Last night I attended a homeschool support group meeting on the topic of homeschooling high school. This group holds these sessions usually only once a year so I had to change our family's usual Monday night plans to make time to attend.
I am so happy I went because I got to re-hear advice I've been hearing from people and online forums. I heard some new information about the experiences of some kids in school. I heard of one private school who did not guide the student to take SAT II tests and it ruined the student's chances of even applying to some colleges.
I heard four stories of kids who were in public school and were able to get good grades and good teacher reports despite having not mastering content and being pulled out to homeschool and seeing the amazing progress that can be made with 1:1 tutoring at home with mom when the gaps were addressed once school was quit and homeschooling commenced.
More importantly I got a better sense for the rigor of basic high school courses (as outlined on paper not based on some hollow public high school experiences). I got a sense for how difficult honors or AP classes can be when taken through online schools (recommended). I got a sense for how hard it can be to get a good score on the AP test (a 4 or a 5) if self-study is done that is not rigorous.
The urgency of homeschoolers taking SAT II's was made clear and to pass with a good score requires serious study. It was advised that the test be taken shortly after the topic was studied.
The point has been made that writing composition is crucial as to communicate clearly and to also blend this with analytical thinking that is high school level writing important. Taking a high school class then writing like a middle school student or elementary student is just not good enough for high test scores, will lock kids out of college not to mention that they will not be prepared for college itself.
One more thing: the importance of not pushing standardized tests down to students in grade 7 or 8 or maybe even 9 was made clear because if their writing composition abilities are on that grade level not on a grade 11 or 12 level they will not score well (nor should they). One mother shared that her child knew the content thoroughly but didn't fare well on the writing component as the essay was typical for a student in grade 8 (she was able to obtain a copy of what her child wrote and judged this for herself). One friend of mine would argue that developmentally their brains are not ready at ages 12-14 to think analytically enough or they have not yet learned enough wide content to have context and to be able to write about it well to boot.
I have finally gotten it through my head that the level of rigor for a student such as my son with an engineering school college goal will not be met by mostly attending homeschool co-op's or at least not the ones he is currently in. At best we could spend one day a week at one co-op for social time and some extra-curriculars, but the rest of the time my son will have to work independently for core subjects, with me, take online classes or community college courses, or have 1:1 tutoring with a private tutor.
This fall semester is a mess of running around. Endings are in sight, chapters will be closing. The saddest is the ending of five years of experiential nature classes (because the school is closing). I need to really think about what we will when all of our committments end in December in order to decide which things we will re-enroll in. I fear that my son will have to either reduce his participation with the homeschool Science Olympiad team (one of his passions) or he won't participate in his high school years at all. Things have to be dropped in order to make time for the basic high school studies that are rigorous enough to meet his goals.
I didn't leave the meeting feeling overwhelmed or incapable. I left feeling reassured that changes need to be made and that things have to be kicked up some notches (hat tip to Emeril Lagasse for that phrase).
I am encouraged by the fact that my son is already stepping up to the plate this fall and accepting more work and doing his homework assignments on time. He is getting more organized with his school books and papers and is getting better at time management. My nagging is reducing and he is being more proactive and working independently without any nudging from me at all. He has a good attitude. The thing that bothers him the most is that we have too many appointments and not enough time at home for a slower pace and a more peaceful home study environment.
This eighth grade year is a learning curve for both of us, apparently.
(I am trying not to let my fifth grader get lost in this shuffle too! It seems that these issues of homeschooling high school and college admittance are using too much of my time and energy lately.)
I love the HSLDA brochure DEVELOPING A HIGH SCHOOL PLAN about homeschooling high school. It has three basic high school plans to pick from.
Be sure to read the college's websites about requirements for homeschoolers. The colleges may require more AP classes or SAT II tests that are more rigorous than the HSLDA brochure may indicate. The colleges may require more or less studies depending on the major (HSLDA says four years of history while two competitive schools for engineering require only two or more advanced math and science may be required than the brochure indicates).