11th Grade Homeschool Update
Here we are – just 18 months from graduating our youngest child.
When I put it in those terms it makes me sad this journey is almost over and also immensely proud of this accomplishment. Homeschooling was never something I set out to do and to find ourselves at this point really does amaze me.
High School really is the time when you can watch everything come together – when you begin to see the fruits of your labor. It is also a time for more exploration into interests, independence, and character development. Please don’t be daunted by the prospect of homeschooling through high school. I’ve truly found myself in partnership with my child – in the role of the coach more than a teacher.
This 11th-grade year has been one of huge growth and decision-making for our family. And, it’s been a time where I feel an intense need to soak up every single moment!
You might remember that we had been on a trajectory to finish the Classical Conversations Challenge program with my son. Last spring that all changed, and we had to make new plans. I needed to piece together Grant’s junior year.
Now that we are midway through that year, I’d like to update you on how it’s all going:
Excelsior Classes has been a great resource for our family for the past two years. Last year Grant took an Intro. to Architecture elective class with Excelsior, and this year he is taking more electives (see below) and also Chemistry.
I was curious about Chemistry would go in an online environment, and it’s been SUPER simple. Sometimes the students do in-class experiments together, and other times they will have a lab assignment on their own.
(I’m not going to lie – Chemistry labs sounded daunting to me, so my husband does these with Grant.)
Grant is thriving in this class. He is learning how to receive instruction from a teacher in an online classroom environment, and he’s learning all those good skills like emailing your teacher, fixing technical problems, and checking your syllabus!
(Because I have another child in college, I know just how useful these skills will be.)
And, I think he’s doing very well with his tests and assignments. All in all, I am very pleased.
(You can see from the picture how Grant has his own little LEGO lair – somehow he squeezes the laptop in and takes online classes!)
Language & Composition
Writing is a priority in our homeschool. No matter how good our technical/math/computer skills are, we need competent communicators! After the excellent writing instruction in Classical Conversations Essentials and Challenge programs, I sought a rigorous writing class for Grant.
AP Language and Composition – with HSLDA Academy – has been a valuable class for BOTH of my children. This class is truly challenging Grant, and he’s working hard on literary devices, composition, and analysis. He finished a large research paper at the end of the first semester. I was 100% hands-off with this and he did very well!
One of the texts they use is The Great Tradition, and many times I will read assignments aloud with Grant so we can learn from them together.
If Grant chooses to apply to college, this class is great preparation for writing essays, etc… Even if he doesn’t choose college, the writing and communication skills are invaluable.
Ah, math with Mr. D! It’s great to watch Grant thrive and enjoy math with Mr. D just as much as my daughter Anna did.
Math is truly something I have nothing to do with this year – other than checking in with Grant about his grades every few weeks. And, the comment I consistently get from Grant is:
I don’t know why other math programs make things so hard. Math with Mr. D just makes SENSE – and it’s easy!
I used to think that Mr. D Math was best suited for kids who weren’t “math kids” – but Grant is definitely a math kid, and he’s engaged and thriving with Mr. D.
We made some changes in this area early on last fall. I had planned to use Compass Classroom’s American History course but quickly discovered that Grant was going to be overwhelmed if we did this.
So (and this is one of the big benefits of homeschooling), we decided to make changes and I LOVE the way it worked out.
The answer here was Morning Time! Our Morning Time is a combination of devotion, current events with World Watch News, and read-alouds that go along with American History.
(I wrote a big post about Morning Time with High Schoolers – you may want to read that!)
Recently we’ve been delving into The Civil War, so after reading Across Five Aprils aloud during Morning Time, we committed to watching Ken Burns’ Civil War series. I downloaded viewing questions from Teachers Pay Teachers – which keep Grant engaged while watching – and it’s been interesting for all of us.
Morning Time is a beautiful way to begin each day; it allows my husband and I to stay connected with Grant, and to learn American History as a family. In my opinion, it has been the biggest blessing of this 11th-grade year.
Other books read aloud during our first semester:
While we aren’t learning American History in a linear fashion, we are reading what interests us, then discussing and finding supporting documentaries. This kind of interest-based learning is effective in my own life, and I want Grant to carry on these interests in his adult life as well.
Photoshop/Visual Arts Design
Excelsior Classes offers EXCELLENT elective classes (1-semester courses) for high schoolers!
Last semester Grant took Intro to Photoshop, and this semester he will be taking Visual Design. These classes are a great way for him to explore his interest in design. I love it that he learns from a professional. I also love it that he has fun in these classes and they aren’t seen as work – he truly enjoys them.
Yes, I am the mean mom that requires piano practice every day!
Music is just something that I’ve required of my children. They each can play piano very well and have a solid understanding of music theory.
Grant takes piano lessons and participates in festivals and competitions. This spring he will be taking part in the Federation of Music Clubs Festival – and he will doing piano solo AND piano duets! He’s working with a friend of his (from his Classical Conversations days!) and the two of them will compete together in the duet category.
What made my heart swell last year was Grant starting to play pieces that he really enjoyed – Ghostbusters, Theme from Ninjago, Super Mario Brothers – in addition to his classical repertoire his teacher arranges these other pieces for Grant. We’re at the point now where he will just sit down and the piano and start playing things by ear for fun.
(Hooray – my job here is done!)
He got to play for the local LEGO Masters finale (more on that in the next section!) – super fun!
This has truly been a game-changer for Grant. Last March he began his job at The Atlanta Brick Co. – a local retailer of LEGO.
A job here has only fueled his LEGO obsession! It has also given him a great group of friends and excellent small business experience. I love that he gets to watch small business owners.
Additionally, a fun benefit was that the winners of LEGO Masters Season Two are employed at the store, and we have all gotten to know Mark and Steven well. Oh – they were homeschooled! It’s just made for a fun year for Grant, with memories he will always carry with him.
I’ve had fun learning about Mark & Steven, too – and they were gracious enough to sit down with me and contribute to the blog:
Basketball is Grant’s other obsession. He plays for a local Christian school that actually has quite a few homeschoolers on its team.
We were having a discussion with another team dad the other night and he said this “The purpose of youth sports isn’t to create superstars, it is to create good employees.”. I really like that, don’t you? We’re not concerned so much about the basketball skills as we are about working on a team, respecting authority, and showing good sportsmanship.
I also appreciate that it is another group of friends for him and a much-needed physical outlet!
In addition to all of these “school” things, we have a family life – which includes church and spending time together. Because the school things are flexible, we can give the highest importance to our faith and family – another huge benefit of homeschool!
As we move into 2022 I know we need to get this boy signed up to take the SAT and ACT. He needs to start thinking about what the future holds.
We’ve visited a couple of colleges, but honestly, I think he’s more enjoying this current year instead of thinking ahead, and I’m ok with that. There will be plenty of time next year to think about those things, and I know from doing this before that all will be well.
The events of the past couple of years have relaxed me – taught me to savor the time with the kids and not be so eager to have them fly the coop for college. I’m trusting God with his future – just as I have for our homeschool years.
Feel free to ask any questions or share any comments below.
I’m always happy to share about our journey – in hopes that it can encourage others.
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