Posted in Homeschooling Corner

My Homeschool Meet and Greet

 

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Poetry tea time display

Last month I felt inspired to offer a homeschool meet and greet in my community. I wanted to give curious parents a chance to meet experienced homeschooling parents, such as myself, so they could see what homeschooling can look like, freely ask questions, learn about a local co-op, and see some of the different curriculum available. And, to be completely honest, I wanted to invite some of my dearest friends, who send their kids to public schools (as I once did mine), to meet other homeschooling parents and hopefully see that we are actually normal (certainly not super-moms).

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I printed out favorite education/homeschool quotes and posted them throughout my entryway and living room.

As soon as I came up with this idea, I mentioned it to several friends in both camps (homeschooling and public schooling) to see if there was even any interest. Everyone was in favor of the idea so that encouraged me to go for it. I then emailed two local homeschooling co-ops in my community and invited them to participate. One said no because they are full, but the other said an enthusiastic yes. 🙂

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Unit study display

I chose to make this event a two-hour open house so it would be informal and relaxed. I chose an evening on a Thursday in May for a few reasons: First, I thought May was perfect timing for the summer months, giving parents time to ponder and plan for the school year ahead. Second, I thought a weeknight would mean dads could join in after work, and also, I wanted to avoid the craziness of the weekend. I chose to host in my own home because it’s homeschooling after all. 😛

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art and music curriculum table

As I was planning this event, I brainstormed ways to bring homeschooling to life. I was already creating a beginning homeschool resource packet, but I wanted something visual to offer besides curriculum samples. That’s when I had a light-bulb moment- I would create four main displays highlighting my favorite aspects of homeschooling: poetry tea time, unit studies, morning baskets (morning time), and read alouds. I just want to mention here, that none of these are requirements for homeschooling, although there are so many benefits to reading aloud to your children! These are just awesome ideas which many families embrace at one time or another in their homeschooling.

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Morning “basket” display

I love to design displays so this did not feel like work to me. I started setting up my displays two days before the event (I could do that because I don’t have littles at home anymore). Another visual I added to the walls were photos of our homeschooling in action.

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I put together this morning treasure chest and made it a give-away.

Along with each display and table, I put out info. cards (5×7 index size) for parents to collect if they so wished. I even hole-punched them and provided binder rings to keep them together. Each info. card briefly outlined the concept displayed (such as morning baskets) or listed some popular curriculum choices to consider. In the packet, I included reasons to homeschool, common homeschool myths, Utah homeschool laws, a little blurb about dual-enrollment, and a list of homeschool blogs which I find encouraging.

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Read aloud display

I also provided refreshments and a children’s table. I covered my kitchen table with Kraft paper and set out bowls of Legos, and washable markers and crayons. This was a bit hit with kids of all ages who came along with their parents. For refreshments, I had a fruit tray, veggie tray with ranch dip, cheese and gluten-free crackers (I knew one guest eats gluten-free), and a s’mores bar (individual bowls of Golden Grahams cereal, chocolate chips, mini M&M’s, fruity marshmallows, regular marshmallows, and Teddy Grahams which could be scooped into snack cups).

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I certainly could’ve had more guests, but by my calculations, 13 showed up (five were experienced homeschooling moms) and everyone seemed happy to be there as questions were asked and answered, curriculum handled and discussed, and sad pubic school stories shared. I heard from two different moms that there is a homeschooling growth or “surge” (the exact word one used) happening in our community, and if that is true, I think it’s wonderful. I have been homeschooling my son for nine years now. I wouldn’t trade those days/years for anything. Anyway, I’m calling this event a success. 🙂

♥ Here is something I’ve learned about myself over the 26 years of my marriage- Not only do I enjoy hosting, but no matter how early I start preparing for a gathering, I end up working until the very minute it starts! It’s just the way I roll because I’m such a thorough planner and cleaner. Do you like to plan and host gatherings? How perfect does your home have to be when you have invited guests coming over? Thanks for visiting my blog! ♥

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Posted in Family Corner

Spring in the Air

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The weather has been so lovely lately. Marcus and I have been getting out in the mornings and going for a walk. Today we drove to a nearby park and discovered it has a nature trail we didn’t even know existed. That was a fun exploration. There was even a bridge over water to cross.

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My tulips have finally made an appearance along with the other flowers in my little flower garden. More are preparing to bloom soon. It just makes me happy to look out my craft room window or walk outside and see them. I keep thinking I need to get my fairy garden set up, but I haven’t made time for that yet.

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I’ve come up with this crazy idea to host a meet ‘n greet between a few homeschool moms and any curious parents who want to know more about homeschooling. I’m hoping this will take place next month. So far I’ve started typing up a little informational packet with Utah’s homeschool laws, and a short list of curriculum and resources, plus I’ve contacted two co-ops to see if they would join us and present their offerings. One declined, saying they are full, but the other agreed to participate as they will have openings. I’ve got more planning and inviting to do, but suddenly this idea out-of-nowhere seems possible.

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The Sweetest Missionary Ever has been touring Cusco and learning some of its history. I can’t believe she’s been out for 15 weeks now. She is struggling a bit with the language (Spanish), but otherwise she loves it. I’ve told her to give herself time to get the language down. I have a feeling she’s being a little too hard on herself. She’s always had an aptitude for languages and she’s lived in Peru, twice before.

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I’m busy preparing for my little girl spring craft party this coming Saturday. I will be hosting 10 darling neighbor girls in my craft room and they will be making their own tulip gardens and a Mother’s day gift for their mamas (sugar scrubs). One of the moms (of three of the girls who are in this group) has sweetly offered to provide lunch. I usually provide a lunch or dinner, depending on the time we hold our party. These parties are a lot of fun!

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My oldest daughter, Darcie, finishes her semester this week, and then starts three summer courses in a couple of weeks. One of the courses will qualify her to teach English in another country. She will then have one final semester left (this coming fall) before she graduates as an English major. She will be our second college graduate (her dad being our first) in our family.

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This was taken last May at a tulip festival. I’m dreaming of going again, but we will see. It’s a three hour drive away and we’re so busy!

My oldest son, Zach, recently went through his regular MRI check for his MS. It’s a long MRI for him, nearly two hours! I know because I waited for him and in that time I finished a book, started another, and watched some HGTV on the waiting room TV. Then he had a follow up appointment shortly afterwards with his neurologist, so it felt like I was in waiting rooms all day, but the people-watching was interesting. There was this one lanky guy who mumbled aloud as he filled out a questionnaire. He couldn’t stop moving and talking his entire wait time. He talked to me (I was sitting next to him), the receptionist, and made several quick calls to friends and, I’m guessing, his mom, to chat about horses and feeding the dogs. He seemed like a nice guy. I’m not sure why he was in for an MRI that day. He mumbled something about his condition being “terminal, but not really”. (I wonder what that means?) Anyway, everything looks good for my son at this time- no lesion activity. Breathing a sigh of relief. You just never know with MS. He will stay on his current medication (Copaxone).

♥ Thank you so much for stopping by! I try to get to all your blogs as my time allows. My next post will be about the craft party so stay tuned. Hope you’re having a beautiful spring (or whatever season it is where you live) day. ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

Homeschooling the High School Years (Bonus- Using a Distance Program)

This post will complete my series, Homeschooling the High School Years. As in any years with homeschooling, every family’s methods and experiences will differ because every family is unique. I have mentioned that we use an online distance program for most of my son’s courses. I wanted to further explain how this works for us. Even though our distance program has some unique features compared to others out there, I’m sure the general idea and the pros and cons are pretty much the same for homeschoolers who high school this way.

The distance program we use is through a private Latter-day Saint based school called, Liahona Preparatory Academy. We love this program for the following reasons:

  • Our faith is woven into each course. God is welcome and our values and beliefs are embraced and taught. Each teacher is also LDS so our values and beliefs match theirs, and that is important to us because we strive to live our beliefs every day.
  • There is no Common Core, which I am fully against, and no state testing.
  • There is an accredited track, which includes a transcript for college. This makes my job a lot easier as they take care of the transcript for me.
  • They prepare students for the ACT test.
  • It’s homeschool-friendly. By that I mean it’s flexible by offering options to work for each family. Also, there are no classes on Fridays, and there are no worries if we take time off for a vacation or just-because day (there’s no attendance, etc.)
  • Homeschoolers are welcome to visit the school, and attend school events, such as prom and super trips (super trips are summer trips to historical sites, etc.).
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The best part is learning in the comfort of home.

In a nutshell, Liahona offers four high school courses online- English, science, history, and math (there are choices for the math and the other subjects are in a four-year rotation). These classes are actual academy classes which are filmed and streamed LIVE. Students simply log onto a streaming site to watch their classes.

If the student watches live, they have the option to instant-message their teacher throughout class. The teachers are great about answering homeschoolers’ questions and comments on camera. This helps the homeschooled student feel a part of the class. Teachers may also be reached through e-mail.

If the actual class time is inconvenient for the homeschooler, they simply watch these classes recorded, anytime of their choosing. Assignments are submitted through a sharing platform site or by email.

Accredited students take a proctored exam for each class, per semester (so twice a year).

I won’t go into the details here, but there are options for homeschoolers who wish to add additional credits to their transcripts, and to earn a state high school diploma (Utah, in this case).

PROS to using a distance program:

  • Someone else does the planning and teaching for subjects the parent may feel are beyond them. For me, this is math, science and history. I do miss teaching  English, but I still proofread his essays, read his Shakespeare with him, and reinforce what he’s learning.
  • The student gains experience with other teachers. Good preparation for college.
  • The student gains experience with online learning.
  • The student learns how to manage their own education. I’m not saying homeschoolers don’t do this if they are using another method, but in our case, each of my homeschooled teens have taken the reigns of their distance education.
  • If the program is accredited, it looks great on a high school transcript.
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On the Freedom Trail (part of a Liahona super trip), in front of Paul Revere’s midnight ride.

CONS to using a distance program:

  • The curriculum is chosen by the program and there is little parent involvement. This is the flip side of #1 from the other list. I admit, I have struggled with this one. On the other hand, I actually love Liahona’s history and English curriculum, and I still teach my son life skills such as cooking, money management and good work ethic.
  • There is a set calendar, which could be similar to a typical public high school year. For example, Liahona films classes for 32 weeks, beginning in September and ending in May. These classes are Monday through Thursday, with breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring.
  • It could feel like “school at home”. In our case, this is a program offered through a private school so there are public school aspects, such as block time subjects, teachers lecturing while students take notes, etc.
  • There is little person-to-person interaction. Liahona does a good job including homeschoolers in activities such as youth conference, which is held every fall. (Youth conference is a type of camp, featuring uplifting speakers and workshops.) Marcus has also met his distance teachers in person.
  • It could be heavy on the online/screen time. This is the case for us, but we balance it out in various ways. For example, my son does have one class outside our home with peers both public schooled and homeschooled.

♥ Overall, we are very happy with our distance program. Does your homeschooled teen use a distance program? If so, I’d love to hear about it. If you have any questions for me, ask away! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog. Have a wonderful day. ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

Homeschooling the High School Years (Part 5- Student & Parent Advice)

Welcome to part five of a five part series focusing on our experiences homeschooling through the high school years. This series will tackle what high school learning looks like at our house, the benefits of homeschooling the high school years, the curriculum we use (plus activities outside the home), how we prepare for college, and our advice for both the child and the parent.

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When I first started homeschooling my son, he was only 6-years old. Now that he is 15, I look back on those early years and I’m so glad I didn’t treat them the public school way, which is advancing children from grade to grade with a pre-determined set of skills. I’m so glad I let my son have many “school years” full of carefree days, where he learned primarily through play and exploration. We had so much fun together! We spent a lot of time outside on nature walks, observing frogs in their natural habitat, riding bikes, meeting up with friends at parks, etc. We created our own unit studies based on whatever my son was interested in, and we read a lot of fun storybooks together.

No matter where you’re at in your homeschooling journey- the early years, the high school years, or somewhere in between, find enjoyable activities to do together with your child, often.

It’s the time we spend together with our children, at any age, that matters most. Now that Marcus has started his high school years, I’m no longer a part of his formal schooling because his distance teachers have taken that over (so that his classes are accredited), except for offering him encouragement and direction as needed. So, our time together is extra meaningful to me. We continue our bike rides, hikes, and read-alouds, and have added more cooking/baking time, and a lot of discussions.

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One of the reasons we homeschool the high school years, is so our teens can still have a childhood. I know high school life today, and in my humble opinion, it’s crazy busy, high-pressured, and high-stress. A lot of teens play competitive sports. Other teens take college courses to get a jump start on their future, and that’s great, but it’s also a LOT to take on. I’ve seen teens burn out and I’ve seen teens grow up faster than might be healthy for them.

It’s important that teenagers have TIME. They need time that is their own- to relax, to play, to daydream, to create, to sleep, to read for pleasure (not for English class), to be with family, to be with friends… 

Now, for the fun part! I asked Marcus, to give some advice to other teens who might be homeschooled through their high school years:

“First, it is good to realize that school is not the only place to make friends. I have met too many kids who do not want to homeschool just because they think they will never see their friends or never make friends. There are other ways you can make friends- In Canada, I met some really good friends at a park. I have also made friends at church. And if you think you will never see your friends if you aren’t at school, you’re probably not very good friends; just meet up somewhere. It’s not like you really have a ton of time to do whatever you want at school anyways.

When homeschooling, it can be really easy to learn things fast. So, if you want, you can push yourself to go farther faster.

Eat lots of Doritos.

Sleeping in is more fun than public school.”

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I’m going to paraphrase what my daughter, Darcie, now in her early twenties (and in her last year of university as an English major) advises to homeschooled teens:

Don’t pay any attention when other teens say you are “weird” just because you are homeschooled. The truth is, we are all a little weird, whether we are homeschooled or public schooled, and there is nothing wrong with being weird anyway! I liked being homeschooled because I could be myself. My true friends, who were all public schooled, accepted me just the way I was, and when I started homeschooling, I saw them just as much because we made time for each other. They knew I was happier spending my last two years of high school at home. I didn’t miss public high school one bit! I didn’t miss the homework. I didn’t miss the profanity. I didn’t miss the drug solicitations. I didn’t miss the popularity contests. I didn’t miss the lock-downs. So, if you think you are missing out, on prom or anything else, just remember all the things you are not missing.

♥ I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, but it’s not over just yet! Stay tuned for a bonus post where I explain more about the distance program we use and the pros and cons of homeschooling that way. If your teen is homeschooled, I’d love to hear their advice for other homeschooled teens, and as a homeschooling parent, what advice would you give to other homeschooling parents? ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

Homeschooling the High School Years (Part 4- Preparing for College)

Welcome to part four of a five part series focusing on our experiences homeschooling through the high school years. This series will tackle what high school learning looks like at our house, the benefits of homeschooling the high school years, the curriculum we use (plus activities outside the home), how we prepare for college, and our advice for both the child and the parent.

When we first started homeschooling, my husband’s main concern was how our kids would earn high school diplomas so they could get into college. We have since graduated three kids from high school- one the traditional public school route, one the homeschooling route with a state issued diploma, and one the homeschooling route without a state diploma. All three got into the universities of their choice. My daughter, who graduated as a homeschooler (no state diploma), met her university’s requirements for homeschool applicants. In her case, she submitted 18 accredited credits ( I believe only 15 were required) and her ACT scores. She was not required to take a GED.

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Once we let go of the idea that a diploma was necessary to get into college, my daughter was able to have more of a childhood during her teen years.

We have absolutely no experience with scholarships so I don’t have any advice to share in that regard. We did search out scholarships and we tried to apply for financial aid, but everything was denied to us based on my husband’s salary. So, in the end, we paid for tuition ourselves and lowered our costs a bit by having one daughter live at home and attend the state university and having our other two kids attend church universities (BYU). Their part time jobs have covered the cost of books and other incidentals, and my son was able to pay his own apartment rent. We do hope that our youngest son can earn a scholarship if we do some things differently, but that’s a post for another day.

However, what I can share with you is that a state high school diploma is not necessary to get into college, and taking that pressure off of my youngest daughter was the best choice for her. I believe our teens need responsibility for sure, but I also believe we put too much pressure on them. They are still kids! Here in Utah, we have one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the nation. Isn’t that sad and scary?

 

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Marissa spent part of her high school years in Peru, and Darcie took a year off between graduating high school and starting college to volunteer at an orphanage in Lima.

I also have no experience creating a high school transcript, and that is because the online private school we use, Liahona Preparatory Academy, does that for us. I think I’ll include a bonus post in this series to further explain Liahona’s distance program.

Having three children with college experience, I know the basic skills I taught them at home have come in handy. These skills include: time management, organization, balance of work and play, frugality, proper cleaning (dishes, bathrooms, floors, laundry), money management, and basic cooking. I know I wasn’t taught most of these skills at school so I’m glad my kids have had more time at home to learn these by parent example and teaching.

♥ My girls felt well prepared for college life as homeschoolers. For example, they had already been managing their own time schedules quite well. Unlike public high school, college classes are not neatly held back to back, and in one long block of time. Every college student has their own unique class schedule, and most classes are held two or three times a week instead of every day. Classes are held anywhere from early morning hours to evening hours. Mondays usually look very different from Tuesdays. Etc. Also, they were used to being around people of all ages and backgrounds. They always found it funny when people would suggest that college would be this huge adjustment for a homeschooler, when the reality is that college life doesn’t resemble public high school much at all! ♥ Thanks for reading! ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

Homeschooling the High School Years (Part 3- Curriculum & Activities)

Welcome to part three of a five part series focusing on our experiences homeschooling through the high school years. This series will tackle what high school learning looks like at our house, the benefits of homeschooling the high school years, the curriculum we use (plus activities outside the home), how we prepare for college, and our advice for both the child and the parent.

♥ In our homeschool, we use online classes for the base subjects of English, history, science and math. These courses are offered through an amazing private school here in Utah, Liahona Preparatory Academy. Liahona has been a true blessing to our family. I’m not going to explain how Liahona works here, but I wanted to mention it because when you follow someone else’s program, the curriculum is usually chosen for you, and that is the case in our situation.

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English/Language Arts curriculum- This year, Marcus has read and studied The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis; Homer’s Odyssey; Shakespeare’s King Henry IV Part 1; and he will end the year with A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle . In past years, my daughters have read and studied Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte; Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury; Stone Mage Wars, Journey to the Fringe, by Kellie Swofford Nielson, and various Shakespeare works, just to name a few. ♥ There is also a grammar book Liahona uses, which is their own, but this upcoming fall, we will be using a special curriculum designed by Jenny Phillips. I am excited for that!

History curriculum- Liahona publishes their own history curriculum so there isn’t much to share here. However, on our own, Marcus and I have thoroughly enjoyed the Rush Revere Adventure series, on audiobook, and I would classify these as historic fiction. Even though this series is geared for younger grades, we feel we’ve learned a lot in an entertaining way.

Science curriculum- This year, Marcus is studying Biology and using the Holt Biology 2008 Student Edition, which we purchased through Amazon. However, his teacher doesn’t have him read much of this textbook. Instead she uses it as a reference while she teaches with videos, slides, experiments, and discussions.

Math curriculum- We’ve been using Saxon math.

♥ Marcus also takes a Seminary class which is a scripture study program through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This year, he is studying The Book of Mormon, which is one of our books of scripture. In future years, he will study The Old Testament and The New Testament in depth.

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♥ What I love about homeschooling these years is that there is more time for my teen to read for pleasure and for us to continue our read-alouds which is cherished time together. Currently, Marcus is reading the Tennis Shoes Adventure Series, by Chris Heimerdinger. Together, we are reading the third book of Jason Segel’s Nightmares! series and listening to The Inventor’s Secret, by Chad Morris, on audiobook.

♥ As for activities outside our home, Marcus participates in Boy Scouts through our church and he is on his way to earning his Eagle later this year. He participates in the Young Men’s program in our church as well, and has a youth activity with boys and girls his age once a week. He’s been skiing with friends this winter, though not as often as last year due to a lot less snow this year.

♥ Stay tuned for part four of this series when I will share how we prepare for college. Thanks for reading! ♥

 

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

Homeschooling the High School Years (Part 2- The Benefits)

Welcome to part two of a five part series focusing on our experiences homeschooling through the high school years. This series will tackle what high school learning looks like at our house, the benefits of homeschooling the high school years, the curriculum we use (plus activities outside the home), how we prepare for college, and our advice for both the child and the parent.

♥ We have several years experience with public schools (within the U.S. & Canada), private schools (within the U.S. & Peru), and homeschooling. My oldest son graduated from a public high school. My oldest daughter spent one year in public high school and then was homeschooled the rest of her high school years. My youngest daughter was homeschooled all the way through her high school years. All three have gone on to further their educations through universities. ♥ I am currently homeschooling my youngest son for his high school years, and we love our days together. ♥

So, why do we homeschool through the high school years? Here are our top ten reasons:

10. Because we’ve made it this far so why not take it to the finish line? Plus, I’ve seen high school life today. No, thank you!

9. Because learning can be family-style. Bonus- People of all backgrounds and ages attend college together!

8. Because when I was in high school, I was like a walking zombie! I functioned on very little sleep (Thank you, Mr. Homework) and high stress. I always felt as if I was clueless to something important going on at school. I ate poorly and burned out half-way through the year.

7. Because I believe teenagers need their parents’ love and influence more than ever. These are confusing years for them.

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6. Because home is where love abounds, where morals and values are instilled, and where a teen feels automatic acceptance and security. In other words, home is a natural and nurturing environment, conducive to learning. Bonus- pajama days and hot breakfasts.

5. Because my teen is one-of-a-kind and deserves an education that fits him. Bonus- college life is also tailor-made!

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It looks like they raked the last of the snow to make this snow-bear, haha.

4. Because teenagers are still kids, and kids need time to play, daydream, create, and read for fun. Bonus- impromptu snow days!

3. Because it’s so freeing to be on our own time schedule and calendar. Bonus- this actually helps teenagers prepare for college life!

2. Because having a confident teen who values being a child of God over popularity, is priceless. Bonus- God gets to be a part of his school days.

1. Because my time with my teen is too precious to settle for the tired bits left over after each long school day, punctuated by hours of homework. Bonus- I get to share in his school days, even when I am not directly involved.

On a quick, serious note, the things my oldest two experienced at their public high school constantly tested their moral character. While they remained strong in our values, they admitted it wore them down physically and mentally to be exposed to that kind of worldly environment every single day. It was so much nicer to keep my youngest daughter away from all that and watch her flourish at home.

♥ Have you homeschooled or are you homeschooling your teen through their high school years? What would you add to this list? Thanks for reading. ♥