Friday, January 27, 2012

Homeschoolers and College -- Part 2: Tips for Parents of Middle Schoolers

     As I stated earlier, homeschoolers do, in fact, go to college.  However, getting there is a little different for homeschoolers than for traditionally-schooled students.  Therefore, I am offering tips for homeschooling parents of middle schoolers.  Beyond middle school, my personal knowledge is limited, but I am listing some resources that may offer some insight. 

     1.  Record keeping -- As a homeschool teacher in Tennessee, I was required to turn in curriculum lists and semester grades, be able to prove 180 days of instruction, and be registered with a private school or public school.  However, in Texas, such record keeping is not required.  If you have not begun to do so, in the middle school years, start keeping good records.  Make a list of curriculum and textbooks used, outside courses taken, hig school level books read, etc.  All of this will be imperative when completing college applications because many colleges require a homeschool supplement.  Take steps towards getting disciplined now or making a high school transcript will be a nightmare.  
     I use a Mead Five Star 1 subject college ruled 100 page notebook with a pocket in the front (the cover is plastic).  I write down notes daily, and I use the pocket for book lists, play programs, field trip info., etc.

     2.  Start Giving Grades -- Many homeschoolers choose not to give their children grades, and there is nothing wrong with that.  However, starting in the 6th grade, choose a course (math is easy and objective) and start testing and giving grades and give a final course grade.  For example, tests count once and semester exams count twice.  Average it all and give a final grade.  Start doing this BEFORE the grades have to show up on a transcript so your child understands how this works.  Be honest, too.  You won't do your child any favors by padding grades or giving excessive extra credit so grades look good on a transcript.  Starting early gives your child a chance to understand how testing works, and he or she can work on study skills, etc. 

     3.  Math -- Make sure your child is caught up in math and has a strong math foundation.  Even if your child does not plan to major in a field that requires math, he or she will probably have to take a college math class or two.  If your child does plan to go into a math related field and he or she is behind, work over the summer or hire a tutor.

     4.  Testing -- Starting in the middle school years, begin testing your child every other year.  I recommend the Iowa Test of Basic Skills because it is nationally normed and timed.  This will get your child used to testing (think SAT) and give you an idea of his or her weaknesses and strengths.  I tested my oldest in the 5th grade and plan to test him again in the 7th grade.

     5.  Book List -- As I said above in record keeping, start a book list of books your child has read that would count as high school reading material, whether read aloud by you or read by your child.  For example, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens are high school level books.  Do not write down a high school level book that you read an abridged version of (unless it was Chaucer or something like that) or books where you only watched the movie version.  Keep this list in your notebook or on the computer.

     6.  Class at HEP -- Joanne Juren, veteran homeschooler and owner of the HEP Bookstore, teaches an affordable three-hour seminar called Getting Ready for High School and College every summer for parents of upcoming seventh grade or older children.  According to this year's course description, "Joanne Juren will discuss many topics pertinent to the student just entering the high school years.  Topics include: goal setting; course guidelines from 7-12th grade; the 4-year Plan; the high school transcript; extra-curricular courses and activities; job co-op; testing for high school/college; scholarships; and many more topics of interest!"  Your child can attend with you which is helpful ("Oh, Mom's not making me do this to be mean but because I really do need to") but can be overwhelming to him or her.  The amount of information crammed into three hours will leave your head spinning, but I felt it was well worth the $35 I paid for the seminar.  After a week or so, check in with your child about what he or she has heard.  My oldest son was stressed because after the class, another child told him homeschoolers can't go to college, and this really bothered him.  On the flip side, he has not complained about math one time since we took this class!  The class was offered in June last year but is offered in August this year.

     7.  Transcript -- By 8th grade, your child may be taking courses that will count as high school credit. Algebra I, Spanish I, or Earth Science are all high school classes.  Also, start planning ahead by making a tentative four-year plan for high school starting when your child is in the 7th or 8th grade.  Then take the necessary steps to make sure you are prepared to make those classes happen.  For example, if your child needs extra writing instruction or math help, try to get those areas stronger by the end of the middle school years.

     Lastly, not everyone goes to college, and that is okay.  Homeschooling offers a tremendous opportunity for students to apprentice or work within a field of interest to see if they like it.    
     For more information, HSLDA has a wealth of information on homeschooling through college on it's website.
     Also, for more information on homeschooling, see the Homeschool Progress Report 2009:  Academic Achievement and Demographics which gives some helpful insight into homeschooling in general.

Many thanks to Leesa W. for sharing so much of your knowledge with me and for recommending the HEP class.

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