The prospect of high school can freak out even the most experienced homeschooler—as I’m learning now that we’re preparing for (gulp!) my daughter’s first year of high school next year. The stakes feel higher, the work feels harder, and the paperwork is, frankly, a little terrifying to contemplate. One of the great things about editing home/school/life is that I know I’m not alone—we get email every week from moms who are panicking about high school just as much as I am. So when the nice folks at Oak Meadow offered to help with some of the most frequently asked questions about homeschooling high school, I had no trouble coming up with a list. Now I can turn my panic to other scary things, like learners’ permits.
- How do you grade a high school essay?
First, you must know what the aims of the essay/paper/thesis were. With assessment one must initially consider if the young writer completed the mission—what is the assignment? what does this paper aim to do? address/compare/prove/suggest/question/explore? Is it a persuasive essay, a personal narrative, an explication? So many types of essays, so little time!
Second, all good, powerful writing has three elements: 1. honesty 2. economy 3. voice. Students should understand all three before writing.
Third, cogent writing is grounded in sound mechanics and evidence of the writing process. Is there an organization to the paragraphs and sentences? Are all grammar conventions met? Spelling attended to?
A good style guide can help. At OM, we use Strunk and White's Elements of of Style and Write it Right, our high school writing manual. —Michelle Simpson-Siegel, OM Executive Director/teacher
- Do we need to do standardized test prep?
We tend to associate standardized test prep with expensive classes, but SAT prep need not be pricey. The first step is to have students sign up for the SAT Question of the Day through the College Board website. Kids will get a sample question delivered to the email box daily; it is a great way to familiarize oneself with the content and types of questions you’ll see on tests. There are also practice books; then, if you feel like you need more prep, you can look at courses at a tutoring site, such as Kaplan or the Princeton Review. —Michelle Simpson-Siegel, OM Executive Director/teacher
- How do you keep records?
Record keeping can be done in a variety of ways. The key is to set up a system that you can easily keep up with, creating a comprehensive homeschooling portfolio of work as you go. For instance, you might choose one exemplary piece of work each week (or every two weeks) from each subject and put it in a file folder. You might keep a running chart that shows at-a-glance what is in each folder, and maybe you can add a few notes about each piece. For instance you might note, "Essay on Harriet Tubman shows thesis statement, topic sentences, and good paragraph organization." Many parents use photos to document student work, particularly work that goes beyond the written response.
In addition to subject files, you can have a file for any extra documentation. If your student takes any organized lessons, courses, art or music classes, or other activity, this can be documented once per semester with a simple statement of the approximate number of hours and basic skills/experiences that were covered. You can have your child's instructor sign this documentation, but you don't have to. If you choose to have your child take standardized tests, the test scores also go into the file.
Ask around among homeschoolers you know or on homeschooling chat forums to get more ideas. The goal is to find a record-keeping system that isn't overwhelming (you don't have to keep every single thing your child produces!) but that provides you with ample evidence of your student's progress and accomplishments. —DeeDee Hughes, OM Director of Curriculum Development
- How do I know if my kid is covering everything s/he needs to graduate?
The fear of missing some crucial bit of learning can keep homeschooling parents up at night. It seems that no one is immune to this anxiety, but the good news is that there are ways to check your progress and make sure that your student is on the right track. One way is to use your state standards to make sure you have all the bases covered for each year. You can spend some time at the beginning of the year going over the general topics that are covered in your state (or in the Common Core, if your state has adopted those standards) and make a basic outline of what you want to address over the course of the year. Creating a simple checklist that you can mark off as skills and content are covered helps you feel you are making progress and gives you a clear picture of what's ahead.
Another way to feel confident you are covering all the bases is to use a list of graduation requirements from a school. Oak Meadow's scope and sequence for K-8 and high school graduation requirements offer independent homeschoolers a road map for their education. Rather than focusing on specific skills, you look at the broad scope of courses that students are required to take at an accredited school. Again, talking to other homeschoolers in your area can lead to more information and ideas. —DeeDee Hughes, OM Director of Curriculum Development
- How do I handle science labs?
Field science is super valuable! Get involved in programs such as river watch, birding clubs, outing clubs, recycling programs, and gardening. This is wonderful, productive time, and very educational.
Oak Meadow offers Biology with Lab and Chemistry with Lab courses and supplementary lab kits. Any materials that are not in the lab kits are often easily found in the home. Any supplies that aren't found in the home or at a craft store can be found in an online science supply source or even Amazon (for independent users)
We at Oak Meadow don't use microscopes in our labs, as that is not available to many homeschoolers, but some families choose to have their own and do additional investigations. A very cool brand new product is the microbescope, where you can use your smartphone to see microscopic organisms!— Julie West and Sarah Boggia, OM high school science teachers
Find out more about Oak Meadow’s curriculum and resources for high school students. (And do it now, because you can score 15% off everything in the Oak Meadow Bookstore from Feb. 1-14! I am planning to snag a copy of the new Student Planner for my daughter to use as we start plotting out her freshman year. (Thanks for supporting the companies that support home/school/life!)