Friday, February 29, 2008

Being Prepared for High School

How should the parent of a middle school aged student prepare the student for high school work? What should the parent of an 8th grader make certain is covered?

Much of what students must learn is content-driven, but some is more skills-based. Even in content driven areas, possessing certain skills makes mastering the content easier.

Let me try to put this in practical, though generic terms. Overall, since these courses won't go on their high school transcript, worry less about making sure this, that, and the other curricula is covered; instead, make sure the student is ready for high school level courses. In English, and this may be the most important area, make sure the student can write and write well, and has a grasp of standard five paragraph essay structure. I would make that a priority. Second, work with your student on strengthening his grasp of literary analysis. (Many high school courses teach this, but knowing it ahead of time will give your student a head start.)

In Math, make absolutely certain the basic concepts are rock-solid, and if ready, it's a good time to begin Algebra. If not ready, do whatever it takes to get ready.

Other skills I'd consider important to have at least a good start on before entering high school are logic, and understanding how to do good science. In addition to the scientific method, this would include how to carefully, systematically perform an experiment and write an excellent lab report.

For those of us who've homeschooled all the way, high school is the last lap. What a simultaneously terrifying and exciting thought!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Family Matters

Two snow days this week... As a homeschooling mom, snow days have never been necessary, so I've never given them. This year, it's a little hairy! Day One of little sister not having school, Tim handled it pretty well. Yesterday, however, he was a little grumpy. It doesn't help that these last couple of weeks have been unusually heavy for him, and his schoolwork is taking longer each day than he thinks is fair already.

Next year, assuming we stick with the plan of bringing Becky back home and skipping a grade, I'll have a 9th grader and a 10th grader. I've been focussing on planning the last month or so and this is what I have so far:

Tim - 10th grade
Language Arts: We'll definitely do the literature component of the American history curriculum, adding in literary guides like Progeny Press and Sparknotes for 4-6 of the books. We'll continue using Vocabulary for Achievement, and Rod & Staff for grammar work. I'll decide about the writing component after I see how the online writing course he's taking goes this spring.

Math: This one's easy. We've loved Videotext for Algebra, so we'll continue it for Geometry.

Science: Physics, but where? Science is one of his strong points, so I think a good choice for him to take outside of the home. Unfortunately, I haven't managed to locate any co-ops around here that teach Physics, so we may end up trying it at Cuyahoga Community College.

History: Notgrass's Exploring American History, with Teaching Company videos added in. Thanks to Sharon in MD for schedule dovetailing the two!

Computer Science: Another uncertainty... possibly an online Visual Basic class at The Potter's School.

Spanish: We'll continue with Rosetta Stone, but somewhere along the way I need to add the written workbooks in with the computer time.

PE: He'll continue in Karate, and I'll find some health books to read and call it a half credit in PE.

That comes to 6.5 credits, which is pretty standard. It's also very similar to what he's doing this year.

Becky - 9th grade
Language Arts: ? I may have her do that entirely as an online course. This is her strength, so she probably doesn't need the level of intensity in English that Tim has had this year. I'd like her to be challenged with a strong course. Of course, she's doing the same history as Tim, so that's a literature component right there...

Math: Her private school math this year was a joke, and I will not consider her to have mastered Algebra 1 at the end of it. I'm planning on having her use Videotext. Since she's had some Algebra at school and is so darn smart, I think I'll try to get her through Alg. 1 & 2 in one year. That way she won't be so behind, having wasted 7th grade at VCA and then skipping 8th.

Science: Also a big question mark. She never wants to do the 'expected' in science. She could do Physical Science. It would be the logical science after what she's done this year, I think. She could also repeat Biology, since in 6th grade she took the course and comprehended it, but didn't take tests or do all the experiments. She could also take some kind of advanced Biology like Marine Biology or Human Anatomy. Of course, she says she wants to take Geology, but I haven't managed to find a source for that yet. It's not a standard high school course, I guess.

History: Also Notgrass American, which of course means there will be times when they both want the book at the same time and I'll get to play referee. Maybe some day they'll grow out of the bickering?

Foreign Language: She says she wants to learn Chinese or Swahili. Rosetta Stone has both, but I can get the Chinese, at least, online through Potter's School or similar programs.

That's only five credits. I'd like to find an art class for her, and she'll also probably be involved in Karate next year. Perhaps we could find some computer applications course for her, instead of computer programming? Also, she hasn't had as much Logic or Ohio History as Tim has. Not having her home this year has really caused problems academically!

So, I've made progress in planning for next year, but I'm far from done.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Writer's Retreat

The Writer's Circle at the Twinsburg Library hosted an all-day retreat on Saturday, Feb. 16th. Cari Dubiel arranged it and did a great job. A couple of professional writers attended: one who writes mysteries and one who writes children's books.

After presentations in the morning, we took at lunch break. I found the presentation on agents particularly helpful. In the afternoon, we split into two critique groups. One went with the children's author, and critiqued a children's story one of our members had written. The other half stayed in the room to critique my 'Jairus' story. Actually, only part of it -- which was a good thing since I had to read it aloud... whew!

It's always good to get feedback. My need to get a better handle on POV was confirmed. In general, the group was encouraging. The mystery writer, Annette Dashofy, did say that she felt my writing was good enough to try for publication.

I guess I won't quit yet!