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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Homeschool Support

It's summer and homeschool conventions are in the air. I've traveled to four so far this year to represent Sonlight in various exhibit halls. Perhaps because I am reaching the half century mark this year, I found myself comparing this year's conventions and attendees to those I remember when I first began attending conventions some 17 years ago. Reflecting on the differences has made for some interesting conversation with others of my "generation".

I also have the privilege of acting as the program director for a state convention here in the northeast. We will be holding our post-convention recap and strategy meeting this weekend. Each year this meeting causes me to consider the perceived needs and wants of homeschoolers and whether or not we are effectively meeting those needs.

In the "early years" of homeschooling, conventions were eagerly anticipated as an opportunity to gather with others of like-minded thought when it came to educational choices. It was a chance to re-group and be encouraged in the rather unique path you had chosen. There was an almost desperate need to hear that what you were doing was right and good.

Today's conventions seem to be more consumer-oriented. With so many to choose from, most folks have the option of attending at least 2, and maybe 3, within driving distance. In this age of Facebook and Twitter, "virtual conventions" are also beginning to appear on the horizon. Curriculum choices are available to preview online, live chat services offer a curriculum advisor at your fingertips, and homeschool forums, chat rooms and blogs, provide virtually everything that a "skin on" convention has to offer without ever leaving home.

So are homeschool conventions and local support group meetings headed the way of the dinosaur? Will they soon be extinct? I truly hope not. While I believe that technology is a wonderful and useful tool, there is just nothing that meets our built-in need for relationship and encouragement like a homeschool convention (or a support group meeting). As I stood on various convention floors this year and talked with new homeschooling parents, admired their babies and toddlers, engaged in some Homeschool 101 conversation, encouraged them that they CAN indeed do this homeschool thing, and hugged them before they left ... I considered time and time again that nothing will ever replace that eye-to-eye, face-to-face experience that an "in-person" event has to offer. It is worth the effort of finding child care, saving pennies for convention registration and possible hotel stay, and arranging transportation.

A thought to contemplate ... if you're a "veteran" homeschooler as I am, and really feel no compelling need to attend a homeschool convention ... consider how valuable your life experience would be to new homeschoolers just beginning their journey. Give some thought to volunteering or working on your local convention team as a means of "giving back" to those who supported you during the early years of your homeschool experience. I guarantee you it's worth your time and effort.

Still traveling the path ...
~Judy
Sonlight Customer Champion

Friday, June 10, 2011

Encouragement and Reminders

Are you feeling down or overwhelmed?

I often get depressed immediately following a great experience. I've been told that's normal. If you've been at the top of the world, even the mile high city pales in comparison. It's also easy, when thinking about the future, to become overwhelmed by everything we have to do. The events to come in the rest of our lives quickly swamp the few hours we have today.

Many families are finishing up their homeschooling for the year and looking toward the Fall. This can be exhilarating and exhausting. Summer is here, but that doesn't mean things can't be a little blue even with clear skies and perfect weather. I've found a little encouragement and some well-placed reminders to be very helpful when I'm down or stressed.

That's one reason why I love the latest update to Sonlight's website. You can now find encouraging photos and quotes in the sidebar on many pages of the site.


Encouraging Photos and Quotes

Do you have a photo and story that is a great reminder of the joy of homeschooling? Have you recently been encouraged by something that happened in your homeschool? Please, take a moment and share it on Sonlight's Photo Contest page. Your picture and story may appear in next year's Catalog and website as an encouragement to hundreds of families beginning and continuing their homeschooling journey.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Humor: You Know You're a Homeschooler When ...

Sarita's Word

Does something ever happen that makes you think, "Wow, I really am a homeschooler!" I'd like to share some quick stories that fellow homeschoolers have emailed to me recently. These sure made me smile (or even laugh out loud). Enjoy!

You Know You're a Homeschooler When ...
  • "Someone asks your children what grade they are in, and they try to help each other figure it out." –Mary Beth
  • "You have the math lesson timed to the dryer cycle!" –The B Family
  • "When you send your son off to college and he emails you and tells you that organic chemistry isn't that hard. [Update: He got an A in the class!]" –Sandra H
  • "Your kids are playing Simon Says with directions like 'pretend you are an oblique line segment!'" –Niki C
  • "When the conversation you are having about 6th/7th grade chemistry is so in depth that a college sophomore majoring in Engineering asks you if you have a degree!!!!! I told him yes, I have my 'M-O-M' degree. :)" –Stacey A
  • "My teenagers love talking things over with me and don't mind being seen in public with me." –Carol C
  • "You can take a picnic bench, an oatmeal container and a hula loop and turn them into an ear canal and eardrum." –Jeana R
  • "You go to get groceries and your kids bring pencil and paper so they can figure math problems as you go down each aisle." –Heather
  • "Your daughter wants to have a party and invites seven other homeschool girls to join her in working at the church Food Closet on a weekday morning." –Karen L
  • "Your daughter is filling in a blank on a questionnaire that asks, 'Where do you go to school?' and she writes, 'Under the dining room table.'" –Cindy

How about you? Do you have a good finish to the sentence "You Know You're a Homeschool When ..."?

Blessings,
Sarita

I think I can do this!

I have been tossing around the idea of homeschooling my daughter since the day I found out I was pregnant with her. I finally made the decision that starting in Kindergarten I would be a homeschool mom! I researched for months looking for the right curriculum and I found that I loved how Sonlight had packages with instructors guides and tons of really cool books. This will be my first year homeschooling, so I really felt that I needed a curriculum that not only taught my daughter but also helped teach me how to homeschool.

Sonlight Homeschool Materials
Curriculum that Teaches Me How to Homeschool

My daughter is an extremely curious little girl so when I opened the boxes up she was right there with me going through each book. She meticulously placed each book in a pile according to size and told me which ones she was going to read first!

box day
Looking Through the Books

She is so interested in animals that we immediately had to look through the Frogs and Tadpoles book. After being able to go through the boxes and get everything organized, I sat down with the instructors guide and read through it. It was so wonderfully laid out and I love that I have everything I need to get her started and loving school!

box day
Ready to Start School

We are taking some vacations and "school" won't be starting until September but my daughter is asking everyday if it's time for school yet. I am taking the summer to read all of her books and even I am excited with the wide range of literature that is covered. I do not remember learning any of this when I was in Kindergarten so I am excited for my daughter. I finally feel like I CAN do this and it will be a wonderful journey with the help of Sonlight!

Thanks!

Alison K.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

High School and Grading and Transcripts ... Oh My!!

As Luke alluded to on Monday, grading is one of those topics that can generate a whole range of emotions among homeschoolers. Some folks began homeschooling to get away from the "stigma" of grades, others just want an easy way to assign a grade and be done with it, while others are just uncertain of how to navigate the whole grading/transcript maze.

Luke mentioned the whole pass/fail idea in his previous post. I would agree that homeschooling allows us the freedom to ensure mastery. In other words, there is never a reason for a homeschool student to "fail" a subject. Thus, if one of my students does not meet the expectation I've set for a particular assignment, he/she has the *privilege* of working on it again until the assignment/project is mastered.

The pass/fail concept is good in general. However there does come a time when you may need to create a transcript for your child, and more detailed or specific grading becomes necessary.

Let me offer a few suggestions that have worked well with the high schoolers we've graduated from our homeschool.

1) First, don't waste any time in ordering Cafi Cohen's book Homeschooler's College Admissions Handbook. This is one of the most practical and easy to read resources that I've come across on the whole topic of homeschooling high school, writing transcripts, and preparing for college or other post-high school options. So don't pass go, don't collect $200, order this book!! You might also find our high school webinar to be a good resource.

2) Set your expectations. Each time I began a new college class, the professor handed out a syllabus on the first day. It listed the titles of the books required for the course, an outline of what to expect during the course, and what it would take to pass the course. I have found it helpful to do the same for my high school students. A possible Core 400 syllabus might look something like this ....
  • Passing this course requires you to read 14 of the 24 American Litereature titles included in this program. You must read Moby Dick, but you may choose any other 13 titles.
  • Passing this course requires you to read the following History/Civics titles: Basic American Government by Carson, Never Before in History by Amos and Gardiner, and Emancipating Slaves by Hummel.
  • Passing this course requires you to read 6 of the 8 biographies/historical fiction titles included in this program.
  • Passing this course requires you to complete the writing assignments associated with the 14 American Literature titles you choose.
  • Passing this course requires your comprehension of the History/Civics titles you are required to read. This will be determined by verbal discussion with me, and occasional writing assignments (simple chapter or section reviews).
(IMPORTANT NOTE: I am *NOT* saying that a student should not read all the books in Core 400, or that these titles which I've listed are better than those which I did not! This is purely for the sake of demonstrating a possible syllabus.)

A similar approach can be taken with math (expectation to complete the math course, have a test grade average of 75 or better, etc...), with science, and any other subject assigned for a given high school year.

The value of a written syllabus, though it may take you some time at the beginning of the year, is that all players are aware of the "rules" and expectations from the start. You as the parent/teacher are not stuck making requirements up as the year progresses, and the student begins the course year with a thorough understanding of what is expected.

3) Create your grading chart. Determine ahead of time what level of work earns what grade and how that will ultimately translate to a transcript. Cohen's book is a good resource for how to grade and determine grade point equivalents for a transcript. Here's a suggestion of a grading chart you may wish to use:

Completion of all assigned work with exemplary output -
98-100% (A) ..... Credit Equivalent: 4.0

Completion of all assigned work with outstanding output -
90-98% (A-) ..... Credit Equivalent: 3.7

Completion of all assigned work with good output -
85-90% (B+) ..... Credit Equivalent: 3.3

Completion of all assigned work with average output -
80-85% (B) ..... Credit Equivalent: 3.0

Completion of all assigned work with a struggle -
75-80% (C+) ..... Credit Equivalent: 2.3

Completion of all assigned work (just squeaking by!) -
70-75% (C) ..... Credit Equivalent: 2.0

It will be up to you as the parent/teacher to define "exemplary output" or "with a struggle", but once you have that foundation, creating a grade equivalency chart will save you much time and effort.

Bottom line ... you as the parent/teacher will determine what grading you will use for your high school students. You will determine the standard by which your student is evaluated ... and the amazing blessing of homeschooling is that you can set that standard based on what you know about your student. The trick is to spend some time *well before* the school year begins to establish your expectations for every course, create a grade equivalency chart, and communicate these with your student(s). This level of grading detail is far less necessary in the lower grades where there is no need for creating a transcript. Creating a much simpler pass/fail or grade range expectation works just fine.

Homeschooling high school is an exciting challenge. You will encounter all sorts of life-changing experiences with your students and build memories that will last a lifetime. Don't let grading become a road-block to your high school journey.

Blessings ...
~Judy
Sonlight Customer Champion

Contributors:

luke holzmann
Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester
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box day
Box Day
Box Day stories and pictures from Sonlighters across the globe. Share your Box Day story!
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judy wnuk
Judy Wnuk
Sonlight customer champion and homeschooling expert.
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sarita holzmann
Sarita Holzmann
Co-founder and president of Sonlight Curriculum.
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