School plans…the teenagers

School started this week.  It was such a different summer.  Usually, I’m chomping at the bit to get the next year going.  I’m dreaming and planning and anticipating the next year, which is a dangerous hobby.  Too often, I’ve let my homeschool dreams prevent me from living in the present learning moment.  It’s far too tempting to let the illusion of a perfect future create a floundering, neglected present.

This summer, I thought about homeschooling for approximately 537 seconds.  That’s it.  Otherwise, I let summer be summer.  It’s been a challenging summer physically and personally.  A lot of external stress.  So, I tried to focus on just letting the kids live their lazy days to the fullest and trying to allow myself a bit of the same.

This year, I have two kids in high school.  Yikes!  Really?  Seriously?  Unbelievable!  Lonna went off to her second year at public school, moving on to the big kid school and loving every minute of it.  Last year, we had to go through a period of mourning when she left.  The house was so empty.  The change was so abrupt.  This year, she went off for the first day, and I commented to Jared in the afternoon that I had barely noticed she was gone.  Our social butterfly flitted from one friend’s house to another all summer long.  It was a near constant battle to get her to understand that she actually had to make an appearance around here at least occasionally.  Her going to school is actually better.  At least I know she’ll come home every afternoon!

When we started homeschooling, Jared was in first grade.  He was not being challenged academically, which is one of the reasons we took the homeschool plunge.  So, from the beginning, I bumped him up to the next grade, and he stayed with Lonna for the last seven years.  Now, as we enter the high school years, we have to make tough decisions.  He has a summer birthday…do I really want him to graduate when he’s sixteen?  He loves to learn and would embrace extra time to explore his interests…do we really need to plow through the information?  He’s a tender soul…do we really want to lose the chance to nurture him at home for an extra year?

So, we’ve made the decision to get him back to the grade for his age.  I spent all of last year racking my brain, trying to figure out exactly how to do that.  We couldn’t just do 8th grade again.  It wasn’t like he was being held back.  What could we do?  Finally I realized that I was letting my brain get stuck in a traditional schedule.  Just because brick and mortar schools have to break down their content in neat little packages of “grades”, doesn’t mean we had to do the same.  That’s the point of homeschooling…we tailor it to our needs.  So, we won’t be going backwards.  We’ll go forward…slowly.  We’ll take 18 months for 9th grade and 18 months for 10th grade.  That will give us the opportunity to spend lots of in-depth time on electives over these next years, while still keeping Jared challenged.

I’m excited how this will expand our options.  In Science, for example, we’re going to do several in-depth studies.  We’re having a year of Botany, a year of Meteorology, and a year of Ornithology, all at the same time.  So, we’re going to follow plants, birds, and weather throughout an entire year, seeing how they are all affected by each other and the passage of time.  We’re using three different college-level textbooks for our journey: this one, this one, and this one.

For Math, I continue my love/hate relationship with Teaching Textbooks.  I know, I know.  I’m the only homeschooler on the planet that doesn’t completely love this curriculum.  It’s been better since last year, though, when I realized you don’t have to do the computer-based version.  You can just buy the book separately.  And it’s much cheaper!

We continue on our track through Henle Latin.  Jared’s so much more enthused about it, now that he knows more vocab.  Instead of mountains of sentences like, “The Roman soldier fought in the forest”, he gets oh so exciting upgrades like, “The large, terrifying Roman soldier battled to the death in the thick, green forest on the hill.”  🙂  Gotta love Latin vocabulary!  Sometime after Christmas, we’ll start a modern language.  We learned some French in the past, and I think we might just return to it.

After years of Rod & Staff English, we’re taking a grammar break.  Oh, Rod & Staff!  You are the only homeschool curriculum I’ve ever completely loved.  I love your intensity.  I love your thoroughness.  I love how you make my children diagram sentences about electric milkers…I will miss you!  Again, after Christmas, we’ll probably add grammar back in and slowly go over the last of Rod and Staff’s books over the next couple years as a refresher.  Mainly, we’ll be reading and writing and reading and writing.

As always, our main approach will be history based.  We’ll live in the time period we’re studying and bring as many subjects as possible into that time.  Especially fine arts.  This year, we’re beginning at the beginning.  We’re back to Ancient History.  I’ve used so many different curricula over the years.  Pretty much all of them, I believe.  However, even though we’re so history driven around here, this will be my first year using one of the more popular history curricula…Tapestry of Grace.  So far, I think we have a winner.  I like the flexibility, because even though sometimes I say I wish I could just open up an instructor’s guide and follow it word for word, I don’t mean that.  I want to tweak and customize.  Mainly, I love how it gives me the chance to integrate all students at different ages.

For that is the big news of this year.  This is my eighth year of homeschooling, but we are not a typical homeschool family.  In eight years, I’ve only ever taught one grade at a time!  As I said, Lonna and Jared were always in the same grade, so I never had to worry about different levels or grades or topics of study.  I could be deliciously spoiled and devote myself 100% to one grade.  This year, while I’m knee-deep in high school transcripts and four year plans, I have to think about someone else…Hilary is officially school age.  Ninth grade and kindergarten.  It’s going to be interesting!

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