Homeschooling Thru High School

We homeschooled all the way through high school! Yep. We did it.

I’m not surprised that we continued to homeschool through high school. It was the plan from the start really. I was open to changes along the way and we did make some adjustments over the years, but whether the road was rough or smooth, whenever we looked at another road, the road that formal school was on, just didn’t seem to fit. What has really struck me is how early and quickly my sons have moved toward independence.

Let me start by saying we have used an eclectic style that started with “attachment parenting” and moved into a leadership education model. The leadership education model was really for me. It’s what I’ve been doing for myself the last twelve years and my children benefitted from my personal education journey by getting to hear my stories, hear me read books aloud, and knowing first hand what a love of learning looked like. I didn’t “teach” them when they were younger. We decided to delay any academics and allow them to be children. We helped them with the projects they took on, took them places that looked interesting, spent lots of days exploring the world. It was a magical time and I only wish I was aware of how short that time would be while I was in it.

As they grew, we took more of a “radical unschooling” approach. Our home had no hard and fast rules. We used no formal curriculum. We spent our days much like we would if the kids were on vacation. We went places like zoos, museums, and camping trips. We read books, watched tv, went to the movies, and played video games. We met with other homeschool friends and had parties.

The traditional “school subjects” were “offered” as required by our state, but we offered them in very different ways and they weren’t required to study them. Language Arts was offered through books and games. Science through museums, experiments, and videos. History through movies, tv, and historical sites. Math through cooking, games, and other adventures that needed basic math skills. Once my sons hit their teens they took on a new sport, motocross. They bought old bikes, fixed them up, found out about race tracks, and we’ve been supporting them through that for the last four years. Most of their “education” has been centered on that sport since then.

All of this has been pretty expected and a slow and steady progression for all of us. And then they turned sixteen!

At fifteen and half they were both chomping at the bit to get a driver’s license. They took the online class and the behind the wheel training through a private company in town, made an appointment one day after their sixteenth birthday and came home with a license. That was the first test they ever took.

At sixteen they began looking for work. The oldest lucked out when a restaurant opened in town and they had a mass hire. He worked there for about six months and saved most of the money. He had a plan to visit Europe when he turned seventeen and nothing was going to stop him. The week before his seventeenth birthday he took off for a two-week trip on his own. I’ve never been so terrified. The boy had never spent the night away from home! But he had the whole thing planned out, the ticket, a place to stay, a cell phone that would work. Long story short, he ended up volunteering on a farm, deciding to stay a year, and going through immigration for a work permit. I made him a diploma from our own high school and emailed a “permission slip” for his immigration papers. At the time I write this, he’s not yet eighteen. He’ll be back in a few months with his new girlfriend and they’ll be finding ways to start their lives together here.

The youngest has a different path so far. He’s still looking for work. It’s no small task in a small town. He’s been doing odd jobs for a neighbor for cash. He’s taken up reading, guitar, and 3D modeling. He enrolled in the community college and will start classes in a couple weeks. When he took the assessment tests for the college, he tested into college English and almost into college Algebra. Not bad at all. He’s still considered a high school student for this semester because I was under the impression that high school “dual enrollment” students could take some classes for free, but it turns out that’s only at the big city schools. That’s ok though. He enrolled as a private high school student with no trouble. I made him traditional transcripts and he’s taken on the responsibility just fine.

So here I am. One kid graduated and out in the world. One almost so with one foot in college. They seem happy and well adjusted, almost normal. I say almost because they are very different from kids their age and they are very much “nerds” by any standard. Homeschooling works. You don’t need a curriculum. You don’t need oversight. You don’t need to fight and argue with your kids. You can just live with them, support their dreams, treat them like roommates, and they will eventually just take off.

Town Council Meeting – Yucca Valley

What’s Jr. High or High School without civics, right?! And what’s a better way to take a look at local government than to attend a town council meeting? It may be far more interesting than a book or website! For those living in Yucca Vally, next week there will be a “State of the Town Address” at the regular Town Council meeting. Take the family and listen to what they have to say. Bring a notebook and take a few notes about what goes on and things you think about while you’re listening. It’d be great if the kids did as well! Then go out for dinner afterward and talk about it. What is the role of government in your town? Do you have a council or a board? Do you have a town constitution? These are things you can look up before the meeting. You can also do a bit of research about your town. When did it become a town or city? What is the procedure for doing that? When I moved to a small town from the city, I was amazed that there were still “unincorporated” areas of our county. I grew up in the city and just assumed the whole country operated the same way. Looking into your own town’s government and policies is a great way to start learning about civics!

From Yucca Valley’s website:

“Join Mayor Leone for the 2016 State of the Town Address being presented on Tuesday, November 15th at 6:00 p.m. in the Yucca Valley Community Center Yucca Room.

Mayor Leone and the Town Council will provide highlights of the past year, as well as a look ahead to upcoming opportunities and challenges.

The State of the Town Address is being held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled Town Council meeting. Light refreshments will be served.”

Report Cards & Transcripts

There are a lot of good websites out there with instructions about how to create your own school report cards and transcripts. I thought I’d add to that with what I did for my school!

Here’s a picture of our elementary school report card.

Report Card Photo

For elementary school, we were always listed as an “ungraded elementary school”. So I didn’t have a 1st grader and a 3rd grader. My oldest was in “Year 3” and the youngest was in “Year 1” at our school. We also didn’t do letter grades, which I believe a lot of public elementary schools are also doing. We used the following scale.

4 = The student has demonstrated excellent achievement of grade level expectations.
3 = The student has demonstrated good achievement of grade level expectations.
2 = The student has demonstrated basic achievement of grade level expectations.
1 = The student is not meeting grade level expectations.

I chose the grade according to how I actually felt they were doing. Our school’s “grade level expectations” were our own and most likely not the same as other schools. That is true for all schools. Grades are very subjective! And generally they were always “meeting expectations”. When I ask them a question from what we are reading and they can answer, they are meeting the grade level expectations of English. If my little guy can play with an orange as he takes it apart and counts the sections, I may jump in and tell him he’s eating 1/8th of that orange. He’s meeting expectations. Their whole elementary career worked that way. There were no tests to grade.

I also left a comment for each child each semester. This is the part that I really put a lot of thought into. I kept a calendar of all the things we were doing and reading each day and a journal where I’d make a note about things I found awesome about them, things that worried me, things I thought they should probably work on. No one saw it but me, but at the end of each quarter I’d sit with that journal and calendar and think of a positive to write for each child. I’d write things like “Jake is an amazing reader and really loves to tell stories with his pictures.” and “Tom’s handwriting ability is really improving.” That was the end of the report cards.

Transcripts for high school I thought would be a bit tougher and at first they were. We still don’t do tests but my kids are always learning and they are learning quite a bit. My secondary school is “unaccredited” and I know that means that my grades won’t be taken for face value by a big university, but they are still real grades and they do count for things like “Good Driver Discounts” for car insurance and entry into community college. They will most likely have to take placement tests for some college classes and that’s fine. If, when the time comes, they are interested in applying to a school that needs a stronger presence, the transcripts will only be the background of an awesome portfolio that doesn’t include tests and averages.

If you are using some sort of curriculum for your home school, you can use the grades and evaluations from that. I recently read a very encouraging article on “The Home Scholar” called “How to Assign Grades without Grading”. I suggest you check it out for your elementary and secondary students!

Here’s a picture of the template I’m using for my sons’ high school template.

HS Transcript with Grades PhotoYou would include each “class” they took. We don’t use a curriculum, but we are taking “Language Arts 1” in Year 9. I see them reading great books, discussing movies and plays, learning new words, writing letters, blog posts, and comments to friends, so they received an A for that class. If one of my kids was very into writing stories and plays, I would call it “Language Arts – Creative Writing.”

I hope this helps ease your mind and give you some ideas about report cards. If you’d like the use this file at your own school, you are welcome to email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com and I’ll send it out to you!

“Not Back to School Camp”

Did you know there is a “Not Back to School Camp” right here in Joshua Tree? This year it is scheduled to take place early in November. Check their website for information and to see if it might be something your teen might be interested in.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook

I love this book! It’s one that I wish I had found when I was a teenager. If you have an older child and you’re thinking about homeschooling or have been for years, I highly recommend you read this book and give it to your teens. It can help light a fire in them to pursue their own education and find their way in the world outside the classroom. Beware of the results, though! Their path may not look like the one you would have chosen for them. Embrace that! Be the support they need to be who they choose to be.

From Sue Patterson’s Newsletter (which I highly recommend you sign up for)!

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education was originally published in 1991 by Grace Llwellyn. Now it’s available to you for free! It’s designed partly for the parents, but mainly for the teen who is thinking that the regular brick-and-mortar school isn’t working out for them. Even though it was written 25 years ago, the points are all still valid. It’s full of practical advice, ideas, and encouragement. ”

 

 

CHSPE – California High School Proficiency Exam Deadlines

For those with high school age students who wish to be done with high school early, one option is to take the CHSPE, the California High School Proficiency Exam. This is not the “High School Exit Exam” that public school students need to pass, or a GED. It’s the legal equivalent of a high school diploma. Check their website for details! – CHSPE

From their site announcements:
“Registration for the June 18, 2016 administration of the CHSPE is now open. The regular registration deadline for the June administration is May 20, 2016. Registration materials including the Registration Form, proof of eligibility, and appropriate payment, must be received in the CHSPE office by 5 p.m. on that date to avoid late registration fees.”

There is a great guide and practice test available on Amazon called “CHSPE Exam Study Guide”!

Books For Teens

I’ve been talking to a few parents of teens wanting to get out of high school lately. They are dissatisfied for some reason with it and want out. Who didn’t want out of high school?! I know I dreamed of it when I was in high school. If I could go back in time, I’d find myself and encourage me to dream big and move on in my life. High school isn’t the alpha and omega of education and lifelong success. There are other ways to become a productive and fulfilled human being. And those other ways are just as legitimate!

Here are a couple of books I would have liked to have when I was sixteen.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn

The Art of Self Directed Learning by Blake Boles

College Without High School by Blake Boles

Why Haven’t You Read This Book by Isaac Moorehouse

Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens by Oliver DiMille & Shannon Brooks

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

There are more great books out there. And even more awesome websites and blogs about self-directed learning in our digital age. Go search them out. Take a different path. Innovate your life!

 

Foreign Language

My kids have been using Duolingo to learn German the past six months and they love it! The best part is that they are both learning the same language and converse with each other in it now, so I’d say it’s working.

Duolingo is free, works in a similar way to Rosetta Stone, and has lots of different languages to choose from. Check out this TED talk with Luis von Ahn about what makes it even more interesting and why it’s free!

High School Tests

Many people confuse the high school tests, CAHSEE and the CHESPE, so I decided to look into it and clarify some things.

CAHSEE is the “California High School Exit Exam”. It is for public high school students. They must pass this test to graduate from public high school despite passing classes and appropriate credits. New Common Core standards, state law changes, and budget concers are making changes to the CAHSEE program. That would affect public school students only. Private school students are not required to take this test. Private schools make their own graduation requirements.

Here’s an older article from 2013 regarding the coming changes.
Future of high school exit exam unclear as California revamps testing requirements

and this more recent letter from the CDE.
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/hs/cahsee16statusltr.asp

The CHSPE is the “California High School Proficiency Exam”. Under Education Code Section 48412, students who have reached the age of 16 can take this test instead of finishing high school. Once the test is passed and the student has permission from their parents, they are exempt from compulsory education. This test is not required of public or private school students. It is only for students wanting to leave high school early.

Here’s an article from the CDE about the test.
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sp/cefchspe.asp
And the link to the company that administers the test.
https://www.chspe.net/

If you file as a private school for your high school student, you will set your own graduation requirements. Your student must remain enrolled in a school until they are 18 years old. When they reach that age and have satisfied your graduation requirements, you can give them a diploma. It is a valid high school diploma.

If you are enrolled in a charter school or an independent study program, when your student reaches 18 years old they must satisfy that school’s graduation requirements and pass the CAHSEE (or it’s equivalent depending on the new laws) to receive a diploma from that school.

Or your student can take and pass the CHSPE to leave high school before they are 18 years old.

I hope this clears some things up.