Teaching Teens to Master their Schedule

One of the challenges of transitioning to high school and post-graduate years is developing the independence.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and students need support as they move away from parent-led schooling into independent-schooling.  Here are some study tips to help champion your student!

Why work on independence in the school day?

  • Frees mom up to work with younger siblings or provide one-on-one instruction as needed
  • Boosts problem-solving skills and allows them to develop their own ‘groove’
  • Hands over the responsibility for both setting a schedule and completing the work

Maintain communication.

This is not the time to just let go of the strings and see what happens.  Check in with your kids on a regular basis, be that every few hours, once a day, or once a week (this will depend on the kid and what’s going on at any given time).  Review what has been done and what is coming up next.  This will help them stay focused and on track, plus it will give both of you a structure to work around.

By outsourcing courses, students also learn to be responsible to someone other than mom and dad, but still have parental support and oversight. At Sparks Academy, for example, students are provided a schedule and taught in teacher-led and teacher-graded courses, but parents are sent a quarterly newsletter and progress report as a reminder to check in regularly.

Set the right tone.

If your student isn’t sure about their learning style, have them take this free quiz.  By learning and playing toward learning style strengths, students are more likely to maximize their study time and improve their academic performance.  This might include working with music or wearing noise-cancelling headphones, working in a brightly lit or dim area, working with others or working alone.  Additionally, you’ll want a comfortable chair or desk, adequate supplies, and a place to spread out books and resources. 

Unless being used specifically for academic purposes, electronics should be put away during school time to limit distractions.  This is particularly true for students with ADHD or other special needs.  You might even go as far as to use a scheduler to block social media sites during school time, if needed.  By setting the right tone, your student will have a better chance of staying focused on the tasks at hand.

Read: Teaching the Distracted Student

Manage time wisely.

Probably the most important skill your teen will learn is time management, which translates across all aspects of life, not just academics.  Students need to learn to prioritize tasks (we call it triage in our house) and set the pace for completing those tasks.  Rather than constantly telling them what to be doing when, allow them to take a set of tasks, prioritize them, and complete them in their own time (with a set deadline). 

Be sure to enforce the deadlines, too, even though there will be times when they don’t meet them and need some sort of natural consequence.  When this happens, it’s a good time to work on ‘working backward,’ taking a large task, breaking it into smaller tasks, and scheduling each in order to meet a deadline.  Whether in college or on the job, there are always deadlines to be met and someone to answer to for our responsibilities…and by allowing them to start developing those skills now, you’re giving them a leg up.

Set Manageable Goals.

Checklists are wonders.  They can really keep a person on track, be that mom trying to accomplish all the things or students trying to remember assignments.  By learning to use planners and checklists in high school, students can find a system of organization that works best for them and will set them up for better success post-graduation.  There are both physical and digital planners, and there is no right or wrong option…only the one that is right for them!  As a bonus, planners (particularly physical ones) can be used as documentation of academic assignments and performance.  Just toss it aside at the end of each semester or year to have on-hand if needed.

Read: Five Best Planners for Teens

Develop a System.

Note-taking used to be much more common than it is now, and even when teens are taking notes these days, it tends to be digitally.  However, there is so much to be said for learning to take hand-written notes.  Using old-fashioned pen and paper engages several senses and an area of the brain that facilitates learning.  Follow these four rules for note-taking, and you should see marked improvement in your academics: be prepared, write neatly, stay organized, and write down questions.

There are as many different forms of note-taking as there are students.  You’ll need to find what works best for your learning.  Visit this post on Note-Taking for Teens to learn about several different styles and to learn more about teaching the art of taking notes. 

Look for more in-depth discussion of this topic and more in Through the Door: Homeschool to College Success! This book & worktext set will help you and your high school student breeze through the steps of college and scholarship applications, as well as brushing up on study habits and life skills. The worktext includes activities, worksheets, and planning pages, and accompanies the book.

Graduating a Homeschooled Teen

A lot of folks seem to be intimidated by the idea of homeschooling their teens through high school and graduation.  When we first began homeschooling, we met some pushback, but persisted and even fifteen years later were still got asked occasionally if they kids were going to high school.  While one son did do dual enrollment, the right fit for him, and another did votech classes at the local community college, again the right fit, both boys also took several classes at home as well.  They graduated from homeschool.

If you’re planning to graduate a teen from homeschool, there are a few things you’ll want to plan for first.

Know Your State Law

Be sure that you know the homeschooling laws for your state so that there are no surprises at the end of the journey!  Some states, such as New York, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania, have very specific rules governing how a homeschooler can get a diploma, while most other states simply offer guidelines.  Check HSLDA to find your state’s specific laws.

If a college or program requires accreditation, know that your homeschool and curriculum are not accredited.  Most colleges, however, will accept a homeschool diploma if your students meets the entrance requirements, and it’s worth noting that not all public schools maintain their accreditation either.

Have an Idea of Your Student’s Plan

Start with the end in sight.  Choose courses and a high school plan based on what the student plans to do post-graduation, be that a college major or setting off on a career path.  If college is the plan, check their admissions requirements and plan accordingly.  If career is the goal, you’ll still need to meet basic requirements for graduation, but choose electives based on that future path.

Generally, most students should be taking four years of language arts, three years of science, three years of history, three years of math, two years of a foreign language, and several electives to total approximately 26 credits.  Some states will have additional requirements, such as state history or health and physical education, so be sure to check those laws and your state department of education website.

If your student isn’t sure of the post-graduation plan, homeschool with college as the end goal.  It is easier to go down a career path with a college-prep education than it is to apply for college with only career-prep courses.

Maintain Records

Start keeping the high school transcript in ninth grade, and eighth grade if they are taking advanced classes.  It’s not only colleges who will ask for it, but many first-time employers and scholarship providers will as well.  Be sure to transfer grades from any online programs or outside grade sources to the transcript and keep any certificates your student earns as well.  In Through the Door, you’ll find transcript templates and instructions for putting together each section of this important document.

Standardized testing is another important part of record-keeping, especially if college is the future goal.  Most students will need to take either the ACT or SAT entrance exam.  College-bound students might take the exam more than once, both to get a superscore (where the highest scores from each subsection are combined from across all testing experiences) and for the test-retest effect.  However, even if your student isn’t college-bound, it can be a good idea to take the exam simply to back up the grades you have given in homeschool, just in case you are ever questioned about them.

Stay in the Loop

Make a connection with the local high school counselor and learn where they post information for students.  Get on that communication thread and stay in the loop.  While traditionally-schooled students are often inundated with information about when testing dates are, what career and college fairs are on the horizon, or other opportunities for teens, homeschoolers aren’t usually privy to that information…and you want to be.  This can also be a good place to learn about local scholarship programs or job shadowing events.

Plan a Graduation

After you’ve kept the coursework, met the requirements, and printed the transcripts, it’s time to issue a diploma.  Many families choose to join a local group for a formal graduation ceremony or host their own at home. 

If you want to host a ceremony at home, it can be as simple as playing the commencement song, saying some words, looking over pictures from kindergarten through graduation, and handing out a diploma.  Some families host a reception, similar to a wedding reception, afterward, with food and fun.

As part of your ceremony, you might want to include an official diploma and a cap and gown (for photos!).

Admittedly, rather than hosting or joining a ceremony, we provided our sons with graduation experiences.  England, Germany, South Africa…these travel opportunities provide a lifetime of memories and new cultural experiences.  Travel is important to mom and dad, and we roadschooled across the country with the kids when they were younger, so it was a natural progression to spend that money on an overseas trip of their choice, and they preferred it over a big party event.  Again, the beauty of homeschooling is that each family can make a choice that is right for them!

Seasoned homeschoolers with a few graduates under their belts can easily remember the anxiety of homeschooling that oldest child, making sure to meet all of the requirements and hoping that it was the right move for their future.  We all want what is best for our kids, and by being informed, you can confidently proceed toward a successful homeschool graduation.

Hands-On Science & Nature Projects for Upper Grades

Spring and summer are a fantastic time to take your homeschool outside!  Hands-on projects can be completed year-round, but during these times, it’s easier to incorporate nature and do big, messy projects.  Getting hands-on helps students to become more engaged, involve their senses in learning, and prevent burnout.  It also helps to flesh out abstract ideas in a more concrete format, applying difficult-to-understand concepts into a real-world application.  This not only helps the student understand more, but also retain more.

Each of these resources is appropriate for middle and high school students.  If you prefer family-style teaching, they can be tailored down, or you may eliminate some of the more complicated aspects, for elementary students.  Want to create your own hands-on nature study?  Download the unit study planner, and get started exploring your family’s interests!


Exploring the outdoors is a great way to learn!  Soak it all in, homeschool mama, and wear your homeschooling style proudly!


Think Like a Scientist

Mathematical concepts and the scientific method are a good place to start…


Get Inspired

Sometimes we just need a little inspiration to get started!


Take a Field Trip

Here are some virtual field trips that will inspire you to take one of your own…


Get Outside

Unplug and get your hands dirty!


Go Wild

Is it animals, wild plants, the jungle, or the human psyche that intrigues you?


A Little of This; A Little of That

Projects and ideas that didn’t really fit in a box…


Explore through the Pages

A literature study is a fantastic jumping-off point for further exploration.  Pick a topic, read all about it, and then get hands on with the additional projects!


Use a Complete Curriculum

Maybe you’re not quite ready to head outside…or maybe you’re required to have more structured learning.  Either way, these curricula incorporate real-world learning projects into the lessons!



Hands-On Subscription Boxes You’ll Love!

Learn about forensic science and methods. Go hands-on with techniques like fingerprinting, collecting shoe prints, and more. Use the same tools the pros use to detect the presence of blood and identify theft suspects. Each box comes with gear that real investigators use along with activities designed to let you learn by doing. Your first box contains a free one-year subscription to our online detective game. Examine the evidence and solve the case.


MATTER

We search planet Earth for the most interesting forms of matter. Each month we ship fossils, tools, specimens, materials, or artifacts that have been carefully selected as some of the most interesting pieces of matter in our accessible universe. Part museum, part laboratory, perfect for quarantine! Feed your curiosity or spark someone’s else’s. This one is for the kid who knows everything!! It will spark an interest for further research…

Beautiful Discovery

Beautiful Discovery kits use visually and kinesthetically engaging patterns of nature to unleash your hidden pattern power and give you STEAM skills. Items include eco-games, art, origami, drag and drop code, models, natural wonders, full color informational cards, full color picture books and booklets, paints and colored pencils, drawing sheets with art lessons on patterns seen in the natural wonders.

Perfect for the student who is hesitant about math, but all about art! This box combines the beauty of nature with real-world math through projects with seashells, crystals, dried leaves, flowers, for their beautiful patterns. There’s even an computer coding element with simple drag and drop block coding that will simulate the patterns seen in the natural wonders studied in each box.

Spangler Science 

Let’s make science fun one month at a time! A subscription to Spangler Science Club is a guarantee that we’re working together to prepare your young scientist for a future STEM-based career. Choose from one of three levels of hands-on science kits and subscribe to amazing science delivered every month!


Groovy Lab in a Box

With Groovy Lab in a Box, you will receive boxes full of everything you need to learn about and do hands on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiments for ages 8+. We blend Scientific Inquiry and the Engineering Design Process, which allows children to create ingenious inventions, enhance problem solving skills and FUN!

Homeschooling Teens: College or Career Track?

For the last few generations, the collegiate years have been a crucial part of the growing up experience.  The system has changed, however, since my generation attended college, and it’s failing.  Inflated costs have driven up student debt so high that many cannot fathom how to escape it upon graduation, even with a good job lined up.

Also, because so many students are still being funneled into colleges, even with the prospect of crippling debt, there are too many graduates for the available jobs.  Students are either going on to graduate school, in the hopes of getting a job in their chosen field, or taking whatever job they can find.  Simply put – there are too many professionals being graduated, and not enough professional jobs.  

Or as Mike Rowe put it —  “America is lending money it doesn’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.”

Rowe continues, “Schools have done away with vocational training to focus on academic learning, creating a one-size-fits-all model of college-to-workforce that doesn’t recognize the real opportunities in the workplace and the real needs of society.”  And while it’s true that there are many careers which do require advanced training, such as those in the medical field, but not every career will require that four-year degree, and companies are just now starting to respond to this realization.

See the four traditional paths from high school – university, technical college, military, and career – in this article on ways to cut down on the cost of college.



General High School Help

As the homeschooling community continues to grow, one of the biggest concerns we hear from parents is that they don’t know what to do for high school…
  • Must-Read — Teens’ Guide to College and Career Planning 
  • Before this homeschooling life, I worked with eighth, ninth, and tenth graders…and loved it!  Teens are so exciting.  They are old enough to have a real, heavy conversation with (and it’s really fun to explore the basis for their opinions), but young enough to still need and want guidance (even if they won’t admit it).  From those years of experience, my experiences with my own children, and just the sheer memory of being a teen myself….here are five suggestions for motivating your student.
  • The Homeschooling the Upper Grades e-book is a collaboration project with bloggers from around the world, covering a wide variety of topics and issues facing the homeschooling parent of teens.  Twenty-two topics spanning special needs learners to academically gifted, and college to career-oriented students, are covered in this free download.
  • Worried you’re going to miss one of the pieces for moving from homeschool to college?  Here is the help you want with transcripts, scholarships, and making the transition!  In Through the Door, you and your teen will work through thirty-three modules to smooth the way from homeschool to college life.
  • Looking for high school help?  It’s not the academics for high school that are nerve-wracking so much as it is all of those ‘special things,’ like testing, applications, and deadlines that must be met for a smooth transition into college.


Career Exploration

Maybe your teen knows exactly what s/he has wanted to be since childhood.  Maybe they have no idea.  A little career exploration is good for both scenarios, as it helps to better understand what those jobs truly entail…

  • Must-Read — Career Planning for Teens: Discover The Proven Path to Finding a Successful Career That’s Right for You!
  • Career-focused electives can be a good way to make high school fun, to bring some moments of levity to a day crowded with the intense courses found in these upper grades, particularly in a college prep scenario.  What is your child interested in?  Which hobbies does s/he gravitate toward?  Are there any career interests yet?  This is a good way to let colleges know more about your student, as they see which electives made the cut and ended up on the transcript.
  • Career Exploration guides seventh through twelfth grade students to discover their career path or college major.  This eight-week elective course provides possible directions to the next step.  Each lesson includes informative articles, self-inventory worksheets, relevant links to additional information, and inspiring true stories.
  • The Career Center offers a whopping fifty-five different courses, ranging from eight weeks to full-year, to help your student further explore their interest and see if it is a good fit.
  • Parents can also pull together resources to create a year-long, career-based course for their student’s interest – such as this one on Architecture.  For technical or hands-on careers, check with your local community college to see if they have dual-enrollment high school programming.


Maturity / Relationships

Teens are navigating a tricky time of life, caught between the worlds of adolescence and adulthood.  Now is the time to talk about all those hard things…before they take the next step.

  • Ask Powerful Questions
    • Explore the clarity of intent, connecting through rapport, creating openness, reflective listening, and empathy. How can we explore the space between ourselves and others, and exchange meaningful perspectives? Just ask—powerfully.
  • Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen 
    • The fourteen essential conversations to have with your tween and early teenager to prepare them for the emotional, physical, and social challenges ahead, including scripts and advice to keep the communication going and stay connected during this critical developmental window. 


Read Prior to Graduation


Organizational Skills

Whether it’s a bedroom, an office, or digital life, having a good system of organization can save your student time and trouble down the line…


Life Skills

Resources for a wide range of students and their needs…


Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is something every parent should help foster, age-appropriately, from the earliest years.  We want our teens to go out into the world with eyes wide open…

  • Must-Read — Do the Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
  • Looking to focus on critical thinking skills?  This Guidebook Set features four books, each with multiple lessons that are direct, concise, and help students relate concepts to their daily lives. Two of the books are designed to make students think about thinking and thought processes.  The other two books are motivational and inspirational in nature, showing examples of people who trudged through difficult times to make a difference in the world.
  • Literary Adventures for Kids is a language arts curriculum that fosters both writing and critical thinking skills.  There are five different year-long classes to choose from, each including a blend of classic and modern books and encouraging students to ‘think beyond the book.’


Technology Skills

We live in a digital world, and any path your student chooses is going to require certain technological skills…beyond the cell phone.

  • Must-ReadFuture Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World
  • Regardless of the path, all students need to become familiar with the Microsoft Office family. This elective curriculum uses project-based learning to teach critical thinking, problem-solving, research, and out-of-the-box thinking skills. It celebrates students’ creativity and innovativeness and allows students to learn by creating solutions, all while introducing learners to a full range of Office skills.
  • Using short, online unit studies, this site introduces your student to apps, online programming, and other ‘new tech’ being used currently in both educational and on-the-job settings. Students develop skills and practice through short, fun projects.
  • The Guide to Digital Student Projects is an excellent starting point for learning how to organize via computer (as opposed to the old-school, paper method).


Test Skills

We all know that test skills are a must for college entrance exams, plus academics in general, but many careers require occasional training and testing as well.  It’s good to brush up on those skills…

  • Must-Read — Mind Over Scatter: Conquer Any Test with Sharper Focus and Less Stress
  • Do you have high school students who are considering college?  One of the steps they’ll need to take is standardized testing.  This is especially important for homeschooled students as it helps to provide outside validation to the grades on their transcript.
  • Even if you know the material and are prepared for your test, it’s completely normal to experience test anxiety.  In fact, to a degree, anxiety helps you perform better on the test!  However, too much can prevent you from doing your best…so what test skills do you need?

Exploring Beliefs for World Religions Day

The Encarta World Dictionary defines religion as “people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities and divine involvement in the universe and human life.”  In a world that is constantly struggling for peace, having a better understanding of belief systems and values can help us to understand different people and cultures…which may lay the foundation for a thoughtful progression amid a multitude of complex cultures.  Studying world religions can lead to a better understanding of the relationships between religion and politics, economics, and social structures..


Novel Studies & Curricula


Short Primers


Art: Stained Glass Windows

Supplies

Directions

  • Print out the picture that you want to copy. We used shields and crests.
  • Trace the picture on the tracing paper with the black marker.
  • Color it with crayons. Use bright colors. Don’t color too hard, or the wax will run!
  • Cut out your shield and laminate it to make the colors even brighter. 
  • Hang it up and let the sun shine through!
Find more history-themed art projects in Recycled History!



    

Literature: G.A. Henty & Comparative Books

  • Beric the Briton
    • This tale of the Roman invasion of ancient Britannia remains one of G.A. Henty’s most popular novels of all time. Join Beric and his best friend Bodouc as they live the adventure of a lifetime – captured by the Romans, trained as gladiators, and placed in the service of Emperor Nero himself! When the story of a mysterious “Christus” begins to circulate the Roman Empire, Beric and Bodouc are forced to confront their pagan past. Will the two young prisoners be able to overcome their thirst for revenge and discover the source of true forgiveness?
  • For the Temple
    • The troubles in the district of Tiberias, the march of the legions, the sieges of Jotapata, of Gamala, and of Jerusalem all come to life. In this impressive and carefully studied historic setting, you will follow a lad, John of Gamala, who passes from the vineyard to the service of Josephus, becomes the leader of a guerrilla band of patriots, fights bravely for the Temple, and after a brief term of slavery at Alexandria, returns to his Galilean home with the favor of Titus. The fall of Jerusalem is brought to life in this classic.
  • The Kids Book of World Religions
    • By gaining a greater understanding of the cultures and beliefs of people around the world, children build respect and tolerance for the differences that make each of us unique.With objectivity and accessibility, this title in the Kids Book of series looks at the histories, scriptures, places of worship, religious leaders, gods and major festivals that are the foundations of many of the world’s religions.
  • Investigate the World through Religious Tradition
    • Over 7 billion people live on the earth, and 84 percent of them describe themselves as being religious. Few topics incite such passion as religion. What does that mean? Why are humans invested in ideas that may never be proved? Why has religion played such an important role in history?



It’s NOT Ancient History! Making Connections with World History

Although the people we study in history lived decades or even centuries ago, their actions impacted how we live our lives today.  Names, dates, facts…these are some of the things that I hear students complain about when they talk about disliking history.  It’s too confusing…they can’t put it into context.  A visual display, however, can help tie everything together in an easier-to-digest format!  Our two favorite, visually-appealing ways to link historic events include this book (fantastic for those with small spaces) and this wall chart (for those with a dedicated homeschool area).

But it’s not just faceless names and random dates; history is full of transitional events that have altered the world’s story.  By learning about different eras, you start to see what changes might happen in the future and what would drive that change.  For example, learning about the fall of Rome teaches you that even the most powerful society can fall apart—and what happens to cause that crumbling.  

By studying history, humanity has a chance to learn from its mistakes, theorize about alternative options based on correcting past mistakes as it moves forward with future events.  After all, history rhymes…so it’s likely that there will be a chance to act differently in the future.

There are five concepts – or 5 Cs – of history.  These are at the heart of every question historians ask as they seek to better understand the past, and they include (from most easily understood to the more complex): change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency.  The strangeness of the past enables us to step back and look at our society and ourselves from a new perspective—indeed, we might start to look a bit strange to ourselves!  (Think not?  Check out Motel of the Mysteries)

General Ancient History

Classes

Printables

Extras

Egypt

Greece

Rome

Asia / Middle East

Medieval

Mythology

Rabbit Trails