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Homeschool High School: Follow That Child (an update)

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!

Homeschool High School: Follow Your Child

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.

Homeschool High School - Follow that Child

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.

Homeschool High School: Follow that Child


 

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

 

Chemistry

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!)

Homeschool High School: Follow that Child

 

 

Pre-Calculus

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. 

Win.

 

Health

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. 

Homeschool High School - Follow that Child

 

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?

 

You might also like:

Stop Telling Me Why You Can't Homeschool (High School)

How to Reach Your Teen Homeschooler's Heart

Debunking 5 Myths About Challenge A

We are finishing perhaps the most abundant, joyful, and beautiful year of my son's homeschool career. 

Yes, it's also been challenging, but isn't that the point?

This is the second time through Challenge A for this mama, so I feel like I know the drill now.

Challenge A is the springboard into the Logic stage of learning. It is the springboard into deeper inquiry, discipline, and connections. 

It is so, so rich.

To the parents all over the world stressing about preparing for Challenge A or wondering if their children are ready for Challenge A, I pray this will help you. I talk to a lot of upcoming A-ers and seem to hear the same fears over and over - they have turned into common myths.

Let's debunk those and then you'll feel better, ok?

Debunking 5 Myths About Challenge A

5 Myths About Challenge A

 

You won't be successful in Latin unless you've done a Latin curriculum the year before.

The Latin text used in Challenge A is Henle Latin.

A few facts about Henle (from our perspective):

  • It is challenging.
  • It looks daunting.
  • It will take a significant amount of time each day.

These things are all true. But guess what? 

Your child can DO IT. 

We had no prior Latin experience other than the CC memory work. We did a very gentle Latin book (Getting Started with Latin) during our Morning Time. This was sufficient preparation, and even if we wouldn't have done that it would have been ok.

I would, however, sincerely recommend a command of English grammar - preferably a year of Essentials before Challenge A. Knowing grammar is invaluable in the study of Latin!

From watching my own children in Challenge A, here are three tips to help your child succeed in Latin once they get to Challenge A:

  • Work through the exercises with your child - if you learn along with them you will be there for assistance and your child will feel like they aren't in it alone.
  • Write declensions each and every day - memory work is still very important! Start your Latin time with 10 minutes of writing declensions, conjugations, whatever you are studying at the moment. 
  • Focus on vocabulary with Quizlet. Both of my children have found Quizlet to be an extremely helpful tool in Challenge A.

You might also want to read Preparing for Latin in Challenge A to put your fears at bay.

 

The literature selections are too easy. 

This one kinda drives me bonkers.

(I once had a mom attend a Challenge A info meeting who was quite indignant about how she wasn't going to bore her child to death with such easy literature. I found this to be a very short-sighted point of view.)

Literature Selections in Challenge A

The books have been carefully chosen to provide a rich variety of interesting literature for our children.

The point of this strand in Challenge A isn't to have our children stretch their READING abilities. It is to develop their WRITING abilities, and specifically to help them generate WHAT to write. 

After going through the Lost Tools of Writing for many years now I can see the method to the madness if you will. Our children need books that can be written about and not struggled through - they need quality literature with characters facing difficult choices and situations. 

When you combine the selections with the discussion points in Words Aptly Spoken you will find the Challenge A year to be rich and rewarding. (I'm sad to see it end.)

 

There is NO WAY my child can do all of that work.

Repeat after me: YOU are the teacher.

You know what your child is capable of. You know if your child is giving it 100% of if they are being lazy. You know your family circumstances.

You can alter the workload without taking away from the integrity of Challenge A. In fact, you will find many ways to do this as the year progresses.

Just remember that your children are receiving such a RICH education. I like to tell myself, "Everything is gravy!".

The dynamics of my son's Challenge A group are such that the children spur each other on to excellence. They all strive to complete all of their work and have developed a tremendous amount of personal investment in their learning. 

Give your child the chance to SHINE - you may need to make some adjustments along the way, but you can because you are the teacher!

 

There is no HISTORY in Challenge A.

This is just false.

History is beautifully woven into nearly every strand in Challenge A.

The geography strand alone provides so much opportunity for interesting discussion about geopolitics and history. The cartography book has extensive readings on each part of the world that provide history.

The literature selections bring forth history.

Challenge A student learn history through their Latin studies. 

Our children discover that history is not an isolated subject. History occurs in and through all other subjects.

 

Challenge A takes all of the freedom and wonder out of our learning life.

Of all of the myths, this is one I  can understand. This was my greatest fear - losing the wonder in our learning life.

I have had to be intentional about structuring our days so that there is time left over for relaxation and hobbies. I have had to search for field trips and opportunities that coincide with our Challenge A studies.

Also in the front of my mind is the motto of Challenge A - Personal Investment Builds Ownership. The Challenge A year is a time for buckling down, working on organizational and time management skills, and experiencing the fruits of our labor.  This year is a time for cultivating other skills - and wonder may not be cultivated as much as it was in the past, but it doesn't have to be lost altogether.

 A few things that have helped my child keep the wonder alive:

  • Get up early each day so work is completed when we are fresh and happy - this leaves time in the mid and late afternoon for other things.
  • Don't give up a read-aloud time in your homeschool. We still read aloud each and every morning during breakfast - something NOT related to Challenge A.
  • Have a morning time that might consist of some Challenge A memory work, but also of other things like classical music, art, poetry, or whatever your child and you decide you want MORE of. If you have younger children, let your Challenge A student lead the morning time.
  • Vary work environments - study with a friend, go to the library, hang out and read in the hammock outside.
Keeping the Wonder Alive in Challenge A

Sitting at lunch today I looked at my son and said, "I can't believe this year is almost over, buddy. I would call Challenge A this year a rousing success, wouldn't you?"

His response? 

"Of course it was. Did you ever doubt it?"

There you go. Maybe those fears are just ours and not our student's. Maybe we need to follow their lead and just tackle the next big thing.

Challenge A is a year full of truth, beauty and goodness.  A few bumps in the road will occur, but it's how we respond to and learn from those bumps that will shape the year.

 

Do you have any particular fears about Challenge A?

Have you been through Challenge A and would like to offer suggestions?

Let me know in the comments below!