeschoolers finish the math book?" The answer is "OF course not!" The truth is, some homeschoolers have their child do every single problem in every math book before moving on. Other homeschoolers skip many problems or even chapters each year without giving it a second thought. I encourage people to come down firmly in the middle of this controversy. What's important is NOT how many problems they do, or how many days of school you have. What's important is that the students are learning. If they can learn math with only 1/2 the problems, then that's great! Don't punish them with additional math problems that might beat the love of numbers right out of them. On the other hand, it's not helpful to move on before a child understands the math concept they are on. Balance is key.

Blessings,

Lee

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The Great California Homeschool Earthquake?

The media seems to be saying this is THE BIG ONE.

Here is a link to the Fox News story, but I've heard the same on other news programs.
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,335808,00.html

"California parents who don't have teaching credentials no longer can home school their children, according to a recent state appellate court ruling."

But here is a summary from a California Homeschool group:
http://californiahomeschool.net/howTo/updates.htm

"The law in California has not changed. This is the opinion of one court. CHN strongly believes this opinion is incorrect, and homeschooling by using one of the alternatives to public school currently available under California law remains legal. The implications of this ruling and possible actions are currently being discussed by CHN, along with HSC, CHEA, Family Protection Ministry and HSLDA. "

And another summary from Homeschool Association of California
http://www.hsc.org/Appellatedecision

My internet friend, Julie, expressed it this way:

"People are getting phone calls from relatives that they are doing illegal activities. I went with my kids to cook a meal for the homeless at our church, something we do once a month, and I was hit up with the questions about legalities. " and "While leaders are paying attention and being vigilant, it isn't any reason to panic."

Julie in San Diego
http://www.livingmath.net/

I know that it is concerning to hear these inflammatory statements on the news, but I don't think there is a need to panic. It might be a great time to write your own state legislators, and let them know how important homeschooling is to you. It's a great exercise for kids as well - a good civics lesson. But keep in mind that California law has not changed, and state and national agencies are currently working on the problem. Let's watch, and keep our eyes on reputable sources. Try to avoid listening to news reports from agencies and people that don't really know homeschool laws.

Blessings,
Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Never Ending Record Keeping

Never ending record keeping

Are you writing your own comprehensive records for your student? Frustrating, isn't it! One thing to remember about the Comprehensive Records - you're never done until graduation. It's like homeschooling in that you never really "finish." You can add touches and change things.... At some point you have to add final grades and final graduation dates. So don't worry that it doesn't feel complete. You won't until your student is finally away to college. Even if your student takes community college classes, you'll still be adding things to the transcript. Try to relax and have fun with it as you constantly edit, review, and revise. And if you need some help with the process, I'm here for you!

Blessings,

Lee
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Rethinking Failure

Recently I've shared with some of my homeschool "failures" like literature analysis and nature studies. I didn't even mention art and Washington State history! Everyone feels like they have failed at some points. I think it may be an issue with motherhood in general: a chronic feeling of guilt.

Now that my kids have graduated from homeschool, I can see that these "failures" weren't really failures at all. Many times it was me adjusting my homeschool to meet the learning style of my children. I perceived them as failures because I wasn't able to get them to love learning by meeting MY learning style. Love of learning came when I met THEIR learning style. Now with my 20/20 hindsight, I can say that I didn't "fail" at literature analysis, nature studies, art, or state history. Instead, I adjusted the way I taught to match my children's way of learning - and that is a success.

Someday when you are looking back on your homeschool, you may find that some of your "failures" were actually successes as well! Just something to think about the next time you're feeling guilty....

Blessings,

Lee

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Our Charlotte Mason High School - or Maybe Not

Charlotte Mason would have loved my pond. Only a half-mile from our house, the pond has river otter, blue heron, and other fabulous Northwest wildlife. When we moved here, I thought I would spend hours at the pond with my children, doing nature studies. A short distance from Puget Sound, I fantasized about oceanography units and marine biology studies.....I dreamed of examining algae under a microscope and I was positively giddy about the ducklings.

Except.....it didn't happen. It's one thing to focus on "delight-driven" studies, but what about driving "non-delightful" studies? My boys would whine and complain the whole time we did nature studies. They loved physical exertion, and didn't mind getting out for a bike ride or a swim, but they didn't want to just "sit there and look at stuff." All they wanted was books and bikes. Sigh! What's a Charlotte-Masony Mom to do?

I finally had to conclude that the "delight" in delight-driven was about them, not me. I had to let go of the fabulous nature studies and focus on the ways my children learned instead. "Let them have books!" I decided.

Now that the kids are in college, my husband and I frequently walk to the pond, and walk to the beach, and enjoy our nature studies together. And he doesn't whine... usually....





Blessings,

Lee
--
The HomeScholar
www.TheHomeScholar.com

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I Hate Literary Analysis - Part 3

Last summer, when the kids came home from their first year in college, I felt like I could finally say I had succeeded in my goal. "For fun" they went to the library to get some reading material. My son Alex read the entire Shakespeare collection, my son Kevin read CS Lewis and some Dostoevsky. I may have been stressed out when they were in high school, but I can honestly say that I achieved my goal: they LOVE reading. Yippee!

Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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I Hate Literary Analysis - Part 2

The truth is I always felt guilty about not doing literary analysis.... I decided early on that my goal in teaching the Bible was for the kids to LOVE their Bible. So I finally decided that my goal for literature would be the same - teaching them to LOVE literature. I didn't want to "beat the love of books out of them" with analyzing everything.

In retrospect, it all ended up great. They are able to do college literary analysis in their honors "great books" class without a problem, and getting A's. Great 20/20 hindsight, but at the time I really stressed over "reading comprehension" more than just about anything else.

Keeping the focus on "love of learning" is so hard, though, when you are faced with a kid who may only answer "fine" when you ask them about their reading :-)

Blessings,

Lee
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I Hate Literary Analysis - Part 1

True confession: I really admire people who do literary analysis, but I simply wasn't capable. It seems odd that someone who is such a fan of literature based curriculum should say that. I primarily used Sonlight, and later The Well Trained Mind. Sonlight was the easiest to use, but after a while we had read most of the books, so I switched to The Well Trained Mind reading lists and other "reading lists for the college bound" and tried to tie in the reading with the history. We didn't do any "literature analysis" we just enjoyed the books. My kids loved it so much they both signed up for the great books and honors courses in college and did very well with it.

Blessings,

Lee
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I am The Weakest Link

Although I took calculus in college.... OK, that's not completely true. I actually took calculus TWICE in college because I failed it the first time! Allow me to start again....

Although I have taken calculus repeatedly, I don't actually know any calculus right now. In fact, from the time my kids were in Algebra 2, I was completely lost. My boys both used Saxon Math with DIVE CD's for Advanced Math and Calculus, and we supplemented that with The Teaching Company course called "Calculus Made Clear." The boys managed to learn calculus without me. I watched them do the assignments. I smiled when they told me about complex concepts. I nodded wisely as they would work out tough problems, I observed them use the solution manual to work out each problem. I did everything supportive I could ... except teach.

I primarily added value by confiscating the answer key when I gave them tests, but they did great on the tests even without it. The hardest part was correcting their tests. I didn't even know what the symbols meant! Using skills I had mastered in Kindergarten, I just made sure their answers looked exactly like the answer key. They basically taught themselves Calculus! Unbelievable!

The upper subjects like Calculus and Physics can be very intimidating, but it IS possible. If you are facing an obstacle, whether it's upper math or whatever, be brave! You will be amazed at what your kids can learn! Give them the opportunity and see if they can fly!

Blessings,
Lee
--
The HomeScholar
www.TheHomeScholar.com

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The Flip-side of Co-ops

I was speaking one day to a group of homeschoolers. During the Q&A time, one mother said to me, "Do I have to use co-ops for high school or is it possible to do it myself?" I was surprised. Of course you don't "have to" use co-ops. Co-ops can sometimes serve a purpose in home education. A lot has been written about the plus side of co-op classes so I probably don't need to reiterate these, but you might want to consider the "flip-side" of co-ops when you are planning your classes next year.
  • The commute time: It takes time driving back and forth
  • Time away from home: You will have less time doing your home-based homeschool activities
  • Less time for fun: There is less time for extra-curricular and other fun activities
  • Homework: You have to finish homework that the co-op assigns, which may lead to extra fussing with your kids to complete the work
  • Germs: In any classroom environment, germs are rampant
  • Expense: Homeschooling can be expensive, and adding the cost of co-ops can be rough
These are just a few things that people in co-ops have shared with me. Parents always know what is best for their children but I wanted you to have the benefit of others experience. If high school co-ops are in your future, you might plan to address these issues with your family.

Blessings,

Lee
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Too Many Credits??

I deal with the problem of "too many credits" now and then (I'm actually working on one right now.) You can handle it a few different ways.
  • You can keep only the most recent credits.
  • You can lower the credit value of all classes.
  • You can eliminate classes that could also be considered an "activity" instead (so ballet would be an activity and not a PE credit.)
  • You can pick and choose some classes to drop off the transcript if you have more than the usual requirements. (Drop the 5th history class.)
  • You can combine classes together (British Literature and Ancient Literature make one European Literature class.)
  • You could also explain the situation - tell the school that this is what your child did, document that it is high school level, and let them see what your child is really capable of.
Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Respecting your Young Men

A while ago, a portion of one of my newsletters was plagiarized. I consulted my in-house "lawyer in training" - my son Alex. Every time I think of our interaction that day, it really warms my heart. On Sunday, during our "Love and Respect" Sunday School class, I think I finally realized why Alex's help was so important to me that day. He was protecting me - which was demonstrating that he loved me. In the book, it talks a lot about cycles, and how love LEADS TO respect, and respect LEADS TO love. So I started thinking about what I did to show my son respect that day. I think that the moment when I asked his opinion of the situation, adult to adult, was the moment that he knew I respected him.

We won't even think about all the times I completely *fail* at the love and respect cycle, but I did think it was interesting to see on situation in which it worked. I hope it will encourage you.



Blessings,

Lee

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Does General Science Count?

If your child is in 9th grade, and they take General Science, then in my opinion it's a high school credit - simply because your child is high school age. I figure that if a kid takes remedial anything in a public high school, they still put it on the transcript, right? Just label it "general science" so you're all above-board about it. If Physical Science was taken in 10th grade, then again it's a high school credit, and label it physical science. Biology and Chemistry are more obviously high school level.

One other detail. Most colleges need to see only three years of science, so if your child ends up with four years of science, you'll have a bonus year! (Yeah!) So if you want to, you can leave off 9th grade science, and say General Science 10, Bio 11, Chem 12. That's fine too. Whatever you choose isn't that significant. Colleges will often pick and choose which classes will fulfill their requirements. If you have more than enough science, they may not include it anyway. I view it like Driver's Education - just put it on the transcript and if the college wants to use it then they will, and if they don't, they won't.

By the way, the books don't really agree about credits like this - they all have a unique opinion on what is a credit and what isn't. I think you have the freedom to decide for yourself whether you want to call it a credit or not.

Blessings,

Lee

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Money Saving Timeline Idea

For a home-made timeline, I bought a roll of paper at an office supply store. It was a lot cheaper, and because the paper was in a roll I didn't have to tape regular printer paper sheets together. The rolled paper came in handy for some other homeschooling things as well. We used it for math games, and for creative writing story outlines. Sometimes I had the kids write the name of the book we were reading and put it on the timeline. They were really not much into drawing pictures (big surprise there,) so I would also often just print small images from the books we were reading, or off the internet and put those on the timeline.

Blessings,

Lee

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A Credit or Not A Credit? That is the Question.

Deciding how much theater makes up a high school credit can be tricky. The general concept for all courses is 5 hours a week for a full year of school, so you can calculate whether that's enough for a credit or for a half credit. There is no real "absolute" right and wrong answer. I really like right-and-wrong math questions, so I never felt really comfortable guessing on credit value. I always did the "5 hours per week" rule. If it's easier, you could add it up all the hours together to decide the credit value.

Most books say that 120-180 hours is a credit. Because sometimes performance week in theater can add an easy 40 hours, you may have an easier time just waiting until you have the total before you decide how many high school credits it's worth. Remember that colleges are only looking for 1 credit of fine arts; and fine arts are a combination of music, art, theater and dance. If you think it's enough, that's great. If not, consider other supplements to make up the difference.

Blessings,
Lee

Here''s more info on grades and credits.

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Left brain vs. Right brain: It's a no-brainer

It's kind of twisted, really. I just love science! I am a nurse, so I have a big science and math background. But I just love it! When we did microscope work, I would find myself going in to look at the microscope by myself! I'm just curious... you folks who don't like science, do you like art? Because I hate it! It is so messy, it would get my house so many crazy colors. My kids just didn't "get it" with art. And art takes so many materials! You have to buy so much stuff just to paint one thing!

We all have our weaknesses. I figure the things I don't like are the things I really have to force myself to teach. The things I do like I will easily remember to teach, probably more than is necessary! (You should see the extra stuff we would do with the microscope!)

Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Fun with Maps!

My kids used to have so much fun making maps that I wanted to share an idea with you. We found this in the book "Make it Work Maps."



We used a topographical map - the kind with a line around every 1000 feet of elevation. We enlarged a section of the map. Then we traced the line patterns, one at a time, onto cardboard and cut it out. We glued the cardboard pieces we'd cut out onto a cardboard base as we cut them out. We stacked up the layers of cardboard until it made the mountains and valleys shown on the original map. Then we covered the whole thing with paper mache (newspaper and flour-water) and painted it with green hills, white snowcapped peaks, and blue rivers and lakes. It was tons of fun for the kids, and they got a real feel for topographical maps.

Blessings,

Lee
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Thinking about Community College?

This post focuses on dual-enrollment in Washington State (called "Running Start".) I think you will find some useful information here regardless of where you live.


Running Start is relatively easy to access as a homeschooler, even at a young age. 1) take the COMPASS test at the community college 2) take your transcript and COMPASS test results to the local high school and talk to the Running Start counselor there 3) they will sign a paper allowing you to access Running Start 4) take the paper into the community college admission department. It's pretty easy (more time consuming when kids are under 16, but still do-able.)

Advantages: Dual enrollment can provide college credit, which can save many thousands of dollars on a college degree. It can provide external documentation of a student's academic achievement, especially in difficult subjects like lab science and foreign language.

Drawbacks: Community colleges will often have lower academic standards than regular universities. Classes will be a mix of academically capable and academically struggling teens and adults. Teens are usually in the minority. "Public school" environment with former drop-outs and students of questionable character. "Adult learning environment" that is sometimes akin to watching an R-rated movie. Community colleges have told me to warn homeschoolers that their student population may include "adjudicated individuals" who have been through the court and prison systems.

If you are thinking about Running Start, I recommend using the "buddy system." One friend had great success by using just evening programs, rather than daytime classes and using the buddy system.

Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Time to Panic?

I don't want you to feel like you "should" panic, but I want you to know that this is the time of year when most of my phone calls are panic - related. Parents are starting to think about grades and about what they will teach next year, and sometimes it get so overwhelming that they panic.

Panic is a normal, natural part of being a homeschool parent! Panic is good feedback - it says that you care enough to do a really good job. Panic can help you remember to evaluate your homeschool, and make changes if needed.

I had moments of panic. I sometimes cried at night. I sometimes worried about the most insignificant details! You're not alone, and one day you'll be done homeschooling and will finally realize how successful you were.

Relax. Evaluate your homeschool. Remind yourself that you are a "love-giver" and not just a "care-giver" and that can make all the difference!

Blessings,

Lee

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Homeschoolers and Military Academies

All the military academies accept homeschoolers! Military academies look for students with three strengths: academics, athletics, and leadership. Their admission criteria are stringent, but they tend to value all three strengths equally. When I was at a recent College Fair, all branches of the military seemed equally enthusiastic about homeschoolers, and even gave me some specific advice on activities in our area that they like to see in their candidates. If your child is interested in going to an elite military academy, I recommend you contact them early in high school, so that you can prepare for their rigorous application procedure. If your student is interested in the military in general, this article can help explain the ROTC program:
http://www.todaysmilitary.com/app/tm/get/collegehelp/rotc

Blessings,
Lee

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Raising Men vs. Raising Boys

There is a watershed moment in high school when it comes to parenting boys. When they are younger, your focus is raising an obedient and confident child. Once they get into high school, you have to somehow transition into developing respect for your son as growing man.


Check out the book "Love and Respect." Instead of reading it as a "husband and wife" book, think about how it pertains to young men. How can you show real RESPECT for your son, when he drives you crazy? Try to find something he is good at, something in his area of specialization, and show him adult-to-adult respect for that skill (as often as you can!)



I also found it helpful when my husband and sons would talk man to man. When they were disrespectful, my husband would say "Don't treat my WIFE that way" in order to put them on a level playing field. Saying "Don't treat YOUR MOTHER that way" is reminding them that they are not men. Instead, even in conflict, try to treat them as men.

Believe it or not, raising men is even more challenging than raising boys. It is made easier of you recognize the transition and as parents discuss how to begin to deal with it.

Blessings,
Lee

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What to do with a Hands-on Learner

At the high school level hands-on learning often means using real-life experience: science experiments, geography experiments, etc. We used YMCA Youth & Government for our American Government credit. Speech & Debate, or Toastmasters can be a good English or elective credit. By the time a student is in high school, it may be a good time to encourage the student to help you choose curriculum. That doesn't mean it's a free-for-all with your money, though. What I mean is "choose between these math options" or "choose a science from this website." Look at highschoolscience.com, or hometrainingtools.com to choose science.

If you want to read about other moms who have gone the "hands on" route and survived:

Barb Shelton High School Form+U+LA



Micki and David Colfax Homeschooling for Excellence



And there is the great stand-by for learning styles - Cynthia Tobias The Way They Learn:



Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Another School Shooting

A poem my husband wrote after Columbine:


Another Day at Homeschool


No one got shot today,

No one was threatened,

No one packed heat in the lunchroom,

And the only knife spread jam on white toast.



None were disenfranchised,

No jocks, no freaks.

None donned black trenchcoats,

Though we always dress warmly when it rains.



The CD wasn't too loud,

(Mozart, not Manson),

And the fingernails tapping

Sweetly on the piano weren't painted black.



The bed was strewn with books,

Not shrapnel.

Reading on the sofa,

The stairs, the toilet, the dog,

No one kept an eye on the library door...

...and wondered.


Copyright 2008 Matthew E. Binz



Parents, Thank God today that you homeschool.
Pray for those experiencing school violence.


Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com

It Sure Beats Discussing Cap'n Crunch

I am sure many of you have already heard of this idea, but it's one of my favorites! Put a large map on your dining table and cover it with a clear plastic tablecloth (I got mine at Target for $4) It worked great! Once we found this strategy, we would buy maps and educational posters at garage sales, usually included in the big boxes of old National Geographics you can get for cheap. We had a great time discussing the maps over breakfast.

Blessings,

Lee
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Losing it in Math

Hi Lee,

Thanks for the e-mail. Even though I'm a few years away from high school yet I know it will come before I know it. I don't know if you can offer any help but I thought I'd ask any way. My oldest is 11 and technically will be entering 6th grade next year which is middle school as you know, my concern is that I'm at a point where I no longer am comfortable or competent to teach him and was considering enrolling him in public school for math only. I can't afford a tutor and I really don't want him to suffer because of my lack of knowledge in this area. I was never a math wiz and it's been a tough year for me helping him get through this year. My husband does two days a week and he grew up in a foreign country where they learned quite differently then here, so any tips you can offer would be helpful.

Thanks,
Sharyn

_____

Hi Sharyn,

You need to know that EVERYONE loses it in math. I had calculus in college and *I* lost it in math after geometry. You're not usual, and your not putting your child at a disadvantage. He will not suffer!

You need to know that our goal is to help our children learn how to learn. That means that in high school, you really want your kids to learn math (more or less) by themselves. You can still provide a quality education in math even though you don't know the content yourself. My son is very mathematical, and he learned algebra 2, pre-calculus AND calculus without any help from me at all! After a while, I didn't even know what the symbols meant anymore! So really, no matter what level your child is at, it's possible learn math independently.

It can help if you buy curriculum designed for homeschoolers. It will assume that the parents know nothing, and it's usually written to the student. For upper math, you can choose a video curriculum like Saxon with DIVE CDs, or Teaching Textbooks, or VideoText. These will allow your student to continue learning at home, and learn exactly at their level, while still being instructed from someone who understands the concepts.

In general, it can really help to invest your financial resources in your weak areas. If you identify that math is your weak area, then I would focus your money there. Strength areas will usually take care of themselves, and can usually be supplemented in the library or through other family activities. Weak areas are different - we don't naturally find the opportunities in our weak areas the way that we do in our strength areas. So I would advise that you spend money on math curriculum first. I think Saxon with DIVE is the most reasonably priced of the options I listed above.

In some states and counties, part time enrollment is an option for upper math classes (as well as other subjects.) These classes aren't always a panacea, and you need to think the issues through when you are considering them. The biggest issue that I see with public school classes is the "conveyor belt" mentality. In other words, once your student starts in the class, it moves along at the same rate as the bulk of the students. Your student may be faster or slower than average and end up either bored or frustrated and lost. It's an important issue to consider. Thankfully, as the parent you will know what is best for your child.

I hope that thoroughly answers your question. Let me know if you need more help!

Blessings,

Lee
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Finishing the Math Book

My former neighbor girl is in 5th grade in the public school, doing Scott Foresman math. She told me her teacher is only 1/2 way through their math book, on chapter 8. When my kids were at that same public school, 1st through 4th grade, never once did either of my kids get past 3/4 of their math books in any grade. One year they both only got through 1/2 the book. Keep in mind that most math texts are review for the first 6 chapters. How difficult it must be to be constantly behind in math, always struggling and never completing.

I think sometimes homeschoolers don't realize how well they are doing in comparison to the public schools. Not that we should compare! But I do hear a lot of parents worry that they don't know if they are doing a good enough job. It seems to me that JUST finishing one math book before going on to the next has got to be a great job in comparison.

I AM SO GLAD WE HOMESCHOOLED!

Blessings,
Lee

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Spelling Woes? Try Spelling Power!

When you begin Spelling Power, you start by assessing what how well your child spells. Then you start your child at that level. When my child was in 3rd grade, he tested at level G (about 7th grade level,) so I started him there. So the words are exactly as hard as they should be for your particular child regardless of how well, or how poorly, your child spells. There is an alphabetical list of 5000 words in Spelling Power.

If you come across a misspelled word in your child's work, you can look it up on the list. It tells you what grade level that word is, and if it is in a SP level list or not. That helps you decide if you want to add it to their spelling list or not. If the word is a 9th grade word, and your child is in 2nd grade, you probably don't want to add it to their spelling list. But if it is a 6th grade word, and your child is in 9th grade, then yes, you would include the word in their spelling list.



Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Composer of the Week

One year I purchased a Costco 10-CD pack of great composers. Neat, because each CD was a different composer. My idea was to have a "composer of the week." We would just play a CD during lunch and maybe during math. I found portaits of the great composers on the web, that I would print. We read about them, sometimes online and sometimes from library books.

Another idea for music appreciation is "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music" by The Teaching Company, www.teach12.com. It was our favorite lecture series. The teacher has a wonderful vocabulary, and my boys would take college level lecture notes in real time, while listening to the wonderful music content.

Blessings,

Lee

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Teach Poetry to Homeschoolers

I recommend a series of poetry books for children called Poetry for Young People. The series has Poe, Elliot, Shakespeare, Hughes - there are perhaps 10-12 books in the series. You can get them at the library, but here is an example from Amazon:



By using real poetry, they learned early that poems don't always rhyme, etc. It was fun. I know I learned a lot :-)

For more fun, we also used the Shel Silverstein books, including "Falling Up."

For writing poetry, I used a simple book called "How to Write Poetry" by Paul Janeczko. It was fine, but I thought the kids learned more by enjoying the real poetry rather than writing it.

Blessings,

Lee
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Making School Fun!

I tried to incorporate games into our homeschool whenever possible. My kids didn't enjoy many of the hands-on projects that we did, but they do love playing games. After a while I gave up trying to find unit study projects that they enjoyed, and I focused more on what they loved - games. We played math games, art games, economics games. They would giggle when I wrote on the assignment sheet "Play 30 minutes of Masterpiece" or "Play SAT Game." Making homeschooling fun is a great way to instill the love of learning.

Blessings,

Lee

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The Best Advice in Every Situation

The best advice in the world never changes: Know your child and trust yourself. You will figure out what's best, you can make these decisions. Nobody knows your child like you do. Nobody loves your child like you do. Nobody wants the best for your child the way that you do. You were made for this purpose. You are the perfect person for this job and for this decision you are facing now.

Blessings,

Lee
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Math for the Artistically Inclined

I have noticed (non-scientific poll) that the artsy type tend to enjoy geometry more than algebra. If you are dealing with a lot of frustration with algebra, then geometry may be a bit easier (probably depending on the geometry text.) Geometry can apply to art in a way that algebra.... well.... can't.

There is actually a lot of art in Jacob's Geometry, by the way. Although I notice it was also heavy on logic, so check it out and see if it is the right match for you!

Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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501 Writing Prompts

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to judge your student's writing quality, I liked the book "501 Writing Prompts" by Learning Express. It has (remarkably!) 501 prompts that you can use, but the great part is the sample essays! About every 25 or 50 essays, they will show a what a student essay would look like with that topic. They will give a perfect example, a middle-quality example, and an example of what NOT to do. That really helped me because I'm a visual learner, and I really needed to see for myself what a good essay would look like. Don't feel like you have to "grade" the your kids essays, however. The grades aren't that important. What's important is practice.



Blessings,

Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Geometry, Trig and Calculus - Oh My!

Geometry is the basis for trigonometry, which is the building block for calculus. You have to understand the angles of a triangle to get to sine, cosine, and tangent. Many college majors require math, even those your might not expect, and you don't always know ahead of time what major your child will choose 4 years from now. That's why I think that math is important - and that includes geometry.

The geometry most of us remember from high school is "formal" geometry with proofs. Saxon approaches geometry in a more integrated fashion, combining it with other discipline - mixing it up a bit.

Our engineering professor friend says that there is a huge and growing deficit of kids that can do math - which has led to a decline in engineers and scientists. This is something they talk about at their professional engineering conventions, because it's a huge problem nationwide that affects our national security and national economy. This is something that engineers get very worked up about it :-) See more of my friend's comments here.

If your child gets frustrated by words, have them look at Saxon for math. It's mostly numbers, which can sometimes be encouraging to kids that hate reading and writing.

Blessings,
Lee
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College for the Learning Challenged

Don't be overly concerned about getting into college if your student has a learning challenge. Colleges are used to dealing with these issues. There are a lot of colleges that SPECIALIZE in dealing with such students. At a recent college fair, I was amazed at how many colleges used this as their "come on" line. I know a homeschooled young man who was very good at math and extremely below grade level in verbal abilities, and he got into a nationally ranked engineering school.

Don't be discouraged if your student has a learning challenge. Your student can have a bright future in college! Continue to encourage the areas where they are strong and look for a college that will support their areas of weakness.

Blessings,
Lee
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"Helping parents homeschool through high school"

Studying for CLEP Exams

You don't have to spend a lot of money on test preparation for the CLEP exams. Any edition of the CLEP Official Study Guide will work well for test preparation, even if the version is not current. These tests rarely change ("rarely" measured in years) so unless it's a brand new subject, or something that changes a lot over time (like computer science) then you can use the older version of the test prep guides. When we studied for it, we used editions that we QUITE old, and it worked out just fine. You can save money WHILE saving money on the CLEP.

You can purchase some CLEP study resources, as well as some other great resources here on my website.

Blessings,

Lee
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Driver's Ed - To Grade or Not To Grade

I sometimes get questions on how to grade a student's drivers education. With my boys I simply put "pass" because I had read a book that suggested it. Since that time, I've read other books that suggest to grade it, and other books that suggest you leave it off the transcript all together. Based on all of that information, I'd say that it's completely and totally 100% your preference about driver's ed. Keep in mind that if a college doesn't want to use that grade, they will just drop it. Colleges often take the classes they LIKE and figure the gpa of those grades only. With that in mind, anything you do for driver's ed class will be fine. So really, it's your call and what YOU want to do.

Blessings,
Lee
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Courting the Colleges

When planning college applications with your student, you will often have specific questions that you would like to get answered. Sometimes there are easy "yes/no" type questions that will be consistent from college to college. More often than not, however, the answer may vary depending on the college. Take for example the question on whether a college will still consider your student a freshman if they have an AA degree and more than 90 credits. Some colleges take a hard line at the 90 credits. Others will show some flexibility. The best approach to these types of questions is to call the admissions office directly and ask. This approach does a number of things, all of which are good. Most apparent, it will get you the answers you need to tailor your plans for the specific colleges you are interested in. What is less apparent, however, is that by asking the question, you are showing the college that you are seriously interested in them.

I have have often said, the college application process is like a courting dance. In order to get them interested in you, you sometimes have to show you are interested in them! Asking clarifying questions is a great way to demonstrate your interest. Believe me, colleges pay attention to the families that are asking application and admissions questions!

So go ahead and call. Better yet, get your student to call. Later, they might just recognize your name when they see your application!

Blessings,
Lee
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Letter of Recommendation Tips

Some people who write letters of recommendation for our children may not be aware of the standard format of a recommendation. The college will want to know about the person giving the recommendation - their name, title, contact information, etc. Here are some links that may help you to see some samples:
http://www.boxfreeconcepts.com/reco/
http://www.mcps.k12.mt.us/hellgate/senior_projects/senior_proj_forms/letter_rec.rtf

In general you're looking at something liked this:

Recommender's name
Recommender's address
Today's date

Dear College Name (OR To Whom it May Concern)

Paragraph One is identifying the student, and how the recommender has come to know the student.

Paragraph two is specific evidence of character traits that the recommender knew from contact with the student. Include knowledge, maturity, or any project or job completed.

Paragraph three is about work skills in general that the student has displayed.

Paragraph four is where it actually states "I highly recommend....."

Sincerely,
Recommender's Signature
Recommender's Typed full name
Recommender's Title or position

If possible, it would be optimal to get the letter into that format. Look on each college website, because sometimes they have specific requirements for recommendations, like "in a sealed signed envelope" or "mail separately" or something. The recommender will have to physically sign the letter.

I hope that helps!
Blessings,
Lee

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Misty, water-colored memorization...

...of the way we were....

Did you ever have to memorize anything in high school? Don't remember? I did, and to this day I can still annoy my family with "No Man is an Island"! Memorization isn't a the most critical skill, but it can be fun. Choose a poem or a scripture, and try it for yourself.

When we began, I didn't actual think that memorization was that important, so I set my sights pretty low. I began with deciding that my kids would merely read the same passage each day of the week for three weeks. I wasn't trying for the goal of memorization at all, I was just trying to give them an "ear" for good literature. What I found out really surprised me! About two weeks into this process, I found that the boys had memorized much of the passage. By three weeks they could say it completely by heart! Later in our homeschool career, they were able to memorize large portions of scripture just by reading it aloud daily to me. I was amazed - I didn't know the human brain worked like that!

Try it, and see if it's fun for your own homeschool!

Blessings,
Lee
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Family Math Fun

When my children were younger, I tried to find ways to make learning fun. One of the things we did through elementary school was to play a math game a few times a week. We found great math games in Family Math. It is a $20 book that is appropriate for multiple children, kindergarten to 8th grade. You can find it at curriculum fairs, but also at regular bookstores and the library. It is a book of games and activities for teaching and improving math skills for K-8th grade. All of the activities are low-cost or no-cost. It has reproducible games to copy. Having dice is helpful. We used dry beans or macaroni for our game markers. Each game indicates whether it is for primary, intermediate, or middle school kids. My kids played the same games together. You can play it with your child, or have them play together after you show them how. Some of the activites are "games" with a winner, but other things are just learning activities (like determining surface area and volume using sugar cubes.)

Each week when I made their math assignment, I figure out what topic was being taught. I looked up the key words (one week I looked up pi, circumference, and geometry) in the index of the Family Math book. There is usually a selection of games and activities to choose from. This way they are doing math manipulatives that are about the lesson they are learning. One of my frustrations with geoboards or cuisinaire rods was that they are not applicable to most of the lessons they are learning. One week my older son began proportions, and I found a game called "Gorp", where you roll a dice to determine different proportions for the gorp ingredients. For younger kids, there are lots of fun games for learning place value, and using basic math facts. It also has activities for money, time, calendar and measuring. One word of warning - the games look a little intimidating in the book sometimes. I took a class on Family Math when I first began homeschooling. The teacher recommended that when you begin a game that you are not familiar with, force yourself to follow the directions just as they are written, and by the time you are near the end of the directions, the game WILL make sense. I did not have the "Gorp" game demonstrated to me, but I followed the directions like she said, and it worked. It became their favorite game!

Blessings,
Lee
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Reading Comprehension (or...Read this Post Twice)

Reading comprehension was a huge concern when my sons were in 9th grade. I thought - and worried - about it a lot. The thing that frustrated me was that my kids would interact with the books they read (laughing at the funny parts, for example) but when it came time for "reading comprehension questions" they didn't seem to do very well. I ultimately decided that for us, having my child understand the book meant interacting with the book. I decided that reading comprehension questions weren't the best gauge of real understanding. To learn more about this idea, you might want to read Ruth Beechick's book, "You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully."

It is most important that your student is encouraged to read and write at their own level. Whether they are above or below their grade level is not nearly as significant. Once your child knows the mechanics it probably just boils down to practice. Encourage your child to write every day.

Blessings,

Lee
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Girding Your Loins for High School!

Use 7th and 8th grade as your "high school training time." Not so your kids can working at high school, it so you can work on how you THINK about high school. When my kids were that age, I would think about how many hours we spent on activities, I would think about the different class titles that I could use for different experiences. 7th and 8th grade is also a perfect time to be planning ahead for the job in front of you. Buy a book about homeschooling high school, take classes at the convention, and get my video if it would be helpful. That way when you get to high school you won't be afraid. It's all about avoiding fear, and planning ahead is the best way to do that. Don't wait to become fearful and THEN plan or seek help, because that's where the tears start!

My favorite book for this age range is:
Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook: Preparing Your 12- to 18-Year-Old for a Smooth Transition It was broad enough, and not too deep, so that it was a good introduction. Some of the other books out there are so in-depth and intense that it can be very overwhelming.

So there you go, that's about 5 minutes of my first video right there, for free! LOL! Take care, and give me a call or an email if you need help.

Blessings,
Lee
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On-line High School?

If you are considering online programs for high school, ask yourself a question: Is this how my child learns best? The success your student with online courses is largely dependent on their learning style.

You shouldn't feel like you MUST do online schools for high school, however. Colleges, in general, understand homeschooling and they understand homeschool transcripts and grades. There is no reason to feel like you have to do an online school just so they will be somehow "official." I really suggest that parents retain their independence, so that they can choose materials that best fit their child.

Parents always know what is best for their children. Trust your instincts and move forward.

Blessings,

Lee
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Homeschooling While Building a House

I've had friends who homeschooled while building a house. If you find yourself in that situation, remember that any construction experiences your high schoolers have can count as high school credit. Woodworking, carpentry, occupational credit, etc., might be good course titles to consider. Your kids are learning while you do these things, right? Let them live and learn.

Have you read Barb Shelton's Homeschool Form + U + La? That was what her life was like. She talks about how she incorporated home construction into her transcript. Here is her website:
http://www.homeschooloasis.com/

Also, the book Homeschooling For Excellence by the Colfax's might encourage you. Their family was also building a home all through high school, and both kids went on to Ivy League schools.
http://www.amazon.com/Homeschooling-Excellence-David-Colfax/dp/0446389862

Blessings,
Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
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Are You Qualified to Teach High School English?

You are totally, completely, and 100% qualified! Not because you know English perfectly, or even because you know how to grade perfectly, but because you are their parent. The one who knows them and loves them best.

Teaching English in high school is not about grading criteria or percentages. It's about getting lots of writing practice - and having your students write a lot. It's also about editing their papers. Just read them, circle things that are obvious spelling or grammar errors (OBVIOUS errors, that's all.) It is also about discussing their ideas: "What did you mean when you said....." Or "please rewrite this it doesn't make sense." But you're not doing anything magical, you're just reading it over. It's just like if a friend said "would you please read this?" That's all!

Remember that some public school English teachers don't have an English degree. They may not even have the English background that you do! The only reason they use rubrics and other grading criteria is because they have to grade so MANY students, and be consistent between them. Not us! We want to encourage each student to do THEIR best, and that means we don't really want to treat all our students the same. We want each to excel in their own way.

Another advantage that homeschoolers have is the student-teacher ratio with English. In public school, kids are lucky if they get one paper a semester to be assigned and carefully edited. With 20-30 kids in the class, teachers aren't necessarily expected to read everything. I bet you'll read and give more feedback on your kids papers than they would ever get in public school! We can read their history or science papers for quality writing as well, because we evaluate them in all their subjects.

Husbands and wives can often share the burden of grading English papers. That happened to be a HUGE chunk of homeschooling where my husband helped.

I want you to know that even though I didn't "Grade English Papers" - my boys still got full tuition scholarships to college. They both still got into the Honors program. And they still get As and Bs on their college papers.

Blessings,

Lee
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Keeping Grades in Large Families

How do you keep up with grading when you have four, five or more kids? When my kids were younger, I never really graded at all. Our state (WA) does not require parents to grade, so I didn't. I would grade math tests, just to make sure they knew the stuff, but I didn't KEEP those grades anywhere. Once they started high school, I didn't change my way of doing things with homeschool. I just started keeping track of how I evaluated them, without changing what I actually did with them day to day. Here is an article that I wrote about grading:
http://www.squidoo.com/homeschool_grading

You can see on my Sample Comprehensive Record that I only used tests to grade for some classes, but not others. Here is an example of a class I did NOT use a test to grade - it was History, but my English classes looked very similar:
http://www.thehomescholar.com/pdfs/Sample_Course_Description.pdf

Blessings,
Lee
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