Educational Fruit Salad (part 3)

Well Rounded Education

One of the areas we felt was falling apart or downright failing in the public school system was the concept of a well-rounded education.  We, like many others found ourselves massively disappointed with the test-centric metrics for success being used by the schools.  This ultimately meant any class not directly mapped to a government mandated test or other program, was continuously on the chopping block.  The other  programs and classes were underfunded or outright eliminated.   Even within the “protected” subjects, the precise curriculum and activities were focused on the end of year, testable outcome.

As part of our research, we stumbled onto educational methods such as the “Trivium” and “Classical Education.” These seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. Unfortunately, we were a bit late to the party here.  These methods start with Elementary School and we were starting with Middle and High School.  So the question we had (and still have) was, is it possible to jump into the middle of this?  Our choice was ultimately to give it a try.  And our choice of curriculum was the one from Memoria Press. It is the same program (or mostly so) as offered by their brick and mortar schools, The Highlands Latin School as well as the Highlands Latin Cottage Schools (for Homeschoolers) and their online Academy.

In practical application, it meant some things in the standard program will be “substituted” for what they have done in the past or which we have planned going forward. In other cases though, we are just behind and in essence, need to start at the third grade level.  You can’t just start with Latin V because that’s what the program dictates for your age.  This does break some of the continuity and for us, remains to be seen if the disruption is relevant or not.  Our hope is, once we get going, we will be working at an accelerated rate.  Since we have no goal of finishing Middle and High School early, this will create the time needed to deal with the backlog. This is also what we hope will allow us to take additional science and elective courses.

Educational Fruit Salad (part 2)

College Preparation

This really comes in two flavors: College Entrance and College Survival Skills.  This goal is focused on College Entrance.  What things can we do to insure the best possible chances of college entry?  Our research pretty much filtered down to four high level points:

  • Curriculum mapping
  • Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors level coursework
  • Dual Enrollment
  • Scholarships

For the most part, we had very little heartburn with the actual curriculum offered at public schools.  We felt it lacked a few things and that it was implemented poorly. So if anything, we were looking to ADD to the standard schedule, not remove anything.  So having a clear understanding of the required, public school course load was essential.  Fortunately, it was also easy to find. The Florida Department of Education made this easy.  The Lake County District web site had all this information readily available.  I even found a list of text books used.  It became really a straight forward task of mapping the classes we wanted to the particular curriculum or resource I chose for that subject.

Currently, we are using the following:

  • Mathematics – Saxon/Shormann Math
  • Advanced/Honors/AP History/Civics – Florida Virtual Schools (FLVS)
  • Advanced/Honors/AP Science – Florida Virtual Schools (FLVS), Shormann Science
  • Spanish – Florida Virtual Schools (FLVS), Duolingo
  • Fitness/Health – Florida Virtual Schools (FLVS), Community Programs, CoOp
  • Language Arts/Literature/Classical Studies – Memoria Press
  • Latin – Memoria Press
  • Fine/Performing Arts – CoOp, Community Programs
  • Religious Studies – Memoria Press, Church
  • Other Elective – mixed

I’ll talk in more detail about each of these later.

For Advanced Placement and Honors level work this is accomplished through a couple, pretty straightforward means.  Many curriculums have this as a simple option. For the FLVS classes, you simple enroll as Advanced/Honors, then do the additional assignments as you work through the class.  For other curriculums, they include instructions for how to grade or manage the curriculum for an advanced level.  For AP classes, the key is taking the Advanced Placement test, which in Florida at least, is supposedly offered to Homeschool students. We’ve not looked into details for this yet, but it seems fairly clear it is easily available.  Therefore, what we looked for was either an AP option for the class, or the presence of AP preparatory options.  Both the FLVS and Shormann series offer these.

Dual Enrollment (taking college level classes for college level credit while still in high school) turned out to be an unexpectedly sticky widget.  While we are not yet convinced we want to take advantage of this (the whole point was to slow down Middle and High School to get the most out of it, not rush through it even faster), but we did not want to lose the option either.  For Florida Public Schools this is offered free of charge.  It is also offered to Homeschoolers.  However, referring back to my earlier mention of tricky vocabulary, there is a “homeschool” option that by Florida law is not considered homeschooling.  Many Homeschoolers use what are called “Umbrella Schools.”  These offer certain benefits and protections to homeschool families.  However, by Florida Law, these are considered Private Schools and are therefore not offered free usage of the Dual Enrollment program.  The current policy is that Dual Enrollment fees are charged back to the school.  Because most of these Umbrella Schools are nothing more than legal shields for Homeschools, they are not able to afford this option for their members.  Those that do offer this option appear to have adopted a “play it safe” approach and only offer it to Homeschoolers who can provide grades from accepted institutions such as the Florida Virtual School and the county Public Schools.  Because of this, we opted to go with the “Portfolio Review” option even though it puts us at the mercy of “the man.”

The state of Florida has a scholarship program named Bright Futures.  Somewhat surprisingly, this program is in fact open to Homeschoolers.  However, you do have to meet pretty much the same criterion as public school students. For us, the really wasn’t much of problem except to serve as a checkpoint for us as we designed our curriculum. Including things such as a world language, service hours, etc. are the types of things we need to insure we include in their records.  Fortunately, these also align naturally with our plans anyway.