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WTM for the non-traditional high school student

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There was a thread earlier this week on the General Board from Susan Wise Bauer looking for workshop ideas for her conference that is coming up in May. Colleen had suggested it would be helpful to learn how to incorporate real-world learning with the WTM, but it didn't make the cut as a workshop topic.


I know many of us have done this, and I'd like for us to take a moment and share what we've done. Colleen would appreciate reading about it, and I'd guess there are others lurking on this board who are trying to figure out how to make the WTM work with their non-traditional students. So please share!


How have you helped your child develop a non-academic skill or explore a non-academic interest and how have you made it a part of your school week? Have you given credit for outside work or apprenticeships and what did you call the course? What aspects of the WTM did you keep?




I'll start.


My 17yo has been volunteering 10-20 hours a week at our church for the last 4 years as the lighting designer for 3 services and for special events and services throughout the year. He also is getting trained on the sound board and all the other aspects that are part of the tech department there. In addition to that, he has been very active on stage and back stage in a youth theater group. He has been stage manager twice now, and took it upon himself to write a Stage Manager's Manual for the group. He has earned the reputation of being responsible and knowledgeable and has been hired for paid work with semi-professional community theaters.


Because of the hours he puts in, because of the respect he has earned from the adults in charge of him, and because of his professional attitude and motivation, he has earned 2 semesters of credit for a class called "Community Leadership". He has also earned 2 semesters of credit in Theater Arts, but that included additional reading and written assignments.


He is not a kid headed to straight to a 4 year college, though he plans to eventually get a BFA in Technical Theater. He will likely start with an internship at a professional theater complex in the area and take a couple of community college classes at a time.


As far as academics, well, his learning disabilities and related challenges made the going fairly slow, but I tweaked the material and pushed him along. He made it through geometry, a year and a half of Spanish and 2 years of high school science. His literature and history (and even some science) I adapted to his interests -- a cultural history of theater in America in the 20th century, famous plays, adaptations of novels. But no matter the subject, it was the skills that I paid attention to: being able to research, to analyze material, to form a logical opinion about it and be able to articulate that opinion persuasively. So to me, it was classical -- but a very practical kind of classical, something that fits his needs and that gives him the tools to get through college at his pace.


Anyone else with a non-traditional approach want to share?

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Thanks so much for starting this thread, Jennifer. I'm disappointed SWB opted not to delve into this topic at her upcoming conference; imo, it's relevant to many students and teachers/parents. Even people who assume their child will go straight from high school to college and study a traditional subject would do well to remain open to other options and think outside the box.


I have some more thoughts to share but am pressed for time in the next day or two. Hope some more people chime in and tell of their experiences!:)

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we have given the "extras" as much emphasis as the basics. Her goal is to work as a park ranger for the Department of Conservation. To prepare her for this she has:

---volunteered weekly @ SPCA

---volunteered monthly @ a nearby island reserve

---gone on many 1-7 day hikes with the Venturer Scouts

---taken Bush Craft 1 from Mountain Safety NZ

---taken Day Skippers from the Coast Guard

---is working on the Duke of Edinbourgh award

---is working towards Queen Scout award

---spent 1 week canoeing the Wanganui River with Scouts

---taken a Health & Safety in the Workplace course at polytech

This year she plans to:

---get her PADI dive licence

---get her NZ driving licence

---finish her Leading Mariner badge

---finish her Duke of Edinbough award

---finish her Queen Scout award

---take a first aid course, preferable through Mountain Safety NZ

---take Bush Craft 2

---get her boating charge certificate for Young Mariners & Sea Scouts


All these activities / courses give her the practical knowledge & experience to succeed in her chosen field. I do still require her to complete the basics (Maths, English / Latin, Science, & History), but these have ~3 days / week focus, while weekends are full of the "extras" & TH-F is a horticultural course at the local polytech. Other activities she is involved in that help to fill in the parts of her education are:

---Young Mariners

---Venturer Scouts (including Sea Scouts) & is a representative on the regional council

---sailing (mainly summers, October-April)

---fencing (winters)

---plays flute in the local Youth Music Concert Band (& does the Trinity Music exams)

---Christian Writers Club

---youth representative on our village developement committee

---has a paper route devilering flyers (junk mail)

---works during PS holidays at a holiday program for kids run at a local church


She may not study Calculus or Physics or read tons of Great Books during her highschool years, but as she learns for the enjoyment of learning, I know she will continue her education long after she leaves home.



Edited by Deb in NZ
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I could go on an on about this, since we've done things pretty non-traditionally with my older one, and yet produced a transcript that looks fairly traditional. The above post is a brief overview of some things we've done. If you search for Nan in Mass posts, I've written about it extensively in the past 3 or 4 years GRIN, as I've figured out how to do it. I think TWTM/TWEM works really well non-traditionally because it is so flexible. It gives general procedures for studying something, so you can apply them to whatever you want to learn. It's object is to teach the student to teach himself for the rest of his life. Being neo-classical, it doesn't skip the early stages of learning the academic skills needed to do this. My own public school education assumed that everyone would somehow pick up skills like writing just by writing. Academically inclined students probably will, but non-traditional learners probably won't. TWTM suggests ways to actually teach these academic skills, and doesn't make the assumption that they will come automatically and easily. It separates skills and content, making it easy to work on the skills for an extra long time. My son's academic skills bloomed late, so it was a good thing the two were separated. He continued to work at the skills at a different level than the content. He got most of the content travelling, and worked on putting the bits of content together into a coherent picture and the skills when he was at home.


So what did this look like in practice? Often, we used TWTM's heavily illustrated, fairly condensed spines. I picked the books off the reading list that I thought would appeal to my children the most. We didn't try to read everything. By the time we finished reading something, my children often had an idea a project they'd like to try or something they wanted to know more about or an opinion that could be easily expanded into a paper. I taught them to draw and sometimes they processed things by drawing instead of writing. I looked for the most applied texts I could find, like Conceptual Physics and Singapore math, when we needed to use a textbook. We did natural history instead of biology. We chose foreign language programs that were either oral or reading based. We did some work in the summer to make up for the occasional 3 month stretch during the school year when my son was travelling. I looked at each trip and tried to add some academics to it so we could count it as a course on his transcript. This usually involved Pimsleur language tapes, some research into the history of the area, a book read, a journal, and a paper. Great books meshed into the travelling very well, since it gives a sense of perspective that is hard to get other ways. I picked great books from the list specifically to help with this, sometimes.


This is rather a mishmash, but hopefully some of it will be helpful. I think TWTM is pretty non-traditional already. It seems like many more people are adapting TWTM to make it more traditional than the other way around.



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I was using traditional to mean the way school often done now - get a textbook, divide the chapters into the amount of time available, read it on the schedule and answer the questions (or listen to a lecture instead of reading it), take a test. TWTM offers a much more flexible pattern: pick a spine or list of subjects you want to cover, read it bit by bit, stopping to investigate more in the places that interest you by doing more reading or research or doing some sort of paper or project. In literature, it is a pattern of picking a book, reading it, doing some research on its historical background, answering the general discussion questions that apply, and doing some sort of project or paper (probably), then deciding on the next book. In my sort of traditional, the skills and content are mixed up together, so it is hard to alter the content without missing skills. In TWTM, you can do something non-traditional like travel to get the content, and do something non-textbooky like dictation or debate club to get the academic skills.


If you meant traditional as in the way things used to be taught a long time ago, writing by dictation and imitation, for example, and government by reading the foundational documents, then yes, TWTM is rather traditional. But it still is different because it is altered for home use in modern times.


I think TWTM is a great mix of the best of unschooling and the best of classical. At least, that is how I see it.


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My 18 yo is probably not going to college next year and we ended up taking an extra high school year for her. She had some processing challenges when she was younger and then a serious car wreck at 14. All of that to say, she hasn't read tons of the great books, though she knows many of them by title. If I read aloud, she's good to listen :). She'd rather memorize an encyclopedia on dogs or horses, read about formal protocal and high teas, cook a feast or bake, garden and store/process the food and flowers -all of which she has doen extensively- than read a novel. She has participated in drama, doing 2 performances a year and is really a beautiful performer. She has worked extensively on campaigns and done quite a few TeenPact events. She has traveled a lot and can write beautifully, loves poetry, is a natural at figuring out computer "stuff" (thanks to her, I have a blog;)). She has led girls groups on protocol and organized formal teas for other teens. She has incredible organizational skills.

She is getting tutored by Dad this year in order to finish Algebra, math is her nemesis. She is quite discouraged about not "getting" it and is invested from a test score standpoint so that she can go to her college of choice in a year or two. She is going to go to Cosmetology school next year and hopes to train service dogs.

She is quite familar with the GB and hears lot of intellectual discussion but verbally isn't quite up to speed with some of the verbally gifted people that we live with. Part of teaching her has been focused on how to process well, how to present well, how to compensate and how to capitalize on her many talents.

Edited by laughing lioness
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Does painting the outside of the house count? Seriously, I was just thinking last fall that if dc were ever in need of quick cash, that they could paint and repair houses - maybe form their own company. (I was surprised how well they did with ours.) I guess it helps that we live in the perfect house for them to experiment on. They can't mess anything up any more than it already is. ;)


But you were probably thinking of different kinds of skills here ...


You and others here might want to check out Junior Achievement. The students at my local high school do projects with this organisation every year for high school credit and this might be very good for a non-traditional student (or even better a group of students)

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I think most bit of our high school studies qualified as traditional, but I awarded credit and "made up" electives that went along with ds's interests.


Ds was (and is) interested in computer programming. He taught himself Python, C++, and C#. He did projects of his own choosing including some video game design. I awarded him 2 years credit in computer science electives. Also, since he played select soccer, that was our P.E.


I think anytime a dc has a particular interest or desire to do service in some capacity those activities can be counted as something academic.



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