Posts Tagged ‘homeschool’

Homeschool College Applications

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Tis the season for college applications – is anyone else overwhelmed with the number of documents and forms required? It’s especially tough for homeschooling families because we first have to write our own transcripts, with course descriptions, and figure out GPA, credit hours, etc.  It’s not too bad if you have been keeping good records all along, but even then it takes some time to assemble everything in a professional looking format.  I used the book Homeschooling High School: Planning Ahead for College Admission by Jeanne Gowen Dennis for help with these details.

Once your transcript is complete, you still need to be the Academic Advisor and help your student keep track of all the different requirements for each of the schools her or she is applying to. Having gone through this twice so far, here are a few organizational tips:

  1. Start a folder for each school you are applying to, and insert the application checklist along with hard copies of your essays and other materials specific to that school. There is no need to make copies of materials submitted online in the common application. This is where you store any correspondence and financial aid information for that school as well.
  2. Prepare another reference folder with a copy of your prepared transcript, course descriptions, and homeschool description (if necessary). Your student will probably need to enter this information in a variety of online forms so it helps to have everything in one place.
  3. Prepare a simple spreadsheet with a list of your colleges on top, and a list of requirements along the left side. See my example below:

Example of College Application Spreadsheet


Note that I didn’t fill in all the data for this spreadsheet yet – it’s just an example. But you can see how useful it would be to keep track of what has been submitted and what is still missing. Your student might have other requirements too like an audition or portfolio submission. You can customize this however you want. I did this in Microsoft Excel, but Google Documents has a spreadsheet feature that works very well, for free.

My kids filled out all of the necessary forms online, but I checked everything for accuracy and to fill out the information for household income and parents’ education/employment. They wrote drafts of their essays and personal statements on Google Documents so that my husband and I could read them and offer suggestions as needed. Once the drafts were as good as they could be, they just copy/pasted them into the online applications.

The nice thing about online applications is that you can work a little bit at a time, saving as you go, and then when everything is perfect, hit “submit” and hand over your credit card number.

This year, my son and I will be keeping track of scholarship applications the same way, but first things first. We gotta get these things done! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Minimalist Homeschooling

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As my kids grow up, I’ve been getting the urge to unfeather my nest. We seem to be moving into a new phase of life, and a lot of the old stuff seems unnecessary. Maybe it never was necessary. But I’m taking a hard look at where I want to be and how I want to live these days.

Minimalism has been a growing trend, especially as so many books and blogs have been written about “doing more with less.” I’ve always been curious about this, in the past reading such books as Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, “The 4 Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss, and of course “Walden” by Thoreau.  Simplicity definitely seemed like something to aspire to, but I was so busy with life as usual that I didn’t follow through with it (excuses, excuses).

Recently I’ve stumbled upon a blogger named Ev Bogue who got me thinking about it again. He’s conveniently been writing about things that I’ve been trying to figure out – like how to use technology to help me simplify. I feel like the old way of doing things and buying things is rapidly becoming obsolete.  Going digital has the potential to eliminate so much clutter, although it could potentially add clutter if we’re not careful.

For instance, why do I have a giant box of old VHS tapes? Because I was saving them to someday convert to DVD (although I don’t have a machine to do that). But why would I want to have a bunch of DVDs around when it is possible to store movies on a giant hard drive? Or stream from the Internet?

The same goes for all of our music CDs. I didn’t like buying music from iTunes because they make it so hard to sync music between our families’ computers and iPods, so we bought CDs instead. But then came Pandora, Spotify, and other music streaming websites. Why buy a disk to store and dust, or a handcuffed music file, when I could just pay a monthly fee to listen to an enormous library of music anytime and anywhere?

I also want to try digital scrapbooking instead of paper scrapping. I want to ditch my hefty paper planner in favor of planning/calendar software. I want to stop buying newspapers and magazines, and read them online instead.  And books . . . good grief. I love my books dearly, but we must have a thousand pounds of books – and that’s just nonfiction reference. That doesn’t even count the fiction and other books we’ve borrowed from the library over the years. Wouldn’t it be great to get a lot of that on a Kindle? Or borrow ebooks from the library?

Technology has changed everything, including homeschooling. If I were starting homeschool all over again, I would buy much LESS stuff.  Looking at my groaning bookshelves now, I wonder, “Why did I buy this?” It seemed like a good idea at the time . . . But now I would (and will) rely on the Internet for so much more. I’ll tell you how in future posts.

Do you have any clever ways to use technology in your homeschool or life? I’d love to hear about them – just leave a comment below or email me. Thanks!

Ten Examples of Personal Self-Education Plans

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Our job as homeschoolers isn’t just to help our kids learn – we have to set the example too. Kids who grow up in households that value learning are much more likely to value learning themselves, and for a lifetime. We have to teach them that there is no such thing as graduation. We humans are way too smart for our own good, so we need constant reminders of how much we don’t know to stay in balance. Plus, how are we going to solve the world’s problems without pushing ourselves to get better?

There is something to be said for free-range learning, picking and choosing the next book, website, documentary or course as it catches our interest, leading to serendipitous discoveries. But serious self-education calls for a bit of serious planning. Instead of picking books willy-nilly from the library, make your own learning plan, just like you would for your kids.

This is something I’m working on for myself. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be using my other blog to write about what I learn as I pursue my own studies. But I don’t have it all figured out yet. I would love to add a forum to this site where readers can post their own or their kids’ learning plans. There are lots of websites with lists of resources for self-education. Try lifehacker and selfmadescholar for starters. But I had a harder time finding examples of personal learning plans.

To give you an idea of the diversity, here’s a list of 10 personal learning plans I found:

  1. Well Trained Mind Forum
  2. Gary Schroeder’s plan for a self-made MBA
  3. A plan to teach yourself film directing
  4. A homeschooling mom’s plan
  5. Another homeschooling mom’s plan
  6. A book lover’s plan
  7. A science lover’s plan
  8. Autodidact 101
  9. Teach yourself graphic design plan 
  10. Self-University

I’m actually surprised I didn’t find more. There were lots of helpful lists of suggested resources, and many book lover sites where people posted the books they want to read, but not many individual plans, as in “Here’s what I’m going to learn . . .” Maybe I didn’t look in the right places.

So, if you have a learning plan, send me an email at and I’ll post it here. As soon as I have mine sketched out, I’ll post it here too.

Terminator Mom

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the goal of this blog. What is my message? How does this fit in with the work I am meant to do?

Here are some of the things I am passionate about:

  1. Self-education and self-improvement
  2. Sustainability
  3. Freedom
  4. Creativity
  5. Preparation for a world transition

I think the world is in for some major changes due to population growth, resource scarcity, energy scarcity, economic collapse, and climate change (whatever the cause may be, things are changing). Being the sort of person that likes to plan ahead, I feel compelled to plan ahead for this transition and to help other people prepare too.

However, I really don’t yet have the skills or experience to help anyone else! All I can do is raise awareness and point people to the same resources/experts I am turning to. But I do have experience with self-education, self-improvement and creativity. These are the very skills that all of us will need, now and in the future.

Sometimes I think I’m like the mom Sarah Connor in Terminator, who raised a son destined to lead the human resistance against machines. I have this feeling that I am also raising my children to survive and perhaps lead the way in the troubles ahead. We may not have cyborgs to fight off, but there will be plenty of challenges. There will be major changes in our food, water, and energy supplies, and people typically don’t like those sorts of abrupt changes. Hopefully it will happen gradually enough that people can adjust. But I’m fairly certain that my children and grandchildren will have a much different way of life than I did. My job is to teach them how to make the most of it.

So, that is my message. I want to reach out to all the Terminator moms and dads out there and spread the word. It’s time to get ready. Each of us has unique strengths and skills to apply to the problems at hand. We must encourage our children’s unique strengths and skills, too. Who knows what they might be or how they might serve humanity in the future? This is no time to worry about standardized curriculum or pleasing bureaucrats – we have a world to save!

I’ll keep beating the drum of self-education in this blog, but because I am also in the process of educating myself about our coming transition, I will post thoughts about that in my other blog:

Next topic: What are you learning?

Homeschool Plans for 12th Grade

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The only child I’m homeschooling at the moment is my second son Aengus. He is in 12th grade this year and getting together his college applications so we have a lot to do.

Here’s what we have planned so far:

He’s taking Spanish II and Physics for dual credit this semester at our local community college (not sure yet what he will be taking next semester)

AP Calculus at home – probably using Thinkwell’s online course but we’re still reviewing

English/Language Arts at home  – Aengus will select a list of “living books” to read, plus “Reading Like a Writer” by Francine Prose; and he’ll go through assignments from Julie Bogart’s “Help for High School” Brave Writer program.

Computer Science at home – this takes up the most time because Aengus has been feverishly programming a new homeschooling recordkeeping/planning application for Mac (for more info see: He has been programming with Windows languages for years but only started learning Mac about a year ago.

We still need to work out something for social studies/history so he’ll have enough appropriate credits for college applications. Aengus isn’t really interested in another general American or World History course. He’s more interested in specific subjects that may or may not relate to one another, so we’ll have to be creative. Here’s what we are thinking:

  • Fall Semester: Understanding events in the Middle East (this would take several lifetimes to learn, so we can only cover a tiny bit):  “Innocents Abroad” by Mark Twain, “Islam – A Short History” by Karen Armstrong, “The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East” by Sandy Tolan; and maybe “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power” by Daniel Yergan.
  • Spring Semester: History mixed with science: “The Human Web: A Bird’s Eye view of World History” by Robert McNeill and William McNeill and “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson

On the side, Aengus and his brother are learning how to do online video tutorials. They want to make a series of how to build/reproduce ancient architecture in the Minecraft game. This will involve a certain amount of research into the landscape and architecture of ancient Greece, Babylon, Egypt and other places. With any luck, they’ll become rich and famous YouTube stars!

Aengus also takes regular drumming lessons and is looking for a band to play with (in all his free time!).

If anyone has suggestions for our history/social studies books – I’d love to hear them!