Where We’re At: My oldest is graduating in May with an AA degree, and is transferring to a 4-year in the fall. My second oldest is graduating high school and will start community college in the fall. I also have a child in middle school and one in elementary. These are just some experiences we’ve had with “getting it all in,” especially in the high school years.
Building A Strong Foundation
From the beginning of our homeschool journey, I wanted to make sure that my children would have strong foundational skills in reading, writing and math, and that we would follow somewhat of a schedule, not necessarily rigid, but with some structure to our day.
How we do this varies, from traditional book-work and drill-type learning, to playing games, doing projects, and taking field trips. I do follow a plan, but not so closely that it precludes any alterations or adaptations I feel I want to make. I do also make sure my children are learning what they are “supposed“ to be learning at each grade level because I don’t want to have problems later with big gaps in their knowledge or the need to catch up in certain basic subject areas because they were never taught.
Along with the subjects, I also want to teach my children to think critically, to be able to communicate their ideas coherently, to be able to work independently, and to learn how to manage their own time. I’ve gradually expected more from them in these areas as they get older. (These are skills not only good for college, but for life in general).
While this has by no means ensured a “perfect” homeschool learning experience (we’ve hit rough patches, and had our bad days and problem areas), I still think laying good groundwork in the early years (line upon line, precept upon precept) really helps later on when they need to handle the more complex high-school and college-level work. I also think a somewhat structured approach early on helps to build the discipline that enables them to take over their own learning in the higher grades.
Even with a plan, we still have plenty of flexibility and time to participate in other activities, which gives the kids exposure to other teachers who are knowledgeable in a wide variety of areas. This brings me to my next help for getting it all in.
Broadening With Co-ops.
Co-ops and other outside classes can be a marvelous way to:
- outsource high school subjects that may not be your forte
- get in some high school electives that are conducive to a group setting (eg. public speaking and debate; literature discussion; foreign language; etc.)
- provide teens with the opportunity to explore what interests them
It hasn’t always been easy to find co-ops with activities and classes for the high school ages. Depending on the subject, it often requires a more specialized knowledge, and sometimes, equipment that we don’t always have access to. In some cases, we have been fortunate enough to have co-op parents with particular skills or knowledge who have lead classes, or public school teachers who have been willing to volunteer their time. We’ve also had business people in the community come out to help us teach certain subjects. For example, the editor of the local newspaper came and helped kids in our journalism class put together their own newsletter. At another time, members of a local Toastmasters group came out and taught public speaking classes. We’ve also done some activities through 4-H. Junior Achievement is another organization that works with homeschoolers. They have activities and curriculum that focuses on personal finance and entrepreneurship. It can be a real effort to find these types of homeschool programs (or start them yourself, if there are none already up and running in your area), but they can give a real boost to the high school transcript.
Transitioning With Dual Enrollment
Dual enrollment has been a great way for my children to gradually be exposed to college level work, as well as the pace, which, I think, can be less overwhelming than going straight from a homeschool high school environment to college away from home. It’s also been a way for me to off-load some higher-level courses, and given another boost to their high school transcripts. Through college coursework, my teens have been challenged to further hone their writing, critical analysis, and communications skills, and have gotten practice with making PowerPoints and presentations, and with participating in discussions in online classes.
In a nutshell, I suppose what has been working for us is to build a good foundation, and to allow flexibility to meet the needs of each child.