Finishing Strong #129: Welcome Back to Homeschool 2017-18

Welcome back to Finishing Strong!

Finishing Strong is the premier weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids.

I am so excited for this new school year. My son will be in eighth grade and my daughter will be a sophomore in high school. While they are more independent than ever before, I am committed to homeschooling each through their high school years.

After a hiatus for summer, my co-hosts – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight – and I are back for another year. We look forward to collaborating with one another and with you, our readers, to celebrate the successes and find support during struggles of homeschooling the middle and high school years. 

Finishing-Strong-500x500

A Full Year of Hands-on Science

The back to school season is upon us and I am celebrating with an August Super Sale! For the first time, I have bundled each of my 10-week life science curriculum eBooks and for this month only, have made it available to you for a discount of more than 50% off.
Life Science Bundle

Botany – Plenty O’Plants

Zoology – Amazing Animals

Ecology – Exploring Ecology

Purchased separately, each title in this bundle is priced at $19.90 – but you can get all 3 now for just $27 !  


High School Plan

Finishing Strong

We hope you’ll take some time to check out the amazing posts that have been shared with us. We are so thankful to all of our readers and contributors who help make Finishing Strong a key resource for everyone homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

Below are some of the posts I enjoyed from last week, as well as the one that received the most clicks (in the #1 spot). Did I choose one of your favorites?

Make a Four Year Homeschool High School Plan

from Heather at Blog She Wrote ~ Her first piece of advice is spot on, “You have to know what your state requires for homeschoolers to graduate.”

Eight Out-of-the-Box College Essay Topics

from Kim at WriteShop ~ My daughter is only a sophomore in high school and while she may not actually need to write a college admissions essay (she plans to transfer from a junior college with an associates degree), it is always good to be prepared. Besides, these essay topics just look fun!

Five Ways to Include Dad in Homeschooling

from Leah at Bright Ideas Press ~ “Making a point of [getting Dad involved] can give dads a sense of ownership and connection with the family’s homeschooling.” So true! In our homeschool, Dad is our go-to for conflict resolution, personal management / finance, and skills related to home and auto maintenance. When my daughter begins college level chemistry, you can bet he will take a key role as her tutor as well.

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As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

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Finishing Strong #113: High School Planning & Part Time Jobs

This past week I have been walking down memory lane as I have worked to complete several projects: 1) compiling a photo book to commemorate our favorite moments from this past year, and 2) writing a series of blog posts highlighting our trip to Greece the previous year (I’ve shared the link to one in the linkup below).

Living MuseumWhile I have been immersed in our own past experiences, my kiddos have been engaged in finishing up their research for our annual living history presentations as part of National History Day. A couple years ago they have selected Arnold Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller and Irena Sendler (as pictured above). This year they have chosen Glenn Curtiss and another WW2 heroine.


finishing strong 113 @EvaVarga.netWelcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home. I am delighted that families homeschooling middle and high school age students are coming together and finding inspiration in one another.

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan and Susan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.


The post with the most clicks last week was Heather’s How to Make a Four Year Homeschool High School Plan posted at Blog She Wrote. My daughter has just begun high school and we have thereby spent a lot of time talking about her goals.

high school planWe have also collaborated with advisors at the local community college to help outline the big picture. I like how Heather reminds us to “remember that each day and year comes one at a time. You want to have an overall guide, but the goals in that guide will be met one day and one year at a time.”

I shared a similar post recently, High School Forecasting which looks at how we coordinated dual enrollment courses, CLEP exams, and extracurricular schedules.

non-fiction booksI enjoyed Heidi’s Non-Fiction Books: The Whats and Whys for Your Homeschool posted at Starts at Eight. She not only provides tips for selecting books to purchase for your own family library, but also highlights many of her family’s favorites. Additionally, she links to a previous post describing how to organize your book shelves.

Scientists at Work: Activities and Books to Promote Science Literacy provides a list of several great books geared for middle school students.

nature notebooksWe have always loved nature study. Nature journaling is a great way of keeping memories and learning in a fun way. Michelle’s post, Why We Keep Nature Notebooks, helped remind me why nature journaling was so much a part of our curriculum early on.

In our homeschool, Anna Botsford Comstock has been our nature study guide. Through her wisdom we have enjoyed many memorable experiences on nature outings. One of our favorite studies was looking at Our Native Maple Trees.

part-time jobAs my kiddos have gotten older – they have also begun to want things that are a little out of our budget. Heather’s post, Should My Homeschooled Teen Get a Part Time Job, outlines the benefits and challenges of teens working outside the home. “A job isn’t right for every teen and not every job is right for every teen.”

In most states, youth must be at least 15 years old to get a job. What if my child wants to earn money and isn’t old enough? Teaching Our Teens About Money: Earning Commissions looks at alternative ways youth can begin earning their own money.

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As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

Add our button to your post.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Were You Featured?

Grab an “I was featured” button!

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years


High School Forecasting: Coordinating Schedules, CLEP Exams, and College Courses

Fall term is nearing an end. Many students are preparing for final exams as well as forecasting with their advisors and thereby registering for winter term. My daughter, Geneva, is amongst them.

She has really enjoyed taking dual enrollment courses on the college campus these past few months and has worked very hard to assure she completes two consecutive courses within the 10-week term. Come winter term she will enroll in two courses – Intermediate Algebra (Math 95) and English Composition (Writing 121).

high-school-forecastingHigh School Forecasting

Her goal is to complete the degree requirements for an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree simultaneously with her high school diploma. While no easy feat, it can and has been done by homeschoolers and public school students across the state.

As at least one of the courses she will take winter term is transferable to a four year university, it is important that we work alongside an advisor to ensure the courses are counted for dual enrollment. We’ve made an appointment and look forward to sharing the four-year plan we have put together.

Course Load and Schedules

I opened our forecasting discussion by first describing the degree requirements for the transfer degree as well as the course list for a degree in engineering (a field in which she has expressed interest since she was a young girl). She then shared the goals she had for herself and what she hopes to accomplish over the next four years.

This FREE customizable spreadsheet provided the skeletal structure for her four year plan. Thank you, Heidi!

High School 4 Year Forecasting Plan

Together, we looked at the course descriptions for each of the classes she was interested in and thereby narrowed down her choices. In addition, we read the prerequisites carefully to ensure there would be no surprises along the way.

Four courses chosen from at least two disciplines including at least three laboratory courses in biological and/or physical science are required for Science & Mathematics.

With the prerequisites and an engineering degree in mind, her choices include a year of General Chemistry, a year of Physics with Calculus (must be taken concurrently), and two terms of Geology. We thereby plugged each of these into the four-year plan assuring that she would take no more than two courses per term at the college.

In addition, the course load during her senior year in high school is relatively easier than the preceding two. This will provide a little cushion and time for scholarship essays and other unforeseen hoops she may have to jump through.

Foreign Language Requirement

In Oregon, there is a foreign language requirement for admission to a four year university:

[Transfer] students who graduated from high school in 1997 or later must meet a foreign language requirement with either two years of high school level study in the same language or two quarters/semesters of college level study with a minimum grade of a C- or better.

While she is fluent in Mandarin (having studied the language since she was 5 years old), as an independent homeschool, Academia Celestia is not an accredited institution. She will thereby be expected to take a foreign language course at the college or demonstrate proficiency by passing an exam.

While she hopes to someday learn additional languages (and may yet decide to take a college level course), she will most likely choose this option. Her ultimate goal is to study abroad in China and earn a minor in Asian Languages and Culture.

CLEP Exams

In addition to the course work and requirements described above, there are several foundational (Writing, Communication, and Health & Fitness) and Cultural Literacy requirements.

Four courses chosen from two or more disciplines are required for Social Sciences. Three courses chosen from two or more disciplines are required for Arts & Letters.

For Social Sciences, she selected a fascinating Anthropology course and a course suggested for Engineering students, Economics. To earn addition credits (9) for History 201, 202, and 203 she plans to take the CLEP exam in United States History.

While English 104, 105, and 106 are not required for the AA degree (she chose alternatives in Art and Philosophy), she may also choose to take the English Literature CLEP exam to earn credit (9) for these courses.

What We’ve Chosen for 9th & 7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

When we first began our homeschool journey, my eldest was just entering primary school while my youngest was toddling around after her. I had done a lot of research in the early years and had selected curriculum that remarkably worked very well for us during the elementary school years.9th 7th curriculum

As they approached middle school, I made a few adjustments but essentially we stayed on the same path. Our curriculum choices have always been inspired by Charlotte Mason, with leanings to Classical Education and Unschooling. I am really excited about this new school year (2016-17). It brings the biggest changes to our curriculum choices as well as our schedule and approach to schooling at home.

Curriculum We Use Now for 9th & 7th Grade

Language Arts

Until this year, the kids have always done their language arts studies together. We have used Writing with Skill, Brave Writer, and most recently, Cover Story.

Jeffrey is excited to begin One Year Adventure Novel, developed by the same author as Cover Story. The video-based, self-paced writing curriculum guides students step by step through the process of writing a compelling, fully structured novel in one school year.

Geneva will be going in a new direction. After much research, we opted to try Excellence in Literature series by Janice Campbell. She will begin with Literature and Composition: English 2 as she is already a strong writer. We also purchased the Handbook for Writers as a guide along the way.

math curriculaMath

This is the area that is perhaps undergoing the biggest change. Jeffrey will continue with Life of Fred as the format works well for him and he is having success. While Geneva has worked through most of the Life of Fred books (through Advanced Algebra), there are still concepts that are difficult for her. Read more of our experiences with Life of Fred here.

Recently her girlfriend informed her that she had taken the math placement test at the local community college and encouraged Geneva to do the same. While she had had success with Mr. D’s Math and we’d considered pursuing this further, ultimately she wanted to be with her friend. { I’ll address this again in extracurricular activities below. }

History & Social Studies

We are taking a major step away from our usual world history. In preparation for a family trip to New England later this fall, we’ve jumped into a fully immersive program, focusing on All American History. We are very excited as it provides opportunity to explore American Art History as well as American government.

As a part of the Scouting merit badge system, we are also working through the requirements for the three Eagle required citizenship merit badges: Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World. Even if you are not members of Scouts, you can download the workbooks and work through the assignments independently. They are great course outlines and enrichment activities.  { I’ll further discuss Scouting in extracurricular activities below. }

Science

This year, we are using the NOVA awards program and Scouting merit badge system as an outline for our studies. It allows us to design a program specific to our interests and skills level. I will also continue to write my own science curriculum and seek out a variety of citizen science opportunities for us as a family.

Foreign Language

We will continue to work on developing their fluency in Mandarin. Our tutor is AMAZING and we’ve all learned so much from him. He uses Better Chinese curriculum but often supplements with materials he develops himself.

Geneva has opted to begin a third language. She hasn’t quite settled on one yet and thus I have encouraged her to study Latin for at least one year – mostly for familiarity with word roots. She has a passion for natural sciences so an understanding of Latin will help her as she pursues higher level biology courses.

fall recitalPerforming Arts

The kids have had some experience with theater and dance. While they enjoyed it, it is not a passion or an area they intend to pursue. We thereby focus on instrumental music. Geneva plays violin and Jeffrey piano.

They work with a private instructor once a week and beginning this year, they will take part in an ensemble. We are very excited about this opportunity because they have not had previous experience playing with others. They struggle to play pieces together so this will provide them the skills they need for success.

Passion Projects

As the kids have gotten older and more independent, they have begun to pursue topics of interest to them individually. We call these passion projects. What they learn and how they choose to develop their skills in this area are entirely up to them. I do try to encourage them to keep a log or record of the books they read and the tutorials they watch, however. They are also beginning to document their growth in an online portfolio.

Fine Arts

Geneva is most interested in art. She wants to combine her passions for art, nature, wood working, and architecture. She dreams of converting a shipping container into a mobile tiny house / art studio. To pursue her goals, she takes many art classes, volunteers at the art museum, visits with artists whenever possible, and has even helped her grandfather build her bed (with dimensions specific for the loft in her tiny house).

Coding & Programming

Jeffrey is a gamer and he absolutely LOVES Minecraft. Through this platform he has custom coded his own online server, developed websites (one for his server and another for his Scout troop), and has a growing YouTube channel whereby he edits a variety of gaming videos. It is no wonder that the programming merit badge was one of the first he earned.

independentstudyExtracurricular Activities

We live in a small coastal community. While there are homeschoolers here, we have connected with only a couple of families. In our previous two communities we had built connections with a large circle and enjoyed numerous social outings – field trips, lake days, enrichment classes, and nature outings.

While many of these were in fact organized by me – my kids have insisted they do not want me to take on so much. On top of that, I have returned to work part-time as a substitute teacher so I just don’t have the time.

Swim Team

Both kids continue to take part in swim team. While we enjoy athletics for the fitness and connections we build with others, we don’t schedule our lives around sports. If a swim meet works in our family calendar, we may take part. We have noticed a significant difference between our SOAR team and our new team, however. This may be due in part to the fact that our head coach retired earlier this year and thus our team is undergoing a major transition.

Scouts

What is most exciting is Scouting. I had long desired Jeffrey to join Boy Scouts but intentionally waited until he turned 11 years. So many boys who are active in Cub Scouts do not continue when they enter middle and high school. Granted, this is mostly due to a heavier course load and interest in sports and cars. I was more fearful that he may get burned out.

He thereby joined in February and is now official Tenderfoot Rank. Our troop is small which is both a blessing (more opportunities for leadership) and a curse (most of the other boys are 15 years or older, Jeffrey is one of only three in middle school).

As he has worked through the rank requirements and merit badges, Geneva has often expressed interest. She has also taken part in many of the outings. I thereby began to research Venturing and Explorer Scouts. As we learned more, it became clear that Venturing was the perfect fit for her.

Her crew is also small and though we haven’t yet met the other girls (though it’s a co-ed program, her crew is all-girls), as the lead advisor described the personalities of each, we know it will be a good fit. We are both very excited. In fact, the girl friend I mentioned above will also likely be joining. :)Service Learning

Volunteer experiences have always been a major component of our homeschool. Scouting provides many more opportunities to serve our communities. Geneva will continue to volunteer at the art museum. Jeffrey will continue to volunteer at the retirement home and has encouraged his sister to join him. As a family, we will continue to partner with the estuarine research reserve.

Why We Homeschool @EvaVarga.netCurriculum We We’ve Used Previously

Last year, I outlined our curriculum plans for 8th and 6th grades. Just two years ago, Geneva was entering 7th and Jeffrey 5th. Our Curriculum Choices for Middle School were similar.

 

In the earlier years, our approach was much more relaxed. While we used curriculum in some subject areas (math, Mandarin, language arts, and history), we followed more of an Unschooling approach.

I am surprised I didn’t share more frequently what curriculum we were using. I wrote a little about our goals for 5th and 3rd here and 3rd and 1st here. As I didn’t make too many changes as the years progressed, I suppose I didn’t see the need to revisit. I regret this now.

backtohomeschool bloghop

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop Schedule

Yes! We DO Intend to Homeschool High School

My friends will frequently ask, “What is your plan for next year? Do you really intend to homeschool high school?”

This question is often a disguise for their doubt or unfamiliarity. My answer is always, “Yes! We DO intend to continue along this journey. We discuss it a lot actually. Neither of my kids have any interest in going to school.”

We Do Intend to Homeschool High School

I don’t generally elaborate unless they inquire further. I thought I would take some time now, however, to explain in more depth our decision to homeschool high school. At least that is the plan currently. It is always open for discussion.

Homeschool High School

As a substitute teacher in the same school district where my husband and I graduated and where I taught full time for six years, I love my local schools. I love the teachers with whom I work and who would be my children’s teachers if they were enrolled. I even use the district’s scope and sequence as a guideline to help me develop courses for my own kids.

In Oregon, we are fortunate to have the option to enroll part time. If my son wanted to take Jazz Band or Drama, he would simply need to fill out the registration form, talk with the instructor, and begin attending classes. The same is true if my daughter wanted to enroll in Art or Spanish.

Thus far, however, neither have expressed any interest in doing so.  They have both explored their respective areas of interest via online tutorials and materials I have purchased on their behalf that they haven’t felt a classroom experience would benefit them. They have become quite adept at evaluating the syllabi. Homeschooling has provided many blessings – the least of which is instilling a love of learning.

Eighth Grade Test Run

My daughter is presently in eighth grade. We have looked upon this past year as a trial year – much the way we looked upon her Kinder year as a trial when we first began on our homeschool journey. Using an online homeschool planner provided me the tools to provide letter grades for the first time. I was able to stay focused on what lessons I expected to be completed.

We chose her coursework together and she even began earning a few high school credits. Our collaboration helped ensure she was personally invested and interested in the coursework, not just dragging through the material because it was a requirement.

Another exciting component we discovered in the midst of the year is that keeping a digital portfolio was a huge motivating factor for her. She loves it when here Mandarin teacher says, “You have done a remarkable job on this project. I recommend keeping this in your portfolio as a sample of your work.

She has spent hours tweaking her digital portfolio to best represent her passions. I love how she has combined her interest in art with her love of nature. With her strong talents in math, science, and languages, I am confidant that she will be successful no matter what path she may choose to follow.

Homeschool Omnibus

Resources & Help for Homeschooling High School

I am also confidant that she and I will find the resources we need to successfully homeschool through the high school years. There are so many resources available online today. I have already purchased some of the curriculum we will use – literature, biology, and personal finance.

The 2016 Omnibus is also full of resources for homeschooling the high school years. I’ve already downloaded the podcasts and am excited to pop in my ear buds on my run this afternoon. There is just so much wisdom and inspiration to glean from these seasoned homeschool moms. Here’s a few on my playlist:

  • Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment by Connie Albers
  • College Admissions for the Homeschooler by Kendra Fletcher
  • College Alternatives for Homeschool Graduates by T.K. Coleman
  • College Prep – Is Writing on Track by Kim Kautzer
  • Facing the Giant – Homeschooling Through High School by Terri Johnson
  • Homeschool Transitions from Elementary to Middle to High School by Megan Zechman
  • Homeschooling Your Teen the Charlotte Mason Way by Sheila Carroll
  • Project-Based Learning in the Middle and High School Years by Cindy West
  • Putting Together a Four Year Plan for High School by Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau
  • Seven Secrets of High School Transcripts by Vicki Tillman
  • Unschooling for High School by Joan Concilio

You can purchase all of these bundled with 79 additional courses, eBooks, and MP3s for just $25 (optional $9 DVD or $11 thumb drive add-on). It’s an amazing bundle valued at over $420! Take a look at the full catalog to get a better idea of all that is included.

Don’t delay! The sale runs only from April 29th through May 8th.

 

Others have already traversed the homeschool high school journey. I know I can reach out to my friends near and far for guidance along the way. My wonderful Finishing Strong co-hosts are always inspiring me with activities, lesson plans, and sharing their experience with curricula that may use in the near future.

Once day at a time” has always been our motto. I will thereby continue to confer with my children individually. Together, we will make plans that are suited to their individual learning styles and personal interests. And I will enjoy each moment along the way.

 

Finding Our Groove with an Online Homeschool Planner

I had been using a paper and pencil planner since we first began homeschooling. In fact, I was using a paper and pencil planner before I even considered homeschooling. Planning weekly lessons and unit studies in my spiral planner was what I had grown accustomed to since I first began my professional teaching career.

Over the years I’d tried a few online planners but I had never found one that had all the components I desired. These planners were rigid in what view options they provided. I wasn’t able to slide everything forward if we missed a day due to illness or an unexpected detour. I grew skeptical.

Recently, my life took a dramatic turn. We recently made the decision to move back to Oregon. In doing so, our financial situation changed and I thus have returned to working outside the home. I am teaching again in the public schools and as such, I found that my planning system was not working. I needed to find a way to better communicate with my own children what was expected of them.

Finding Our Groove with an Online Homeschool Planner by Homeschool Planet @EvaVarga.netI received a subscription to Homeschool Planet and compensation for my time in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are true and completely our own.

 

I had been hearing a lot of good things about Homeschool Planet. When the opportunity arose to review the program, I knew it was time. Perhaps this was the system that would work for us.

I couldn’t not have been a better choice! We LOVE Homeschool Planet. Homeschool Planet has eliminated the stress and anxiety that comes with lesson planning.

My Favorite Homeschool Planet Features

There are many great features to Homeschool Planet. In an effort not to overwhelm you, I will highlight those I like best.

Flexibility

I love the flexibility of the program. I have the choice of using three different calendar views – daily, weekly, or monthly. I can also see everyone’s calendar or narrow the scope to single individuals.

Finding Our Groove with Homeschool Planet @EvaVarga.netIndividualized

As my kiddos approach high school, more and more of their work is done independently. I love that each child has their own login with which they can view and check off their assignments when completed.

Tracking Made Easy

In the elementary school years, I didn’t keep a grade book. As they near high school, it is critical that I begin to do so. Homeschool Planet makes attendance tracking, grading, and transcript creation easy. Currently there is not a way to set up semesters or terms.  Members can, however, print out date specific grade reports.

Finding Our Groove with an Online Homeschool Planner by Homeschool Planet @EvaVarga.netDigest Emails

Perhaps the best feature – in my opinion – are the digest emails that are sent to everyone in the family. The daily digest is essentially a list of the individual’s own schedule, assignments, and chores for the day. This is perfect for my son who needs to be reminded regularly of what he needs to complete! My daughter, on the other hand, prefers the weekly digest.

How I Use the Online Homeschool Planner

One of the great things about the program is the flexibility. Homeschool Planet provides many video tutorials to help you get started with the program. They will walk you through the process of setting up your classes and adding assignments. Once you’ve done that, the true fun begins as you begin to explore the functionality of the program and begin to tweak little things here and there to make it work best for you and your family.

Let me walk you through how I use the Homeschool Planet online planner system:

 

With this online homeschool planner, I can rest knowing that my children are aware of what lessons are expected of them.

Try It Today

Homeschool Planet costs $65 for a 1 year subscription OR $6.95/month. They also provide a FREE 30-trial subscription. Give it a try today. You have nothing to lose!

If you like the product – as I know you will – at the end of the trial month they will convert your trial subscription to a paid-for account and add 365 days to your trial subscription.

Learn more! Click on the link to learn more about Homeschool Planet or follow them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and/or Google+).