Monday, September 29, 2008

Deciding What to Teach in High School...

I have had a few people ask me how I decide what to teach my high school student.  I am sure that everyone has a different system based on beliefs, child's interests, learning/teaching styles, and state requirements.  This is what I've done.  My big teen is now in his senior year and our system has worked well for us.  Many factors went into determining what courses to teach my son.  The following was all taken into account.
  • State requirements ~ Here in North Carolina there are very few rules about high school.  There is, however, suggestions of how many times to take English, History, Math, and Science.

  • My son's interests and career goals ~ I am lucky that my son knew early on that he was interested in making a career at the local nature center, which is the only one available in a large region of our state and substitutes for a zoo which we don't have in our area.  This gave us a better idea about science and internship requirements.

  • My son's severe learning differences ~ Because of my son's learning differences, I knew that he would need a lot of hands-on lessons and basic math for life skills more than anything else.  Plus, we would need to lean heavily on life experiences for him to learn the most.

  • My son was not college bound ~ When we started high school, my son was very sure he did not want to go to college.  Thus, we decided to follow our local high school's transcript requirements.  This is not to say we did "school in a box" at home, but we decided to do 28 credits, name our courses with similar/same names as the local high school, and give each course 100 hours.  In this way, his transcript will look very similar to our local high school and will be accepted more easily by the city government.  The city government runs the nature center, so he must be hired as a government employee to work there.
Taking all of these factors into account, I bought four lesson plan books that had room for seven subjects each.  I then labeled them by grade and put seven subjects in each one.  I did leave two subjects blank in 12th grade so there would be room as we went through the years, in case the big teen developed new interests.  By doing this, we were afforded a lot more flexibility to fill out subjects as they came along.  For example, for the past two years, the big teen has been taking a class in world history with a college professor who teaches homeschoolers.  The credit will all count under 11th grade, even though he is using 14 weeks of 12th grade to complete this course.  Another example would be physical education.  As he had the opportunity to do interesting physical education such as archery, we filled the hours in.  Math courses, which are agony for the big teen who has dyscalculia, could be spread out so that he did not have to be so pressured by them.  I was very stressed out part of last year (11th grade), concerned that my system was not going to work out.  We seemed so far behind, and I was still working out of four lesson plan books.  However, I worried in vain, as we are now on target and are currently only working out of 11th and 12th grade lesson plan books.  Furthermore, two subjects are already completed in 12th grade, and most of the subjects are complete in 11th grade.  Another 11th grade course will be completed this week.  Yippee!

So here are his subjects ~

9th grade:
  • English I ~ Grammar, spelling, basic writing skills
  • Applied Math ~ Basic math skills
  • Physical Education
  • Home Economics
  • U.S. History I
  • Earth Science
  • Geography
10th grade:
  • English II ~ Literature and Film
  • Consumer Math
  • Internship year I at the nature center
  • U.S. History II
  • Art I
  • Life Management
  • Biology
11th grade:
  • English III ~ British and U.S. Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • World History
  • Art II
  • Current Affairs
  • Theater/Music
  • Internship year II
12th grade:
  • English IV ~ World Literature
  • Work Skills
  • World Religion
  • Community Service
  • U.S. Government
  • Chemistry/Physics ~ 1 semester each
  • Algebra I
All of these courses are found at our local high school.  The high school also has several different types of diplomas.  Our course work is basically following their "work studies" diploma for those who want to enter the workforce right after high school.  There is only one kind of high school diploma for homeschoolers in North Carolina, but I wanted the transcript to be easily accepted by the city government.

I hope this answered some of your questions.

Blessings, Dawn

U.S. History II

The big teen completed his U.S. History II course for 10th grade.  He used the 10 volume set, A History of US, for his core books.  We both really enjoyed this set.  He completed volumes 8, 9, and most of 10 for this course.  The big teen studied post Civil War to the 1950's.  In addition to these books, he did in-depth studies of the following famous people:  Mark Twain, Jesse James, Norman Rockwell, Theodore Roosevelt, Fredrick Douglas, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  He watched videos about the 1918 flu, Fatal Flood of 1927, Johnstown Flood, Yellow Fever, the Massi Affair, the Great Escape and many WWII documentaries.  He also studied and read The Man in the Arena by Teddy Roosevelt, Night by Elie Wiesel, and In Their Own Words.

He received an A for this course.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday Show and tell ~ Story of the World Timeline

To see more great entries go to Canadagirl.

I wanted to have a timeline when I started Story of the World with my children, but the company did not have one.  I looked around at the pre-made ones and thought they were all very expensive and did not always have the exact characters talked about in our history book.  So, I decided to make my own.  I found this great site over the summer.  It ( was created to encourage children to have pen pals.  However, the paper dolls were so cute that I thought they would make great timeline figures.  I printed them out and found that the nativty clothes could be made into great costumes for Ancient Civilizations.  Hurray!  For the price of printer ink, glue, and crayons, I have a cute timeline that goes great with our book.  The timeline runs along the stairwell between our first and second floors, and the kids stop and talk to the characters sometimes when they are on the stairs.  I love making history come alive!

Sorry this figure is blurry.  You get the idea!

Please go see my son's show and tell at TKB.  He has an important message this week.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

High School Biology

I decided about a year ago to put a summary of my big teen's course work on this blog.  I want all of his hard work to be in more than one place.  This way, if some tragedy happens to our lesson plan book, I will still be able to write his transcript.  I hope to have all of 10th grade recorded in the next few days, so the lesson plan book can go into the fireproof box.  Then I can start getting 11th grade online.  I have a friend who lost everything in a fire a few years ago, including all of her children's homeschool records.  It took forever to rebuild her records.  If you want to see all that I have recorded so far, click on high school transcripts above.


The big teen's main textbook was Real Science 4 Kids~Biology, and we used my college textbook as a reference guide when we wanted to go deeper.  We also did 10 lessons on insects from the Handbook of Nature Study.  He also watched numerous shows on PBS about animals, the human body, and water.

The big teen did many nature studies at local lakes, streams, and creeks about the water and little critters in the water.  He also made a ladybug house and grew ladybugs from larvae.  This was fun and excellent for our garden as well.  The big teen really enjoyed our "field trip" to the ocean where he got to identify many shells and study sand crabs.  On that trip, we also got to go to an alligator farm.  He always has been a reptile nut.  Speaking of reptiles, the big teen learned how to care for a large variety of reptiles at his volunteer job at the nature center.  Did you know that snakes in captivity need baths now and again?  Yuck!  Well, the big teen is a professional snake bather.  LOL!

The big teen also studied the human body.  He made a DNA model, worked on a brain kit, completed a human body kit, and learned how to determine the likelihood of passing genetic traits.  He covered all the major systems of the body and learned how they work together.

The big teen studied 72 slides with his microscope.  He also dissected a cow's eye, frog, starfish, and cow's heart.  He scored an A for this course.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs #6


This week I want to invite you to take a moment and post a Summer Photo Essay memoir. Starting from around the official date of summer to this past week -- just give a basic summary of your summer as I know some of you are photoholics!  Haha!  Make sure you jot down your memoirs about each photo so everyone can read about your summer.  You can do the essay anyway you want. You can journal a lot or just caption the photo!

What a great summer we had!  We spent lots of time outside and really enjoyed our home.  The drought was rough on our garden and we had to conserve water, but it was a great learning experience for the children.  We are looking forward to Fall!  To see more such posts go here.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ballet, Fencing, and Swimming ~ Oh, My

It is that time again.  To see more Show and Tell's, go to Canadagirl.  We are a few weeks into our out-of-the-home classes and all is going well.  We decided that all of the kids would do some kind of sport for their out-of-home class this year. 

Our smallest dd (4) is taking a combo ballet/tap class this year.  This is her second year of dance at this studio and she loves it.  We were very blessed to find a dance ministry that teaches the children to glorify God through dance.  I love that she is learning to use dancing to bless others.  They go to nursing homes several times a year.  Here she is in dance class.

My dd (7) and ds (6) are taking swimming lessons this year.  I am truly excited about this because it was very hard taking three non-swimmers to the pool last summer by myself.  Drowning Mommy is just not a good idea!  Both children are signed up for classes at the YWCA.  Tom Sawyer is taking private swimming lessons, which are expensive.  We are so blessed that there is a little pocket of money with his adoption agreement that will pay for some special things that he needs because of the abuse he received before coming into foster care.  Tom Sawyer has cerebral palsy because of the abuse from his birth mother in the moments after his birth (born at home).  Having private swimming lessons is critical, because his muscles just give out all of a sudden.  Having his teacher right next to him is a life saver!  Here he is with his lovely teacher.

Goldilocks is enjoying her swimming lessons, too.  She has already made it to level two.  We are very proud of her.  In the past, she would not have been able to make it in a class because of behavior and distractions.  Here she is in her class getting ready to climb up to jump off the diving board! cameras are great, but they are hard to get the timing right!  The splash in the fourth pool photo is Goldilocks!

The big teen is taking a fencing class.  He has wanted to try fencing for a long time, and he is very excited that we found a class just a few miles from our home.  Here they are learning how to hold their weapon (a foil) for the first time.  He is the one in the grey.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs~ #5
Since I’ve been making you work really hard on the previous Memoir themes I decided to take a little break and do something fun! This week I want to invite you to share a few of your favorite things.

Wow!  This could be a really long list!  However, I will try to keep it to my favorite homeschool sites.  Here are a few great sites in no particular order.
Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Show and Tell ~ Grateful Heart

To see more great Show and Tells, go to canadagirl.

I didn't think I had anything to Show and Tell today.  Then something amazing happened.  Well, amazing to me.  Here is some history first.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about what character traits were weak in my children and what to do about it.  One of my children has a real problem with being grateful.  This child tends to think of the worst instead of the best.  Even when good things happen, this child can miss them or doesn't show appreciation. 

I decided to start a daily Grateful Heart Chart where we write out something that each of us is grateful for on sticky notes (heart shaped) and place our sticky notes on the chart.  All the children and I do it so that no one will be singled out.  Also, it sets a great example for the one.  Wow!  The first week was rough.  This child cried every time I asked what made him/her happy or grateful.  The first day it took 5 minutes for this child to come up with something.  Sheesh!  I knew we had a problem but how bad could it be?  Each day has gotten a little easier, and I have started to see gratitude flow more into daily life with this child.

THEN THIS MORNING ~ It was this child's turn and s/he listed off 10 things to be grateful for!!  When I remarked how wonderful it was that s/he had thought of so many things, s/he told me that s/he could think of more if I liked!!  WooHoo!  I think we have a breakthrough.

I don't think this is over, since it seems to be a real character trait of this child.  However, I am overjoyed that something so easy is having an impact.

Blessings, Dawn

September 11

My kids refuse to have school vacations!!  This is supposed to be our week off from school, at least for the most part.  We had so many doctor appointments and a new Tomatis I thought we would skip school.  Well, this morning the kiddos revolted.  Watch a video while Mommy blogged?  No way....TEACH US SOMETHING! Yikes!

In memory of September 11th, I decided that we would review our unit study from a few weeks ago.  We really enjoyed our unit study on Fireboat by Maira Kalman.  This is a wonderful book that deals with September 11th and honors our fallen citizens and heroes while still presenting the horrors of that day in a kid-friendly way.

To review the unit study, we read the book this morning and then looked at the lapbook the kids had made earlier.  You can see an example of it and an example of the kids' collage fireboat art work in the photos.

When you are remembering a horror such as September 11th, I think it is important that you teach the children how to cope with it.  I fear that, if the children were simply told about the horror of that day without additional teaching, they would be more likely to allow fear to turn to hate in their hearts.  After we reviewed the "Good Samaritan" story, we talked about loving everyone, not just our friends and family.

Jesus said, "Love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven.  For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too.  If you love only those who love you, what good is that?  Even scoundrels do that much.  If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?  Even the heathen do that.  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."  (Matthew 5:43-48)

We discussed ways to show tolerance to those who are not like us and pray for those who do evil.  Later this afternoon after tea time, I plan on having each child say a prayer for a person who has wronged them and lighting a candle for that person.  I want my children to know that, by living their lives with love and tolerance, they will have a profoundly positive impact on the world!

Later, in the photos of the balloon, we did a balloon release with our prayers for the world today. First photo shows the big teen hiding behind his balloon LOL; second photo shows his balloon got caught in a tree; but then in the third photo, it takes off!

Blessings, Dawn 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs ~ Story of the World

I really wanted to get into world history with my little ones this year and decided to go with Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer.  It was important to me that history be taught in an easy to understand way, but not dumbed down, and in chronological order, as well as with lots of hands-on activities.  Story of the World provided all of this for us.  The stories are short and clear so that any child who has been trained to sit still and listen for 10 to 20 minutes can make it through a lesson.  I highly recommend buying the activity book that goes with the story book.  It is chock filled with ideas to make history come to life through hands-on activities.  The activity book is also filled with map work and coloring pages.  My children enjoy coloring the pages while I read.  We then review the geography with the map work and do an activity that goes with the story.  The kids LOVE it, and I know that they are really grasping what they are learning.  That makes for a very happy Mommy!

Here are some of our activities that we have done so far.  The first photo is of a mummy, pyramid, and cuneiform tablet that we made.  The second photo is a model of the Nile River.

To see more entries here.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Show and Tell Friday ~ Tree House

It's that time again!  To see more Show and Tells, go to Canadagirl.  This week I am going to show what my wonderful husband built for the children.  He spent last weekend building them a tree house.  The kids have wanted a tree house for a long time.  We have a huge Southern Magnolia tree in our front yard that the kids love to climb.  It provides such wonderful shade that, if the kids play under it, they do not need sunscreen in the summer. 

My dh mostly used left-over wood from the basement!  Hurray!!  This was a win-win situation.  I got the basement a bit more cleaned out; my dh got to work with his hands after a long week of paperwork; and the kids got a new secret world to make up a hundred stories in.  The tree house is a platform 63 inches off the ground with railings and homemade ladder.  All four kids can play up in it at the same time.  Tom Sawyer and the others are in Heaven up there!

The view when on your back looking up in the tree house.

Blessings, Dawn

Resisting Buying

This morning I am resisting running off to the state fair.  It is "free" today for students.  As with many things, "free" is not really free.  I, alas, am not a student and would have to pay my entry fee.  Also, I suspect that my kids would be disappointed with not being allowed to go on the rides, and those cost extra. Oh and then there's the 30 miles worth of gas to get us there and back. Then there is the question of cotton candy!  LOL!  You see, during the July 4th celebration downtown, we realized that some of our dear children had never had cotton candy.  Can you imagine?  LOL!  We stood in a very long line to get them some cotton candy, and it sold out right before we got to the counter.  Arghh!  So, if we went to the fair, how could I pass up the rows of cotton candy just sitting there for some outrageous fee?

One of the important things to me about doing this project is getting back to basic, simple pleasures.  So instead of running off and spending money, we are going to enjoy the simple pleasures in life today.  The kids are going to enjoy the view from their new tree house, and I am going to enjoy the $12 to $15 I saved in my bank account by staying home.  (Hubby built the kids a new tree house for the grand total of $18 dollars the weekend before Not Buying Month.)

Here is the view while lying on one's back in the new tree house in the Southern Magnolia.

Blessings, Dawn