Recently on my Homeschooling Creatively list, there was a discussion about what kind of learning counts for high school credit. Although I know what is being referred to since I attended high school, this vocabulary doesn’t really show up on my radar based on how we home educate our children. Frankly, even when I was in high school, I was completely unaware of the whole credit thing, so maybe I’m ahead of the game that way. It wasn’t for good reasons as apparently my high school counselor didn’t consider me college material enough to mention anything to me, and neither of my parents have a higher education (one only has a tenth grade education) to tap into it through them.
I remember some time when my oldest son was in the 11-13 year timeframe, or maybe it was from Loretta Heuer during a Growing Without Schooling conference, but it was mentioned that I should “keep track of” the things my children do that would be high school transcript noteworthy. And, when my oldest was 14-15 years old, I did do that for a while. And then life happened. And learning. Besides, I found myself getting tediously involved in defining the nitty gritty trying to get it to line up with what I saw other high school students doing. But why should I do that? I am not replicating high school in my home. We are a strength-based life learning home environment. When my children decided what they wanted to do, college or something else, we would figure out what to do in order to have them achieve that goal. And so life continued.
So what did we do for high school if not thinking about credits? I describe it in my Collaborative Learning Process. My children continued to strengthen their gifts (60%), and I provided support in helping each person improve any weaknesses from where they were in order to take it to the next level based on how it affects where they want to go (30%). There were never any conversations about, “okay, so you want to go to college for computer programming, so what are you going to do for high school credit to show that.” My son loved to computer program, so he did so, because he loved it, and was intrigued by it, and wanted to know as much as he could figure out. My job was to keep feeding in the resources so that the interest would grow to its fullest capacity. My daughter spent her last few years writing fantasy novels. She learned by doing. A few adult friends shared their favorite writing resources with her that got her looking for additional resources that would help her along her learning curve. Interestingly, she knew when she was ready for more information and knowledge, and when she just needed time to sweat it out herself. All of this could be translated into “credits” later; yet, it never entered my mind to think that way either in the moment.
Then there is the category of either “not that interested in it” or “difficulties learning or understanding it” subjects. Each child had subjects they never gravitated to in some way by the 11-13 year old stage. It was during this first stage of formality that I would introduce these topics to them in a way that could work for them, just so that they had some kind of positive interaction with it at least once. For my oldest, it was math, and some formal grammar. For my daughter, it was history and math. For my third child, it was science and grammar. These fell into the category of “just not that interested in it”. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do it; it just didn’t have much meaning for them to pursue. Yet, each I thought would benefit from a short-term exposure. So, I found a resource that would match how they like to learn, and each felt positive about learning it to the level they took it. Again, I didn’t think, “alright, you need a well-rounded education and in order to get credit for high school, you have to do x, y, and z.” Now, take my daughter’s math as an example; she decided to learn up to algebra, and then decided it was sufficient. In her transcript for college, I gave her “high school credit” for pre-algebra, geometry (since what we used incorporated it throughout), and algebra I (since she had to do a serious study of it for her ACT test, which she scored solid on). She is an English/writing focus, so math was not relevant to her getting accepted into the university for which she applied. Her ACT score “proved” that she had the “competency” for which I recorded. But again, the reason we did what we did had nothing to do with high school credit or a transcript to get into college. It was able to be worked out as we needed it.
I think there are two types as it pertains to the “difficulties learning or understanding it” arena. There is the difficulty with a subject that is important to the child’s strength goals. My daughter is a writer, and spelling and vocabulary didn’t come naturally to her. This would be important to her, so we came up with resources and strategies that would help her improve these areas. We didn’t create a “course” for her to receive high school credit for if she “passed”. We took her from where she was, found resources that matched how she learns, and helped her improve step by step over a period of a few years. We collaborated to identify these areas for each child so that their strengths could continue to flourish.
I have children who have a hard time learning certain subjects because of a biological difference. This is different from not learning it well because there just isn’t an interest or natural inclination toward it. The two that I asked to do math later don’t take to it easily. But I don’t think everyone is meant to be good at everything. I think a person has strengths and weaknesses. And the weaknesses don’t have to mean “difficulty learning based on a deficiency”. I’m not that keen on history and would have to work hard to do well in it in a school setting. I don’t have a natural inclination toward it. I’m not talking about “school created labels”, either. Those typically are all about a different learning timeframe and learning resources, and if those are valued, it can either eventually be learned easily or if not, usually be put in the previous category of “difficulty with subject because of lack of natural inclination”.
My sons with autism are who fall into this category to which I am referring to as “biological differences to learning”. My third child struggled with learning language as a child. So, it would make sense that reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and writing not only didn’t come naturally to him, he had to learn it in a way that takes a different way of focusing and learning. Strategies may need to be employed based on their particular biological difference. Or, he’s simply just going to have to think about it a lot more, and put a lot more time into it, because of it’s “unnaturalness” to his nature. So, again, he and I would sit down and I would come up with some resources that I thought might help him, or some strategies that I thought might be useful, and let him know that if he wanted to improve in this area, he would need to put the work into it. We discussed the ways not having these skills could interfere with his life plans, and to what level he might need to take it to circumvent that. We used hands-on supports, resource supports, mentor support, and modeling supports in order to help him achieve his goals. You notice we didn’t “remediate”. He had a positive view on these areas because he was never labeled negatively as it pertains to them. And, as has been said throughout this post, high school credit had nothing to do with what we were doing. We were collaborating on goals and learning. That was the focus. It still is the focus as we navigate the high school years with each of our children.
For us, there is no “high school”. There is simply a continuing learning process, based on stages of growth.