June 12, 2015

High School without School: Standardized but Flexible

For those of us who experience education at home, approaching "High School" level can be daunting.   When my children were all younger, I didn't spend a great deal of time thinking about it because we didn't worry about grade levels, testing, credits or even segregation of subject matter.   In fact, I was usually pretty  outspoken about ditching all of those ideas because they relate to the 'standardized' approach and since we were purposely doing the opposite of that - why even worry about it?

Well, life has a funny way of teaching us lessons (irony intended).  As my oldest approaches what would typically be the "High School" years, I've found it has become necessary for me to do the grade-level, test-score, credit earned, subject categorization thing.    Some of my veteran readers are experiencing a meltdown right now, I know and I totally acknowledge that, but please cut me some slack.   I was talking based on my experience to that point in time and you have to agree that much of parenting is 'winging it' so we learn as we go.   The good news is that I remain intellectually flexible and not so arrogantly committed to my  first ideas that I'm unwilling to change them as new information and situations arise.  

That said,  I should point out that the whole purpose of home ed is to do as is fitting for each individual child; and it so happens that my firstborn, as she turns 14, desires a structured approach to her higher educational needs - and so I do what is necessary to help ensure that those needs are met.

J is a theatre kid and a budding performance artist.  She wants to attend Tisch and expressed interest in earning a scholarship.  I've discussed college before and ultimately I stand by my opinion that it is a total waste of time and money insofar that for many young people it's just an arbitrary step in a prescribed process.   However, if and when there is an actual goal in mind, and a realistic need for continuing education in a specific field - I'm all for it.   The expense is still an issue, but it is worth it for specific intentions.   Does J need Tisch to become an actress?  No.  The performance industry  does not require any degree, but I do realize how it can be helpful to improving her skill and thereby broadening her horizons. 

The reasonable path for her is to begin in our local community college, as it offers an excellent "Homeschool Transition" program, begin her degree path and transition from there onward.  Assuming that plan remains solid (as we all know how fickle teens can be) in order for that to happen,  we need to be working on actual "High School" credits as required by our state.   (Gah!  I know, right?) 

I admit, I sorta panicked a little. Until this year, our education style was very flexible and eclectic.We always did actual academic lessons, but I never kept scores, grade levels or anything like that. It was a simple as moving along through the skills and concepts until  they were understood and that was that. 

Thankfully a good friend of mine who has been doing "High School" for two years already sat down with me, and over a nice afternoon of coffee, we worked it all out. 

So - here is how we are proceeding:  I checked the requirements for my state and saved the information.  According to those requirements, I created a spreadsheet (helpful sample shown)

and went over that with  J.    Then we broke down our plan into a timetable that is reasonable and doable according to her schedule;  bearing in mind that a lot of her time is spent working on a show or preparing for auditions, which I do consider a priority as that is her personal objective, so we created a reasonable academic schedule wherein J can work on her passion as well as accomplish the necessary academic requirements to further it.

We explored the available materials and chose what was right for her.    We did struggle some with the science curriculum and I'll address that in another post with more detail, but to exemplify flexibility... we tried a few, ditched them and moved on to other options; point being that even when following a more structured plan, we (and by "we" I mean you, too) can still find plenty of ways to achieve the required objectives, aka: "credits".    It takes time, effort and creativity but it is worth it, because as a home ed family our whole purpose is to do what is going to be most fitting, most beneficial and most effective for each individual child.  

I realize now that it might actually become necessary to incorporate standardized (shudder), formal education in order to support the unique plan your child has for their own life.  And it's okay, because the way, the material, the timetable etc... can still all be decided by the child and for the child, with your encouragement and help.  

Lesson Learned:  Flexibility and freedom in learning is a moot point if it is to the staunchly, myopic exclusion of ALL available options.  In simpler language:  If I were to refuse to allow any adherence to "High School" requirements, I'd be disabling J from moving along her own chosen path - completely contradicting my own philosophy.

So, that's our plan.  We began a transition to "9th Grade" in Literature, History and Latin, and should add Science and Math by Fall.   So far,so good :)  We'll see how the boys want to proceed when it becomes time. 

I'm happy  to answer any questions you might have, and of course, I am open to your ideas! 

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