Public School Jumps in Front of Homeschooler's Parade!

Public School Jumps in Front of Homeschooler's Parade!
>>>>The following was a letter I wrote to our local school district after discovering an email they sent out identifying my son as a National Merit Commended Scholar from a local public high school.<

Dear Highline School District,

I was online looking for an article that my son had published in the newspaper, and I came across his name in Highline School District newsletter. In the March 30, 2007 edition of Highline eHighlights, http://www.hsd401.org/ourdistrict/publications/eHighlights/033007/ you said this about my son:


National Merit Scholar Finalists Named

Highline and Mount Rainier High School Students Recognized

Three students from Mount Rainier High School and one from Highline High School have been named finalists in the National Merit Scholar program. They are: Anna Cunningham, Maxwell Ferguson, and Jacob Schual-Berke from Mount Rainier, and Kari Olson from Highline.

In addition, Eva Ghirmai from Mount Rainier and Alexander Binz from Highline were named Commended Scholars.


My son Alex never attended Highline. Although he took the test at Highline High School, he was NOT a Highline student. At the time of the PSAT, he was 15 years old and doing Running Start.

Alex is now 17 years old and has senior status at Seattle Pacific University, on a full-tuition scholarship. He has interned for two years at a national think tank and won the Olive Garvey Fellowship from the Independent Institute. His writings have been published in the Seattle P-I and in Liberty magazine. This summer will be the third consecutive year he has presented his research at an international economics conference. This year he is a candidate for the Truman Fellowship.

Alex was homeschooled independently since the second grade.

Had he been in public school, he would still be in high school. He would have graduated high school this year - if he passed the WASL, of course.

Please check your National Merit Scholarship awards each year before listing them, and ensure that you don't claim homeschoolers as if they are your public school students. Homeschool families work hard, and they deserve the credit.

Sincerely,

Lee Binz
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Homeschool Transcript - What grading scale should I use for my homeschool?

>>>>Melissa wanted to know what grading scale I used, because she had seen
a wide variety of scales used in books and other schools.<<<<

Melissa,
I used this grading scale:

90-100=A
80-89=B
70-79=C
60-69=D

I chose it because I wanted my kids to work for mastery, but not necessarily perfection. If they demonstrated mastery, with 90% or more, then I gave them an A and a 4.0.

I also chose that scale because it made the math on the transcript easier.

I don't think it matter WHICH grading scale, I think it just matters that you have one for the purposes of your transcript. Just choose a grading scale - ANY grading scale. If you simply can't decide, then throw a dart at it!

When my children started college, I saw the different teachers all choose different grading scales for each class. The college itself chooses another grading scale. There is a huge variety out there! Just do what's right for your child.

Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschool Transcript - How to Give Homeschool Grades

Sometimes it is hard to figure out how to give homeschool grades if you don't always give tests. This article suggests an approach.

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Homeschooling Curriculum - Upper Level Math

>>>>Karen asked me what my family used for upper math. Every family is different, of course, but I described what worked for us.<<<<

Karen,
We used Saxon Advanced Math with DIVE CDs and it was very successful. Advanced Math is supposed to be a 1-1/2 year program that includes Pre-Calc and the bulk of formal geometry, but since my son had already had Geometry before switching to Saxon, we figured he could skip those lessons. He did it in one year, and it was his first time ever using Saxon. The next year, with Alex, we also supplemented with The Teaching Company lectures "Calculus Made Clear." I don't think it helped him too much with Advanced Math until the end of the year, but it did help him with calculus the following year, so I think it's a very useful supplement. My kids like those lectures so much they actually watched the whole thing twice, and some sections 3 times. Very few curriculum choices actually go all the way through calculus, and fewer still have some visual tutorials - that's how we ended up with Saxon. The boys did use it completely self-taught, however, and that CAN be done. I only corrected the tests, and even that was difficult for me, since I didn't even understand the symbols! I can tell you that IN GENERAL pre-calculus is the most difficult level of math to learn. At least that is what the college and high school kids I know have told me. I think that Saxon IS self-teaching, so that's good. As for concise, I've talked to a lot of people that say even at the pre-calc and calculus level there are too many problems in each lesson, and have done odds or evens for the problems sets. If it works, do it! I always made sure that Kevin passed with an 85% or better on every test, or we repeated the lessons.

The only other alternative that I can suggest is community college, but even at that you never know if you're going to get a good teacher or not. My advice would be to start with Saxon Advance Math plus DIVE CDs. Call the Saxon help line if you have any questions (we did that 5-6 times that year, and they were VERY responsive!)


Hope that helps!
Blessings,

Lee Binz
Web: http://www.TheHomeScholar.com


Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheHomeScholar
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Homeschooling Teens - How in the world do you homeschool boys!?

>>>>Cindy wanted suggestions for her Junior High boys. She said "Until now, I haven't talked to anyone who has successfully homeschooled boys. I am really looking forward to it, but of course, I'm a little nervous. My son is a sports NUT!!!!!"<<<<

AHA!!! A sports nut!!! Now I have all sorts of ideas for you! Listen, Cindy, with guys, you really need to wear them out, sometimes, before they will sit down and study. Keep him REALLY active in sports everyday, and I think you'll be more likely to succeed in getting him to curl up with a good book. We also did weekly skating/bowling, etc., with our support group, and that was a GREAT way for my boys to meet other homeschooled teens. We didn't do "coop classes" per se, but I did sign them up for a "World War II Naval History Class for teens" in the hopes that they would meet other homeschooled boys - and that worked great for getting to know other friends. Is he involved with a church? That can also provide for that social outlet.

There are some curricula that are geared toward sports (Baseball Math comes to mind.) It could be that your "sports nut" is also a hands-on learner. You might want to use Moving With Math or other hands-on math program. For art, we did a local art class called Teen Pottery Wheel that was a fun way for them to do art in a messy way. Look carefully at ideas that are hands-on. One art curriculum we really liked was "Discovering Great Artists." It's a book that has art projects based on famous artists - a very hand-on way to study the history of art.

I would also encourage you to look at Sonlight, especially since it's your first year. I used Sonlight my first year, and I really felt like it "held my hand" while I was figuring out how to homeschool. After a few years of using Sonlight, I decided I could make my own curriculum
schedule by myself, and I was able to do it more cheaply after that. But at first, having Sonlight hold my hand - well, it was worth its weight in gold! You might want to try it for a year, and then branch out after that - then it will seem a lot easier.

Take care!

Blessings,
Lee

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Home School Education - HELP! My homeschool daughter is reading too much!!!

Homeschooling mothers can have panic attacks about many things. This mom worried that her daughter was reading too much.... and her math book was too easy. Sure these are nice problems to have, but it can still be stressful! Here is what I suggested.

>>>Is there any reason I should have her stop reading so much? She is not avoiding any other assignments. I just want to make sure I am not overlooking something.<<<

Hi Kelley,

It sounds like your daughter would be a PERFECT fit for Sonlight! My kids were like that, reading like crazy. The nice thing about SL is that it exposes the kids to a LOT of different kinds of books to read. I mean, I don't think my kids would have naturally picked up some of the books on our SL schedule, but once they did they loved the books. That really helped us, because then I could assign more books from the same author. For example, once they read ONE of the Little House books, I had them read the WHOLE series. In high school, when they read ONE Agatha Christie book, they read about 20 of them for fun. Sonlight is just GREAT that way.

Things to look out for? I notice that my son had some problems with pronunciation. Because he was advanced in reading, he would see words in print LONG before he ever said them aloud, or heard us say them aloud. My Alex, the economist, even said the WORD economist wrong for the longest time, because he'd read so much about them before he learned how to say the word. My advice for that is to make sure you read aloud every day, so that you come across a varied vocabulary. That should help.

The other problem we had was that even though my kids COULD read a variety of books, and WANTED to read a variety of books, some of the books were just not appropriate for a kid their age. That was a very difficult situation to handle, because even though they liked to read a lot every day, I didn't have the time to do that as well. I did pre-read all the books that I assigned for school. I didn't pre-read all the books from the same author, though. Be careful of assigning books that are too mature in content level. Get the book by Jim Trelease, called the Read Aloud Handbook. It helped us choose books as well.

>>>So far she isn't having problems with Saxon math but I may have her in too easy of a book. I picked the one that corresponded to her ps grade level.<<<

We started homeschooling when my kids were in 3rd and 5th grades, and I picked a grade level math book for them as well. I quickly realized that my youngest was pretty bored. You can easily determine if it is too easy for her. Just give her a TEST from the book each day. As long as she passes the tests with, say, 90% or better, then move her along to the next test. Remember that your job is to make sure she learns. You do not have to make sure you TEACH it. If she already knows it, move forward. Pretest her in the book, and start teaching the concepts once she gets below a 90% on something. A couple of years, my son was able to do 2 math books in a year doing it that way.

I graduated both my boys after homeschooling for 8 years. We used Sonlight for 5 of those years. I hope that helps!

Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschooling Resources - How Can a Booklist be so HUGE!?

>>>>A clients asked:
"I really enjoyed the Comprehensive Records! It really helped to see how you scored your grades, particularly in areas where you did not use a textbook. I also enjoyed your booklists. I have two question about books. How do you select the books for your courses? Do you have any favorite resource? "<<<<

Hi,

First of all, I'm really glad my Comprehensive Record is helping you. Of course, every family will have completely different records, and they will (hopefully) demonstrate each students unique area of specialization. That's why the book lists look like that on my records - because that's how my kids love to learn. I can't KEEP them away from books. This summer, when Alex was home from college, for fun he read Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie, and Shakespeare. He didn't just read ONE of each of those, he read the whole SERIES of each one. That's what they love to do, and that's why the book list looks like that. In fact, I actually didn't quite manage to capture ALL of their books, because they were much better about reading books then actually writing down the titles for me.

For example, with our Bible class one year, I set 35 books in front of the kids, and told them to read for just 1-2 hours a week from those books. I was expecting them to read, perhaps, 10. They read them ALL. It was amazing to me, but that's what they loved to do - and they still love it.

We started homeschooling with Sonlight Curriculum, and that started them on reading. I supplemented using Jim Trelease Read Aloud Handbook. By the time they were in high school, we included book lists from The Well Trained Mind, and various college reading lists that I found online.

We didn't use literature guides, really. They mostly just read the books. When I would ask them about it, the just said it was good, and asked for the next one. It's nice like we dissected each book in an intense way.

The classes that I failed in (art, state history, etc.) I found that it worked better when my kids learned from literature. So when I got completely frustrated by a subject, I just schedule them to do reading. So instead of studying art, we read art history. Instead of studying 3rd year french, we read french books, and books about France. It's like it's my kids' love language. You're kids may not have the same love language.

Don't feel like you have to read that many books with your kids. Many kids may be doing good to have 1/2 of one page of books on the reading list. It's all about encouraging your kids to do their best, and then be satisfied.

To keep a reading list, you can have the kids write down every book they read, but that didn't work well for me. You can also keep all the receipts from the library and from the bookstore. Keep all your assignment sheets, if you use them, because that may have the names of books you have used. You can include books on tape, and you may want to include plays that are books (like Shakespeare, Death of a Salesman, etc.)

I hope that helps! I'll get to your scheduling questions next time, OK?
Blessings,

Lee Binz

Web: http://www.TheHomeScholar.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheHomeScholar

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Home School Education - Question about CLEP Exams

Lee,
I read with interest your article on CLEP exams and have a question. How does taking the exams affect your GPA in college? I understand that in some instances you can get college credit for passing the exams, but are you assigned a grade that factors into your GPA?
Thank you, Maureen

Hi Maureen,


I'm glad you found the article useful to you! Every college has its own unique policy about CLEP exams, and some colleges give a grade that affects GPA and other's give credit but not grade, and others don't give credit but do give placement into upper level classes. 3 of the schools we applied for provided CLEP credits, but none of them gave a grade, so our GPA was not affected. I haven't read about many college giving an actual GRADE for a CLEP exams.

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Homeschooling Curriculum - How valuable is a formal literature program for my homeschooler?

>>>>A reader asks: I am considering doing some sort of formal literature with my 7th and 8th grader. We have never done any formal literature.......Or should I just assign them some reading and have them write about it?<<<<

I vote for just reading good books :-) I always felt guilty that we didn't do a "literature program". We just read lots and lots of books. I rarely thought to do intensive discussion. I did read ahead all the books they read - I wasn't a total goof up! But really, our discussions were something like, "what did you think of this book?" answer: "it was good!" I wasn't sure I had prepared them well, but then Alex took the American Literature CLEP exam and passed it with flying colors. Plus the books they choose in the library and at the bookstore tell me that they do appreciate good literature. The only really formal literature we did was to do "Learn to Write the Novel Way" which teaches information about character development and setting and stuff. I just want to give you the freedom to NOT do a formal literature program if you don't want to. It's all about the books, in my opinion, and not so much about the program part.

Hope that helps!
Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschooling Resources - Are "Great Illustrated Classics" Worthwhile?

>>>>I was asked if using "Great Illustrated Classics" was a good idea...<<<<

I'm very familiar with those books, and I have actually suggested them for parents to use when their kids simply won't read college reading list material (which can happen for a variety of reasons.) They do have illustrations, which can help remedial readers but annoy older teens. I believe they are written at a 5th grade reading level. An adult reader can get through each book in perhaps 1-2 hours. The editing isn't in beautiful prose - in other words, they aren't that well written from a literary perspective. They ARE true to the story line, however. I really think a student will get a sense for the book by reading them, and that can benefit them. They just won't be getting the vocabulary or the "ear" for great literature.

A similar idea is to have kids read the GABB, "Great American Bathroom Book" which has a concise 2 page synopsis of great literature. You may be able to find that at Amazon. They don't have pictures, and it's meant for adults, so the reading level is more challenging.

Again, you don't get the vocabulary or the "ear" for literature, but you do get the story line.

Hope that helps!
Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschooling Teens - SAT or ACT? Which is better for homeschoolers

>>>>One mother asked if it was better homeschoolers to take the SAT or the ACT.<<<<
I have read that the SAT is more commonly given on the coasts, and the ACT is more commonly given in the center of the country. For that reason, both tests are accepted at colleges (every college I've ever spoken to HAVE accepted both.) One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that we can choose which test is right for OUR student, and they don't have to take the same test as their age-mates in school. I always recommend that students take a sample test in both and see which one they score best at, and then study for THAT test. They can raise their score more that way - and it can mean saving many thousands of dollars every year on tuition. I read a statistic that said 30% of kids score better on the SAT, 30% score better on the ACT, and 30% score the same on both tests. I found a link from Kaplan, that compares both tests for you. It also mentions that both tests are accepted by colleges:
http://www.kaptest.com/Kaplan/Article/College/SAT/Learn-About-the-SAT/CO_satact.html

I have heard that some colleges require the "optional essay" from the ACT. I would encourage her to use the test she scores better on - the SAT - but also make sure she does the essay on the exam. Some homeschoolers do have "just mommy grades" and do well. For those people, colleges use their SAT and ACT scores as external documentation of learning. If you have distance learning classes AND test scores AND homeschool grades, then you're doing more than enough. In my opinion, she will not be at a disadvantage at all. In fact, she will have the advantage! Way to go, Mom!

Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschooling College - One great way to evaluate a college

<<< This mother was asking how to find a good college for her daughter that wants a PhD in Biology. She was asking for a school in New Jersey, and I don't know the schools in that area. I was able to give her some general advice, though. >>>

If you are asking about undergraduate schools, make sure you compare their graduate school admission rates. One local school has a medical or law school admission rate of 100%. (Seattle Pacific University - but I can't remember if that's their medical or law school statistic.) Once you find a school you are interested in, then find that statistic in a college comparison book (US News and World Report has one, but so does Peterson's, and Kaplan. You can usually find them in the library reference section.) The graduate school admission rate can imply how well students are prepared academically in general, can suggest how well the are advised by academic advisers, and may tell you how much help they get in applying for graduate schools.


Blessings,
Lee
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Homeschooling Curriculum - Is there such a thing as too much homeschooling?

A homeschool parents asked me how much is TOO much. Here is our email conversation.

>>> Here's her schedule, tell me what would you do? At co-op she takes volleyball, speech, creative writing, newsletter, Peacemakers (the teacher is going through the book sort of like a Bible Study). She has a speech due at least every 2 weeks and for creative writing she is working on a novel and she has to critique everyone else's writing every week. She has to turn in all her revisions every week to her creative writing teacher. This is very time consuming, but she loves it a lot.>>>>>

My Response: PE is important, but speech, creative writing, and newsletter are all 3 basically an English credit. English credits that are requiring a lot of work. It's OK to have too many of one kind of high school credit (good in fact) but it has to be balanced with the need for other subjects.

>>>> Tuesday: Community college: she leaves the house about 10:30 am and returns home about 1:00 pm. She is taking Spanish there 2 days a week.<<<

Spanish is good, and colleges usually require 2-3 years of foreign language. But community colleges pack one year of high school foreign language into just 4-5 months of school! That makes it three times as much work as a high school class. Again, that's do-able, but you have to make sure she balances that with her other subjects.

>>>>> Wednesday: Volunteer work: She works with a local ministry which does after-school kids clubs. This group is so awesome, they go into the public schools and reach out to the kids with the gospel. <<<<

Being a group leader is huge. Doing volunteer work is huge. Plus if she likes it and can continue with it, that will be great. That sounds like a great area of specialization for her.

>>> In addition to the classes she takes at co-op and cc, she is doing SL400, Civics, plus their literature and Bible programs. There are a LOT of writing assignments involved with SL and I am trying to only assign one or two a week, but she isn't even getting those done>>>>

I would eliminate all writing from all components of the Sonlight program. One year Alex asked for SL 10 for Christmas, and I gave it to him, and he read it for fun. (Passed a CLEP exam even!) You don't have to do all the assignments, just take what works from it. She is obviously getting enough writing elsewhere. Does she enjoy the reading? IF so, I would just have her read, and maybe speak to you for a few minutes about the book she reads. Because her program is so thick with writing already, you might even consider eliminating some of the reading material in the SL program. The only thing she "needs" from that Sonlight is the Civics. All the English and Bible are repeats.

>>>She is also doing Apologia's Human Anatomy and Physiology course, but she is so far behind it's ridiculous. I don't even feel I can give her a credit for it at this point.<<<

If she wants to go to college, she will probably need 3 sciences. Give her credit for it when she does get done. You could suggest that she does that on her Wednesday or Thursday morning, first thing, and you supervise that. Her strength is obviously English, so this is the part where you need to invest your energy: the science, math, and civics.

>>>> She is doing Geometry when she feels like it and she is supposed to be studying for the SAT.<<<

What are her career and college goals? Does she realize she needs math? Again, I would have her do math every day when she is at home, again, first thing in the morning. Perhaps a "can't leave until it's done" attitude. That's hard with teens, though, I know!

I would completely drop the SAT prep. You're just hitting your head against the wall at this point.

>>>> Oh, and I forgot to mention she's on the student council for our hs co-op. This requires about one meeting a month or so plus she is the PR person. I haven't seen her spending a whole lot of time here, so it isn't really a huge concern compared to everything else at this point.>>>>

Leadership is a big deal to colleges, and it seems like this is her area of specialization. One of them :-)

>>>> As if all of this isn't enough, she works part time at an ice cream shoppe. She cut her hours back to about 10 a week, and she needs (we need) the money. She has to pay for her car insurance, and she is trying to put away at least a little money for college.<<<

Jobs are good, and can make a kid more efficient in their school work. Ten hours a week seems reasonable, but if she were my daughter I would absolutely insist on math and science (since she's doing all the other subjects) every week.

>>>>>I know she has too many classes to keep up with. <<<<

She does. It is not humanely possible. Add up her hours that you're expecting from each class, and I'm betting you're up to about a 60-80 hour week. Not possible.

I think that when kids get older, we have to let them make choices. Basically she has chosen her English credits, job, leadership, volunteerism, and foreign language, and that's GREAT. You need to somehow get her to choose math and science, in order to complete the package. Try to tie those in to how she plans on achieving her goals
for college and life. If she were my daughter, the few days when she was at home in the morning, I would do the science WITH her, and make her do the math before leaving home (or she couldn't go out at night until she was done.)

>>>> UGH! I could go on and on. But this is already too long. I could really use some advice from those of you who are or have homeschooled teens. Do I need to insist my dd let some things go?
> Thanks for listening!<<<<<

Hang on! Those teens can make you nuts! She's trying to make her own choices, and it sounds like it general they are good choices. She just needs to find a balance in her subjects - especially math and science, since the others are getting done.

I hope that helps at least a little bit!
Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschooling - What to do about a critical husband

>>>>This woman wanted suggestions on how to respond to her husband, who was critical of her homeschool. It seemed that he was complaining that she wasn't doing enough, even though she was working 4-5 hours per day on school with her elementary age students.<<<<



Hi Becky,
I'm sorry! This is a difficult situation. It's a rough one for a committed Mom.

What if you asked your husband what he WANTS you to do for homeschool. What if he indicated what subjects he wanted covered, etc? Another idea might be to go with a curriculum like Sonlight, that has all the checklists, so he can see some progress. Then again, you mentioned Read Alouds, so maybe you are already doing that... OR you could just make your own schedule, and fill in all the little squares like they do in Sonlight instructor's guides. Then ask your husband BEFORE the week starts "This is what we are planning to do. Would you like me to add or change anything?" I'm suggested this because he may not be aware of what you do all day unless he asks. But if you tell him FIRST, then perhaps he'll feel on top of things, and won't be as
negative about it when he asks.

Just thinking out loud here. I hope it helps!
Blessings,
Lee
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Homeschooling Younger Children - Keeping your kids up on current events

My kids are 10 and 12. I get the God's World News, and have them read it and answer the questions on the TM sheet. This is also my only work on reading comprehension, as I always forget narration. That is why I like using God's World. It gives them a little practice with multiple choice quizzes. If there is a story we are following (like now we are following the convention) I will call them into the room when the story is on the news. Otherwise, I don't let them watch the news. It is too overwhelming to them to see all the crime stories, if you know what I mean. I also have them read certain stories from the newspaper. I will ask them "What section would the hurricane be in?" so that they can learn their way around the paper. If there is a lot of disgusting news, child rapists or whatever, and I still want them to see an article, I will use a highlighter to circle the article, and tell them to read that one.


Blessings,
Lee (August 2000)

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