Planning 9th Grade with YOUR Freshman in Mind

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Four home graduates. One current high schooler.

Five unique ninth grade years.

As I finished adding the grades for the ninth-grade year of the transcript for our fifth high schooler, the proverbial light bulb illuminated my thinking.

I double-checked, looked over each transcript of our five learners.

Indeed, EACH of our high schoolers had a unique and individualized ninth grade year—distinctive of their gifts and strengths. I knew each of our children were different, yet I hadn’t set out their transcripts side-by-side to compare the courses they had completed in the freshman year. Yes, some had earned credit in the same course, but even the content of those courses varied according to the bents and interests of the learner. Same title, different content. Each learner had individualized educational paths, courses tweaked by interests and strengths, goals and aspirations.

As it should be with homeschooling.

Every learner—gifted—different.

None better than the other.

What were the ninth grade courses on our five high schooler’s transcripts?

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One of our learners dug into a variety of interests, from academics to sports to music. This learner also extroverted high schooler wanted to take Spanish earlier in the high school plan so that it could be completed with an older sibling. Further observation lead me to realize this learner was the only one who completed two years of foreign language by the end of ninth grade—making time for other studies; a big WIN as far as she was concerned. These ninth grade course choices were right for this learner and provided distinctive advantages in regards to having time for opportunities which were still to come in the later high school years.

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One of our other learners enrolled in high school level courses prior to ninth grade, hence completing Algebra 1 and moving to Algebra 2 in ninth. The same was true for science which paved the way for chemistry to be the logical next step for the freshman year. No other learner took Algebra 2 or chemistry in the freshman year.

This learner was also the only one who completed world history in ninth grade due in most part from having studied history independently—and passionately with much depth—in previous years. We didn’t want freshman year to be a repeat of past content so we allowed this student to continue to study history through travel, historical documents, biographies and other non-fiction resources. This high schooler was also the only sibling who completed economics in the freshman year—again due to personal interest and independent study. This course provided additional fuel business-minded young adult.

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This learner was a mover, a kinesthetic.Learning was experiential and hands-on, even through high school. Athletics played a major role in this learner’s life, hence all the PE credits in the freshman year (as well as years to follow). For this learner we chose to split American history into two years—Early American (up to the Civil War) and Modern American (after Civil War) allowing time to add experiential learning to a text and provide extended time to other subjects of interest.

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This introverted learner loved people—understanding how they thought and were motivated—and was eager to have people live their best lives—hence the bent toward sign language. Interestingly, this young adult’s ninth grade year was also the year our sweet great-grandmother was very ill and in and out of facilities (which the learner requested to tour and research because of the love for Grammy). This learner asked to be a part of the process and dialogued (summarization, recall, and interpersonal communication) with me (and her grandmother) about what was being learned through this heartbreaking journey. This high schooler was also an entrepreneur and a creative—owned a small business—hence the business and creative arts electives. Different learner. Different interests. Different courses.

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Another introverted creative, this learner set up a work studio where endless handmade cards were made with numerous types of media and by various techniques. Hours were spent learning technique, researching skills, and experimenting creatively. Hence, this high schooler earned credit in courses not considered by our others—Foundations in Interior Design, Stamp and Stationary Art Design, and Survey of American Musicals. This learner, like several siblings, earned credit for personal fitness, yet her content was very different from the content of athletes who spent hours on the field or in the weight room. This high schooler chose her own relaxing, peaceful blend of aerobics, stretching, and strengthening—using personally-selected workout videos.

Five freshman years each with unique content and character—personalized to the interests of the learner earning the credit.

Personalization doesn’t have to end in ninth grade! In fact, it can continue throughout the high school years in order to help our young adults learn who they are, what they were created for, and how they can bring value to the community in their spheres of influence—at home, across the nation, and throughout the world.

Need guidance in the journey to make high school matter beyond the turning of the tassel?

My NEW BOOK, More than Credits: Life Skills High Schoolers Need for Life, offers frameworks (think practical skill acquisition from real-life, project-based learning, experiential opportunities, related literature and writing assignments, and meaningful decision topics and questions) for FIVE elective courses:

  • Nutrition and Wellness

  • Personal Fitness

  • Personal Awareness and Career Exploration

  • Philosophy, and

  • Personal Finance

The contents of each class are not just boxes to check, but ideas meant to be tweaked and adjusted for each learner based on what they may already be doing.

Earn credit for what matters…not just today, but beyond.







Experiential Learning in High School : The Motivation

Motivation Matters

When a young adult is involved in contributing to content—a vested determination to learn—greater retention and true understanding follow.

Young adults thrive when there’s purpose. If something matters to them, they become invested and personally motivated. When parents give their children freedom where responsibility is evident, growth potential flourishes. The more young people become responsible, the more confidence they gain. It’s a perpetual cycle, much like the ebb and flow adults face.

Our sons were passionate about baseball. Both were pitchers, one a righty and the other a lefty. Improvement in skill and arm strength required discipline, daily workouts, and throwing. What fueled their passion? Motivation to be the best pitcher he could be as well as knowledge of what was needed to meet the goal. It wasn’t me. I hadn’t any idea how to build arm strength or design a workout. Instead, the boys listened to coaches, consulted with trainers, and implemented or tweaked their plans. I encouraged them, served as their cheerleader, drove them to practice, and figured out how to incorporate and communicate all they were doing into credits. Many of the activities they integrated into their days are listed in this resource.

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The content suggestions listed in these five personal development electives aren’t meant to be objectives to be checked off, tested, and graded. They are chunks of knowledge which can be gleaned from life, fully understood in the context of life experiences. Will resources—print, digital and personal contacts—be needed? Likely, yes! And, the lists I provide aren’t meant to be exhaustive. They can’t possibly be because each high schooler—and their circumstances—is unique. Their courses will be as well.

Many of the ideas or projects listed in this book stem from real-life scenarios or situations our children—or the hundreds of high schoolers we’ve worked with—faced or were curious about. You will notice much of the content will be learned from naturally-occurring conversations, often because of a young adult’s interest, personal need, or life circumstances. These discussions were often catalysts for deeper study, additional conversations, or visits to the library…and our high schoolers earned credit!

Later in the chapter….

For learners who have an inkling of what their post-high-school paths will be, they will move forward in that direction. Along the way, they will need help to process and question. They will seek out people who are willing to listen. Likely that person may be you! Embrace it. The conversations may feel constant and never-ending. However, the reality is that the time will be very short. As you help process your high schooler’s ideas, keep an open perspective. Be ready for change. An interest one semester may transform into a niche the following semester. It really can be a beautiful personalized journey.

Let’s say your high school learner is interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. Talking with her, you believe the next right step would be to talk with professionals in the field. As move through the brainstorming process, you and your daughter make a list of venues which could be possibilities for volunteering or job-shadowing experiences: a vet's office, a local clinic, and the county animal shelter. As you discuss how to prepare for possible conversations with professionals, you list questions which could be asked in an interview situation. They may include

  • What universities are considered optimal for preparation of a career in this profession?

  • What are the potential degree and career paths available?

  • What classes or experiences were most helpful to you in the education process? 

  • What are the specialty areas in this profession?

  • What areas, in any, do you recommend or foresee might be most helpful five years from now?

  • What would you, as a professional, recommend for a young adult pursuing this career?

(Excerpted from More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life)

Perhaps your high schooler is motivated to learn more. You may not feel you have the expertise or the knowledge necessary to help your young adult move forward. Guess what? You are not alone. And, you don’t need to know the answers. There are people in your high schooler’s field of interest who do, people who work in the profession. Seek them out.

Wondering what types of questions you and your learner could brainstorm together? I offer ideas in this post. This is a sampling in what you will find in More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life.

High school is more than credits. It’s being future-ready.

Preparing High School Learners to Interview Professionals

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We can’t know everything.

No one can. But, we do have the ability to know how and where to get our questions answered. Our learners should be empowered to do the same.

Let’s say your high schooler is interested in veterinary medicine. Your majored in business and finance.

How do you help your young adult learn more about this career field?

Find a trusted professional who is willing to share his or her passion, and then ask. Most people wait eagerly for an opportunity to talk about what they love. In the process, your young adult is afforded a chance to learn about the education requirements, niche areas of the profession, and perhaps even what the career might look like in the future (at the time when you learner is trying to land a job) from a person in the know. In addition, should an ongoing mentoring relationship form, there may be a potential connection made for later employment.

Identifying a person who could be interviewed is the first step. The second step, preparation, is key. Intentionality often reaps the greatest reward (another one of those life lessons our high schoolers learn from experiential learning).

Preparing for interviewing is an important skill. Afterall, if someone carves out time in a schedule to meet with a high schooler, being prepared for the meeting not only allows the learner to glean the most helpful information possible, but also shows respect for the professional’s time. Some high schoolers decide they need help brainstorming to make a list of questions and practice asking those questions through a role play scenario. Other young adults prefer to work more independently to create their list and then seek input or additions from someone they know will provide feedback. This process is another step in discovering how one learns best is a unique benefit of experiential opportunities.

When our high schoolers showed interest in an area and wanted to talk to professionals in the field, we developed a list of questions. I offer a full list in the appendices of More than Credits, but these examples will jump start the thinking process for your high school learner.

  • How did your high school experiences benefit your career?

  • Where did you attend college?

  • How or why did you decide to choose this college?

  • How did your post-secondary studies influence your career?

  • Which post-secondary courses were particularly beneficial in your career preparation?

  • Is there something you feel would have been helpful—maybe even a different major—than what you pursued?

  • How do you see your career field changing in the next five years?

When preparing to interview someone in a trade or technical field, we adjusted our list of questions to address trade-specific aspects of a field. The complete list is also included in the book, but again, these should provide a place to start as you and your learner develop a list of questions.

  • Did you earn industry certifications and if so, which were helpful to you?

  • What should I consider as I research post-secondary education options?

  • What skills do you use every day?

  • What types of writing do you do in your field?

The high school journey is more than taking tests and finishing study guides. Those do have a place in education, but it is important to remember these aspects of learning should not overshadow and crowd out some of the most beneficial ways our young adults gain knowledge—through experiential learning opportunities like interviewing professionals.

Available through Amazon.

More than Credits: High School Philosophy, Morals, and Ethics

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The high school years offer a season to celebrate the people our young adults are becoming. Part of that transformation is coming to understand how thoughts influence words and behavior as well as how to productively evaluate thoughts and the thought process.

Along that journey, there will be moments of confidence, clarity, and productivity, but there will also be times of disagreement,miscommunication, and debate. Our high schoolers are learning how to think and then communicate those thoughts while expanding their problem solving abilities and processing their mistakes, all in the light of what they believe to be true.


In this season, young people continue to learn details about who they are and what value they bring to their spheres of influence.


It’s philosophy; discovering a clearer picture of what one believes when compared to other’s thoughts and how those beliefs affect actions and words. It’s the wrestling with and expressing of morals, values, and ethics. It matters, and it can count for high school credit.

As you embark on the adventure, one of the first questions you may encounter is what content to include in a philosophy-type course. You aren’t the only one asking this question. In fact, many parents face this question, and usually haven’t had any idea where to start.

I’ve been in that place, too.

In fact, it’s why I decided to offer suggestions and a framework for a philosophy-based course in More than Credits! The content will empower and encourage you, offering selections for

  • high-interest reading materials,

  • suggestions for writing assignments, and

  • practical hands-on experiences which will impact the young adult as well as the lives of others.

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Intentional.Real. Relational.

More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life

Ethics, the moral principles which undergird the standards by which individuals respond to important life questions, develop as we face life circumstances and choices. In those moments, we decide what we believe, why it matters, and where we will place our time and attention. Our high schoolers are no different. They face daily decisions amid a myriad of worldviews and philosophies.


What they believe about God, themselves, and the situations in the world, matters. Home can provide a safe place to investigate truths, dialogue thoughts, and ponder choices.


A course which involves the development of philosophy, morals, and ethics gives high school learners opportunities to earn credit for wrestling with their thoughts, discovering what their faith means to them, and applying those thoughts to their life choices and their relationship with God.
— Cheryl Bastian, More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life

Most importantly, a young adult’s moral and ethical thoughts influence the decisions they make. Essentially, the content cultivates the “why” behind what an individual believes as well as why certain things are valued over certain other things. All of this encompasses an individual’s belief system and influences his or her spiritual growth and personal development beyond simply mimicking, borrowing, or living out the faith of his or her parents.

One of our learners grew to love C. S. Lewis. He had read the Narnia series earlier in his homeschooling years, but as a high schooler selected A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works (HarperCollins Publishers, 2003) from our home library shelves. I had no idea he had such an appreciation for the author. I marveled how the devotional motivated him to read a handful of other classic Lewis writings. Amazingly, content developed because of his newly discovered curiosity for C. S. Lewis’s thoughts and the course began to take form without any planning on my part. I simply (albeit battling fear he would learn enough!) fostered his vested interest. Realizing the impact of self-selected reading, not just philosophical material but other resources as well, we adopted a motto in our home:

“Read the book and I will award credit for your accomplishment.”

Ultimately, one book led to an independent study, which we combined with other activities and great conversations! Seeing our son’s continued interest Lewis and then other great thinkers, Mike and I decided to read the books he was reading. Mike asked if he wanted to spend time each week talking about what we were learning, all of us. Without much direction about where our discussions might lead, we began to meet, ponder, and converse. Hearing each person express his or her opinions or interpretations about what was read and how those thoughts could be applied to current circumstances provided a venue to process viewpoints—the Socratic method, family-style.

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We couldn’t possibly comprehend the fullness or richness of our first steps. Our dialogue through one book fueled more reading and before we knew it a weekly forum took shape. Best of all, something greater resulted: our relationships with one another deepened. We gained respect for one another and realized we could learn together. We weren’t just teaching our son. He taught us!

A few years into meeting consistently, our son commented, “I wish everyone had the opportunity to be in a community like this.” Years later, when we talked about the depth of our conversations, he commented, “Those years are the main reasons why I lead a small group at church today, so others can have the same opportunity I did!”

Wow! That’s philosophy credit with future implications.

Philosophy courses continue to fade from high school curriculum guides. Thankfully, our homeschooling freedoms allow for this essential course to remain a feasible choice for young adults. In fact, conversational group setting provides one of the most beneficial venues to process and ponder the philosophical thought which undergird and permeate life. Consider gathering your family or your young adult and his or her friends to ponder life together.

Conversations, heart connections with our young adults, provided some of the most meaningful experiences of our family’s high school years. Some of the most treasured, thought-provoking discussions happened over half-price milkshakes pondering a life-truth or a plate of nachos after losing a baseball game.

When we paused our days, looked one another in the eyes, and listened, family members knew their ideas and thoughts mattered.

And, philosophical, moral, and ethical thoughts and beliefs formed all the while.

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When Curriculum Looks Different

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People often ask what we use for curriculum.

The short answer? We use anything which will help our children learn what it is they are trying to learn. And, if it involves real life, even better.

Sometimes our curriculum looks traditional, like a math textbook.

Other times our curriculum is a stack of Living Books.

A few months ago, my middle schooler initiated a flower bed renovation project. She wanted a flower garden to call her own, a place she could eventually grow cut flowers. A few visits to the clearance section of the local garden shop and she had rescued several very nice—but wilting—flowers (aka curriculum). With a little research in a field guide and a how-to online tutorial (more curriculum), the plants were thriving.

Today we added a few more resources to the curriculum—a collection of solar garden lights. Before placing them in the bed, we experimented with them in a dark room. So fun! The littlest learners were enthralled!

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“Flashlights without batteries!” one shouted.

Curriculum incorporates all that a learner uses to learn the content of a specific subject. Though we are often tempted to stay within the means of what we know or have experienced as curriculum, in real-life the definition of curriculum broadens to include any materials used to foster a student’s understanding.

The possibilities are endless.

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Consider broadening your sense of what curriculum includes. Maybe it’s

When learning is real, relational and intentional it's remembered! 

Every. Moment. Matters.

High School Credit for Work Experience

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“Can I count my high schooler’s work experience for credit?”

In the course of a week, three parents asked me this question. One in particular came through the Celebrate High School Facebook community.

The answer is multi-faceted, unique to state requirements and learner’s educational and career path.

First, parents must know and understand their responsibilities and freedoms under their state home education statute.

Find out

  • Are home educated students in your state required to meet state graduation requirements?
  • Does your state statute allow parents to oversee coursework and determine course credit?
  • Are parents given the freedom to create titles for courses or must the state DOE titles be used (as is the case with some private schools)?

The answers to those questions will contribute to your decision making process.


The second step in the process of deciding whether or not to award credit for work experience is to determine what the high schooler gained from his or her employment. Life skills? Knowledge? Personal development? The gains vary greatly dependent upon the high schooler's motivation, work ethic, job title, and employment requirements. Again, this is highly individual. 

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Determine Gains

Conversation with your high schooler is essential in the process of determining the gains. Why? Likely, as with most parents, you are not on the job with your learner to see and hear what he or she encounters or discovers. Engage in discussion. Ask questions. Listen for the young adult's passions, likes, and dislikes without condemnation. Often as young adults process, they need someone to mirror back or clarify what they expressed. I find it helpful to remind myself that when my middle and high schoolers share feelings, they are processing, perhaps sharing thoughts for the first time. The thoughts and feelings shared matter to them and when I ask clarifying questions, they often come to a better understanding of the situation. As you walk the journey with your middle or high schooler, not only will the gains of the current job become known, but the relationship between you and your teen will have great potential for growth as well. 

To help determine what skills and knowledge were acquired by the employment--the experiential learning opportunity--consider asking your high schooler:

What skills he or she feels were learned as a result of the work experience?

This is one of those occasions when I encourage parents to make a bullet-point list of skills and content the high schooler learned. Seeing the visual list often clarifies gains and aids in determining a course title which is specific and accurate to the experience. Examples may include Equine Science (barn assistant who interacts with equine professionals, observes or oversees equine care and nutrition), Nutrition and Wellness (assistant to a personal trainer), or String Ensemble (member of string quartet playing for weddings and special events).

Are the skills focused on a specific content area or are the skills broad, focused toward soft skill and personal growth development?

Looking over the content acquired, determine whether the skills were specific to an area of study (paid position at a zoological park) or broad, general and related to successful movement to adulthood (time management, personal growth, and communication skills). The difference may be titling the course Zoological Studies or Personal and Career Development.

Did the high schooler earn accolades, awards, or hold specific leadership roles (positional or managerial titles) associated with the experience? 

For example, if your young adult is a shift manager there are likely managerial and leadership skills involved in what he or she does while on site. Perhaps a course title like Managerial Leadership, Leadership Strategies and Techniques, or Exploration in Culinary Management might be suitable. 

Our daughter became a self-employed, small business owner in middle school. She continued to build her business through the high school years. Not only did she create and keep track of inventory, she registered her business with the state, filed quarterly sales tax, figured profit and loss statements, kept a running log of sales and inventory, opened a checking account, built a website, handled emails, filled orders, and participated in craft venues. She earned money, but she also gained knowledge and work experience. With integrity, I awarded her one credit in Business and Entrepreneurial Principles.

Our journey of awarding credit for paid work experience hasn’t come without criticism. Yours won’t either. In fact, you may have been told you can’t double dip —count paid work experience as high school credit. 

"You can't double dip!"

This happened to me. A well-meaning veteran homeschool mom informed me I couldn’t use work experience for credit. I listened. Yet, as a Mom who has the freedom to oversee our children’s education, knowing the life lessons and knowledge my young adults were gaining in their paid employment opportunities, I set out to research. It just didn't seem right not to be able to obtain credit from such rich, valuable life experience. 

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Credit Worthy

I discovered my state provides the right for me--as a registered home educator--to oversee the education of my children. In that freedom, I am able to decide what can be deemed credit worthy and I can title mastered content accordingly. I could not ignore the fact that my high schoolers were engaged in learning while on the job. And, with the valuable conversations Mike and I were having with our high schoolers, we knew they were learning content not taught in a traditional textbooks or acquired through lecture. The skills and content they were learning required experience--opportunity to do, decide, make mistakes, and to try again--often under the guidance of a mentor or the supervision of a professional in a career area. In addition, I observed our high schoolers applying what they learned in the work setting to other areas of their lives. They would summarize what they learned on any given day, share their thoughts about what they experienced, and ask questions about things that intrigued them. Our discussions led to discovering deeper life truths as well the building of grit, growth mindset, and personal emotional intelligence—some of the most valuable assets to adulthood and future employment.


What our learners were gaining on the job was credit worthy. 


In my mind, the experiences—the content learned while on the job interfacing with professionals—was credit worthy, regardless of whether or not the high schooler was paid. Essentially, the learner was paid to learn!

If life is learning and learning is life-long, it made sense to me that I could confer credit.

Our second son was invited to apply for a summer job as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool. I knew the Director and many of the teachers who worked at the school. In fact, I had worked there as a high schooler and my experience became a catalyst for my choice to pursue early childhood education. Knowing the value of my personal experience, I encouraged our son to apply for the position. Yes, he would earn a paycheck, but he would be mentored by knowledgeable staff who knew the developmental needs of young children.

Art camp began and indeed our son came home each day recounting his experiences. He commented on the conversations teachers had with students, how they listened and responded with open ended questions. He observed as teachers fostered curiosity and intentionally planned activities to promote wonder. His understandings of the developmental stages of art came from comparing preschooler's line drawings and seeing beaming smiles of accomplishment. Learning was experiences, not just memorized facts. In addition, he was learned about classroom management, developmentally appropriate art experiences, and the profession of early childhood education.

The summer came to a close and he was invited to remain on staff for the next school year. He would be the outside assistant--the preschool physical education overseer. He accepted. This change in position brought opportunities to observe the stages of motor development in real life. He watched children progress from running to galloping, from climbing stairs one foot at a time to alternating feet. He knelt down beside children who poured sand in funnels and floated boats in water tables. We talked about discoveries he watched children make and asked me about my experiences with children on the spectrum. The knowledge he gained through his experiences at the preschool were some of the very same things I studied in my college early childhood college courses.

At that moment, I realized the fifteen hours a week he was working at the preschool was preparing him with life skills of time management, communication skills, and workplace etiquette, but it was also equipping him with a foundation of knowledge in the area of early childhood development. In his junior year, I awarded him one credit in Introduction to Early Childhood Education.

Where is your learner employed? Maybe it is the local hardware store where knowledge of tools and home repair are prerequisite for employment. Maybe your high schooler was hired as a shift manager at a local eatery, managing and overseeing a team of co-workers. No matter where your young adult is employed, consider the skills being acquired, the career-related vocabulary being obtained, the decision making involved as part of the job, the conversations being had between coworkers and employers, and subject content being mastered through the opportunity. No doubt much more is being learned than you or your student imagined! 

Titles Speak Volumes

Generally high schools title work experience Executive Internship or Work Study. These are broad brush titles which say nothing about the student or content. However, if the home educating parent has the freedom to title courses, course titling can be strategic, mirroring the student’s interest and the content knowledge gained. Here is a small sampling of title examples. 

Arts

Creative Photography

Studio Arts

Printmaking

Dance Technique

Dance Performance

Dance Kinesiology

Choreography

Eurhythmics

Music Performance (use specific instrument in titles if appropriate)

Music Ensemble 

Jazz Ensemble

Chamber Orchestra

Music Internship

Music Composition and Arrangement

Musical Theater and Production

Music Technology and Sound Engineering

Theater Production

Cinematography

Technical Theater

Set Production

Acting

Theater Management

Print and Broadcast Media

Library Media Services

Journalism

Digital Art Imaging

Digital Media Design

Video Production

Visual Technology

Computer Sciences

Applied Computer and Information Technology

Information Technology

Business and Entrepreneurial

Business Principles

Marketing Strategies

Marketing Principles

Managerial Principles

Health Sciences

Nutrition and Wellness

Food Service

Human Growth and Development

Introduction to Early Childhood Education

Personal and Career Development

Capstone or Cornerstone Projects

Capstone Seminar

Capstone Research

Consider the course titles provided in this blog post about electives. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

Dual Enrollment? Not So Fast

Dual enrollment offers learners opportunity to earn high school and college credits--simultaneously--before graduating from high school.

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It's a great option for some students.

But, it isn't the best option for all students.

Yes, sign me up! (the Pros)

  • Free or reduced tuition for college-level courses.
  • Experience campus life.
  • Offers student opportunity to learn course content in the student's area of interest.
  • Student's enrolled get to learn what goes into completing college work.
  • Allows colleges and universities to validate a student ready and capable of handling college-level material.
  • May improve a student's weighted GPA. 
  • May equate to graduating from college early. 
  • Evaluation (grade and credit) based on the entire course, not on single test performance. 

Not so fast! (the Cons)

  • While there's money to save, there may not be savings in the long run. Be sure to research what courses are needed for a degree and if credits will transfer. 
  • Not all learners are ready to walk on campus alongside older students. Perhaps, inquire about online options.
  • Not all admission advisors are versed in the prerequisites for specific college majors, hence some courses may be taken and "wasted". Parents should stand ready to know the requirements of a learner's four-year degree (or possible majors) and double check advisor guidance. 
  • Not all credits may be accepted; some courses in the major area may be required to be completed where degree will be earned. Check transfer policies like this one for UNF. 
  • Excess hours may be costly
  • Some colleges won't accept all dual enrolled courses. Research and ask questions to avoid unnecessary surprises. 
  • Grades earned become part of a permanent college transcript. 

Some of the biggest mistakes we have seen families make are:

Not knowing degree requirements. We know students who weren't sure of future major take an introductory science course (generally without a lab and worth three college credits)--Introduction to Biological Sciences, for example--thinking it would be easier, only to find out once the major was declared the lab science was required. The student sat through another science--Biology in most of the cases we know--again.

Starting dual enrollment too early. It is wise that parents remember DE grades become a permanent part of the college transcript. We personally know quite a few families wishing they had waited to dual enroll their students--especially for foreign language--because doing so compromised their learner's GPA. And, in some cases, being on the President's list (with a 4.0) each semester of the AA has earned students merit scholarship when transferring to an institution to complete the Bachelor's.

For example, several young adults we mentor through annual evaluations decided to complete foreign language credit through dual enrollment. Each of them soared through the first semester, each earning an A. However, the second semester the students didn't fair as well because of the difficulty of the content. In the majority of those learners earned a C, compromising their overall college GPA. 

When our learners hit the high school years, we discussed accelerated credit options with each student. Each had different options to consider due to their varied after high school plans. For our learner who did dual enroll, I am thankful we did not consider foreign language as part of his dual enrollment plans. Why? At the end of earning 60+ hours for his AA, the university to which he was transferring offered him scholarship monies because he transferred to complete his Bachelor's with a 4.0 GPA--hence earning a spot on the President's list every semester. Could he have gotten A's in his foreign language classes at the state college? Possibly. Yet, thankfully we didn't take that gamble. 

Additional resources

If you are a Florida resident, consider this comparison of accelerated learning. 

Parents looking for additional research may want to refer to this article by The National Center for Postsecondary Research.

The decision to dual enroll should not be taken lightly. Each learner is unique in ability and maturity. In addition, some students find it more beneficial to focus their high school years in other directions--perhaps theater, entrepreneurship, or sports. Other learners will need the boost dual enrollment can provide. Dual enrollment is an individual family and learner decision and is worth every moment of research, questioning, and considering. 

YOU can celebrate high school by building and executing a plan unique to the individual learner. 

Just one more reason why

EVERY. MOMENT. MATTERS. 

even in the high school years! 

 

Citizen Science: Get Real with Learning

We like real learning. Learning which is practical, hands-on, experiential, with purpose. 

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Becoming a Citizen Scientist is one way children and young adults can immerse their studies in real science for real purposes. And, the projects integrate into almost every curriculum or can be used to create an independent study. Budding scientists dive in and dig as deep as their interest takes them. 

One of my high schooler learners participated in a local bird banding experience with an ornithologist who worked in a local park area. This particular learner is not a science guy. However, when he arrived home he couldn't stop talking about the experience. The opportunity brought his biology unit about birds, alive; and my son took part in real scientific research. 

Citizen Science projects can be found online. Simply type "citizen science projects" in a search engine. Here are a few to get started and jump start creative ways to integrate real science into the day. 

Citizen Science- Cornell Ornithology 

Science Buddies

National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Watch

10 Popular Citizen Science Projects

PBS Kids- Citizen Science

National Geographic

To enhance the study, think outside the box. 

  • Interview a scientist in the field of study.
  • Visit an aviary, aquarium, or arboretum and talk to the caretakers about what their work entails and what education was needed to work in the field.
  • Start a collection--rocks are a favorite--label and categorize.  
  • Start some porch science.
  • Talk with scientists at a local Audubon facility. 

And, as always, read a few good books! You never know when a little learner will grab ahold of an older learner's current study. Some of our elementary and middle learners love these hard-to-find science readers

Over the years, we have enjoyed: 

Are You A Grasshopper?, Judy Allen

All about Sharks, Jim Arnosky

Look Out for Turtles, Melvin Burger

Ant Cities, Arthur Dorros

Frogs, Gail Gibbons

Owls, Gail Gibbons

The Honey Makers, Gail Gibbons

Frogs and Polliwogs, Dorothy Childs Hogner

The Life and Times of the Bee, Charles Micucci

The Bird Alphabet Book, Jerry Pallotta

The Frog Alphabet Book, Jerry Pallotta

From Tadpole to Frog, Wendy Pfeffer

The Ant and the Grasshopper, Amy Lowry Poole

Cricketology, Michael Elsohn Ross

One Small Square: Backyard, Donald Silver

Sea Shells, Crabs, and Sea Stars, Christiane Kump Tibbitts

What Lives in A Shell?, Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Middle and high school learners may want to read a Living Book or biography to bring a personal connection to their Citizen Scientist project. Some of our favorites have been: 

Luther Burbank, Plant Magician, John Y Batey

Louis Pasteur: Founder of Microbiology, Mary June Burton

Ernest Thompson Seton, Naturalist, Shannon Garst

The Story of Louis Pasteur, Alida Sims Malkus

The Story of Marie Curie, Alice Thorne

 

 

Bringing Physics to Life

My soon-to-be high schooler loves science, always has. She builds, creates, designs. Tape, staples, duct tape disappear overnight. There are springs from pens and spare flashlight bulbs stored in a tackle box, in case they're needed. 

Then we found this treasure in the new book section of the library. 

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After reading The Physics of Everyday Things, I understood the workings of items I see used every day.

Physics came to life! 

I wish physics made sense to every learner. 

In fact, I think it can. 

Two of my three graduates have completed middle and high school physics. As with other subjects, we endeavored to bring physics to life with Living Books. This learning season, we found yet another living physics gem!

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Reading The Physics of Everyday Things started a learning frenzy. Within a few days of checking out the book, my learner needed more books. I began the search. 

  • Albert Einstein, Pamela Zanin Bradbury (Messner biography)
  • Electrical Genius, Nikola Tesla, Arthur J. Beckhard (Messner biography)
  • Electronics Pioneer, Lee DeForest, I.E. Levine (Messner biography)
  • Isaac Newton, Harry Sootin (Messner biography)
  • Rocket Boys: A Memoir, Homer Hickam (adult biography section of the library)
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • The Discoverer of the X-Ray, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, Arnulf K. Esterer (Messner biography)
  • The Story of Benjamin Franklin, Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft (Signature series)
  • The Story of Madame Curie, Alice Thorne (Signature series)
  • The Wright Brothers, David McCullough (adult biography section of the library)

These books really did add practical application to the physics concepts, concepts which were once words on a textbook pages--difficult to grasp--now had real life meaning and application. In addition, we watched the movie October Sky as a family. The movie is based on the book Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam. (The movie should be previewed by adults, first)

For those of you have multiple children spanning the ages, there are books for younger learners which can fuel an interest in all things science and inventions. Our favorites are from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. These may be helpful to your family. They were for ours! 

  • Eli Whitney, Boy Mechanic, Dorothea J. Snow (COFA)
  • George Westinghouse, Young Inventor, Montrew Dunham (COFA)
  • Harvey S. Firestone, Young Rubber Pioneer, Adrian Paradis (COFA)
  • Lee DeForest, Electronics Boy, Lavinia Dobler (COFA)
  • Robert Fulton and the Steamboat, Ralph Nading Hill (Landmark series)
  • Robert Fulton, Boy Craftsman, Marguerite Henry (COFA)
  • Robert Goddard, Pioneer Rocket Boy, Clyde B. Moore (COFA)
  • The Story of Atomic Energy, Laura Fermi (Landmark)
  • The Story of Submarines, George Weller (Landmark)
  • The Wright Brothers, Quentin Reynolds (Landmark)
  • Tom Edison, Young Inventor, Sue Guthridge (COFA)
  • Wilbur and Orville Wright, Young Fliers, Augusta Stevenson (COFA)

What Much Time Do You Spend on High School Subjects? Part 1: Learner and Subject

Several parents asked me recently, 

"How much time does your learner spend on one subject?" 

There is no clear, cut-and-dry answer to this question. Answers depend on the learner as well as the subject. This has been true for our learners as well as for many learners we know. It also depends on how a learner prefers to schedule his or her day. I will talk about that in part 2. 

The learner. It's no surprise that learners take in information differently as well as at different rates (and that doesn't change in high school). What takes one learner thirty minutes to read will take another learner an hour. Add the factors of listening to audio materials or whether or not a learner values the content and there are yet two more variables to consider. 

The subject. Content matters. Again, there are many variables to consider. If a course is traditionally a one-credit course; for example, Algebra 1 or Biology, the course is written with the assumption the student will spend a minimum of one hour of study and instruction, five days a week. Lessons and content are formulated with the Carnegie unit in mind. 

For non-traditional or elective courses, The student's interest in the content is one factor which can increase or decrease study time. Interest in subject increases rate and retention. On the other hand, interest in a subject may also propel a student to dig deeper in and spend more time in independent study. Instructional level of the material also plays a role in calculating how much time to spend on a subject. If the content is presented at a level higher than the instructional level of the learner, time needed increases. 

Learning time varies greatly dependent on the learner and the subject, even in high school.

There is a general rule of thumb (read guideline) used to determine time spent on each subject. It is based on the traditional high school credit standards.


A one credit course (like math, English, social sciences, and science--even some electives) will require 45 minutes to 1 hour of learning each day--for a total of about 5 hours per week.


We have experienced this difference first hand. One of our learners naturally spent one hour per day on each of his core subjects. He preferred learning on that schedule. On the other hand, another learner naturally liked a block schedule. He would spend 3 hours on biology one day and 2 hours the next. Still another one of our learners learned in chunks. She spent great periods of time learning all she could about one topic. Each of our learners transitioned very well to life after high school. 

Let's say a high school learner is taking college courses while in high school--dual enrollment. The student and content variables remain important, yet there is a different recommended guideline to study time. 


For every one credit hour enrolled, a student will spend approximately 2 to 3 hours studying outside of class time. Therefore, taking three credit hours (generally one course) will equate to 3 hours in class and 6 to 9 hours of outside study time. It will follow that taking twelve credits of courses (generally four courses) will equate to 12 hours of in class work and 24 to 36 hours of outside study time. 


As you look forward to this next learning season, consider the important factors of both learner and subject. Part 2 of this series will focus on scheduling. 

 

 

High School Photography Elective

Several years ago, our daughter became interested in photography.

A real interest, one she thought about every day and one that did not go away!

She spent time researching and talking through her ideas about what she wanted to learn. Home educating, I knew she had the freedom to explore her interest as part of her day—every day—if she desired to do so.

Though I enjoy photography and have a "creative" bent, I had no idea what concepts and skills would be included in a high school level photography course. Therefore, when she asked me what areas I thought would be included in a photography course, I knew I would have to join in the learning. 

First, I searched the Internet for syllabi of high school level photography courses. Reading, I discovered common threads. This was a starting point.

Second, my daughter and I brainstormed additional content she wanted to learn. For example, she wanted to upgrade her camera. Researching the pros and cons of brands and features was definitely something she could include in her course.

Third, we talked about what real-life experiences could be added: job shadowing, taking pictures of family members, learning and using editing programs, and shooting seconds for a professional photographer.

Clearly, my daughter’s interest drove the learning. I simply had to be open to the ideas and be ready to encourage her progress.

Before we knew it we had accumulated not only content but resources.

Here is a snapshot of the content we developed. 

Course Content

I. History of photography

  • the pinhole camera, daguerreotype, Kodak Brownie camera, film development, darkrooms, Polaroid cameras, flash cubes, and flash bars

II. People of Influence

  • Joseph Nicephore Niepce, Loius Daguerre, R.L. Maddox, George Eastman

III. Types of Photography

  • portrait, children, pets, landscapes, macro, food, nature, architectural, forensic, sport, science, 

IV. Parts of a Camera

V. How Cameras Work

VI. Lighting, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Depth of field

VII. Composition, Color, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, and Special Techniques

VIII. Photo Editing

IX. Analyzing and Critiquing Photography

X. Documentary and Photojournalism 

XI. Famous Photographers and Photojournalists 

XII. Mounting and Displaying Photography 

  • enter photography in contests or county fairs

XIII. Digital Photography

XIV. Photography Careers

  • portrait photography, commercial photography, fine art photography, wedding photography, scientific photography, sports photography, medical photography, forensic photography, nature photography, aerial photography, photojournalism

XV. Photography Licenses

  • royalty free, rights managed, stock photography

XVI. Legal, Ethical and Copyright

  • fair use, buildings protected by copyright, difference between photography for personal use or commercial use, model/copyright releases, editorial photography as a profession in regards to rights and fair use

The outline above was the jumping off point. Once we had the major areas of study--at least a plan--we could adjust as we went along. 


We added experiential learning. Our list of considerations were

  • Job shadowing a photographer or interning as a photographer's assistant

  • Working in a camera store

  • Setting up a darkroom

  • Creating a yearbook for a school or co-op

  • Working with a blogger to communicate content visually

  • Learning mounting techniques.

For learners who appreciate the power of a story, these Living Books may be just the ingredient to bring additional life to the course. 

  • Cameras and Courage, Margaret Bourke-White by Iris Noble, Julian Messner biography

  • Joseph Pulitzer, Front Page Pioneer by Iris Noble, Julian Messner biography

My daughter's interest led to elective credits, not one but TWO! When she finished these studies, she decided to take an online course. 

Once the interest is sparked, there is no limit to where the learning path may lead. Sometimes it is an elective. Other times the study leads to employment. The possibilities of high school electives is endless! 

If you will be attending Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) conference May 25-27, you may be interested in the two high school workshops I have been invited to share: Keeping High School ALIVE with Living Books and High School: Mission Possible. In addition, my husband Mike will join me at the podium to share The Real-Life Influence of Family Conversation and my oldest son and I will present an encouraging session, Thank You, Mom!

FPEA is always a highlight of our speaking calendar. Can't wait to see you there!