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2011 August 23

School decisions part 3

Following up on School decisions and School decisions part 2, where we had decided not to accept the opening at Pacific Collegiate School and not continue at SCHS, we started this morning considering homeschooling through Alternative Family Education (AFE) and a relatively new  private school, Monterey Coast Prep, whose mission statement sounded quite promising:

Monterey Coast Preparatory empowers gifted and talented students, including those with learning differences, to achieve academic, social,and emotional success.

I sent email to both schools last night and talked with both on the phone this morning.  Both schools are very flexible and would be willing to make the necessary adjustments to make the English work for us, but Monterey Coast Prep does not this year have many of the courses that we would need.  Last year they had several courses that he could have taken, but that cohort graduated and this year they did not have enough students at the appropriate level to offer AP science courses or Spanish 3.  The principal told us that she could give credit for courses taken elsewhere, but that we’d be paying $20,000 for a transcript, which did not strike her as a reasonable use of funds.

So this afternoon we registered at AFE, as they were willing to accept all our plans for how we could get through the school year, and sign the “high school release form” that allows him to do concurrent enrollment at the community college for Spanish 3 (if he can get in—the sections of 30 are all full and have waiting lists of 15).

Here are our current tentative plans for his education this year:

  • Science:  calculus-based physics using the Matter and Interactions book and VPython to do computational modeling. He and I will work through the book together, as I haven’t had physics since an algebra-based course in high school in 1969–70.
  • Computer Science: he is doing a science fair project this year, and we’ve already arranged a mentor from the University for him.
  • Math: Art of Problem Solving’s online calculus class. He had a great time in the precalculus class in the spring (and got an 800 on the SAT2 Math 2 test), and the same instructor is teaching calculus in the same time slot this year. (See Good online math classes.) We had registered him for the calculus class this summer, since he wanted to take it no matter where he went to school.
  • Engineering: We plan to continue the robotics club, but it won’t be affiliated with SCHS any more.  We’ll probably open it up to high school students from any of the local high schools.  Details still to be worked out.
  • Theater: we’ve registered him for the West Performing Arts fall teen production at West End Studio Theatre (Egad! The Woman in White).
  • Spanish: we are trying to get him into the Spanish 3 class at the community college, or the Spanish 4 class at the local high school.  In both places he will be last on the waiting list, and allowed in only if there is room.  We think that it is likely that he won’t get in this fall, but will be able to get into one or the other in the spring.
  • History: we’re thinking of using Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science series to do the history of science, with some “world history” reading on the side to put things in chronological context.
  • English: we’re planning to decouple reading and writing.  The reading will be some long list of books that are worth reading, possibly made by merging the reading lists of several local high school classes.  The writing will be technical writing (science-fair lab notebook, turning the science-fair report into a properly formatted and researched technical report or journal paper), creative writing (he has an idea for a novella, which probably won’t get finished, but we may get a short story or a play out of him), and some informal writing (perhaps a blog).

This will be our first attempt at home schooling, but several of the parts of the curriculum are things we have done before (AoPS math, WEST theater, robotics club, science fair) and it will be nice to have them be considered part of his schooling, rather than purely extracurricular.


  1. You might consider Online Spanish from Oklahoma State University. It’s high school Spanish (not college) and has quite a few homeschoolers taking it.

    They make pretty good use of technology to teach online, plus you have a call-in time each week (and can call in any other time you want). So, there is some one-on-one interaction in Spanish.

    Comment by Jo in OKC — 2011 August 23 @ 17:05 | Reply

    • Online Spanish is not as good, we believe, as frequent class with live conversation. We’ll look into that if none of the local resources work out.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2011 August 23 @ 17:22 | Reply

  2. For his novella or play, you might consider whether participating in NaNoWriMo ( or ScriptFrenzy ( would help.

    Comment by Jo in OKC — 2011 August 23 @ 17:07 | Reply

  3. I’ve got to say, I’m deeply impressed by the thought and care you put into deciding what is best for son in terms of his education. I only wish every child had someone to think this carefully about his/her education.

    Regarding, English, one thought that occurs to me is introducing your son to the works and teachings of Alan Lightman. Lightman is a professor of humanities at MIT, and he’s done a lot to transform writing at MIT. He’s also written some very interesting books that, given your son’s interest in science, he might find enjoyable. Here are some of the tips from the MIT writing program for students.

    Comment by John Burk — 2011 August 23 @ 20:36 | Reply

    • Thanks for the pointers, I’ll pass them on to my son. Since I taught tech writing for 14 years, I think I’m already familiar with most of the tips from the MIT writing program, but it may be easier for my son to hear it from someone else.

      I’m thinking of having him use Huckin and Olsen’s Technical Writing and Professional Communication, which I used as a text in my tech writing class. The chapters on focus and flow are quite good.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2011 August 23 @ 21:21 | Reply

  4. […] labs for homeschooling my son in calculus-based physics using the Matter and Interactions book (see School decisions part 3 on the decision to homeschool).  He was kind enough to pass on my request to the readers of his […]

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  9. […] last year after entering the lottery for it 4 years running (see School decisions: part 1, part 2, part 3) and started home schooling instead.  The rigidity of the AP curriculum was not going to be a good […]

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  10. […] see the first few posts in my home-school series: School decisions, School decisions part 2,  and School decisions part 3), the thought of having complete freedom to create his own program was very encouraging.  They […]

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  11. […] an adaptation of the essay he wrote for the Common Application prompt, while the other talks about why he chose to home school and what that has done for him.  Both essays managed to pack in a lot of information about him and […]

    Pingback by First college application sent | Gas station without pumps — 2013 November 28 @ 11:13 | Reply

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