Thursday, January 13, 2011

Starting a new homeschooling year... unconventional version

"The more things change, the more things stay the same." Really? Not in my world! The longer things stay the same the more likely they are to change. Yeah, now you're talking. That sounds more like my family!

We are in our tenth eleventh year of homeschooling. (I had to count!) One day I'll write about our homeschooling story, but the short version is that we started out backwards with two high schoolers and a preschooler. We now have just that wee preschooler left at home, only she's not so wee (she's only got one other female - a cousin - that is taller than her on both sides of our family) and she's definitely not a preschooler any longer. 

My girl has always been a quick learner. Our first year at home we promptly started her in her preschool studies. We had Early Bird Math from Singapore Math, and she finished it in three months. The entire year. In three months. So we moved on. By the end of the year we were nearly finished with first grade. Things have always moved fast for her. She's kept me jumping. We were sidelined for a year while she dealt with food allergies so severe that we were actually given so many horrible diagnoses that my head was spinning. We had been around the block with health issues with one of our older girls, so I knew to adjust and let life guide us rather than sticking to a calendar. Isn't that the best benefit of being a homeschooler? We had another bit of time where we needed to adjust to a move. We also took some time off during my uncle's illness and after his passing last year. The way I look at it God allowed us to get ahead so that I, with my "gotta check the box" mentality, could feel comfortable slowing down. When we shook it out at the end of the day we were fine. 

Enter Fall of 2010. Everyone starts their lessons for the year in the fall, right? Well, sort of. Since we "do the next thing" we are never in the same place in all of our lessons at the same time. I'm good with that, but it does pose a problem when, as year-round homeschoolers, someone asks my daughter, "When do you start X grade?" It's a common "problem" in homeschooling, and one that most just ignore. We were lucky (unlucky?) enough to need to switch a few things around over winter break. She finished a few things.... our math program wasn't working... the plan I had for history wasn't quite gelling... our French materials came in later than I thought that they would... I think we've all had years like that! So, I did what every good homeschool mom with a plan does. I evaluated where we were. You know what that means. More planning! (For a planner like me it equals fun time, but I'm not telling my husband. He brings me candy when I plan!) As I reviewed her 8th grade materials I realized that nearly everything that she was working on or was going to begin in January was at a high school level. I knew that we were dealing with this and had been talking to various sources about how to handle early credits earned, possible early graduation, etc. (Remember, this is my fast-paced kid so we've always had to think one step beyond where we were.) To see it all written in my handy-dandy chart make me think. Are we really doing what we need to be doing by keeping her in 8th grade?

I started looking at high school plans. It is one of my homeschooling goals for 2011 so why not knock it out while I'm planning?! I found some fantastic documents on our local high school's website that shows how kids in public school around here plan out their high school courses. Now, we don't follow our public school's curriculum, but I do like to keep her paced with their graduation requirements because she will be competing against these kids for scholarships and admission since she will attend a college or university in state. What did I discover? An amazing thing called the capstone project will be needed for graduating seniors in the class of 2015! It mirrors the project that we would like her to complete similar to the senior specialization project detailed in The Well Trained Mind! I've always wanted to give her time to focus solely on this project but wasn't willing to devote an entire year to it. I had my "aha" moment. (I'm not talking about the fantastic Norwegian band from the 80s and 90s. Take on me.... Take me on... Everyone, sing!) Our timing would be perfect if we started our school year now! Our math, language arts, and art program were all going to be new. Her music program was only in the second unit and is high school-level, and we were reworking history to better fit her four-year high school plan. We've used a January to December calendar in the past, and it works fabulously for us since we use December as our longest break. And, by starting now it would allow her to not only earn credit for the classes that she's working on currently but it will allow her a five-month period to focus solely on her senior capstone project after completing her high school classes. It appears that the pieces have fallen into place. I'm thrilled. And yet unconventional. And I like it that way. :)

Our current (loose) high school plan is as follows. We still need to tweak it a bit, but I feel safe in saying that I can cross off this item from My Big Fat 100 of 2011 list.

*Please note - My kid is an over achiever. I understand that these plans are heavy. I understand that they include more credits than are typical. This is not meant to be a "school like me" post... just a way to document what she is learning, thinking, striving to achieve. We are considering options such as using CLEP testing in certain areas to document certain classes. Her ultimate goal is to obtain either a graduate degree or certification in Museum Studies, so she has made specific choices as recommended for high school students interested in these areas. She's history, music, and art heavy because she loves it, and she's a writer at heart so that will always remain (ie Novel Writing.) I'm sure some classes will change, and I can nearly guarantee that she will also have various electives - such as culinary arts - thrown in. She enjoys learning, and far be it for me to stop her!

9th Grade: Jan to Dec 2011
Ancient History
Introduction to Composition and Literary Analysis
Novel Writing (an independent study course)
Italian I (Edited 1/28/11 - Evidently research shows that Italian is the easiest Romance Language so we'll switch French/Italian and start here!)
Music Appreciation
Various local Art Classes including Ceramics and Painting
Algebra I
Bowling (1 semester)
Physical Science (this can be considered jr high or high school, so we are adding additional research papers and books to bring it up to what we consider high school level in order to meet one requirement by her first choice college. This will also be completed earlier than the others since we started it first.)

10th Grade: Jan to Dec 2012
British Literature
World History (time frame to be determined)
Algebra II
Italian II
Art Appreciation
Various Local Art Classes
Economics (1 semester)
Health (1 semester) 

11th Grade: Jan to Dec 2013
American Literature
American History with an American Government component
Anatomy and Physiology
Music History (our beloved Professor Carol is coming out with a program focused on American music!)
French I (Edited 1/28/11 - see note up in 9th grade)

12th Grade Part I: Jan to Dec 2014
Ancient Literature
Trig (1 semester)
Calculus (will run over into her capstone months)
Art History
French II
Ancient Language (probably Greek)
Financial Literacy (1 semester)
Information Technology/Computer Science (1 semester) 

12th Grade Part 2: Jan to May 2015

Senior Capstone Project

All this to say... my preschooler is now officially a 9th grade high schooler.

Oh, and a note to all those new (or new to high school) homeschooling moms and dads out there... Never be afraid to be unconventional. Your child is one of a kind, and your homeschool should be as well. Whether you are an unschooler, you use a prepackaged all-inclusive curriculum, or anywhere in between, make your child's education fit their needs. Don't make them fit the education. They will thank you for it!


Lorie said...

I'm impressed. With your daughter's achievements and yours. Planning and flexibility all at once..great job!

Steph @ Wild Crickets said...

Thanks, Lorie! I'm always hesitant to post about what she does, so this was going out on a limb for me. :) I have to admit that I enjoy planning. I've been putting together her History as well, and it's all coming together. It's definitely a God thing because I never could have come up with anything that fits her as well on my own!

Laura in MO said...

I'm singing!! "Take me on...." :)

I totally understand your comment about it all falling into place but still being unconventional. I love it.

And I am VERY excited about the new Professor Carol project!!

Steph @ Wild Crickets said...

I knew you'd sing with me, Laura! It's an oldie but a goodie. ;) I can't wait for convention and Professor Carol's new material either. My only dilemma is that I want to use it when we study American History, but I'm so tempted to use it as soon as it's available! Such good stuff. Now, if we would quit being sick so that we could get some work done!