Homeschooling mamas- have you ever wished you could chat with an experienced mom and glean from all her knowledge?
We sat down with our friend and author of Celebrate High School: Finish with Excellence, Cheryl Bastian, to discuss her learner-personalized approach to high school and how Homeschool Manager can be an empowering tool. Cheryl has homeschooling for 22 years, graduated two sons and is currently home educating two high schoolers, a middle schooler and two elementary learners. She blesses homeschooling families through writing as a columnist for Homeschooling Today, her own blog, speaking at conventions and encouraging families through year-end evaluations and consulting. (Y’all, she and her husband have been evaluating for 21 years! They’ve seen what works!) She invites us into her living room for a heart-to-heart over coffee, explaining how personal strengths, unique interests and creative endeavors can be incorporated into high school courses and equate to credits. Welcome, Cheryl!
HSM: Cheryl, many families move into high school years and begin to feel the very real pressures of transcripts, graduation requirements, college prep and credit hours. We all want to cultivate a love of learning in our children, we want to breathe life on their strengths and passions, giving them freedom to explore interests during high school…Yet the fear of “missing something” can be so overwhelming that the only solution seems to be ratcheting down and following a more stringent curriculum or schedule.
We’ve heard you say that natural learning does not have to stop in high school. Can you elaborate?
CB: Yes, there is hope! In fact, if a child has enjoyed natural, interest-based/delight directed learning in the elementary and middle school years—appreciating the depth and breadth independent study affords— it’s likely there is a desire to continue a lifestyle of learning approach in high school. Other families may be entering into high school with burnt out children, and have never experienced an approach like this and but know that they need a big change to regain that spark.
HSM: But, what about graduation requirements and college entrance paperwork? How do we document natural learning so colleges or employers understand the comprehensive nature of the young adult’s studies?
CB: May I illustrate this with a story? Several years ago, our daughter, fascinated with the art of photography spent hours taking and editing pictures. A freshman with attentiveness to subject, she also had an eye for color, line and light—interest and talent met at a crucial intersection, a place where independent learning and retention soared.
According to our state home education statute, we had the freedom to allow our daughter to explore her interest as part of her studies, every day, if she desired.
Though I enjoy photography and have a “creative” bent, I had no idea what concepts and skills would constitute a photography course. Together, my daughter and I considered possible content by simply searching “high school photography syllabi” online, brainstormed life experiences to cultivate and refine her craft, and searched for photography contests she could enter. My daughter added additional topics and concepts including the research needed to upgrade her camera. In talking with professionals, she learned of a local photography club where amateur and professional photographers met weekly to hone their craft and learn industry trends. There was also an interest in shadowing professional photographers. As we talked with locals, we were able to add to her list of potential mentors. Her interest drove course content, hence the education. I simply walked alongside the process.
My daughter’s interest also elevated the ceiling of her learning to beyond the high school level. In other words, she determined the depth to which she studied, without limitation. She used whatever resources she found—professional journals and interviews, job shadowing, blogs, online tutorials or how-to books. Her learning was not limited to a predetermined textbook level or chapter test!
HSM: What about evaluation? In other words, how do you evaluate what she is learning or when she has completed the course?
CB: For this course, assessment occurred naturally through our conversation as well as the evident progress she was making in the photos she was capturing. In addition, she regularly talked about techniques and terminology, asking questions of clarification as needed. My daughter also practiced each technique on a daily basis—shooting portraiture, landscape, still life, sports, food and nature— eager to share her work. Listening to her talk about newly acquired skills and seeing her photography, it was evident she was working on a high school level, often higher. And, she entered and won almost every photography contest she entered. There was definitely progress, mastery and completion.
One day in passing I mentioned my admiration for her diligence and the maturity with which she was directing her education. Smiling, she asked if we might consider awarding high school credit for her endeavors. Of course we would!
Later in the academic year, our daughter enrolled in an online photography course. The instructor was impressed with her knowledge and craft. The compliment was reassuring.
HSM: How would you record this in Homeschool Manager so you can communicate the scope of her work to an employer, college admissions official or perspective client?
CB: As far as Homeschool Manager is concerned, a photography student would record the books she reads in the book list and would record what she is reading and the time she spends shooting and editing in her daily schedule. The purpose of this is not to fill the schedule with busy work but to remind the student (and the parents!) of all that went into mastering the craft when it’s time to develop the transcript. This also serves a dual purpose of recording hours spent for states that require detailed record keeping of time spent per subject.
College admission requirements are unique to every college and change periodically. Most colleges require a transcript. Some request course descriptions. Art schools may require a portfolio. Personal interviews are becoming increasingly popular and in some cases used as a substitute for testing. Knowing what records and paperwork are needed for admission is essential.
For our daughter’s transcript, I chose a title which would encompass the entirety of the content she studied in our uniquely designed course. In this case, we decided on Introduction to Photography. The course my daughter completed online, titled Creative Photography, was created and taught by another entity so we were bound to that title. Both courses complimented each other in scope, sequence and experience. As such, each was included on the transcript providing a snapshot of her elective interests.
At the time I did not know what our daughter would do after high school graduation. Considering all my daughter had learned and the venues in which she job shadowed, I wrote a concise description of the work completed. Online high school and college course descriptions provided templates for format and language. All you have to do is Google it!
She also began to assemble a photography portfolio. As she captures a stunning piece, she can replace photos of lesser quality. Later, she may consider a digital collection which could be assessable online by potential clients and colleges.
HSM: Wow! What an accomplishment!
CB: We are so proud of her. The transcript and completed description confirmed the excellence of content. My daughter used an interest to launch a self-initiated, independent study and accomplished more than either of us imagined. She became a more knowledgeable and accomplished photographer but she had also gained valuable skills for life.
This is just one example of real life learning in high school!