Homeschooling big kids is a totally different ball of wax.
Those magical, sweet years of homeschooling littles (see Part One of our story) gave our family so many precious memories. The initial years of homeschooling instilled a love of learning and a deep sense of family in ALL of us.
After we had made the decision to homeschool the kids we then enjoyed several years of Interest Led Learning, Charlotte Mason’s principles, and a spirit of truth, beauty and goodness. (see Part Two of our story)
Life is just so predictable, though. Right when we begin to get the hang of something - to find the groove - things must change. I’m convinced this is God’s way to keep us growing and drawing closer to Him.
When my oldest got close to seventh grade I knew something needed to change. It was at this point that I can look back and see a dramatic shift in our homeschool - not better or worse - just different.
We needed the shift.
The Appeal of Classical Education
I had always tried to keep current with research about homeschooling. After reading The Well Trained Mind, I had implemented pieces of Classical Education in our homeschool. I knew that even more Classical elements would be a good fit for my youngest.
Grant was a collector of facts. He loved good books. We had been going down a very structured math route with him. I knew that Classical homeschooling would probably be a very good match for him. He was smack in the middle of the grammar stage.
At the same time, I thought that my oldest (Anna) could benefit from a lot of what I was reading about the dialectic stage.
A friend of mine introduced us to Classical Conversations. From everything I could tell it seemed this community approach would be the perfect thing for my then second grader.
My daughter was just the perfect age for the Challenge program, so I enrolled her in Challenge A. (equivalent to 7th grade)
(What I didn’t realize, and what I desperately wish I would have known at the time was that it was very hard to succeed in the Challenge program without the prior foundational experiences. I know children have done this, but I do think we do our middle schoolers a disservice when we expect them to jump into Classical education at the age of 12 or 13. It seems a bit like asking a child to bake their own cake without a recipe when they have never baked before and don’t possess the knowledge of what the ingredients are and how they work together.)
My daughter’s experience in Challenge A was much different than my son’s - I think this is because my son had 4 years preparation for Challenge A and my daughter had NONE.
Another observation: Classical Conversations communities vary widely.
My experience was entirely different based on the two communities we attended. I have heard different experiences from friends in other areas. Visit your local community to see if it is a fit for you. Do your research on the background of the company and the community. Research leadership in your area. And… remember that YOU are in charge of your homeschool.
( I have found it helpful over the years to write down our reasons for homeschooling and revisit them several times each year! )
Don’t Ever Tie Yourself to One “Program”
To make a long story short, my daughter stayed in the Challenge program four years.
The valuable lesson I learned, however, was that we should never feel an allegiance to one method or program. The minute a method becomes an idol should be a warning signal. We must always stay in our own lanes and follow our child’s lead. In the end, it was important that I listened to my daughter and let her follow her passions.
(My son completed all of Foundations and Essentials and will be entering Challenge I this fall. He has an extremely unusual situation that involves a combination of 10 committed families and children who get along very well. I do tweak the Challenge curriculum and we participate because of the community. I anticipate him graduating with this group of friends, but I have also learned to never say never.)
Another lesson learned? Each child is different!! To assume one method will fit all of your children isn’t realistic!
My daughter’s 12th grade World Literature class - what a blessing this group has been!
I think, also, that my daughter learned flexibility, grace, and courage in her homeschool high school experiences.
She has been the “new kid” at a local Classical school. She has learned to assert herself and how to step in and make friends. We can see so clearly how God was guiding her journey every step of the way!
The Courage to Be Different
Stepping away from Classical Conversations after the 10th grade gave us a feeling of FREEDOM with my daughter’s education.
She will be graduating in just a few weeks, and has enjoyed a combination of online classes, classes at a local Classical school, and a smattering of classes we have designed together at home. She will be attending college - majoring in Special Education (her great love).
God has been faithful and good throughout her homeschooling journey, and I am thankful I listened to HIM when it mattered most.
Take Some Good From Everything
I feel like a broken record - sharing the lessons I have learned, but there are so many.
Whatever curriculum, program, or method you choose - find the good in it. If it isn’t for you 100%, you always have extracted some good. I am convinced that if we adopt this attitude all will be well.
Life is like that, too - take a little good from everything you encounter, correct?
From our experiences with Classical Conversations, Memoria Press Academy, Mr. D Math, HSLDA Academy, Shormann Math - and many other resources - we have pieced together a unique education for each of my children that I hope honors each of their strengths and talents.
Our sweet Challenge group - my son is the goofball on the top left!
Yes, They CAN Get Into College
Finally, everyone used to ask me if I was worried my homeschooler would get into college.
My answer? NOT AT ALL.
I found that being an unaccredited homeschooler put us into a separate category. We found colleges that were interested in my child and vice versa. If we had to jump through too many hoops to apply to a college then I knew that wasn’t the place for my homeschooler.
I wouldn’t let college acceptance factor into your homeschool high school decision. I tell my friends with younger homeschoolers now to just be sure they meet the state required credits for graduation, be sure your child takes some SAT or ACT prep, and that they can write well.
I sought to maintain the integrity of my daughter’s high school education first and foremost, and it has all worked out beautifully.