September 22, 2008
-- Insider's Guide to High School --
Homeschooling, or taking classes in my pajamas
By Shekinah-Glory Dhanie-Beepat
Junior Reporter, Youth Journalism International
Carteret, New Jersey, U.S.A. – Back to school! After those precious few months of rest and relaxation, it's the time to, once again, schedule your days and drag yourself back to the classroom.
Not for me! As a homeschooled high school student, I have the option of continuing my school year through the summer, of making my own schedule, and – my personal favorite – the option of going through an entire school day in my pajamas.
To those who haven't experienced the joys of being a homeschooled student, the concept can be very confusing. Whenever I inform my peers of my schooling, I am approached with a string of questions as to how we do it.
The most frequently asked question I get is, how does it work? How do colleges get the information, the transcripts? How are we taught?
How? How? How?
Before describing my personal experiences, I would like to point out that every homeschooling family does things differently.
There are various methods to cover most of the preparatory courses required of a student, and homeschoolers have the freedom to experiment. The answers I will give are just my personal way of doing things.
For more information on homeschooling through high school, you can go to www.hslda.org/highschool/default.asp.
Last year was my first year of high school, and I was so nervous! I knew absolutely nothing as to how “normal” homeschooled families ran things. Little did I know that in Homeschool High School Land there is no such thing as normal.
Luckily, I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish through the year and knew the mandatory prep classes required of all students.
A few years ago, I was enrolled in the Umbrella School, an academy, if you will, for homeschooled families. We have a principal/guidance counselor to review our plans for the year, make sure we do all the work required of us, and inform us of our options.
Last year, my mom decided it would less confusing if we simply admitted our dire need of information and aid in this scary, abstract monster people usually referred to as high school.
Basically, I keep a record of all the tests, quizzes and projects that I complete and hand them over to my “principal” at the end of every semester. At the end of the year, she asks that we take a standardized test to mark our progress. Also, upon our completion of our materials, we receive a report card documenting our average grade.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though.
Some of you are probably wondering “ …what tests?” Before my sister and I begin the school year – which, by the way, begins in August for us – we take a day or two to research the curriculums out there available to us.
There are several companies that produce entire curriculums, tests, quizzes, text books, and teacher manuals included. Usually, I read many reviews and pick and choose from several different producers. I also have the option of changing curriculums mid-year if I don't particularly enjoy the text, though that isn't generally recommended.
Normally, I teach myself. I use the teacher manuals as a calendar and resist the urge to cheat – after all, I am my own teacher.
This year, we are doing things a little differently. Rather than teaching myself straight out of a text as I usually would, we’ve purchased a DVD set, so I still receive the traditional materials, but I also have a literal teacher with actual classes – taped classes, but classes nevertheless.
As I continue with this course, I’ve been finding it to be very constricting as I pick up certain things much faster than most in my “class,” and, a lot of times, am left behind when the rest of the class understands something that I had never heard of.
I've found that the DVD curriculum takes away a lot of the independence that I had last year and takes longer, too. Last year, I had the capability of completing a chapter a day, and understanding everything I had read. Now, however, I have to wait an entire week, if not more, to complete a chapter!
When it comes time to take the college board tests, I will have to contact the local public high school and take the test with the students in my grade. As for my transcripts, when I apply to colleges, my principal will give me copies of all the work she has recorded me doing which I will, in turn, send to the colleges.
One last question I hear all too frequently is about the “S-Word” – socialization. How do we socialize if we sit at home all day? Well, we don’t! I’m involved in a great many clubs and group activities, including debate club, martial arts, piano, swimming, and such.
I also find that when there are frequent visits to the public library, parks, and other places in the community it’s easy to make friends.
I consider myself to be a social butterfly, as I am constantly meeting new people. We homeschoolers actually joke about the stereotype of “Unsocialized Homeschoolers,” as that assumption is completely untrue. There are several more social outlets available that I do not participate in. I know many people who take part in a co-op, which is like a regular class except that they meet only once a week. Also, many homeschooled students attend college classes, which is, I am told, a great way of making new friends.
Essentially, we homeschooled kids are no different than those of you that attend public or private schools.
We never want summer to end, want to spend as much time with our friends as possible, and enjoy showing off our new gadgetry.
The main difference is that we have the flexibility to focus our studies in one area and then in another … and we get to go to class in our pajamas.
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