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.

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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.

Experiential Learning in High School: Why It Matters

I find it ironic that homeschooling parents encourage young children and elementary-age learners to explore their interests, yet as the middle and high school years loom on the horizon, the tune often changes.

When it does, students, parents, and educators tend to concentrate on core courses (with good reason) while pushing strengths and giftings—and often real-life learning—aside. Often those life experiences offer learners the lessons and skills most needed for their future.

There is another advantage of pursuing electives of interest. Not only do high schoolers receive credit, but these pursuits also help reduce the stress of typically tougher core courses.

By their very nature, electives provide avenues for personal growth, renewal, and skill acquisition.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the middle and high school years provided the same real-life educational opportunities found in the younger learning years? Homeschooling makes that possibility a reality.

Interest leads to higher-quality content and greater retention in both core and elective classes. With this knowledge in one hand, grab a cup of coffee or a thick creamy milkshake with the other and invite your high schooler to brainstorm with you. In the course of the conversation, listen to what he or she would like to study and how those interests could be enhanced or accomplished with real-life experiences. Experiential learning in high school is just as valuable as it was in the elementary and middle school years.

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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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Pre-Order More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life HERE and SAVE $14!

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.

REAL-LIFE Spelling

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I had a hard time spelling when I was a child. It was hard. Red marks plagued my weekly tests. 

Though I understand the reasoning behind word families and traditional methods--I learned the pedagogy as an educator--I've been reminded that theory and practice are not always instant friends. Like any teaching means or method, nothing works for every child. 

It didn't work for me. It hasn't worked for all my children. 

Several of my children and I learned to spell by seeing correctly spelled words--and using the correctly spelled words in written context--over and over.

In other words,

repetition in real-life context returned the greatest retention. 

Perhaps you have a child who learns best by experiencing the written word in real life, in context in the environment.This post is for YOU! 

Yesterday as I prepared to visit the grocery store, a young learner asked to make my shopping list. I accepted the offer. She made the list and later spelled a few several times in her spelling book. The list provided access and practice to high-frequency (used often), real-life words, words which would be used over and over in her lifetime. The result? Spelling for the day. And, it mattered. 

Learning wasn't just a list, it was life! 

Today my daughter asked for more grocery words. I stopped what I was doing and quickly looked for a grocery ad to help us develop a list of words she thought were important. Her perception of what words mattered or would be helpful to her later in life fueled her desire to learn. Ultimately, she realized the words would one day help her make lists for shopping visits and the correct spelling would be important. She had taken ownership of her learning. 

A desire to help + real-life need = learning with purpose

Grocery words may not interest your child. Instead, words of interest may be might be tied to simple machines, clothing, computers, or art. Start with an interest to discover learning with purpose. 

If food words are of interest to your learner, here's a leveled list we created. 

Grocery spelling for beginning spellers

  • pie
  • tea
  • bag
  • pea
  • ham
  • nuts
  • can
  • corn
  • apple
  • fish
  • leek
  • beef
  • beet
  • salt
  • ice
  • rice
  • pork
  • meat
  • milk
  • beans
  • pita
  • cake
  • roll
  • egg
  • oil
  • dip

Grocery spelling for intermediate spellers

  • blueberry
  • strawberry
  • banana
  • pumpkin
  • ketchup
  • sushi
  • fruit
  • water
  • yogurt
  • celery
  • peanut
  • dairy
  • butter
  • cream
  • juice
  • sauce
  • pasta
  • grain
  • cereal
  • olive
  • carrot
  • apple
  • squash
  • grapes
  • orange
  • juice
  • lemon
  • pepper
  • coffee
  • muffin
  • cookie
  • cheese
  • bacon
  • steak
  • roast
  • mango
  • salad
  • lettuce
  • crackers
  • onion
  • pudding
  • pizza
  • biscuit
  • turkey
  • chicken
  • lentil

Grocery spelling for advanced spellers

  • fillet
  • burrito
  • lasagna
  • mushroom
  • cucumber
  • pierogi
  • detergent
  • charcoal
  • sandwich
  • pastry
  • salami
  • cheesecake
  • mozzarella
  • grapefruit
  • asparagus
  • raspberry, raspberries
  • avocado
  • pineapple
  • potato, potatoes
  • tomato, potatoes
  • broccoli
  • sausage
  • salmon
  • tilapia
  • shrimp
  • tenderloin
  • margarine
  • edamame
  • vegetables
  • batteries
  • sirloin
  • bakery
  • expresso
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Extended Learning

  • Use a weekly grocery ad to make a list of foods needed for three meals a day, for seven days. 
  • Write words on index cards. Choose ten of greatest interest and copy those on a white or chalkboard, twice a day. Younger learners may enjoy writing the words with chalk on the driveway or with a finger in a sand tray. 
  • Make a word search. There are word search generators online. 
  • Play grocery Scrabble. Only food or grocery words are eligible for play and the weekly grocery ad may be used during play. 
  • Take a behind the scenes tour of your local grocery store. 
  • Take a factory tour of a milk product processing plant near you. Our local grocery store has a processing plant an hour and a half from our home. It is amazing! 
  • Visit a U-Pick farm. 

Read Grocery-Related Picture and Non-Fiction Books

Hearing grocery-related words spoken and used in context--builds knowledge of vocabulary and sentence structure as well as provides a means by which math, science, and history content can be gained in a relaxed setting. Hearing content in context often keeps curiosity engaged and wonder active. 

  • Milk: From Cow to Carton, Aliki
  • From Milk to Cheese, Roberta Basel
  • From Tomato to Ketchup, Roberta Basel
  • Eating the Alphabet, Lois Ehlert
  • Growing Vegetable Soup, Lois Ehlert
  • The Fruits We Eat, Gail Gibbons
  • The Milk Makers, Gail Gibbons
  • The Vegetables We Eat, Gail Gibbons
  • From Seed to Plant, Gail Gibbons
  • Bread and Jam for Frances, Russell Hoban
  • Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey
  • The Vegetable Alphabet Book, Jerry Pallotta 
  • Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens

If the interest in everyday food words grows to an interest in farming, check out this post on our favorite farm books

Spelling can be real, relational, and intentional.

It matters! 

Field Trip Learning with Multiple Ages

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Dad's first day of Spring Break invited us all--six learners ages 2-20 and two parents--into an educational extravaganza. We visited the Lego exhibit at Leu Gardens. 

Learning surrounds us. It's part of life. Gathered around the kitchen table working math problems, we often forget the rich learning which takes place when we venture out, walk through life together and learn.

Last Friday,  as we marveled at Lego creations and smelled Sweet Alyssum, I remembered how much littles (and bigs) need field trips, time out and about to learn together.

While on our Lego garden adventure, 

  • the youngest learners instinctively balanced on the curbs and looked for rabbits. We didn't stop to run or roll down the hills, though it would have benefited their vestibular development. On another visit, we will definitely leave time to run and roll! 
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  • the elementary learners compared the number of bricks in each sculpture. This allowed for practical comparison of place value and oral practice of reading and saying numbers over ten thousand. 
  • the learners, together, marveled at the patterns in the Lego sculptures. While we oohed and ahhed, we deepened our appreciation for one another and the things each considers beautiful. 
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  • the learners worked together to navigate the map to find the places they wanted to visit. When they had a question, we encouraged them to consult an older sibling. While navigating, heading to the north forest, we heard owls hooting above our heads. We stopped, looked in between branches and gazed at these magnificent birds. We watched as two owls called out their territory and then had a brief altercation with their talons right above our heads! The youngest learners asked great questions as their curiosity was sparked. I am glad we took time to look up! 
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  • the middle schooler with a current interest in horticulture, stopped to read signage which explained foliage. She took pictures of plants she wanted to incorporate into our yard. 
  • the high schooler and college student enjoyed taking pictures of the amazing blooms, chatting about life as they walked along. I loved watching them spend time together and marveling at the wonder their siblings were taking in. 

While visiting the gardens, I was also reminded me that children often tell us what they need. The key is listening (and not having an agenda--ouch!). After walking about an hour, the littlest--map still in hand and spying a nice shady hill--interjected her thoughts,

"I think we need a picnic!"

She articulated her need to stop, sit, and enjoy a snack. Honestly, we all benefited from the refreshing break. Snacks eaten, we headed out for the second part of the self-guided tour. 

After walking and enjoying the outdoors for three hours, we headed to the car. The youngest cried. We instantly thought, "She's ready to go home!" Instead, when I asked about her sadness she said, "I didn't see any rabbits!" Dad decided we should stop at the library on the way home and check out some rabbit books. Tears disappeared and a smile returned to her face. 

A stop at the library was a perfect way to close out our day together. 

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What learning adventures await your family today? Maybe nature walks? Maybe puddles? Perhaps something which will come about spontaneously.

Whatever that learning adventure is, may it be one which is memorable for your family. 

Every. Moment. Matters!  

The Volunteer Advantage

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Colleges and universities LOVE applicants with volunteer experience. These opportunities tell how the high schooler used his or her time, in other words, how the young adult spent his or her hours outside of books and traditional learning environments. In fact, some colleges value community service so highly that they are offering scholarships for accomplishments in service. 

And, some states--like ours--require volunteer service for merit scholarships. 

Knowing what universities look for regarding community service and researching your state's merit scholarship may prove beneficial to your high school learner.

Al Nunez, Director of Admissions at Illinois Institute of Technology, was interviewed for the November 12, 2013 issue of U.S. News and World Report. In that interview he encouraged students to highlight their accomplishments.


Applying to a university is your time to brag about yourself. Talk about all the things that you’ve done, including jobs, including whether you’ve volunteered at your church or did community service.

Why volunteer?

  • Volunteer opportunities offer opportunities for high schoolers to learn more about themselves and impact the lives of other people.
  • Community service may provide leadership opportunities. Colleges and universities are looking for applicants who have taken on leadership roles. 
  • High schoolers preferring hands-on, experiential learning with interpersonal interactions can thrive in these environments. Truly, this can be an area where kinesthetic learners can thrive.
  • Service opportunities can help high schoolers fine tune what they enjoy, how they learn best, and what career field they may want to pursue. 
  • Volunteer opportunities also make great experiential stories for application essays.
  • When the time comes to request letters of recommendation for college admission, professionals and supervisors who have worked with the high schooler through volunteer opportunities may be willing to write on the applicant's behalf, commenting about work ethic, acquired skills, and character.

As evaluators, we've enjoyed the company of high school young adults who've benefited from the volunteer advantage. One particular young lady we know served thousands (no exaggeration) of hours which provided her a competitive advantage and helped her land a $25,000 scholarship. 

Why NOT volunteer?

Service hours are just that, opportunities to serve with a sincere heart. They are not requirements or obligations to meet. Often there are people on the receiving end and those people matter. People are not projects or resume enhancements and they don't want to be served with that type of attitude. When volunteer hours become boxes to check off, they are no longer means by which to serve with empathy and compassion. 

In addition, often community service becomes a means by which the parent-child relationship is strained. We all fall into the nagging "Did you log your hours?" trap at one time or another. Stress and fear will affect our high schooler's attitudes toward service. When we do, it is time to back up and reflect on that matters.

Where volunteer? 

Volunteering, like many other aspects of the high school years, is another venue to build relationship and communication skills. Brainstorm ideas together. Talk about volunteer etiquette. Role play requests or phone interviews.

These ideas may be talking points. 

  • serve at local animal shelters
  • raise and train service animals
  • sort groceries in food pantry or shelter
  • serve meals at homeless shelter
  • serve as a police explorer
  • provide service at local horse barn 
  • serve in local teen court
  • help with registration and water distribution for marathons and fun runs. 
  • deliver Meals-on-Wheels
  • serve with Special Olympics or local Down's syndrome chapter (graduate schools often host these types of events)
  • read to children in children's home or residents in assisted living and memory care facilities
  • create floral arrangements for church altar
  • weed flower beds for non-profit or local recreation center
  • be a safety ambassador for National Safety Council
  • design a website for church or local non-profit organization
  • provide counter or concession help for sports events
  • place flags on grave sites of veterans
  • tutor elementary students
  • collect clothing and non-perishables for shelters and crisis centers
  • work with a political campaign 
  • serve on a building team for Habitat for Humanity
  • be a mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • serve as a junior assistant coach for youth sports
  • collect food or other needed items for animal shelters 
  • prepare a meal or care packs at Ronald McDonald homes (usually near children's hospitals)
  • pack meals for hurricane or typhoon relief
  • gather crayons, small tablets, or other items for pew packs to be given to small worshippers.
  • usher at local theater 
  • work at the local library
  • volunteer at local science center
  • serve at wildlife rehabilitation or Audubon center
  • provide musical entertainment or puppetry at assisted living and memory care centers
  • play or sing with church worship teams
  • serve on disaster relief teams
  • sew costuming for theatrical performances
  • construct music or theater sets
  • provide babysitting or childcare for Bible studies, MOPS meetings, or parent meetings
  • plan a birthday celebration for residents at assisted living center

Like many aspects of the high school experience, not all colleges require or put equal weight on the same admission requirements. Princeton ranks admission requirements here. Research and knowledge are important. What is beneficial to one learner will not be beneficial to another. 

Will volunteer and community service benefit your high schooler? 

The answer will be unique to your high schooler and may be only conversations and clicks away. Your efforts will make a difference, not only for your high school learner but also for the people who are blessed to benefit from his or her sincere service.

YOU can celebrate high school! 

 

The contents of this post are meant to share personal experience and are not intended to be legal or educational advice. 

 

 

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. 

 

Portfolio Possibilities: What to Include

To keep track of the volumes of work samples for four learners, I am trying something new this year. Well, it isn't really new. I tried it before, but unsuccessfully. 

I decided to give it another try. 

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Different season. It's working...so far! 

In our state, statute requires parents to keep work samples for their children. With four learners, the pile of completed work on my kitchen table grows daily. Books read. Papers completed. Field trip brochures.

If I don't tame the pile, it can get the best of me. 

This year, I am keeping my log of activities (another statutory requirement for our state) on the kitchen table where I can log conveniently. After logging, I place the samples in a plastic tote. Then, sometime over Christmas break, we will have a family sorting party. Each child will receive a binder for their samples. I pass out plastic sleeves for odd-shaped treasures. At the end of the sorting party, each child's portfolio begins to take shape. To lessen the stress, second semester work is placed directly in the binder after it's been logged. The end result will be a portfolio ready for our annual evaluation. 

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What is a sample? 

Samples. Every family interprets the meaning of samples differently. In 24 years of doing home education annual evaluations for other families, we've seen the full range of freedom in terms of samples. One family will bring 5 work samples for each subject while another family brings every.single.paper for every.single.subject. That's the freedom of the law. Parents decide what is needed for their family.

Sample examples. Traditional math lessons come to mind for many. It is what we remember from our school days. Yet, when considering other subjects in light of the variety of educational philosophies held by parents, the possibilities for samples grows. For families with a Charlotte Mason philosophy, there will be book lists and sketches, maybe a nature journal. For traditional textbook families, there will be notebooks of answers and solutions and lists of spelling practice. And those who learn on the road? They may have photos and travel brochures to attest to their learning highlights. 

Over the years, parents we've evaluated saved: 

  • math lessons and scratch work
  • writing or poetry samples
  • journal
  • research papers
  • article critiques
  • reading lists
  • magazine subscription listing
  • book reports or summaries
  • primary source document listing
  • documentary listing
  • lab reports
  • dissection reports and sketches
  • nature notebook
  • sketches
  • theater tickets 
  • movie reviews
  • photography
  • video clips
  • graphic arts samples
  • sports stats
  • sports videos
  • recipes
  • URLs from independent studies
  • community service hours
  • achievement award certificates

Some families happily eliminate paper, capturing everything digitally. In recent years during evaluations, we've swiped I-pads to view scanned work and flipped through PowerPoint presentations of field trips. Other families design digital scrapbooks. In our digital society, portfolio possibilities continue to grow. Be creative! If your family is learning on the go or on the road, consider how you might take advantage of digital technology. 

What about high school portfolios? 

I get this question often, especially since families come back to us year-after-year. As those families move into the high school years, they begin to feel the pressure of credits and college admission. To ease the pressure, I remind them that the types of work samples saved really doesn't change. The point of the portfolio is to show that the learner has made progress at a level commensurate to the ability (at least in our state).

Though the work samples saved during the high school years is generally the same as the elementary and middle school years, I do encourage parents to take special care to log titles and authors of books (in a digital document for easy interfacing to other documents) as well as community service hours (documented on company letterhead). Doing so can save time in the late junior and early senior year when families begin gathering college application documents.  

Taming paper trails doesn't have to be a full time job. I found doing a little bit each week helps keep my long-term sanity. I know you can tame yours as well. Perhaps keeping work samples in one place is a next right step in the positive direction. 

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

 

 

Beating Afternoon Boredom

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Who doesn't battle afternoon boredom?

Let's not take a show of hands. Rest assured, my hand would be raised. 

You know the story. Three o'clock. Children squabbling. A high schooler STILL needs help with Algebra. And dinner? It's frozen on the counter! 

Afternoons can be hard. Yet, after years of beating afternoon boredom, I know the efforts I made toward defeating "I'm bored" syndromes--in myself as well as my children--mattered. In fact, hobbies launched and rediscovered interests became catalysts for entrepreneurial pursuits, high school courses, and career choices.

Beating afternoon boredom is worth every ounce of time and energy we can muster. 

At a recent mom's event, a group of ladies gathered after to ask me how our family beats the afternoon wearies. 

Our strategies varied with life seasons. 

When we had two eager, active boys, we: 

  • spent many afternoons outside. 
  • visited local parks. 
  • had Popsicle and wading pool parties--adding measuring cups, a bucket, and garden hose to change things up--as long as the weather allowed.
  • ran around outside playing with squirt guns.
  • played in the lawn sprinkler. Notice the hose and water trend?
  • read a book together while sitting on a blanket outside or on the couch inside.
  • took an afternoon bath with bubbles and wrote with shaving cream on the walls (great for practicing letter formation).
  • took nature scavenger hunts. 
  • played hopscotch or jumped rope. 
  • created with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. 
  • painted the garage door with water and paint brushes. 
  • tossed bean bags. 
  • bought a basketball hoop and gathered children from the neighborhood to play. 
  • played wiffle ball in the dead end street.
  • created with watercolors.
  • encouraged outdoor adventures and independent studies. 
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When we had lots of littles with a few bigs who needed afternoon help, we:

  • sat on the floor in the hallway across from the bathroom so I could supervise littles in the tub while also helping an older sibling with math or editing papers.
  • spread a blanket under a shade tree for afternoon tutoring while the littles rode bikes around the driveway or played hide-n-seek. 
  • listened to audio books, our favorites being Jim Weiss recordings and Your Story Hour, again while mom worked with the bigs.
  • offered play dough, pattern blocks, old magazines to cut, or watercolor paints. 
  • enjoyed playing in the sandbox while mom and older siblings sat nearby and completed math or mom edited papers. 
  • used masking tape to create a "village roadway" on the carpet so littles could build houses and garages for their toy cars and play "village". 
  • made a masking tape hopscotch on the carpet for littles to be active when weather wouldn't permit us to be outside. 
  • asked bigs to go on a date and take learning to new surroundings. 
  • discussed the plot and characters of a current read while running errands or taking a sibling to practice. 
  • encouraged bigs to work on independent studies. 
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When we had a menagerie of ages, we: 

  • enjoyed front porch read-aloud time. 
  • created with Lite Brite.
  • went to visit great-grandma. 
  • sat together on the couch and read books of interest. Farm study was always a favorite. 
  • took a teen or young adult on a date to talk about things that mattered to them. 
  • used a coupon and bought five pounds of clay at a local craft store. 
  • spent time at a local park or community swimming pool. 
  • made brownies for the elderly neighbor and went to visit. 
  • built a fort outside. 
  • dug a hole in the backyard (not my favorite or my idea, but it was sibling generated and encouraged collaboration and working together). 
  • made impromptu afternoon library runs. 
  • created something yummy in the kitchen, often to "surprise" Dad when he returned from work. 
  • made cards for family member's birthdays.
  • enjoyed spin art. 
  • cared for our porch science projects
  • spent the afternoon creating with watercolor. 
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Go ahead! Beat the afternoon boredom. YOU can do it! It will be worth your time and effort. 

And, in the process, your children and young adults will learn valuable life skills: time management; collaboration; communication and conflict resolution; work ethic; teamwork; working independently; and caring about others ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 

Pew Learning for Young Worshipers

The parenting years are training years! There's potty training, voice training, executive control training, strength and core training. And, then there's what we call pew training, those moments on Sundays when littles learn to sit, enjoy, and later contribute to "big church".

Training years can be exhausting, marathon sessions of reminders, follow throughs, and well-dones.

At least they've been for us.

We've parented children with active minds and busy hands, lively imaginations and energetic bodies.

These traits didn't change on Sunday mornings!   

Pew training is not a new fad. It has been taking place for generations. I remember sitting in the pew as a child. Sitting by my grandmother, I watched as she dug in her purse to find me a mint. Mint in mouth, I handed Grammy a pen, a hint I wanted to play tic-tac-toe. Later in the service, my mom wrote a number on the church bulletin and I would hunt through the hymnal for the hymn with the corresponding numeral. I loved sitting with my family in church. I felt big, part of a larger community of people.

I am thankful for the sacrifice my parents made to include me in their Sunday morning worship. 

Mike and I have been pew training for more than 25 years. Currently, our Sunday worship times include coloring, puzzle solving, and bead stringing as our just over two-year-old daughter prefers to sit in the service (as long as she can) with our family. To help her in her desire to be with the family, I pack a bag of treasures, things for her to look forward to, just as I anticipated Grammy's mints and games of tic-tac-toe.

How do I prepare for pew training? It's all about what I pack in our bag. 

What's in the bag? 

  • thick cardboard puzzles with piece count appropriate to the age. Our toddler will stand in front of the church pew chair and solve the puzzle on the seat of the chair. 
  • a few board books, especially ones with textures or quiet flaps. I change these out frequently so there is a new selection in the bag. 
  • crayons and quarter sheets of cardstock. Colored pencils become drumsticks and noise makers, hence the crayons, and standard paper creates a crinkly paper cacophony. Cardstock quarters has quieted coloring sessions. 
  • a quiet snack in a quiet wrapper.

In addition, I pack a few treasures for our preschoolers and early learners, just in case. 

  • thick cardboard puzzles, again piece count appropriate to the age and ability of the child. 
  • a small notebook and crayons. Some of our young worshippers enjoy drawing something they hear about during the sermon. 
  • a tablet of stickers for use with notebook or to fill the empty white space on the bulletin. For emergent readers and spellers, I pack letter stickers. 
  • a toy car. 
  • a quiet snack in a quiet wrapper. 
  • beads and a string or pipe cleaner for stringing and small motor skill building. A plastic bag quiets shuffling beads.
  • a small doll or a few Lego figures. 

On the weeks I forget to pack a treasure, I pull a pen from my purse and allow little worshippers to draw on the church bulletin. Our early learner likes to search for and circle vowels or specific letters she chooses on the printed bulletin. 

Not every Sunday unfolds smoothly, even if I prepared. For example, this weekend I spent the majority of the service in the lobby! Even still, I don't feel my efforts were wasted. I know I made it one step closer to the goal: being able to sit in church as a family.

A few weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of our pew. There stood our children, toddler to adult (plus a few friends an adult child invited) extending the entire length of the pew. What a blessing! Twenty-seven years of pew training (and counting) in the making. Our efforts were worth every obstacle we had to overcome.

The efforts we made in the pew training season proved fruitful. 

Fellow pew trainers, YOU got this! May you one day look down the pew and see the fruits of your labor standing and worshiping together. 

Empower Yourself and Your Children

Things change.

State statutes.

University admission requirements. 

Employment prerequisites. 

I had one of those moments. 

My second son applied to a local state college almost six years ago.

Admission was smooth and relatively easy compared to the essays I had to write for our first son's application to a highly selective university. Though I haven't personally had a student apply to college for several years (I am excited to be doing so again as we graduated another senior this year), I stay in the loop by researching and continuing education because of the privilege Mike and I have of walking along side parents as they help their learners take their unique right next steps. Keeping in the know is what we love and enjoy! 

This week I was reminded of the misinformation which continues to circulate. It happens innocently with the greatest intention being the offering of assistance one person to another. However, though well-intentioned parents (and "experts") may offer their insights and experiences, it is important to remind one another to do our own research and recheck sources. It never hurts to ask more questions.

Requirements change.

For example, when our son applied to the local state college six years ago, the only requirements were a test score (ACT, SAT, or CPT--now the PERT) and a final home-generated transcript or affidavit of high school completion. This week, however, I learned another requirement has been added: a copy of the student's original Letter of Intent filed with the district when the home education program was established. 

A requirement was added since my son applied. I could have easily given parents errant information, unknowingly of course. However, my intention is to always provide families with as accurate and up-to-date information as possible, hence I was prompted to do a bit of research after talking with several parents. Without a refresher--research into current requirements--I could have easily passed along misinformation to other parents based on what I heard instead of what I knew. 

Let's encourage one another to empower ourselves. 

In addition, keeping track of important papers is necessary. As Mike and I are scheduling annual evaluations, often parents mention they "have no idea as to where the learners Letter of Intent has been placed." After learning of the new requirement (at least for this state college), I see the importance of us reminding one another (gently) to be mindful of where we place legal documents. Yes, indeed the county might have a scanned copy to pass along as a replacement, however, personally I feel more comfortable knowing all my documentation is in one place--perhaps a digital file or a paper/accordion file folder. Older children and young adults can learn to keep and organize their records and paperwork as part of this process. 

Let's encourage one another to keep track of necessary documents. 

Our actions impact our children. Having adult children, I understand (with new fervor) the importance of teaching and encouraging my younger children to empower themselves--the hows, wheres, and what fors of finding reliable sources, collecting information, and solving problems. When children are encouraged to empower themselves, and see parents empowering themselves--asking questions, identifying problems, and then seeking out and finding solutions. They've lived and experienced the results of personal empowerment.

Let's encourage one another to empower our children. 

Things change. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sprouting Peat Pods

A failed experiment led to learning opportunity for other children.

As we prepared for the planting station at FPEA, one of my learners had an idea,

"Let's try to sprout our lima beans on a peat pod!"

A combination of the results of both experiments! 

It worked! 

Ten days later, our sprout was ready to plant! 

Meanwhile, back at FPEA, parents shopped, children planted! 

I wonder how many plants sprouted? 


If your child planted in our planting station, you may enjoy these book suggestions.

Picture Books

The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle

A Bean's Life, Nancy Dickman

From Seed to Plant, Gail Gibbons

The Vegetables We Eat, Gail Gibbons

How a Seed Grows, Helene J. Jordan (Let's Read and Find Out Science series)

Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss

One Bean, Ann Rockwell

Plant Stems and Roots, David M. Schwartz

Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens (one of our favorites!!)

Living Book Biographies for Elementary and Middles

The Story of George Washington Carver, Arna Bontempts (Signature series)

Luther Burbank: Boy Wizard, Olive Burt (Childhood of Famous Americans series)

Luther Burbank, Partner of Nature, Doris Faber (Garrard Discovery Biography series)

George Carver, Boy Scientist, Augusta Stevenson (Childhood of Famous Americans)

 

Want to share a picture of your plants? Do so in the comments. 

If you missed Science Little Learners Love, a workshop I shared at FPEA, you can order it in the FPEA store. 

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! 

 

 

 

 

25 Intentional Moments with Your Teens and Young Adults

"Mom, can we go on a date?"

It starts when they are little, but it doesn't have to end there. 

Teens and young adults LOVE intentional moments with their parents, too. 

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A wise, older mom once encouraged me to foster a relationship with my children when they were young. I have to admit, it wasn't always easy to be excited to watch ants make a hill, walk around the lake hunting for tadpoles, or play Candyland for a second or third time as laundry hollered to be loaded and dinner shouted to be started. There were seasons of new babies and illnesses. 

But, I listened to my friend's her sage wisdom, what she had learned from her experiences.

The purpose, she said,

"If you want a relationship with your young adults, start when they are little and never stop!"

Twenty-seven years into this parenting thing, I can say I was intentional about putting my best foot forward to engage in my children's lives.

But, I will be honest. I wasn't always happy about setting aside my ideas or my activities. 

There were moments I complained. There were days I was tired, but persevered anyway. My children saw my intentions. 

What I learned from that older mom?

My efforts mattered--all of them, even the ones that were not picture perfect.

Fast forward. 

What do we do when children get older, when dates are more than playing a game (though some older children still enjoy games), stopping by the playground, or catching butterflies?

Or, what if life circumstances kept us from spending as much time with our children as we would have liked? Do we throw in the towel and assume a relationship with our teens can't be fostered? 

We start with where we are now--parent and child, parent and young adult.

No one outgrows the need for relationship and time spent on relationships is never wasted. 

So, where do we start (or continue) with our older children? 

Start with what they enjoy, what they like. 

With five very different teens, young adults, and adult children, the times we spend together varies.

Sometimes I initiate time together. Other times a child asks will ask to spend time together. Some of my ideas are really creative, others met a daily need, or accomplished a  task. Our favorite times include:

1. Sipping hot chocolate. Outside on the patio or sitting cross-legged on the couch, just the two (or three) of us.

2. Taking a walk. This is a favorite for one of my health and fitness-minded young adults. 

3. Going to the thrift store. Often there's a goal for our adventures at our local thrift store's half-price Wednesday. We most always arrive home feeling great about the time we spent together and the bargains we find.

4. Working out together. This is a HUGE stretch for me (no pun intended!) but makes my young adults chuckle. Yes, we've had some laughs at my expense! Laughter is part of relationship building.

5. Painting the bedroom. At some point in the teen years, most young adults desire to freshen up their room. Spending a weekend choosing a color and applying the new coat of freshness can make memories, for sure.

6. Designing a website. My entrepreneur asked if I'd help her figure out how to build a free site. A few days later, we were able to say, "I couldn't have done that without you!"

7. Going shopping. My children know shopping is not something I really enjoy. I like bargains, but I have other things I would rather do. And, with eight children, it seems someone always needs a new shirt, underwear, or a larger size sneakers!  And, often the request doesn't come at an ideal time. However, if one of my children needs something and asks me to go along, I'm there. In fact, one of my favorite mommy heart moments was when my adult child set up his first apartment and asked me to go with him to give my opinion on a couch. I was honored and accepted the invitation with a warm heart. I will never forget that day!

8. Eating a plateful of nachos. While my boys were playing high school baseball, they would often arrive home starving and needing to process the action of the game. It was often hard to keep my tired eyes open--and I rarely remembered the fine details of every inning--but those late evenings were more than worth the sleep I lost. I will admit these late night dates made maintaining weight a challenge. 

9. Reading a book. One of our young adults loved to read and then engage in conversation, pondering thoughts with someone else. Often Mike or I was that someone else. What an honor and a privilege! Perhaps your young adult might enjoy this type of time together. 

10.  Sharing an appetizer. Sharing an afternoon appetizer at a local restaurant may be just the change of scenery your young adult needs. Often restaurants offer afternoon specials to encourage patrons. Research the deals in your area. It may be just the renewal a relationship needs. 

11.  Solving a jigsaw puzzle. Though this hasn't been a terribly frequent choice, when we did engage in this challenge we were able to say, "We accomplished a task together."

12. Making greeting cards. From the very early years of our marriage there hasn't been a lot of extra cash in the budget for cards. Creating cards to make someone smile, has definitely been heart-warming. Making several to keep some on hand for needs that arise may be a great way to spend time with your creative. 

13. Visiting a museum. One of our young adults enjoyed visiting museums, especially art and history. Interestingly, I became quite interested in both art and history, neither of which were natural interests of mine. I love when the interests of one family member rub off on another. 

14. Volunteering together. When my high schoolers began to need community service hours, we were always looking for venues to serve. Though it would have been easier to drop off and go, when invited to stay, we accepted. As it turned out the experienced blessed several family members for several years. 

15. Enjoying free coffee. I have a young adult who is very frugal...and loves coffee. This has definitely been a favorite date, especially National Coffee Day rolls on September 29.

16. Using a coupon. In a large family where money can be tight, we have gotten creative and in the process have enjoyed great times together, frugally. Honestly, once they got the hang of it, my teens and young adults came up with amazingly great deals and ideas to send time together.

17. Riding bikes. Whether biking for the sake of staying fit or enjoying time outside, this has been a favorite in all stages of life. 

18. Doing a DYI project. If you have an innovator or a creative, this can be a fun way to spend the afternoon. I have learned fun DIY ideas from my young adults. 

19. Enjoying nachos, AGAIN!  WHEW! The high school ball nights turned into freshman year of college--seemingly overnight! My oldest--then a college freshman--invited me to share his nachos, a little later in that season of life...at 1 AM. I said YES! And, I never regretted it. He continued to ask and I gained what I call the Mom Freshmen Fifteen!

20. Going BOGO. One of the favorite date requests for our youngers and olders is BOGO shakes at the local Steak N' Shake. The waitresses know us well!

21. Sharing a tradition. Some of our dates were a vehicle for generational sharing. Consider the traditions of your family and how you might share those with yet another generation--shopping for sibling Christmas presents, coffee with Grandma, attending Memorial Day veteran celebrations have been among our favs.

22. Learning a new skill. Learning is life-long. We parents can model this by inviting a young adult to learn a new skill alongside us or we can offer to help a young adult learn a new skill, perhaps one he or she has desired to learn for awhile. Together, my young adults and I have learned how to make lollipops, plant a garden, paint window shutters, and sew aprons. What new skills may await the relationship with your teen?

23. Opening a bank account. Sometimes life's seasons bring amazing date opportunities. Embracing these times, we have with our young adults matters. Often we grab an ice cream or coffee on the way home!

24. Cashing in on rewards. I wasn't a big coffee fan. However, when one of my young adults wanted to join a reward program so we could date and earn rewards, I was all in! And, we've both enjoyed the time together and the freebies!

25. Sharing life! Moments with your teens and young adults don't have to fancy or elaborate. The important point of cultivating a relationship with your children is being intentional about taking time to share life together. In doing so, the parent-child-young adult relationship is built and fostered.

Every. Moment. Matters. 

 

 

Living Books in High School

When we started our homeschooling high school journey in 2003, I was determined not to leave the learning power of Living Books behind in the elementary and middle school years. 

Living Books belong in high school!

While preparing a workshop I will present at the 2017 FPEA Convention, May 25-27, I decided to give Celebrate Simple readers some quick ideas we used as we incorporated Living Books into high school course content. Our high school learners were greatly impacted by the Living Books they chose. In fact, several titles greatly impacted career choices and life goals.

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When we began our high school journey, the first content area in which we incorporated Living Books was history. This seemed a natural choice since we had been using Living Books--biographies, autobiographies, and historical fiction--to accent our history studies in the elementary and middle school years. 

Adding Living Books to our science studies was also a natural fit, especially for learners who had interest in specialty areas or who wanted to dig deeper to learn more about scientists and inventors. As our young adults advanced through the high school years, we branched out into adult and college level materials. 

Reaching our creatives with written materials was a challenge at times, unless the reading was related their artistic gifting or interest. If you find yourself in that quandary, know that you are not alone and that your efforts are worth the time spent trying to find them great, applicable reads.

And, I had to let go of my more rigid definition of what a Living Book was in order to be open to the plethora of possibilities I would  have otherwise discounted.

The power of the story--not my definition of Living Book--impacted the life of the reader. 

What about an athlete who loves to read? How can Living Books be interwoven in a personal fitness or weight training course? And, what about an athlete who would rather play ball than read?

Living Books have the power to pull in even the most reluctant reader! 

Living Books can give life to any subject, if we allow them the opportunity to do so. Recently, one daughter began to lean toward personal growth and leadership materials, while another continued on her pursuit of all things medical. Why not include Living Books in that area, too!

If you are in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend, I would love for you to join me in my workshop, Keeping High School Alive with Living Books, at the FPEA Convention. This workshop will offer insight as to how Living Books bring high school studies to life and influence choices learners make beyond the tassel turning. The workshop will be packed with specific ideas in regards course content, book titles, and life-learning experiences. Hope to see you there! 

 

 

Interests Fuel Life-Long Learning

Dogs.

It's everything dogs for our littlest learner. 

She's curious about what dogs eat (getting eye level--but not too close--to watch ours furry friend eat). She's curious about how why they pant, how they feel to touch. She wants to know everything about every dog she sees, large or small.

Sitting in the dentist office last week, waiting for big sister to finish her appointment, I found a treasure--an attention grabbing-just-what-we-needed-at-that-moment treasure. 

A book featuring photographs of dogs. 

I handed it to our youngest. I knew it would keep her attention. 

It was a "mom hung the moon" moment.

She looked at me. Her eyes seemed to say, "Thank you for caring about my interest!"

The excitement on her face. The eagerness in her learning. The pure joy!

As she paged through the book, I engaged with her about the pictures on each page. She'd look at me and smile. With every smile, I thought about two workshops I have been writing for an upcoming speaking engagement; one workshop for parents of elementary learners and one workshop for parents of middle schoolers.

Relationships and curiosity fuel learning.

Like adults, children need relationships. Couple that with natural curiosity--questioning anything and everything--and there is a recipe for building a love for life-long learning. 

How do we keep a person's natural curiosity aflame for life?

Ask questions. When the art of questioning is modeled, it is readily available for learning.

I am not natural questioner. I like to teach; to tell. As a consequence, the parenting years hit me hard. The more I told and commanded, the more frustrated my children became. And, I noticed they stopped asking questions and waited to be told to do things--waiting to do school work and chores until they were told. Stepping back from the situation (and asking for Mike's input) I realized my children had valuable ideas, valid questions. They needed a mom who listen and then ask questions; a who would practice the art of questioning. At that point, I decided to be intentional about asking more questions and encouraging my children to to the same. I asked questions like:

  • I wonder how that works?
  • I wonder why the hermit crab needed a new shell?
  • I wonder what will happen if we add more soap?

I had to work hard at replacing my teaching/telling bent (saving it for where that bent was really needed) with an intentionality to listen and engage my children in thoughtful questioning. Though it took a bit of time to turn the cart around, I began to hear my children returning to their natural bent of asking questions. Definitely worth my effort.

Find answers. With questioning comes the need to find answers.

If I was going to be intent on encouraging critical thinking skills and the art questioning, I would also have to purposeful in helping my children find answers. And, as the children grew we had to have conversations about where to find accurate information; to ponder whether an author had the knowledge and experience to speak to a topic. 

We began to build a home library of reference and resource materials--field guides, a Magiscope, a heavy-duty magnifying glass, kitchen scales, history books, classic literature. In some cases, we found apps to be the best resource, for example Sky View and Sky Map. We talked to our children about the importance of primary source documents and role played how to carry on conversations with people--should they want to ask questions of someone. In addition, as our children entered middle and high school, we discussed volunteering and job shadowing. These opportunities encouraged our young adults to answer their questions about career interests by talking to professionals in the field.

Be observant. Interests are not always obvious.

Some interests are obvious, like my daughter's curiosity with dogs. Others are a bit more hidden, sometimes even unknown to the beholder! To discover the interests of some of my children, I had to watch, listen, and be open to how they spent their time (versus controlling every minute of their day).  In my watching and listening, I began to ask myself questions. 

  • Was my child wanting to take things apart and put them back together?
  • Was a particular career intriguing to my child?
  • When we were at a church event or field trip who did my child gravitate toward certain people--children or adult?
  • What did my child do to fill extra time in the day?
  • Did my child have an ability to put together colors, lines and shapes or craft inspirational poetry?

My littlest learner is not yet old enough to verbalize her questions, yet her curiosity is evident in her facial expressions and gestures, through her hand clapping and dancing. Her reaction--her joy in learning--invites us to ask her questions, interact with her excitement, and fuel her curiosity by providing resources (like finding her dog books at the library). In doing so, her siblings, Mike and I are learning to help her dig deeper into her interest. As a result, our curiosity about how she learns is fostered. It is a cycle of interest-fueling learning. 

 

And it is a beautiful life-learning cycle. 

It's intentional, real, and relational. 

 

 

 

Most Popular Posts of 2016

2016 is marked as significant.

Why? Because every moment of our days mattered--the triumphs and the trials. We lived and learned together being intentional about using what was real and relational--from cradle to shingle--toddler to adult. Thank you for walking that journey alongside us! We are grateful for you, our readers! 

As a recap of our year together, I compiled our top 15 posts of 2016. ENJOY! 

 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by Real-Life for High School Credit: Care and Concerns for the Elderly.


Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by "Let Me Do It!" Helping Little Learners Become Independent


5 Comments I Don't Regret

Words are remembered, taken with us through our days. This is true for us and it is true for our children and young adults.

If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy Legacy: Learning Alongside


The Possibilities of Elective Credits - Part II

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work.

If the information in this post was helpful, you might want to continue on and read Part III.


32 Ways to Learn from Real and Relational 

Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study. 

If you are being intentional about keeping learning real and relational, you might also be encouraged by the practical life lessons (and history!) in this post-- Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life


8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Rainy days are natural wonders which intrique little learners. If rain is falling at your house and you are waiting for a safe pause in weather, try this indoor art activity--Torn Paper Rainbows


Grades...In High School

"How do I give grades in high school?"

If designing a transcript is your next step, this post may be helpful--Transcript Matters


Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

If you have middle school learners and are wondering how you can help them manage time, organize belongings, and pursue interests, this post--Magnificent, Make-A-Difference Middle School--might be helpful. 


Preschooling, Intentionally

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

If you are seeking ways to help your little learners do what they can, 3 Things They Can DO on Their Own, might be helpful. 


Living Books and Independent Studies

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

Science--especially animal science--is particularly interesting to little learners. If you have little learners with a zest for all things living, check out the book list in Vintage Science Readers for the WIN! 


Nature Adventures Made EASY- A Glimpse into Part of Our Day

Ten minutes later, peering out the bedroom window to check on the adventure, my heart smiled--three little learners discovering, wondering together. Co-laboring in learning. 

Looking for a way to learn math outdoors, in nature, where children crave? Check out Math Adventures!


Using Living Books in High School for Credit

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests and the future plans of the young adult.

Interested in earning credit for writing college essays? This post--High School Made Simple: College Essays for Credit--might offer some insight. 


SIMPLE Prepositions for Little Learners

Keeping early learning active and fun!

Picture books can encourage learning. Read Aloud to Foster Counting Skills lists some of our favorite math picture books. 


Intentional Cursive Handwriting

Oh yes, there is good reason to teach cursive, teaching correct strokes and rotations. Proper letter formation does make composition easier. However, once initial instruction is complete and letters are formed properly, practice begins. Practice.

Interested in hands-on, real-life, spelling activities? This post--What About Spelling?--has lots of practical ideas. 


Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

If this post made you curious about interest-based learning, The Benefits of Interests: Motivating Learners, may answer a few more questions. 

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