Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Homeschooling The Teen Years - Having Some Fun With a High School Diploma

This coming weekend A(age 18) will walk, Lord willing, with her fellow homeschool seniors in our local associations homeschool graduation ceremony (her final graduation of the season).  I decided this time to have some fun, and finally present her with a diploma that better reflects her homeschooling years than the stuffy, formal, but official type she already has from dealing with her junior college.

First of all, I made it a "homeschool" diploma rather than a "high school" diploma.  She is after all graduating from all of her homeschooling years.  We kept track of the children's school years, and the subjects might have changed somewhat as the children reached their teen years, but really we haven't had a distinct dividing line between elementary, middle and high school - so why should our diploma?

Secondly, I made it colorful, kind of like a preschool diploma.  Why not? While we have taken our academics seriously over the years, we've always tried to have fun with the learning process - kind of like preschool (but in a good a way).

Finally, I added a bunch of characters around the edges from some of A's favorite (and even some of her not so favorite - because I'm like that) educational shows, apps, and games.  I "borrowed" them from Google images, I'm sure they're all copyrighted, but since it's just for us I think that's still okay.  Most of these were from her younger years, but helped to form a big part of her educational foundation:

  • The gang from Cyberchase - math.
  • Muzzy - German, Spanish and French.
  • Professor Layton - logic and math.
  • Garfield Typing - keyboarding :)
  • The Magic School Bus - science.
  • Mouse Soup - the first "chapter book" each of the children read.
  • Peanuts - history and tradition (Thanksgiving).
  • Stanley - science, vocabulary and German (we have several episodes with German audio)
  • Liberty's Kids - American history
  • BrainPOP - science, social studies and English (for us).
  • Jumpstart - science, grammar and math.
  • Animal Crossing - science (identifying fish and insects)
  • Little Einsteins - music appreciation.
  • Fritz and Chesster - chess.
  • Max and Ruby, Kim Possible, Phineas and Ferb - how to be cool :) and a surprising number of other things.

Looking at this list, I'm realizing I might have to slip back into the file and add a couple more -  something from Phil Vischer for Bible, and I seem to have lost the little lizard from Salsa somewhere along the way.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Pulling Double Duty as Parents and Educators for Year-end Events

A week ago, we attended A(age 18)'s graduation from junior college. I can't help but to compare and contrast the roll of "parent" at an event like that verses that of "parent/educator" at a similar homeschooling event, like a say a homeschool prom (which we happened to have had this weekend)
or graduation (which is coming up, for us, next weekend).

Last weekend, we got to do the parent thing.  We ordered and sent out announcements, threw a party for our grad and her friends, and snapped a few photos.  Other than that, all we had to do was show up (making sure everyone had something vaguely appropriate to wear).

There were school officials taking care of all the rest of the details from sign-in to clean up.

They had set up fun little photo stations around the school.

They provided cupcakes and coffee afterwards (I didn't get a picture, but there was a lovely little spread complete with silver trays and teapots).  They even live-streamed the whole thing for friends and relatives who couldn't make it. It was very nice.

Our homeschool prom was very nice too.

But, on top of preparing girls' dresses, doing their hair, and snapping photos...

… there were planning meetings, and crafting sessions, cupcakes and cookies to be baked (actually an entire dinner was parent provided).

Parents set-up, chaperoned, did dishes, and even cleaned bathrooms (some staying well into the next morning).

 In our case, the Man of the House chaperoned, I did dishes, and C (age 12 and too young to officially attend) served tables.

There was also a last second (parent led) scramble to purchase a small thank you gift and card for the fantastic homeschool mom who organized the whole thing (and made our amounts of work look small in comparison).

It was a lot of work.

The homeschool graduation next week will be a lot of work, too.  I just saw the schedule assuring parents that we ought to have all the clean-up done by 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon.  Set-up will take place the day before, grads show up at 9:00 in the morning for a walk-thru and pictures (taken by one of the parents, I'm sure), the graduation will take place at 11:00 with a light (parent provided) lunch reception to follow, and then the clean-up.

Which reminds me - I still have to set up a "thank you" group on Facebook to find out which of us will run out for a card and gift for the lucky lady in charge of this event, as well.

It's a lot of work.  In the end, the trade off of being able to be there for the teens, and getting to be a part of their day - to mold it and personalize it for them in ways we couldn't as just parents is completely worth it.

But it's a lot work.

It's great (if sometimes exhausting) to be a homeschooler.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Summer Vacation for Unschoolers

I declared it "summer break" yesterday. 

It was sometime in the morning, between running C (age 12) to be measured for her costume for her part in a summer musical and learning that E (age 14) and C had volunteered to help build sets (which is going to be a great learning experience, because this particular troupe goes all out on their sets), helping D (age 16) put a resume together, "helping" T (age 21) rescue a baby bunny (we have two nests of them in our backyard) from a basement window-well...

...retrieving A (age 18) from work only to accompany her straight to a decorating session for this year's homeschool prom, and all the while compiling a packing list in my head (I really need to get it down on paper) for E (who is heading out on a multi-state road trip in a couple of weeks) and A (who is heading to China).

We simply don't have time to do school anymore this spring.  Not that I'm sure I know what's school and what's life in house these days.  I might have said it was our formal math lessons, but D announced that he's enjoying where he's at right now so much he'd like to see it through a while longer on his own.

E will be studying American history and geography in preparation for her trip.

A will be cramming in as much Chinese as she can (and hopefully a little history and geography there too).

T has already declared that with his classes done for the summer (his university finals were two weeks ago) he has several books he wants to catch up on, an exercise program to put into action, and a new Japanese language app he'd like to try out.

C bought herself a hardback journal for a story she's been wanting to write, and she has an upcoming father-daughter camping trip where she should be able to get in some fishing, target practice (and gun safety lessons) and lessons in campfire cooking.

And that's not to mention the upcoming weeks of summer camp, driver's ed, a Bakery Boss Jr. day camp, CPR for babysitters, a couple of concert, and Shakespeare in the Park.

Honestly, I had to chuckle when my youngest two celebrated the announcement of summer break and called all their friends to spread the good news.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Memory Making Moments

It's not too often I get to craft with my children, anymore.  As they've moved into their middle and high school years, they've embraced arts more than crafts, and have left my cutesy crafting style behind in our sentimental past.

So, when A(age 18) asked for help decorating the mortar boards (grad caps) for her junior college...

...and upcoming homeschool graduations...

...at 10 o'clock at night, just as I was heading off to bed, I said yes.  And, I'm so glad I did.  The crafting wasn't difficult.  She'd already found a design she liked on Pinterest, sort of a private joke between her and her fellow thespians referring back to the role she played in an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, last fall.

So it was just a matter of cutting out a couple of crowns from a sheet of peel-and-stick, glitter coated, fun foam, and arranging stick on letters (Medium Champagne Glitter Letter Stickers by Reflections from Michael's) around them.  We took our time, talking, laughing, arranging and rearranging into the night.  It felt like one of those magic, memory making moments when time stands still.

Of course by the next morning, I knew that it hadn't, but that was okay too.  A groggy morning was worth a night of crafting with my teen.  Those opportunities are rare, and not to be wasted.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Stop the Anti-College Nonsense!!!

I keep seeing anti-college memes being shared across social media.  You know the ones?  With Jim or Jane or whoever, the silly student who is racking up ridiculous amounts of college debt, studying "worthless" subjects, and facing future unemployment...
Drawing by E (age 14)

… while their non-college friend Joe or Jack or whoever, who they happen to look down upon is working through a paid internship leading to a high wage job, and ultimate superiority over their college educated peers.

These memes annoy me, probably more than they should.  They employ straw man fallacies, setting up arguments that aren't true, but are easily ridiculed and knocked down.

I've said before that we don't believe college is for everyone.  But at the same time, a college degree can be an excellent tool for some.  It is possible to celebrate and promote one type of success without demeaning the other.

Not all college students are beer swilling, party animals.  Not all college students amass large student loans.  Not all college degrees are worthless (quite the opposite!).

Not all blue collar workers are bringing in large salaries.  Not all blue collar workers have easily found apprenticeships, or steady employment.  Not that a high salary or short-cut into the workforce are the be all and end all of life, anyway.

With that said, if you are still wondering what the purpose of a liberal arts education might possibly be, let me point you to The Modern Scholar Series: How To Think, The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value featuring Professor Michael D.C. Drout of Wheaton College.  Professor Drout does an excellent job defending the liberal arts.

And, while I'm on my soap box, let me add, that while a bachelor's degree might not open every door, there are some doors that will remain not only closed, but locked without one.

Along that line, I did a quick search through Wikipedia this afternoon, and found that of our fifty governors currently serving, all have had some college, all but two (from Missouri and Utah) have at least a bachelor's degree, and thirty of them hold graduate level degrees.

Do you have to have a college degree in order to become the governor of your state?  Apparently not.  Will it help?  It just might.

So, before you click a "like" on one those ridiculous, anti-college memes, or even worse - a "share", please stop and consider, that while college might not be for you, it can be for others.  I for one would like to have well educated doctors, architects, engineers, judges, and even teachers living in this country in the future, every bit as much as I hope to be able to find well-trained plumbers, carpenters, and appliance repairmen.  In fact, I wouldn't mind having a nice variety of any of those within or own family.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Monopoly Mix-Up Game Day Grad Party

We decided to throw A (age 18) a simple game day style party to celebrate her graduation.  At least it sounded simple to begin with.  That was before I saw her guest list, and realized we could have anywhere from 5 to 30 teens and twenty-somethings showing up.

She was hoping for a game where everyone could play together.

After sorting through our games we quickly realized, that other than Bunco (which we have not had good luck playing with the younger crowd) or something like charades, we don't have any games that can accommodate so many players.  We do have an unusual number of differently themed Monopoly games (Star Wars themed, Cheater's edition, Bible-opoly, etc.) though, and that gave us an idea.

For the party, we set our games up, ready for four players at each table.

We tried to pick games that each had something of quirk to them, rather than just themed versions that still played exactly the same as the original game.

At each table we set-up the boards, picked and placed the four tokens, readied the bank (if the game had one), and divvied out the initial allotments of Monopoly money to each player.

In front of each player's chair, on the tables, was a colored star - a red, blue, green, and yellow for each table, representing the four teams for the evening.

We assigned each of the tokens on the boards (ahead of time) a color, and wrote out a key on a white board, visible from anywhere in the room.

After the players were all seated (with adults filling in, until late-comers arrived), we gave them matching stars on their hands, so they would be able to keep track of which team they were on, know where to sit when they moved tables, and be able to look-up at the key to know which token was theirs.

Our family took seats on the same team so, theoretically at least, there would always be at least one person at each table who was familiar with the game.  This went out the window a bit after we had to set-up a seventh table/game (we had initially planned for five tables, with a sixth set-up as a back-up).  We had the rules in easy reach on each table though, so it all worked out.  I can't say the games were played correctly all evening, but they were played.

Once we had everyone seated and ready to play, we set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes.

Each table took a few minutes to orientate themselves to their games...

… and then started to play.

At the end of the ten minutes, when the timer went off, the tables finished off whatever turn was in play, and then laid down their cards or pieces, as neatly as possible, in front of their chairs, leaving their tokens in place on the boards.

The blue and red teams changes tables, moving to the next table over in a clockwise direction, while the yellow and green teams moved counter-clockwise (it was chaotic, but manageable)...

… the timer was reset, and play continued.  That way, every ten minutes, players were playing a different game, with two new people at their table.  As games were won, the winner called out the color of their team for the win, and we marked them on the board.  Then, that table reset their game and continued playing.

Once players had made it to every table, the team with the most wins for the evening was announced as the winner.  We had a tie between two teams, so the two teams counted the money in their hands, and the team with the most money won.

Prizes (packs of fake mustaches) were awarded, and everyone moved one room over for cake, snacks, and a short, student made video of our grad's high school years.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and our grad had a fantastic time, so I'm counting it as a success.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - The Hurry Up and Wait of College Enrollment

If you are in the process of enrolling your first teenager into their freshman year of college, then you have probably either hit, or are just about to, a disturbing lull in the admissions process.  Don't worry, this is very normal.

For months you have been hurried and worried along to meet early deadlines - applying for financial aid clear back in October, submitting "priority" applications no later than December 1st (or some other arbitrary, but premature date), getting in early "discounted" deposits to secure space in classes and the best possible dormitory rooms, being hounded relentlessly by admission counselors and their ilk, rushing insanely about to gather immunization records, high school transcripts, or whatever other small form or document that might possibly have been required. Now with the forms in, decisions made, and deposits paid, but with your student as yet unregistered for fall classes (that you have been assured for months would fill up in an instant), your student's school of choice is very likely to go silent.

The first time you experience this with a child, it can be disconcerting.  Before you go all alpha-mom and storm the admissions building demanding "the next step" (not that I've ever, ahem, done such a thing), know that a late spring silence is a normal part of the college admission process.  In most cases, college freshmen will not be able to register for fall classes until sometime in the summer (despite the fact that they started their enrollment process last fall).  Once schools have secured them, they can seem to forget about them until after their current classes have ended, and they are through the commencement season.

That does not mean there won't still be additional paper-work required, or forms missing.  It just means you're not likely to hear about them for a while.  Relax and enjoy what remains of your teen's senior year. Have them check-in with their school in a month or so.  Professors and advisors will be harder to get ahold of in the summer, but the admissions officials will still be around, and by August it should all be sorted out.

After the fall of freshmen year, registration works almost on auto-pilot, and all the admissions rush and stress of these days become strange and distant memories.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, April 29, 2019

How to Homeschool Your Younger Children When Your Older Teens are Taking All Your Time.

Ten years ago (was it really that long ago?) I was blissfully blogging about how to homeschool with a toddler in the house.

I guess I thought it was difficult, or challenging, maybe.

I had no idea what was ahead, when I'd be trying to homeschool my younger children, consistently, with a high school senior in the house.

High school seniors are a lot like toddlers, really.  They are great fun to have around.  They're full of energy (increasing after 10 o'clock p.m.), independent, full of ideas, and ready to take on the world.  And, they take constant care.  Just like when they were toddlers, all that new found independence combined with a great sense of adventure (and often the need of a nap), can lead to a series of stumbling little missteps, and first tries, and occasionally a disaster or two to clean up behind them.

That kind of care and concern can wreak havoc on a consistent school schedule for said senior's younger siblings.  At least, that's what I was thinking as I was interrupted for the third time while trying to read through one chapter of  Around the World in 80 Days (which, it should be noted, has very short chapters) with my youngest three, to help A(age 18) field emergency calls relating to her summer travel plans, one morning last week.

Older teens can take a lot of time, but younger teens and tweens still need to study consistently to keep from falling behind (even if "behind" is a relative term in an almost unschooling household).   It can be tricky, but it is possible to keep homeschooling with older teens in the house.

  • Be flexible.  Just like back in your toddling toting days, this is probably not the best time to start a rigid curriculum that requires tons of teacher preparation.
  • Have fallbacks on the ready for those days when you "just can't".  A quick internet search will yield a plethora of historical films (think "Hidden Figures" or "Apollo 13") throw in an encyclopedia article, history-type channel interview or two, maybe a call to the grandparents, and you can keep history covered.
  • Apps can also come in handy.  Our app library has a number of language learning programs, games like Stack the States/Countries (geography) and DragonBox (math) added to an almost innumerable selection of word games and logic puzzles that can be downloaded and used as filler on a moments notice.
  • Make use of audio books and lectures (our favorites right now are the "Modern Scholar" series).  You can listen along with your students, and join into their discussions while doing the dishes or folding a quick load laundry, or driving their older sibling across town (with the younger crowd tagging along in the back seat of course).
  • Look to the books.  Children can read independently, or with their siblings. Well read children do better on college entrance exams (at least in our experience).
  • Encourage your older teens to get their driver's licenses as soon as they're ready.  It costs more in car and insurance fees, but the payback in free-time is worth it.  Just be ready to factor practice drives into your busy schedule in the meantime.
  • Outside classes can be great, as long as you can manage to get your younger students to them consistently (keep in mind the first item above - "be flexible").
  • Stick to math courses that lend themselves nicely to independent study, but preferably also give a progress report you, as the parent/teacher, can easily check up on (we really like Kahn Academy for this).  
  • Remind children on a regular basis that homeschooled, even if you're unschooling, does not mean uneducated.  Help them to identify future goals, and make them partners in the planning process.  It might seem like fun to skip out on "homework" whenever Mom is preoccupied, but where will that get them in the end?  
  • Praise your younger children profusely whenever you walk in on them studying something on their own.  It's good for them to know their independent studies have great value and the potential for lifelong worth.
  • Take advantage of every community event (history reenactments, symphonies, plays, you name it) to spark interests.
Life moves fast with high schoolers in the house, and while there are times that I miss the lazy days of being able to follow the entire life cycle of the ladybugs on the trees in our backyard, there is a crazy sort of satisfaction in being able to snatch, grab and fill-in a complete years worth of learning in the hectic, here and there routine we have now.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Books to Movies: The Umbrella Academy

I (along with 45 million other people) binge watched the Netflix original series, The Umbrella Academy, back in February, when it first came out...

… but I had no idea it was based on a graphic novel by Gerard Way (the former lead singer of "My Chemical Romance" - or so I'm told)…

… until A(age18)'s Film and Literature class voted to read and view them both for their final project this week (it could be my imagination, but I think college might be getting easier as time goes by).  Naturally, I had to download the graphic novel to "read" today (you can borrow for free with a 30 day, Comixology Unlimited trial through Amazon) .  It's about as strange, and intriguingly disturbing as the series.

Netflix did an excellent job fleshing out the story and keeping the quirky, 1960s, British television series tone.  I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have enjoyed the graphic novel nearly as much if I hadn't seen the series first, but them I'm not gigantic fan of the genre in general.

Both the Netflix series and the graphic novel are probably too dark and violent for my youngest two (ages 12 and 14), but as soon as my oldest makes it through his university finals, next week, we absolutely have to binge it together.  I'm pretty sure he's going to love it.  Though I have to say I was surprised at how much A is enjoying it (she has to wait until tomorrow to finish the series with her class, and it's been  a real act of discipline not to watch ahead).

In the meantime, I've got to check out whatever else we might be able to glean from the Comixology Unlimited menu.  I have to say browsing through their offerings today left me feeling like a stranger in a strange land, but I'm sure my teens will find a title or two they'd like to peruse before our trial period runs out.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Shakespeare for Marvel Lovers

Drawing by E (age 14)

Looking ahead into the summer, I noticed the Montana Shakespeare in the Parks troupe has "Henry IV, Part I" coming up.  I like to prep for a mini-lesson ahead of their plays.  We usually end up reading a paraphrase or cheat notes version of whatever play is coming up, and then watching a couple of movie adaptations, together, before opening night.

In preparation, I skim through the Amazon and Netflix listings, before checking YouTube and the local library.  This year I hit pay dirt, almost immediately, on Amazon with the British television series, "The Hollow Crown".  It  covers all the Henry plays and stars none other than Tom Hiddleston (a family favorite thanks to the Marvel movies, right now).

The younger girls (ages 12 and 14) caught a glimpse of my screen as I was previewing it (you never know with Shakespeare) and immediately asked, "Is that Loki playing Shakespeare? Can we watch, too?"

Here I thought Henry IV was going to be a hard one to interest them in.  Though I do have to say, this newer version (I think it was filmed sometime around 2013), does make my old Branagh favorite from the '80s look a little dated, and corny even. "Wait, is that Gilderoy Lockhart playing Henry V?"

Now I can't wait until they make it to the second season of "The Hollow Crown" to spot Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III!

It almost makes up for Robert Downy Jr's less than riveting Rivers from the 90's.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - A Homeschool Graduation, Part 1: The Private Ceremony

We celebrated the first of A(age 18)'s three graduations, yesterday.  Sadly, all I have to show for it, other than a left-over cupcake, a signed and notarized diploma, and a lingering smile, are a few blurry and backlit photographs.

I'm terrible about taking pictures when I'm enjoying a moment, and I was enjoying myself yesterday.

These type of private, at home, fast and simple ceremonies are by far my favorite way to celebrate a homeschool graduation.  If we could get our friends and extended family to recognize them as official, we might never want for more.  It's hard to get a stern world to take you seriously when you're busy having fun.

I would like to keep some kind of record of the day, as it went off so well.  I doubt we'll ever reproduce it exactly, but there were some nice features I'd hate to forget.

A had a class at the college in the morning.  I dropped her off (her driving test is coming up shortly) and then ran to the store to buy some special cupcakes (cream cheese filled, and decorated for spring) chips and fruit, and then to Subway Sandwiches (grad's choice) to put in an order.  Food in hand, I headed home to rally the rest of the gang and to "decorate".

The set-up was simple, a party table cloth with a card from Grandma and our grad gift (tickets to a Celtic Woman concert) in the middle.  D (age 16) was charged with locating a good version of "Pomp and Circumstance" to play upon the grads arrival, and the rest of the girls each given an item to hand the graduate upon her entrance into the house (one had the robe, one the mortar board, and one the unsigned diploma in its case).

I left to pick up the graduate, leaving the children to keep their older brother out of the food if he made it home from his class before we did (which he did)  Everyone, except the poor Man of the House who ended up with a last minute lunch meeting, was there when we arrived.

The girls were lined up to meet A at the door, and D started the music as soon as the door open.  A was given her robe, her cap, and her diploma.  We all yelled, "She's graduated!!!" and then proceeded to lunch.  I had anticipated that A would not care for the mortar board (she's always been persnickety about hats) and had a "grad" tiara and sash ready for her to change into.

She wore those after lunch when we joined the Man of the House at his work, where there happens to be a notary public, for the signing and notarizing of the diploma.  Our parade in and out of the building caused quite a bit of mirth, as did our entrance into the college (our next stop) with a copy of the notarized diploma, and A's completed high school transcript.

I spent a little bit of time with the registrar, making sure we had dotted all our i's and crossed every t ahead of her next graduation (to receive her associate's), and that she would be good to go to register for classes and receive financial aid through the Montana university system (I don't know if the state universities in every state are as nicely interconnected as ours are in Montana, but I hope so, it's very convenient for students).

Leaving wide grins behind on the faces in the admissions office (and a few full belly laughs ringing in the air), we returned to our cars to go our separate ways.  T (age 21) headed back to his classes, G (age 19) had to get to work, and the rest of us were ready for a quiet afternoon at home.  I thought about trying to snap a few shots of A around town in her tiara and sash, but it was pouring down rain, and unseasonably chilly, so we called it a day instead. A very good day, if you ask me.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Allowing Teens (and Tweens) Room to Fail

I remember the ironic grin on the face of my high school choir director, as he assured me the particularly disastrous choir tryout I'd just had would be a "character building experience".  It was a hard blow, made even harder when my best friend not only got into the choir, but made the tour choir that got to travel around Canada, singing, over spring break.

Her disappointment came in turn when she talked me into accompanying her to an open audition for a play being put on by the local college students.  On a whim, I tried out for a part too - and got the lead.

Through those, and many other similar experiences, we managed not only to remain friends, but learned how to sincerely celebrate a friend's success (even when their gain was our loss), and take pride in our own accomplishments without gloating or becoming boastful, knowing we wouldn't always be the successful one.  It wasn't easy.  It was often painful.  But, it was most definitely character building.  And the lessons we learned through those successes and failures carried over into our academic pursuits, where there were tests, papers and programs to apply to, clear through our university years.

So, while I was sad for C (age 12) when she tried out for a part in a community play this summer, and got "stage hand" (it could have been worse, some were turned away with no part at all) while her older sisters received active speaking parts, I didn't try to soften the blow.  Plays need stage hands, and not everyone can be the star of the show.

Even so, it was a hard blow.

She hadn't minded being a part of the background chorus during a summer junior musical adaptation of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast".

It's okay to play "random villager #3" (C is the tall one below)...

...or a singing and dancing butter knife...

...when your sister has landed the exact same roles in the second cast...

But, it's quite another thing to be a stage hand in a show in which your sisters are playing prominently.

Even so, after a few initial tears of frustration, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work moving chairs and handing out props, and in the end, working into a small non-speaking part, and generally enjoying herself as part of the group.

By the time Christmas rolled around, she was ready to give it another shot.  This time she got a small solo part in a local musical adaptation of "A Christmas Carol".  E was in the chorus.

She didn't gloat or lord it over her sister.  And E for her part, was happy for C to get a turn to be in the spotlight.

C has another audition tonight.  It's one she'll be facing alone, as none of her siblings are trying out, this time.  She's practiced her lines, prepared a song, and steeled her nerves for a possible failure.  And, while I would love for her to succeed, I'm sure it will be a character building experience, either way.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - A Graduation Countdown

I've been keeping an eye out for simple little ways to build excitement towards A(age 18)'s high school graduation.  I'd like it to feel special, not just like the end of another school year.  And, I'd like it to stand out from the two graduations we've had in the past, to be at least slightly individualized for her - something that's not always easy after the years spent functioning as a group.

Last week, it occurred to me to start a countdown to A's graduation.  We don't usually know when we're ending up a school year, or for that matter, where a school year ends and summer fun begins.  It all looks pretty similar for us.  But, since A's senior year has consisted mainly of dual-enrollment classes, classes which have an actual "last day", we have something we can count down to.

Of course, nothing with homeschooling is ever completely straightforward.  I think I've already mentioned a couple of times, that A is planning three separate graduations - a private home/notarizing the diploma ceremony (first so she'll be officially finished with high school before her junior college graduation), then her graduation from the junior college (earning an associate's degree), and finally the homeschooling graduation where she'll walk with the other local homeschool seniors.

These graduations take place over the period of three or four weeks.  I decided to go with the college graduation, since it comes in the middle, and marks the end of official school work for the year, as well as the end of one more phase of schooling.  Without saying anything, I erased the logic currently drawn out on our kitchen chalkboard, and replaced it with a large number "5".

It's funny how something as simple as watching me erase the five, this weekend, to change it to a four, really did add a celebratory air of excitement to the house.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Negotiating Down College Tuiton

I know these "how to pay for college" posts aren't technically homeschool issues.  Public and private school parents have to deal with college expenses too.  But, moving children from homeschooling on into college and careers can be one of the first big bumps back into mainstream society, and it can be intimidating.

It doesn't have to be though, if we help each other out by sharing lessons learned along the way.  To that end, I have another tidbit to pass along.

Paying for college is a lot more like buying a new car than you might expect. There is some wiggle room for negotiations on the final price.

I've already mentioned that the "sticker price" is not the actual price you're going to have to pay for the tuition at most private colleges and universities.  Many of them have entrance scholarships that will cut the tuition pretty much in half, sent out with their acceptance letters. Even then, the final bottom line, with tuition, room and board, books, and fees can be pretty steep.

I'd read that it was possible to negotiate with schools for further deductions, but we didn't try it ourselves. We took the award letters we received at face value, and made our decisions based on what we were offered verses what we felt like we could actually pay for as a family, and what the degrees would be worth to our students (in tangible and intangible ways).

So, when A (age 18) contacted the three private universities she had applied to, to ask them to withdraw her applications for admissions (she decided on a local state university instead, where she can take her time and roll her dual-enrollment credits into pursuing a double major for a total cost of about what it was going to take for a single year at any of her private university choices) we were surprised when two of them, instead of accepting her decision, emailed back to ask if more grant money might make a difference.

Both schools began by asking what A's deciding factors were.  She was honest, and told them that finances were the biggest issue (she had only applied to schools she actually wanted to attend, so had no real objection to the schools other than price).

One school came back immediately with an offer of an additional one to two thousand dollars in grant money.  The other asked how much it would take to a difference.  A was honest with both schools, and told them exactly what she would need, explaining to them that her ultimate goal was to avoid student loans.  The first school wished her well, and bowed out.  The admissions counselor from the second school however, told her that he was going to speak to his boss, and she should watch for a new award letter.

The award letter has yet to arrive (though we have received an email saying it's on its way), but barring an offer we just can't turn down, A is pretty happy with her current decision, and will most likely not change her mind.  Still, it's been an interesting process.

We didn't try to negotiate, or ask for additional grant money, but apparently if another thousand or two will make a real difference in your students ability to attend the college of their dreams, it might not hurt to ask.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Pig Shaped Cakes and American Fast Food in Asia

One of the older kids has a trip, planned for this summer, to teach English in Asia (with a legitimate organization and traveling with a very trusted, and travel-seasoned, family member).  I'll hopefully have a lot to post on that later in the summer, but for now we've been having fun checking out what the Internet has to tell us about the differences between the countries of Asia and our own, so we can all feel like we're in on the trip.

Somewhere along the way, we happened onto McDonald's Chinese website.

T (age 21) has worked for the fast food chain through college, and as a business major he is always interested to see how American companies function abroad.  We actually spent a fair amount of time reading news reports about a food handling scandal that caused trouble for a number of American fast food chains in China a few years ago.

All that is irrelevant though, because this post is really about the absolutely adorable, custard cream cheese pig cakes we found on the website.  It is so unfair we cannot get anything at all this cute from our local fast food chains!

From what we could gather, using Google translate, the pig cake and the little orange cake (which seem to be filled with a orange flavored chocolate mousse) were a temporary, seasonal, menu item marking the Chinese New Year for the Year of the Pig (2019).  We watched a quick "for kids" educational presentation about the Chinese New Year from Panda Express...

... and then decided that we needed some pig cakes of our own.

I'd love to say we managed to recreate some kind of pig shaped cheesecake even remotely similar to the McCafe version, but honestly we just crumbled up some cake and frosting, cake-pop style...

... and rolled into balls...

...to shape our little pigs.

We tried piping on chocolate frosting eyes, but in the end decided on mini M&M's instead.

Our cakes didn't end up looking much like the originals (or really even pigs - we probably should have used a strawberry cake).  I'm sure they taste nothing like the "McCakes" either, but we had a lot of fun putting them together while watching every YouTube video we could find about American fast food chains in Asia (there are a surprising number).

Later, we'll get more seriously into our cultural studies (we've actually been watching a number of BBCish travel documentaries, too).  Or, we might just wait for a report back from our own traveler.  But, starting off with something familiar and yet different, gave us an interesting jumping off point, and helped highlight some differences between cultures in a way that wasn't overwhelming.

It's great to be a homeschooler.