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Language Arts in Our High School Plans

Language Arts at Harmony Art Mom

The up-coming High School Home Education Blog Carnival is featuring the topic of language arts. As I combed through my past entries looking for something to contribute, I realized that I have written quite a bit about our language arts but over on The Curriculum Choice. What  a great opportunity for me to gather all that I have written and share a bit here on my Harmony Art Mom blog for all of you to enjoy and as a resource for future readers.

Language Arts at the Harmony Fine Arts Academy

[Where I  have been home educating my four children for the last fifteen years. Currently I am home schooling my youngest high school age son….the very last one! We use an eclectic style of homeschooling, flavored with a Classical/Charlotte Mason style to emphasis the arts and sciences.]

Spelling Power – “Now that my boys are finished with Spelling Power and in high school I rarely need to correct their spelling. If they happen to misspell a word, I can usually point it out to them and have them correct it. The rules learned in Spelling Power have trained them well enough to get even complicated spellings correct or at least really close so they can look it up in the dictionary.”

English From The Roots Up – “We used the cards each week to drill the roots into our memory. We played simple games with the cards if we had some extra time during the week. We studied five minutes a day, four days a week.”

Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization – “Our children are constantly surrounded by slang, sloppy speech, and improper grammar. This program strives to provide food for the ears of our young ones and help them build up their natural ability to memorize.”

Take Five! For Language Arts – “There is an index at the back of the book categorizing the prompts by language arts skills involved and I found that to be very helpful. For example, if I was looking for a prompt that used persuasive writing, I could scroll to that section and read down the list of prompts working on that genre of writing.”

Daily Grams- Jr. High  and Sr. High Level – “I liked using Daily GRAMS as a way to spot check any trouble areas my sons might have and then to review briefly as they came up.”

Homeschool Grades versus Achievements

Achievements in High School

It is that time of year again…the time of year when all of us moms of homeschooling high school students feel the need to record everything down on paper for transcripts. For myself, high school brought home the fact that we really are preparing these kids for their futures. I think it is easy to forget all that when we are looking at all the wonderful curriculum choices out there….it may be a great plan, use great books, and have some fun activities but is it really preparing our children with skills they need for the rest of their life?

Many of the skills they need are not available in a curriculum. Much of what we work on in the older grades is about good habits, good attitudes, and good qualities.

Why are grades hard to give in our homeschool?

  • We take very few tests. Math is a subject that I give tests in…not so much to get a grade but to determine if the material was mastered. If the test shows an area that needs to be worked on, we review and retest. In other subjects, I know from the written work and from discussion whether things were covered well enough so there is no need for a test. I prefer to give end of the term exams which are Charlotte Mason in style.
  • Lots of learning is done orally and not graded. It is hard to grade a good discussion. I encourage question asking and then following up to find the answer. Self-education can’t really be graded….it is always above and beyond the required material.
  • I tend to have my children rework things that are lacking. When you homeschool, there is no reason that a formal writing assignment can’t be polished until it is of highest quality.
  • Most projects and papers have an assignment rubric so my children know what to expect. Assignments aren’t turned in until they are completed. We still work on meeting deadlines but that is to be expected as my son takes over more of the responsibility for scheduling and completing assignments. The rubric will give a score that I can record and the score is based on how well they completed what was asked of them.
  • I don’t grade art projects but use a rubric to reflect the amount of effort given towards a certain goal. If you use Artistic Pursuits you have a grading rubric in the back of your book to look at and adapt to your use.
Homeschool Tracker Report Card
The official report card does not give the complete picture of learning.

All our scores are kept in Homeschool Tracker and that part is easy to generate. I enter the points earned at the end of each week and I only really pay attention when it comes to the end of the term.
The bottom line is that I keep scores and grades so I can generate a transcript. I also keep foremost in my mind that the most important “grades” are those my children will receive once they leave my homeschool world. I try not to sacrifice the real education that takes place with all the different kinds of learning we offer in our high school courses just so I can have a grade to record. It does take a little more effort.

I tend to think of achievements rather than grades when I am recording end of the year records. You can read more and see a sample in this entry: Narrative Report Cards. 

There are also some thoughts in this entry that may help:

Homeschool Tracker

Self-Education – Not the Same as UnSchooling

In my last post I talked about how my boys are moving in the direction of being totally self-educated. After reading email and comments, I think I should probably clarify what I mean since it seems like what I had mind was misinterpreted by some readers. I apologize in advance for the long post…hardly seems like a clarification if it is longer then the original post. I never want to discourage anyone so I feel moved to make some things a little clearer.

Self-education in our family is not code for unschooling.
I am not leaving the direction of our homeschooling totally up to them or to chance. Self-educating defines our method after choosing courses and then how we offer those courses within our homeschooling goals for the year. I talk a lot about goals and pursing specific skills here on the blog so it will be no surprise that I feel that is where the self-education begins. Once we have goals and skills desired for the year defined, our courses are chosen, focus is sharpened, and the boys have input about how the direction of our homeschooling is going. If you read my Weekly Wrap-Up posts you can get glimpses into how this translates into daily and weekly assignments.

Self-Education is something you grow into.
The other point that I want to emphasis is that self-education is not something that is easy with younger children. I would never have expected my boys to be able to do what they do now even perhaps as late as middle school. I have done a lot of reading about the classical ideas of stages in learning (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and in my experience the self-education trend happened in our family when my boys hit the rhetoric stage of development. They began to apply what they were learning to themselves and their world. This translated into questions they wished to pursue. (Here is an excellent article by Susan Wise-Bauer if you are interested in reading more: The Joy of Classical Education.)

Example from our homeschool:
History and literature began to have context and they could form questions about their reading and wonder how it all fit in with other things they were learning. A great example of this is Mr. A and his study of modern history, government, and economics. Suddenly reading about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison has context beyond just their biographies. Mr. A is trying to grapple with the fundamentals of our country’s legal and political system and how it has played out in the 20th and 21st centuries. He jumps on the internet and finds the primary sources to read because they now have meaning as he reads about the mechanics of a presidential election or how the government can manipulate the economy. Self-education just seems to stem from a desire to be able to ask great questions after reading about ideas and then knowing how to go about answering them. Once they have those answers, my boys enjoy talking or writing about them because it seems a logical conclusion to their self-driven pursuits. I didn’t see this happening until high school.

Socratic Discussion is a big part of our learning.
There is a time for explaining and I certainly didn’t mean that I don’t answer questions that come up but more often than not I use a Socratic sort of discussion to help my children make sense of what they are learning. (If you are interested in learning more about how to do that, I highly recommend this article by Marcia Sommerville on Socratic discussion and her explanation of the READ-THINK-WRITE way of learning.)

Letting Others Help Me
Another thing that ends up leading  my boys to self-education is that I never claim to know all the answers which has helped them be more comfortable seeing me as their fellow learner. Honestly, Mr. A and I have tackled some math in the last few weeks that I don’t ever remember covering before. I frankly tell him that I don’t know the answer and then we work at it together. The key is that I have left myself available to answer when needed. If I don’t feel equipped to help, we go to outside sources like the internet to find the answer. I will sometimes tell him to look it up and then have him tell me what he finds out and this is a great way to not only build his confidence by being the new “expert” but it helps solidify the material in his mind by his teaching it to me. I am not totally hands-off as far as school goes and if I gave that impression I apologize. I am more engaged in their learning than ever before and spend more time trying to keep abreast so I can not only be the guide that Charlotte Mason talks about but also the friend or learning companion.

Self-education needs to be modeled.
Self-education is also something that needs to be modeled. If all your children have ever known is a more regimented textbook, workbook, fill in the blanks sort of learning style, the more foreign it will be for them to shift over to a more question based, discussion based style of learning.We have gradually and naturally shifted to our current way of homeschooling. I have gradually become more concentrated in my efforts to learn alongside my boys because I see how it benefits them in the long run. I can’t emphasis enough how much homeschooling in high school is different than the lower grades. It is very different. I am continually feeling as if I am in over my head but when I stop and analyze things, I realize it is okay because I don’t need to be the proverbial bucket filling up my children’s educational cup. They are filling it up for themselves and only occasionally needing me to guide them to more water.

Sorry for the long clarification but I thought it was important enough that I wanted to make sure that what I said in my last post was not used to mislead another mom or even worse, discourage her. My point yesterday was to help those coming after me, perhaps just starting out in homeschooling or those that have younger children, to see homeschooling as a great opportunity if you just keep at it.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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