Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Homeschooling High School: Tracking Hours

Before we made the decision to homeschool, I researched homeschooling high school in depth.
I did not want my girls to not have a diploma or take the GED as I think that would be looked on negatively by employers and/or admissions officers.  The plan that seemed to make the most sense to us - and still makes the most sense to us - is to have the girls continue as we are and keep advancing and growing and developing at their own pace and when we think they are ready, we will enroll them in a class at the local community college.  If they do well, they may take two dual enrollment classes the next semester and eventually, when they are 18, they will enroll in the community college full-time, get their associate's degree and then transfer to a four year school.  At that point, they would show they could do college level work and my understanding from research I have done, and homeschool moms who have children currently enrolled in college, is that a homeschool portfolio with a description of classes, grades and credit hours would suffice as a high school transcript.  My plan was just to keep on, keepin' on...as our experience with homeschooling has been that everything works out and we learn what we need to learn and the girls keep learning and advancing and improving and maturing...

But...Periodically I talk to the girls about how they think things are going and what they would like to do differently.  Last spring, Piper told me that she would like to get grades and a report card so she could really see how she was doing, just our little chats and conferences and working and re-working things was not enough for her.  Allie said she would also like a progress report and grades on her papers especially so she can see what an A paper is, since I always say, "This is not A work," and then proceed to work with her to make it what I consider "A" work.  So, I decided that if they wanted grades and progress reports that might be helpful to them and set about to log their "grades" on things in a Google doc.

Then...A couple of weeks into this year, Piper told me she had seen on a blog where the mom tracks the kids' hours and gives them credits for that and Piper asked me to do that for her.  (Piper is a very linear thinker, she likes things spelled out so she can see it and make sense of it).  So, I made these Tables in Google Drive where I can track the date, the task and the time spent.  I am often updating these on my phone so I don't forget!  Ah, technology!

The other day, I started thinking about where we are at and if we should take off in December for Christmas or if we are too far behind.  I added these little tables to the documents so I could highlight the hours we have worked, I decided to do it more like a count down.  I set some goals for where I want us to be so we can take some time off for the holidays.

All of this tracking made me research graduation requirements in my state.  We really DO NOT have to follow any of the requirements for our state, we are COMPLETELY on our own and when the girls get to community college, as long as they can prove they can do the work, they are golden.  I remembered that New Jersey has a different tracking system than other states.  A full year course is 5 credits and a half year course is 2.5 credits.  The requirements in New Jersey are:

Language Arts ~  20 credits (4 years)
Mathematics ~ 15 credits (3 years)
Science  ~ 15 credits (3 years)
Social Studies ~ 15 credits (3 years)
Financial, Economic, Business & Entrepreneurial Literacy ~ 2.5 credits (1/2 year or 60 hours)
Health, Safety, Phys Ed  - 150 minutes per week  or 3.35 credits
Visual & Performing Arts ~ 5 credits
Foreign Language ~ 5 credits
Computer Programming  ~ 5 credits
21st Century Life and Careers ~ 5 credits
Electives ~ 35 credits

I started to think about what we are doing and how it fits in.  Would the girls want their high school years to mirror that of their school-going friends?  Would that make them feel more at ease in a college classroom?  We have always done Language Arts, Math and history.  Science used to fall off our schedule a lot, but we have made a plan this year to do Science Monday and Tuesday before I go to work and we have stuck with it.  The girls have a dog walking business that ends up taking 30 minutes a day/5 days a week = 150 minutes.  Also, Allie is doing homeschool ski and snowboard this year and Piper has taken tennis lessons every year since I can remember, I am sure I can turn all of that into Phys Ed credits.  The classes we looked into for foreign language did not work out this year, but we already knew we had to fit them in over the summer and next year (I have decided that in our homeschool the girls will do 3 years of foreign language, not just the one year required by our state).  Computer programming is something the girls did last year and could easily do on-line at some point in the next 3.5 years.  While we don't have to fulfill the Financial, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy requirement, I think it sounds interesting and like a good idea and I have several curricula and programs that I am looking at and excited about, but we really don't have time now to pursue this.

Our film study could be Visual and Performing Arts, but I think I am going to consider it an elective.  I have been tracking time the girls spend art journaling, working on their interior design software, sewing and making things in the art studio and we are up to 16 hours in 2 weeks.  We are not even counting pottery classes as that doesn't start again until January.  I don't think it will be difficult to get to 120.

Careers was a requirement when I was in high school and I have a good recollection of that class because it was a really easy A.  We basically got lectured on different careers, learned how to use the Job Outlook Handbook and researched different careers we might be interested in.  We also took various aptitude tests.  The girls and I found CNN Student News was bringing us down in the morning, so we have stopped using it and instead, I find an article to share with the girls every morning.  Prior to even researching this, I shared an article "15 High Paying, Stress-Free Jobs".  I started to think: why does the 120 hours have to be in 1 year?  Why can't they be spread over 4 years?  After all, what the girls may be interested in, especially in terms of career, could change in the next 4 years.  So, I started tracking hours we spend talking about or researching careers, but not with the intention of satisfying it THIS year.  Right now, Allie wants to be a magazine writer and Piper wants to be an interior decorator, maybe they can spend some time learning more about those careers.  Then next year, maybe Allie will be back to wanting to be a nurse and Piper will be back to having a penchant for fashion design and they can research that.  Volunteer hours where they shadow someone at work could be part of these credit hours.  It's helpful to know this requirement, because it's made me think about having them learn more about the careers that interest them: what the requirements are, what the outlook is, etc.  Again, we don't HAVE to do this, but I think it's a good idea for them to be thinking about what they may want to do for a career and research and learn about the requirements.

I took a class in high school where we picked a career, found the average salary and used that to budget and had to find an apartment, furnish it, pay bills, etc.  and I learned A TON in that class and have been thinking I would do something similar with the girls at some point.  That seems like it would fit the 21st Century Life component.

I typed up the requirements and how I think we will fill them this year:

**this is all conjecture on my part, based on our plans for the year.  The end result in June, may be quite different than this, but it helped me to get a feel for where we are and how that fits into high school graduation requirements.

Allie participates in a teen-led co-op every Wednesday.  They rotate activities: Country Day, Improv, Skills, Art, Book Club, etc.  The class is 3 hours a week 30 weeks out of the year with several field trips, I think it probably comes close to 120 hours.  We could use that as an elective.  Allie has also expressed an interest in Mock Trial for next year, which could be another elective.  Allie LOVES to cook and bake and often makes dinner and treats for us, we had already decided to consider that an elective and she has logged 36 hours since September making meatloaf and lemon chicken and stew and other dinner and baking from scratch.  Also, I want the girls to do 3 years of foreign language, which could be considered another elective.

To be honest, what I realized is that we will have no problem meeting (and probably even exceeding) the requirements, but I am glad that I did this little exercise because it helps me focus our homeschool efforts and it will show the girls and anyone else who is interested that they really put the time in for their diploma.  If anything, I am wondering if we are doing TOO MUCH right now.  Allie should have 30 credits for her freshman year and instead, it looks like she may have 36 credits.  I want the girls to really focus on the things they like and take the time with things that they have trouble understanding, so to that end, I decided that Cooking & Baking and Film Study can be things we track for as long as they take to get the 120 hours (which is why I have them in red).