Reading and Writing for College
Being able to read literature at grade level, discuss the elements, and write a “reflection” on it is the goal for which to aim through these academic years. Many routes exist to get to this goal: full literature programs with workbooks, or classes for homeschoolers (like South Heights). At our house, it looks like this: choosing three to four books each year, discussing them with a book club (aka, a weekly gathering—just 2 weeks per book--with other students whose parents are desperate for another option for literature; includes hot chocolate and popcorn).
These book clubs can include some writing, too. For “grading” purposes, I have students read their prose aloud. This method is motivating because students know they need to have something to discuss, so they read the assigned portion of the book, and they need to have something to read aloud, so they write the essay. Plus, they want it to sound good (utilizing positive peer pressure to its limits!).
In 9th and 10th grades, I add more focused writing courses, either online, through workbooks, or with groups focused on homeschooling high school (like South Heights). The benefits of getting students into a classroom situation outside of the home at this age are to learn these essential classroom survival skills:
- To listen to another instructor and figure out what she thinks is important.
- To learn to take notes in a way that is efficient and effective.
- To learn to follow a syllabus.
- To learn to work on projects with groups.
- To learn to how to effectively participate in class discussions.
- To learn how to write for a different audience---other than mom.
Understanding the Math Progression
Remember: Students do not need to qualify for math in order to take PSEO classes. However, if the student is strong in math, here is a plan that could get them into college-level math in high school.
In order to be able to qualify for math classes in PSEO, students should aim to complete Algebra II and some Trigonometry before taking the Accuplacer. Another helpful tool in preparing for the Accuplacer is Kahn Academy’s pre-calculus training.
But what does the road look like to get to college level math by 11th grade? When my children were in kindergarten, they found that their math book was too simple, so I gave them the 1st grade book. They progressed through each book then, a year ahead of their grade, with relative ease (okay, maybe a few tears now and then, but I said relative ease).
A teacher friend had analyzed the way public school math textbooks were laid out and explained that since students in 7th grade are usually changing to the junior high schools, and going through all sorts of physical changes that also affect their brains, textbook publishers simply add 3 zeros to each problem in the 6th grade book, and maybe one new concept, and call it 7th grade. They view it as a slide year where they hope students maintain their math knowledge and not go backwards. Because my children didn’t have to deal with the challenge of changing schools for 7th grade, they skipped the 7th grade book. Here is an example of how Teaching Textbooks uses this method, comparing 6th and 7th grade Table of Contents. For Saxon textbooks, it might mean skipping 8/7.
Then instead of doing an entire pre-algebra book, we used Borenson Hands-On-Equations for a couple of weeks, and then jumped into Algebra I. Placement tests, usually available online, are helpful tools for determining the viability of this option. Please be aware that the math journey will look different in every family and possibly for each child.
How much math should a junior high and high school student do each day? The most important phrase in that question is each day. Math is the subject that needs to be visited each school day for the best retention. Most upper-level math books provide a massive number of problems in each lesson. The reason for this vast selection is to provide additional practice for students who don’t get it the first time, or for review. I assign 10-12 problems that give a good opportunity to practice the concepts taught in the lesson. This approach is also used in college level math courses: typically 10-12 problems per day.
Aiming for Independence
This concept was covered in two previous blogs, but just to recap, the goal is to get a student to be able to manage her academics for the week. This can be accomplished through weekly assignment sheets, planners, and coaching her through time management issues.
Most colleges (but not all) require a standardized test score to accompany the PSEO registration form. Plan to have your student take the PLAN, ACT, SAT, or the best fit for the student that is included on the college’s list of acceptable test scores. Some colleges have gone back to accepting the ITBS for PSEO admissions while ACT tests are in transition. This test can be ordered through the University of MN.
It’s January of 10th Grade!
This was always a telling month at our house. After our first two children declared that they were done homeschooling in January of their 10th grade (two years apart from each other, mind you), I became aware that something happens at this stage in life. (I also declared that I would be on a beach on a remote island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean in January of our third and fourth children’s 10th grade years). I looked at this desire for independence as a positive shift, knowing that they would need this resolve to take the next step into PSEO in the fall.
Conveniently, January of 10th grade is the time to begin filling out the paperwork for PSEO registration. Many documents need to be gathered and developed, so as it is not essential that this process begin in January, it is extremely helpful. Also, the student needs to see that the planning process is critical, even though fall looks lightyears away. This early planning helps transition the student to the idea that a shift in schooling is coming, that the two-year planning process for entrance into a university after high school graduation is the norm, and that they need to continue their academic disciplines because new opportunities are opening up.
But what if we’re not sure?
Keeping the options open is the best plan going forward. Students who have been accepted into PSEO, completed the orientation, and registered for classes can still choose NOT to attend in the fall. However, students who have done no preparations for PSEO, but then change their minds in August and decide they WANT to be a PSEO student, are left with no PSEO option for that year. Make plans. Open all the doors. You might be surprised how it all works out.