I had no idea how much my last big high school post would resonate with readers.
So many parents of middle and high school homeschool students struggle - and they struggle in silence.
It's been a year and I'm still receiving emails from people who have gained peace of mind and a little courage from our story. I've heard countless stories of children who have been pushed through the "correct" course for them in middle and/or high school, only to discover a decline in their child's love for learning.
When you witness your bright-eyed child lose their drive and delight it pulls at your heartstrings. It is a feeling of helplessness I can't quite describe.
But here is the SPECTACULAR news about homeschooling: We have CHOICES!
We can talk with our high schoolers, LISTEN to our high schoolers, and ultimately follow them to design a high school education that works for them! We don't need to be motivated by fear or the need to follow the crowd.
If you are willing to put on those running shoes and keep up with your high schooler, homeschooling them can be a beautiful, refining process for everyone!
In short (and if you don't know our story, read the post from June of last year), the Classical Conversations Challenge program wasn't a fit for my daughter. It wasn't a fit for me, as her teaching parent.
We were so heavily invested in the "method", however, that I felt we didn't have a choice but to continue. I felt as if we would be failing if we QUIT so close to the finish line. After all, I had been reading all of the wonderful stories of children who had graduated from the Challenge program and were doing beautiful things.
What I didn't read was:
- stories of children who were bogged down, uninspired, and overwhelmed
- stories of children who had lost their love of reading because of the extensive reading which Challenge requires (especially Challenge I and II)
- stories about children who ceased to learn effectively from their parents
- stories of children who NEEDED outside teachers
Many times I don't think a homeschooling parent wants to admit they might not be the best teacher for their child in the high school years. The relationship dynamics and difficulty of subject matter sometimes necessitate we do some serious outsourcing or dare I say it -- put them in a traditional school.
(After all, we look at Instagram and read blogs and see homeschool parents guiding their children through high school and they make it look SO easy!)
Many times I don't think a homeschooling parent has the fortitude to stay in their own lane - the peer pressure is very real in some circumstances.
Many times I believe we operate out of a place of fear - fear of the outside world and its influences and fear of the unknown.
Many times I think we find something and stick with it - regardless of if it works or not - because it is what we KNOW.
This is what I can say with 100% certainty after Anna's junior year:
Always listen to YOUR child. Keep tabs on the pulse of your family. If a change needs to be made, have the courage to make it.
I'm so glad we made the change - my relationship with my daughter is so much better because of it.
Social/Emotional Goals for the Junior Year
Each child is so different.
For my sweet Anna, she needed to prove to herself that she could do hard things - that she could write her own destiny and succeed. She's always been my strong-willed child and this serves her very well.
In July of last year my mom passed away. My mom and Anna were very close - my mom was her biggest champion (in only that way a grandparent can be, know what I mean?). Getting over that loss was hard for Anna - and I KNEW I had to pick up where my mom left off and champion her every bit as much - and honor the way she wanted to learn and the environment she wanted to learn in.
Challenge was never a "fit" for her - I can't quite put my finger on it, but something never felt right. Because we honored her decision to leave Challenge and try something new it deepened her trust for us and it also gave her so much confidence in her abilities to adapt to CHANGE.
Her schedule this year was such that she had four academic classes in 4 different places. She had to listen to different sets of teachers and juggle syllabi and logistics. She's nervous about going away to college one day and wanted to prepare herself ahead of time.
It is now June after her junior year and SHE DID IT! We are in such a different place than we were last year at this time and the growth has been exponential.
She's driving herself everywhere.
She has a job.
She's looking at colleges - taking the ACT and SAT.
She handles her schoolwork 100% on her own.
She has a sweet friend base and has been busy with friends all year long.
She spends free time journaling, drawing, practicing lettering, and playing music. Most of all, things just CLICK now - it showed me just how badly we needed to make a change.
Academics in the Junior Homeschool Year
The academic integrity of the junior year was important to me.
My daughter and I sat down at the end of last school year and considered many factors.
Her biggest request was that she learn everything in a more traditional way.
She is a person that needs schedules, lists, and someone to be accountable to.
Our goals were:
- college preparatory coursework
- taking at least one class at homeschool classical school in our area - to have a friend base and activities, etc...
- AP coursework in the hopes of getting some credits for college
- time for a job and volunteering
The next step in science was Chemistry. Anna was fortunate to take a wonderful Chemistry class at a local classical school.
Using the Apologia Chemistry text she learned so much and had a GREAT year.
For difficult subjects like this the Challenge model was hard for us. We found it much easier to learn a subject like Chemistry from an expert and in a structured manner rather than self-teaching from a text with limited support from a Challenge tutor. Anna also had the opportunity to get someone on one tutoring for the math parts of Chemistry, which can be quite difficult.
Some kids can self teach quite easily, but others need more direction and assistance.
AP Language & Composition
I can only describe this class as a 100% God thing.
Anna enjoys writing and we both agreed she needed lots of feedback on her writing as she approached college.
As we sought to earn college credit and also have a rigorous, Christian course, the AP Language and Composition offering from HSLDA Academy came onto the radar. This class was the perfect fit for Anna!
One thing I have learned about my daughter is that she thrives when there is a personal relationship with a caring adult. Her AP Language and Composition teacher was demanding and firm, yet caring and full of constructive criticism. Anna spent the year learning the finer points of writing and how to write in different styles.
What we learned this year is that Anna can WRITE. She sat for the AP exam a couple of weeks ago and felt very confident. If we hadn't put her in a traditional class with instruction and constant feedback from an expert, I don't think she would have had quite as much confidence in her abilities, and it certainly proved to her that she can tackle a difficult subject and do well.
AP European History
This course was TOUGH. We had both heard horror stories of the difficulty of the class and the AP exam, and I think the stories were accurate.
We've always had a great experience with Memoria Press Academy, (Anna took Latin I and Latin II through Memoria in 9th and 10th grade) so signed up for this online course. The subject is EXTENSIVE - and they had to run through the material so quickly to cover everything that I think Anna lost interest early on. (She's also not a big history buff.)
I think no matter she would have taken this course it would have been tough and not so interesting.
(She did enjoy her two big term papers for this class. She received excellent feedback and it reinforced to her that she is a GOOD writer. I was thankful she heard this from two AP teachers this year!)
In all honesty, I think I could have designed a history class for her with living books that would have been much more engaging, but she wanted to take a full load of high school classes from other "teachers" (not mom!) - to prove to herself she could do it.
Lesson learned on this one: you can make it through difficult things and you will survive what many call the most difficult AP exam of them all! God uses it all for good, doesn't He?
(Plus, she now has a notebook full of pretty notes - she brings her creativity into everything she does!)
Anna went on the same path for math that she has been on for all of high school - Mr. D Math.
Mr. D has been the perfect fit for Anna - she isn't a "math" kid, but Mr. D has made it approachable and dare I say sometimes even enjoyable for her.
She attended the live sessions with Mr. D (which she claims are a must!) and it all went well this year.
This is being done this summer through Monarch - a simple self-paced health curriculum that checks off this requirement for graduation.
Music/Piano & Guitar lessons
Anna kept up with her piano and guitar lessons this year.
As I let her have more freedom she decided to spend much more time with her guitar - she played in our church several times and for our monthly special needs music program. She also helped her guitar teacher with a Ukulele Club for younger homeschool students.
Moving on to Senior Year
We're taking a little while to catch our breath this summer and then will finalize plans for her senior year.
Where did the time go? I'm not quite sure I can make sense of it yet.
It really does seem like she was just playing school with her American Girl dolls and begging me to read just another chapter in a book to her.
Thanks for joining me on this journey of homeschooling a high schooler. It's been quite a wild ride, but one I wouldn't trade for anything!
Are you homeschooling a high schooler? Can you relate to anything I shared above?