We have one child entering the High School Years and so we have our “L” plates on. ‘A’ is, at present, 14years old; nearly 15. As we have moved from state to state in the last 4 years, we have come to see that she could be in either 9, 10 or 11 this year (2006). However, this doesn’t really apply to us as we don’t follow a school system and grades. With all of our children, there are some subjects that they would be ‘ahead’ of grade level and other subjects that they would be ‘behind’ in. Nevertheless, the children are progressing, and that is what is important to us. That and more importantly, relationships.
If you’re anything like me, you might feel a sense of fear at the mere thought of homeschooling through high school. We haven’t followed a ‘school system’ or guidelines for a few years now and I didn’t want to start now…so what to do? How to do it? Argh…I was starting to feel a little panicked about the upcoming High School years. I didn’t feel that I was at all qualified to teach some subjects, so how would I manage? What about the all important Higher School Certificate or HSC? What about exposure to all those ‘other’ subjects and experiences? Well, I did what I usually do when I need to learn something new- I read as much as I can…I talk to others who have been there…and I talk to those who are within the system.
What was I so panicked about high school? What is it that seems to suddenly change once a student hits Yr 9-10? I don’t think there is a sudden change at any particular age or grade. Rather, I think that there have been many changes taking place over the years as the child is going from absorbing information and processing it, to then learning how to effectively communicate their own thoughts, ideas and opinions. Actually, I’m learning that my children have a much better idea of what education is all about than what I do! I guess this is because I have been indoctrinated from my own experiences at school whereas my children are home-based-learners. They don’t have someone telling them that they MUST learn this right now…in this certain way. Actually, the more I read and learn about all this, the more I’m convinced that I’m now getting to the easier part. Well, maybe not easier but I don’t think it will be the fear factor that I first imagined.
In the earlier years we have tried to put a *feast* before our children, so that they could sample a variety of subjects. Even though, the children don’t hate a subject, we can soon see an area that they delight in learning more about. This is now the time that we encourage a slightly more formal study of that area while using that subject to teach more formal aspects of English. eg: essay writing, etc.
We believe that discipleship is still more important than academics during the high school years. Other aspects that I try to bear in mind is their character- without the habit of attention it can be difficult to apply oneself to any type of formal study. Can I use some lesson time to develop character trait and positive habits? Well, I do use copywork as handwriting practice but it is also an exercise in producing one’s best work. Dictation can be useful for developing the habit of attention, as can be narration. Maths lessons can be a way to reinforce diligence. As the higher school years approach I was able to look at my child and assess their weak areas. Yep, we all have them! I was able to research and discover the most efficient? resources that would enable my child to catch up to a level where we could easily then continue to plod along. Sometimes, we’ve put other studies on the back-burner while we focused our attention on building that particular skill or subject.
In our home so far, high school years are a time for us to really get close to the child – to encourage, guide and nurture and instruct…to disciple them…to encourage them to love God, develop good habits (self discipline) and to love to learn. We are still quite relaxed at home, even during these years. I still believe that children need lots of time- free, unstructured time for them to think- to think on ideas, to think upon things that interest them rather than fill their minds with too much knowledge. So far, this approach has led our 14year old daughter to be quite a deep thinker and she is quite self disciplined.
To me, it doesn’t matter how many books or courses the child/student has read, especially if their heart isn’t in it. It is less about curriculum or resources and more about relationships and the heart. My child has to come first, not what the world may or may not think of her. Sometimes, I’ve felt like I’ve pushed her a little or I plan a course of study that isn’t a good fit for her…and so, I’ve had to look at myself and truly examine my own motivation for this behaviour. Is it to impress the secular world? The homeschool community? Family? Friends? Me? But, is it for the child?
But what about the gaps?
What about ‘Gapitis‘? Surely I can’t teach my child everything he will need to know? That’s right, I can’t and I won’t. Gee, I’m still learning everyday, in different ways. I love learning and had to realise that not only that I won’t be able to teach and cover everything but that I don’t want to. I want my child to learn and experience things for themselves once they get older. I’ve done that too, and it’s exciting! I see myself less as a teacher and more as a facilitator of learning.
Well, these are my humble thoughts as we enter the Upper Years of homeschooling.