Friday, January 18, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Friday Fun: Sabaton

Have a metal head you'd like to turn into a history buff?  You might want to check out Sabaton.

Sabaton /ˈsæbətɒn/ is a Swedish power metal band from Falun. The band's main lyrical themes are based on war, historical battles, and acts of heroism[1]—the name is a reference to a sabaton, knight's foot armor. The armor and battle theme is heard in the albums Primo Victoria, The Art of War, Coat of Arms, Carolus Rex, Heroes, and The Last Stand in which all of the songs contain these motifs, except final tracks which are tribute songs to influential heavy metal bands. Lyrical content drawn from World War I, World War II and other historical conflicts is prevalent and lyrics often recite stories of heroic deeds by men and armies. (from Wikipedia)

I'm not a huge fan of heavy metal (unless you count Petra back in the '80s) but I've enjoyed watching through some of their videos this morning, googling battles and the names of people from the past.

Did you know, for instance, that Audie Murphy wrote poetry to help work through his post traumatic stress?

Or that "Bushido" is the collective term for the Samurai code of conduct similar to the concept of chivalry for European knights?

Okay, my oldest just told me I should really have already known that last one  - apparently it was featured in one of the Magic Tree House stories, or something.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Lego Mindstorm

With the start of the new year, I've been slowly sorting through our closets and cupboards in yet another winter's bid to be better organized.  I've been clearing out science kits, and picture books, and trying to decide what we might still use and what we've finally completely outgrown - when I came across our old Lego Mindstorm NXT 2.0 kit.

It's an old enough set to be discontinued now, but still in pristine shape (not a great testament to it's value for us).

We bought it for our oldest, one year when our school spending had been unusually low leaving some splurge ready surplus right as a career placement test suggested he might have a future in robotics (which I think now, could have been more an indicator that he was going to have a future interest in reading science fiction books - but hindsight and all that).

We'd seen a similar kit at the state fair, and he had enjoyed fiddling with it, but there the robot was already built and it was just a matter of following some very simple steps to program it to move around a little track.   Once we had a set ourselves T (then 12 or so) lost interest after the first few design hiccups.   He was interested in having a robot like the one on the front of the box, but not so much in building or programming one.

A year ago we pulled it back out, and the younger girls (then 11 and 13) played with it for a day or two, until I realized they were just building with the Legos, and scooped it back up before the pieces disappeared off into their sets.

Finally, tonight I decided I would give it a try to see if there was something particularly difficult about the instructions, that might have stymied the children's interest, or if I should really give up on the dream of having STEM scholarships ahead.

I dumped out the box, loaded up the software, and started building the initial little vehicles (the instructions walk you slowly from simple vehicles to the big upright, walking, talking robot).

I ran through three or four models, messed up, back-tracked, problem solved, thoroughly absorbed and enjoying myself.  The instructions are picture heavy, as you might expect from Lego, but not difficult, and there is a lot of room for experimentation and adapting of projects, though it doesn't lend itself well to group projects, but is more of a one person, working quietly and alone, type kit.

A couple of the children did join me at the table (my oldest even looked in for a minute, mumbling about how he really should build that thing once and for all), and I thought maybe there might be a spark of interest in one of them.  But it turned out, they just couldn't stand the chaos I had created by dumping the parts and pieces out all over the table, and once they had organized it all...

… they wandered away again, without even a backward glance.  The kit is just fine, if a little expensive, it just happens that when it comes to engineering, I have a pack of project managers.

Maybe they could clean the closets.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Prom

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a large group of homeschoolers in possession of a gym, must be in want of a prom.

"There's nothing I love better than," said Mr. Bingley.
"You might find their society somewhat savage," replied Darcy.
"Homeschool manners? I find them charming."

Okay, I admit it's not exactly Jane Austen being quoted above...much in the same way that a homeschool dance isn't exactly like a prom.  But then...

… I don't have much to compare it to.  The private boarding school where I attended high school didn't allow dancing, much less proms.  So, when we moved from Tiny Town, Montana to Big City, Montana (known to the rest of the world as Small Town, USA) just as the kids were reaching their teen years, and realized our local homeschool association held not just one, but two yearly dances...

… I wasn't sure I was on board.  That is until I witnessed one.  I'm sure homeschool proms are different across the country, but in our area the homeschool seniors pick the theme for the spring dance (the fall dance has traditionally been a masquerade).  Parents decorate...

 … and chaperone...

… and younger siblings act as servers, so it's really a family affair...

… with a dinner for the teens...

… and a photo booth (obviously) for those obligatory awkward prom pictures…

… oh, and dancing.  There is dancing - kind of a strange mix of waltzing and swing, country line and contra.  And just like that, we're back to Pride and Prejudice (only not quite) which is what I was thinking today, as I watched the kids practice...

… because that's the other thing - in our area, the teens get together once a week to practice for these dances, too.  The Man of the House (who went to public school) was genuinely tickled when I told him they were practicing the Footloose dance, today.  He was horrified though, to find they've turned it into a country line dance...

… apparently he was thinking of Kevin Bacon...

… but that would be much less like a homeschool dance.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Motivating Teens

I remember reading parenting books about raising quiet, well-mannered, obedient and attentive children, while my own curly-haired tornadoes were dismantling the room around me, and being inspired to be a better parent, before realizing that the authors of said advice had one, or possibly two, mild mannered, malleable offspring.  I had one or two of those myself, and I can tell you from experience that what worked wonders with them, had no effect whatsoever on their savage siblings.

I remember that (or try to) when I'm sitting around a table at the coffee shop on the weekends with my fellow homeschool mothers of teens, and they start asking each other how they motivate their students (apparently none of them ever read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories to their children when they were little, or they would know better than to ask the other mothers for parenting advice).   And, I hope you remember that as well as you read the three pieces of advice that I have for you below.

So, how do I motivate my high schoolers?  I get them (big cheesy grin emoji, here).

Get them up.

Drawing by E (age 14)
It's no secret that teenagers like (and need) to sleep, but no one needs to sleep or lay around in bed all day everyday, and night owls or not, most of what happens in the world happens during the day. So, "rise and shine sleepy heads" let's "make hay while the sun shines" and all that.

We don't have a fixed lights-out time for our teens, but we do have a rise-by time.  As the kids have gotten older they often have to be up earlier than that for their jobs, anyway.  A few days of getting up early and slogging through the day after staying up too late the night before is usually incentive for them (and me) to head to bed at a reasonable time.

Get them out.

I, myself, put a capital "H" in homebody, but even I get down if I spend too much time cooped up inside.  Sometimes it's good to get some fresh air to clear your head (exercise helps level out adolescent hormone levels, too), and even an introvert needs to see people sometimes. And, if you get them out to their part time jobs, you get the double bonus of being able to use a future filled with flipping hamburgers as incentive to study harder (see below).

Get them on board.

Help them to understand that what they're learning is for a purpose, and will benefit them.

I've had to be honest with my kids, that no, I have never, to my knowledge, used algebra in my daily life - but maybe if I had internalized the concepts better I would have - and at the very least learning math (or almost anything for that matter) opens doors that might be closed otherwise.  Thankfully, we have a cousin with a masters in math who has done some very interesting work for Space-X, and (perhaps a little less thankfully) we have our share of shirkers-turned-excellent-cautionary-tales to speak of, as well.

And, then there's Colossians 3:17,

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father (NIV)

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Graduation Ceremonies

As you might imagine, there are as many different options for a homeschooling graduation ceremony as there are options for homeschooling. In fact, there's nothing to say you have to have any particular type of ceremony, or even a ceremony at all.  The unschooling side of me wants to say that learning is a lifelong activity, something you don't graduate from - so maybe hold a "moving on" ceremony instead. 

My children, however, are traditionalists, and have wanted something to show for their efforts.

They're also as independent and individualistic as the next homeschooler, and so we've participated (and held) three or four different types graduation ceremonies ourselves.

The Private Home Ceremony (known in our house as a Bee Movie graduation)

Pick a day.
Dress up the graduate.
Have a party.

It can be as simple or elaborate as you like.  We ordered a black cap and gown from Amazon which we have passed down through the family (A will be the third to wear it).  Each grad has also been given a white tassel with their graduation year (black and white were our wedding colors).

We play pomp and circumstance as the graduate enters the room, demand and give speeches (of the very, very short, tongue-in-cheek variety), snap a few pictures, have a cake or special dinner or ice cream, and then go out for a movie or whatever, as a family.

We have never presented a diploma during our home ceremony, but this year we probably will, and might add in a trip to the notary public as part of the fun, as A (age 17) will need that to present to her college before she can graduate with her dual-enrollment credits (I'd really like to print-off one of the preschool diplomas you can find online and modify it to read "high school" just to see what the college officials would make of it).

The Homeschool Group Graduation

In our area we have a local homeschooling association that hosts a graduation each year.  Seniors are notified through a social media account.  Parents and seniors meet in the fall to begin planning.  A coordinator volunteers, a venue (usually a local church) and date are selected, caps and gowns are ordered (in colors matching our homeschool association's sports teams' colors), parents volunteer to buy food, set-up chairs, usher, secure a speaker, and so on, while the grads put together a slide show of pictures with a favorite song (to be played at the beginning of the ceremony), and prepare tables decorated with things representing their interests for people to look at during the reception afterwards.

On the day, the graduates march in, we watch the slide show, there might be some special music (from students), and a speaker, then parents present diplomas to their graduate with a few words (we try to keep it under two minutes).

Afterwards there is a reception with cake and a light lunch, and time to mingle, congratulate the students, and snap a few photos.

In our area the ceremony is fairly formal, and modeled a bit heavily (to my mind) on the public school graduation format.  But at the end of the day, the kids know they've graduated, and it's the type of thing you can invite the grandparents to, so that's nice.

The Private Homeschool Graduation

This is pretty much like the above, but for just one student (yours) instead of a entire group.  It is often held in your own church, with the pastor presiding and acting as speaker.  Friends and family are invited (so gifts!) and usually parents present the diploma, again with a few words (though rarely under two minutes).  Then afterwards there can be a small reception with food.

The HiSet or GED Graduation

Our local testing station holds a standard, public school style graduation for students who pass the HiSet.  Our two oldest took the HiSet, but opted to receive their diplomas through the mail.

Again, these are just a few of the options available.   While our homeschool has not been traditional, or modeled on the public school system I've found, as I mentioned before, that my teenagers have wanted something formal and at least slightly official to mark the end of their high school years.  I'm still hoping that one of the younger children will decide to bag it all, and want to take a trip to somewhere fun to celebrate instead (or maybe the Man of the House and I will do that after the last one is out).

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Friday Fun: Cells at Work.

I really thought our days of watching a cartoon and calling it science passed by with the elementary school years, but that's before we discovered Akane Shimizu's "Cells at Work!" on Crunchy Roll (a subscription anime streaming site).

I wouldn't normally recommend an anime site (not all anime is child or even teen friendly, they may look like cartoons, but they can cross the line into mature viewing without warning).  Our oldest has a subscription though, and had decided to binge watch anime over his semester break - "Only the clean ones, Mom." - in the hopes of spontaneously learning Japanese (a plan I would have mercilessly mocked if not for the memory of myself, at about that age, sleeping with headphones on and language learning tapes playing, with similar hopes of my own).  Needless to say, neither of our language learning experiments were successful, but I did notice my science shy son suddenly spouting a substantial number of science related facts.

Did you know for instance that, "the most common type of white blood cell is called a neutrophil?"  Or that, "an eosinophil is a type of white blood cell designed to fight parasites?"

It turns out he had stumbled onto "Cells at Work!", a kind of  "Magic School Bus" for teenagers, following the adventures of an anthropomorphized red blood cell as she and her compatriots perform their duties inside the body (I'm not making this up).  The anime on Crunchy Roll is in Japanese, with English subtitles, and it is an anime, so annoying anime voices, a spattering of swear words (mainly d--n and h--l), and a good amount of anime style violence and gore, but otherwise generally upbeat, and surprisingly packed with facts.

Since my youngest two (ages 12 and 14) happened to hit a section on cells in their science studies this week, we streamed a few of the episodes, following them up with "Real Doctor Reacts" off of YouTube.

The episodes move quickly, and throw a lot of information out at once.  I decided to slow things down by picking up a manga (comic book/graphic novel) from the series at our local bookstore, for the girls to pore over and ponder, as they sketch the characters out onto the fronts flashcards, copying the definitions from the book onto the backs.  They've picked up quite a bit already, including - I almost hate to admit, several new words in Japanese.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - College Dual Enrollment

If you are homeschooling high schoolers, be sure to check out what kind of dual enrollment programs are available through the colleges or universities in your state.  The programs vary from state to state, but it's worth checking out.
The Montana University System encourages students to give college a try while they are still in high school.  Tuition is half the price for the same classes and credits they'd be getting as college freshmen or sophomores, they even get their first two classes for free, and homeschoolers are welcome.

Drawing by E (age 14)
We were a little slow to figure out the whole dual enrollment thing.  When I was in high school you had to have all of your high school credits completed, and be an exceptional student to take college classes before you graduated.  T (our oldest) while being college bound, and now performing well in his second year at a private university working on a bachelors in business, was not what I would call an exceptional student in high school - adequate, but not overly academically inclined.

When we ran into a college recruiter at a farmer's market touting the dual enrollment program, T gave the table a wide berth, and I didn't think much of it, except to step over and accept a free pen.

G (our second oldest) had marriage on the brain by her junior year, though we managed to stall the actual event until after she had graduated high school, and given college at least a perfunctory try. Not that you can't attend college while married (I certainly did), and not that dual enrollment wouldn't be right for the marriage minded (actually it be even better, because it can cut up to two years off of the time spent after high school in college), it just simply wasn't her thing.

Drawing by E (age 14)

A (age 17), however, has jumped in with both feet.  She's in her 5th semester now (counting one part-time summer semester between her junior and senior years), and has just started the last block of classes she will need to earn an associates degree, which she ought to receive about one week after she graduates from high school.

She's aimed at a transfer degree, that will transfer into a bachelors program at the state university in one complete block.  If she follows through with that, she will knock two years off of her time there.

And, should she decide to switch majors, or pick a university with slightly different requirements, she has still completed all of her core classes (college writing, math, speech, science, history and the like), and will have paid considerably less for her time of exploration and discovery than she would if she switched a major after two years of full on university tuition.

Drawing by E (age 14)
I was worried at first, that she might struggle to keep up with actual college students.  She was only sixteen and a high school junior when she started.  But, it's turned out to be an extremely positive experience for her.  Her success has encouraged her younger siblings, who are all already making plans to follow suit.

At the end of the day, as a parent and homeschool educator, I have a few reservations about rushing kids out of high school and into college, which is essentially what is happening - but it is happening across the country, regardless of my thoughts, through dual enrollment programs, AP classes and their ilk, and I'm not sure I want my children to be left behind their public school peers.  I also have a hard time arguing with half price (or better, depending on your state) college tuition.  So, for now I'm taking their word for it that...

 "Statistically, students who take dual enrollment courses are more likely to successfully transition to higher education, and succeed academically at rates higher than students who do not take dual enrollment courses." (Reach Higher Montana).

It's great to be a (dual-enrolled) homeschooler.