Want to know how I helped my daughter get into a Big Ten college through homeschooling? We’re still in the last season here in the final year so follow along as I start a thread of posts telling our story.
Krystal was accepted to Penn State College of Engineering and is applying to University of Alabama Huntsville this week. We had a plan and that plan is the basis for all of our actions, but we’re finding ourselves inside of countless surprises this year, and doing things we couldn’t have planned for. I imagine we’re not finished yet so be sure to join us by following along!
I’ll try to post weekly throughout this last semester of her high school career – her Junior year. (Which is actually also her senior year as well as her freshman year of college.)
We aren’t special. With a good plan anyone can do what we did (are doing). I promise.
So first, I wanted to go back to the beginning and explain why we homeschool. I wasn’t someone who KNEW she wanted to homeschool her children. I have an engineering degree from Michigan State and my husband works for Microsoft, so I guess we could be qualified as techies who strive to do hard things regularly. But homeschooling was a last resort for us.
Krystal has always had a lot of anxiety. The system presented a lot of problems for her because of that. And trading out excellence for a mediocre education that she could handle while managing the issues inside the system never seemed like a fair choice to me.
We had already raised one daughter through the public system and she was doing fine as an adult already, but with three more kids coming up and some obstacles presenting themselves I just got to the point where fighting the system was as much, if not more stress than to just become a curriculum expert myself. I was well educated and perfectly capable. So we jumped into what I jokingly call the black hole of homeschooling knowing nothing about it and no one in it.
The first year I started reading every single book on the “homeschool” shelf of the Virginia Beach Public Library. The first step was to decide what kind of homeschooling I wanted to have. Here’s a great article that explains your choices in this area. We liked Classical and have stuck with that approach for seven years now. As a techie I like that it focuses heavily on the humanities. If my kids decide to get a tech Bachelors they won’t be writing many papers in college, so it will be important for them to become skilled readers and writers before leaving our Log Cabin Schoolhouse. That was our approach though. I’ve met hundreds of homeschool moms by this point though and can honestly say that no two moms approach it exactly the same. The only ingredient that is absolutely mandatory, is LOVE. I find that when that is a foundation, the potential results are endless.
After determining that Classical was our path, we next had to find our “tribe”. Contrary to popular opinion, homeschoolers are quite socialized and have many choices for joining groups. We call our micro-schools co-ops sometimes. Our first year we chose a small, home-grown co-op in Virginia Beach called Grace Academy. It was there that I started growing my vocabulary for the homeschool world we would be now living in. It had been started by two kind ladies that loved their kids, loved teaching them, and loved being with their tribe all day. I learned from my peers at lunchtime when I started to hear all of these ladies talking about their curriculum and field trip ideas. They were an amazing new tribe. And I continued to be astounded at the resources at our fingertips in America. This was probably the first time I realized what it meant to be a “free” society. I truly had educational freedom. I could teach my kids whatever I wanted and at whatever speed.
Below is the first school course list I created for any of my kids. We put a desk in our formal dining room for Krystal and we were ready to roll! At the time Mercy was still in school as she had been invited into the gifted program in Va Beach. She would be fine. We would just homeschool Krystal. Logan could be figured out in a few years since he was about three at the time. I figured if I could handle 5th grade, certainly I could handle pre-school.
SO after deciding on what courses like math and English to teach Krystal I had to become relatively versed in curriculum. I had no clue about the millions of curriculum choices that exist out there. Seriously. SO. Many. So I went down to the local used homeschool curriculum store, Moore’s Expression. Many towns are lucky enough to have one. In PA in future years we would go to the PA Curriculum Exchange. Both stores are just startups by other homeschool moms. If books are your thing, they are a wonderful business venture for a homeschool family! Here’s a picture of some of the first books I purchased. Coming up with a list like this was the next step, and I would do something similar to these every year that passed.
The next step would be to draw up a potential semester syllabus so I knew about what all we had to get through in the next semester. I created something like this “5th Grade Literature Syllabus” below for each of Krystal’s classes. Some of them, like math, came with a syllabus.
Following the creation of the syllabus, I realized I needed a weekly plan. I still didn’t know what a typical Monday would look like… The hardest part would be to tolerate the ambiguity of setting a plan that I didn’t know would work. I had to be pretty flexible and ready to assess and reassess our plans for the entire first year. I would find out later that the main difference between me and a school teacher is that I had many years to teach this one child. School teachers have one year to teach many students. That would prove to be magical!
Once I had this overall plan, I wanted to be sure we were still having FUN! So I threw in some field trip plans, we continued with our normal after school activities, found a spelling bee, and discovered National Novel Writing month (NANO)! We had so much fun that by our first summer Mercy would beg me to let her join us! So I did…
Be sure to stay with me to find out what changed and what stayed the same in our second year as an accidental homeschool family! BIG changes were just around the corner… changes we could never have planned for if we had stayed with the status quo and the system.
I also promise to throw in all the techie things we’ve done as a homeschool family as I post along through our journey over the next few months! Be sure to FOLLOW! 😉