Tag Archives: high school

Stuff that’s different in home schooling.

I was just working on biology late at night (yeah, I know) and thinking about how this experience differs from science class at a regular school. When most people think about the differences between homeschooling and regular schooling, all they can think of is “oh no, socialization!” That said, I came home from seeing a movie with a friend who’s my age and regular-schooled, and then I got inspired to work on biology. Amazing, right?

One of the things I noticed about homeschooling today is that I’m moving through biology curriculum very fast even though I was one of the slowest students in my old science classes. There are a few reasons for this.

1. There is no homework versus schoolwork divide. My curriculum occasionally assigns videos, but mostly just lets me read the materials on my own. That means that instead of spending 45-90 minutes listening to someone lecture or having those rich “discussions” teachers are so fond of where students awkwardly pretend to have read, I just read the stuff and that’s it. Homework time is class time.

2. I can complete one class worth of work in uninterrupted blocks. If I’m on a roll with Biology, I don’t have to pause to go to Algebra. I can keep working on biology until I finish a unit if I want to, so long as I plan it out right.

3. A lot of the random, pointless stuff that takes up class time doesn’t happen for home school students. Imagine how much faster school would go if the teacher didn’t have to beg David to sit down or ask religious Joshua to stop yelling “IN THEORY!!!!” every time she mentioned evolution (in spite of her best efforts to be balanced and offer religious perspectives to appease some of these people). Imagine if lunch didn’t cut into your class period, meaning you had to deal with 10 minutes of everyone anxiously staring at the clock, followed by another five minutes (at least) of “I dismiss you, not the bell,” and then another 5-10 minutes of “settling down” once the class resumes.

4. Going at your own pace is always faster in a way. If you get behind in school, you will not understand the lectures AT ALL and then you’ll have to catch up and THEN re-learn the current material since you were too behind to understand it when it was taught in class. Obviously that’s awful, and it’s nice to avoid it.

Honestly, the part where I’d end up behind and then get NOTHING from the lectures AND have to struggle to catch up was the biggest time-waster in school. Not having to do that saves me an awful lot of time now. I need all the time I can get.

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Curriculum: WTF?

Does anyone actually just buy a curriculum or download one and actually stick to it all year?

My friend’s college-aged older brother (who is somehow better at lesson planning than her parents) was the one who introduced my family to the idea of homeschooling. He went to all this painstaking effort to pick and choose random stuff from across the internet. Part of that was because of income – they couldn’t afford to just buy the BYU package or whatever. A bigger part of it was just because he thought that he could give her a better “genuine high school experience” than most of those publishers.

My family didn’t think too hard about that. Back when I stopped going to regular school, my family’s expectation was “oh, okay, we’ll find some complete all-in-one set of curriculum-ish things and then we’ll just work through them.”

Here’s about how that went.

Day 1: Oh, here’s something. Wait, it’s $500 for one class? Screw that.

Day 2: Oh, here’s something. Wait, it’s $50 a month and I don’t even get to preview it to make sure it’s good? Screw that!

Day 3: Okay, let’s just mix and match. That’ll work.

Day 4: EVERYTHING I PICKED IS TERRIBLE.

All the syllabuses we tried writing have been scrapped. Nothing has stuck for more than a few weeks. If I had to clump English so far into “units,” here’s what I’d have:

Unit 1: A “Lore” class from Grey School of Wizardry. I know GSW doesn’t really want to be seen as a “curriculum provider” and it isn’t, but the “lore” assignments actually took me through some common core requirements. The first assignment had me studying general themes and literary archetypes. The second one had me comparing myths and legends to each other while learning to apply themes and archetypes to literary analysis. The third assignment involved reading and writing about a myth local to my geographic region. The fourth assignment (which I’m still working on periodically) involved choosing a book that relates somehow to an ancient myth and explaining how they’re similar. I read a young-adult book called Janie: Face to Face for that. I go back to this curriculum every now and then – namely for the short story I’m working on.

Unit 2: Some John Milton from Saylor.org. Mostly all I read about was his life. I didn’t get to read much of his writing before that site started bugging out on me.

Unit 3: A TON of grammar study using a grammar book from Barnes and Noble, plus some review on Purdue Owl about proper citation style. I ended up helping other people revise their essays to familiarize myself with structure. When I was done with that, I took a giant test over grammar and usage.

Unit 4: I read The Giver for free online. Then, I watched the movie. My big “assignment” on the subject was basically a blog response.

Unit 5: A Separate Peace. I’m using a free curriculum from Curriki for that, which contains study guides and such.

Does anyone else actually just make a plan and stick to it 100%?

English curriculum.

Me: *Looks up curriculum for English.*

Curriculum: ANTIGONE!!!!

Me: Read it in 8th grade.

Curriculum: JULIUS CAESAR!!!!

Me: Read it at some point.

Curriculum: ROMEO AND JULIET!!!!

Me; Read it, saw it performed, saw the movie, wrote a paper on it, etc.

Curriculum: RED BADGE OF COURAGE!!!!

Me: I read that in freaking elementary school.

Curriculum: Where the Red Fern Grows????

Me: Seventh grade.

Curriculum: Uh…geez…kid…what do you want? To Kill a Mockingbird? Surely you haven’t read that one!!!!

Me: Summer before 9th grade.

Curriculum: Screw you, Lilly.

Health, Unit 1; Nutrition

For health class, I was going to go down a list of unit studies I found online. It was all the basic stuff – fitness, nutrition, alcohol being bad, drugs being bad, sex being mostly bad, etc. Health is one of those subjects that a lot of states require homeschoolers demonstrate they’ve learned about. Unfortunately, it’s boring. I’m only about a couple weeks into the semester and I’m already bored. What I’ve decided is that every unit should relate to my life in some way. I have many health issues myself that I’m working through, and most of them require me to watch videos/get educated about lifestyle and what’s healthy versus what my parents did. That takes up a lot of my time, because to get better I can’t just take a pill, I need to actually do the work. I decided I want to work my own health struggles into my health curriculum. In particular, I am going to start with a list of questions that I want answered rather than a list of assignments and then searching for material that will give me an answer.

The first unit I am supposed to cover is nutrition. Nutrition is oversimplified in high school health textbooks. As a vegan, the “four food groups” thing gets complicated. For the nutrition unit, I have compiled a list of questions.

  1. What are signs of B-12 deficiency? How can I know if I’m deficient?
  2. Which nutrients might I be missing and how can I get them?
  3. What are some cost-efficient ways to pack more nutrients into each meal?
  4. What foods are best for someone with depression?
  5. Can nutritional supplements replace traditional antidepressants?
  6. What foods can I eat if I don’t feel full?

To track my progress, I will use a stopwatch to time how long I spend on the nutrition unit and compile a “portfolio” of work done for my health class. This will make sure I get to 75 hours for the half-credit this course offers.

      

In-person.

So next year, I’m probably going to have to take occasional “in-person” classes, aside from the one or two I usually take. It’s really frustrating to me how most APs and other things are only offered at public school and if you want to take them outside of that realm you either have to a.) pay so much money you might as well just go to a community college or b.) just study giant books that teach to the test and not really learn anything. 

I feel like I have nothing in common with most people. It seems like every class I’ve ever been to has the same basic cast of characters. I’ll be sitting next to someone (a guy) and he’ll just start picking on everybody for no reason whatsoever except to make it known to others that he’s loud and extremely irritating. Sometimes you almost think he’s flirting with you until you realize he’s just that obnoxious with everybody. Then some girl will start encouraging him with awkward giggling and this will convince him he is the most wonderful person on the planet and should change nothing about his behavior.

Every class or grade level at least always has to have one incredibly frumpy, gross girl who you wonder “why on Earth did you leave the house like that?” who wants to be my friend. This one girl…ugh god. Puts her fingers in her mouth at lunch and doesn’t wash her hands, has scraggly hair, and dresses the way I’d dress coming out of a locker room on the way home from a gym if I had a gym membership like…just every single day. I know people say to me “well she can’t afford better things” but you can find better things than flip-flops and sweat pants for cheap at places like Walmart or Target. It’s true, and I know because my family’s not exactly rich either. Other thing is…money has nothing to do with combing your hair and showering in the morning. Okay, well, you have to be able to afford soap but at a certain point I just think “come on.” You can buy soap that’s like $0.99 at the drug store (and I know this person isn’t on food stamps or something where even that would be difficult). Okay anyway then there’s always a really smelly guy with weird scabs all over him who just takes up a lot of space and seems to have no awareness of how badly he smells. This guy usually seems to think he’s entitled to have girls like him except he’s just completely gross. And then there’s always this somewhat cute preppy girl who seems nice enough but is only friends with the most heinously unpleasant, mean girls around. Then there’s always that girl who’s semi-nice and semi-easy going but just…so vapid that you can’t have any kind of conversation with her and if you’re paired together for a project you’re completely screwed. Then of course there are tall guys who are either bald, buzz-cut, or ball-capped (if your school allows it) and wear their pants too low and always hi-five each other and obsess about sports. These guys like to “compete” over weird things like who can eat the most garbage or make each other dress like girls if they lose bets. It’s annoying. 

There’s this thing about how APs/honors are different, but come on. When I was in middle school, they really weren’t. Maybe the smelly girl wasn’t…oh wait no, yeah there was. Ugh.

Honors and AP

I’m a little frustrated by the reading I’m doing about how obsessed colleges are with AP courses. Supposedly if you have that AP designation, your education is more “standardized” and they have an easier time judging whether or not you’re a worthwhile student. Part of why this bothers me I think is because it just doesn’t make any degree of sense. I have heard that AP somehow impresses them more than CC courses, and to me that just seems whack because in a CC course you are literally IN COLLEGE, experiencing college. What better way to demonstrate that you can handle uhm…college? 

Also the “school” I’m looking at online to take some high school-level courses at has some great course offerings that don’t fall in line with that perfect “AP track” plan. I’ve already read some Shakespeare and some American literature but I haven’t read anything from the world mythology English course and of course that’s the one class that doesn’t offer an “honors” version. I’m interested in Honors Oceanography but that isn’t Biology which leads to the wonderfulness of AP Biology II. Part of what bugs me is that a lot of colleges don’t require things like Biology anyway and have easy versions like Physics for Poets or whatever, so it doesn’t make sense to me why not taking AP Biology would somehow make you a “bad candidate.”

Supposedly it’s also about making sure a student is taking the most challenging courses possible. Uhm…well…what about times when students aren’t doing well in certain subjects? That is actually something that severely bugs me about school. If you’re bad at math, let’s say you start off in Algebra I (regular, not honors). The course doesn’t try to get you caught up to the Algebra I Honors students. There’s literally no way to catch up. A friend of mine took Geometry (regular) and then asked to be moved to Algebra 2 Honors and found that she could not keep up at all and that the course assumed having taken Geometry Honors. She got downgraded to regular Algebra 2 which ended up being way too easy for her. If education is supposed to be about educating people, why this system where if you don’t have it all together by the time you’re 15 you’re just fucked for life?

I guess supposedly the big reason for all of this is that colleges are competitive or whatever. To me, that’s not really a good thing. I mean, yeah, when those big ivies can actually boast that their students find jobs after graduation then we’ll talk but a friend of mine went to a new ivy and spent the first year out of college temping and being repeatedly ignored and rejected after college despite having a ton of job experience before graduation. 

My guardian’s valedictorian took a boatload of AP courses, went to Yale, and then dropped out after half a semester because it drove her nuts and then spent like 6 years at one of the state schools she used to turn up her nose at. There seems to be so much focus on getting in that there’s very little time to wonder what you’ll do when you actually get there. 

Am I being totally unrealistic?

We’ve been talking about my plans for next year when I supposedly start high school, and I’m so confused/frustrated with it. When trying to picture my ideal home school situation, it looks like something I’ve never seen before ever.

I’d like to take online courses someplace with a recommended curriculum. It’d be nice if they had some AP courses available. The problem is, I don’t really want to apply/register to a “real” online school that basically assumes you’re signing up to have that be the school you’re going to. Does that make sense? I don’t want to just enroll in a school that’s basically no different from any other school except that it’s online. I more want a program where I know I’m touching upon the same materials other people would be but it’s not so structured like “we expect you to graduate from Online Asynchronous Expensive Institute of the Midwest by fulfilling these requirements, sending your real name and a lock of hair and an immunology record and a middle school transcript and blah and blah and blah and blah.” It’d be nice if there were some avenues for talking to other students online too.

There are some things I’ve come across that *might* fit the bill, but I’m not sure.

  • Thinkwell. A family member did a course through them in high school and said it was kind of boring but it gives you progress reports which is nice.
  • Education Portal. Somewhat good but a.) it’s all multiple choice and I hate that and b.) not all of their courses are complete.

It’s frustrating to me how you can’t just get a strong curriculum without it having to mean a commitment to do all your coursework there and sort of not be a home school student anymore. What if you want a transcript saying “hey, I did some stuff here” but you ultimately are using an online school to enrich home school education and not like as the be-all, end-all of your official normative high school education? Bleh. You must not exist if you want that.