Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Allie's High School Outline

Now that Allie has made the decision to homeschool high school, we have been taking some time to think about what we want that experience to be like.  I've always included my girls in our educational decisions and goals.  I've never made a plan or decision without their input.  As we get closer to high school, Allie is more involved than ever in what she is interested in and what she feels works best for her.


Volunteering is going to be a major aspect of Allie's high school education.

Allie is really not sure yet what she is interested in as far as a career.  She knows she likes children and animals, she likes helping people and taking care of people.  She also likes design; she spends hours using software to design buildings and decorate houses and other spaces; she also loves to sew, especially handbags; she has recently spent HOURS designing video games on GameQuest (Thanks, Karen!).  A career in nursing is on her radar, as are careers as a vet or vet tech and interior designer.

In our area, due to insurance regulations, kids are not been able to volunteer anywhere until they turns 15.  Allie is looking forward to her 15th birthday in November so she can begin volunteering at a children's hospital and possibly an animal shelter!  We want her to volunteer in as many areas that interest her as possible to help her find her passion!

Community College

One thing we have been talking a lot about is community college.  Jason and I would both like the girls to go to college, but we want to them to go debt-free.  Homeschool students in our state can begin taking classes at community college at age 15.  I am not sure that Allie will take classes THIS year, but we would like her to take lab sciences and some electives or whatever she chooses at community college during her high school years.  My hope is that she would take one class one semester and we would work on organizing her time, helping her understand the level of work expected, etc.  When she is ready she will take two classes a semester and eventually (hopefully) smoothly transition to a full-time student at community college, get an associate's degree and transfer to a 4 year school.  Community college is a very affordable option, and as a good friend of mine, who is a college professor points out, in the first two years of college, you take a lot of core classes and those are often presented in large lecture halls, whereas a community college often offers smaller classes for the same core requirements.  I think with Allie's personality, learning style and experience homeschooling, community college for the first two years makes the most sense.  But as many of my friends remind me, it won't be my decision, it will be Allie's.


We have been working on setting a firm academic foundation.  We just keep moving along, setting goals in areas we feel we are weak and finding ways to meet those goals that we enjoy.  We don't follow Common Core or any state regulations and we never have.  I have glanced at these standards, just to see what they are all about and I feel confident that both of my girls would be more than able to meet them if they had to do so.


Allie and Piper both love to write.  We have been exploring teen literary magazines (see links in sidebar) to improve their skills, network with other teen writers and gather the courage to submit writing. 

Both girls wrote many reports this year and have learned to use footnotes and parenthetical citations, when to use each and how to write a bibliography.  Of course, this will be a skill we will continue to build on over the next 4-6 years.  I took a great class in my senior year of high school called Effective Writing, we were required to include an interview, utilize notecards and many sources for this paper and I plan to take on  similar projects with my girls during their high school career.

Allie and Piper are both avid readers, but they really do not like reading workbooks with little excerpts and questions, although we do use Reading Detective sometimes, just so I can make sure they are able to answer these kinds of questions.  We prefer creative book reports that show not only what a book was about, but their reaction to it, what it made them think, feel and how it inspired them.  Although they both read at least one book per week, they have been responsible for one book report per month this year and it has worked very well.  They can pick the best of the books they have read.  I have a pinterest board where I pin different book report ideas and they choose the style of report they feel best suits the book they read, a paper bag book report or a tri-fold display or any number of things.  In my ideal blog schedule, I would post their recommendations for the best books they have read; but in the real world, this has not happened yet despite my best intentions--I need more time in a day!

Over the last 4 years, we have gone back and forth between Writing Strands and Writing with Ease/Skill.  We prefer  Writing Strands.  We like the flexibility of the program and find that often the girls can do the five days of lessons in a couple of hours one day.  It's funny because this was the FIRST writing program that we used, but then I heard great things about Writing with Ease/Skill and I wanted to check that out and we did for a while...but ended up back with Writing Strands.  Sometimes you should just go with your gut and not be heavily influenced by other peoples' opinions.  I tend to supplement Writing Strands with book reports and other writing assignments, but I really the flexibility and approach of Writing Strands.

This spring I introduced the concept of Literary Analysis as we read Wonder by RJ Palacio together.  I don't want to fill up my girls reading time with "required reading" because I think that takes the joy out of reading sometimes, if a student doesn't find a book relevant or interesting.  That being said, I do want to read To Kill a Mockingbird with them maybe next year and I look forward to reading my all-time favorite book Catcher in the Rye with them in the next few years. My brother, a high school English teacher, has volunteered to do weekend seminar with Allie, Piper and their friends on a book or books that the group chooses.  We did an in-depth study of Lois Lowry's The Giver this year using Moving Beyond the Page which we also really enjoyed and got a lot out of.

As for as Language Arts, we just plan to keep doing more of what we have been doing.  It's just become a natural part of our lives.


I am so glad we decided to go back to Teaching Textbooks at the beginning of last year.  It is the PERFECT fit for us!  The girls will complete one level per year to complete the Math requirement they would have if in school.  

At the beginning of the year, I was assigning so many lessons per week.  As the year is coming to a close, I have let them pace themselves and be responsible for their math independently.  I check periodically to see how many they got wrong, what kinds of questions they got wrong (my one issue with TT is that a student can get the same kind of questions wrong over and over, thus not understanding one concept, but still move on and seemingly do well).

A few weeks ago, the girls figured how many more lessons they each had in TT and the date they wanted to be done and how many lessons they needed to do a day/week to reach that goal.  Neither of them loves math, so they have been motivated to finish.

We also use Khan for practice.  I love that I can "recommend" and "assign"  lessons and that I get a progress chart showing gaps in learning.  The last four years we have schooled year-round, but the girls have been BEGGING for a "real" summer, and I am considering a "light" summer of no TT, but Khan practice to keep skills sharp.

Science/Lab Science

This past year, we studied all of the systems of the Human Body and we studied Geology.  I am still considering a homeschool Chemistry or Physics program for next year or possibly over the summer, not sure yet (the girls are BEGGING for a "real" summer and I am honestly feeling burned out, so we are taking a break, not sure how long; one thing I have learned these last four years is we know when it is time to start getting more formal with learning and when it is time to take it easy).  We have done both Physics and Chemistry a;ready, but I want to find something that is high school level now.  I am also hoping/planning that the girls will take lab sciences at the community college, as I think I will be limited as to what I can do at home.

Foreign Language

Jason and I had our first and only fight over homeschooling over foreign language.  Jason feels that with so many Spanish speaking people in our country, it is practical to learn Spanish.  I have very political feelings about this.  When my grandparents came over in the early 1900s, they spoke Italian and Polish, but taught themselves English and were proud to speak and read English.  I understand that we have no official language in the US, but it bothers me that so many people no longer take the time or make the effort to learn English (yes, I understand that it can be nerve-racking to speak a language you are not familiar with with native speakers, but MANY people who choose to immigrate to this country DO learn the language).  I don't want my girls to be forced to learn a language because certain immigrants refuse to learn/speak English.

Over the last few years, we have invested in several different Spanish Instruction computer software and the girls are just not interested in it.  I will fight with them over math (although thankfully that has ended with TT) because I think math is necessary, but I don't have enough energy to fight over music practice or foreign language anymore.  If the girls are not interested, I think they should have the opportunity to pick a language they are interested in.  Jason and I have discussed that if he feels strongly about Spanish, he will oversee their Spanish instruction.

In the spring of 2013, the girls took an American Sign Language class and have since continued that study on their own, albeit in spurts.  I am fine with them getting more serious about ASL instead of spending time on Spanish. But it is all still up for debate in our house.

Social Studies


Although homeschoolers in our state have no requirements and typically I don't follow any state regulations, our state requires traditionally educated students to take a class in  financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy, .  I think this IS a good idea.  We did a business math class a couple of years ago and I plan to incorporate some of that with things like preparing taxes, balancing checkbook and budgeting, investing and different kinds of investments, etc.  We had talked a couple of years ago about giving the girls money to invest in the stock market and we are moving forward with that idea.

Jason and I are HUGE believers in living within your means and not to pat myself on the back, but I am pretty good with money.  We talk often as a family about how I manage our money.  Both of my girls have had little jobs babysitting, walking dogs, walking the neighbor kids to school or camp and they have been required to put half of all earnings in the bank.  They enjoy watching that money grow. 


We completed the Story of the World series last year and I have been thinking we would use Susan Wise Bauer's History of the World for further study and we still may.  This year, however, the girls and I have read historical novels and watched documentaries instead of using a curriculum and we have all discussed that we recall a lot more as books and documentaries involve us on an emotional level.  So, I am considering creating a history program of historical novels and biographies and memoirs and documentaries that we can read, watch and discuss as this seems to work better for us.


Allie participates in Princeton Learning Center's e-cubed once a week and Piper is on the waiting list and should be in the program next year.  This could count as an elective.

Both of my girls are really enjoying wheel-throwing pottery these days and plan to continue with this, so that could count as an elective.

I think I can count Allie's time spent creating handbags and designing videogames as an elective.

Not sure if I can count Piper's hours texting, FaceTiming and Minecrafting...but we have time to figure out what her high school path will look like!  Hopefully she will get back into videomaking and photography or something I can consider an elective!

Community college is open to us for electives and depending on what types of things Allie does while volunteering, I may even be able to consider that an elective.


Some of our friends are planning to use NARHS for an accredited diploma.  I am not sure about this.  We may end up doing that if we need to.  My understanding is that in our state, student's can take classes at a community college in high school and transition into a matriculating student.  Once they get their associate's degree colleges will be more interested in their community college transcript (proof they can do the work) and a non-accredited diploma or transcript we create would suffice when transferring to 4 year colleges.  Of course, if they choose a different path, we may have to look into a different option.