Applying for College As A Homeschooler

I just attended a workshop about applying to college as a homeschooler.  One of the main ideas in this session was that  many college admission officers are asking homeschooled applicants:  “What did you do with the freedom of homeschooling?”  In other words, being homeschooled in and of itself is not that interesting anymore in regards to the college application process!  What could your student’s homeschooling experience bring to the college of their choice?

So what can make the college application of a homeschooled student stand out?

interesting experiences – internships, volunteer hours, getting involved with a passion through a club or community situation, working with mentors. It doesn’t have to be an inch deep and a mile wide, but demonstrating some sort of enthusiasm over time is important!

socialization is STILL a consideration that many college admission officers look for. How well is your homeschooler “socialized”? Yes, this term may still make us bristle as homeschoolers, but again, this goes back to the importance of being involved and being able to show that on a college application.

letters of recommendation by adults who know the student well.  These are important for homeschoolers as it again demonstrates a wider connection to the community and usually to a demonstrated passion that the student can highlight in their application

-the elusive “fit” :  you can check http://www.unigo.com to look at the student life on any campus and see how your student’s profile compares to the students there. More than just a generic college application essay, admissioners officers want to know how your student fits into their university. So, with that idea, any essay question for the college should be geared towards how the student fits into that university’s environment and really highlight the student’s story.

interviews are very important for homeschooled applicants, and many universities do require this for homeschooled students

social media presence:  one thing that is new that may have changed from when YOU went to college is the student pursuing the university a bit by attending open houses or student tours, taking advantage of programs the university may hold for high school students, participating in polls or  yes, even following them on social media.  This demonstrates your student’s interest and yes, it can tip the scales in the admission process.

That’s what I learned recently; those of you who have had homeschoolers go on to college (not dual enrolled, but the traditional application process) – how was it for you?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

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Financial Aid For College: What You Need To Know

In many countries, going to university is free.  Not so in the United States, where there is a complex process of garnering money from different sources and essentially what is the “price” of college may not be the final price once the financial pieces are put together. There are also comparisons to be draw between the systems of community college (usually a two-year degree), a public university system (usually done by state, like Univerity of Georgia or University of New York with multiple colleges falling into this system) or private universities.  Sometimes a private school, which has large private endowments, can end up with a comparable cost to a public university.

The cost of attending college includes both direct and indirect costs.  Direct costs are paid directly to the institution and may include things like tuition, room and board (board is essentially the meal plan) (check with the college whether or not your freshman has to live on campus; some colleges require this).  Sounds confusing?  It is, but here are some tips to help de-mystify the process a bit!

This information is accurate as of July 2018, but always changing, so please do check your resources.  Here are a few points about financial aid:

  1.  You have to apply for it and it doesn’t cost anything to apply.  You must apply every year starting October 1 of your student’s senior year of high school.
  2. Financial aid can be based on skills, abilities, etc but doesn’t automatically happen – you have to apply!  The four types of financial aid are grants, scholarships, student loans, and work study.  Grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back, but student loans obviously do need to be paid back.  Work study is often based upon financial need and assigned by the university, but some colleges offer work study to all students independent of financial need.  It depends upon the college.
  3. The FEDERAL Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed October 1 of your student’s senior year in high school and you must apply every year afterward.   Some colleges may require an institutional application for financial aid and/or something called a CSS Profile (this is usually for private universities) as well. State financial aid may have a separate application and deadline, so don’t miss the deadline for the state!
  4. The FAFSA is based upon your untaxed income and does not include retirement savings.  It includes information for both biological parents and includes the “prior prior year” – the incoming freshman class of 2019 is using the 2017 tax data.
  5. Sources for financial aid could include not only the federal governement but state awards, college and university endowments, private courses, civic organizations and places of worship, and employer. Most scholarships come from the local community – employers of parents of the student, credit unions/banks that the family does business with, civic groups, organizations the family belongs to.  Most scholarships are applied to tuition, not room and board.  Homeschoolers need to search out  local scholarships because this is the sort of thing that is typically funneled to a school guidance counselor, and since homeschooling parents are acting as the guidance counselor, we need to be on the lookout!

One number that colleges and universities work with is the “Expected Family Contribution”.  This number is used for calculating need-based financial aid and is a calculated from a federal government formula. Everyone panicks when they see this number, because it generates and parent and student contribution which is always a high number that no one feels they can meet.  The financial aid awarded is supposed to equal the cost of attending the college -the expected family contribution.

The other number that is important to know is essentially the net price for each college or university. You can get this number at studentaid.gov by entering your student’s GPA/test scores/financial data, and it will help you figure out what you might be awarded.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

Planning Eleventh Grade

We are getting ready for eleventh grade!  I think every homeschooled high schooler has a high school course that looks slightly different due to the interests and goals of that particular child, so I am uncertain if you really can follow what any homeschooled high schooler is doing as a particular template.

Homeschooling high school  also looks different from state to state within the the United States because homeschoolers may have different opportunities available to them depending upon what state they live in.  In our state, we don’t receive any money from the government toward homeschooling supplies or classes, and we cannot participate in anything the public school has to offer.  Because of the lack of ability to participate in public school classes or activities, homeschoolers here have brought it all together with outside classes for high school available a la carte, homeschool high school sports teams, homeschool proms and senior banquets and more.  I think the main problem in my area is finding secular classes for high school, as much of it tends to be based upon curriculums such as Abeka or Bob Jones or Apologia, let alone something that knows about Steiner education at the high school level.  However, there is one place not too far from me that does have some secular offerings.

So far, this is what we have done for high school for our college bound teen, organized loosely into credit hours based upon experiential offerings (lots of field trips) and living books and more.

Foreign Language – Spanish I and Spanish II (Oak Meadow)

Social Studies — American History that I put together; working our way through American Government (Oak Meadow and lots of living books we added to fit in with the theme of Greeks and civics found in Waldorf Schools tenth grade blocks), working our way through World History over three years (I put together and it includes a lot of social justice ideas that tie in with our literature blocks).

Science – Honors Biology with lab (I used Oak Meadow but added quite a bit of my own to it); AP Environmental Science with lab (outside class); this year will be Chemistry with lab at home and Botany will probably stretch between this eleventh grade year and next year.

Languague Arts – Literature and Composition I and II (I put together); this year will be World Literature outside the home and we will be doing Parsifal and Hamlet  plus some more African-American literature at home – this year in tenth grade we focused on ancient epics and contemporary post-Harlem Renaissance African-American literature.

Mathematics – Algebra I,  Geometry, Algebra II (all outside classes).  This year is Pre-Calculus.  Our student took both Geometry and Algebra II in tenth grade concurrently because she wanted to be able to hit Pre-Calculus in eleventh grade and Calculus in twelfth grade.

Electives: Music Theory and Performance I, II, this year will be III; Equine Medicine and Rehabilitation, Health (I pieced together with Oak Meadow but added many more resources).  Our daughter has an interest in psychology and medicine,  specifically infectious diseases, so trying to see what electives we can work around those interests.

As a recap, in homeschooling high school we can garner credits just through number of hours (roughly 120 hours for a credit in social sciences, language arts and 180 for science credits with lab; through getting through a textbook (probably least used in our house and definitely not used in Waldorf Education in a school setting)  or testing for credit. For example, some homeschoolers garner credits by studying for a CLEP exam.

My biggest piece of advice for homeschooling high school, especially for those who are college-bound,  is to know it  will all come together over the course of four years and you will have all the things you need, so don’t panic!  Be creative in your ways of looking at the basic ideas of math, science, etc.  There are many ways of doing this and then labeling what you have done in the “educate- ese” language that colleges understand. 🙂

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

Upper Grades: Getting To The Essence of A Waldorf Block

The concept of “soul economy,” teaching in such as way as to succinctly represent themes and polarities in the world and then letting that knowledge sink down into the subconscious through sleep as an educational aid, is a concept in Waldorf homeschooling that sounds wonderful but  often feels like a mystery to attain without a lot of experience or teacher training!  For example, when I first started homeschooling the upper grades, about fifth grade and up, I realized I was trying to cram a lot of information into the blocks.  It was a feeling, perhaps from my own public school education, that I needed to pick out the most important things to represent the essence of a time period but also I *needed* to get through most of the book of Greek myths or most of the biographies of famous people in Rome or most of the timeline of American History or most of the experiments for different concepts in physics or whatever it was.  Yes, I tried to pick the most pertinent tales or biographies for the child in front of me, so in that sense it was personalized, but it was still that feeling in my head that we had to get through *all the things*.

Something shifted for me going through the fifth grade and up material a second time, and I think also combined with going through now the first two grades of homeschooling high school, which gives you a much better perspective on these upper grades.  I got much better about really narrowing down the pertinent points and choosing for my child what they needed to hear.  We really have this as such a luxury in the home environment!

I think in order to get at an essence of a block though, you have to know the material.  This actually can be problematic for us as homeschooling mothers when we approach new material because we may be looking at new material across several grades.  For example from my own time through sixth grade – there I was,  two college degrees, and I knew very little about the Roman History covered in sixth grade!  Not really enough to pick what were the watershed moments of this time period and also to choose what really my daughter and her temperament and development needed to hear.  Again, I did much better with this the second time around as I was familiar with the material!

So, what can you do if it is your first time through a block of material? How do you find the essence?

Honestly, I think pick 4-6 “things” out of that block that you really want to bring to life for that time period, block of physics or chemistry, concepts of grammar or  tales of mythology.  I wouldn’t pick more than that.   You really can’t do it justice. Find the broad arc and themes, or the broad polarities in science, and pick things that illustrate that. Arcs, themes, polarities, should be your mantra. Then you can pick what really speaks and stands out to you for your child.

Check out the suggestions in the book “Towards Creative Teaching: Notes to an Evolving Curriculum for Steiner Waldorf Class Teachers” edited by Rawson and Avison.  I think their suggestions at least helped me think about what I really wanted to economically bring.  This book says things such as, “One of the three great discoverers – Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus – might be taken to represent the time of the great discoveries.” (Page 153).  That is just one example of many suggestions as to how to pair things down and gather the essence of a particular block.

Think what and how concepts can be integrated across blocks. By that I mean, can the themes and polarities of one block be reinforced in another block?  For example, history, math, science, world religions, and handwork can all overlap.  Botany and mineralogy often overlap into geography and how people lived, and vice versa.  Many of the  concepts of sciences overlap. What overlaps personally to your child because of where you live in the world? What is reinforced by living where you live and how you live or the people in the child’s environment?  That is another part of homeschooling.

Use art with drawing, painting, modeling, poems, songs,  drama, and recitation of poetry in order to tie it all together.  These arts are so wonderful and what makes a Waldorf Education different from anything else.

Just a few musings.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Making The Burden Light: Homeschooling The Upper Grades

I think things really start to hit the fan sometime in the upper grades. Some families don’t get into too much worry and anxiety about the block content or repetitive practice that they are finding (or not finding) in curriculums until 6th or 7th grade; some until high school; and some starting in fourth and fifth grade. This is understandable, because some of the contents of the blocks tap into things that perhaps we didn’t receive in our own education, so in order to have to teach that,  and then to understand the impulse behind why we are teaching what we are teaching, and then to present that in this “magical” way we see on Pinterest or Instagram can often put a lot of pressure on a busy Waldorf mama!

One thing that always helps me is to have an idea of the flow of the curriculum of the Waldorf School in my head. No, I will not follow this curriculum exactly because I am a HOMESCHOOLER, but I also do not want to miss the iconic blocks that meet the archtypal development of the child. I also want to EXPAND the curriculum because I am not European, and I don’t want my homeschool to only include Western Civilization, but to be encompassing and inclusive.  If I was South African or lived in the Pacific Rim countries, the curriclum I have chosen to use would look different because we work where we are, and there are Steiner Schools all over the world, not just in Europe or in the United States! But still, I have to know where the curriculum starts for my country.

So, if I can think in my head at first in generalities by looking at the overall flow for grades 4-12… (not including extra artistic work or music) , I can find where things will come around AGAIN.  So I don’t have to include every little tiny thing about Rome  for my sixth grader, because it will come back in high school! This list is so brief for this blog post, but my friend Lisa found a great list here from Emerson Waldorf School in NC regarding content by grade.  However, here for your reference is a quick list for grades 4-12:

4th Grade – Local history and why early settlers were here and how natural resources were developed; Norse sagas; map making; Human and Animal block; Long Division/Word Problems/Fractions/Freehand Geometry; embroidery and cross stitch.  What I might include as an American:  hero tales; tall tales from North America;  book reports; letter writing; spelling

5th Grade- Ancient India/Persia/Mesopotamia/Egypt/Greece; the lives of Manu/Rama/Buddha/Zarathustra/Gilgamesh and more; Greek mythology; Geography of the United States; Botany; could include zoology of other animals not covered in 4th grade; Decimals/Fractions/Mixed Numbers/Metric System; Geometry; knitting with four needles. I may include the entirety of North American geography in this grade. I also include Ancient Africa and Ancient China and the Maya in MesoAmerica.

6th Grade – The Roman Empire; Medieval life; the Crusades; The Golden Age of Islam; the life of Christ; the life of Muhammed; Geography of North and South America; World Geography – the big pictures of contrasts in the world; Physics of light, heat, sound, and magnetism; Mineralogy; possibly continued botany; Business Math (especially percentages, ratios, exchanges, equations, proportions);Geometry with a compass; creating patterns and sewing. I include Medieval Africa here as well.

7th Grade – What is often called “The Golden Age of Exploration” in schools I term “Colonialism”; The Renaissance; The Reformation; biographies; Wish/Wonder/Surprise block for writing fluency; Geography of Europe (I often put in sixth grade instead) and Africa; Astronomy; Chemistry; Physiology; Physics; Beginning Algebra/Perimeter/Graphing/Roots/Formula/Area/exponents; Geometry; Sewing and embroidery

8th Grade – Modern History – I like to get up through present day; Revolutions (or I might put this in 9th grade depending  on the child); Poetry; Geography of the Pacific Rim; World Geography; Chemistry; Physiology of bones/muscles/the eye; Physics of light/heat/electricity/magnetism/aerodynamics; Meteorology; Geometry – Platonic Solids; Equations and Mensuration; Number Bases; Machine Sewing

9th Grade – Modern History (what I might focus on would be state history starting with the hunter gathers and First Peoples of our area, Early Settlers, any Modern History not finished in 8th grade); Great Inventions; Comedy and Tragedy; Art History; Meteorology; Mineralogy- Plate Tectonics; Chemistry; Physiology; Physics; Earth Science;  Algebra/Euclidean Geometry; Copperwork and Pottery

10th Grade – Ancient Civilizations and History; dramatic literature and epic poetry; Chemistry; Physiology – Embryology; Physics – Mechanics; Earth Sciences – oceanography/crystallography; Algebra – logarithms; Plane Trigonometry; Land Surveying; Projective Geometry; Metal Working; Weaving and Dyeing; Stained Glass work.  I included a block on African-American Literature from the Black Arts time period to the present day.

11th Grade – Roman/Medieval and Renaissance history; Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare; Parsifal and other Grail legends; History of Music; World Geography and Map Making; Atomic Theory in Chemistry; Physiology – plant and animal comparison; Physics – Electricity and Magnetism; Botany; Algebra including logarithms, exponential equations, spherical trigonometry; Computer Math and Science; Projective Geometry; Blacksmithing; Poettry and Copper Work; Photography. I will include a block on Latin American Literature.

12th Grade – Modern and World History; Russian literature; The Transcendentalists; Goethe’s Faust; World Geography and Map Making; Chemistry; Biochemistry; Physics – optics, mirrors, light, color; Zoology; Algebra and Geometry brought together in Analytical Geometry; Statistics; Probability; Computer Math; Integral Calculus; Logic; Building computers;  History of Architecture.  I will include a block on Modern African Literature.

When I look at the blocks, I have to think – how much do I know about this subject? If I close the curriculum pages, and think about what I know, what do I know?  If I pull this topic up on the Internet what comes up? What is general flow for that subject normally for high school or early college?   I usually do some Internet research on my own plus extensively use my library in order to write up a summary or biographical sketch that I can present, along with reading the actual curriculum or Waldorf resources I bought!

Often, for history especially, I need a timeline in my head and match biographies to the timeline I have for that historical period.   For science, I may need to think about a particular flow to a block and  if I understand the phenomenon myself or not and what i would need to understand it.  It is very hard to teach these upper level subjects if you don’t know anything about them at all.  It is different than opening up the pages of a fairy tale and reading it three nights in a row in one way but in another way if you can condense the information down into a summary you can present to your child, then you CAN read it three nights in a row and memorize.  For example, right now I am writing some summaries based on what I have read regarding the Paleolithic  Age and the Neolithic Revolution for our block in February on Ancient Civilizations in tenth grade.  I have to research a little and put things together, and then own it and present it.

I have to understand the content in order to figure out the gestures behind the content and the polarities. I am always hunting for polarities, to teach in that antipathy-sympathetic way for the contrasts because that makes it all come alive! I also try to relate it back to what we studied previously.  I find fault with the Charles Kovacs books sometimes, but I do think that is one thing those books do well – find the polarities, find how it relates to previous subjects.

Secondly, what is the  Waldorf perspective on this? Do I understand the WHY of presenting this at this time? Most importantly, is  the child in front of me ready for this topic now or developmentally are they behind or ahead where this topic is? I may need to shuffle the order of my blocks!

Then I have to think how can I present this in the most ENLIVENING WAY possible for us?  What is most doable in our situation, and what excites us the most?  Pinterest can help there;  sometimes just having time to sit down and draw and decide what you want to capture is also the best use of time. The Main Lesson books for our oldest and middle daughters look different because we chose to capture different things, even with the same stories for fourth grade or for the Renaissance or whatever.   Or maybe we threw the Main Lesson book out for that block and chose lapbooking or some other way to do something, especially for high school due to sheer volume of information.  Homeschooling is flexible like that!

Then I have to think of the way we lay out sleep as our educational aid. With these blocks do I:

Open warmly (and how)

Review (many different way to review; variety is the spice of life!)

Practice skills; Work with the material artistically and in our heads

Have new material or deepen the material we have gone over.  There should always be something new there!

If you are looking for ideas about this, I suggest Meredith’s podcasts on these parts of the Main Lesson over at A Waldorf Journey Podcasts. I also suggest the great documents on planning a Main Lesson and especially all the different ways to review here at Waldorf Inspirations. I especially like the ideas about forming a daily rhythm and how this is different for older students in fourth grade and up, at least in the classroom setting (and it might give you ideas for the home setting as well!)

So, this may not seem especially “light” but I do think it is reality.  I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” for the upper grades. I think Live Education, Earthschooling, and Waldorf Essentials all have fairly complete curriculums for at least grades 6-12, and perhaps you start there when in doubt!  But you actually need to look at the content and not just open up the curriculum morning of to teach.  These upper level subjects need more preparation than that!  If you break it up into small chunks starting in the spring, it is really doable.  Use a few hours on a night to prepare for the next week, and the more you go through it, if you have multiple children for example, the more doable it becomes.  

Teaching IS an art.  I would love to deepen my own teaching and help readers deepen their own homeschool teaching. I would love to hear from you! How has working with your fourth through eighth graders deepened and differed from teaching your first through third graders?  How has your high school teaching deepened?  What have you learned along the way?  This would be a great subject for a conference call with many mothers!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Tenth Grade Literature

In Waldorf Tenth Grade, much of the literature focus in a Waldorf School is on dramatic literature in Ancient Epic form – the Edda, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, etc.  There is usually study of epic poetry and the writing of comparisons, essays, short storys, literature analysis and perhaps a research on a pre-Christian theme.  This is what is published on the Waldorf School Curriculum:  An Overview for American Waldorf School Teachers as published by AWNSA.

I think in the home environment we have possiblities in some different ways than just this description.  I took apart our tenth grade literature year in several distinct ways:

Poetry (combined with seventh grade): “Fundamentalism” by Naomi Shihab Nye; “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou; “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks; “Eventide” by Gwendolyn Brooks; “Georgia Dusk” by Jean Toomer; “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg; “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman; “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe; “A Valentine” by Edgar Allen Poe; the riddle poems of Emily Dickinson;  “Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. For the spring semester, I am not sure if we are going to focus more on poetry or on essay writing.

Independent Reading/Book Reports:  I am requiring six book reports this school year, most from people of color or women authors.  So far this semester our tenth grader has read “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse; ” The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver; ” Copper Sun” by Sharon Draper; and “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan.  Not sure what we will read in the spring semester yet.

Ancient Epics/Dramatic Literature Blocks:  “The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato (compared to the movie The Matrix); Gilgamesh; The Odyssey by Homer; scenes from the Ramayana; Beowulf.

Contemporary African-American Literature Block (time from of Black Arts Movement to the present):   “Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation” by Toni Morrison; “Haiku” by Sonia Sanchez; “Get It Together” by India Arie and “The Evil That Men Do” by Queen Latifah; “The Sky Is Grey” by Ernest Gaines; “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” by Tupac Shakur; “Ego Tripping” by Nikki Giovanni; “The Burden of Race” by Arthur Ashe; “American Hero” by Essex Hemphill; “To Some Supposed Brothers” by Essex Hemphill; “Women With Meaning” by Haki Madhubuti

Short Stories:  “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty; “The Necklace”; “The Open Window” by Saki.

Would love to hear what you are working on with your high schooler!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Let Me Tell You Your Mission (In Case You Forgot)

One thing a friend of mine and I were talking about recently is that there is room in the adult world for all kinds of people with all their various quirks and personalities and temperaments.  The diversity of people is such a beautiful thing, and I know I am so grateful that different people want to do different jobs than I would want to do; that different people have different strengths and abilities; that different people even look different and live differently because I find so much beauty in all the varying cultures and faces of the world.  I love it!

So why do people act as if our sole parenting mission, and yes, especially in the middle and upper classes, is for our children to get into a good college and be on a college track?  I am not saying that education is not important.  It is important, but how can we balance this in a healthy way?

Having our teens stress themselves out to the point of having psychosomatic illnesses and fearing for the future and not wanting to grow up because being a teen is already stressful enough (so how stressful must adulthood be?) is not helping this generation.  ANXIETY has now taken over depression as something teenagers are dealing with.  According to this article in the NY Times, 62 percent of undergrads are reporting “overwhelming anxiety.”  There has been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers.  

So, exactly what happens when the push, push for the “good college” is acheived?  What happens in real life outside of this?  My point is that people (and teenagers) are made of more than just their academic portfolio.  There is space in the adult world for many people with their many likes and dislikes and interests and passions. In fact, the adult world probably needs you especially, teenager who is different.

So, parents,  let me tell you your mission in case you have forgotten.  You are here to support your teen and to help guide them.  If you see them putting such pressure on themselves to perform, how can you step in and help them? What will they really need in the adult world to meet their definition of success?  Is their definition of success even healthy? One of the many points in the NY Times article above is that parents are not always driving the anxiety of these teenagers anymore by pushing them, but that instead the teens are internalizing the anxiety themselves and pushing themselves relentlessly.  Health and social relationships are, to me, more important and deserve even more time than academic work.  

You cannot live their life for them.  You are here to help your teen unfold and be who they are going to be.

Life is messy.  Being a teen is messy .  Be supportive and be kind, because you may not know much of what your teen is dealing with at all.

When people ask me about my parenting and goals for my children, I essentially say I want them to be healthy and helpful human beings.  Human beings who are good and loyal friends and family members who will help others.  Human beings who are ethical and who do not divide their public and private lives.  Human beings who can relax and have fun, and yes, make a contribution to something greater than themselves and support themselves.  That is an exciting parenting mission.

Blessings and love,
Carrie