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!

Homeschool Reflections-Running the Gauntlet and Finding Resolve

booksEvery once in awhile I have to revisit my mission statement as a homeschooling parent. Reminding myself of the “why” helps my resolve to find its feet again. Something I’ve found that all homeschoolers have in common is self doubt. The end of the school year provides a great opportunity to objectively evaluate your “why” in light of your fall semester goals as compared to spring semester outcomes. 🙂 
We are winding down our school year. It always makes me reflective. Katie has counted out how many lessons she has left in science and social studies, and decided this week she will put her nose to the grindstone so she can finish all her online school.  Now I can get her schedule lined up for next school year, and we’ll enjoy a more leisurely pace completing spelling, grammar, writing, and literature through the end of June. July is our month off. Grateful to see a *little* bit of discipline taking shape in how she manages school. She’s maturing and starting to take things a little more seriously. She’s got her sites set on our alma mater for college. Slow-but-steady progress on this on ramp for high school. 😉 This is gratifying for both of us!
Katie Grades Spring Semester 2019 END
 
I was proud of Katie last week, as a woman (who was a retired school teacher) plied her with all sorts of questions about her schooling. If you homeschool, you know what I’m talking about already. The gauntlet. 
 
What was she reading? Katie told the lady about the series she’s currently enjoying, and I told her how we are doing Peter Pan as a read-aloud and doing a literature study through that book. 
 
What was she doing for science class? Katie told her all about the solar system and space investigation–she’s doing Earth & Space Science.
 
Does she have any friends? (aka “Are you socialized?”)  Anyone who knows our daughter knows the answer to that question.  lol  I assured her that she goes to youth group, church, and art club and has interaction with her peers. But I don’t believe “socialization” is accomplished by spending the entire day with only those in your peer group.
 
What is her favorite subject? She shared what she is learning in history…which interestingly is about Ancient Rome and Christianity.
 
Did she cover Wyoming state history? I elected to save that until later…not in 4th grade which is typical in the school system…so she’d have more of an appreciation for it…we’ll cover it next year in conjunction with American History and Geography.
 
I was asked if I was a teacher.
I’ve always been a teacher by nature, and have been a lifelong learner. Both my husband and I are a little nerdy, enjoying documentaries and playing Trivial Pursuit. 🙂 I had to research reading disabilities and information processing disorder to help our oldest two. I made it my quest to understand their learning styles, and also my teaching style. I studied measurements and standardization and decided that I have a front row seat to best decide what each child in our family should have set as their benchmarks…and came to believe that there is no such thing as a standardized child. I taught on the University level for nearly a decade, and in many other venues through the years…speaking to all ages, all group sizes. I put our two oldest through nearly all their K-12 years, using nearly every homeschooling methodology available. I’d now describe our method as “eclectic”. However–and this is IMPORTANT– without having to list accomplishments, proficiencies or validations, any parent can be an educator.
Should everyone homeschool their kids? I’m not saying that. It’s not an ideal fit for everyone. In such cases, it is wonderful to have trustworthy, truth-anchored teachers available to come alongside…but this still does not negate the responsibility of parents to be engaged in the education process. Scripture reinforces the mandate that parents are expected to teach their kids. Deuteronomy 6 and the entirety of Proverbs are key passages which support this command.
“When it comes to my children, my ultimate goal for them is Heaven, not Harvard. If they go to the latter on their way to Heaven, that’s great. But if I reverse that equation, I’ve failed them.” ~Barbara Frank
The lady was kind enough, but it was a typical set of questions from someone questioning the viability of home education. Katie was very matter-of-fact, open, and confident. Bringing a defensive attitude to the table when subjected to this kind of questioning never helps anything. This kind of interview does not make me question or intimidate me. It strengthens my resolve, even more than a good report card. 😉 
Currently, in the US, a degree is not required in order to homeschool. Prior to the inception of the public school system, the responsibility of education was that of the parents and sometimes the church. The public school system as an institution has an interesting history, with which most people are not familiar.  Here’s a discussion on that background. Some who have never had formal education are brilliant teachers. Not all those who do have degrees teach effectively. Here’s a helpful article to provide a bigger picture. 
Right now we have the freedom to homeschool in this country. Largely, we still have the freedom to decide what our homeschool will look like. Some states have more requirements in place as far as record keeping, testing, attendance, and submitting work samples. Here is where you can go to find out what is required where you live. I highly recommend joining HSLDA, as there is a continual movement in government to acquire more and more control over the rearing and education of our young people. Know your rights. “Wise as serpents, harmless as doves.” 
Are there people who claim to homeschool who give the whole movement a bad name? No doubt. And they are usually the ones who end up in the news. Do I teach everything, every tiny scrap? Nope. Public school teachers don’t either. Do I teach perfectly? Nope. No one does. But I do my best, and I know this is best for our family.
If you are on the fence, considering homeschooling, I’d love to encourage you. Send me a pm!

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!

 

Redemptive Parenting (aka Sinners Teaching Sinners)–Guest Post by Stephen Dechert

mombiblekids

I think this is the perfect read for Christian parents at the dawn of a new school year. It will bring everything into alignment in answering the question, “Why am I doing this??”  If you’re questioning yourself (yet again) about homeschooling…or if you are a Christian non-homeschooler needing to renew your focus for those teachable moments at home, read on.

At the recent Homeschoolers of Wyoming Road Show in Lander, I had the privilege to hear Stephen Dechert deliver this encouraging message to the parents. It resonated with me deeply. I asked him if I could have the written transcript and he’s given me permission to post it here on the blog. I could call this my mission statement (the long version 😉 ). It helped to distill again for me why I’m doing what I’m doing as a Christian parent, and as a homeschooler (let’s face it, we are all home educators if we are doing this parenting thing biblically).

Here is the text in its entirety…I promise you won’t be sorry for the few minutes it takes to read it, and I guarantee the truths will echo in your heart.

Why do you homeschool?  What is it that you want your children to learn?  If our children graduate into this world and are asked by a reporter what is the single most important thing that they learned at home, what do you want their answer to be?  Have you thought about it?  As a parental team, are you in agreement about it? 

Whatever your personal or family goals, the reality is that in undertaking to homeschool our children we are taking upon ourselves the burden of imparting knowledge from a variety of fields in a way that is understandable and, hopefully, useable in one form or another.  Additionally, when we think about it, we want to pass on wisdom as well – that is, the ability to use the knowledge they have in ways that will benefit them and those around them in some fashion.

But what should undergird these things?  It should be said here that I am assuming the people reading this are Christians, those who have heard and believed the gospel of God through his Son Jesus Christ and have fled to him for repentance and reconciliation and found in him peace and eternal comfort.  Working from that assumption, then, we can freely admit as Christian homeschoolers, we often have another layer of knowledge and wisdom that we desire our children to apprehend, and that is a working understanding of the Scriptures and what they teach.  

From that basis, then, that we as Christians who homeschool have the desire to impart knowledge and wisdom to our children, of both secular and sacred things, using the Scriptures as a foundation, I would posit that there are two things we must understand and accept before we can move forward with homeschooling in a biblical and gospel-oriented manner.  For that is the point of this discussion – to promote a deeper understanding of what it means to orient ourselves according to the gospel as we seek to instruct our children in the way they should go.  In this there are two fundamental truths that we must accept before we can move forward.

The first thing that we as homeschooling parents need to recognize, and accept, is that we are teaching sinners.  Our children, wonderful as we may think them to be, are sinners.  We might write the glowing Christmas newsletters extolling their virtues, but we know, most of that is just fluff.  We may hold them up as paragons of virtue as we laud their diligent labors to master the lessons set before them when speaking with our neighbors, but we know, deep down, that they can be frustrating and difficult and sometimes they drive us crazy.

When we talk amongst ourselves, away from the watching world, we can admit that our children are often lazy and hard to motivate.  They struggle with disobedience.  Let’s be bluntly honest for a moment:  though we love our children and desire the best for them, we, of all people, see their sin most clearly.  They lie, they cheat, and they grumble, and they cut corners, and they complain, and they get angry, and they . . . fill in the blank.  After all, as Jeremiah points out, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  We could go on and on, but there’s no need to, for the crux of the matter is this:  the reality we need to face in homeschooling is that we are trying to instruct sinful human beings with an inherent sin nature and a flesh that wars with the spirit, as the apostle Paul says in Romans.

But as we consider that reality, we must also come to grips with the second fundamental, and that is we as homeschooling parents need to recognize, and accept, that we are sinners ourselves.  The indictment of Scripture against our children is the indictment against us as well.  ALL have sinned.  ALL have fallen short.  ALL have earned death as the wages for their sin.  We may be a bit wiser, one would hope, but we are still sinners.  We may have more knowledge and experience, but we still transgress the commands of God.  We may be able to impart wisdom and understanding, but there is still, and always will be, this side of glory, that taint of sin that Paul speaks of in Romans 7, that continual struggle between spirit and flesh. 

And so we need to accept that, just that our children will not always pay attention, neither will we always instruct perfectly; where our children will not always obey, we will not always discipline correctly; they will fail and we will fail; they will be angry and we will be angry; and everyone will, at times, say and do things we wish we didn’t.  But this is life as a sinner.  This is the struggle of the apostle in Romans 7.  And while the answer to that struggle is given in chapter 8, that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ that can save us from this wretched body, the truth is that even as those who have been saved, this side of glory we will still and always struggle with sin.

Now I point these two things out this morning, not to bring everyone down or to spend our time focused on our sin – not at all.  I point these two things out so that we can admit the truth of who we are, and then move on to embrace the greater truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the key.  It is the key to our sin, it is the key to the sin of our children, and the key to our homeschooling, it is, truly, the key to all of life.  So many believers look to the gospel as a one-time thing – believe and you’re in.  Then they spend the rest of their lives trying to please God and live according to his precepts thinking the gospel opened the door and now it’s up to them.

But that is not the way of the Scriptures.  The gospel is the well that never runs dry from which we must drink deeply and often; the gospel is that which proclaims forgiveness to us every time we sin; the gospel is that which gives strength to resist temptation; the gospel is that which brings comfort in the midst of intense struggle; the gospel is that which offers hope when all hope seems lost; the gospel is that which imparts to us the glorious truth that Christ himself has begun a good work in us and Christ himself will see it through to the very end, he is the author AND the finisher of our faith.

This truth should then inform, indeed, it should be the bedrock of all that we do, all that we say, all that we are, all that we teach.  For when we look to the power of God offered to us in and through the gospel, then we find the confidence and freedom necessary to homeschool our children in a way that shapes mind AND heart as we prepare them to live in this sinful world.

And it is a sinful world.  Part of why this is crucial is that we need to understand that we are not protecting our children from the evil or wicked influences of the world, but are training them to live in a sinful world biblically.  For evil and wickedness already lie within their hearts.  James 1:13–15 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  The world cannot and will not corrupt our children any more than they already are.  And so we need to reframe our model of homeschool – not as a place that keeps them isolated from our perception of sin, but as a place that teaches them how to deal with their own sin, by fleeing to the cross of Christ and looking to him in faith; and as a place that teaches them to find their strength and hope in that same gospel message as they go out to live amongst an evil generation.

But it also allows us the freedom to teach them and train them imperfectly.  By that I mean that we will never get it exactly right, but that’s OK!  We need not worry about picking the exact right curriculum, because there isn’t one.  What’s right this year might not be next year.  And that’s OK.  We need not fret over college entrance tests, or agonize that they may not choose college, or despair that we didn’t teach this or that as fully as we should have, or worry that our children don’t have enough social interaction.  These things are, truly, peripheral to the heart of the matter.  We cannot do better on our own, or try harder, or pick the right curriculum, or even, at the end of the day, protect our children from the influence of the world in a way that will make an actual difference apart from the gospel.

But it is precisely here, as we understand the gospel, that we will find peace and comfort in this: that if our children understand the things that matter, if they have been given the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection for their sin, if they have seen the gospel modeled in their parents – in forgiveness and reconciliation – if they have been taught the things of the Lord, then they will be well equipped to face the world, for they will have been given all things, as Peter says, pertaining to life and godliness in the gospel of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we must not let our success, and that of our children, be defined by the world, but by the Word of God.  And if they know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, then they know everything.  The Apostle Paul said that very thing in 1 Corinthians 2:2–7 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  Then, as he goes on to say in vv. 6-7, among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

In pursuit of this goal, to impart that hidden wisdom of God revealed in the gospel of his Son, to ensure that our children have heard the glorious news of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, many Christians have rediscovered the value of creeds, confessions, and catechisms.  As someone who has utilized the Three Forms of Unity, that is, the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort, I would like to offer the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, as a possible way to codify our homeschool goals as Christians.

The question asked is this: What is your only comfort in life and in death? And the answer is this: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

I would posit that if we can answer this question in such a manner with the full assurance of faith, then no matter our choice of curricula, no matter our failings in instruction, no matter our struggles with discipline, we will, by the grace of God, succeed in our role as parents and teachers, for we will have imparted to them that which truly matters. 

I would posit that if our children can answer this question in such a manner with the full assurance of faith, then no matter their lot in life, no matter what path they may take, wherever they may live, and whatever they may choose to do, then they, by the grace of God, will succeed in life, for they will know that which truly matters.

May the Lord richly bless you as you seek to serve him as sinners teaching sinners in and through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, strengthened by his Holy Spirit, to the eternal glory of God the Father.  Amen.

Stephen Dechert is the Pastor of Providence Reformed Community Church in Riverton. He is also serving as chaplain at the Wyoming Honor Farm.

September 11th—What Am I Doing About It?

World-Trade-Center-Cross-620x410Doing a lot of thinking, this September 11th. I could reminisce about what I recall from that morning, but it doesn’t really matter.  There are bigger things to discuss.

I wonder if it has occurred to many of us that our “Christian” nation has become a vast mission field. I wonder if it has occurred to those of us who are Christian parents that our children will very likely be called upon to stand and look such atrocities square in the eye. I wonder if I am doing my best to build the kind of character in our children that will enable them to do it.

American culture teaches our kids to aspire to fame and riches. I’m not a “Doomsday Prepper”, but I completely believe there will come a day when fame and possessions won’t matter to anyone any more. When life is reduced to the questions of survival and faith, there are precious few possessions that seem important. There will be no status symbols…the only status differentiation will be “Are you a Christian?” or “Are you not?” And the cost faith will once again be high. Paul the apostle, who stood for his faith many times, wrote:

“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

So I ask myself today, how will I teach our children to stand? How will I instill courage? How will I inspire them not to cower, but to endure…not to be paralyzed by fear when hateful, horrible, unjust and unspeakable things happen? They have to have their anchor planted in something bigger than politics and military might. I have to point them to something much bigger…a firm foundation, the only solid Rock, the Mighty Fortress.

“Remembering” is only the first step. Being mindful of the past needs to change the future. It must be a catalyst, or all it accomplishes is to make us remorseful. I may never have political influence, beyond my votes in elections; but I have a daunting responsibility to the children in our home, to teach them what patriotism is (and what it isn’t), what it looks like to stand faithful for right and truth, and to remind them that above all principalities and powers, our hope is Jesus.

Before I focus on the sacrifices made by prominent patriots for our independence and freedom, I plan to teach more about the heroes of the faith. I want to grab all the missionary biographies I can, so these humble, courageous giants of the gospel can inspire our homeschool (using this free resource to create a missionary biography notebook) and show them what it looks like to be unflinchingly, unshakably committed, and to grasp truth tightly, while also extending a loving hand in decided confidence to others.

We need this next generation to be resolute…a word which has come to be very weak in meaning today.

It starts today. We have stood upon the shoulders of great ones who have gone before. Now it is time for us to provide a firm footing for our children.

“It is wonderful what great strides can be made, when there is a resolute purpose behind them.” ~Winston Churchill