Update on our experiment in Home Education

As I mentioned previously, this fall my son made the courageous decision to pursue home education.  We’re 5 months in now so I thought that a mid term update was in order.  Overall I would rate the first “semester” as a success, but there are a few things we have changed for the second half of the year.
We started the year by putting together a daily calendar with time blocks allocated to the subjects of the day.  The idea was two fold: to provide some structure for the day and to provide documentation of what was covered should the county ever want to do an audit. It worked reasonably well, but we’re reaching back to his Montessori days to add a little more flexibility and take advantage of the spark of interest that happens now and again and that school bells always seem to ruin: contracts.  Each week my son creates a draft contract that is focused on what he’ll get done that week.  My wife and I review it, add (and sometimes remove) a few things and then we all sign it.  This should keep us all focused on results instead of watching the clock.  We just started back a few days ago, but so far this is a big win.  He still fills out the calendar to provide a record of what was done (in case of audit), but at the end of each day as a record keeping exercise instead of a guide for his day.
Another structural change is the work space.  We started last fall by building him a small office in his bed room.  That was OK, but over the Christmas break we setup a dedicated space next to my home office in the basement.  I think the dedicated space will help separate work and play a little better and let him ask simple quick questions as they come up when I’m working from home.
As far as curriculum, the independent reading program, the Intensive Writing Course, the Life of Fred Pre-Algebra course (finished Physics, moving on to Biology and Economics), the Ron Paul Curriculum, art (water colors mostly), and Rosetta Stone Latin will all continue.  We’ll also continue to supplement with Kahn Academy, Hardcore History and iTunes University.  And the blog and podcast will continue as well.  In terms of changes, the only thing that got dropped was Liberty Classroom.  He tried a few of the courses and for whatever reason just didn’t find them all that engaging.  The subscription lasts for another 7 months and I like the courses a lot, so I’ll be taking a few via download and viewing on some of the international travel that I have coming up.  In terms of additions, we ordered a critical thinking course last fall, but never got around to starting it so that will be something he’ll spend some time on in the next few months.  We’re also might try a week or two unit study around WWII and cryptography (inspired by our New Years Day viewing of the Imitation Game).  I’m also trying to get him to start a small business, even if its for a week or two – we’ll see how that goes.  As for his own extras, he wants to try his hand and computer animation (2D to start) so he’ll be sketching out a few videos he want to produce.
All in all I think he made a took a good decision for him.  He did take the entrance exam for the local private schools in December (at my request – he didn’t fight too hard ;-)) and we’ll get the results in a month or so.  While we all took the decision to pursue home education for what would have been his last year of middle school seriously, I think the stakes are a little more significant after this year.  Not necessarily for High School itself, but rather what lies beyond.  I know there are plenty of great stories about home schoolers auto-didacts doing all sorts of great things in college or skipping college and getting on with it and doing great things in life.  But the “burden of proof” gets a little higher to get into college or to get someone to give you a shot either as an employee or as a business.  While I don’t buy into the piece of paper you get on HS graduation day really meaning much of anything (and honestly it means less and less each passing year), there are still lots of colleges and employers that put a lot of (misplaced) faith in that.  As I heard it told a while back “at least it shows you can show up.”  Absent that, he needs to develop a way to document that he can at least “show up” (and hopefully a lot more) so he can take whatever steps he wants to next.  Figuring that out is what the next 5 months are all about.






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