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!

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
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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

Visit Heart of the Matter to read my February column on Planning High School Courses.

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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