Friday, August 2, 2013

8th Grade Binder Preview


I think all this reflection lately has been brought on by the sheer amount of planning required for this upcoming year.  I need to know for sure and certain that I can homeschool high school successfully.  This book has made all the difference.


I am glad I gave myself the summer to figure things out.  I know what I have, what I need, and what I need to do to keep accurate records.  Keep in mind, over the course of the past 4 years I have kept no records.  Other than my blog and my daily notebook, there have been no book logs, no math tests, no book reports and no standardized tests.  I don’t believe in any of these.  I do have journals filled with essays, sketchbooks filled with poetry, daily conversations about characters found in books we read, a child beginning her own business and keeping a ledger to account for the finances, and another daughter who reads science books for fun.  I know they are learning.

I don’t think their high school education needs to look like they just did high school at home.  That is not how we approached elementary and middle school.  I have no intention of printing off our town’s high school requirement and teaching to the same textbooks, requiring the same tests, and the same numbers of homework, volunteer hours and summer projects.  That is just not going to happen.  

What I have to do is give my children the equivalency of what their peers are learning.  They will cover the same subjects: current events, language arts, math, history, science, arts, etc.  How we do it is up to us as  a family team.  

One high school credit is 120 hours if based on time or it can be based on content and be considered a credit when the work is done.  We are using a combination of these two recording systems.  Math will be done on content.  When the book (Pre-Algebra by Holt) is complete, the credit is assigned.  Language arts will be determined by hour.  Our year runs from June 1 through May 31.  Everything we have done this summer counts for 6th and 8th grade.  

Even though we took a summer break, Grace will have accrued 20+ hours of music instruction.  This counts towards her 120 hours in music. I highlight the hours on my chart each week.  We are counting down to zero.  I suspect she will surpass 120 hours but she will not earn an extra half credit or credit.  She has over 30 hours in art already.  Her hours spent in writing group will go towards language arts.  She spent 8 1/4 hours volunteering so far, and we listened to three audiobooks.  This is just a sampling of the learning that has happened in June and July and much more will take place as we head into August.  I firmly believe in the concept that learning is always happening and textbooks represent just way to deliver content.

I have been building Grace’s 8th grade binder.  Her high school binder will look exactly the same.  This is my test run year.  The binder is not complete yet as we are still registering for courses and carefully planning our week.   I am sharing this now as a visual model in the event it helps someone who is also researching how to homeschool highschool.  Everything is hand written since I find nothing so aggravating as crossed out words on a printed page and I refuse to print copy after copy as I discover the best structure for me.  



Each subject area will have its own tab.



Each subject will have basic requirements.  This is a place to list things Grace wants to do on her own as well as the books, texts, videos, projects that I will require.  So those hours spent reading Apologia Zoology 2 will count towards science even if I don’t “assign it”  We just registered for a 6 week Marine Biology course that will add 15 hours to science. We will add in some videos and projects and slowly we build a course.   When I receive the course syllabus for Marine Biology, I will record it as I did for the Bible Study class (below) we are taking.  This class is 30 weeks and will be counted as a content class.  When the year long class ends, credit will be assigned. 


Each subject that is hours based will have its own hours chart.  Each subject will have a form to record the work done.



There is a scrapbook section where I store letters of recommendation, music programs and certificates.  





I don’t want to be faced with a soon-to-graduate teenager and not know for sure and certain that she earned the title of graduate.  I certainly don’t want to have to sort through years of work to produce a transcript and backtrack to document how we provided our child with challenging, uniquely tailored, interesting education that will meet the needs of the admission boards of the schools she chooses to apply to.  

This binder has become my best buddy.  It travels with me.  It is what I work on when the girls are busy playing in the pool or riding bikes with their friends.....doing all their summery things!  I hope that the effort put into this system pays off in a easy way to calculate credits.  I am curious to see if I maintain this system how many hours accumulate, how many documentaries we watch, how many books we read, how many hours of lessons we took, and how many field trips we take.  

In order to be successful I have to do better as a parent.  I have to be better organized.  I have to plan more.  Dinners must be made in advance.  The girls must partner with me more on household chores.  Due to Greg’s hours, the three of us are in this together and together we can make this year really magical.  We are still a few weeks away from the official start to our year but I am feeling more and more ready!

33 comments:

  1. Great post. First and foremost I must say that you have awesome handwriting. Your binder looks very similar to our 9th grade binder. I may have to steal your idea of the countdown hours chart. That is pure genius. I am counting all of hours the same way as you though. Have a great weekend.
    Blessings
    Diane

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    1. Thanks! The hour check off is not my idea - came from the book! All these forms did. This book was the best $15 I have spent on a homeschooling book. It gave me peace of mind and a guide to follow. I feel like we can customize classes as we go knowing what we have done and what we need to do to fulfill a true credit. This allows us to keep our eclectic lifestyle and still be accountable in a way we never have been before!

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  2. I am so on the fence. I finally feel like I am ready to unschool more, allow them to follow their interests more, be less regimented....

    Our high school plan has been that the girls will take a class at the community college (they can do that at 15, but not sure they will do it then or at 16 or 17). If they do well, they can take two classes. They can apply for dual enrollment and get their associate's degree and then, we have been told by friends who have done this, there is no need for a high school transcript.

    But, there is something appealing about knowing how much time we really spent on things. And it would be a nice safeguard if we did need it...but this year I really just want to see where more freedom takes them.

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    1. I feel like this is not making us more structured, but actually allowing us to continue in our eclectic way just with a recording system which we have never had before. We are building science as we go. They are finishing up Zoology 2, we are headed to the Cape, then they begin a Marine Biology with lab class in September. I just write down what they do and how long they spend doing it!

      I have the same plan for community college. We have one nearby that is very homeschooler friendly. I will make my own transcript and issue my own diploma as well. Can you believe we are headed into this phase of homeschooling???

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  3. I found your blog last night and I'm enjoying your posts already. Our daughter is starting 9th grade this fall so all this information is very interesting and helpful. I'm not the most organized person so I got myself a commercial planner -- Well-Planned Day. And I got a high school student version for my daughter. There is even a section for her to include the books she reads during the year which I thought was very clever.

    The regulations are more strict in NY for homeschoolers so both my children (son, 7th grade) have taken standardized tests on a regular basis. This fall my daughter will take the PSAT at a local high school even though it won't count. I thought it will be helpful to take the mystery out of it and also to see how she will do.

    Looking forward to reading more of your homeschool journey! ~Angel

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    1. We know homeschoolers in NY (we are in lower Fairfield County) and you have way more reporting regulations than us! But I guess it forces you to be organized even if it is not in your nature right? I am so glad you commented. I look forward to getting to know you. Even though standardized testing is not required, I will have my girls take the prep class and the PSAT/SAT too. I don't want to limit their options by not making these tests available to them.

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  4. I like seeing this, Jess. It gives me great comfort that another mom is embarking on such a huge task, too. Even thought Anna is a year behind Grace, we are starting the record keeping this year, too.

    I (like you) kept NO RECORDS for the past four years. I have attendance records, my blog, and boxes for each child of all of the projects, notebooks, etc..., but that's it. I don't believe in it, either. It was SO REFRESHING to read that you and I are alike.

    Classical Conversations is broken down into seminars -- Literature, Writing, Latin, Math, Geography, Debate, Science, etc... so I've got our credits that way, which helps me organize things a lot.

    I pray you all have a wonderful year -- your girls are blessed with a mother who cares so much and is so diligent about their education.

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    1. It is a whole new phase of this journey isn't it? I am very excited to begin this year. We will phase in slowly with our Not Back To School Day being August 28th. I have to come up with something fun to do.

      I look forward to reading about your new adventures. I love that we can have children the same age and follow along with how we each approach middle school/high school. There are so many great ideas/systems to share. I am glad we have had the past few years to figure things out before jumping headfirst into the upper grades!

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your charts and binder. My oldest is 6th grade this year, so I've started researching high school now so I'm not overwhelmed by all the information. I've been thinking of documenting 8th grade year, too. I've loosely kept track of what we've done in iCal, so I am hoping a few minor tweaks will be enough for high school record keeping. I have loved watching your journey unfold ahead of us; you've given me lots of ideas.

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    1. I'm glad! There are so many blogs out there with amazing pre-school and elementary ideas but not so many for high school. I assume that is because so many kids transition to a traditional school at that point. Our goal is to complete this journey. While I know my girls would be fine if they HAD to return to school, I just don't see the point, so long as they are happy and it works for our family. I keep checking in with them and they are both adamant about staying out of school. I will keep posting how we are figuring things out, what works and what does not.

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    2. I also wonder if some children and parents are more concerned about privacy issues as kids get older so are more reluctant to share. I also think many families want to or feel as if they have to get more "serious" in the highnschool years and that translates as a heavy load of textbooks. People often stop sharing then because " read chapter 23 and answered review questions" gets a bit repetitive. It's good to find more people who are sticking with homeschooling into the high school years and keeping it individualiseed and creative.

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    3. I never considered that.....you are right though. I check in with the girls periodically to make sure they are comfortable with the blog. They prefer me NOT to write so much and keep the blog more of a digital scrapbook but I know they will want to look back on these times and understand what their Mom was thinking!

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  6. I love this and plan to do the same for Keilee this year. I do not plan on being more structured with her learning by any means just creative about keeping up with it. There are SO many things that count toward hours besides 'book instruction'. I am sure Keilee has a credit hour just from her play. Wish I could sit down with you and let you help me set up my notebook planner. GREAT POST!

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    1. Karen,

      We can talk about this. It is not hard, just time consuming. Everything I am doing is in the book. I just am making my own forms rather than copying hers (I hate white out too). Like you, I am not changing how we learn, just finding a way to quantify it. Let's talk next week when you have some down time!

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  7. I am glad I found your blog a few weeks ago (when searching art journaling) because I hadn't heard of that high school home schooling book before. My older son is going into 7th grade this year, though due to a variety of reasons, we are covering some 5th and 6th grade level stuff as well. The thought of tackling high school is DAUNTING, to say the least, but if I do as you have and start prepping and practicing better record keeping in 8th grade, then perhaps I won't feel like I have to run for the hills and hide from it all!

    For a few years, we reported directly to our county by sending in end of the year evaluations for the boys. We chose to do the Brigance test because the kid tests one-on-one with a certified teacher (and because I knew one of my sons would tank miserably if he were judged solely based on a standardized test). Recently, though, we opted to join an umbrella school. I am no longer comfortable reporting to any level of government or allowing them such easy access to my home and my family. I want to educate my son in a way than works for son, not for them.

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    1. Bridget, I think you will find this book very easy to navigate. There are forms in it that I may never use but it taught me a great deal about how to think of a course and what constitutes a credit. I LOVE that she taught her children in a similar way to me and that she validates life skills, internships, mentorships and interest led learning. This book is a blessing. I was able to find it used on Amazon.

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  8. What a great system! Even though this is still years away for my girls I'm thrilled to see this now so it's on my radar for when the time comes (and when the time comes will you please remind me/help me with these binders?!). What a brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing, Jess!

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    1. You are welcome! I will always share what I have learned from walking a path ahead of someone else. It will be interesting to see this plan in action. Right now it looks good on paper and it feels good but I need to stick with it. That is my challenge. I have to spend time every day in this binder or I will still be trying to catch up on what the girls have done. I will report back on this as the binder develops, the new courses are added and how it works in reality.

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  9. Although I'm in a different country with very different educational requirements I love the binder idea - especially for keeping up with the itty-grity details of the unique self-designed courses. I can see it working well for my Miss 12. I've graduated two already and I'm definitely with you on the importance of good record keeping. I know some people who waited until they needed records and then tried to create them based on what they remembered. I'm so glad I kept them as I went.

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    1. I know that it is possible to recreate a transcript. I know a family that sent two children off to very prestigious universities and they never recorded their children's hours, activities, and book lists. However, for me, it feels like this is what I should be doing. Therefore, I am going to do my best. Much of our learning is ongoing and I never plan ahead. But I am always on the search for great opportunities and I try very hard to connect our learning so that it is not just book work, but life work. Thank you for your comment!

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  10. Thank you so much for popping by my blog and leaving a lovely message. My son is about to go into secondary school (when things get a bit more serious over in England) and I am doing my level best not to panic! I really enjoyed your post. I am loving seeing how other mums homeschool older children, as this is new territory for me. We unschool, without curriculum, which I think is maybe what makes it so scary!

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    1. From the looks of your blog, I would love to have been a child in your home. Seriously. The learning and the joy just radiate off the screen.

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  11. I am curious if you home school through an association of sorts or just do it on your own? Up here in AK there are many home-school programs that are based out of a public school district. It allows for families to get up to $2,500 in money for class materials, supplies... Pretty much the only big rules are nothing can be spent on religious materials and only 50% can be spent on P.E. type classes. Depending on the program that you are with you may only have to provide a brief outline of what you are doing throughout the year to the more stringent ones that you have to have contact with a "teacher" once a quarter to evaluate what you are doing. These evaluations can be face to face, over the phone or the internet. Some offer classes like a coop would from the youngest kids all the way through high-school level that offer needed credit for the 9-12 grades.

    Is this type of program common where you are?

    -AKreader

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    1. There are no programs like this that I know of in any of the states in New England. I love that you are getting your tax dollars back to use in your home education. We all pay into the school system and it makes sense that you would get it back to apply to your child whether that child is in a public school, home school or private school. In CT when you withdraw (or never send your child) from public school you lose access to everything. No sports, clubs, band, drama, etc. The trade off is we have no reporting and no mandated testing.

      I do not use an umbrella school which some families do. We build our curriculum piece by piece. It is a tremendous amount of work but I love the flexibility it allows.

      Do you blog? I would love to see how your homeschool looks!

      Jessica

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    2. I actually am not a home schooler- no kids yet :/

      Most of friends home school though and I got involved in the community through them. I was an Aquatic director at the Y and we offered classes geared to home school families. When I left I was encouraged by many of them to start my own business and continue teaching lessons for those families. I have since branched out and also do some work with History and German as those were my undergrad degrees. Currently I am working on my master's in k-8 education and initially thought I would teach in a regular school with it however I may just stick with the home school classes. Lot's more flexibility with kids who truly want to learn what you are teaching. The K-8 degree will allow me to broaden what I am able to offer class wise.


      Kids here are allowed to participate in sports, band, clubs... if they are enrolled with one of accredited home school programs. If you are not with an accredited program you can still participate, it just takes a lot more paperwork and proof that you are in fact doing "school". In terms of testing some require it, some have it optional and some don't offer it all. For the optional ones you may receive more money for your student if you participate. One home school program I work with offers a $400 allotment bonus if your child takes the yearly test. The same program also offers a large library of materials that can be checked out so a parent does not have to buy a math program, reading or whatever subject you can think of each year.



      -AKreader

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  12. That sounds very much like how we make radical unschooling work with the documentation laws here in Pennsylvania! We do things as they come, and I work hard to keep track (at least loosely) of time spent in order to deal with crediting, and when I get so many hours that sound like a neat "course," then boom! :)

    Good luck, Grace! You and my daughter Sarah will make awesome eighth-graders this year!

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    1. YES! That is just what we do. I do have some things that I ask the girls to do but I rarely make a schedule for them. When Grace picks up Zoology for fun I know she is remembering and learning more than she would if I assigned it. I have never taken the time to account for this. It was just always part of our day. I am approaching this like a game. You always hear that homeschoolers spent more time on this and that and homeschoolers usually surpass the course and credit load of public school kids. I have the chance to prove or disprove this based on what we do in our home. I am really curious to start watching the hours tick by once we get into our regular schedule in September. IF everything goes to plan we are going to by busy with marine biology, music, bible study, sign language, gymnastics and possibly Map the World By Heart. Not to mention writing group, art journaling and religious ed! It is going to be a super busy hopefully wonderful fall!

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  13. The binder idea is fabulous! My oldest is in 7th grade this year. I plan to make him a transcript and keep better track of what we are doing so I get into the habit of doing so. I'm worried that we will get to 10th grade and then go into complete panic mode for college stuff. Although he has been asking to go to "regular" school - we will see what happens and it's good to get some stuff set up for the other kids as well. Thanks for sharing your ideas!!

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    1. Jen, These are all Barbara's ideas! I am just trying to incorporate then into our homeschool. Like you I don't want to have to backtrack and create a transcript or portfolio from past events and classes and projects. However, I know myself and know that I tend to lack follow through so I need to make sure that the processes I create work on a day to day basis. I think if I spend 15 min a day with the binder, i will be able to keep track of everything. If you put something together, I would love to see it!

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  14. I really love your binder idea. I also was more relaxed in the elementary years, but turn a little psycho for high school. I am working towards being more creative with assigning credit and constructing course title from my son's interests and things he spends time doing. But it's tough. I have heard that book recommended by several people. I will have to look for it.

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    1. I am also constructing couse titles! Today my oldest spend 7.5 hours in Red Cross Babysitting training. I am filing that under Life Skills. I love that this book is adaptable to a multitude of styles and should fit ours perfectly. I just have to come up with a set time every day to keep it up to date.

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  15. Hi Jessica! It's Jackie from Let's Homeschool High School. I wanted to stop by and personally thank you for joining our first ever high school blog hop. If anyone else is interested in joining us, here is our main instruction page: http://letshomeschoolhighschool.com/high-school-homeschool-blog-hop/

    AND

    Here is our link-up page: http://letshomeschoolhighschool.com/blog/2013/08/07/august-2013-homeschool-high-school-blog-hop-envisioning-future/#.UgPFapLVCk1

    Wow! You have given me some great tips on handling my daughter's high school transcript. We incorporate unschooling into our journey so your tips really help.

    Like you, I really didn't keep records last year. I think I can handle doing your binder method so I am going to try that for this coming year when my daughter will be adding Time4Learning's (http://www.time4learning.com/homeschool/high_school.html)new high school classes as her core. I will just need to add the various life skills we supplement with. At least T4L does all the record keeping so it should make my job much easier. I will just need to simply transfer that to her transcript. It's the unschooling stuff that I mainly need to keep in your neat binder method so I can add it to her transcript.


    Thanks so much for the tips and I look forward to linking up with you again next month.

    Joyfully,
    Jackie
    Let's Homeschool High School Team

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  16. Nice post. I've never felt the need to count hours, placing more emphasis on content. Still I like your method of tracking hours. :) Like you, we also "count" what has been done, however informally, over the summer months. Needless to say, my incoming freshman was delighted to learn that the books she was reading for fun are being "counted" for her freshman English credit and have been added to her booklist.

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