The Blog Cruise question this week is, “How do you teach advanced subjects?” Well, after puzzling over the question for a week, I’m still not sure how to answer it. What we do depends on the specific course, but we do follow some general principles.
1. I rarely teach advanced subjects. I make an effort to buy resources that can be used in a somewhat independent way, necessitating only discussion and occasional help. I encourage supplementary experiences and books on any topic of interest. Probably my role as a mom of homeschool teens could best be described as ‘facilitator.’
2. I try to be clear about what our goals are in each course as well as what the general goals of our homeschool are. With goals to guide us, it is much easier to make decisions of any kind.
3. There’s got to be time for life, even if it interferes with schoolwork…and, let me tell you, it sure does. My children spend a lot of time with cows, bees, computers, music, and historic fashions. The flip side is that there’s got to be time for school. Sometimes it can be difficult to fit the traditional learning in. To me that’s a sign that things have gotten out of hand and that we need to readjust our focus.
4. Mom does not have a 48 hour day. There’s no way a homeschool mother can actually teach high school math, science, history, English, languages, geography, and electives … as well as work with younger children, care for the home, and find time to sleep every night. So the traditional teaching model has to go. This is not as much of a problem as it used to be, because there are so many resources nowadays that can help out. Alternatives to traditional teaching include comprehensive self-study courses, correspondence courses, online courses, dual enrollment, group classes, tutors, and co-ops.
5. Have your teens teach you. Let them research areas of interest and write or speak about them. The opportunity to delve deeply into areas of interest is one of the benefits of homeschooling. The opportunity to learn from one’s children is a great benefit for homeschool moms, one that I especially enjoy.
6. No one can do it all. Some decisions have to be made. Each family and each teen will have a different solution to the question of what to do and how to do it. Some courses will have to be omitted—just as in a traditional school. Some courses will not have a dynamic, inspiring teacher—just as in a traditional school. Sometimes you just have to accept that things will not be perfect—just as in a traditional school, and in life itself.
7. These years are a golden opportunity for Mom to focus on a topic she wants to learn or relearn but only if she wants to. By the time I finish homeschooling, I want to be fluent in French. Obviously, then, I’ll spend some time meeting that personal goal while teaching my children French. Everyone wins. History fascinates me, so I’m willing to spend some extra time on it. Surprisingly, I spend less time on subjects that I know very well. That is partly because I’ve been able to find superior curricula in these areas, and partly because I’m confident that I can help my children over the rough spots in those subjects. Some moms have no interest in further study, and that is fine too. No one can do it all.
8. There’s a lot more going on in the high school years than academics, and Mom has to find the balance between academics and life, both for herself and for her teens. It takes great wisdom to discern what the balance should be at any time, but God has promised us wisdom if we ask for it.
Those were some general thoughts. Now here’s how we deal with individual subject areas:
Bible: The children write a five-paragraph report on each Bible book over the course of 4 years. They also go through some Bible overviews, continue memorization, and study worldview and church history. I am directly involved with this, since it is the most important subject of all.
Math: We use traditional textbooks, online resources, and computer assisted learning, as well as competitions. One of my goals is to give the children a varied approach to each topic and to encourage real life learning and well as in-depth understanding. Another goal is to ensure that the children will be able to learn without input from me. Although I am able to help when necessary, math is not my focus at this time, but the children are learning well in spite of—or because of—that.
English: We use the library, tweak traditional literature textbooks, read great books in relation to our history studies, and use a rigorous grammar textbook series, complete with tests and answer keys. I try to encourage writing about other subjects, but this is an area in which we struggle. We’ve improved greatly in the past year, though.
History and Geography: We have textbooks but use ‘real’ books and the internet wherever possible. We spend time on these subjects every year in some way or another. Since our upper level history text does not have an answer key, I spend a lot of time learning/relearning the material in order to be able to discuss the topics and grade Miss 17’s work…and I plan to keep her notes as answer keys for the rest of the children. (Smile.) History, tied in with worldview studies and church history, is a great source of ideas to think and write about.
Sciences: We use Apologia science, and it’s such a joy to work with. The textbooks are thorough and clear and the tests and study guides are, for the most part, excellent. Experiments are well-planned and clearly explained. Biology, chemistry, and physics are taught rigorously. As a scientist, I’m very pleased with these texts; as a homeschool mom I love how they simplify my life.
Languages: Our children study two languages, French and Dutch. Since I know Dutch, we study that using Rosetta Stone and by reading books together. In the final year, I plan to teach Dutch grammar, which I’ll need to review myself. As for French, I’m relearning it along with my children. Fortunately, I knew it well once upon a time, and can therefore relearn it quickly. However, if I do not work ahead in French this summer, I’ll need to find a tutor for Miss 17. As it is, we’ll probably need to find a marker for her reports and essays. In the meantime, I spend several hours a week happily doing French with my children, and we supplement with Rosetta Stone.
Things we do not study in a traditional way include computer, formal logic, rhetoric, advanced Greek and Latin, dissection experiments, dual enrollment, group learning, music, PE, apprenticeships, economics, art, law, and more. Some of these my children study on their own. We keep track of what they learn so that they will be able to get credit for these subjects if necessary.
There are so many ways to do advanced courses. I’ve shared what we do in the hopes that it may help someone in some way. To see what other families do, you can visit the Blog Cruise. One final thing I’ve learned, after spending several years worrying about the high school years, is that God gives the strength and ability when you need it, not ahead of time.
May God bless you as a homeschool mom of teens, whether you are one already or are considering becoming one in the future.