Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Out of High School to Homeschool

Okay, this blog post will be of almost no interest to most of you!  Don't feel obligated to read it, it is purely for those for whom it was written!

I have recently received about 10 inquiries from parents wanting to pull their kids out of high school to homeschool them here in RI.  After answering those emails, messages and phone calls, I started to feel like I was repeating myself. I am going to attempt to compile my advice here, to save myself some time.....not that I am not willing to give one-on-one advice, but there are some steps that will fit all situations.  Be advised that I am not a lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice.

Some preliminary advice from other parents who have pulled their children out of school mid-year: Don’t discuss homeschooling with your child’s teacher or the administrators at your child’s school.  This often changes the dynamic between teacher and student, or teacher and parent.  It can also lead to misinformation.   It is very common for a secretary or principal to tell a parent that they cannot homeschool or that they must wait for approval, which simply is not true.  Bring or mail your Letter of Intent (LOI) to the school department on your child’s last day of "school" and pick your child/teen up for the last time  OR file your LOI with the school district beforehand, then carry the letter of approval and your child’s withdrawal form to school the same day. 

Step 1.  Check out the RIGHT website:  www.rihomeschool.com under “New to Homeschooling”  there is a sample Letter of Intent (LOI) and an article, Homeschooling in RI - 101.  These links will give you the general expectations of any homeschooler starting out in RI.  Also, consider joining a support group, surrounding yourself with like-minded homeschoolers and the resources and support that those organizations provide.  I, of course, recommend RIGHT

Step 2. Choose your curriculum.   Again, there are many curriculum suggestions under “New to Homeschooling” on our website.  The curriculum choices can be overwhelming.  It is worth the time to research and find out what you think might fit for you and your children. 

At this point, you are more interested in meeting college admission requirements or preparing for future goals, than meeting State requirements (and most likely by meeting one, you will be meeting the other.)  Homeschoolers are not required to meet state requirements for graduation, only to teach the required subjects “thoroughly and efficiently.”
If you are unsure of what your child needs to cover to have an adequate High School transcript and prepare him for acceptance into colleges, you might want to check out the HSLDA.org website and their “4 Year Plans” for high school.  This chart tells you the expected course load if your child is, a) graduating, b) hoping to attend a mid-level college or c) hoping to attend an Ivy League college.  If you go under “Navigation Menu” (top right) a list comes down with many choices, under “Get Answers” is “High School” where you will find those plans and many other resources that I will probably refer to later in this post.

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing curriculum for high school: find out what colleges expect of applying students.  If your child knows the college(s) he intends to apply to, look online.  Most colleges state what their expectations are of applying students.  Do they need 3 sciences or just 2?  Lab sciences?  SAT II tests?  Foreign language?  How many years?  You can find this information on most college websites.  If you have no idea where you child might go to college, at least research your state college’s application expectations.

Some curriculum options:

Some curriculum can be costly!  But consider these factors, your child’s education is worth an investment in quality curriculum, and most quality curriculums have a good re-sale value.

•You can buy a whole program from one company or buy an eclectic mix of different subject resources from different companies.   There are a few listed on the RIGHT website.  
I personally find that one size does not fit all, but some people love their boxed curriculum.

•Is your child a Junior or Senior?

You might want to consider dual-enrollment at CCRI or a combination of Community College courses and homeschooling.   

RIC is more expensive, but has welcomed homeschoolers as young as 11 as non-degree seeking students, without a superintendent's letter.  After completing 20 hours of coursework, the student can switch to degree-seeking without submitting high school transcripts......contingent on SAT scores, though.

There are also online dual-enrollment college courses available through Collegeplus.org, PHC.edu, and many other colleges.

If your child can handle college-level work, it might be worth it to have them take some classes and get both High School and College Credit.  Please note, there is no guarantee that courses will transfer as credits to your future college!  You should check with that college. Even if you have no assurance they will be transferred, taking college-level courses in high school still looks good on a transcript even if your credits don’t transfer.  (CCRI course credits and I believe, RIC credits, are transferable to URI.)

•Consider local co-ops or private classes.  These may already be established if you are pulling your child out of school mid-year, but it is a consideration for the future.  RIGHT has a few member-run co-ops in North Kingstown and Northeast CT.  Also, there is a large tutorial "school" in Attleboro called Good Company Tutorials.  If you become involved in a local group of homeschoolers, you could start your own co-op, sharing teaching duties with other committed parents.

•You are legally allowed to use the school’s textbooks.
http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE16/16-23/16-23-2.HTM 
These are usually available through the Curriculum Office at your local district administration office.  You many choose any books that are available in the DOE textbook inventory listed here:
http://www.ride.ri.gov/ride/TextbookInventory.aspx 
However, I am not sure if parents are allowed to borrow the Teachers’ Editions of the texts.  Asking for the school’s texts is a good way to transition into homeschooling; using what your child has already been using until you find something better....which you most likely will.


Some curriculum is FREE!  You can find a lot (all?) of your resources online!

•Khanacademy.org has teaching videos for every subject imaginable and even has online practice and teacher monitoring features for much of the math levels there (and adding more every day.) 

All in One High School is a relatively new, free online program.  If you have younger children, there is also All in One Homeschool.

•The local library!  RIGHT has placed many resources in our local library to assist homeschoolers. Also the Exeter Library went beyond our small collection and started the “Learning Zone”, placing about $25,000 worth of educational books, games, and resources, in their library accessible throughout the state through library loan.  The libraries also have online resources for foreign languages and SAT prep, among other things - all accessible free to library members.

Many people have stated their inability or lack of time for teaching certain subjects.  I want to confess here, that I do not teach my high school-aged children; they teach themselves.  I find the appropriate curriculum for their grade-level, interests, goals, etc.  They follow the instructions and schedule I give them.  I correct their work and tests.  Some classes are outsourced. I have had friends/other parents/professors teach my children SAT prep, AP US History, Spanish, Writing, American Literature, and World Literature.  Our math program is a DVD program (Teaching Textbooks and DIVE DVDs are popular choices among homeschoolers).  I can teach math, but I discovered when our first child started Algebra, that teaching math was a lot of work and took me away from my other students that were at points in their education that required my presence.  My oldest child could easily comprehend the math processes through the DVD teacher while I taught the younger children. 


Step 3. Send a Letter of Intent (LOI) informing your school district that you will be homeschooling your children.  Most School Committees have designated the Superintendent as the liaison between homeschoolers and the SC so, you should send your LOI registered mail to the Superintendent’s office of your school district.   Keep your registered-mail receipt because sometimes schools lose letters of intent. It’s good to have proof that they received it.  

Many schools ask for a list of curriculum, check with RIGHT or your local chapter leader as to whether your town expects this.  

Be advised that working papers for underage workers, and registration forms for CCRI classes must be signed by the Superintendent.  You may have to talk to those secretaries again.  

Step 4. If your paperwork is complete, you should receive your letter of “approval” from the School Committee.  I always put approval in quotes.....they must approve your course of instruction, but they are not approving your right to homeschool!  This could take a few weeks or even months depending on what other issues the School Committee is working on at the time.   You should begin homeschooling anyway.

Step 5.  Keep good records.  You are the guidance counselor for your high school student.  Keep track of what classes they are taking, a general description of the class, textbooks used, and grade received.  Also, keep track of volunteer work, extracurricular activities, etc.   Some of these can count as courses, but some might be more impressive as extras on your child’s transcript.   At the end of 4 years, you will compile your child’s transcript (including the records from any years and course work at the public high school) and issue them a diploma.   HSLDA.org has some great transcript forms, as does Donnayoung.org.  You can simply enter your child’s information into the form or format you like.  HSLDA.org and Homeschooldiplomas.com have some beautiful custom diplomas for purchase.  Does that sound funny?  You educated your child; you graduate your child.   I say the proof is in the pudding.  Transcripts, test grades, SAT scores, and outside class grades should all verify your child’s transcript and diploma.

Step 6.  When your child applies to colleges, you will be submitting the official transcript.   Most colleges now accept the Common Application.  www.commonapp.org  The Common Application has a homeschool supplement that asks questions about your student, why you homeschooled, how the student was graded, etc. 

Some other things to keep in mind for college prep students. Your child should take the PSAT in the fall of his 10th grade and again in the fall of 11th grade.  Your child should take the SAT (or ACT) in the Spring of his 11th grade and the fall of his 12th grade.  You can register for the SAT and PSAT on the collegeboard.org website.  FAFSA (Financial Aid Forms) should be filled out in January of your child’s 12th grade (if they are going on to college).  The deadline is later, but funds are dispersed quickly so, the sooner you file the better.  Even if you need to estimate your taxes and adjust the FAFSA later.  You can apply for financial aid online at http://www.fafsa.com/

Step 7.  What if your child doesn’t want to go to college or doesn’t have what it takes to get into college?  Pray.  Pray anyway, because whether your child goes on to college or learns a trade or lives in your basement, God’s the one who will give you and your child direction for his future.  I’m counting on Him!  

Maybe when I find out what my next two high school students have in their future, I will be  able to advise people on #7!

4 comments:

  1. I agree with Amanda. I'm already homeschooling and I found this helpful. Especially step #7, I often forget that one! If I may be so bold as to recommend another step: seek the support and community of other homeschoolers. It's great to have a group of people to bounce ideas off of and to talk you out of your tree on those off days.

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