Saturday, August 30, 2014

Week One of 2014-2015 Highschool at Home Complete

I have more gray hair now than last week - swear it.  At the end of the week both the teenager and I were wiped out!  Adjusting to the new daily routine and work load rankled a bit, but we kept our chins up and muddled through.  Okay, to say we muddled isn't fair.  We worked very well through the rough patches that cropped up.

The best part of the week was the READING!  Every day for an hour from the literature shelf.  At first he said emphatically, "Mom, an hour of reading a day is too much.  How about 45 minutes?"  On the first day I set the timer on the iPhone for one hour on the nose and turned him loose.  When it alarmed, he didn't seem to register the noise and kept on reading.  For another half an hour.  An hour a day seems just about right for his tolerance level!

He is reading this:

I read this and giggled all the way through.  The Queen accidentally discovers the public library and all heck breaks out in the Monarchy:

And started this.  Still laughing: 

Guess I subconsciously picked books from the humor section because I had a feeling the week was going to have its challenges, huh?

With math, biology, world history, programming, literature and grammar, the days got a little long.  I am so PROUD of him for his willingness to jump in.  Most days we started between 10 and 11 a.m. and worked through with breaks until 3 or 4 p.m.  

He is pumped about programming, less excited about math, but he's been attacking math problems every day.  World history is terribly interesting for both of us (I'm watching the lectures and taking notes for a refresher course).  Biology is ramping up so we've had to broach the subject of taking notes.  

Now, note-taking does not rank high on his list of life priorities.  In fact, he rather blossoms with an insanely itchy rash over most of his body when I hand him a pen or pencil, poor guy.  His fingers were bred for the keyboard!  I am of the firm belief, though, that something magical happens between the hand that is writing and the brain that commands the hand to write.  Taking notes in my opinion is an important skill to learn; you need to be able to synthesize information so you can access it later, especially for those pesky quizzes and tests that appear at the end of units.

So, we practiced taking notes.  I posed a question on a homeschooling forum today asking for ideas for note taking that might fit his style.  Yay for other homeschooling parents!  They are a deep well of knowledge when it comes to figuring stuff out.  These are the suggestions we got - thank you, ladies!

OneNote  - nice, but it doesn't involve putting finely sharpened pencil to crisp paper

Popplet - an app for the iPad or Web that lets you brain map to your heart's content

Color-coded index cards - he could spread them out like a brain map on a wall or table  


Overall, it was a good and productive first week.  I want to introduce him to the workload over the first few weeks and then let him take over and create his own schedule.  We will keep working on note taking to find the right method for him.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Homeschooling First Semester of Ninth Grade

It's common practice to snap a photo of your child on his or her first day of school.  Here's the teenager, three days before his ninth grade year 'officially' starts on Monday.  I'm going to consider this his start-of-the-school-year photo.  The blue hair is a new accoutrement that was garnered yesterday, just because.  He's practicing one of the pentatonic scales on the guitar.  Even though I play the guitar, too, up until a few weeks ago I hadn't a clue as to what a pentatonic scale was.  Thank you awesome guitar teacher for teaching us some music theory!  Straighten us out already, jeeps.

I am excited about next week's 'school' adventures!!  I have invested hours into researching options for homeschooling ninth grade, trying to find activities he will enjoy.  Below I will detail the schedule for you; it's always nice to see what others are up to, especially when it involves homeschooling high school.

Full disclosure - we opted to work with an umbrella school in high school mainly for my peace of mind.  They will help us stay on track, pay attention to his learning style and offer resources that he might find intriguing, keep track of his transcript, and provide him with a diploma once he meets all the credit requirements.  I feel really good having them in our corner as we start this process.  The school is in another state, so we will meet with his advisor virtually the week after next for the first time.  The umbrella school helps me to be accountable to his education, too.   It was important to me that the umbrella school be exceedingly open to and flexible about how we elected to create his classes based on his interests.  They are providing a framework with which we can work in yet we still maintain as much autonomy as we wish to have.  

Note that an umbrella school is different from an online school.  Umbrella schools are designed to assist homeschooling families, particularly during the high school years when transcripts come into play.  They offer all kinds of helpful services and depending on the options you choose, provide you with a full catalog of online course offerings if you want to utilize them.  We are not using any of their online classes this year, but I like knowing those exist as we plan classes for later grades.  An umbrella school feels like a warm wing that you can climb under when you might be feeling lost and alone in a big world of homeschooling high school.

On to the schedule for first semester!


I've mentioned in a recent post about setting up a literature shelf full of classics, novels, short stories, nonfiction and essays that overlap with your child's interests and favorite genres.  Dena Luchsinger's The Reader's Odyssey helped me with this task tremendously.  It's an ongoing effort, but so far the shelves are shaping up nicely with 120 books collected so far.  I intend to have several hundred for him to choose from by twelfth grade.  From these shelves the teenager will choose books that interest him and will read for an hour a day.  I am joining in on the fun and will read the same amount of time daily.   

For this semester his goal will be to read the following:

2 works of classic fiction by two different authors
2 works of modern classic fiction by at least two different authors
4 works representing four different fiction genres
2 works representing at least two different types of nonfiction
2 shorter works (short story, novella or essay)

He'll keep a reading log to document what's been read and will rate each book.  Upon completion of a book I've asked him to write a paragraph about the book - not a summary per say, but a thoughtful and short foray into how the book impacted him.  He doesn't need to delve into much literary analysis just yet; that will come later.  The goal for ninth grade is to encourage him to read WIDELY and WILDLY in areas he hasn't read before and begin to become aware of 'the great conversation' between authors across the ages of the written word.

Grammar will be tackled in small bites twice a week using Connie Schenkelberg's Grammar Made Easy:  Writing a Step Above.  Connie starts out with instruction in sentence diagramming, a valuable tool in one's toolbox.  On Fridays he's going to teach me what he learned so I can get a grammar refresher, too.  He has already developed an eye for grammar due to ample reading;  this course will help cinch everything together in preparation for more concentration in writing later on.  

Writing will gradually be tackled more in depth as the year progresses and into future grades.  For now he'll be engaging in free writing and getting adept at shaping his thoughts on paper. 


Daily work using Chalk Dust's Pre-Algebra curriculum and DVD set.  The first several weeks will serve as review.  The goal to complete this program this year is one chapter per three weeks.  He may be able to work at a faster clip, especially at the beginning, but he can go at his own pace as long as he's covering material.    


A lesson of biology a day.  He's going to be a 'Schmooper' for the year!  Really, head over to and partake of their humorous and zany teaching style.  I LOVE it.  He'll be covering cell biology, biochemical pathways, Mendelian genetics, and molecular genetics this first semester.  It is a great introductory class with lots of fun thrown in.  It's clever.  

We are also watching lectures from The Great Courses:  The Neuroscience of Everyday Life and What Science Knows About Cancer.  Yes, I totally bought these courses on sale at 70% off.  Watch for their sales!


We are using Eugen Weber's lecture series called The Western Tradition on for a foundation.  Eugen Weber was a professor at UCLA and was renowned as a world historian.  His teaching style was engaging and charismatic.  To fit in all fifty two lectures, he'll need to watch two lectures each week.  He is supplementing the series with a World History Detective workbook from the Critical Thinking Company, 2-4 lessons per week.  

The literature component of language arts will cross over into the World History realm, too.  I suspect that we'll be applying literature to most of his courses.


He wants to learn how to program in Python. is a terrific resource for doing just that.  I put this on the schedule three days a week to see how it feels.  He is also partaking of a Minecraft Homeschool Upper Core class for the first six weeks of the semester; this class requires 4-8 hours per week on projects and assignments.    

He really wants to get his hands involved with building computers, so we are seeking resources to fulfill this desire.  

Once a week lessons plus practice.  He'll be diving into learning about famous guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, etc. using documentaries and Youtube.  His teacher is a very accomplished guitarist and a bit of a comedian; he's teaching the teenager the ropes. 

We're planning on meeting twice a week, Mondays and Fridays to check in, check work, make sure he's on track, and problem solve any issues.  I'll be documenting everything that is credit worthy, turning in credit request forms, looking for great literature, and thinking about tenth grade.

Oh.  Driver's education will come into play at some point this year.  All of the above should keep him stimulated!  We'll start crafting and tweaking second semester after he's had a chance to test the waters.  

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