As you know, a homeschooling mom is always thinking ahead to the next thing. As I've been thinking on the 2016/2017 school year (and beyond) there are many different things that one has to consider when mapping out a plan. I thought I would do a little two-post series on what that process looks like for me. My hope is that it might be a useful read for someone else.
We've been homeschooling for 11 years now and if there is one thing I have learned it is that things never stay the same. A homeschool is fluid, always changing, always adjusting to learning needs suitable for each child at whatever age and stage they are at. I have to say that homeschooling was far simpler when my girls were younger. There were no formal considerations to meet, we spent lots of time exploring subjects by using unit studies and hand's on activities. Of course Maths and English were more formal, but the going was easy.
I have found the latter high school years to be rather stressful to be honest, but looking back I can see it's because I didn't have a firm grasp on 'the big picture'. Most of what we have done has been going with my gut instincts, steering in a vague direction of where we thought we should be going and praying lots. At least that's how it's felt to me - my husband would probably tell you otherwise because he has an immense amount of trust and confidence in my abilities as a homeschooling mum ;) - me - I'm all doubts and questions.
I suppose something must have worked because we have achieved DD1's goal of going to college to study Media. But in retrospect - and that's always the thing isn't it - I would have done things a bit differently and thus not felt like a blundering idiot for most of the time. The good news is I have DD2 still at home and I feel that I can put in a much more confident plan of action for her. I've realised that the trick to successfully navigating these high school years is to look at it from back to front - what I mean is, look at the end goal and work backwards to present day to make it a workable plan. So here we go - lets get a handle on the end goal...
'The Big Picture' and how to go about achieving it.
As you approach the high school years I would say that this has to be one of the most important things to get a handle on. You need to have a firm grasp on the direction you want to be moving in. So, for example, with DD1 she really had no idea on what it was she wanted to study after school except that it needed to be a creative course of study. She also knew that she certainly did NOT want to go to university. Now we have some certainty's here and some variables, but, I also wanted to keep options open so that if she changed her mind on certain points we could do so.
In assessing the 'big picture' you need to establish your child's hopes for study and future career and balance it with the practical side of keeping your child's future options as wide as possible.
Okay - so we knew that as university was not on DD1's list then college would be the next natural option. Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves.
* What colleges are in our town and what creative courses do they offer?
* What are the entry requirements for the courses we are interested in?
* What qualification will our daughter achieve?
* Will the qualification she receives allow her to go to Uni if she changes her mind?
For all of the courses the minimum requirements was an English and Maths GCSE with other courses requiring 4 or 5. If they didn't have the Maths and English they would be put onto those courses alongside their chosen course of study. However... this would put more pressure on your student during her/his course of study. You want your child to be able to focus 100% on their course and thus do as well as possible. So we knew that these two things were important to get done.
But we didn't neglect the rest of her education, we continued to create a Record of Prior Learning (transcript) of all our courses of study in our homeschool. This transcript together with her GCSE results and evidence of her research and writing abilities is what secured her an unconditional place on her chosen course.
When looking at the courses on offer, the end qualification was of importance to us. As she was not taking A-Level subjects (which is what is needed to gain university entrance) we wanted to ensure that the qualification she receives from her course of study gave her and equivalent qualification to A-levels so that should she wish to go to university later on in her life she would be able to do so. She can do this BTW on the course she has chosen ;)
So do you see the picture here? It's important to keep options open, we all know that as we grow older and wiser, we often have desires to do something (like study further) later on that perhaps we didn't feel strongly about in our younger years. Balance your children's desires with good old common sense.
The Long-Term Plan
Once you have had a conversation with your teen about their hopes and dreams for the future and you know what direction they are hoping to go in, I would highly recommend taking an afternoon to draw out a rough long-term plan. The time period over which this plan would stretch would be determined by you and your children's needs.
So for example, our youngest daughter wishes to attend university. So I know that we need to take a route that will give her the qualifications she needs to get into uni, i.e - we either need to tackle GCSE's and A-levels or gain the equivalent qualification that is accepted by UK universities. As it so happens, after speaking to her 1st choice university and finding out the facts, we have decided to continue on our 'American' route and sit the SAT and ACT's, along with presenting her GPA and transcript as required by the uni.
Now it's time to break that up. I do that again by asking myself questions.
* What do we need to do to prepare for the SAT's and ACT's?
*Which resources would best prepare her for the SAT?
*Which resources would best prepare her for the SAT?
* When do we aim to sit them by thus giving us a timeline to work to?
* What additional activities can we plan to participate in or do that will help the universities to look favorably upon her application? For instance, she is signed up to and will be participating in the 3 week long NCS program this summer.
These questions will help determine my timeline with DD2 and what it is that needs to happen on an annual, monthly and weekly basis in order to achieve her goal of entering university in September 2018.
Hopefully these 2 steps will give you a broad overview of the direction you will be traveling in and gives you a plan to work from over the next 2 (in my case) years.
From this plan I will now focus on 'Year 1' and I will:
* Discuss subject necessities and choices with my daughter.
* We will look at and choose the best curriculum that covers the SAT requirements, supports her choices and that suites her learning style.
* Plan out a weekly schedule of all subjects for the year that ensures we cover all the work plus allow for plenty of revision.
* Draw up a timetable because it is good for us to know what we are going to be working on when.
* Book her SAT well in advance at our chosen test center. We might need to book accommodation too as the SAT centers are fewer and further between here in England - but we certainly would not say no to a trip to London ;)
* Schedule in homeschool enrichment subjects that will support our long-term goals.
* Make sure our schedule allows for a few favorites that are not 'test' subjects i.e composer study, art appreciation, nature study and field trips.
* Draw up a book-list of titles for the college/uni-bound student that I want my daughter to read during the year.
In my next post of this little mini-series I will look at choosing the curriculum that I will need in order to achieve goal#1 and what the course of action will be to begin preparing my daughter for university - also why I intend on starting this prep now.
I hope that this post has been insightful or helpful to you. I always enjoy seeing how other homeschool mums plan for their home schools and will often find at least one idea that appeals to my planning side. I have also noticed that there are not many posts that address planning for the high school years and I personally wish that there were more on the subject. I think it may have helped me navigate my way a bit more clearly rather than feeling like I'm stumbling about :)
Have a lovely day sweet ones...