Homeschooling High School: The Finish Line — Graduation

Our final topic for the Homeschooling High School series is, of course, graduation. 

Now that your child has covered all the requirements and some electives, how do you celebrate the completion of the high school years? Does the homeschool group you may be a part of have an annual graduation ceremony? What if you don’t belong to a homeschool group? What then?

When my oldest son was ready to graduate, we actually just had a simple program at church, after church and potluck.

I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation, which played on the screen. Then, the pastor spoke a few words, after which I spoke a few words and presented my son with his diploma. I don’t think the program lasted more than about 30 minutes. The only family present were the kids, my husband, and I.

My son and I designed his graduation announcement together.

The verse on his announcement was Isaiah 32:2, NIV:

Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.

If you knew anything about my son, you would know why this verse is appropriate! He has been interested in storms and natural disasters from a very young age. Perhaps it’s an inherited trait. <grin> Both his biological father and I are interested in such things (his father more than I, perhaps).

When my daughter was ready to graduate, we were part of a homeschool group which holds an annual graduation ceremony for all the high school seniors in the group…or at least for those who wish to participate in the ceremony.

We (the seniors and parents) had several planning sessions, beginning in January or February of the senior year. Caps, gowns, and diploma covers were ordered. There was even a photographer who did a photo shoot of the kids.

The graduation was held at a Christian church. It was a lovely ceremony, very spiritual and Christ-centered indeed. My parents and my younger brother and his family came in from out of town to attend and celebrate with us.

The young people marched in. There were musical numbers performed. Someone gave an inspirational speech. The students then sat up on the platform. There was a PowerPoint played for each student (which made everyone cry), and then each of us parents went up to give a brief address to our child and present him/her with the diploma.

My daughter and I designed her graduation announcement/invitation. The verse she chose was Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Looking ahead to my current high schooler’s graduation (fortunately I still have a year yet to prepare my heart for that one!!), I imagine his will be more along the lines of a quiet, simple celebration, like my oldest son’s was. But, we’ll see.

As you can see, there are different types of graduation celebrations from which to choose. Simply choose whichever best suits your student and your family. Be sure to treasure the memories and take lots of photos!

(If anyone is interested in seeing the graduation announcements we designed, I will gladly share; leave a comment below.)


Homeschooling High School: Help! How do I fit it all in?!

Even though I have graduated two already, and number three is three-fourths of the way through high school now, I still am asking myself, “How do I fit it all in?!

By the time my children reached high school age, I figured they should be able to be independent learners, for the most part. (If I “did my job” properly while they were at the elementary/middle school levels, then I’ve already taught them to love learning. Still, I’m here if they have questions or need assistance with anything.) However, I also provided an outline, or list, of what I wanted them to cover during their high school years. Some of it has been the same for all three of my high schoolers; some of it has been specialized for each individual.

For example, they all had to cover the basics: math, English, history, and science. How they did that is individualized, as far as resources used, etc.

So… First step: Decide what has to be covered. Some colleges/universities require four years of math, for example, and some only three. Some require three or four years of science, some only two.

Second step: With your student, write up your “game plan,” what subjects will be covered which year, and maybe even decide together what resources you will use. Also, decide together what extra-curricular activities you may wish to include. Will your student have a part-time job to work around? Will your student do dual enrollment at a community college at any point?

Third step: Together fill in the calendar, or student planner. Teach your student to fill in the deadlines, etc. I think this is where I may have failed, to some degree, with my oldest. My daughter, though, seems to be naturally inclined to journal and fill in calendars, etc. This serves her well now; she often writes her work schedule on a calendar, so the rest of us will know what her schedule is. My current high schooler does plan to attend college, so now is the time to be teaching him how to closely manage his time.

Fourth step: On that calendar, you will also want to fill in any extras, like co-ops, field trips, music lessons…and the student’s work schedule, if he/she does have a job. Also, if your student will be taking tests such as PSAT, SAT, or ACT, you’ll want to write those dates in.

This will give your student a greater sense of independence.

What if your student has younger siblings? Well, this is one of the reasons you’re encouraging independence — so you are able to devote the extra time the younger children demand. Still, there is plenty that can be done together as a family, which is one reason I like unit studies so well. And, I read aloud to the children. My daughter sat in on a lot of the books I read aloud to the boys. Now I am reading several books aloud to both boys, especially related to history.

Do you have any tips for fitting it all in? Please share.

Next month we will be discussing graduation. Please come back then.

Ninth-grade Home Ec and the Homemaker Master Pathfinder Award

You may or may not be ready to think about curricula for next school year, but if you’re stressing over your child’s first year of high school coming up in the fall, perhaps this will ease your stress.

Combining home economics and Pathfinder honors turned out to be a time- and energy-saving trick we pulled for my son’s ninth-grade year. I had my hands full with the younger kids on a daily basis, and just didn’t have the time to put into creating a curriculum for this basic elective overall. By using the time-tested Pathfinder honors, my workload was greatly reduced, leaving only teaching/supervision of the actual projects and looking over his completed paperwork on my plate in terms of implementation and evaluation. The planning process boiled down to calculating hours, choosing the honors to complete, and scheduling the content.

In this blog post, I’ll run you through the process we used to incorporate Pathfinder honors into a curriculum to receive high school credit. This could be accomplished for many different electives.

Assigning Credit Hours
(As always, you will want to check with your state’s education department to verify the following information, as each state may have different requirements. The following information is provided as a general guideline, and you may need to adapt accordingly.)

Calculating high school hours seems daunting, but it’s actually fairly simple. One HS credit hour = 120-180 hours of work. This translates as 50 minutes/day for five days/week for 36 weeks. (Just a note: “core” classes like math, science, and language arts should receive 180 hours/year; electives such as art, music and photography fall at the 120 hour end.) If you finish 75% or more of a high school level text in a year, this is generally considered the equivalent of a high school credit. You also may complete a three-hour course at a community college and count it as one (1) high school credit.

A 1/2-credit course in high school will require exactly half of the full credit hours: 60-90 hours/year, with electives falling on the 60 hours of work end. The class may be taught over a year or a semester since homeschooling by nature allows for flexibility. Over the course of a year, the student should spend approximately 30 min/day for five days/week on the subject matter, or 50 minutes/day for two to three days/week. If the elective is completed over a semester, you would want to adjust the days per week or number of hours to meet the requirements.

Choosing the Content
The next step was to choose the content to match the number of hours required, and also meet the general requirements of a home economics course taught elsewhere. When I compared the Pathfinder honors available to pre-packaged curricula, they basically covered the same material.

A list of the Pathfinder honors under “Household Arts” is available at:

If you click on the “Homemaking Master” honor, you will find a complete list of the honors available in one place. Take note that completion of seven of the honors earns the master honor patch in this category. As I wanted to cover Home Economics broadly, we chose honors from several areas, rather than choosing all of the food preparation honors, for example.

The honors my son and I decided upon were Baking, Basic Sewing, Cooking, Advanced Cooking, Household Budgeting, Housekeeping, Laundering, and Nutrition.

Worksheets for each honor are at this website:, and the answers may be found at the first link given, under “Homemaking Master Honor,” at the bottom of the page.

I enlisted Grandma’s help for the sewing portion!

Writing a Course Description
After we decided which honors to pursue, and printed off the corresponding worksheets, I helped my son organize a binder for the subject’s paperwork. Then it made sense to go ahead and write a course description (below), as I would eventually need this detail for a transcript anyway. (You would want to alter this description to meet your specific needs, or write your own.)

Course: Home Economics
Course Credit: 0.5
Grade Percentage: 60% project(s) effort and completion, 40% written assignments
Course Overview: This Home Economics course teaches the fundamentals of Family and Consumer Sciences. Topics include baking, basic sewing, cooking, housekeeping, laundering, household budgeting and nutrition. Each topic includes written assignments meant to cover basic and some advanced theory/concepts and skills. Multiple projects are assigned with each topic to provide practical, hands-on experience and real-time instruction. The SDA Pathfinder honor requirements for no less than seven (7) honors are covered in this course to earn the Homemaking Master honor.
Textbooks: (none)

We decided to run home economics over the course of the entire school year. Our reasoning for this was that his other elective was music and it would also run for the entire year, thus making daily scheduling consistent for the year.

  • Some tips:
    1. Make a list of all the projects your child will need to complete the chosen honors.
    2. Divide these projects out on monthly calendars. List the honor AND NUMBER these correspond to, as well — it is hard to figure out whether the Edamame Salad went under “salad” or “vegetable” or as part of the “complete meal” after the fact!
    Estimate the time it will take to complete the written work and fill those assignments in on the calendar, too.
    3. In general, for a semester-long course, you will need two to three projects/week plus two to three days of paperwork. For a year-long course, plan on one to two projects/week and one to two days of paperwork. (Take each project’s estimated length into consideration when scheduling.) We front-loaded the practical work into fall semester, so that March and April were clear for make-up work and longer written assignments such as compiling a recipe file, completing a meal chart, creating menus, etc.
    4. Have your child check off and date each project completed on the calendar itself. Circle any project not completed in the week assigned so you can attend to it later.
    5. Do not attempt to schedule complicated projects (such as the Strawberry Cream Cake on the cover of your favorite magazine…) on days when you already have a full schedule. Teaching for a practical course doesn’t lend itself to rushed or tense explanations. Learning is best achieved in a relaxed environment, so choose days that are more wide open.
    6. Planning time on Thursday or Friday for cooking or baking projects is sometimes nice because you can take the completed work to potluck! Don’t forget freezing items for use at a later event, i.e. garlic rolls or cookies for a church event you will have to contribute to, anyway!

Our scheduling system has worked fairly well. I probably underestimated the time it would take to complete so many Pathfinder honors; if I were to do it again, I’d at least double — maybe quadruple, OIY! — the time it takes me to make a recipe or do the laundry when initially counting the hours for the class. But as they say, it all comes out in the wash…and hopefully he learned something!

A cooking project: breakfast of fresh pears, boiled eggs, and potatoes and onions.

Homeschooling High School: How Do I Teach High School?!

We have everything planned out, the curriculum chosen, the electives figured in. Now the question is this: How do I even teach high school? It can be rather daunting, intimidating, overwhelming, even frightening perhaps.

First of all, continue praying for God’s guidance, for, of course, we’ve been doing that all along.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him,” James 1:5.

Next, realize you may not be able to teach everything your child will need to study during these high school years. This has been a hard one for me to admit. I feel like I should be able to “do it all” myself. Well, I see how I failed my oldest two by clinging to that idea. But, in my defense, I didn’t have a support system, nor the outside resources I have available now.

I especially feel the need for “outside help” for the math classes, since that is my weakest subject. Like I said previously, I never did find a math curriculum/program that worked for my oldest. My daughter used a more student-led approach. I thought my current high schooler would use that same curriculum (Life of Fred), but it just wasn’t working for him. So, now he is using a virtual school, with a live teacher who can also tutor him when he needs it. He is still struggling, but at least he has certified math teachers to help him! My youngest will probably continue using the video-based program (Math U See).

One resource to keep in mind is the possibility of having your student take dual enrollment classes. Another possibility is having your student work as an apprentice, especially in a field which your student is considering for a career. Co-ops are also great resources for outside help.

Third, allow your child to “take the reins.” If you are like I am, one of your main goals in homeschooling is to teach your child to be a self-learner, and to develop a deep love of learning. If your child has learned how to research the information they want to know, and if they love to learn new things, they will become lifelong learners. You have provided them with the tools they need. So now, in high school, if he or she wants to learn more about some aspect of world history, or have an indepth knowledge of physics or calculus, etc., they know that the library, or Google, will help them find their answers.

Remember, if you want your children to be lifelong learners, you will show them that you yourself are a lifelong learner. Don’t be afraid to learn right alongside your student! One reason I still enjoy reading aloud to my children is because I like to learn right alongside them. I enjoy watching educational videos with them, too. I know I will continue learning along with my youngest, because of his learning challenges. I have to read most everything to him (or have my Kindle do that).

One more thing to keep in mind: You may have to invest a bit more, financially, for the resources you will need. For example, if you have a student who is keenly interested in science, you may want a microscope, and even dissection tools and specimens to dissect. There is also a cost for taking the ACT or SAT. Perhaps your student wants to become an auto mechanic; help him start building a collection of tools. Or, maybe she wants to become a photographer; help her collect quality equipment.

Are there other ideas you have for teaching these sometimes-challenging high school years? Please share!

Our Apun Unit Study Experience


This wall of snow is in Kotzebue, Alaska, a town situated above the Arctic Circle.

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia — you know, that place that gets ridiculed when the occasional ice and/or snowstorm rolls through the southeast and completely paralyzes life there for several days, and where the grocery stores are sold out of bread and milk at the hint of a snowflake or freezing rain. So, snow has always been rather special; it was a much-celebrated event when it did arrive. But, I didn’t know the first thing about the science behind snow or the ecosystems where snow is frequent. My knowledge of the Arctic was vague and composed of cultural stereotypes.

In 2011 our family had the opportunity to visit Alaska for several weeks. At the time, my kids were still quite young: ages nine, four, and 16 months. My husband was working 12-hour shifts at the hospital there, which left me — a southerner with three brief years of snow experience in upstate New York — to navigate the town’s icy streets. It turned out to be one of the most fun, challenging, and meaningful experiences of my life.

The average high temperature in April is 21 degrees Fahrenheit in Kotzebue, and the average low is five degrees. It was a perfect opportunity to do a weather unit study with my third-grader, so we put up a chart on the apartment wall and tracked the temperature, precipitation, wind direction and speed, barometric pressure, and cloud formations. I had taken along a few lightweight resources, including the charts and crayons, a small poster, a rain/precipitation gauge, and the things we’d need to build a barometer and wind sock. (After our trip we compared the results with our Arizona desert environment.)

I wanted to visit the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center, but it was a little over a mile from our apartment building, and we had no transportation. Cars are used in winter in Kotzebue, but snowmobiles are more useful as they can go over the frozen ice. Some cars and all boats are half-buried in deep snow drifts until late spring/summer. (Gas is very expensive. Kotzebue is supplied by barge before the bay ices over; supplies can only come in by air until the big thaw.) I turned to our apartment neighbor for traveling advice since the wind chill was -27 degrees Fahrenheit. She willingly told me where to buy a plastic sled, then showed me how to set up a box in the back for the bundled baby.

A half-buried boat appears to be cutting through waves of snow.

We proceeded to the Heritage Center at a snail’s pace on the frozen roads, me pulling the sled with the two younger kids on it and my oldest walking behind to retrieve accidentally dropped gloves and mittens from the sled riders. We arrived some 45 minutes later, with frozen tears on the 16-month-old’s face, just as the center closed for lunch. Ack! Thankfully we were re-routed toward the bay, half a mile away, where there were two restaurants to chose from. My kids were able to try a couple of local dishes and unthaw before trekking back to the museum, which proved to be a fantastic learning experience! I even found several great resources for a snow/arctic unit study in their bookstore.

This is the start of the Kobuk 440 dog sled race, a qualifier for the famed Iditarod.

The Kobuk 440, a qualifying dog sled race for the famed Iditarod Race, started and ended in Kotzebue during our time there. My seven-year-old even met John Baker, the Iditarod champion of 2010, who lives in Kotzebue. (The following year we tracked the Iditarod online, choosing a musher and team to follow for the long race of endurance.) We were also able to attend several cultural events that included native Inupiaq dances, handicrafts, clothes, and food. The Inupiaq people were warm and friendly; I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them.

A native Inupiaq demonstrates a dance about hunting walruses.

Though there is so much I could relate about our trip to the Arctic Circle, my point was merely to pique your interest in this subject as a potential unit study, or at least a special project for homeschooling. With the resources I gathered on the trip to Kotzebue, plus a few more I ordered online, we later delved deeper into this topic. The kids love snow anyway! (Apun — in the title of this post — is the Inupiaq word for the Arctic’s snow cover, just in case you were wondering!)

This is the view from our apartment window in Kotzebue at midnight (in April). The days were about 16 hours long at that point. People were out and about until about 2 am. The grocery store is on the right, where all the cars are parked. A carton of ice cream cost $10.


Here are some ideas for unit study projects (resource info below):

Handwriting & vocabulary (and art!) from Draw-Write-Now Book Four: The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The Antarctic OR create assignments and pull vocabulary from books on the subject.

YouTube has some great documentaries and “how-to” videos. During your next big snow, you could try building your own igloo! (My neighbors did that one year, and it was great!) Nanook of the North is an older documentary my kids found interesting.

Iditarod Dog Sled Race: You can track the musher teams online and document their times each day during the race, and there are many, many resources for teachers on the official Iditarod website. We made a dog sled out of popsicles (google instructions), followed the Iditarod, learned about the working sled dogs, and read several books on the subject.


  • The sky is the limit! And the sky is so amazing in the Arctic! We weren’t able to see any northern lights during our visit to Alaska, but we read some books (see below for reference) and watched some videos of the intriguing lights.
  • The Arctic tundra ecosystem — and permafrost. (Permafrost even affects how and where buildings can be constructed in the Arctic, but you can learn about its characteristics and the animals living within it, too.) A weather unit is a great learning opportunity.
  • Whales and their migrations: Whaling is a bad word in our modern vocabulary, but for the Inuit peoples, whales provided absolutely necessary food. (And, nothing goes to waste; they have a use for every part of an animal when it is killed.) In this culture, the breaking up of the sea ice and the return of the whales, along with whale hunting, was very important. These days, there is usually one ceremonial whale hunted, and the community comes together to celebrate as it did in the old days, especially up near Barrow, Alaska. So, studying whales can be a science or a cultural learning project.
  • Other Arctic animals: lemmings, Arctic fox, polar bear, walrus, narwhal, ptarmigan, caribou, beluga and humpback whales, peregrine falcon, seals, musk-ox, wolves, snowy owls, orcas, Arctic hare… Study how they keep warm in winter, their hunting habits or camouflage, diet, hibernation habits, etc. The story of caribou in Alaska involves a bit of Scandinavian history. Tracking in the snow might be a great option if you live up north.
  • Snow: The book, Apun, the Arctic Snow, is a fantastic resource for understanding and teaching about the science of snow. Written by an expert on snow, it is scientifically sound and has an adorable line drawing of a lemming (yes, you’ll want one) and snow crystals, diagrams, and easy-to-understand text. The author weaves in Inuit terms for snow, too. Did you know there are 35 types/categories of snowflake crystals?

    A display at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, Alaska shows what a cross-section of permafrost is made of.

Geography: Identify countries within the Arctic Circle, prominent bodies of water, mountain ranges and peaks, an Alaskan map (larger cities and towns), rivers. You may want to include Antarctica. It’s also an interesting project to learn about the “North Pole” and its various locations.

Literature: I’ve included a few picture books below that our family loved, but your local library probably has some books you can add to this list. Books for older children/high schoolers might include stories of the voyages to the Arctic and Antarctica, books on Inuit culture and life, the story of how caribou/reindeer were herded in Alaska, stories of early travelers and missionaries to the area. There is an interesting story of Maniilaq, who was given visions that some claim meet the Biblical tests for a prophet. He lived and prophesied before Europeans entered Alaska, and he gave a message of one day in seven (the seventh day) being holy to God. There are a couple of books at on his life.

Cooking: We picked up a kids’ cookbook in Alaska, but be aware that recipes tend to contain meat. For vegetarians, you might try searching the internet for recipes from Arctic areas, perhaps trying a recipe from a different country weekly. Another option is to make snowball cookies (aka Mexican wedding cookies/Russian tea cookies) and snow cream (1 gallon of snow, 2 cups milk or substitute, 1 cup sugar, 1 T vanilla extract — stir until creamy).

Physical Activity: Try a new sport! Snow skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, dog mushing…

These are just a few ideas to get started on your snowy journey… Have a great time making tracks! (And, feel free to leave your ideas, resources and/or experiences in the comments below, especially those of you from northern climates!) See below for a few specific resource ideas.

Rabbit tracks can be seen in several inches of snow on our front lawn.

A few of my favorite resources:

Nanook of the North (documentary film, > 1 hour in length, available on YouTube)

How to Build an Igloo (available on YouTube)

Draw-Write-Now: The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The Antarctic (, early elementary/kindergarten handwriting and drawing book) (official website for the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, held in Alaska yearly; many resources for teachers under “education” and online games and information for kids under “students”)

Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (

Dashing Through the Snow: The Story of the Jr. Iditarod by Sherry Shahan (The Millbrook Press, Brookfield, Connecticut)

Apun: The Arctic Snow (a book for children; teacher’s guide is available with more detailed scientific information, but does not have activity guides or a teaching plan; truly a resource or a great text for seventh-grade through high school)

The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (

TOGO by Robert J. Blake (illustrated children’s book about one canine hero of the Great Serum Run of 1925, the event commemorated each year with the Iditarod Race in Alaska)

Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millicent E. Selsam, illustrated by Marlene Hill Donnelly (a “Let’s Read” book, science stage 1)

Survival at 40 Below by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyke (beautifully illustrated and a great science resource for elementary)

Polar Bear, Arctic Hare: Poems of the Frozen North by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

One Small Square: Arctic Tundra by Donald M. Silver, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne (book about the tundra ecosystem written just for children)

My kids were attempting long-jumping beside rabbit tracks. The rabbit won.