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Creating a unique and special high school experience


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What things have you done to create a really special high school experience for your student? Projects? Travel? Rebuild a classic car? Learn to sail? etc. Is there anything you wish you could do if you had more time, money or freedom? 

I have a 14 year-old DS about to start 9th grade. We've been homeschooling from the beginning and I love the fact that it has allowed us to do some fun trips, meet DS's academic needs, and spend time as a family.  However, because he's academically accelerated (starting Lukeion Greek 3 in fall and in the middle of Clover Valley's Honors Chem, and Pre-Calc) I feel like we've gotten into a little bit of a rut of doing academic work at the kitchen table so to speak.

I want to bring back a little bit of the magic of the early homeschooling years where there was a little more... I don't know... Zing!  But a day at the museum just doesn't have the same excitement it had at age 7 so obviously I need to think bigger. We have some geographic freedom working from home, no other children, and DS is academically capable with only one class where we need to be on a schedule (Lukeion) so we have a lot of flexibility and no concerns about getting the basics done. I would just really like to end our homeschooling journey with a little bit of "wow" and fun and looking for inspiration.

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I don’t have an answer for you, but I think you’re asking the right questions! 
 

My DD16, who is entering her senior year, used the flexibility of homeschooling to move around the country to train with top ballet companies in pursuit of a career as a professional dancer. She’s simultaneously doing rigorous academics and will be applying to university this fall. Obviously her choice of how to create a unique homeschool experience is very specific to her particular ability and interests, so most other students will look very different. Just thought I’d share one way to do just what you’re asking about. 
 

I love some of your ideas in the first paragraph. Who IS your kid? What makes him tick? If he could imagine/do/be anything, what would it be? Is he a sailor? A car guy? A languages junkie? I think he’s a the perfect age/stage to think outside the box and dream big. Being ahead academically gives him that much more freedom to pursue passions.

Edited by fourisenough
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For our kids (obviously limited by # of siblings and $$) high school has been fulfilling bc their courses have been designed around their interests and goals.  I have had kids focus on astronomy/physics, foreign languages, and meteorology.  We have designed courses around interests like philosophy/theology, Russian history, specific literary focuses (fairy tales, Lewis, Tolkien, Tolstoy).  

I wouldn't say their high school experiences met the definition of fun but definitely high interest and enjoyable.

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I think there's a lot to say for diving into the interests of the child- my youngest is a student pilot and blacksmith who spends a significant amount of time on coding. Cause those things are his things... and he can. We studied meterology alongside aerospace science. He taught himself Linux and C++. He is part of a local robotics team. Hes a couple of months from his black belt. 

My middle one had less specific interests... During high school we drove all over the west/northwest and took a cruise to Alaska... we spent weeks travelling all over the UK and Ireland (while studying Brit Lit and British History) and we went on another massive roadtrip all over the Southwest (tied it to a semester of Geology) ... and a lot of time was spent on hiking and jiu jitsu... and later on DE working toward certification in television editing and production. This child went to SeaBase and to Philmont. Lots of cool experiences.  A Russian history course and the Big History Project.  

 

Edited by theelfqueen
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I was just about to come and post an almost identical question. I have my last child at home starting high school and she's always been homeschooled. We don't have much money for travel and her dance schedule keeps us close to home, but I want to do something to make these last few years more interesting. Local field trips? Regular volunteer day? Short trips? Totally out of the box classes? She doesn't know what she wants to do in life yet, so it's hard to plan towards a specific goal. I do want to find ways to get out in the world more even if that means doing school at the library or coffee shop one day a month or visiting colleges or...something. I just don't know, but working at home all day every day is not it.

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Regular volunteer time has always been a part of our middle and high school homeschooling- I definitely recommend that! We have volunteered at the mobile food bank and the homeless shelter. We have volunteered at Boo at the zoo and at a local program that provides Christmas gifts to needy kids. We have volunteered at church. We have volunteered at the living history farm and a local museum. 

Edited by theelfqueen
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I'm starting to plan a new approach for rising junior dd's US History.  I taught this class for her cohort in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades and she does not want me teaching her again!  But I also want one last out-of-the box class for her and so have started to arrange "field trips" corresponding to the info she'll be learning with an on-line class.  She was the baby when my older kids were doing interesting projects and trips so didn't actually experience any of it, just got hauled along.  One of the long-term volunteer positions she's had was eliminated so that frees up some time.  It's the high school-based extras that are currently the planning crunch.  I would looooove to have a semester free of high school drama (literally, the theater kids are so dang dramatic) but it's her social life-line so we'll see.  I love planning but this upcoming fall is kind of kicking me with unknowns.  Way will open.

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This depends on what's available locally. For example, my dd wanted to play volleyball but I could not find a homeschool team in a reasonable commute, so instead she tried rowing until that team broke up and then she took up rugby until Covid shut that down. You would think volleyball was an easier ask than rugby, but not in my town.

If your son would like to learn to sail, check out BSA's Sea Scouts. This was dd's favorite activity in high school. She was also a GSA Mariner. Eventually, she roped in dh and took American Sailing Association classes with him. Those were adult classes so I'd say they're appropriate for older teens. (But be warned: dd loved sailing so much she decided to enlist in the Navy. She's in boot camp right now.)

If you have access to local high school extracurriculars, you'll have a lot of choices close to home. If you're in a state like mine (TX) you have to look for homeschool activities. In my area they are almost always Christian. So my dd did Christian theater and Christian choir and Christian orchestra. This wouldn't have been our first choice, but we made the best of what was available.

You can also check out your local community college and adult organizations. Since my dd dual enrolled she participated in her CC's Model UN team. Normally, they would have travelled for that week but this year is was online (which sucked most of the fun right out of it.) She also did a couple of youth seminars at our local Asia society. Those were also online (and a lot less fun than normal). Since your son has 4 more years, hopefully he can do his activities in person without the Covid disruption.

Dd got the chance to do the University of Dallas' Summer Latin class in Rome. If this is something your ds would be interested in, I would highly recommend it. It was the highlight of dd's high school (right before Covid cancelled or reshaped most of her other activities.)

If you have any other specific areas of interest, post them here and someone will have an idea. This is an excellent resource for finding opportunities for your ds. If you have a local homeschool facebook group, they're also a valuable resource for local ideas. That's how I found the rowing, rugby, and musical opportunities for dd.

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Thanks for all of the feedback everyone. He is definitely a language kid - in addition to Lukeion Ancient Greek he studies Mandarin (less intensively but since 5th grade) and is in SLIYS I summer camp this week. We recently moved from a huge city to a small rural village and one of the unexpected benefits has been that we're right next door to one of the largest Mohawk communities in the world... and they run language classes! He's started taking classes with them (virtual for now, but in person again hopefully soon). I would really love for him to get more involved once things get back in person as its an extremely unique opportunity to learn an endangered language (less than 3500 native speakers). It just doesn't feel that exciting right now because the classes are over Zoom.

He really enjoys architecture appreciation and critique. We've done Frank Lloyd Wright home tours and he loves to follow blogs like McMansion Hell and Architecture Shaming where people criticize bad architecture.  It's very much a family interest and we actually moved in part to restore a historically significant (but modest) midcentury home. I would love to get him more involved in our home restoration actually - right now he mostly does yard work. One of the ideas I had was to take him out to Palm Springs his junior or senior year for Modernism Week where people open up their fabulous midcentury modern homes for touring and give style lectures. 

 

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Honestly, the best thing we've done for my kids' high school years was to make sure they're not overwhelmed with academic work so they can have the time to pursue their passions and their EC's to the utmost.

My oldest was/is accelerated and he chose extremely challenging coursework during high school. But we were still careful to limit his academic work day to 7ish hours/day so that he had time to work part time as a programmer and to teach himself a few new programming languages and to step outside his comfort zone and join drama and speech and debate.

My 2nd oldest did a solid college prep schedule in 6ish hours/day so that he had time to direct, act, teach, mentor, etc in his pursuit of learning more about communications and leadership.

I think we as hs'ers tend to think if we just do *more* - 1 more outside the box course, 1 more fantastic resource, etc. it will make our kids' experience better. But most of the time, "more" is just ... more.

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