Gas station without pumps

2011 September 3

Home schooling week 1

Following up on School decisions part 3,this post describes our first week of home schooling.

On Tuesday, we had our first get-together at the AFE umbrella for home schoolers (it turned out we already knew half a dozen of the students, mainly from theater classes).  The consultant teachers introduced themselves and described the courses they will be teaching (one each).  I was a little surprised at how many administrators this small school had (a principal and an assistant principal out of a total staff of 10 for 164 students).  For that matter, since most of the instruction is happening outside the school, the staffing ratio seems very high.  Of course, the public middle school has 32 teaching staff and 23 others for 591 students, so the home-schooling umbrella does cost taxpayers substantially less than the standard option.

Parents also announced the classes that they would be opening up to others, and I mentioned the robotics club I’ll be running.  It looks like we’ll have at least one additional student.

On Thursday, we went over our tentative plans for his education this year with our consultant teacher, who repackaged our ideas into courses they could list on his transcript.  He had prepared a list of courses with “catalog copy” that can be put in his portfolio, but the transcript is limited to courses that the school district has in its database.

All the science-related stuff got lumped into one “science investigations” course, since the school district has no AP Physics C or computer science classes, and so has no way to code them in their database:

  • 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.  We’ve opened this up to others at AFE, but I think that there is only a small chance that one other student will be interested, as there are not many who are ready for it.
  • Computer Science: he is planning a science fair project this year on machine learning, and we’ve already arranged a mentor from the University for him. I can help mentor him, but it will be good for him to have a mentor who is not me this year.
  • Engineering: We plan to continue the robotics club, but it won’t be affiliated with SCHS any more.  We’ve opened it up to high school students from any of the local high schools, but so far no one outside AFE has contacted me, though one science teacher at PCS said he would announce it to his classes.

The math class looks like it will be straightforward, since it is equivalent to the AP Calculus BC course that the high school offers.  It also looks like we can get last year’s precalculus class onto his transcript also, so that it doesn’t appear as a hole in his math education.

  • Math: Art of Problem Solving’s online calculus class. He had a great time in the precalculus class in the spring, and the same instructor is teaching calculus in the same time slot this year. (See Good online math classes.) We’ll be relying on the AP Calculus BC test for evidence in his transcript that the class really covered the material, since AoPS is still not accredited (and neither is AFE).

We tried to register him for Spanish 3 at the community college, but only one of the three sections is possible (the other two would conflict with the online calculus class).  We made a special trip to the college to drop off the form needed for high school students to register, but when he tried registering for the course he was unable to, because the office had already lost his form. The waiting list had filled up again by the time we had faxed the form to the office again and they removed the hold on his registration. He will continue attending the class, explaining (in Spanish) to the instructor what happened when he tried to get on the waitlist.  With a little bit of luck, the instructor will give him an add code before the add/drop deadline on Sept 10.

  • 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 (the high school has course-level inflation, and their Spanish 3 is the equivalent of Spanish 2 at other local schools).

The theater class is also straightforward, and he’ll get credit based on how many hours he spends on theater.  He won’t be able to do the AFE teen theater production, as rehearsals conflict with his Spanish class.  The one challenge this year will be getting him to keep track of hours spent, so that he can get credit for the time he spends learning lines at home, as well as the official classes.

  • Theater: we’ve registered him for the West Performing Arts fall teen production at West End Studio Theatre (Egad! The Woman in White) as well as for a weekly improv class (also through West, but at the Broadway Playhouse).

My wife will be supervising the humanities (History and English reading):

  • History: we’ll use 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.  We borrowed a standard high school world history book from the AFE Resource Center, and he’ll be creating a timeline connecting the history of science to what is happening in the rest of the world. He’s already started setting up the HTML and JavaScript that he’ll be using for the timeline.  It looks like we’ll be creating an electronic portfolio of his home-school work, rather than a paper one.
  • English: we’re decoupling reading and writing.  The reading will be selected by my wife, on the theme Alternative Realities.  He’ll be starting with Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.  To get credit for the reading, he’ll have to produce some sort of product for each of 6 different books each semester (but they don’t need to be literary analysis essays).  We’re still trying to think up products he can create without running into the writer’s block that hit him so hard last year.

The writing will be the big educational push this year.  I’ll supervise his tech writing, but we are hoping to get help from a writing therapist as well.

  • Tech Writing: Science-fair lab notebook, physics lab writeups, calculus challenge problem writeups, turning the science-fair report into a properly formatted and researched technical report or journal paper, poster and design document for the MATE underwater vehicle competition (which will be a group effort).  The tech writing is not a separate course on his transcript, but is part of the science investigations course.
  • 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.  This will be listed as a separate course.

We had not originally planned on a PE course for him, since he has never liked required PE classes, but he still needs 10 credits of PE (which at AFE translates to 150 hours).  Currently, we are thinking of counting the bicycling he does for transportation.  If he bikes to the community college and to the theater classes (which actually takes less time than the bus), he should be getting about 4–5 hours of biking a week, which would finish up his PE requirements this year.  If he doesn’t bike to the community college, his biking time would be only an hour or two a week, which would barely finish his PE requirements by the end of his senior year.  In order to keep track of his biking, we bought a bicycle computer for him, so that he can check his average speed (probably about 10 mph over the hilly route) and total his miles.


  1. […] We’ve currently only budgeted 3 hours a week (including homework) for my son for physics (see Home schooling week 1 for his course load), so we’re looking at only 100 hours total.  That seems to me to make […]

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  6. Sounds like a good plan! Good luck!

    Comment by Tamara Lichtenstein — 2011 November 13 @ 23:49 | Reply

  7. […] Home schooling week 1 […]

    Pingback by Blog year in review « Gas station without pumps — 2012 January 1 @ 14:17 | Reply

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