The wrong way to homeschool

Wait – I thought there was no wrong way to homeschool! Well, that’s somewhat true. Families homeschool in many different ways and their children learn and thrive. However, there is one mistake that new homeschoolers make that often ruins the experience. Here’s how it happens.Let me tell you a story

what you need to know about applying to college

Applying to college: How you can stand out!

The college admission process can seem intimidating, and sometimes it’s impossible to figure out why some students are accepted while others are denied.  The truth is, you can be an amazing student with impressive achievements and a long list of activities and still not be admitted to many universities.  There are some things you need to be aware of when applying to college. During the development of our career exploration course, we talked with a college admissions officer to learn more about the process and to find out how homeschooled students can maximize their chances of acceptance.   Read on to find out how to make your college application stand out.One of the major points that he wanted us to understand is that admissions officers are responsible for crafting a class.  Their task is not simply to admit the “best” students as defined by a set of criteria, but to choose the right mix of people who will contribute to the university in desired ways.  Students applying to college are evaluated not only on the basis of their individual merit, but by how they fit into the mix of students who applied that year. Of course, looking the best you can on paper is a good idea, but don’t be insulted if you aren’t accepted to some of the places where you apply.  A rejection letter is not proof that you are any less awesome than you had previously believed, just that you didn’t fit the profile that the university was looking for at that time.So how can you predict what colleges are looking for and make sure you write your application to match that?  You can’t.  Instead, your goal when applying to college should be to show them the best version of yourself that you can.  This is done in three ways.  First, you have to be the best version of yourself that you can.  Then, you need to write well and include the things that make you awesome in your application essays.  Finally, you must provide ways for the universities to see you stand out among other students.  Let’s take a closer look at each of these.Be the best version of yourself.This means working hard through high school.  Challenge yourself academically.   Get involved in activities that interest you and try to make sure that some of them are aligned with college majors that you’re considering.  Take on leadership roles.  Serve your community.  Do something unique, that most of their applicants probably haven’t done.  This is where homeschooled students have an advantage.  With more flexibility in your schedule, you can volunteer or intern while other students are in school.  You can do an in-depth exploration of a topic that interests you.  Just make sure to complete basic high school curriculum requirements as well.Rock your essays.When filling out your college applications, the essay portion is your chance to shine.  Use this to let them know more about who you are, what makes you exceptional, and what you can contribute to their university.  Admissions officers read a lot of essays.  A LOT.  This essay cannot tell them that you love math and work hard on your assignments and enjoy orchestra.  They will never remember you.  Tell a compelling story that highlights important aspects of your character and personality.  It should be unique, so that people who know you would recognize you in the story, or be reminded of you, even if it was anonymous.  Show your value.This last point requires some extra consideration for homeschooled students.  Though grades, test scores, and statistics are not enough to get you in, they are very important.  These measures are how admissions officers compare students with their peers.  Students who attend schools are compared to the rest of their class.  Homeschooled students must take care to provide ways for admissions officers to get unbiased data on their performance.  The best way to do this is to take the SAT or ACT.  If those are not a good option for you, then you could take some graded courses, perhaps at a local college.  If a parent has been your main teacher, you should absolutely include mom’s or dad’s letter of recommendation.  However, you should also provide at least one other letter from someone who can speak about your academic abilities (for example, from the instructor of that community college course you took).  When applying to college, it's important to keep your audience in mind. Admissions officers work hard reviewing all of the applications they receive, so do your best to make yours clear, interesting, and impressive.  Look for opportunities to excel academically, pursue your interests, serve your community, and develop leadership skills.  Apply to more than one school that you would be happy to attend, and try not to take it personally if not all of them say yes.  Find out more at us in the H4RL Career Exploration Course to find out more about applying to college and planning your future.  You know you’re awesome – we’ll help you prove it!

Homeschool schedule – what’s best?

It seems like such a simple question, but so much can affect what kind of homeschooling schedule is best for your family.  The ages of your children, number of children, scheduled activities, parent work schedules, family dynamics, personalities…all of these factors lead to a wide variation of schedules among homeschooling families.  There is also tremendous variation when it comes to homeschooling approaches and philosophies.  Let’s explore some options for your homeschool schedule, both on a yearly basis and daily. Some families prefer not to set a schedule at all, believing that keeping life unscheduled allows for free exploration and meaningful learning.  Others follow essentially the same schedule as the public schools, with breaks at holidays and during the summer.  Families that choose year-round schooling take breaks for a week or two at intervals during the year rather than taking the bulk of it at one time during the summer. Many homeschooling families find that without a large class and the logistics of learning at school, they are able to get most of their studies done in the morning.  Others choose to “do school” only three or four days per week.  It may seem like it would be difficult to “cover everything” or accumulate sufficient hours in such a manner. But when you stop to really evaluate the time your children spend learning (discussing, exploring, reading, investigating, observing, building, testing…), you’ll find that their education extends into much more of the day than scheduled lessons. Daily schedulesAs for the daily schedule, some families “do school” for set hours each day with specific times dedicated to each subject.  Others take a more relaxed approach and base the schedule either on content and activities or time of day.  For example, 9:00-12:00 is learning time and everything done during that time must be educational in nature.  When my daughter was young, I wrote a list on a dry erase board each day of what activities or subjects we would do, and she was able to choose the order and erase them as they were completed.  When those activities were done, school was done for the day (learning continued, of course!).  That method was too wide open for schooling my two children, though, so when my son joined us we had to change the approach.  I carefully thought through which subjects each child could do independently and which required my help. Then I arranged the schedule so that they wouldn’t both need me at the same time.  We did much of our learning together, but I was able to do some individual instruction by staggering independent work and guided lessons.  We didn’t follow the same schedule every day, though.  I thought about what I wanted each day to be like and what I needed to include for each child. Then I laid out a schedule that would work. As school gets more demanding (this happens as kids get older!), my son seems to need more structure. This year, I am going to do my best to keep a regular schedule of subjects several days each week. I think I might include a day for freeform learning and a day for exploration (field trips, youTube, etc.).  Freeform learning will be the type of schedule mentioned earlier during which kids have to do something educational for the allotted time, but have freedom as to what that is. We live a lifestyle of learning.  Every day we learn new things.  It is important to me that we also deliberately study core subjects, though, and develop good study habits.  So, each year I spend time thinking about how my children are learning and growing and what will best suit our family.  I try to keep flexibility in our schedule while maintaining some structure as well.  Most of all, I try to keep learning fun and interesting so my children will continue to be curious and see learning for the adventure that it is, rather than feeling it is something to be avoided (a great tragedy which can spoil even the best education).  My son may complain about tasks and assignments, but he still loves learning, asks questions, and has the promise of a lifelong learner.  I just keep trying to find the best balance and approach for us, and it changes every year.Find what works for youIt isn’t easy, but try to avoid the pressures (often self-inflicted) that come with feeling like a certain schedule is better than others and your family has to adapt to it.  Homeschooling families can thrive in many different ways.  Thoughtfully plan a schedule for your family, try it out, and change it as needed.  You can make changes at any time; don’t stick with a schedule that doesn’t work for a whole school year!  Just give your family some time to settle in, thoughtfully reflect on how things are going, and make tweaks as needed.  What’s the best homeschooling schedule?  The one that works for your family!