Homeschooling High School-Part 3

We are on the brink of it. Our two older kids have graduated from our homeschool, and now begins the on-ramp for graduating our youngest. She is currently finishing 8th grade, and today I put together a rough plan for the next four years. She has interests in art and veterinary science, so there are a few things included to help her investigate those subjects.

Spring 2020 and High School Overview

It doesn’t have to cost a bundle, either.

My cost is $25 a month for Power Homeschool.

My subscription to SchoolhouseTeachers.com is a benefit of working for the company (but it’s still CRAZY affordable at under $9/month for the whole family, with our current special, and includes my record keeping, our quarterly magazine, planners, SO MUCH–ask me about it!).  I’ll use some videos like Mr. D’s Geometry and Drive Thru History to round out our math and history classes.

Typing Club is free (I like it…used it for Michael).

The New Answers books (1-4) are free right here.

I got a complete copy of WriteShop on Ebay for $15 I think.

We use the library and free books on Kindle for reading.

Driver’s Ed (with high school credit) is $19.95 one-time fee, when we are ready for it.

Add in paper, pencils, a few sundry supplies that I buy in bulk at Walmart’s back-to-school sales.

Homeschooling does not have to break the bank!

If you find the idea of homeschooling high school daunting, a couple favorite resources of mine are the It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School Facebook group, and all that Lee Binz has to offer at The HomeScholarsite (really, go look!).

Comment if I can help! And keep an eye out here for an announcement about an incredible, free online event coming up very soon!

Acellus Academy/Power Homeschool Review– School at Home for Varied Needs

powerhomeschoolscreenshotI wanted to put this review on the blog (since we homeschool, it is part of our life journey…so periodically I’ll post reviews and other items) before my role on the Advisory Board for Power Homeschool becomes official. I didn’t want it at all to seem as if I had been paid to say what I want to share. We’ve been using the program for about a semester…I just realized I’d never written a review!

First, be aware that Acellus Academy and Power Homeschool are both secular in nature. So you will encounter some things like evolution in the courses. You will also, surprisingly enough, see biblical events and quotations alluded to from time to time; but it’s not part of any sort of religious slant. We plug in our own biblical world view in the form of Bible class, devotional reading, scripture copywork, and discussion.

I will say that I can’t offer much in the way of first-hand insight regarding Acellus Academy, since we’ve never used that option. It is an accredited program with certified teacher guidance, conducted online.  It is much the same as K12 Virtual Academy, although I’m not sure all the same stipulations are in place such as required vaccinations, adhering to a specific school calendar, etc.  For high school, two tracks are available…Standard, and Graduation with Honors. You can find out more here.

Also before I move on, for those wanting free education, Acellus Academy is being presented to various states across the US to be provided at no cost to the user via state approval and funding. It’s my understanding that our home state of Wyoming was the first to come on board for that option.  For those states not yet a part of that program, tuition per student is $249/month. If accreditation is important to you, then this is the option you’ll want to pursue.

Power Homeschool (recently renamed to distinguish it from the Academy) is available for the subscription cost of $25 per month (beginning August 1), per child. There are some savings if you enroll for a 12-month period at the price of $250 per child. Your membership can be paused at any time, and resumed at the click of a button with all your progress saved intact. In theory, the money you pay contributes toward covering the expenses of maintaining the site of course, and also serves to keep from requiring government funding for this portion of the company (which many subscribers felt strongly against), therefore preventing the public school system from dictating content and practice. This subscription provides you with your choice of 6 courses (core subjects plus electives–and they are currently asking for ideas for more courses to add!) per student. Included in the price are such parent-friendly tools as automatic grading (there are brief assessments after each “step” or lesson, plus tests), attendance records, printable progress reports and transcripts, and real time monitoring of your child’s progress. There’s a lot of bang for the buck.

Shows which class is being worked on

There are options in each grade level (from Pre-K through 12th) for Special Education classes. I’ve read testimonials of numerous parents experiencing great success with their children, dealing with everything from autism to dyslexia.  The AP courses which were previously available for the Homeschool option are now available only through the Academy.

The reason for this program’s success, apart from being extremely easy for parents to use, as well as very cost-effective, is how flexible the program is for nearly any homeschooling situation. You can choose a full load of classes, or just use the program for one if you wish. Another perk is that each subject has placement tests, and you can have flexibility in choosing which grade level each subject enrolled…so you may have your child enrolled in 5th grade Math or Science, but 6th grade Language Arts, to customize the content to your child’s current levels. You make your own schedule with Power Homeschool, and you decide how rigorous your calendar will be. Each “step” or video lesson (the classes are all in video format, taught by certified teachers–this aspect is important to some) is fairly brief, so if attention span is an issue, this is very helpful. I’ve personally started with two “steps” per day, per subject and then gradually increased the work load for our daughter.  Learning to take notes is a valuable skill and one that is vital to succeed well in any homeschool program, especially if a student plans to attend college.  We use LOTS of spiral notebooks and then the information is already there and has been reinforced when it comes time for tests and exams.

Speaking of assessments, you can opt out of these if you wish. For those unschoolers who want structure but are not keenly interested in GPA or regular evaluations, you can always opt for “tutor mode” for your class which enables you to skip lessons for content already covered/mastered as well as tests if preferred. The intuitive program will only include “steps” passed and the correlating assessment grades when averaging for GPA in tutor mode.  And you can indeed just use Power Homeschool for tutoring purposes, as has been the case in many public high school systems nationwide.  If it is important to you personally, or necessary legally, for you to have verification that an entire class has been completed with every jot and tittle checked off, you can print certificates once your student is finished with each course and that course will show as officially completed on the progress tab of the dashboard.  You can see your child’s progress at any time.

acellusscore

To enhance the Language Arts class (because I prefer some actual writing to be taking place in addition to what is done via screen time), I choose to supplement Power Homeschool with some additional spelling and grammar resources and printables via other online offerings like Schoolhouse Teachers, No Red Ink, Spelling City, and WordBuild.  I also periodically plug in some more interactive options for electives like art projects and music. I’ve used a few extras like Hoffman Academy for music and Everyday Easels for art. All of these items are free, with the exception of Schoolhouse Teachers (which you can try for only $5 for your first month here). These are just things I prefer to add for variety so that the entirety of our school day is not in one venue only. Power Homeschool can definitely be used as a stand-alone curriculum in its own right.

So, whether you want to tutor a hard subject, get an accredited (and possibly free) education, take a few courses to beef up your lesson plans, complete an entire grade level of documented curriculum, or choose classes to complete at your child’s pace and without the pressure of assessments, there is a “level of engagement” with Acellus Academy or Power Homeschool that is just right for you!

This program has helped our rising 7th grader to own her schooling, learn to self-educate, and thrive. Does it work? Here’s a Facebook post I made a few months in:

I smiled to myself the other day while driving to town with Katie. They were talking about moon phases on NPR, and how there had just been a “Waxing Gibbous” moon.

Katie: “Oh, that means we’ll have a full moon next.”
Me: “How did you know that??” (I didn’t know that!)

Apparently this was from her recent Acellus 6th grade science lesson. She’s learning something! She’s actually doing very well this semester, with a 3.52 GPA. Grateful to have her home when she has physically challenging days like today…she can still thrive in spite of it. 

Questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help!

 

Bouncy Bands Product Review

BB1I learned about Bouncy Bands while researching for my upcoming Specialtember Giveaway Event at my homeschool group, Schoolin’ Swag. This event will target the special needs families among our 4,000+ members, providing prizes and discounts on some wonderful products and services which address everything from autism to dyslexia to ADHD.  Here is the video that caught my attention:

In combing the internet for vendors whose products I wanted to feature for the event, I was drawn to the idea of the Bouncy Bands. I’ve seen firsthand in our own homeschooling experience how movement (the right kind) can actually enhance the learning experience for children.

Children who genuinely need movement in order to stimulate their brains, often opt for unacceptable choices to get out their energy. They make multitudes of trips to the rest room, feel the need to sharpen that pencil down to a nub, rock back on the back legs of their chairs (and we all know how well that goes), tap pencils, stomp feet, or simply go into a stupor from being sedentary, and the brain just says, “I quit!”

While I’m not a fan of having kids sit at desks for very long spans of time, there are indeed periods during our homeschool day when it is necessary. I especially want this to be able to happen successfully when we have any sort of handwriting or copywork to do…assignments which require a solid writing surface for quality performance.

In the past I’ve actually used an exercise ball during school. It helped get wiggles out while doing reading and drill work, but an exercise ball is not the most stable thing in the world, and things often got out of hand. Our school “room” is part of the master bedroom, and we repeatedly had problems with hitting furniture and rolling into things! Periodically, I would opt for “wiggle breaks” where, in between subjects, I’d have our young student get up and dance around to something like “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Trouble is, it was hard to get her to refocus after that. Same thing was true of the trampoline breaks, and the ride-your-bike-for-3-laps breaks, and the do-a-little-on-Wii-Fit breaks.

Enter Bouncy Bands.

I really like this option! The Bouncy Bands come in two different sizes, one for desks and the other for chairs. The installation on our school desk was an absolute snap. Less than a minute, and we were ready for action. They are also available in two colors, royal blue and yellow. Our student liked that she could choose.  It made her feel like it was more “hers”.

The day I received our Bouncy Bands in the mail, we were not doing school. We were having a sick day because our little student had the flu. But that did not stop her from wanting to test drive this new product. She sat right down at her desk, and giggled with glee, flexing and bouncing!

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I love that this product is completely quiet. You hear nothing at all as the student is able to move and wiggle while working. No more creative excuses for why she needs to get up…yet again. We got our little school desk from a yard sale at our local elementary school. She enjoyed the novelty of it for a day or two, and then quickly grew to hate sitting in it. It was so stiff and rigid. Her work suffered for it, too, as she tried to write on a clipboard while constantly shifting on the couch, or a chair, or a bed. I’m so grateful for this easy solution for us both!

Katie’s review:

“I think while you are doing your school, you can have exercise! It’s pretty cool! It’s really bouncy! I like to put out my extra energy while I am doing my work, and this is very fun! Little kids are so full of energy, and if they have these they can pay attention to their teachers. It’s a really cool idea. I think it’s very comfortable, and I like that you don’t just have to sit there and be still and stiff. Having fun while doing school is AWESOME!”

Another added benefit for us personally is how Bouncy Bands help with test anxiety. Have you noticed your student nervously tapping or twirling a pencil, tapping fingers, jiggling feet and other sorts of behavior? Now we have an outlet for that little bit of nervousness, and performance is improving! As a matter of fact 87% of students reported that Bouncy Bands help them feel calmer when they take a test (and 71% of teachers agreed). Click here to view statistics gathered in a recent 2015 Survey!

This has been a win-win in our home. Actually a win-win-win-win!

  1. My little student sits better, concentrates better, performs better.
  2. My stress level in constantly having to reel her in has decreased a great deal!
  3. In addition to having a set of Bouncy Bands to enjoy in our own homeschooling, I was able to share the second set with a family I know will benefit from them.
  4. I was also given a special 15% discount code to share in my homeschooling group, as soon as this post goes live! Come grab it!!

Thank you Scott Ertl of Bouncy Bands for being such a blessing to our family, for giving me the privilege to review your terrific product, and for passing that gift on to the terrific members of my group!

I highly recommend this product! Click here to go to the site and order. They come with a 100% money back guarantee! What do you have to lose…except the wiggles? 🙂

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Homeschool Product Review: Order Out of Chaos Academic Planner

chaos1My sweet friend Leslie Josel, sent me a couple of her beautiful Academic Planners to take for a test drive this school year. I was going to wait until we were actually using them to post a review; but I’m so excited about them that I wanted to jump right on it and get the word out, so folks could get theirs ordered before August rolls around!

The planner is available in four different styles, to suit your taste. I loved the blue kaleidoscope design! The front and back are beautifully colored vinyl…very durable! I love the size of this planner, too…a generous 7″ x 11″ which gives plenty of space to write, as compared to impractical “pocket” planners. It is also 3-hole punched to fit into a binder, if you so wish!

I’ll post some photos here to show you the inside (click to enlarge). This is a great, intuitive organizational tool that is easy to use, without a lot of flipping around…and it teaches the student how to own their school planning!

If you need help, Leslie will hold your hand a little bit!

If you need help, Leslie will hold your hand a little bit!

Write in your subjects and activities once on the left, and they line up with each day's pages!

Write in your subjects and activities once on the left…

Neat vinyl storage pocket in back!

Neat vinyl storage pocket in back!

Here is a nifty video, explaining the perks of this great tool:

As a perfect accompaniment to the planners, Leslie was gracious enough to include her new book, “What’s the Deal With Teens and Time Management?”  What a great pairing! The handy little book covers everything from procrastination (oh boy!) to homework strategies. These are important life skills for your teen! Click here to preview!

Speaking of teens managing their time, while you’re at it, sign up for the FREE Back to School Webinar (Monday, August 17, 8pm EST), targeted specifically for middle and high schoolers, titled “Have You Done Your Homework Yet?”–click here!

Homeschool Product Review: CTC Math

ctclogoIn searching various options for math for our 3rd grader next year, I came across CTC Math. What a great program! I immediately loved how intuitive it is, very streamlined and user-friendly.

Click here to watch a video about how it works (I highly recommend watching this…it is brief, but by the end I think you’ll see why I wanted to jump on board).

The program provides:

  • 1,367 animated and narrated math lessons
  • A bank of over 57,000 interactive questions
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Instant feedback to students and regular reporting to parents
  • Algebra, statistics, geometry, trigonometry, probability plus more

I love that this program goes at my speed. Rewind, review, pause if you like. Take lessons in the order listed, or choose specific lessons which are trouble spots for your K-12 student.

Screen shot with Katie's opening page and "Speed Skills" window.

Screen shot with Katie’s opening page and “Speed Skills” window.

The teacher, Pat Murray (who’s got 10 kids of his own!), uses a variety of techniques so your visual, auditory, kinesthetic learners can all get a firm grasp on concepts…their way. Students can print lesson summaries to keep in a notebook for review. Lessons are reinforced by online quizzes which increase in difficulty as the student progresses. There are printable worksheets for lessons as well. You can easily view the progress your student is making, and they receive certificates as a reward for their accomplishments.

I’m really looking forward to plugging into this program more thoroughly this coming school year. Wow, how I wish there would have been something like this when I was in Jr. High Algebra. I suffered terribly because I learned one way, and the teacher taught another way…and never the twain did meet. I was too shy at that age to ask questions, so I muddled along, failed the class, and had to take it again in summer school. How different things could have been with CTC math!

Click here to experiment with a free trial!

Note: I received a year’s subscription to CTC Math in exchange for an honest review.