Home Education Magazine
May-June 2001 - Articles and Columns
Ask Carol - Carol Narigon
The Prom and Learning at Grade Level
I love homeschooling. I've been doing it now for a while with one of my dearest friends but I am beginning to worry. What about the prom? I don't want to sound like that's all I care about, but I really don't want to miss out on that fun stuff in high school. Regardless of my worries I am not willing to give up a better education by leaving homeschooling just for "that fun high school stuff." Do you have any suggestions on how I can solve my dilemma?
It's possible to participate in fun high school stuff and still homeschool. Like anything else pertaining to homeschooling, you may have to be more creative than if you went to school. The most common paths to the prom and similar events are through friends who attend a local high school, through a large local or state homeschool support group or by finding a homeschool conference that offers a prom.
My 16-year-old son attended homecoming both of the last two years. The first year, he went with a friend as part of a group from the theater where he performs. This year he went to homecoming and a formal holiday dance at a private school with a girl he met through the teen book club sponsored by a local bookstore. If you work with or participate in activities with teens who attend either public or private high schools, you may find yourself with friends who would be glad to take you to school functions, either individually or in a group.
I have heard, although rarely, of schools that will let homeschoolers participate in social functions. If your local high school tends to be friendly toward homeschoolers, it might be worth a call to see if you and your homeschool friend can buy tickets and attend. The worst they can say is no.
As an alternative to public school events, you might consider finding a homeschool prom. Some large homeschool groups hold a prom or formal dance in the spring. If not a local group, your state homeschool group might either offer teen social events or be able to direct you to a group that does.
An option that is more expensive and may require traveling is to find a homeschool conference that offers activities for teens. I know of several last year that provided a weekend of family activities, including either a teen or family dance/prom. My son's first dance was at a Clonlara conference in Toledo for homeschoolers. We made plans with other families from Dayton, as well as friends we knew online, to attend the conference. There were sports activities, workshops, a jam session and a Saturday night dance for the teens. By the time the dance started, he knew a group of kids to have fun with and had even met a girl he attended the dance with, under the close supervision of Mom's friends, who passed reports along to me periodically. (Note: I don't write anything about my children that they don't approve before publication. He laughed.)
Many large conferences were still in the planning stages at the time we went to press, so I can't provide information on any particular ones. If the idea appeals to you, keep your eye on the National Home Education Network's conference list, www.nhen.org/pages/conf, where you can search the conferences by both state and date. A few conferences that have provided teen activities in the past are the Link conference (www.homeschoolnewslink.com/conf.html) the California Home=Education Conference (www.homeedconference.com) and the Clonlara conference (www.clonlara.org). All provide activities for the whole family over the course of a weekend.
The question, "What about the prom?" raises a common concern about homeschooling. Will teens miss out on those fun activities we pretend every teen should experience? Ask many adults and they'll tell you that the prom, homecoming, dances and parties weren't all they're cracked up to be. Many schooled kids don't go to prom. Or they go because the pressure to attend with a date is considerable, and they don't want to be out of step with the crowd. Or they go out that night and do things they later regret. (No details. I plead the Fifth.)
The prom is one of those great American myths that make us feel good about kids and schools. Sure, the prom is fun for some kids. But not for all kids. And those who don't go or who don't have fun often suffer the stigma of both.
So here's the essence of my advice to you. If you and a friend want to go to the prom just because it's something you'd like to do together, have fun and dance the night away. However, if you feel you need to go to the prom just because people tell you you're missing out if you don't, talk to some people who have been there and listen to their prom tales. Chances are you'll find a different story underneath the Great American Prom Myth -- some will have had fun, others tell you the experience was a source of pain and embarrassment.
As a homeschooler, you are free from most of the social expectations that plague many teens. You can choose activities that suit your lifestyle and your interests, immerse yourself in experiences that you deem special and significant, and not feel you have to live up to an ideal of teenhood that doesn't really exist for most kids. Yet if you choose to experience those 'landmark' activities, I believe you can find ways to do that as well. If you decide to go to the prom, let me know how it went, OK?
Learning At Grade Level
My three children are behind (academically) in their schoolwork. How serious is this? They are ages 17, 15 and 10. I've mentioned to the eldest that she'll have to get her GED. Is this correct? Right now she's doing seventh-grade work.
How serious? That depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you're trying to teach 120 same-age children the same material in the same amount of time, grade-level guidelines are necessary. They won't ensure that each individual child will learn what is required, but you will have a basis for testing and measuring each child's learning in comparison with a set of arbitrary requirements for that age child. Life would be tidy if every child could master a scope and sequence at grade level, like putting a Buick together in a factory. Our purpose isn't to produce Buicks, though. It's to raise happy children who can define success for themselves and then happily achieve it.
If you want your child to enjoy learning and have the ability to find information and apply it to meeting his or her goals and needs, comparisons with school grade levels will probably only make you anxious. Ask yourself this question: are my children behind in following their interests and learning how to accomplish those goals that relate to their interests? For instance, are they able to read the instructions to program the VCR? If your child wants to know more about the Spanish American War, does she know how to find various sources of information? If your family wanted to plan a road trip, can your kids figure out where to go using a map?
I understand your concern, especially for your daughter. It's hard to let go of the idea that in order to be successful, all kids need to learn one body of knowledge by the time they're 18. Remember, if she does something she loves, she will make the effort to be successful. Your job is to help her think about what her goals are at this time, and then brainstorm some ways she can work toward meeting those goals. I don't think finishing a seventh-grade curriculum will be very inspiring for a young woman her age, so stick to where she wants to go from here. Look at what interests her and see how those interests might be supported by volunteer work (which often turns into a job), an internship, classes or personal exploration.
If your daughter plans to go to college in the next couple of years, she needs to explore the various options available to homeschoolers as well as what she must do in order to meet the university's requirements. Colleges have many different application processes, some specifically for homeschoolers. Many require tests (SAT, SAT II, ACT) and a diploma or a GED. She may also choose to attend a community college to begin with, maybe taking one or two classes the first semester.
I think Cafi Cohen's three books (And What About College, Homeschooling: The Teen Years, and Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook) contain the best information on homeschooling teens toward college. She also offers a wonderful Web site at www.homeschoolteenscollege.net.
Whether your daughter must take the General Education Development test (GED) depends on her goals. Some colleges and jobs require one, some don't. She can get more information about the GED at their Web site (www.acenet.edu/calec/ged/home.html) or through your local high school or community college. There are many services devoted to studying for and passing the GED, and she can begin working now toward taking the test, regardless of her grade level. If she has a reason for taking the test, she shouldn't have any trouble learning the material she needs to know to pass it.
(c) 2001 Carol narigon
May-June 2001 Issue
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