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Suddenly freaking out

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Dh and I sat with our young people after the middles and littles went to bed and I now find myself freaking out about high school and beyond! All the questions thrown at me, the concerns/fears....aarggghhh!!! Before tonight the plan seemed simple enough: Finish high school, attend CC, then see where life takes you. No big deal, right? Yet as the evening went on the topic of CLEP vs. actual college class came up, SAT (necessary or not?), GED (seems a lot of their friends are doing this and dc want to know why they can't do it as well), etc.


Now that they have gone to bed I am sitting here with my mind racing! What did I miss? What do I have to smash into the next 1-2 years so their education is "complete"? For example, they have read plenty of great books yet essays have been minimal (OK, pretty much nonexistent). Why? I don't know!! We discuss the books and they use Spark Notes yet I don't have pages-long papers on literary analysis and such. Perhaps their work load is intense enough and the thought of dumping an essay on them is daunting. Or perhaps I detested essays so much I don't want to do that to my dc. ;) My 15yos would probably go into a coma if he had to write an extensive essay on literature; it's hard enough getting him through Tale of Two Cities just reading/discussing!


I'm not going to sleep tonight, I just know it. These are the times I think I should have put them in public high school or drained our savings for on-line classes.


Not sure what my point is with this post. Just feeling completely overwhelmed. I wish I could start the high school years over and do everything we were "supposed" to do. Maybe it's not that bad, yet it feels that bad right now.

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I think homeschooling tends to go like this. You determine that they need to work on something, so you work hard on it, and then suddenly it is brought to your attention that they have been skipping the science labs or that they can't write an essay, so you shift your focus and work on that for awhile, and then you remember that one of them wanted to go live in Spain and you ask if they still want to do that and they look at you as if you were a stupid fish and say of course and you realize that they had told you their goal and were trusting you to prepare them for it and but you forgot and haven't been teaching them any Spanish so you begin to cram Spanish, and then as you read the boards you notice that everybody else seems to be teaching study skills and you haven't, in fact, your children have never taken a test, and that seems like a rather important skill if they are going to survive college, so you focus on study skills for a bit, and suddenly it has been three years and you have to write a transcript and you realize that in your panic you managed to cover literature, study skills, essays, Spanish, and lab reports and your child's education wasn't that bad after all GRIN.


Go ahead and aim for the community college, especially if that is what is in your budget, but take the SATs or ACTs just in case. Decide about the CLEPs once they are in community college - they don't have to be done now. Make sure they have 4 years of English, 4 of math, 4 of science (2 of them lab sciences), world history, government, US history, and at least 2 years of foreign language on their high school transcript, just in case they want to go to university. Think about whether they need to take the GED just to be safe or not (we decided not but you have to think about your own situation). Teach them how to write even if it means doing less reading and discussing. Try not to panic. This is just one of the normal homeschooling resets that happen when you take a moment to look at what you are doing and think about what you need to do next. It is normal to reassess and to refine one's plans as one gets closer to the start of the new thing.

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Totally normal! It's just more intensified because the "window of opportunity" is narrower now than back in 3rd grade and you discovered you weren't covering something. ;) So, now you know you feel that writing should be more intensively covered. Time to think through a series of questions to get to the answer for THIS child:



re: writing essays


1. Can you reasonably do this at home?

i.e., do you feel comfortable/confident in directing these studies/grading writing? will you/can you commit to the time/change that will require in your homeschool schedule?


2. If yes, then research your options of home-based curriculum -- things like:

- Elegant Essay (step by step process for essay writing with practice exercises and grading rubric)

- Jensen's Format Writing (dry, but gets it done and exposes student to a variety of business types of writing, too)

- Wordsmith Craftsman (for the self-directed student; very gentle -- may not be "beefy" enough for older high school)

- chapter in Windows to the World on how to write a literary analysis essay

- OWL at Purdue (an exploratory approach; work your way through the various articles on writing; no assignments)

- weekly timed essay from past SAT prompts (scroll down the page to find the links to past test dates)

I strongly recommend you do it along with all your children age 12 and above, and then you can gently critique one another's essays. Here is how we slowly built up to the full 25-minute essay over time: Timed writing assignments? (see my post, #5).


Writing Program: need to find ONE that will get the job done (pros/cons of various writing programs)

Resources for teaching writing for high school (MUCH discussion on what worked/didn't work)

Wow! I think I fixed my son's writing! (specific helpful writing tips, and writing program recommendations)


And, agreeing with previous poster -- in order to spend more time on writing, you would need to cut back a bit in some other area. Did you realize that the typical high school English credit is 1/2 writing and 1/2 literature? So if your English credit has been almost exclusively about just literature, you could cut out a few books (or enjoy them just for fun over the summer if you still want to read them) from your literature to carve out time for writing and you would be right on track with the typical high school English coursework. :)



3. If no, then research your outsourcing options:

- dual enrollment of Writing 101 at the community college

- online course

- local tutor/writing instructor

- if allowed and of good quality, sign up at a local public, private, or charter high school just for a writing class

- if of good quality, sign up for a homeschool co-op writing class

- trade homeschool instruction with a mom who is very good at teaching writing, and you teach what you're good at to 1-2 of her students


My first thought, since you mention the plan is to head to community college upon graduation, is to go ahead and go NOW, and have the 16yo do dual enrollment, and take the Writing 101 there. Or, if you feel this student is really "behind" in writing, try a foundational (pre-Writing 101) course there at the community college.


Dual enrollment would relieve the stress about time crunch and preparing your oldest, and give you a bit more time to start lining up resources and methods for the next high schooler. And, it would give your student a "jump start" towards a 2-year degree at the CC, or in taking coursework to then transfer to a university!


Also, dual enrollment might relieve that pressure that your student is feeling/expressing about "everyone else" doing the GED. Through dual enrollment, your student would be finishing high school, you would award a diploma, yet the student would be more independent now, and be a "college student" now. Just curious -- what are all the friends who are taking the GED doing now? What are their future plans?



re: GED

I'd look long and hard at this option before considering it. Why GED when you are so close to finishing in excellence and can award a diploma? GED follows you for the rest of your life and can close many doors. It must be acknowledged any time it is asked about. For certain students in specific circumstances, yes, the GED is an excellent answer. But it doesn't sound like you are anywhere near needing that lifeboat. Check out this past thread: GED??? Also, be aware that the GED test will be changing as of Jan. 1, 2014, and is slated to be more rigorous, requiring more advance study/prep to pass it. It will also have two separate scoring categories: high school curriculum knowledge, and college/career readiness -- which sounds potentially much more like it *could* be used to lock test-takers into more permanent categories when looked at by colleges/employers.



re: SAT / ACT

I always think of this as the situation "better to take it and not need it, than to need it and not have taken it." Plus, it's never a bad thing to practice how to prepare for testing or practice taking tests. And, it leaves the door open to going straight to a university, or going after just a year at community college. And, a good score can open the doors for scholarships! We were able to spend about 15 minutes a day, 4x/week, for the 8 weeks prior to the testing date, and that seemed to give us enough time to prep without taking away from what we were already doing.


Simple ways of prepping:

- sign up for the College Board SAT Question of the Day to arrive in the email

- go through the free online Khan Academy SAT test prepvideo tutorials which show you tricks and tips of testing

- go through the College Board SAT Prep book; focus on one type of test for a week; have student circle problems struggled with, score the test, and talk through tips on how to approach answering that type of problem in the future, or review how to solve that type of problem



re: CLEP

Can't help much here; we opted not to go this route after weighing all our options and considering how much extra time it would have required for our particular students to prepare. But for many, this is an excellent way to shave off time needed for earning a degree, as long as the institution you want to attend will accept it. Here are schools that accept CLEP. In this "pinned" thread (bottom of post #2) are links to lots of past threads on CLEP.



re: what to "smash in" to make education complete

This is what I think of as a "mission" statement or "goal-setting" type of question, rather than strictly an academics type of question. Pick JUST the top 2-3 things that are of MOST importance to you -- or would be of value to this particular student -- or needs to be remediated in this student -- or would be of interest to this student -- and make sure to include them in some way (academics, just in living life, through extracurricular activity...). "Smashing" in just isn't going to work at this point -- it's like staying up all night before a test and cramming; invariably, students do much worse on the test do to lack of sleep. You'll have more success -- and less stress! -- by just picking the top 2-3 things that are most important, and let the rest go. It is OKAY to let those things go! NO ONE can learn it all, or be perfectly prepared in all ways! We continue to learn and grow throughout life -- it doesn't stop at high school graduation. ;)



Just take a breath! Get some rest! :) Pick one area to research and decide on, then move on to the next. You'll get through this! BEST of luck in your high school adventures! Warmly, Lori D.

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just sympathy here . . i have one jr who is 2E and went to school thru 7th grade . . . i'm aimed for community college . .and i suddenly realized i still have 2 years worth of stuff i'd like to teach him! this high school stuff is nervewracking!

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Just make sure they can write *something*. They don't have to be literary essays. My kids abhor them. And when my eldest got to college, we all realized it just wasn't going to come up. Much. And what she did have to write in the genre she just figured out how to do then.


Literary essays are not important. A student should be able to produce writing that is right in the mechanics. That's essential. Above and beyond that, it's really good to be able to put ideas down on paper and be able to support them. This does not need to be about great works of literature. I suspect most schools just do that because they know the students will have *something* they can write about. Pick something else if that is more interesting -- political debates, research reports, letters to the editor, etc.


And yes, just take the SAT or ACT. One or the other. Don't bother with both. Do some prep with prep books. It doesn't need to be a big deal. Most colleges are just looking for a respectable score. Respectable isn't really all that high. (Unless you have your sights set on highly selective colleges.)


Most people take CLEPs once they're in college -- that way they know what the college will accept for getting out of courses. It may be a waste of time doing them before. If you want to place out of college courses, the cc route might be the least problematic. More colleges around us will accept dual enrollment (college during high school) than anything else. Even AP is becoming less acceptable. If you have any idea where your kids might go for college, check that college for their advice. And there are a lot of colleges that limit what and how much they'll accept -- I wouldn't drive yourself crazy trying to get college done in high school if there are other valuable things your kids want to do.


We never researched the GED at all. I don't think it's necessary if a student is going to go to college and get a degree. If they don't make it to the degree, then it might be useful at some point to have (IF you can't just issue a high school diploma yourself), but they can always take it later. If they really want to do it, sure, let them. It's no disadvantage except the time. But they likely won't gain much from it. (To those who say it looks bad to have this score, uh, well, just don't tell people you've taken the test.)


The only other thing that's essential in high school is math. You just continue to work at whatever level the student is capable at and don't sweat it.


Everything else is nice to have, but if you missed it, the world wouldn't end. They'll just pick it up later if they need it.


Of course, it's nice to have well rounded, intelligent students, so I'm not suggesting you purposely ignore everything else, but in the end, if you have to pick one thing over another, I'd go for the writing and math.

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