Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

swimmermom3

"Outside the box" for high school?

Recommended Posts

I have had the irritating feeling that Sailordude and I are doing "school at home" this year - his sophomore year. Helena's terrific thread reminded me of all the fun and "outside the box" things we did during middle school while still laying a solid foundation for high school. I miss that and more importantly, I don't think the way we are doing things currently is necessarily the right way for us.

 

For some mid-year inspiration, could we please talk about some of things you are doing or have done with your students that don't look like school at home, that are "outside the box?"

 

I noticed on the other thread some tension over being relaxed and being that other "R" word. Maybe we can leave that behind and think of this as a brainstorming session?  One poster mentioned not really talking about what she was doing because of the response. That's a shame because I think we all lose in the long run. Nan in Mass routinely posts ideas that blow my little world apart, but often something will resonate with me and when I put my world back together, it's better and stronger.

 

We have many posters who have done unique things during the high school years and it would be great to hear from them. If you are a professor, a teacher in a formal academic setting, if you could teach your subject the way you wanted to without bureaucratic  constraints, what would you do?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 If you are a professor, a teacher in a formal academic setting, if you could teach your subject the way you wanted to without bureaucratic  constraints, what would you do?

 

Since that applies to me (more than the out-of-the-box part), I'll take a stab at this question.

The learning objectives I have for my students in introductory physics (be it high school or college) are:

  • thorough conceptual understanding
  • strong problem solving skills
  • gathering, analyzing and evaluating experimental data

To reach those goals, I would want to have the following components to my course:

  • Students pre-read the text so they have an idea what topic and concept we will be studying
  • Interaction between instructor and students with focus on concepts and systematic problem solving skills
  • Practice problem solving in groups, with peer instructors to guide through Socratic questioning, and the professor in the background to facilitate active learning.
  • Lab: comparatively simple experimental setups (I do not see it as the objective of an introductory course to teach the handling of complex highly specialized lab equipment);  the focus of the lab should be on data analysis and evaluation, using the computer only as a computational tool, not as a black box for data collection and display.

If I compare this to my professional reality, I have most of this - except for students pre-reading, and for the kind of lab experience (too superficial, too much computer use that obscures what is going on, analysis not rigorous enough). In our home school, we remedy the lab issues to reach the kind of learning objective I have in mind.

I am not hampered by bureaucratic constraints, only by the large class sizes which limit the effectiveness of group work and Socratic discussions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DS is in 9th grade this year. My main goal for HS is to allow DS to continue to pursue his interests in depth, while still allowing for a transcript that simultaneously checks the required boxes and highlights his strengths and passions with interesting and unique courses. Here's what he's doing at the moment:

 

Foreign Languages & Linguistics

This is DS's primary area of interest. He's totally self-directed with linguistics, reading texts and articles on his own. He does Latin & Greek online, and studies Old Norse and Turkish on his own with college texts. He wants to study Mongolian next, and hopes to start classes this summer (after we move). His transcript will include a variety of language & linguistics credits, he's especially interested in some of the more obscure Turkic/Mongolic languages. He would love to get involved with the Endangered Languages project, or perhaps intern with one of the organizations preserving Native American languages. 

 

History

We're doing US history with a combination of TC courses, documentaries, eclectic readings (ranging from The Jefferson-Adams Letters to Jean Beaudrillard's America), and field trips.  After we finish US history, DS wants to do Civilizations of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, probably in conjunction with a course on Myth and Epic in World Literature. Then maybe a semester on Early Northern Europe to go with the Tolkein & Philology course from Signum (which covers many of the Norse/Celtic/Anglo-Saxon myths & epics, as well as the linguistics of Gothic, Old Norse, and Anglo-Saxon). He really wants to get back into Classical history & lit, too (because apparently 3 years of Greek history in middle school just scratched the surface, lol).

 

English

Currently he's studying the History of English, with TC courses & assorted readings. He's dabbled in Anglo-Saxon/Old English, but wants to get through his Norse text first. Literature currently includes Norse sagas as well as some novels related to American history & culture (just finished Alexie's Part-Time Indian and has started Mark Dunn's American Decameron).

 

Science
Astronomy is probably his favorite subject right now, and has inspired tons of additional reading and research — plus it's motivated him to read up on physics & chemistry, and he wants to do chemistry as soon as he finishes this. He's working through Filippenko's wonderful 96-lecture TC course, and has been really diligent about taking notes on each lecture. I showed him the Cornell system, and he's figured out how to focus on the key points, and not try to write every single fact down. We have lots of other TC courses and documentaries on astronomy, and once the weather warms up a bit, we'll be visiting some observatories and attending "star parties" with the local astronomy club. 

 

Math

This is definitely his worst subject and the least self-directed. We're using a variety of materials, from TC courses to videos to multiple textbooks. Although DS gets math concepts easily, his deficits in processing speed and working memory make computation difficult, and retention is an issue. He tends to "brain dump" things he's not interested in, to make room for the things he is (like Old Norse verb conjugations, lol).  OTOH, he wants to understand the math and physics in the Filippenko course, so he's been looking up videos online to help explain some of those concepts, and has even mentioned that "some parts of math are actually interesting." So that gives me a bit of hope for the future.  :tongue_smilie:

 

Extras

Drawing & nature journaling, building stuff, working on his invented language, practicing Mongolian throat singing, and competitive fencing.

 

Future Courses

Topics I hope to incorporate at some point, either as individual courses or folded into other courses, include logic, philosophy, history of science, art history, and cognitive science. One course idea I'm working on is called "Maps, Models, and Metaphors: Ways of Seeing and Knowing," which would include areas of philosophy, cognitive science, art, and various other topics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For some mid-year inspiration, could we please talk about some of things you are doing or have done with your students that don't look like school at home, that are "outside the box?"

 

OK, now for this part of the question. For those who know me, it is obvious that we are not completely out-of-the-box homeschoolers, but I feel that we are rather selective where we want to be in the box and where we want to be outside. Basically, we are only in the box for math, science, and foreign language. Those we cover in a traditional way, with systematic curricula and textbooks. Everything else does not, in my opinion, feel like "school".

 

For English and history we do our own thing, being loosely inspired by WTM for 9th and 10th grade. But, as somebody else wrote in the other thread: one family's box is another family's meadow! So, my humanities loving kids like reading classics and historic fiction and listening to copious amounts TC lectures; it's the "fun" part of their school day. (We grownups listen to history lectures in the car for recreation, too)

 

In 11th grade, my DD completely unschooled English. She chose what to read. She got interested in the English Romantic poets, read biographies and their works. She discussed literature with online friends in long messaging threads whose depth rivaled any literature analysis essay I could have assigned her. She wrote blog posts and fanfiction. All completely of her own volition.

 

We unschool all electives.

 

Art history education took mainly place in great museums in the US and Europe and though visiting medieval, Renaissance and Baroque architectural land marks (yes, we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel). DD has a friend who is an art student; they would discuss her class work, look up artists' works online together, compare and debate. The two books we used play a minor role compared to all of this.

Music education is dozens of live performances of all genres, from jazz to opera.

PE is rock climbing, canyoneeering and mountaineering, along with backpacking instruction, backcountry safety and ethics.

Computer skills get picked up along the way. DD taught herself basic web design so she could make websites for her stable and her equestrian club. The kids learned to assemble hardware by helping dad build a computer cluster from parts.

 

DD is interested in food chemistry and baking. She studied from books, online tutorials, TC lectures, and had plenty of lab experience for her Culinary Chemistry course in the kitchen. She experimented with techniques, researched the chemical reasons behind the techniques and as a result cooks and bakes very well since she has a good understanding of the underlying chemical processes. This was utterly out of the box, completely unschooled, interest driven.

 

So, while on paper DD's transcript looks very traditional, I feel that we are doing a nice mix of in-the-box and out-of-the-box learning to reach our educational goals. Our mix reflects partly our abilities and our kids' interests. Within the framework of our educational goals, some subjects lend themselves more easily to out-of-the-box learning than others: if a college prep education is the goal, I would find it difficult to imagine what an out-of-the-box math education could look like, whereas I have no trouble envisioning unconventional English or history coverage. It is possible that I am limited in my imagination there.

 

As I said, this is in the framework of our educational expectations. A family who is not aiming at preparing their kids for a four year university would likely have entirely different approaches and goals. I have good friends who are homesteading. The kids learn about organic gardening, building a house with their own hands, raising animals, wild plants and their uses. The 14 y/o is taking carpentry lessons from a family friend and is quite accomplished. They read and research a lot. Compared to their life-practical education, their formal academic studies are basic check-the-box level. The kids will be well prepared to follow either their parents' lifestyle or to continue their formal education at a community college.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is the thread I've been waiting for. :thumbup1: I'm only in the planning stages, but I'd love to post what I have planned later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You guys are terrific. Right after I posted this, my dd called. She had spun her car into an embankment on one of our more treacherous roads. She's home and okay and the car is at the shop, but everyone's legs are shaking as the opposite side is a sheer drop. I'll check back in a bit after my brains unscramble.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have been inside the box for the last year or so, and you know what??? I broke the freaking box this morning!!! I finally figured out where my stress, anxiety and unhappiness was coming from! It was coming from inside that damn box!!! I paid GOOD MONEY for that box!!! Why?? Because once again, I let my fears get ahead of my better judgement!!!

 

So, now for the next few weeks I have to work on getting my relationship back with my kids and away from checking a box in a plan book that tells us how far behind we are.....UGH!!!!

 

Life is TOO SHORT!!! Enjoy Sailor Dude!!!! Enjoy doing what you do!!! The Doctor is turning out just fine!!! The boys were so happy and relaxed today. They got learning done. They laughed. They created....

We HOMEschooled <3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, all I can actually post is my fantasy for doing high school outside the box, because we are still several years away. ;)

 

I am fantasizing about doing science outside the box.  Big inspirations for me are Nan in Mass, who didn't break her kids by doing "natural history" for two years, and Jackie . . . because of everything!!  :001_wub:

 

But, like Plum Crazy, right now I gotta actually go teach science, so I wll come back later to post about my fantasy, meanwhile, I am loving this thread! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have had the irritating feeling that Sailordude and I are doing "school at home" this year - his sophomore year. Helena's terrific thread reminded me of all the fun and "outside the box" things we did during middle school while still laying a solid foundation for high school. I miss that and more importantly, I don't think the way we are doing things currently is necessarily the right way for us.

 

For some mid-year inspiration, could we please talk about some of things you are doing or have done with your students that don't look like school at home, that are "outside the box?"

 

I noticed on the other thread some tension over being relaxed and being that other "R" word. Maybe we can leave that behind and think of this as a brainstorming session?  One poster mentioned not really talking about what she was doing because of the response. That's a shame because I think we all lose in the long run. Nan in Mass routinely posts ideas that blow my little world apart, but often something will resonate with me and when I put my world back together, it's better and stronger.

 

We have many posters who have done unique things during the high school years and it would be great to hear from them. If you are a professor, a teacher in a formal academic setting, if you could teach your subject the way you wanted to without bureaucratic  constraints, what would you do?

 

I had a very long response written out for the other thread when I saw you had started this one.  "School at home" is exactly what we are doing.  I will not "wax eloquent" about how that is chaffing me, but I will say that I really miss the "joy in learning" that we had before.  Ds burnt out from striving to achieve that "perfect college applicant pipe-dream" last year and he paid for it in the first part of this year.  I saw a totally different person for several months and neither of us liked it.  He even came out and told me that he "lost the love of learning" for awhile.  He has regained his footing and is enjoying his classes more now, but he is having to work hard to pull himself back up to where he knows he should be.  There is definitely no time to be creative or have "fun".

 

I will be watching this thread closely and thinking hard about this.  My children want to go to college, but I also want high school to be a bit more balanced.  I want to explore more rabbit trails and "morsels of interest".  I want "different" and more creative ways to get the learning done that has to get done.

 

I want these last few years with my children to be memorable and fun and at least somewhat "interest-driven".  I want out of this box!  There are fingernail marks all over the top of it!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This year, we are on the road. We sold our house and live in a 42' RV and we are traveling around the country during my twins' senior year. (I also have a 10th grader, among others.) I am claiming social studies credit for it, calling it "Experiencing America". Considering that they got accepted into colleges with this on their transcript, I assume it's okay. I have a travel blog you can check out if you want: http://www.coach-and-six.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, for science credit one of my sons took an online NASA semester course and got credit for "Space Systems and Design". The course culminated with a week-long residency program at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Not something I could have come up with myself, and definitely not something many kids have on their transcripts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for this post,Lisa. Although I'm silently crying on the inside because I know we are just doing school at home more or less, and not as outside of the box as I'd like, or as I think ds would enjoy. It's all my fault, really, because I can't let go of what I'm "supposed" to be doing. He's bored. I'm bored. It's all bad... PLEASE if you are out-schooling, share what you're doing, regardless of how you think other people will perceive it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You guys are terrific. Right after I posted this, my dd called. She had spun her car into an embankment on one of our more treacherous roads. She's home and okay and the car is at the shop, but everyone's legs are shaking as the opposite side is a sheer drop. I'll check back in a bit after my brains unscramble.

 

 

:grouphug:  So glad she is okay!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I started to post this in the other thread, then thought it would fit better over here. It's a response to the general fear that getting out of the box might "close doors" or limit future options.

 

I don't think it's as cut-&-dried as some people fear; it's not a case of A+B = C, and never D. There are unschoolers who get into elite colleges (as well as a wide range of other colleges), and there are kids who played the game, did everything "right," jumped through all the most rigorous hoops, and did not get into the top schools they expected, because they are competing against thousands of other kids whose transcripts and tests scores look just like theirs.

 

Obviously a student who struggles with math and barely makes it through Alg II, and who spends most of her HS years painting and drawing, is unlikely to have the option of attending Harvard — but this isn't a student who would want, or be eligible for, that option anyway, so it's not as if those choices "closed the door" on Ivies. OTOH there are thousands of students who do want to attend Harvard, who jump through all the hoops in hopes of getting there, and then don't. For some of those kids, it might be the very "in-the-boxness" of their transcripts that closed that door. And then the kid who spent most of her time drawing & painting may end up with a fabulous portfolio that gets her into art school. Every choice means giving up something else; it's not only those who stray from the "standard" path who give up options and close doors.

 

IMHO, the primary skills needed for success in college are the ability to "read, write, & reason" critically and analytically. There are many paths to get there, some of which may look nothing like a typical HS curriculum. As for course content, I think homeschoolers have a unique opportunity to show adcoms something really different and interesting, and to provide a transcript that will stand out in a pile of nearly identical PS & private school transcripts filled with the same courses and the same ECs. For kids who have intense interests of their own, which do not align with standard AP courses, why make them slog through APs? Why not encourage them to pursue their interests in creative and innovative ways, and help ensure they head off to college with their enthusiasm and love of learning intact, ready to bring unusual perspectives and original contributions to their classes?

 

Neither of my kids will have any APs, because I disagree with the mile-wide-inch-deep approach, especially as applied to humanities courses. DS will have some DEs —probably at least one math and one science, plus a variety of language classes. He will have some unusual and unique courses on his transcript, an extensive reading list with few textbooks, some interesting travel and internship experiences, and some original projects, as well as 6+ years in his sport. Am I worried that his somewhat unusual path will prevent him from getting into an excellent college? Nope.

 

Also, there are many many routes to a college education, and the number of students (homeschooled and public schooled) headed for the Ivies and other elite colleges is relatively small. Below that level are many solid options, from state universities to small LACs, and the CC-transfer route is also a perfectly reasonable option that may be ideal for some students. I did my undergraduate work at a small, mid-level LAC (one of the "Colleges that Change Lives") followed by grad school at a top 10 university, and I actually felt that I was better prepared for grad school than many of those who came from much higher-ranked programs. What I had, that they didn't, was lots of experience in small seminars as well as the opportunity to pursue topics of interest in great depth through independent study and one-on-one mentoring. That is the sort of educational experience I hope to achieve through homeschooling, rather than replicating a typical high school program, just with harder books.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad everyone is OK, Lisa!!

 

I think this is where I would recommend keeping in mind the goals of the student and how much out of the box you want to get for their personal objectives.   For my 2 current high school students, we are pretty much staying in the box but definitely shaking it up by having free reign over those subjects whose content is not clearly delineated and by adding in electives that really suit their personal interests.   These 2 have very high personal ambitions (phD as goals) and want to be able to make sure all avenues are open.

 

One of the main subjects where I feel complete freedom is literature.   I posted in the other thread that ds's transcript does not contain traditional literature courses at all.   As a matter of fact, his courses are definitely a reflection of the choices he and I selected together.   These are the titles he read last yr and has mostly finished already this yr:

Screw Tape Letters, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, A Guide through CS Lewis's Space Trilogy, Til We Have Faces, Paradise Lost, Divine Comedy: Inferno, The Man Who Was Thursday, Message in the Bottle, "The Most Dangerous Game," "Metamorphosis,"  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mere Christianity, The Everlasting Man, Tale of Two Cities, Frankenstein, Othello, and the Scarlet Letter.

 

The reading of "The Most Dangerous Game" "Metamorphosis" actually morphed into a short story study that I now have both my 9th grader and 12th grader doing and we are having a fabulous time.   I'm not sure where this one is going.   It sort of has a life of its own and we are following its lead.  ;)

 

My 9th grader is doing our own version of a LOTR study.   We have supplemented with a lot of additional readings outside of those found in LLfLOTR and a huge shout out to whoever posted the info on Tolkien's Fall of Arthur b/c that is absolutely going to be one of the highlights of this study b/c dd LOVES poetry and Tolkien so it is the best of both.  

 

  My ds did multiple independent astronomy courses.   He also did a philosophy of science and religion course that was fabulous. My dd that is taking Russian is taking a Russian history class.   Since she is considering majoring in Russian and ultimately linguistics, her electives are going to be focused around language/culture.   She has been eying a few TC courses to develop into classes for herself.

 

That said, every course is still "inside" of the box enough that it meets the criteria for absolutely any school they might want to pursue.   They are research/writing/analyzing.   They are not only meeting the skills/cultural/knowledge base that schools want to see, but are surpassing them b/c of how they are studying them and the research involved in how we put the courses together in the first place.   So, there is no concern about whether they will be able to function inside a traditional university classroom b/c the foundational skills aren't there.  

 

Similarly, b/c I am not a science/math person, I have left my out of the box science approach behind as we hit high school credits.   Science looks very traditional b/c I wouldn't have a clue how to do it otherwise. 

 

But, really, still having complete freedom over a few subjects helps keep us happy.  :)  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since that applies to me (more than the out-of-the-box part), I'll take a stab at this question.

The learning objectives I have for my students in introductory physics (be it high school or college) are:

  • thorough conceptual understanding
  • strong problem solving skills
  • gathering, analyzing and evaluating experimental data

To reach those goals, I would want to have the following components to my course:

  • Students pre-read the text so they have an idea what topic and concept we will be studying
  • Interaction between instructor and students with focus on concepts and systematic problem solving skills
  • Practice problem solving in groups, with peer instructors to guide through Socratic questioning, and the professor in the background to facilitate active learning.
  • Lab: comparatively simple experimental setups (I do not see it as the objective of an introductory course to teach the handling of complex highly specialized lab equipment);  the focus of the lab should be on data analysis and evaluation, using the computer only as a computational tool, not as a black box for data collection and display.

If I compare this to my professional reality, I have most of this - except for students pre-reading, and for the kind of lab experience (too superficial, too much computer use that obscures what is going on, analysis not rigorous enough). In our home school, we remedy the lab issues to reach the kind of learning objective I have in mind.

I am not hampered by bureaucratic constraints, only by the large class sizes which limit the effectiveness of group work and Socratic discussions.

 

Regentrude, it sounds as though you work for a university that truly values their professors, if class size is the one thing you would change that is within their control.

 

The reason I asked the question was because two high school teachers and one professor that I know have expressed a desire to follow paths that diverge from that of the institutions that they work for, but then they are all in the humanities. I have gleaned some interesting ideas from them, some not practical in a homeschool environment, but still interesting.

 

It's funny but our home chemistry class follows a standard high school format, but it doesn't feel like "school at home," because I have never done lab work to the extent that we are doing it in our garage or wherever else we can find now that the weather has turned cold. Or maybe it feels "outside the box" because when we work in the garage and the door is up, cars actually slow down and drivers stare. Granted, in long aprons, gloves, and goggles, we probably look like we are operating a meth lab.

 

Your list of learning objectives are helpful as they could be aligned with any branch of science and  because sometimes I lose site of our goals in my insistence that we stay on schedule. Yet, I know that even though we are off schedule, we are going deeper than the standard chemistry class at the high school and my son will have done nearly 3x as many experiments. He is frustrated when experiments don't always work out ("like they did in physics last year at school" :tongue_smilie: ), but thankfully someone on this board once told me that there was just as much learning to be had from an experiment that goes wrong as with one that goes right. This means we spend a lot of time on the first two objectives that you list and a lot less time on the last one. We are still getting a handle on our lab techniques and realizing that the copper sulfate  is taking a long time to dissolve in solution because the "lab" is 10 degrees cooler than needed for optimal solubility. I suspect that in a formal lab setting it may not be acceptable to run into the house and hold the beaker over the heat vent until the solute dissolves.

 

When you looked at Dr. Tang's chemistry schedule last year, did you notice that he required his students to do the first part of their lab write-up before they came to lab? I found out why the first few times we did labs and I didn't require ds to pre-read the lab.

 

For me, where I want to go outside the "norm" for high school science is the sequence, not in the actual classes themselves. I don't mind doing conceptual physics, chemistry, biology, and calculus-based physics, but for some reason astronomy, nature studies, and marine biology also seem important. Ds loves sailing and studying marine life and possibly the stars just seems like a good combination. There is only so much time.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You guys are terrific. Right after I posted this, my dd called. She had spun her car into an embankment on one of our more treacherous roads. She's home and okay and the car is at the shop, but everyone's legs are shaking as the opposite side is a sheer drop. I'll check back in a bit after my brains unscramble.

 

Very scary!!  Glad she is home safe!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We do some box and some not.  What is out of the box is robotics - done with Mindstorms, books from the library and information on the internet.  Some other subjects are a combination of box and out of the box - all done as opportunity arises.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We were pretty out-of-the-box in some ways. And in others, we were not. I'll come post here but it probably won't be for a bit because I have a busy day tomorrow.

 

Lisa - I'm so glad your daughter is ok!

 

I think this is a good time to have this thread, on the heels of the deferred/rejected/wait-listed thread on the college board and helena's thread here. I went through a panic period as I planned high school and felt the box closing in around me. That seems to be fairly common. It is possible to be out-of-the-box AND get into college but I think it is important, as 8 said, to think about the trade-offs of all the various decisions. How much time and money you have unfortunately comes into play, too. Not that necessity is not the mother of invention grin...

 

Back later,

Nan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have graduated 4 kids...completely out of the box! Truthfully, I was burnt due to life circumstances. Life just kicked my ass these last few years and in order to continue homeschooling, I depended on a workbook curriculum. It was fine for a while, but, basically sucked the last few drops of peace right out of me.

 

Anyway, I am by nature a box checker in a house full of kids who were homeschooled and lived a lifestyle of learning since birth. Having a school at home experience has caused them to hate school work and not be too fond of me either. I have some bridges to rebuild before we set back to the books...lol! We will NOT stop learning, because...well...how does anyone do that?? I have a 10 th grader who loves literature, loves art, loves music...she is talented and beautiful, has a mean streak a mile wide...lol. Given the books and materials she can keep herself productively occupied indefinitely.

 

My older kids have all gotten into college...2 oldest have a few degrees between them...lotsa letter etc. Oldest ds decided on college later...he is pursuing dreams, working hard...doing what he loves and he is happy and financially independent from us since he was 19.

#4 is in community college part-time and working in our business part-time. Lyme disease put a monkey wrench in his original

Plans, but did not steal his spirit. He is a well adjusted, wonderful young man.

 

We did not do high school like the school....at all....ever. We read extensively across many genres...aloud. We wrote, we drew, we painted, we composed, we dramatized, we visited, we competed, we served. We found opportunities.

 

I would like to have this now, again with my young bunch....these crazy, kookie kids. I can see even after one day, their lights are coming back on. They are at ease again. The stress of the next workbook assignment, the test to catch them on what they DIDN'T learn...it is gone!!! I apologized. I cried. No more boxes!!! Even if it means an extra year home....or more work on my end. ( it is always more work on my end...lol).

 

Anyway, Lisa.....I know you got this!!!

I know I got this too. :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also glad your dd is okay. 

 

Last year we did a few out of the box ideas

 

Philosophy - we used the IB Theory of Knowledge book, basically epistemology. This was more driven by ds's interest and my thought that with his personality he needs lots of critical thinking skills (born to debate everything). 

 

Computer programming - he "unschooled" an elective. I loosely gauged his hours and he developed projects on his own. This was totally his motivation, he learned more than he could from any set program. 

 

Carpentry - We had just started having him go to work with dh about twice a month. Unfortunately, that's no longer an option, but he was learning carpentry. 

 

This year:

 

Ethics - we just started this week. We're using Aristotle's Ethics with Teaching Company lectures, plus some of the lectures from this Yale Open Course. Philosophy & Science of Human Nature

 

History - This year we're studying the history of language using The Power of Babel as a spine. 

 

Philosophy & Science of Star Trek & Doctor Who - we only got a little ways into this last semester. We had to scale back to focus on a few other subjects, unfortunately this was the first to get cut. I'd like to return to this later this year or next. 

 

Next year I'm planning on spending an entire semester on the time period from WWI to WWII per his request. 

 

We may do a history of Japan or Eastern Asian history. 

 

We're running out of room to add in the fun things. He still programs in his free time. He's studying Japanese for 4 years and wants to add in Russian next year, so that eats into his electives. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With my oldest dd, we did science outside...literally. She was not ever going to be a STEM major...she is now a graphic designer. For her, after failing miserably to teach her using textbooks and a typical course of study, I chose to use her giftings.

 

How: I took a typical scope & sequence and what her transcript and course descriptions should entail into consideration....then,

I book searched to find books written for laymen interested in each topic. She would read these books, draw diagrams, label parts, do experiments, write lab reports, research extensively and then a few longer term projects. She loved this!! Made it her own and learned way more than ever possible with a textbook. Some kids learn better from texts ( I have 2 of those). But for her science was just not going to happen unless she was going to fail it. She knows SO much that during college she ended up tutoring other kids in astronomy. ( One of her favorite courses). I still cherish her notebooks. They are gorgeous and one day, her children will be able to see them!

 

This daughter also used her 4 year history cycle based on my college art history book. We divided it over 4 years and used the art study as her jump off point/ spine. From there, we studied cultures, governments, languages, architecture, literature, poetry, etc.

 

Both boys took technical classes for certifications as heating technicians, air conditioning techs, water treatment techs etc.

 

One son did a year long study of philosophers. One son studied Japan. One was fascinated by Russia...Russian art, authors, music....he was fascinated!! He spent over a year studying Russia....

 

As far as filling in the boxes and meeting requirements: way back when, Barb Shelton has a book called Home School Form-u-la which may still be available. I never actually used the book, but I was set free to do my own thing in High School by her writings. She showed me there was another way to accomplish what needed to be accomplished. She showed me I could keep up teaching a CM type education and it could be as rigorous as any education, even without textbooks for every single subject. We still used them, but they became tools in our tool box for us to use as we needed....they were NOT the devices of torture they have become for us in the last few years.

 

I had to learn to trust myself, and know I could guide my kids, I could get them what they needed and as long as I didn't allow my poor self esteem to get in the way, we could accomplish really cool things!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So Gamer Boy wants to work in the gaming industry. Right now he's set his sights on QA, but that could easily change. Coming from a gamer family, I have some ideas on what would be the ideal education for someone who wants to enter that field. We know a few people who either know people who work at a large game company or have interviewed and can tell us what they are looking for. I found some articles about the top gaming schools and quite a few still require either an accredited diploma or a GED.  :thumbdown:  I'm hoping they will change their views in the coming years or I'll have to try to change them or we'll just apply to ones that don't require those things. I looked at some of the courses they offer for his field and some of them sound like something that I could do on my own.

 

The thought that keeps running through my head is I have a chance to make his transcript look like something that a university as well as a game design company could want right away. I have a unique opportunity and I really don't want to squander it by fitting neatly into other people's boxes. My state has practically no regulations, so I can get a little more creative. I plan to give him the best education I can and open as many doors as possible.

 

There was recently a kid who took a year off before going to college to make a Skyrim mod that took 2000 hours to make and was basically an application to work for Bethesda. I would love to have ds have a huge project like that at the end of high school. I don't think he would do a huge mod, but I can see him learning how to create his own website, review games, write some articles, write some guides, get active in betas and post about bugs. So that is one of our goals. He hasn't shown too much interest yet in learning how to program. I'm sure that will come with time. I've unschooled him in computer science so far since he has picked up so many things just through playing pc games.

 

Some of the ideas I've pulled together from courses from FullSail and Digipen were:

 

Analysis of Game Design - I like the idea of incorporating his writing into his gaming experiences. This is where the website and game reviews would be credited.

 

Mythology & Folklore - He's already taken the NME and MME last year. We're taking a year off, but then picking right back up with it for high school. Mythology and Folklore is key to many games' stories.

 

Historical Archetypes & Mythology -  This is a FullSail course and it looks so interesting. I'll have to let him decide which mythology course he would be interested in and the include the archetypes elsewhere if necessary. This could also easily turn into an English course.

 

Creative Writing & Storytelling - This was from a Digipen course. Either the storytelling portion could be worked into some other courses or it could be a standalone course.

 

World Religion & Philosophy - Ok not so out of the box. He took World Religion in 6th, but it wasn't that thorough. My goal is to have him be able to identify the world religions, philosophy and tie into his World Geography and Culture course he's currently taking to give him  a well rounded view of the world.

 

History of Warfare & Weaponry - this could fill in a Fine Arts credit. In 6th grade I had him start a notebook and draw weapons and note who used them and how. I could expand on that.  He has several weapons books he hasn't had a chance to dig through.

 

History of World Architecture - We've found many games draw inspiration from cultures and their architecture.

     http://www.architecturecourses.org/architecture-history

 

WWI & WWII - for history, we plan to spend a year on these two wars.

 

Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature  - I have been wanting to do this course for some time. It could be another English course.

 

And then there's all the fun Coursera and Great Course lectures to choose from. And I have a lot of Great Course lectures to choose from. :blushing:

 

I plan to let him choose from some of these and hopefully he'll give me some input as to what else he is interested in. He's at the  :blink:  stage right now. Currently he's writing the final essays in WWS1. Instead of Caesar for his chronological narrative, he chose the Battle of Kursk and will be doing a personal description of the tanks involved. After he's done with WWS1, we'll take a break and try out the World of Warcraft in School LA curriculum I found that is designed for 8th graders. I am really excited about it and think he will end up learning a lot and enjoy writing.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Define box. ;)

 

It seems to me there are just different boxes. The textbooks box, the TC and Coursera box, the CC box, the AP box, the living books box, the learn by doing box, the grab-bag style box, etc. . .

 

I'm not trying to be difficult, it's just that I'm not sure exactly who is in the box. I keep feeling the need to rescue the poor lost soul because it seems like a place that no one wants to admit being! I don't ever recall anyone proudly posting, "We are completely IN THE BOX!"

 

Many of the "outside the box" type of posts/threads I see seem to look similar, leading me to see different boxes, as opposed to one dreaded box.

 

I guess I like the idea of a box. I build the walls with our values, put on a mailing label with our destination (goals), and toss inside all the good ideas I find on my occasional wanderings into the world outside. The walls also help keep all the temptations (approaches/resources that won't work for us) at bay. . .

 

Even someone who gets up every morning with no plan ever is in a box--a box that excludes order, plans, and schedules. In the end, don't we all have boxes?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Define box. ;)

 

 

 

Part of our "out of the box" thinking comes from not having it all lined out nicely before we start. I think of a box as pre-determined set of study which you don't have to come up with on your own - my definition. 

 

Aside from the diversity of subjects, I feel a certain freedom to change it up as we go along. We did a lot of that in middle school, which has led to some of what we study today. 

 

I do plan subjects before the beginning of the year, loosely however. I have no idea what random fact or person or thought will spark an interest in ds. It's less emotionally draining to venture off those paths if you're not dragging along the whole year in your backpack. 

 

The biggest challenge I have with myself is realizing there are certain things I feel ds needs to study before graduating. Some of them are items he has zero to no interest in, such as American History. A little bit of forethought on my part, like spending a semester on WWI and WWII, makes it tolerable for him. I have no clue what that semester will look like. I have a slew of books and resources, some are must reads, some will be read if progress in a linear fashion (which would be a first). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me, boxes mean feeling pressured to do what everyone else is doing because it's the widely accepted thing to do. Whether that's internal or external pressure it's still there...telling me no one is ever going to accept X and I am not doing him any favors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part of our "out of the box" thinking comes from not having it all lined out nicely before we start. I think of a box as pre-determined set of study which you don't have to come up with on your own - my definition. 

 

Aside from the diversity of subjects, I feel a certain freedom to change it up as we go along. We did a lot of that in middle school, which has led to some of what we study today. 

 

 

If that is the case, then nothing we are doing with the exception of one online course is in a box.  This includes our TWTM style history/lit. because I am finding resources and books as we go along.  I call it "flying by the seat of our pants"!  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few common definitions of "thinking outside the box"...

 

"Thinking outside the box is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking."

 

"to think imaginatively using new ideas instead of traditional or expected ideas"

 

"to think creatively, unimpeded by orthodox or conventional constraints"

 

"The box, with it's implication of rigidity and squareness, symbolizes constrained and unimaginative thinking"

 

"Idea generation or problem solving that is not constrained by self-imposed limits or conventional barriers."

 

"​It means approaching problems in new and innovative ways; conceptualizing problems differently; and understanding your position in relation to any particular situation in a way you'd never thought of before."

 

 

With specific reference to education, I would interpret "in the box" as following a standard HS program, with a transcript listing the standard subjects studied in standard ways and measured via standard methods of output.  At the extreme end of "out-of-the-boxness," I would list radical unschooling, which tends to deviate in almost every possible way from a standard HS program. In the vast middle ground between the two extremes lie approaches ranging from adding a few interest-led courses to an otherwise standard transcript, to doing most or all subjects in an interest-led way and providing an extensive, ungraded, narrative transcript — and every possible combination in between. Every family needs to find their own balance point. 

 

Reading posts, on this board and others, from BTDT homeschoolers who took unconventional paths and graduated kids who are happy and successful, whether in college or engaged in other pursuits, has helped give me the confidence to follow my instincts and DS's interests. I've also read a lot of books, articles, blogs, and websites about college admissions, and everything I've read suggests that colleges are looking for interesting and original kids. One quote that really stuck with me was from an admin at Yale; he said that people think they're looking for a class of well-rounded kids, but really they're looking for a well-rounded class of jagged kids. For those of us whose kids are on the "jagged" side anyway, why try to knock all the edges off and force them into round holes? Then they'll just look ordinary.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For a different perspective on "thinking outside the box," consider the related chapter in The Myth of the Garage.

 

Maybe I have just encountered so many similar self-described "thinking outside the box homeschoolers" that it's lost meaning for me.

 

ETA: Thanks to those who shared their ideas about boxes. It was interesting to see how they compared. As is so often the case, our personal interpretations of common phrases can skew our responses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you mean making up new courses, I haven't done that outside of the classical education box.  I believe in the value of those courses in and of themselves - not as a checklist sort of a thing but for their own liberal arts value.  Perhaps later this year or next year, we may, once we've done those courses I want to have as a groundwork, branch out of that.  I don't assign particular moral value to staying within the classical education box.  And I don't assign particular moral value to going outside of it.  But my high schooler is a box kind of a guy.  For him, staying within the box of classical ed. while being flexible on our resources is best for him personally.  It gives him the foundation he wants and needs.  

 

My daughter?  She's already tearing up the box and I'm fairly sure will be outside of it.  In her case, forcing her to stay inside it won't provide her the same value because our energy would (I'm guessing) be spent on fighting to stay in the box instead of on learning.  So I'd rather focus on the learning at the expense of the box.  So in her case, I think straying outside the box of classical ed. will be best for her personally.  I will have to work a bit harder though to give her the foundation she needs to succeed outside the box.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Define box. ;)

 

It seems to me there are just different boxes. The textbooks box, the TC and Coursera box, the CC box, the AP box, the living books box, the learn by doing box, the grab-bag style box, etc. . .

 

I'm not trying to be difficult, it's just that I'm not sure exactly who is in the box. I keep feeling the need to rescue the poor lost soul because it seems like a place that no one wants to admit being! I don't ever recall anyone proudly posting, "We are completely IN THE BOX!"

 

Many of the "outside the box" type of posts/threads I see seem to look similar, leading me to see different boxes, as opposed to one dreaded box.

 

I guess I like the idea of a box. I build the walls with our values, put on a mailing label with our destination (goals), and toss inside all the good ideas I find on my occasional wanderings into the world outside. The walls also help keep all the temptations (approaches/resources that won't work for us) at bay. . .

 

Even someone who gets up every morning with no plan ever is in a box--a box that excludes order, plans, and schedules. In the end, don't we all have boxes?

 

This is a wonderful twist and I get what you are saying!

 

Perhaps for me, "out-of-the-box" is code for something outside of the status-quot, something outside of the academic "norm." If I say I need something outside of the box, I am really saying that I am following what is basically the norm for teaching this course at this level and it's not working for us.

 

Let's take Advanced Placement for an example.

 

My son is taking an AP English Language course from an outside source. The workload is heavy and it stretches him. I have no regrets about the course because my goal in having him take it is to improve his academic writing, which he is doing by leaps and bounds. More importantly, he is improving his thinking. I care far less about the test for this course and any subsequent credits that he may earn than I care about the skills he is acquiring. At this point in time and this age (15), my son needs to see what academic excellence looks like and to have an outside teacher, whose skill he respects, to really get him stretch his wings.  So I am happy with this box, primarily because the focus isn't on the test, but on becoming a better academic writer. Frankly the course should serve him well for writing in other classes and dealing with essays on other tests or college admissions.

 

The flip side is our AP European History course.

 

My older kids took the course at the ps from a wonderful teacher who is Hungarian and brings a different perspective to class. The school wouldn't let my youngest take the class because he is a sophomore. We decided to do it on our own and while I love history, I do not love this class. I did a fair amount of research in preparing my syllabus to submit to the College Board and AP Euro definitely has its own box with its own check list. While the official course description tells teachers they are free to proceed in the manner in which they teach the course, the quantity of material that needs to be covered is restrictive. I think I have gone over something like 30 syllabi and they all seems to run together. Reading all of the text and the primary source material leaves no time for actual literature, which we have always used to anchor or understanding of a specific time period.

 

I have lost sight of the goal in doing this class as AP other than I think it would be a good idea to have some outside test that "validates" the work we have done in history. My older kids loved the course, not just because of the teacher, but because they were interested in the topic and had no intention of taking the test. They did the reading, participated extensively in class discussions and only did enough work or testing to maintain a "B".

 

I want the "box" outcome, but I don't want the "box" methodology.  There is an AP Euro teacher who is very active in the reading process and materials development. I have his syllabus. The kids learn for 2/3 of the year and do test prep for a 1/3 of the year. This goes against so much of what I believe in for education.I have been making myself crazy trying to see how to get to being prepared for the test while actually acquiring some depth and enjoyment. I have thought about taking a week or two and constructing a big timeline that has major themes color-coded. I suspect the visual will help keep the flow in mind far better than drill and kill. We could gain time for more BBC documentaries and museum visits if we dropped note taking and used pre-done notes. Then, when I am done contemplating the changes we could do, I panic that I am not giving him an experience that is equivalent to a college class. Even though I know he can take notes out of the college-level texts, am I denying him college preparation skills if I don't make him do what every other AP Euro student is doing?

 

You get the idea. The following is from Plum Crazy in post #27 and it sums up the way I feel:

 

"For me, boxes mean feeling pressured to do what everyone else is doing because it's the widely accepted thing to do. Whether that's internal or external pressure it's still there...telling me no one is ever going to accept X and I am not doing him any favors."

 

If anyone has any brilliant ideas on how we can breathe life into our history course that is slowly choking to death, I would be grateful.

 

Also, thank you to everyone that has posted so far; it's been great and inspiring reading.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few common definitions of "thinking outside the box"...

 

"Thinking outside the box is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking."

 

"to think imaginatively using new ideas instead of traditional or expected ideas"

 

"to think creatively, unimpeded by orthodox or conventional constraints"

 

"The box, with it's implication of rigidity and squareness, symbolizes constrained and unimaginative thinking"

 

"Idea generation or problem solving that is not constrained by self-imposed limits or conventional barriers."

 

"​It means approaching problems in new and innovative ways; conceptualizing problems differently; and understanding your position in relation to any particular situation in a way you'd never thought of before."

 

 

With specific reference to education, I would interpret "in the box" as following a standard HS program, with a transcript listing the standard subjects studied in standard ways and measured via standard methods of output.  At the extreme end of "out-of-the-boxness," I would list radical unschooling, which tends to deviate in almost every possible way from a standard HS program. In the vast middle ground between the two extremes lie approaches ranging from adding a few interest-led courses to an otherwise standard transcript, to doing most or all subjects in an interest-led way and providing an extensive, ungraded, narrative transcript — and every possible combination in between. Every family needs to find their own balance point. 

 

Reading posts, on this board and others, from BTDT homeschoolers who took unconventional paths and graduated kids who are happy and successful, whether in college or engaged in other pursuits, has helped give me the confidence to follow my instincts and DS's interests. I've also read a lot of books, articles, blogs, and websites about college admissions, and everything I've read suggests that colleges are looking for interesting and original kids. One quote that really stuck with me was from an admin at Yale; he said that people think they're looking for a class of well-rounded kids, but really they're looking for a well-rounded class of jagged kids. For those of us whose kids are on the "jagged" side anyway, why try to knock all the edges off and force them into round holes? Then they'll just look ordinary.

 

What she said!

 

But she always says it so much faster. :D

 

Jackie, it's great to see you on here again.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A family who is not aiming at preparing their kids for a four year university would likely have entirely different approaches and goals. I have good friends who are homesteading. The kids learn about organic gardening, building a house with their own hands, raising animals, wild plants and their uses. The 14 y/o is taking carpentry lessons from a family friend and is quite accomplished. They read and research a lot. Compared to their life-practical education, their formal academic studies are basic check-the-box level. The kids will be well prepared to follow either their parents' lifestyle or to continue their formal education at a community college.

 

What is it about this education that fails to prepare kids for 4-year university acceptance? You say they read and research a lot, and it sounds like they must be analysing and discussing their projects with peers and mentors on a daily basis at a fairly high level. So it sounds like they have some intellectual rigor going on. They will be able to say they have done botany with lab at least, if not additional biology and engineering labs from farming and carpentry studies. Will they have no math credits besides algebra and financial math? That can't be -- they need geometry for carpentry. Is it that they have no APs? That no one has taught them to write academically?

 

I ask because I could imagine that if you did add a course on writing academically, and you packaged all this excellent work in a way that made it clear to an admissions officer that it was intellectually rigorous practical work -- researching, analysing, reading, discussing, experimenting -- then you could easily send such a kid off to a four-year school.

 

In our local public high schools, project-based learning is all the rage. Kids are given pretend real-life problems like building a house or managing a garden, split into pretend families (teams) and then asked what they'd do to solve it, using the scientific knowledge they're supposed to be researching up themselves. We have a magnet high school program that's housed in a major STEM university that functions like this as well as a sub-academy in the public high school and a charter school like this. The magnet school focuses on environmental problems, the charter on business tech development, and the public on projects in the trades, but all three are sending kids to universities like Georgia Tech, Harvey Mudd, Rice, Rose Hulman, Olin, etc.

 

So if competitive high schools are trying to be more like real life, why are we calling real lives not good enough for 4-yr college admissions? (I don't mean this rhetorically. I really am curious what you think is lacking.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The flip side is our AP European History course.

 

My older kids took the course at the ps from a wonderful teacher who is Hungarian and brings a different perspective to class. The school wouldn't let my youngest take the class because he is a sophomore. We decided to do it on our own and while I love history, I do not love this class. I did a fair amount of research in preparing my syllabus to submit to the College Board and AP Euro definitely has its own box with its own check list. While the official course description tells teachers they are free to proceed in the manner in which they teach the course, the quantity of material that needs to be covered is restrictive. I think I have gone over something like 30 syllabi and they all seems to run together. Reading all of the text and the primary source material leaves no time for actual literature, which we have always used to anchor or understanding of a specific time period.

 

I have lost sight of the goal in doing this class as AP other than I think it would be a good idea to have some outside test that "validates" the work we have done in history. My older kids loved the course, not just because of the teacher, but because they were interested in the topic and had no intention of taking the test. They did the reading, participated extensively in class discussions and only did enough work or testing to maintain a "B".

 

I want the "box" outcome, but I don't want the "box" methodology.  There is an AP Euro teacher who is very active in the reading process and materials development. I have his syllabus. The kids learn for 2/3 of the year and do test prep for a 1/3 of the year. This goes against so much of what I believe in for education.I have been making myself crazy trying to see how to get to being prepared for the test while actually acquiring some depth and enjoyment. I have thought about taking a week or two and constructing a big timeline that has major themes color-coded. I suspect the visual will help keep the flow in mind far better than drill and kill. We could gain time for more BBC documentaries and museum visits if we dropped note taking and used pre-done notes. Then, when I am done contemplating the changes we could do, I panic that I am not giving him an experience that is equivalent to a college class. Even though I know he can take notes out of the college-level texts, am I denying him college preparation skills if I don't make him do what every other AP Euro student is doing?

 

You get the idea. The following is from Plum Crazy in post #27 and it sums up the way I feel:

 

"For me, boxes mean feeling pressured to do what everyone else is doing because it's the widely accepted thing to do. Whether that's internal or external pressure it's still there...telling me no one is ever going to accept X and I am not doing him any favors."

 

If anyone has any brilliant ideas on how we can breathe life into our history course that is slowly choking to death, I would be grateful.

 

 

 

Well, if your child wasn't already taking an online English course, I would say to spin the literature off to English.  Does he have any flexibility in choosing what he reads?  My kids do AP US History with PA Homeschoolers, and I always have them do American Lit at home the same year. It's a completely outside the box course.  I give them a reading list and they can choose anything to read from it.  They just have to have something going all the time.

 

I wouldn't worry at all about making him do what every other AP Euro student is doing!  Do the textbook reading, let him choose the primary sources he wants to delve into, and do some lit or whatever fun stuff you want to do.  Have him write an essay a week and grade it using the samples online.  Test prep can be as simple as working through a Barron's guide as you go along.  Each week he reviews one chapter and takes the test and goes over anything he misses with you.  The DBQ is really tricky in Euro, so practice a lot of those and grade them carefully.  Be sure he understands how it is graded.  You could have him do a DBQ every other week in place of a regular essay.  Have him choose an area to study more deeply and put together a project using the primary sources.  It's kind of late for this this year, but I have my kids participate in National History Day (nhd.org).  That gives them a goal to shoot for.

 

We are actually very "out-of-the-box" homeschoolers.  I never used a curriculum when they were younger.  We read French comic books, caught critters and studied them, read great books, and so on.  In high school we used APs to translate what they had learned into language admissions officers could understand.  Did we do lots of test prep?  Sure!  But we did it in a way that fit with our teaching style.  For example, AP German involved watching the news on the internet, reading and discussing newspaper articles, watching movies, reading novels, and so on.   They'd also write essays every week and do some multiple choice practice from a prep book.

 

One of the biggest out-of-the-box things we do is a big science project.  They start it the summer before eleventh grade and the goal is to enter it in the county science fair (entry-door for ISEF) in March.  Most of my kids have done programming projects because no special equipment is required and dh can mentor them, but my middle dd did an epidemiology project.  My current eleventh grader is doing a project on indoor navigation, and he has already presented it at two scientific conferences.  This is really hard work, but a great experience for the kids.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Define box. ;)

 

It seems to me there are just different boxes. The textbooks box, the TC and Coursera box, the CC box, the AP box, the living books box, the learn by doing box, the grab-bag style box, etc. . .

 

I'm not trying to be difficult, it's just that I'm not sure exactly who is in the box. I keep feeling the need to rescue the poor lost soul because it seems like a place that no one wants to admit being! I don't ever recall anyone proudly posting, "We are completely IN THE BOX!"

 

Many of the "outside the box" type of posts/threads I see seem to look similar, leading me to see different boxes, as opposed to one dreaded box.

 

I guess I like the idea of a box. I build the walls with our values, put on a mailing label with our destination (goals), and toss inside all the good ideas I find on my occasional wanderings into the world outside. The walls also help keep all the temptations (approaches/resources that won't work for us) at bay. . .

Even someone who gets up every morning with no plan ever is in a box--a box that excludes order, plans, and schedules. In the end, don't we all have boxes?

I've been thinking about this, I can see your point but disagree as well(for reasons that Jackie so clearly defined). I don't see a problem with others using a box, if that works for them. Personally I'm here reading b/c a "box" doesn't fit my goals or visions for our hs and more importantly it doesn't fit my ds. A major reason we choose to hs was because I knew traditional schooling would fail him.  I'm still hoping to glean some ideas from others though so I don't have to entirely create everything on my own. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some of my outside-the-box ideas for my kid: 

 

English

 

Since he's such a voracious reader (a whole novel in a single day is not unusual for him), but also so laser-focused on one genre (sci-fi), he's often simply out of good materials to read. So I plan to hook him up with advanced review copies and get him blogging reviews. That plus what will surely be an enormous list of books read will hopefully constitute a comprehensive survey of sci-fi.

 

We're reading (and discussing) our way slowly through a small number of great books connected with histories, a la Well-Educated Mind, as a family hobby. Everyone in the house is in the same book -- me, husband, and all the little kids are in an abridged version. We just did Gilgamesh and had fun making fun of him together. History is a means of supporting the literature, of putting it in context, and works really well as that whereas with no reason to dig into it, we might have been bored.

 

(For the record, I don't think the above is enough to prep him to handle a college course, so he will do inside-the-box English stuff too.)

 

Civics

 

Living in downtown Albany, up the block from the capitol building, we have to shove our way through a protest to get to the grocery store at least once a month. There is no way to avoid opining with the office workers and the protesters as we wind our way through the hidden routes of the capitol complex, racing to get on to our destinations before we're trampled by angry people with signage. It is interesting, to say the least. Our bank and our post office and our drugstore are all in there -- we have to go in to get our errands done even when Pete Seeger (who lives nearby and comes over for protests with regularity) is standing on the statues leading hundreds of people in song. And I used to like protests, but now...  Just being here has been an education because we have to talk about what is in front of us. We always know when the state of the state is, and what the issues are, because of the screaming. When there is no screaming, or when our windows are closed, we like to play "guess the protest." Did you know most libertarian protesters are middle-aged bald men who wear hats? Other types of protesters don't wear hats. I don't know why, but there it is. These are things you learn when you have to walk across the capitol lawn to leave your neighborhood.

 

Our state requires a credit in "participation in government." I anticipate sitting in on a lot of meetings at the capitol, as well as protests, just because it's a sixty-second walk so we can. City Hall is right here too, busy and open and active, and we've already visited the City Council a few times for issues that matter to us. Our neighborhood association is very active with the local government too and their email list is a good source of information about Ward business. In this context, a book on how government works feels more like a manual. So even though we'll use a text, I consider all this practical out-of-the-box stuff the heart of our civics learning.

 

Science

 

Science is this child's passion. We have a great hackerspace here. My son'll take the training to be a volunteer staffer, meaning he can open the building for groups and function as host. That will put him in the building for tons of random classes. Our First Robotics Competition team is one of the oldest teams and is wonderful, warm, active year-round; the kiddo will keep on spending five hours a week there during off season and twenty hours a week there during build season. We have a personal library of how-to-hack-it books and hundreds of dollars of teeny tiny components, too; the boy always has a project in the works (right now, a one-of-a-kind electronic musical instrument) and will eventually have a portfolio of completed hobby electronics and mechatronics. We travel to RIT's Innovation Festival and the NYC MakerFaire each year for additional inspiration. We subscribe to Science News, MAKE magazine, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Mechanics, etc. He gets project inspiration from Instructables. He'll take biology, physics and chemistry at community college during high school, and he's thinking of aiming to take the Apple Certified Macintosh Technician test, and maybe get a Ruby certification if he can swing it. He makes pocket money repairing iPods now and he'd like to apprentice at a computer shop. He'll probably have on his transcript all-at-home credits in mechatronics, robotics, HTML, problem-solving in engineering, drafting and electronics, and all of that will be self-directed project-based learning, garage style.

 

Math

 

I have had the hardest time putting math in a box. We used LivingMath.net's lesson plans and Life of Fred for years. Resultingly, my boys love to read about math and they simply devour whatever text comes into the house. They don't stop to do the problems, though. So they can talk math with professors (and do -- we have dinner regularly with two math professor friends), and can figure out how to solve basically any problem you throw at them, but they are so so painfully slow -- and creative -- about it. Then when I say, "okay, kids, hit the books now and this time work the problems," they need to start way back at fractions to build fluency, and they are bored and annoyed. My solution is to have them doing all the books at once. Yep, the oldest (8th this year) is doing an algebra text, a geometry text, and an arithmetic text, all at the same time. One page of problems in each book each day. Since he isn't having to learn new concepts, this is working for him. It's definitely weird though. I plan to list his credits by subject, not by year, when I make his high school transcript, to obscure the weirdness.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...In high school we used APs to translate what they had learned into language admissions officers could understand. ..

 

The tricky bit isn't the being outside the box.  Most of us have ideas about that (we wouldn't be reading this thread if we didn't lol), and if we don't, our children probably do.  The tricky bit is getting back into the box once we step out of it.  Going to college is essentially stepping back into the box.  Even the alternative-y places like Hampshire prefer to see evidence of box-ability.

 

Nan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a wonderful twist and I get what you are saying!

 

Perhaps for me, "out-of-the-box" is code for something outside of the status-quot, something outside of the academic "norm." If I say I need something outside of the box, I am really saying that I am following what is basically the norm for teaching this course at this level and it's not working for us.

 

Let's take Advanced Placement for an example.

 

My son is taking an AP English Language course from an outside source. The workload is heavy and it stretches him. I have no regrets about the course because my goal in having him take it is to improve his academic writing, which he is doing by leaps and bounds. More importantly, he is improving his thinking. I care far less about the test for this course and any subsequent credits that he may earn than I care about the skills he is acquiring. At this point in time and this age (15), my son needs to see what academic excellence looks like and to have an outside teacher, whose skill he respects, to really get him stretch his wings.  So I am happy with this box, primarily because the focus isn't on the test, but on becoming a better academic writer. Frankly the course should serve him well for writing in other classes and dealing with essays on other tests or college admissions.

 

A little off topic, but which AP Eng is your Ds taking?   I'm contemplating outsourcing this for my Ds next year and for all of the reasons you mention--not b/c I want him to pass an AP test.  

 

I get what Woodland is saying.  Any set idea about how to educate can become a box.  Even the outside-the-box approach can lead to a feeling of pressure.  I read the Cal Newport book and ended up feeling more pressured even though so many seemed to feel like that book helped them feel better about what they are doing.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is it about this education that fails to prepare kids for 4-year university acceptance? You say they read and research a lot, and it sounds like they must be analysing and discussing their projects with peers and mentors on a daily basis at a fairly high level. ...They will be able to say they have done botany with lab at least, if not additional biology and engineering labs from farming and carpentry studies. Will they have no math credits besides algebra and financial math? That can't be -- they need geometry for carpentry. Is it that they have no APs? That no one has taught them to write academically?

 

When I say "prepared for a four year university" I am referring to entry into any standard degree program without needing remedial classes. You don't need AP - but you need more math than algebra and geometry.

 

Their math instruction is lacking. Calling gardening "botany with lab" does not give you a solid preparation in systematic sciences. Discussing books with peers does not tech academic writing. The family is using a correspondence program whose "college prep" track will not satisfy the entry requirements of most four year schools.

 

As I said, I am not critiquing their choices, because they have different goals; the kids would, however, not be prepared to succeed at the public university where I teach without taking remedial courses, which does not meet my definition of "prepared".

Please note that I am not saying the kids would never be able to attend a university, but they would not be able right out of their home school high school education.

 

 

 

n our local public high schools, project-based learning is all the rage. Kids are given pretend real-life problems like building a house or managing a garden, split into pretend families (teams) and then asked what they'd do to solve it, using the scientific knowledge they're supposed to be researching up themselves. We have a magnet high school program that's housed in a major STEM university that functions like this as well as a sub-academy in the public high school and a charter school like this. The magnet school focuses on environmental problems, the charter on business tech development, and the public on projects in the trades, but all three are sending kids to universities like Georgia Tech, Harvey Mudd, Rice, Rose Hulman, Olin, etc.

 

But does the project based learning actually replace traditional coursework, or is it in addition?

I can easily see the value of the projects as applications of classroom learning. I have, however, a hard time seeing how doing the projects instead of a thorough math and science instruction, for example, would be sufficient. Researching scientific knowledge by themselves is all nice, but I have doubts whether this generates the same mastery a good biology, physics, and chemistry course would have (that it's better than a crummy course goes without saying)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 But does the project based learning actually replace traditional coursework, or is it in addition?

 

It is replacing it. At an orientation I attended for a robotics camp, an admissions counselor from a university with a fabulous nanoscale materials program spoke to the parents. She said that more kids than ever are entering schools as engineer hopefuls, but most of them are dropping out when they realize that engineering does not in the slightest resemble what they had to do to pass their AP physics course. She said there are now actually fewer graduates. Businesses and universities have begun to realize this and react by looking for evidence that teens have done projects, favoring that experience over academic work in the sciences. When admissions officers see that STEM career hopefuls have done hands-on, inquiry-based, practical projects, they know those kids experienced what is tricksy, annoying, nitsy and frustrating about science and still decided they wanted to do it for the rest of their lives, and that kind of dedicated persistence is most valuable.

 

I imply no value judgments. It's possible this is the "new math" of high school science. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is replacing it. At an orientation I attended for a robotics camp, an admissions counselor from a university with a fabulous nanoscale materials program spoke to the parents. She said that more kids than ever are entering schools as engineer hopefuls, but most of them are dropping out when they realize that engineering does not in the slightest resemble what they had to do to pass their AP physics course. She said there are now actually fewer graduates. Businesses and universities have begun to realize this and react by looking for evidence that teens have done projects, favoring that experience over academic work in the sciences. When admissions officers see that STEM career hopefuls have done hands-on, inquiry-based, practical projects, they know those kids experienced what is tricksy, annoying, nitsy and frustrating about science and still decided they wanted to do it for the rest of their lives, and that kind of dedicated persistence is most valuable.

 

I imply no value judgments. It's possible this is the "new math" of high school science. 

 

Very interesting, thanks for explaining. I see the rationale; I do, however, wonder how the kids teach themselves math to mastery without systematic instruction and practice - after all, any project will require only a subset of math skills and never the entirety of knowledge in a given discipline.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, like a lot of people, I'm fine being in the box for math, and I can see how to go outside the box, but still look box-able, for history and English.  Where I'd really like to go outside the box is science.  When I think about what I want my kids to get from high school science, the answer is, in a nutshell, 1) a full, well-rounded layman's understanding of how the world works, and 2) sufficient exposure to a wide range of fields to help them determine if/what they may be interested in pursuing later, in more depth.

 

I want them to have a basic understanding of the physical world, and of the building blocks of matter and how they interact, sure (physics & chemistry).  I also want them to understand the basics about how life works (biology).  But I also want them to be able to explore the interconnections between the fields, because knowledge is not contained in boxes, and actual science is not done in boxes! All the most interesting things that are happening in science, it seems to me, are happening at the intersections of traditional fields of study, or by people who can comfortably cross these fields and collaborate with researchers in other disciplines.  

 

So I'd like them to be able to study astronomy and cosmology and astrobiology, if they want to (one does).  I'd like them to understand what we know about the origins of life, the development of life on the planet, how the planet functions and how all of its parts interact to produce phenomena like climate & weather, and earthquakes and volcanoes.  I'd like them to understand evolution, and enough genetics to make sense of all the debates about genetic issues that they will actually need to make choices about during their lifetimes.  I'd like them to understand the science behind climate change, an issue they will have to understand and make choices about.  I want them to understand the watershed that they live in, how it functions, and how best to conserve the ecosystem services that it provides.  I want them to know what all the plants are, and how they can be used, when they go for hikes in the woods.  I want them to understand how food is produced, and how it might be produced more sustainably.   I want them to understand how minds work, theirs and other people's, individually and in groups.  

 

And, I want them to be able to learn about the things that they are interested in.  But first, I want to make sure that they know what is out there to be interested in, and that it doesn't all fit into boxes. 

 

I'm sure there's more, but you get my drift.  When I think about all these things, and how to go about teaching or, more likely, facilitating their learning in these areas, it's really exciting.  When I think about fitting all of that into boxes labelled "Biology" "Chemistry" "Physics"  I feel really daunted.

 

If they decide to pursue scientific careers (which I would love, but not push), then they will get Intro Biology, Intro Chemistry, Intro Physics in college.  So why do I want to basically do those classes in high school?  Why not use high school to develop a broad scientific literacy, and to explore a wide range of fields?  If they decide not to pursue science, won't this (scientific literacy and broad exposure to the content of scientific knowledge) serve them better in life than very detailed information of the insides of three boxes?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very interesting, thanks for explaining. I see the rationale; I do, however, wonder how the kids teach themselves math to mastery without systematic instruction and practice - after all, any project will require only a subset of math skills and never the entirety of knowledge in a given discipline.

 

This is why I hope my outside-the-box homeschool will end up being like a mosaic. The tiles are the projects. They are largely interest-led, but some mom-initiated real-life stuff, and some just artsy joys: going to City Hall, getting ARCs at publisher expos, building a moving Santa Claus from scratch. The grout will be the systematic overview to be sure all the bases were covered: reading through textbooks, passing tests. The tiles are definitely bigger, but without the grout it wouldn't be a finished job.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regentrude, it sounds as though you work for a university that truly values their professors, if class size is the one thing you would change that is within their control.

 

Well, class size is NOT within their control. There are simply not enough rooms and instructors to have smaller classes: enrollment is constantly growing, but the available facilities and number of faculty remain the same. (In ten years, we had an enrollment increase by 54%, but only 7% more instructors, and a 44% decline in state funding). So, the institution is not to blame.

 

 

 

Your list of learning objectives are helpful as they could be aligned with any branch of science and  because sometimes I lose site of our goals in my insistence that we stay on schedule. Yet, I know that even though we are off schedule, we are going deeper than the standard chemistry class at the high school and my son will have done nearly 3x as many experiments. He is frustrated when experiments don't always work out ("like they did in physics last year at school" :tongue_smilie: ), but thankfully someone on this board once told me that there was just as much learning to be had from an experiment that goes wrong as with one that goes right. This means we spend a lot of time on the first two objectives that you list and a lot less time on the last one. We are still getting a handle on our lab techniques and realizing that the copper sulfate  is taking a long time to dissolve in solution because the "lab" is 10 degrees cooler than needed for optimal solubility. I suspect that in a formal lab setting it may not be acceptable to run into the house and hold the beaker over the heat vent until the solute dissolves.

 

Sounds like a fabulous experience for your son!

 

 

 

When you looked at Dr. Tang's chemistry schedule last year, did you notice that he required his students to do the first part of their lab write-up before they came to lab? I found out why the first few times we did labs and I didn't require ds to pre-read the lab.

 

I had not noticed, but that is very valuable. I would like that for our students. DD did, in fact, pre-write her lab report before going to lab and found it extremely helpful, but she was the only student who bothered, since it was not required.

 

 

 

For me, where I want to go outside the "norm" for high school science is the sequence, not in the actual classes themselves. I don't mind doing conceptual physics, chemistry, biology, and calculus-based physics, but for some reason astronomy, nature studies, and marine biology also seem important. Ds loves sailing and studying marine life and possibly the stars just seems like a good combination. There is only so much time.

 

 

I dislike the sequence, too - and more importantly, I dislike the idea of teaching each science in a one-year box in isolation. (The only reason I do it with my kids is that I simply do not have the energy to reinvent the wheel, and I want something colleges can recognize - not having been educated in this country means that I was deeply unsure about the college admission process when we embarked on homeschooling high school. With the greater insight I have now, I might be brave enough to change our approach).

 

I do not see, however, that doing sciences in the traditional sequence prevents the student from studying marine life or astronomy. One could always do these as additional science electives.

Or, gasp, the student could study something that does not end up on transcript at all. I am not sure whether DS' work in astronomy last year will even make it to the transcript; he may not be interested in completing enough work to make it an entire credit. DD's studies about non-linear physics and chaos were not enough to warrant credit and really did not fit into any other course; so they do not appear anywhere on her transcript. But they both still learned.

So, for me an important lesson was that not everything we do and learn must be made to fit into a credit "box". We could engage with a topic just because, without thinking about how to package that for college admissions. I find this a very liberating thought.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you seen Overly Honest Methods? "Samples were incubated for 14 hours instead of 12h so we could attend a lunch seminar about the migrational patterns of zebras" and other confessions.

 

 

Swimmermom wrote: "I suspect that in a formal lab setting it may not be acceptable to run into the house and hold the beaker over the heat vent until the solute dissolves."

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This year, we are on the road. We sold our house and live in a 42' RV and we are traveling around the country during my twins' senior year. (I also have a 10th grader, among others.) I am claiming social studies credit for it, calling it "Experiencing America". Considering that they got accepted into colleges with this on their transcript, I assume it's okay. I have a travel blog you can check out if you want: http://www.coach-and-six.blogspot.com

 

Thank you for posting this.  We're about to go transient for 6-8 weeks as we make a cross country move. Not counting however long it takes us to get our feet under us again once we get there.  It's making me a little crazy.

 

And I'm trying really hard not to think about the fact that our rotation schedule would then have us moving again in spring of senior/junior/8th grade years. 

 

I really need a little Gumby toy to play with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very interesting, thanks for explaining. I see the rationale; I do, however, wonder how the kids teach themselves math to mastery without systematic instruction and practice - after all, any project will require only a subset of math skills and never the entirety of knowledge in a given discipline.

 

I do not see how one does project based learning w/o simultaneously teaching core concepts and foundational materials.   I would say ds's high school experience has been hugely project oriented.   I really do not understand many of the projects b/c they are way over my head, but one of the projects he took to the university for his physics professor to look over his data.   His professor told him it was equivalent to what a typical undergrad's published materials look like.   There is absolutely NO WAY that he could have done the project without  the math skills and the physics and astronomy knowledge.  

 

Projects without foundation lack value, imho.  Science projects really should be the equivalent of applying math concepts/theory.  They expand the students understanding of science knowledge and science theory.

So, like a lot of people, I'm fine being in the box for math, and I can see how to go outside the box, but still look box-able, for history and English.  Where I'd really like to go outside the box is science.  When I think about what I want my kids to get from high school science, the answer is, in a nutshell, 1) a full, well-rounded layman's understanding of how the world works, and 2) sufficient exposure to a wide range of fields to help them determine if/what they may be interested in pursuing later, in more depth.

 

I want them to have a basic understanding of the physical world, and of the building blocks of matter and how they interact, sure (physics & chemistry).  I also want them to understand the basics about how life works (biology).  But I also want them to be able to explore the interconnections between the fields, because knowledge is not contained in boxes, and actual science is not done in boxes! All the most interesting things that are happening in science, it seems to me, are happening at the intersections of traditional fields of study, or by people who can comfortably cross these fields and collaborate with researchers in other disciplines.  

 

So I'd like them to be able to study astronomy and cosmology and astrobiology, if they want to (one does).  I'd like them to understand what we know about the origins of life, the development of life on the planet, how the planet functions and how all of its parts interact to produce phenomena like climate & weather, and earthquakes and volcanoes.  I'd like them to understand evolution, and enough genetics to make sense of all the debates about genetic issues that they will actually need to make choices about during their lifetimes.  I'd like them to understand the science behind climate change, an issue they will have to understand and make choices about.  I want them to understand the watershed that they live in, how it functions, and how best to conserve the ecosystem services that it provides.  I want them to know what all the plants are, and how they can be used, when they go for hikes in the woods.  I want them to understand how food is produced, and how it might be produced more sustainably.   I want them to understand how minds work, theirs and other people's, individually and in groups.  

 

And, I want them to be able to learn about the things that they are interested in.  But first, I want to make sure that they know what is out there to be interested in, and that it doesn't all fit into boxes. 

 

I'm sure there's more, but you get my drift.  When I think about all these things, and how to go about teaching or, more likely, facilitating their learning in these areas, it's really exciting.  When I think about fitting all of that into boxes labelled "Biology" "Chemistry" "Physics"  I feel really daunted.

 

If they decide to pursue scientific careers (which I would love, but not push), then they will get Intro Biology, Intro Chemistry, Intro Physics in college.  So why do I want to basically do those classes in high school?  Why not use high school to develop a broad scientific literacy, and to explore a wide range of fields?  If they decide not to pursue science, won't this (scientific literacy and broad exposure to the content of scientific knowledge) serve them better in life than very detailed information of the insides of three boxes?

 

I wonder if sometimes in these conversations we all end up talking past each other.   I feel like I teach science more "schooly" than any other high school subject. with the exception of math.    Yet, I don't think we do it in a way that excludes any of the above.     And, as Regentrude pointed out, they can simultaneously study more than 1 science.   (ds will have 4 science credits this yr alone.  :D )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Define box. ;)

 

It seems to me there are just different boxes. The textbooks box, the TC and Coursera box, the CC box, the AP box, the living books box, the learn by doing box, the grab-bag style box, etc. . .

 

I'm not trying to be difficult, it's just that I'm not sure exactly who is in the box. I keep feeling the need to rescue the poor lost soul because it seems like a place that no one wants to admit being! I don't ever recall anyone proudly posting, "We are completely IN THE BOX!"

 

Many of the "outside the box" type of posts/threads I see seem to look similar, leading me to see different boxes, as opposed to one dreaded box.

 

I guess I like the idea of a box. I build the walls with our values, put on a mailing label with our destination (goals), and toss inside all the good ideas I find on my occasional wanderings into the world outside. The walls also help keep all the temptations (approaches/resources that won't work for us) at bay. . .

 

Even someone who gets up every morning with no plan ever is in a box--a box that excludes order, plans, and schedules. In the end, don't we all have boxes?

 

I think there is something to this. I mentioned on the other thread that I felt like I was stepping out of the box in several areas, even though someone else might describe me as being boxed in by my choices.

 

For me, working outside the box is about stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that I'm not sure will be approved by outside reviewers (ie, college adcons) as I did with the Roots of Steampunk literature study.

Sometimes it is about making choices that aren't common with homeschoolers in my area [such as using OSU German Online or Lukeion Latin instead of using Rosetta Stone or Latina Christiana for high school]. 

Sometimes it means leaving behind the popular homeschool curriculum providers and submitting a course syllabus for Advanced Placement Review.

It was something I felt when we chose to work through AOPS math books and use old Dolciani texts as a back up.  I definitely felt it when I sold off all our copies of Saxon math and Singapore elementary level books. I only know one person IRL who is using AOPS and Dolciani.  (And she probably blames me for getting HER into that particular box.)

 

Someone else might well look at our choices and decide that we are trapped in trying to meet outside expectations.  But each of these choices has had some feeling of being lonely and working without a safety net.  It's the feeling I get when someone asks what we use in homeschool and my answers aren't easy, branded labels; but rather something that they may never have heard of, or even something of our own creation (literature & history).

 

Do we need a homeschool rewrite of the Little Boxes song?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a wonderful twist and I get what you are saying!

 

Perhaps for me, "out-of-the-box" is code for something outside of the status-quot, something outside of the academic "norm." If I say I need something outside of the box, I am really saying that I am following what is basically the norm for teaching this course at this level and it's not working for us.

 

Let's take Advanced Placement for an example.

 

My son is taking an AP English Language course from an outside source. The workload is heavy and it stretches him. I have no regrets about the course because my goal in having him take it is to improve his academic writing, which he is doing by leaps and bounds. More importantly, he is improving his thinking. I care far less about the test for this course and any subsequent credits that he may earn than I care about the skills he is acquiring. At this point in time and this age (15), my son needs to see what academic excellence looks like and to have an outside teacher, whose skill he respects, to really get him stretch his wings.  So I am happy with this box, primarily because the focus isn't on the test, but on becoming a better academic writer. Frankly the course should serve him well for writing in other classes and dealing with essays on other tests or college admissions.

 

The flip side is our AP European History course.

 

My older kids took the course at the ps from a wonderful teacher who is Hungarian and brings a different perspective to class. The school wouldn't let my youngest take the class because he is a sophomore. We decided to do it on our own and while I love history, I do not love this class. I did a fair amount of research in preparing my syllabus to submit to the College Board and AP Euro definitely has its own box with its own check list. While the official course description tells teachers they are free to proceed in the manner in which they teach the course, the quantity of material that needs to be covered is restrictive. I think I have gone over something like 30 syllabi and they all seems to run together. Reading all of the text and the primary source material leaves no time for actual literature, which we have always used to anchor or understanding of a specific time period.

 

I have lost sight of the goal in doing this class as AP other than I think it would be a good idea to have some outside test that "validates" the work we have done in history. My older kids loved the course, not just because of the teacher, but because they were interested in the topic and had no intention of taking the test. They did the reading, participated extensively in class discussions and only did enough work or testing to maintain a "B".

 

I want the "box" outcome, but I don't want the "box" methodology.  There is an AP Euro teacher who is very active in the reading process and materials development. I have his syllabus. The kids learn for 2/3 of the year and do test prep for a 1/3 of the year. This goes against so much of what I believe in for education.I have been making myself crazy trying to see how to get to being prepared for the test while actually acquiring some depth and enjoyment. I have thought about taking a week or two and constructing a big timeline that has major themes color-coded. I suspect the visual will help keep the flow in mind far better than drill and kill. We could gain time for more BBC documentaries and museum visits if we dropped note taking and used pre-done notes. Then, when I am done contemplating the changes we could do, I panic that I am not giving him an experience that is equivalent to a college class. Even though I know he can take notes out of the college-level texts, am I denying him college preparation skills if I don't make him do what every other AP Euro student is doing?

 

You get the idea. The following is from Plum Crazy in post #27 and it sums up the way I feel:

 

"For me, boxes mean feeling pressured to do what everyone else is doing because it's the widely accepted thing to do. Whether that's internal or external pressure it's still there...telling me no one is ever going to accept X and I am not doing him any favors."

 

If anyone has any brilliant ideas on how we can breathe life into our history course that is slowly choking to death, I would be grateful.

 

Also, thank you to everyone that has posted so far; it's been great and inspiring reading.

 

I don't have a great suggestion for the AP Euro course, as I haven't dug into that one.  Other than to say maybe you could look over the sample questions in a study guide and see how far from their sample questions you think you would be after doing it your own way.

 

I will say that I jettisoned the idea of doing AP World History because I found after reviewing the goals of the course, that I fundamentally disagreed with the direction they seemed to want students to go. I realized that I was really wanting a Western Civilization course, with side trips into other culture's histories enough to compare and contrast - but with a firm emphasis on Western Civ.  That just isn't the goal of the AP World History course. And I really only have time to do one World History or Western Civ. 

 

So I think it's totally appropriate to look at the goals of a certain AP course (a box if you will) and decide if the goals overlap enough with your own.

 

Deciding they really don't is ok. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×
×
  • Create New...