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Weekly Wrap-Up: March Madness and the SAT

Weekly Wrap Up

Our March has been super busy but homeschooling is something the squishes in to fill the time available for Mr. B. He is so very self sufficient these days that it hardly feels as if I am a homeschooling mama anymore.

Big Hurdle! The SAT has been taken and he is feeling really good about the experience. Funny how with this last child I have not stressed or been overly concerned with getting him prepped for the SAT. He is the one with which I realized that preparing for the SAT should be a slow gradual climb through the high school years, remembering to include the basics…grammar, vocabulary, solid math skills, and lots of writing practice.

There were two things we did in extra preparation for the SAT.

IEW High School Writing Intensive


He viewed the Institute for Excellence in Writing DVD course (Disk 1 only) for High School Writing Intensive. We have been using their programs all along so Mr. B felt sufficiently prepared for the writing portion of the SAT just by viewing the one DVD and seeing how the SAT writing is scored and the format of the test.

We had the The Official SAT Study Guidefrom Mr. A and I gave it to Mr. B to use to prepare about two weeks ahead of the test. He read through the beginning pages and then worked through some of the practice questions in all areas. I would say he spent an hour a day for the two weeks just using this book in a way that he found helpful.

That’s it…it was the most calm and stress-free preparation our family has done and we shall see how it all works out when the scores come in…better look that date up so we will remember to check the website. 🙂

New tool Mr. B is using that you might like to check out for your family…and it is free: Anki!



Mr. B showed me a new tool he is using online to memorize a variety of things: Anki. This is sort of like a flashcard program but way more intuitive. As you work through your cards, you can tell it if it was easy or hard to remember and if it was easy, it gives you that card less often. If it is hard to remember, then it keeps it in regular rotation. Mr. B is using it for Spanish vocabulary, Bible memorization, and for his self-taught computer programming terms. He is not really a flashcard kind of guy but he is singing the praises of Anki as he works on more difficult things that he wants to remember.

Notebooking in High School

Mr. B is still working his way through the 20th Century with reading, notebooking, and a timeline. He is in his last unit in his anatomy study!

Teaching Textbooks Pre Calculus

Since Mr. B finished his Pre-Calculus work early, we decided he would take a quick run through Introduction to Psychology from Seven Sisters.  He just started so I will keep you posted with his progress and how we like it.

I think that just about covers the highlights of our academic work for the past couple of weeks.

I think we are both ready for a “spring break” next week!


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High School – Can You Mess It Up?


What if I mess up high school

Question from a Reader:

I am reaching high school and wish I could start all over again. My boys, especially the 14 year old, have had a rocky ride and its mostly my fault. How can I reclaim the Charlotte mason /classical approach with teens when they don’t like to read- and one just wants to do the least to get through? I am so sad at where we have ended up…. I don’t want mess up high school and the textbook is looking good only because all the information is in one place. What if I mess up again and don’t teach what they need to prepare them for college? I’m supposed to be a homeschool mentor and I haven’t taken any of my own advice! Help!

High School – What If I Mess Up?

High school gives you the time to slowly give the power of learning to your children, transitioning into the mentor you mentioned in your question. This takes time. The process is gradual and for each child it happens at a different pace. If you do your best to offer the opportunity for your children to learn at their level and try to always allow room for personality and tastes, you won’t “mess up”.

Offer living books with real information.

There are wonderful free resources online to guide your choices like Ambleside Online. You can also read the book The Well-Trained Mind and glean even more wonderful resources for high school.

  • I tried to vary the style and format of the books I offered for history and literature. A tough Shakespeare choice would be followed by a biography or a lighter piece of historical fiction. You could also try using audio books if your child has trouble keeping up with the reading required in high school.
  • As they worked through the high school years, the amount of pages read each term would increase….I always tried to keep tabs on how they were progressing through a book and adjust my plans accordingly. If they got hung up on a particular book selection, we would discuss what the problem was. Sometimes it was vocabulary, sometimes it was just plain too hard for the moment and we would put it aside or skip it altogether, and sometimes it was just a lack of interest. I tried to allow for all those issues on a case by case basis.

Use a text or video courses in high school when it is the best choice.

Most of us use texts for math and science because they are appropriate for high school aged students. You can supplement your science with living books if you want to enrich those textbook experiences. Make the text work for you and if your child is not really into reading to start with, choose a text that has an audio version or a DVD course where they can pop in a DVD and watch a lecture before narrating things back in writing or orally.

High School Level Courses We Have Used

Require follow-up narration in written or oral form-high school level

Learning to read well and follow up with either written or oral narration is the cornerstone of our family’s high school experience. Doing just this one thing will customize your child’s learning. There is no real need for testing in most subjects if you are following up every reading with some sort of narration. Narration is a way for your child to share with you in some way what they took away from their reading.  Want more details? Try this entry: Narration: Helping Your Child Get More Out of Their Reading.

Narration Ideas That We Have Used in High School

  • Notebooking pages! – This has been the best and most effective tool in our high school years for my boys to customize and document their learning. The simple act of having a page that pulls all their thoughts together has made a huge difference in the attitude of my boys when it comes to follow-up narration. It isn’t quite a blank page but isn’t a fill-in-the blank cookie cutter workbook page either. Of interest: Notebook Pages in a Charlotte Mason High School.
  • Timeline – Keeping an on-going timeline that connects all subjects together has led to many light bulb moments in our high school years. Adding entries for science discoveries and famous scientists, historical events and famous people, art and music high points, and anything else of interest has made the timeline a treasured resource and valuable as a tool to see how all their subjects inter-connect. More ideas for a timeline notebook: Book of Centuries.
  • Discussion – Our weekly meetings are the jewels of our week. After all the work is done, Fridays are the moment when the boys can shine. They pull out books, papers, sketches, and projects to share with me as a way to tie up the end of the week and prepare for the next week.  Keep your questions open-ended. See more on our Friday meetings: Friday Discussions-What Do We Talk About?

Teach them to write using an approach that works for your family.

We used the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). As time went by with our boys, they gradually applied their writing skills to higher and higher levels of writing…essays, summaries, reviews, and research projects allowed them to share what they found interesting about a topic. This was a process that started in middle school and continued step by step in high school.  I learned that if my boys had something interesting to write about they didn’t complain as much about the actual writing. We also used our notebooking pages to ramp up their writing: How To Use Notebook Pages to Write an Essay.

Make Sure To Allow Some Interest-Driven Learning (Project Learning)

This idea alone reshaped the face of our high school learning. The moment I realized we could offer interest-driven courses that allowed my boys to hold the reins of their own learning and direct the depth and scope of their own learning….our high school experience soared.  I outlined our experiences here: Nurturing a Project Learning Environment.

Don’t Just Prepare Them For College

In the end, your job in high school is to not just to prepare them for college. Your role is to offer quality courses in a manner that fits your child’s learning style, allowing time for them to explore interests while still in your home. With a little planning, choosing the best materials you can find and giving the freedom to learn at their own will not mess up.

High school is just another stage of maturing into the self-educating adult we all want our children to become as they grow up and out of the home. We can help them learn to think and to apply any information and skills they need to accomplish their individual goals.

Please visit and share with us at the CM blog carnival! We'd love to have you! I am submitting this entry to the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival and if you have any entries you would like to submit, you can send them to this email address: [email protected].





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Weekly Wrap-Up: Continuing and Self-Education


Beech Retreat Collage

Got to spend time with Tricia from Hodgepodge and Jimmie from Jimmie’s Collage.

I am always up for some continuing and self-education and the past week has been filled with it around our house…for mom and the kids!

Another two weeks have flown by, mostly because I was in Florida for 6 days during that time hanging out with all my BEECH Retreat buddies! I was greeted at the airport by my friend Tricia from Hodgepodge..spent the whole weekend rooming with her, attending sessions with her, and helping her review an awesome sponsored car from Kia! (You can read her review on her blog: Kia Optima.)

While I was doing that, Mr. B continued his schoolwork and I have a nice stack of finished assignments to read and enjoy. It may take me a few days to get through them all…notebook pages, maps, summaries, math to look at, and art projects to view. So nice to be able to leave him for a few days and have him just continue on as normal.

Mr. B was disappointed again this semester when he found out that the computer classes he wanted to take at the community college were all full…again. So, what did he do? He decided self-education was the way to go using online sources! Way to go Mr. B! Since I know nothing about this topic, he consulted his older brother who has completed these courses at college and found out the best way to go about it. Why doesn’t this surprise me? Mr. B has always been encouraged to follow his interests and this is just another example of how he has matured as a self-educator. When the time comes to take these courses at the community college, he will be that much more ahead.

Final Countdown to Bolivia

The biggest thing around here is Amanda leaving on Sunday for Bolivia. She has finished her packing and now all that awaits is a long family day tomorrow with all of us here at the house and then a drive to San Francisco to board her plane. Someone tell me that six months will go by fast….

Florida Swamp and Mangrove collage @HBNatureStudy

While I was in Florida I was able to make a whirlwind tour of the swamps and mangroves around Naples, Florida.  I think I added about twenty birds to my life list.

So there you have it in a nutshell….two weeks, lots of learning for all of us here at the Harmony Art Mom house.

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