Friday, February 08, 2013

Risky Homeschooling or Playing It Safe?

I have a perpetual feeling that my sons are not doing enough academics for our homeschooling. This has its roots in my perfectionism and my idealist views to create a fantastic comprehensive, mile wide and mile deep educational experience for my kids. It took years for me to figure this out. I realize the problem is me and my too high standards. I am sometimes getting in the way of a successful and happy homeschool.

I am writing this while on a break from documenting my high schooler's work completed for a literature class and a fine art class. These are courses I designed. I had a sketch of my plans written ahead of time, but as we go along and dive into learning more books and movies and activities would get added to the studies based on either my son's request or my discovery of something else. We are so busy living life in the moment and I am so not interested in documenting every thing every minute of the day that I slack on writing down in one neat place everything that was completed. Then when I periodically visit the old syllabus I wind up adding in a lot of work that was done. That is when I realize that although we didn't yet do all that was planned, my son did a lot more than is expected. I am aiming for 120 hours of instruction to issue one high school credit for a course. When the course goes over that, I cannot add more credit hours, it's just not done, it's not appropriate.

When the lists are fleshed out, I cringe as I delete the work that I thought he'd do that was not actually done. That is my inner perfectionist at work, which I choose to ignore. When the list is complete I sit back and read it in its entirety I am often stunned at the scope of the studies and I'm impressed with my son's accomplishments.

I have taken risks to custom design courses that are geared toward my son's interests. I usually do this with courses that he loathes in an attempt to present the core subject with a twist that he will either love or at least find palatable. Other times he has an interest and he wants to learn about it and instead of just doing things in his free time and calling it fun I figure out how we can work that into a half credit or full credit course by studying it longer and deeper than he perhaps envisioned. What I feel when I look at the completed course is pride, as the good memories of those studies floods my mind. My son's high school transcript will be partially non-traditional and that aspect of his home education will show his uniqueness.

I have been thinking about all these hoops we homeschoolers do to jump through to impress college admissions officers and how we worry that we must do the same thing as schools in the same old way and sometimes we do even more (like use the entire science textbook not just selected chapters, or read the whole chapter not just a couple of the sections). My new outlook on the situation is that I think what truly matters in the end is the learning my son has done and the quality of the experiences he has lived. Let's say that he will be guaranteed admission to some college someplace, which is pretty much what we can count on, since it seems everyone who wants to go to college can get in somewhere. In that case it will have done no good for me to worry and to get worked up to anxiety states over trying to copy as closely as possible, what the public schools do.

What do I want my sons to think when he looks back on his home education? I want positive memories not negative ones. I rejected the public school cookie cutter mold for my children and I refuse to replicate that same model inside our homeschool. I'm taking a risk by doing some things differently but I think it is worth taking that chance.



Literature: The Hero's Journey, which started as a homeschool co-op class which my son loved
Literature: Dystopian Literature: novels, short stories, and movies
Fine Art: The History of Comic Books and Graphic Novels
Fine Art: Abstract Painting
Science and History: using living books in addition to a textbook spine to keep things interesting


Ahermitt said...

As someone who is on the other side, finishing up homeschool, I can tell you that his test scores matter farrrr more than any book he read. They (the colleges my kids applied to) actually prefer the unique experiences.

Karen Kup said...

Have you spoken to admissions counselors at the schools he is interested in to see what they require?
Different schools require different hoops from homeschoolers and you don't need to make work for yourself that isn't necessary. And you don't want to miss something either.

Katie got accepted to all the universities she applied to (4) and Jack did also (7) and all with academic scholarships with the exception of the USNA and that was a medical disqualification. He will be attending A&M on a full tuition scholarship from the AROTC.

They both did a standard college prep high school course work with a few tweaks depending on their goals. For example, Katie took a year of British Lit and Jack has a few semesters of Arabic. We utilized the dual credit programs and other outsourcing resources quite a bit.

IME, universities, including the big STEM schools like the service academies and VTech, A&M, and other engineering schools want the standard college prep curriculum with an excellent GPA. All the lab sciences and through Calculus. And he needs to be able to read and analyze and write. Kids that write well are rare these days and good writers stand out. In addition to some extra curriculars...better doing fewer with more dedication than giving little to a lot of activities...a lot of schools like to see 10-15 hours a week working.
Achievements like Eagle Scout still count a lot too.
Scholarships and admissions are done with formulas these days. Points for GPA, points for class rank and points for test scores. Homeschoolers usually have their GPA count twice. Everyone who makes the cut then gets their resumes and applications looked at for a real decision.

Now fret over what books to read and such for the sake of what kind of foundation you want to give your boys but even if you are asked for a list of books your boys used, and you might be, no one will look at it. They will check a box and pay attn to the test scores.

ChristineMM said...

Wow thanks Karen. I am hearing this more and more about the testing scores.

Amazing the scholarships your kids got.

My older kid thinks he wants to go to A&M but he has not even visited it yet.

He wants to row in college, he thinks, so that's another story and it will change his choices.

What did you mean by this

"Homeschoolers usually have their GPA count twice."

THANKS and hugs to you my CT homeschool mom friend from way back!


Karen Kup said...

The admissions depts use a three part formula. GPA, rank and test scores. The homeschooler has no rank therefore they count GPA twice in their formula. Some schols, like TAMU, assign homeschoolers a rank. tAMU ranks homeschoolers in the top 25% of their 'class'automatically for admission purposes.

Dont stress about visits, especially to Texas schools. He has time for that.

ChristineMM said...

Oh, thanks for explaining that Karen! I appreciate it.