Bleg – Starting High School Homeschooling Mid-Year

From a reader in the comboxes:

Hi Jennifer,
We have decided to start homeschooling mid year for our son who is in 10th grade. He previously attended a private high school.
I am a newby and i am looking for structure without stress.
Any ideas?

Any suggestions?  Post in the combox or at your place and leave Anne a link so she can find you, please! 

Rebecca Frech I am talking to you.  Bearing, you’ve got a mind from these things, speak up. 

Everyone, Who else should we tag? Darwins?  Brandon? Anna? Christian? Anyone?  Bueller?


My thought would be to take his course load from school, and do a subject-by-subject picking of a decent text book?  Something like this:

Math:  Pick an appealing program, ideally something that uses DVD or computer instruction so you aren’t doing it yourself.  Figure out where to start mid-year by doing sampling of the end-of-chapter questions until it gets to new stuff.  (You may need to back-up and review select topics from early chapters that the school was going to introduce later in the year.)  If money is tight, math books is where I’d risk the biggest investment, if you come across something that is good but expensive.

Science:  Do part 2 of his current-year subject (biology probably?), using a text book that meets his general aptitude.  As you read reviews, you’ll hear about some that are more rigorous, some that are “too easy”, etc.  Try to aim for a ‘just right’ for his science abilities, challenging enough to be interesting, but not overwhelming.   If he’s already in chemistry, either continue with it if he’s strong in the subject and knew what was going on, but if he was flailing, abort that mission and proceed with a different subject for the second semester — either morphing in “physical sciences” or going with something like astronomy (just do the first semester of a year-long program.).  I would not try to remediate Chemistry mid-year.  This is the second subject I’d invest in, in terms of quality of materials.

History: Pick up where he left off, time-wise, and just keep on moving.  This is low-stress.  Pick a book or books he likes, and have him write a paper a week (the infamous 5 paragraphs) on what he studied that week.  If there’s no final exam (for example if you just do library method, where grab books on topic and read ’em), have him do a term paper or oral presentation for his final.  If he was doing the government/economics two-semester combo, do the other subject this semester.

English:  If he was doing a particular study (“British Literature” “English Literature”, etc), you can keep going with that, or morph into a generic “English 2”.  You’re looking for a combination of literature study (reading good stuff and thinking intelligently about it), plus vocabulary practice from a vocab book in preparation for the SAT, and a grammar book and/or composition book to work the writing/editing skills.  You may be able to just continue at home with whatever vocab book he was using at school.  I’d look around at the various curriculum providers (Kolbe, MODG, etc etc.) and see what appeals to you and fits the budget.

Cheap alternative:  Go to your library and check out Grammar Girl or an equivalent; one good beginner’s writing book written for aspiring writers (watch for foul language, there are some excellent writing books that have a touch of potty mouth); and a pile o’ classics that are of interest, and work through those for 2nd semester.  There are also some curriculum out there such as the Literacy through The Lord of the Rings and so forth, that build a one-year or one-semester literature curriculum around a single work or genre. (I have not reviewed the curriculum, FYI.)  If you find one that strikes his fancy, this could be a good way to finish out English 2 and cultivate an appreciation of literature that doesn’t involve too much penance.

Foreign Language: Your #1 concern is meeting the college-entrance foreign-language requirements.  So take into account what he’s already studied, how much time he has left, and figure out whether you need to continue with current language, or if you can start a new one, or if this is a subject you don’t need to worry about this semester.  Pick a program that appeals to you and roughly matches up to his current level.  It’s okay to do, say, “Latin 1” or “Italian 3” spread out over odd-semesters, as long as he completes the necessary units of study.  So don’t panic over this one.

You could also wait a few months and do your 2nd-semester foreign language in ‘summer school’.  Language-learning can be brain-intensive, and some students benefit from focusing 100% on the language for a time, and essentially completing a semester or year’s worth of classes in a shorter more concentrated period.  Picking the exact right book/program is not important in 10th grade second semester.  Language-learning is cumulative in a networked, whole-brain way.  Whatever he uses will benefit him, and you can refine your choice next year.  If you aren’t sure what to do, beg a free loaner book off someone to start with, and invest after you are confident of your choice.

Religion:  If you’re looking for suggestions, give us some more details on what he’s done already?  Kids are all over the map in terms of background knowledge, interests and abilities, and you want to strike a good balance in difficulty-level and topics, in order to keep it interesting and appropriate.

Other electives:  What can you knock out this spring that you’ve got to do in order to graduate / get into college, without making anyone cry?  My thought would be to pursue a hobby that he loves and would consider rewarding, ie if he loves to draw than take an art class, or if he plays sports, join a team and give him credit for PE. But I wouldn’t pursue the extras this semester when you are transitioning if it’s going to stress you out or make him miserable.  A man should be made miserable in moderate doses.

If there’s a pre-packaged curriculum that just seems like the perfect thing, go with it.  If not, compile your course of study a piece at a time.  My advice would be, when you read about the curriculum, does it make sense to you?  Can you get your head around it?  You’ve got so much suddenly on your plate, this is probably not the time to slog through an academic approach that is going to stretch your brain to snapping point.  Look for stuff that makes you go, “Oh yes, that! Perfect!”


Okay, that’s my guess.   Other people, correct me, hmmn?   Any personal experiences to share?  Cautionary tales?  Bits of encouragement?

12 thoughts on “Bleg – Starting High School Homeschooling Mid-Year

  1. Wow! You deserve a cape for this…probably a crown too!
    I’ll keep my eyes open and a prayer in my heart. I know this isnt something to do on a whim.

  2. All I can add for a high schooler is the emotional things that seem to be the same throughout all grades.
    Be aware that he might be resistant, a little burned out. If he wants to put aside a course for a week or two, that should be alright. Catch up is a bit more fluid when you don’t have to take into account the paces of 29 other students.
    Remember that eating an elephant is only possible one bite at a time, so if there are multiple concerns, let the others slide while you get one worked out. This also applies to year-by-year progress and decisions about schooling, curriculum, etc.
    If you can find someone locally that knows the ropes, that helps so much.
    Good luck!

  3. Hi there 🙂

    The first thing I would do is try to get a quick “big-picture” idea of the task that lies before you. Is he planning on college? If so, I would check the college entrance requirements of one major public university in your state. How many credits in math, how many in science, how many in foreign languages, civics, etc. are required? How many of these did he knock off last year? How many *half* credits did he knock off by finishing half of his tenth-grade year in school? What specific courses (more specific than just “a language arts credit”) are required — for example, does he need to have a “laboratory” course, or an American history survey course, or a composition course?

    Since you have a half-year ahead of you, I would want to use the time knocking off any half-credits left over. Remember, though, that unless the course content is actually specified, you might well be able to fulfill (for example) a social studies credit with lots of different choices. If he finished half a U.S. history course, you can call that “Early American History, 1/2 credit” and then he could do something else for the second half — let’s say he could really use a geography course, you could do that for the second half. You can follow his interests. If he needs some decompressing, go informal; the “language arts” half credit could be a list of great books to read followed by discussing them with you, or writing reviews of them for his personal blog, or whatever. Arts could be private music lessons on any instrument, or a commitment to visit one museum a week for the rest of the year and to reflect on what he has seen. You can make this half year really fun if you want. Take the subjects and say “What would you like to do?” Challenge him to challenge himself without burning out.

    The only exception to the free form — I would pick up where he left off in math, maybe even using the same curriculum unless the school chose a poor one.

  4. Hi Jennifer, Thank you for your very thoughtful and prompt response! I appreciate the considerable time you spent putting together your reply. I am seriously considering Kolbe for this semester.

    My son needs to finish Geometry, U.S. History, Biology and Latin II He was also taking English II, Theology and PE II. I was looking at Jacobs Geometry, Christ and the Americas for History, (possibly adding Lit from MODG) continuing with current Biology book, 2010 Miller and Levine, Biology (Kolbe uses 2006 edition) We need to plan for English, Lit, and Religion.

    I really think your suggestion for Latin in the summer sounds great. Blessings, Anne

  5. If you like the overall approach, I’ll say that I personally like Kolbe because of the balance between structure and flexibility. FYI you can request whichever course plans by-the-subject, so if wanted the 12th grade Lit plans to coordinate with US history, you could do that. And then cycle through two of the four other years of hist/lit in 11th and 12th. I think if you get on the phone and talk to the office people, they will be very accommodating in talking you through some good customized decisions.

    I think my advice on deciding is: 1) Does it appeal to you? (sounds like it does), and 2) Does it fit your budget? First year homeschooling usually involves a steep learning curve. Will you cry if you spend $______ only to not like the program and need to get something else? Estimate that 25% of your first-year purchases are going to be goof-ups, and set aside mental space to forgive yourself your lack of omniscience. (Since it’s only a half-year, setting aside replacement money is less of a concern. You can cobble together a good-enough solution if need be.)

    If $ are tight, use the book list at Kolbe or wherever appeals to you for inspiration, and purchase books in the order of importance until you run out of cash, then borrow and beg the rest. If you haven’t already, join the Cathswap yahoo group, there may be mid-year used book sales on the titles you want. Course plans can be handy, but they are pricey, and I would never advise someone going into debt or digging into emergency funds for such a non-essential purchase.

    On English and Lit: How comfortable are you with these subjects? How much does your son enjoy them? I like Bearing’s idea of winging it to encourage academic enjoyment, but if you aren’t comfortable with that, let’s brainstorm. FYI, if the high school 12th grade book list is too intimidating (I’m intimiated :-), but you want to study books from the same era as history, take a look at Kolbe’s Jr. High book list. A number of the titles are often taught in high school.

    For a spring Lit list from Jr. High to go with US history, I’d choose for a 10th grade boy from:
    Tom Sawyer
    Animal Farm
    Anne Frank
    (Pride and Prejudice – not usually a boy book)
    Oliver Twist
    Red Badge of Courage
    Robinson Crusoe
    Uncle Tom’s Cabin

    And any of the St’s books, but particularly:
    Maximilian Kolbe
    Maria Goretti
    Kateri Tekawitha
    Miguel Pro

    On religion: Tell us what your son has done to date? What’s the most recent or most advanced reading or course he’s taken? He he been confirmed? Preparing for confirmation?

    1. I spoke to a Kolbe advisor today and we have to come up with our choices before we register with them.
      My son has taken Theology I (two semesters)
      and one semester of community service/prayer group.
      He was confirmed in eighth grade.
      We are considering doing Kolbe’s Church History I.
      The Kolbe advisor suggested Jr. High Lit as well…good choice.
      Thanks for your ideas.

      1. Late getting back to you, but nothing to say you haven’t already figured out:

        If he has a strong background (sounds like he does), then the Church History 1 looks like a great choice. (I have not seen it, just going off what I’m looking at in the course description.) Remember that as long as he isn’t taking it for honors credit, if he begins to bog in too much in reading the early church fathers, you can pare down the requirements to match his ability. And if he loves it, that is awesome. Definitely a course everyone needs to have under their belt (in one form or another) if they plan to stay Catholic.

        Sometimes what I find with Kolbe is that if some of the course plan assignments are too much of a reach, we substitute a supplement that brings the kid up to speed in a more kid-friendly way, but also gives them the background they need. Remember it’s okay to do a “select readings” course, and not read every single page of a book that has good stuff in it, but is more than you’re ready for.

  6. I’m late to the party, so I don’t have too much to add.

    The only thing I would look into is whether or not dual credit/concurrent enrollment is available in your area. In a lot of states, high school students are allowed to take courses (like science and math!) at the local community college for both high school and college credits. This makes those lab sciences so much easier to do! In a good many of those states, the tuition is partly or completely underwritten by the state itself. This means he can get college hours on a pretty darn good scholarship.

    The reason I bring this up now, is that the local colleges will require either ACT/SAT scores or that he take their aptitude test to be admitted. You need to take those tests before next Fall. The sooner he takes them, the easier it is for you in terms of meeting the registration deadlines.

    Good luck! I really admire you for doing this.

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