Monday, August 25, 2008

Homeschooling a 12th Grader.....Again

It’s a bittersweet fall for me, as I once again have a 12th grader.

The first time it happened, it was exciting: wow, we’ll soon have our first homeschool graduate!

The second time it happened, the very next year, it was still exciting, but it went by so fast I couldn’t believe it.

This third time is different. I now know firsthand how very quickly this year is going to pass. One of the great things about homeschooling for high school is that your teens can do it their way, which means lots of stuff going on. And we all know how time flies when you’re busy.

Reaching the end of 12th grade, no matter how gratifying, is tough on Mom. Another one ready to fly the coop. I miss the first two a lot; I can’t imagine letting go of this one. Let’s not go there right now, ok?

Instead I want to talk about homeschooling for 12th grade. When I was in high school, senior year was pure torture. It seemed like such an afterthought. After all, by December I’d already been accepted to the university. Hanging around high school seemed so….anticlimactic.

But there I was, marking the time until I was released.

My kids didn’t have that experience. Each one’s 12th grade year has been different.

Our eldest made it very clear that she didn’t want to go to college. So we used that year to do projects that would give her a leg up on the independence she craved so much. (They’re the basis of Life Prep.) She worked through a math-review-for-adults book from the 1960s (my dad had used it to prepare for his military exams, and for some reason I had it on my bookshelf.) She read some good literature. She put in many hours a week watching a neighbor’s baby while she was at work (and bought a car with her earnings). She ran a fundraising table for Rock for Life. She got into local concert promoting. And then April came, and we called it graduation for the one-woman Class of 2001. She moved out on her own two years later.

Number two was a different story. He wanted to go to college. He studied some subjects at home, plus took a noncredit Chemistry course at one local college and Spanish at another. The latter was at the community college, so he got college credit for it. He was on the board of our church’s youth group, a great job for someone with an eye for ministry. He also worked at a local grocery store. He spent the year after his 2002 graduation doing much the same things, except he didn’t study at home. In fact, he was rarely home! So 12th grade and real life a year later were very similar. And then he went off to college. Shortly after college graduation, he got married and moved to his wife’s hometown, ten hours from here. Another one flies the coop.

Now we come to number three. She has neither the fierce independent spirit of her sister nor the academic desires of her brother. But she is very creative and has many interests. This year will be spent exploring them further. Sure, we’ve got some formal studies planned, and she’ll continue to work her way through Life Prep, too. She’s also taking a few for-credit college classes (one online, one in person). And if there’s time, she’s going to enroll in a Christian Writer’s Program. But she’ll also be playing her violin in the county’s youth orchestra. She hopes to keep growing her craft business and her web design business. And she just got a new job in a coffee shop, where she’ll be working a few days a week. Before we know it, the year will have flown by, and it will be graduation time again.

Looking back over the 12th grade experiences of all three of my older children, I see that they look more like real life than a school year. That satisfies me. It means my kids weren’t marking time the way I did senior year. I realize they can’t appreciate that the way I do; from birth to age 17 or 18, all they ever knew was homeschooling. But it makes me feel good to know they had it better than I did.

Number three doesn’t want to leave home yet; she says she’ll still be around for a while. That should make this third high school graduation a little easier on Mom. :)

Still, in many ways, this year marks the end of homeschooling as we knew it. After number three graduates, homeschooling will be the day job of our 15-year-old with Down syndrome and me. He won’t ever need our very useful (if not always loved) copy of Saxon Algebra, or our A Beka High School Literature series. By the time he reaches 12th grade, he’ll still have many years of study left, and he’ll be nowhere near ready to leave home. That’s ok. His senior year will consist mostly of real life, just as it did for his brother and sisters. And like the others, he’ll be just fine.


Katherine said...

Somebody asked me the other day if I would have the kids take their GED when they graduate high school, and I said 'of course', in addition to any tests they'd need to take for whatever college (if any) they wanted to attend. I'm wondering if you had your kids do the GED? Is it necessary (I thought it was)? And did they take ACT/SAT tests? My kids are still pretty young (7, 5, almost 2), so it was a little bit of a weird question, I thought. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this.

Anonymous said...

Well, i've got a long ways until my first one reaches graduation, but I've been preping them for years now... when their Dad tells them about how he's going to use their rooms when they leave, I tell them they can stay here forever! :)

Susan said...

Barbara, it always amazes me how much our kids sound alike, in the same birth-order situation and everything. My #3 is the crafty, artistic one. And I too am looking at the end of "regular" homeschooling when my next-to-youngest graduates, knowing that what happens with my youngest will continue for an undetermined amount of time with educating her and helping her grow up to be more and more independent. But I don't know when the end of that will arrive, or IF it will arrive.

Katherine, I'm not Barbara (nor do I play her on tv) but I know a lot of homeschoolers do not have their kids take the GED. The GED is technically for kids who don't graduate. And my kids DID graduate from my high school. They weren't drop-outs. So it seemed to me to be "admitting" that they "didn't really go to school" to have them take a GED. I issued diplomas to my kids myself.

Katherine said...

Susan, thanks! I just thought that kids HAD to take the GED if they didn't get a diploma from a 'certified public/private school', though I suppose we all are technically private schools. I didn't even think of that... Did you (or anyone else) ever run into problems with a college not accepting a mom-issued diploma? I didn't realize that GED's were for kids who dropped out only. I guess I have tons to learn! Amy other thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

Susan said...

Katherine, we had no problems with employers or colleges accepting the diploma. The only one that caught me off-guard was the State's apprenticeship program. When my son applied to enter the program to become a plumber (5 years of paid training and school, and 5 years of union work after the training), he had to present not only a diploma, but also photocopies of the annual census form that I turned into the State for each of his high-school years. (That is, in our state, also our affadavit that we parents have taken on the responsibility to provide the private school and meet the requirements of the law.) I'm guessing that seeing those PI-1206 forms was their way of "okaying" the fact that his diploma wasn't from what they would consider a "real" school.

Janet said...

AAAHHHH! I can't imagine having a child graduating right now! I'm in the middle of my "panic time", when I think I can't do it and that I'll ruin them forever. And then I get over it. :-) One day at a time.....

Katherine said...

Susan, thank you so much for your insight! I do appreciate learning from people who have gone before me, and therefore know more than me! Thanks a million!

Barbara Frank said...

Wow! I come home from three days in Chicago and find this awesome discussion on my blog :)

Katherine, Susan is right. The GED is for people who didn't finish high school. Homeschool graduates finished high school. They don't need it. My kids get a lovely diploma from HSLDA that I order and fill out. So when they are asked if they have a high school diploma, the answer is YES.

The ACT/SAT results paved the way for easy college admission. BTW, your question is not at all weird; your kids are young so it's not an issue yet, but believe me (and Susan), they will not need the GED.

Pam, Dads are supposed to act tough like that, but my dh misses our big kids just like I do :)

Susan, we must live in parallel universes! Also, I am in complete agreement with you regarding the GED. Thank you for responding to Katherine's questions since I wasn't here to do so!

Janet, we homeschooled for one year at a time for the last twenty years. If you had told me back in 1988 that I would still be doing this and actually graduating kids, I'd have thought you were crazy! Just keep telling yourself, "One year at a time!"

Katherine said...

Thanks to you, Barbara! And to you, Susan, once again! I also didn't know I could order a diploma... I am not a member of the HSLDA yet. I keep on thinking I should do it, but then I think of the money I would have to spend, and hey, nothing has happened yet, is it going to? And since my kids have never been in the 'system' do I have to? That kind of thing. I should just anyway, just to be on the safe side. Any thoughts on that?

Barbara Frank said...

Katherine, we've been members of HSLDA for 20 years. The first 19 of them were in IL, which wasn't exactly ground zero in the early days of homeschooling battles. We were never contacted by school officals in IL, although they sure extracted a lot of money out of us through property taxes over that time!

I don't always agree with HSLDA's political activities. But they were a huge help to us with our child with special needs, and I didn't mind paying the money each year because I knew they helped homeschoolers in other states who needed court representation, especially back in the day.

topshop said...

Beautiful post Barbara. Thanks for sharing it on the Carnival of Homeschooling.
My oldest dd is a senior this year and sounds like your son-very focused and academic. Daughter #2 is only 2 years behind her and I'll be a "former homeschool mom." I'm already scouring the web for support groups for empty nest homeschools. When are you going to write a book for us?

Carol Topp

Barbara Frank said...

Thanks, Carol, for your kind words! I actually have written a few chapters for that book. I do it as I'm inspired. So if you have questions or concerns you'd like me to write about, I'm all ears! :)

Kim said...

This is such an inspirational post for me. We're not nearing any graduations at our house, but it's great to see in your post, what I feel to be the best gift of homeschooling- being able to meet the needs of each of my children, individually. Thank you!

I found you through The Carnival of Homeschooling.

~Karen said...

Oh my, my first was so like yours. I have my second as a senior this year, much more cautious and headed for community college. My 3rd, in 6th grade now, has already announced her intention to go straight to a 4 year state school and live in the dorms. All so different! I could really relate. BTW, no GEDs here either.

Barbara Frank said...

Kim, thanks so much for stopping by!

~Karen, isn't it interesting how different they can be? Thanks for visiting my blog.