Why we homeschool high school

girl-277719_960_720High School. It was a huge decision, and one I will have to revisit twice more, but I am solidly behind the one we made for my oldest to continue to homeschool. The amount of families who decide to put their kids back into school is shocking to me, but I get it. Taking on the final leg of the homeschool journey can feel overwhelming.

My daughter and I talked options last year: public school, private school, or homeschool. We looked into price, curriculum, and environment. We talked about social events, activities, and sports. She made her choice to homeschool with no reservations. Here are her reasons and why I support her.

Curriculum

She is currently studying Japanese and no schools in the area had as good of an option as the class she is currently taking. Technically, she could continue the same class, but she thought that if she was going to spend all day in a school, they should provide the classes she wants. She also wants to take several advanced sciences each year instead of dividing the subjects into one per year. Her father went to great schools in Panama and Costa Rica and this is how they did it. His science education was better than anyone else I knew upon entering college.

My thoughts: I completely agree with her. The academics we have set for her are strong and I would hate to see her flooded with busy work or bored with subjects she has already studied. I will find a class or tutor for any area I can not teach. 

The Social Scene

She’s really not into the typical high school social scenes. Football games and prom don’t really justify four years of school to her. She’s decided that if she gets asked to prom by a friend, she can go, but she isn’t too interested in going to a formal dance. She’s also not excited about being surrounded all day by kids she doesn’t know, or frankly may not want to know. As far as friends go, she has quite a few really good ones, probably more close and genuine friends than I had at her age.

My thoughts: Here I hold some reservations. I remember the glamor of prom and the solidarity of school spirit as a great part of my experience. Or was it? When I really think about the actual events, they never lived up to the hype. Football games were dull and full of teenage boy-girl drama. Prom was fun, but not even close to some dream evening. I think she may have a better grasp on this than I do. 

Time

She’s really, really busy and she likes being in charge of her own time. She doesn’t want to give up some of her favorite activities because school takes a huge chunk of her day.

My thoughts: She isn’t always great at time management, but she is learning. The schedule she keeps is similar to one of a college student, so I think by the time she is off and on her own, she’ll be able to adjust nicely.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear back about what some of you think about homeschooling through high school. If you blog about homeschooling in high school or know of any great resources, please tell me about them in the comments section so I can check them out. Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

 

Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival

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When I took my oldest to the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival in Nashville this weekend, I didn’t spend as much time with her as I thought I would. We were there for less than five minutes before she ran into a friend from JSL (Japanese Second Language). I quickly felt like a fifth wheel, so I told her to keep her phone close and I walked off.

Wow. It was so natural and easy I almost missed it.

My daughter just ditched me for her friends for the first time.

I am so proud! Take that all you homeschool doubters who believe homeschooled children will grow up to be socially awkward teens who have no friends!

IMG_3655And it didn’t stop there. It wasn’t long before I ran into some of the Nashville Kendo Club members. I asked them where and when they needed to meet up for the demonstration they had scheduled so I could find Gillian to make sure she got there on time. They told me not to worry. They had already seen Gillian and she was getting ready in the changing rooms. She would be out in a minute.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

She was already getting ready. On her own. Without being told.

Soon she was back out and texting me that a friend and his mother had arrived who wanted to see her kendo group in action. It meant so much to her that her friend would come and see what she is so passionate about (I wrote about that here). I met up with them and we joined the crowd to watch. When she went backstage, she ran into yet another friend. She was completely surprised and delighted to run into one of her best friends from church who was there with her own dojo. Small world!

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The kendo group was great, of course.

IMG_3653Afterwards, we had lunch with her friend and his mom before we headed out and milled around the booths. The food choices seemed endless. We chose a bento box, but I regret missing out on the noodle bowls. There was so much to see; everything from manga to origami, bonsai trees to kimonos. We listened to the music from the stage and soaked up the culture before heading home from one of the best afternoons I’ve had in a very long time.

Homeschool families are always hearing other people’s fears about their children being socially awkward. I would argue that children growing up in forced social situations where all the kids are all one age, would find themselves at a greater disadvantage than those who move in and out of many diverse groups in their real communities. At least, that’s what has been working for us so far.

 

Featured on Hip Homeschool Blog Hop.

 

 

 

Finding a Passion: Kendo

kendo

ken·do ˈkendō/ noun
  1. a Japanese form of fencing with two-handed bamboo swords, originally developed as a safe form of sword training for samurai.

My fifteen year old daughter has a passion for kendo. Kendo is the Japanese martial art of sword fighting. She began studying kendo six years ago when we decided to homeschool. One of her closest friends and academic rivals took kendo and we parents thought it might be a great way for them to stay in touch. The first time we visited these armor clad, stick swinging, screaming kenshi, I thought there would be no way in hell my daughter would would go for it. But I was wrong. She loved it!

For the first few years she was mainly excited about seeing her friend. It wasn’t until she was twelve that she made the decision to keep studying kendo for herself. Until that point she had progressed through the ranks steadily and easily. My daughter has a natural poise that was praised by the instructors. But at twelve she and her friend tested for the rank of 1 kyu (brown belt). Her friend passed but she didn’t and rightly so. She wasn’t taking the test seriously and only went through the motions. The judges didn’t pass her and she was heart broken. To her, it was as if they didn’t like her.

As for me, I saw it coming that day. I stood at the side lines suspecting the worst. I braced myself for how to respond. I didn’t tell her she did fine. I didn’t tell her it was okay. I told her that she can work harder and try again next time. She wasn’t so sure it was worth it. She was embarrassed.

We went home and she became ‘sick’ on kendo days. I told her to be honest with herself and to take a break if she needed one, but I wasn’t going to lie for her or make excuses to the senseis for her. She needed to tell them she was going to take the summer off to decide if she wanted to continue. She did. It was hard, but she talked to the instructors and told them she needed some time off. They knew. Then something amazing happened. The senseis, one by one told her stories of how they had failed and continued. How she was so good and shouldn’t ever give kendo up completely. They asked her to come back once a month to make sure she didn’t leave for good. She left that day feeling loved and supported in a way I alone could never make her feel. These were adults who had known her for years and genuinely wanted her to stay. She thought about everything they said that week and by the next class, she had decided for herself that she really loved kendo not because she had friends there, but because she really loved the sport and the group she worked with.

Since then, Gillian has advanced steadily. When she was fourteen she was finally old enough to test for shodan, a first degree black belt. She passed this test and went on to pass her nidan, a second degree black belt at 15. These are the highest ranks they allow for kids of this age. Last month she placed third in the women’s division at a regional tournament where she was one of the youngest in the division and had to beat women of higher ranking. Her attitude toward the sport is amazing. When she wins a match, she is gracious, and when she loses a match, she sees it as a chance to improve.

This passion for kendo has motivated her to study Japanese too. She tried on her own for a few years but really began to make progress when she enrolled in a Japanese Second Language (JSL) class at a Saturday Japanese school. She goes for hours every Saturday where she has met other motivated teens who share her passion for learning.

Every parent hopes their kids will find a passion and nurture it. We place them in group after group and pay for lessons after lessons looking for something to spark their interest. We do it because we want them to have every opportunity to be happy and successful.  I’m lucky that Gillian has found something she loves, but it didn’t have to turn out this way. If she had walked away from kendo at the age of twelve, I’d have been fine with it. She would have gone on with life and not been any the worse for having tried it. I don’t think children need to be pushed into events in order to make them well rounded or to look interesting on college applications. I think extra curricular activities should be something they do because they love it.

Art and Appreciation

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I love getting out to see performances with the kids, and if we can get together with enough homeschoolers, many places will let us have a school rate. The only problem with this type of field trip is that we usually have to attend with other schools.

When we filed into TPAC‘s auditorium the place was vibrating with kindergarteners bouncing and yelling and waving their arms. I remember those moments from my own childhood when you could practically see freedom peeking through the cracks of a broken routine. The row of tiny children in front of me were doubly blessed with a young teacher who seemed to think field trips were a time for her to mingle with the other teachers. Continue reading

Why Waltz?

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waltz: n. 1.a dance in triple time performed by a couple who as a pair turn rhythmically around and around as they progress around the dance floor.

My homeschooling story began five years ago when my oldest daughter was in second grade and my son was in kindergarten. I was a stay at home mom with my youngest daughter still in diapers. We were as comfortably settled into the public school system as I could hope to expect. Up to this year our experiences were almost entirely positive. Up to this year, my daughter had been supported, praised, and encouraged to learn at her own rate. Any strange or upsetting incident was handled expertly. We had no reason to doubt our choice.

But second grade year changed everything.

Continue reading