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.

Science:

  • 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 amazon.com 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 (barkercreek.com, early elementary/kindergarten handwriting and drawing book)

iditarod.com (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 (www.walkeryoungreaders.com)

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 (www.walkeryoungreaders.com)

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.

Homeschool Fruits: Serenity

According to my handy-dandy dictionary phone app, serenity is “the state of being calm, peaceful, tranquil, unruffled.” It is a freedom of the mind from “annoyance, distraction, anxiety, obsession.”

This is totally you in your daily homeschool life, right?!?

There may have been a bit of sarcasm there. I know when my child still wasn’t reading at nearly nine years old, I didn’t feel particularly calm. The fact that he’s currently a grade and a half behind the rest of his studies in math…does not leave me feeling tranquil.

But, those are momentary emotions, and those emotions do not speak to the longterm truth of homeschooling: Homeschooling allows your child to complete his education where and when he or she is ready — not when the public or private school system dictates, not when Aunt Betty thinks it should be done, not even where any of your own preconceived hopes and plans have placed him. And, that is what brings the homeschool mom or dad the fruit of serenity.

This has been on my mind a lot the last couple months since my son hit his teens. In the elementary years, it seemed we had forever. Now that he’s a teen, I’ve had to remind myself that we still have as long as it takes.

As your child enters or nears the high school years, there is serenity, peace, to be obtained in remembering that homeschooling has so many more options than most of us grew up with in a school system.

Maybe your kid will be the one who homeschools all the way through high school, and completes it with a homeschool transcript, and takes the tests necessary to head into college. That seems like the preferred path to most of us, but don’t get nervous if you’re not sure your child is cut out for that. There are other avenues.

College often provides a base of learning from which you can choose numerous careers.

If he wants to try out an Adventist academy, he can. Many academies would be happy to work with you to integrate your child into their system. If that works out, super! But, here is the serenity of homeschooling again: If it does not work out, if for any reason your child does not flourish in that setting, all he needs to do is come back to homeschooling. There is no success or failure here; there is merely the option of a different path.

Another opportunity might be junior college. She may have finished her freshman and sophomore classes, but is becoming dissatisfied and anxious to “get on with life.” Numerous homeschoolers make it to about 16 years of age, and then decide to just morph into junior college. They may live in a place where they can get dual credit, or they might eventually have to take a GED, but at least they can get a headstart on college. Likewise, your child may not be headed for a four-year degree, but they might want to pick up some classes at the junior college to enhance their personal business plans.

An electrician is a skilled profession that will be needed even in times of poor economy.

If they’re of a more technical bent, they could instead look into the requirements for getting into trade school. Opportunities are endless. Sometimes those of us who took the college route get stymied thinking “whatever could my child do(?!?)” if they don’t have a desire for college. There is so much out there. I’m going to list a bunch here that helped open my brain’s horizons: web developer, electrician, plumber, health field technician, commercial driver, HVAC tech, heavy equipment operator, licensed practical or vocational nurse, medical laboratory tech, computer programmer, non-airline commercial pilot, network systems administrator, animator, electrical engineering tech, first responder like police officer or fireman or EMT, aircraft mechanic, architectural drafter, graphic designer, diesel mechanic, and probably many more than I could think of. Most of those require two years or less of training, and offer quite decent income.

Sometimes the key to Sabbath off in a manual labor job is proficiency. Unwilling to lose my husband’s skill (masonry), his company allowed him to take off Sabbaths when he refused after they initially requested Saturday work.

What about manual labor? Sabbath work requirements are often a fear, but there are jobs to be had where they are willing to work with your Sabbath-off needs, or even where they don’t usually work weekends. Here’s another list of possible jobs or areas for the child who needs to move or craft to be happy: track switch repairman (here’s an example of easy Sabbaths off, as railroad jobs often have weekends off), machinist, petroleum pump system operator, concrete, plant operator, construction, key holder, brick and stone mason, cleanup, iron worker, welding, and more.

Did you just read those last two paragraphs and think they mostly applied to boys? Nope. There are opportunities for your girls, too. Check out these articles to see how women are flourishing in nontraditional trades.

I don’t know what my child will decide to do. He’s not very hip on college right now, but that could change. He might decide to take some basic business classes and operate his own business. He’s a bit of a geek, so I don’t see him spending a lifetime on the construction scaffold, but on the other hand, he might spend summers learning masonry from his dad, and have a needed skill to fall back on no matter what his final career choice is. Or, he might decide to become an engineer or some other school-centric profession, and just take as long to get there as he needs — which could be extensive if current math efforts are indicative. LOL.

There’s no rule that your child needs to finish high school at 17…or 18…or 19…or 20…or period. The serenity fruit of homeschooling comes from knowing that we are allowing our kids to take the path that will best fit their God-given talents and abilities, even if it’s not the path we envisioned.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you,” Isaiah 26:3 NIV.

~

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.

Homeschooling High School: Electives

Homeschooling High School

Now that we have those core subjects planned, let’s talk about electives, which basically include everything that isn’t a core subject. Although, sometimes core subjects can be considered “elective” if your state requirements have already been met. Say, for example, your student only needs three science credits, but you’re having him or her earn a fourth…or they are doing a higher level math than “required.” (That will never happen in my household! Ha!)

First of all, I do have each of my high schoolers do Home Ec — yes, even my sons. I think it’s important for each of them to know how to cook and do laundry. They also need to learn how to properly clean the house.

In this day and age, we find it is important to learn computer skills; not just proper hand placement on the keys, but also the proper format of typing up essays and reports. I’ve also tried to teach the kids proper format for business letters and personal letters.

Other courses I have had or plan to have my kids cover in their high school years are foreign language (my current high schooler wants to learn several languages, because he plans to become a missionary); music appreciation, music lessons if possible; art appreciation and art techniques; and physical education.

My husband has been excellent at teaching the boys, in particular, home maintenance and repairs. He even taught them some carpentry. They have also been learning auto mechanics and maintenance. Oh, don’t forget driver’s ed!

My oldest began a job when he was in 11th grade. In fact, he was at that job for more than 7 years, until he moved back to Florida. He is dependable and well-liked. My current high school student has done some occasional work for his friend’s dad, in his landscaping business.

We had a hobby farm in the past, with which all of the kids helped with the animal care. It was a great way for the kids to learn responsibility. I’ve also tried to have them work on gardening.

Now, drama or speech and debate are some subjects we’ve never covered. I think speech especially would be good for my current high schooler to do, to prepare for a life of preparing and giving sermons.

What resources are available to cover some of these electives?

Well, this year we are in a homeschool co-op. My current high schooler is taking a class there in marketing. He actually could’ve taken speech and debate, but he didn’t want to. He also could have joined one of the teams working on the yearbook (now, my youngest did choose to join a yearbook team…at least first semester).

Both boys are taking photography through the Florida Virtual School this year, and enjoying it immensely. They will both also take driver’s ed through Florida Virtual School. (Yikes! Did I just type that?! My youngest, to take driver’s ed?! Oh, help!) It’s also possible for them to take various computer classes through FLVS.

Now, you don’t have to be living in Florida to take classes through Florida Virtual School. You can enroll worldwide. It just won’t be free, unless you are a Florida resident. I know there are other virtual schools in which your student may enroll.

Don’t forget your local Pathfinder club, or working on the Investiture Achievement coursework and Pathfinder Honors. These are great methods for working on electives.

What are some of the electives you plan to have your student cover?

 

 

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Homeschooling High School: Core Subjects

Homeschooling High School

This morning as I prepare this blog post, we are waiting and watching Hurricane Matthew make its way up the Florida coast. We are learning about storm preparedness. Then, later, we may have the opportunity to learn about disaster relief.

Last weekend, my high schooler and I attended the local conference’s High School Bible Retreat. He was one of four in our group: two from our church, and two from the homeschool co-op we attend. There were nearly 300 high schoolers in attendance, most of whom attend public schools. (For the more conservative among us, it might not be an option for your kids! I’m just sayin’.)

Now, do either of these really fit in with the core subjects?

The core subjects are language arts (grammar, literature, creative writing, speech, etc.), mathematics, science, social studies (history, civics, government), and Bible (at least for Christians). How can we cover these subjects in our home schools? Pull out those planning sheets I mentioned last time.

At the top of those planning sheets, they already have English filled in for grades 9-12. But, what resources are best suited for each grade?

You can find a list of resources right here on this blog. Several of those resources my family has actually reviewed for The Schoolhouse Review Crew. I’ll share the links to my reviews.

If you or your student are “word nerds” and enjoy history and learning the origins of our English words, you would really enjoy King Alfred’s English. We received an electronic version to read on our Kindles. If you go to the website, The Shorter Word, you will find resources to enhance your student’s study.

Senior High School Lightning Literature and Composition, by Hewitt Homeschooling, was another great resource we were able to review. The level we actually reviewed was for seventh grade, but they also have high school levels available.

Another resource we reviewed, with which I was impressed, was Excellence in Literature.

I was also impressed with, and thankful to review, Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, by Writing With Sharon Watson. There are other amazing resources available on her website, including writing prompts.

If you are interested in an online course, Time4Writing is an excellent program. We did review it, when my daughter was in high school, but that was many years ago now; in fact, it was one of our first review items!

This year, for our first time ever, we are attending a local homeschool co-op. My high schooler is taking a poetry class this semester at co-op, and enjoying it immensely. Hopefully there will be a high school level literature class next semester, too. I also have him reading a book (electronic format) called, Grammar-Land, which we obtained through Yesterday’s Classics. I plan to have him read English Literature for Boys and Girls, as well.

There is a list of science resources on this blog, too.

The main science resource I used for my older two children was Apologia. They both did biology. My oldest did chemistry and physics, while my daughter did the high school anatomy and physiology, and marine biology. My current high schooler is using the list of suggestions from Simply Charlotte Mason. This year I actually have him listening to the Apologia physics via Audible. They have all of the junior high and high school level texts available.

You can find a list of history resources.

I will admit, one of my most favorite resources is Heritage History. This year, my high schooler is using this for his main resource. We also watch a lot of videos through Netflix. We could use Amazon Prime, too, if our wifi was better and more cooperative!

We also maintain a timeline. I especially like the free timeline I downloaded from Simply Charlotte Mason, then printed off. There is also an online Biblical Timeline, which Amazing Facts supports.

If you use living books and/or videos, make sure your child keeps a list of what he/she has read or viewed for the transcript, whether for history or science, or any other subject.

Yes, there is even a list of math resources. Math has always been the most challenging subject for me to teach to my children. Only one (of four) likes math; the others basically detest/ed it, like their mother!

No matter what I tried, I never did find a resource that suited my oldest…poor kid! My daughter finally found that Life of Fred worked for her. My current high schooler has been as challenging as my oldest. He tried Life of Fred, and Math U See. This year I actually have him taking math through the Florida Virtual School (because we personally know two of the math teachers, who attend our church). I plan to stick with Math U See for my youngest all the way through.

Lastly, you will also find a list of Bible resources. We have used resources from Doorposts (one of which we were able to review),  My Bible First, and Young Disciple.

My favorite resource, though, is just reading the Bible. We are currently reading through Psalms together, reading one Psalm a day. I think we may move on to Proverbs, then the four gospels, after that.

I also have suggested to my high schooler to read through the Bible and the Conflict of the Ages series, using the Encounter reading plan. Frankly, I have been using this plan myself for the past three years; I have one more year after this one. You and your high schooler may also be interested in using the resources at Believe His Prophets, where they have a daily Bible reading plan, as well as weekly readings from Ellen White’s books. The readings can be sent directly to your email inbox, or you can read them online at the website.

I hope this information will be useful in implementing the core subjects for your high schooler. Next time we will discuss methods of choosing and working on the electives.

(You can read more of my reviews on my blog, Life at Rossmont.)

 

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