A Handcrafted Education: The High School Years

Oh No! The dreaded “H” word (and I don’t mean handcrafted)! If there is one thing that causes homeschooling parents to panic it is the thought of homeschooling through high school. What if we get it wrong? What if somehow we fail our children, and they cannot … cannot … cannot … wait, cannot what exactly? How is it that we as homeschoolers fall into this trap so common to traditional school parents?!? Why I sometimes wonder, even though I do it myself, did we all drink the Kool-Aid and continue to perpetuate the myth that there is one known path that will guarantee our children’s ability to be successful as adults. We only have to look around us to know that’s not true. We all know people who are very happy and well-adjusted who never spent one day in college. We all know people who are desperately unhappy who have advanced college degrees.

Don’t get me wrong. I value education a lot actually. My husband would tell you I value it more than most people. Learning and working with knowledge are two things that I really enjoy, and I want to pass that passion along to my child. My point is that there is no one path, because every child is an individual; every path is going to be individual. As you will learn, if you follow this blog, my son is on a college-bound path. But my heart would not be broken if he didn’t go to college at all, or waited a few years and went. It’s his life, not mine. I’ll start living his life when I get mine all figured out.

With this in mind, it might seem pointless for me to blog about our journey. Here I am though, blogging about it 🙂

This is the first of a four year series of posts about our handcrafted high school education. It is not meant as a template, and I’m not advocating a path or series of programs, but I thought people might like to see what our journey looks like. I intend to blog over four years, but I can’t make any promises about the frequency of the blog posts. Handcrafting a high school education is time-consuming, and I have other writing obligations. In fact, right now, Astronomy and Earth Science 2 (as I now call the second book in the middle school series) is not being written because I am writing this blog post instead.

Before I Begin

Most people reading this blog only know me through my writing. I want to make sure that you know I understand each path really is uniquely different. As an example, I am going to give you the 30 second rundown of my own journey. I was a good student and my parents expected me to go to college. In my junior year of high school my mother passed away, and I didn’t cope with it well. I started underperforming in school and skipping school. My father was not a lot of help dealing with this emotional time. Now as an adult I understand he was going through his own stuff, obviously. But it wasn’t so obvious then. I did not graduate from high school. I am not a high school graduate. I never went back to pick up that degree. I supported myself as a waitress and bartender in the intervening years, until I was 27, when I started at community college. In California, you don’t need a high school degree to get into community college. You need to take a series of placement tests. I spent two years at community college and then transferred to UCSD. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCSD with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a bachelor’s in chemistry after three years and a quarter there. I was accepted to graduate school at UCSD with the intention of getting a PhD in environmental chemistry through the physical chemistry department. I did not like the nuts and bolts of daily lab work, but I did love teaching chemistry. (Graduate students in the chemistry department at UCSD are required to do some teaching.) I let go of my dreams of a PhD, graduated with a Masters, and got a job teaching at community college. I loved teaching chemistry and biology at community college! If you ever want to know the story in more detail, stop by when you’re in town. I will make a pot of tea or pour a glass of wine and we can talk about it. I am the social type, and trust me when I tell you that I want to hear your story too!

How We Came to Be Homeschooling High School

We actually debated about whether to homeschool through high school or not. We visited two very nice schools in the fall of 2014. If you’re wondering why we visited schools, one of the schools was a Creative and Performing Arts School in San Diego that, although public, has kids go through an application process. They do not accept all the kids who apply. Sean was thinking of applying to their creative writing program.

I believe there are pluses and minuses to every choice. So, after visiting those schools, we sat down and made a list of the pluses and minuses for each of those schools and continuing homeschooling for high school. My husband, who is the one member of our family not intimately involved in homeschooling, came out early in favor of continuing homeschooling. He felt strongly that Sean’s education through homeschooling was superior. I don’t mean superlative. By this, I don’t mean he is getting an education in every subject that would rival any school. My husband’s reasoning was that the unique handcrafted education Sean is getting is special in a way no school could match for just one student.

I gave us until November 1, 2014 to decide. All three of us decided to continue homeschooling through high school. It turned out to be a very easy decision with all of us agreeing completely with no doubt about it. We are four months into it, and we don’t regret the decision at all. I feel done right a homeschooled high school education can be superior because I believe in handcrafting an education. It is a lot of work though… Really a LOT of work!

A Few Things Up Front

  1. I am into a breadth of knowledge over a wide range of topics and issues. As my child’s primary teacher, a broad knowledge base is where we start our academic planning. My ultimate purpose and goal for my child’s education is that, at the end of it, he is well-educated. The caveat is my son and I are defining what well-educated means for him. The recipe for Sean’s handcrafted education is being designed for his strengths, weaknesses, and passions, as well as the passions and interests of his family.
  2. I look at an education as the gateway to options. The more options the better. Even when Sean is passionately focused on an area, I make sure there is time for other areas. Maybe not that particular day or week, but we do get to a range of subjects in a meaningful way over the course of a school year. I want him to have as many options as possible later in life. After all, we do spend most of our lives as adults. With homeschooling I am trying to find a balance between making sure his childhood gives him plenty of time and space to know the joys of childhood, while at the same time, making sure he has lots of options when he enters adulthood and beyond.
  3. I am not trying to recreate a public school education, but I do use the bits from public school that work for us. In fact, I incorporate every teaching methodology in some form into how we approach our academics. Each methodology has strengths and weaknesses. What they are depends on the student and the subject matter.
  4. Some of the issues I write about will relate specifically to homeschooling in California, my home state. We use a private school affidavit. We do not use a charter school or receive any support from our state. In California, if you homeschool through a state run charter school they will help pay for your child’s educational expenses. I do not use a charter school because:
    • We did not start homeschooling in California, we started in Nevada, and I got used to doing my own thing as is done in Nevada.
    • When we started homeschooling all the materials available were religious oriented or public school materials. I only want religion taught to my son as a part of philosophy class, history class, or in church. I am not a fan of most public school texts. I won’t go into it in detail other than to say I do not find most of them accessible for students or their teachers unless the teacher is an expert in that subject. Because I wasn’t interested in getting materials from them, there didn’t seem a compelling reason to participate in them. I will go into the materials we use for each course as I write about them.
    • As California did begin to have more and more homeschool charter schools, they did not at first hire people with homeschooling experience to work for them. This bothered me because it felt disingenuous that they were really trying to help homeschoolers negotiate the ins and outs of homeschooling. I felt that without hiring people who understood the specific issues homeschoolers face, these charters could not give new homeschoolers the support they needed. Even though we were not new to homeschooling this bugged me too much to want to participate in the system. I have been told this reason makes me sound a bit kooky, but this is my blog and my particular kook will shine through every once in a while. 😉
    • In California, the charters want students to take standardized tests. I am not a big fan of these tests. I watched a couple of homeschooling friends whose kids were in charters put everything aside the month before the test to teach to the test! It was not until last year that Sean started working on test taking skills as a lead up to his taking the SAT/ACT.
    • But the main reason: I love doing my own thing. One of the mottos I live my life by is that, “Time is the money of life.” If I am going to put all this time, the money of my life, into educating my child, I want to get as much joy as possible out of it. I am a very creative person, and I get joy out of creating unique things.

What you will read about next are the specifics of how I am handcrafting an education for my son. It is a recipe that is working very well for us. If you have any thoughts or questions just ask. Share the love and trust me, I WANT TO hear from you! I loved teaching college in part because I love discussing academic issues with other adults!

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