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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

Teaching Ideas/Methods
Interesting Topics for Unit Studies or Reports Tags: nyc history voice characters voice over work fashion studies history of marketing simpsons math word origins

Not likely to be part of a standard curriculum, these not so ordinary topics could be developed into great unit studies or be used for reports (written research reports or essays, speeches, or visual presentations like PowerPoints or videos).

Some starting points: 

Cryptology: Learn more about codemaking and codebreaking at CryptoKids. Read about the difference between codes and ciphers, how to make and break ciphers, and the history of cipher systems. A games and activities section has brainteasers, cryptograms, and other puzzles to solve. In addition, learn more about crpytography - from ancient hidden messages to modern encryption - with this series of videos from Khan Academy.


Sufferin’ Succotash: Who are the voices behind the most well-known cartoon characters of the past and today? Starting with Walt Disney, this voice-over chart gives you the rundown. What a cool way to earn a living.

Fashion Fun A – Z: Unit study ideas for incorporating and practicing research and presentation skills while studying the world of fashion.  Some of the suggestions include: researching relaxing clothes from the 1800s to now and do a presentation;  list 20 words that are used only in the fashion industry and their meanings;  follow clothes through the retail process, from design to factory to store racks.  

SimpsonsMath: This site uses episodes from The Simpsons to help students understand math concepts. According to the site, "The Simpsons contains over a hundred instances of mathematics ranging from arithmetic to geometry to calculus, many designed to expose and poke fun at innumeracy."

The site includes an extensive guide to the math and mathematicians referenced on The Simpsons, a page highlighting the mathematical backgrounds of many of the show's writers, and activity sheets with math activities correlated to specific episodes.

Communicating with Images: Activities for learning about how images are used to tell a story, covering such topics as: framing a subject in a viewfinder; photographic composition and "rule of thirds;" basic shot composition; camera angles; and image elements.

How New Words Are Added to the English Language: This interesting article outlines the different ways words become part of the English language. Some are borrowed from other languages, some are truncated to form new words, others are fused together, etc. 

History of Marketing: This is a detailed timeline infographic featuring the history of marketing from 1450 to 2012. Lots of information here on how the emergence of new technology has affected marketing. May be a useful starting point for a report on a particular era, or to take a small chunk of information and create one's own graphic.

Haunted History of 7 American LandmarksA roundup of ghost stories relating to well-known landmarks, including specters roaming the Smithsonian Institution; sightings of apparitions at the Hollywood sign; and a phantom ship passing beneath the Golden Gate.

Documentaries and Movie Collections Tags: educational videos youtube education

If you use video in your homeschool, check out the links to these extensive educational collections. You're bound to find something useful for the upcoming school year: 

YouTube Educational DocumentariesThis 42-page download is a list of educational documentaries on YouTube. It's alphabetical, by topic (eg. America - The Story of Us; Discovery Channel; Modern Megastructures), and was last updated in June of this year. Lots of social studies and science topics, as well as biographies on artists, actors, and musicians.

YouTube Educational Channels: This is a list of 197 top channels based on views, subscriptions, and quality of content. Among those mentioned are familiar ones like TedEd, Khan Academy, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and PBS, along with many other mutli-subject sites. The list also includes sections for specific subjects, such as the physical sciences, engineering and technolgy, math, politics, history and current events, the arts, foreign languages, and university channels. 

SOTW and NetflixA list of movies you can get on Netflix that correspond with topics covered in the Story of the World curriculum. The list is in chart form and shows the title of the movie, and corresponding SOTW volume and chapter. The chart also includes movie ratings (when available) and if the movie is available for instant streaming. 

Homeschooling High School: Still Learning Tags: homeschool high school homeschool high school transcript homeschool co-op dual enrollment

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.


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