Thursday, July 30, 2009

High School 101: Plan Well to Finish Well (Part I)

Hello fellow high school travelers! I wanted to post my notes for the first session I presented at Finish Well. I will do this in two blogs, to aid the digestion process :)

Several travelers mentioned they wanted to get to more than one workshop in the first session (physically impossible) or that they could not attend, but wanted to. So, whatever circumstances kept you from attending my first workshop, here's the material we covered, though I go into more detail in my book Celebrate High School: Finish with Excellence.

Plan well to finish well! For those on the high school journey, that means sitting down while in eighth grade (ideally) and working with your student to develop a four-year plan for high school. During the session, I walked through this process with the attendees. We covered all the major points on page 5 of my book.

The next step in developing the four-year plan is to consider important factors:
  • the student's career goals or plans after high school
  • the educational or experiential requirements for those career goals (two-year or four-year school, vocational training, apprenticeship, internships, travel)
  • the graduation requirements to meet the goals (selective college, highly selective college)
  • NCAA Collegiate sports requirements (for college athletes)
  • scholarship requirements (state merit, Presidential, private)
Once we considered the above factors, we compared the graduation requirements for each scenario, with the bottom line being to hone and to polish the student's talents and skills for use as God intends. The majority of students should consider taking (at a minimum):
  • 4 credits in English
  • 4 credits in Mathematics (generally Algebra I and higher)
  • 4 credits in Social Studies (including American History, World History, American Government and Economics)*
  • 3 credits in Science (two lab sciences)
  • 2 credits in Foreign Language (two years of the same language)
  • 1 credit in the Arts (Performing or Fine)
  • 1 credit in Physical Education
  • 1 credit in Computer Science/Business Education
  • 5-8 credits in additional electives (based on intended career or parental preference)
*I mentioned that our students took two years of World History: Ancient World History and Modern World History so that we could dig deeper and add more literature and primary source documents.

With ALL this in mind, I had the attendees fill in what they could on one of the four-year plans printed on pages 7 and 10 of my book.

I then presented the basics for determining credits, mentioning that there is not a standard formula for determining how many hours equal one credit. I explained the Carnegie Unit. Basically, a student earns one credit for working 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 36 weeks for a total of 120 hours. By adding just 5 minutes a day, the total hours becomes 150 hours. For a half-credit, simply divide the required hours in half, hence 60-75 hours. I did mention that one of our students worked on a traditional schedule (45 minutes to 1 hour per subject per day) and the other student used a block schedule (2 days of Physics, 2 days of Math and the other day for Literature~ fitting in writing and electives all five days). I cautioned parents to realize home education is a tutorial method of education (more concentrated) and mastery is more important that the hours worked. Mastery is the goal. If that takes 115 hours, it is still worth the one credit.
All of this material is covered in detail on pages 12-14 in Celebrate High School.

During the last fifteen minutes of the workshop I discussed documenting hours and organizing the high school portfolio (a three-ring binder with dividers and labeled tabs). Both methods must be student-friendly to encourage the recording and filing of important information. I also mentioned the major similarities and differences of the most commonly used college entrance exams. I will save those topics for part two of this blog.

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