Friday, January 11, 2008

Is there a ninth grader in the house?

Not quite yet. But almost.

Since it is January, that means the time is nigh to start planning for next year. It's fairly easy to plan for Aisling's seventh grade year because I generally stick to the same curricula we've used for several years -- the Saxon math, the Wordly Wise vocabulary, the Seton reading comprehension and thinking skills, etc.

But now we have Meelyn moving into high school and suddenly, things are very different. Different enough to make me feel very nervy about GETTING IT RIGHT. Oh, I'm sorry. Was I shouting just then? Don't mind me. It's just that my ganglia are humming throughout my body and sometimes it affects MY VOLUME.

There are so many choices. Which one will be the right one? Meelyn and I are poring over several different accredited institutions that plan programs for students, make a portfolio of their work (which the parents mail in, either graded by themselves or by the institution), and then issue a transcript and portfolio.

The fortunate residents of Indiana also have the choice of coming up with their own high school program, meeting the Indiana Academic Standards for graduation, and then assembling their own transcript and issuing their own diplomas. Did you know that there are places online where homeschool families can order their diplomas with a leatherette cover in the color of their choice and everything? Even printed with the name of their homeschool!


Here are the choices we're looking at right now:

1. North Atlantic Regional High School -- Based in Lewiston, Maine, NARHS is a secular source for transcripting and diploma services. They have a minimum of 17.5 course credits needed to graduate, adding that this might not be enough for admission to some colleges. For college admissions, a NARHS student might have to add credits in -- as I noticed -- foreign language. With NARHS, you develop your own program, apprise them of the texts you are using, and they take it from there. That's a simple explanation; I won't know more until we get their free handbook.

2. Mother of Divine Grace -- MODG, as it is known in Catholic homeschool lingo, is based in Ojai, California. They espouse a classical program that requires 27.5 credits for graduation, assuring parents and students of college eligibility. Their foreign language of choice for all four high school years is Latin, which I just don't know if I'm that interested in. I'm thinking that four years of Spanish sounds a lot more practical, although I'm not opposed to two years of Latin. Their ninth grade book list looks interesting and do-able. I particularly liked their combined history and literature program, which allowed for a choice of historical fiction in four eras of American history. Meelyn liked that, too, and immediately began researching choices on

3. Kolbe Academy -- Kolbe Academy (named for the Polish priest who died in Auschwitz, St. Maximilian Kolbe) is found in Napa, California. Their educational focus is the Ignatian method, which I can enthusiastically get behind. I spent a brief time last night in going over the ninth grade book list and that's where my warm fuzzies faded. Kolbe's program centers on reading the classics -- not just the classical approach of a balanced liberal arts kind of education -- so my eyes were met with the sight of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon... Our friend Homer was in there, too, but as I looked at it, all I could think was, "What a hideous bore that all sounds." And I minored in Classicul Culture and read and (for the most part) enjoyed all of those very writers!

This doesn't seem to be quite the thing for my ninth grade schoolgirl, however. She is just a regular kid and I think she would absolutely hate this methodology.

4. Our Lady of Victory School -- OLVS is based in Ports Falls, Idaho and they have a 22 credit requirement for graduation. I liked what they had on their ninth grade book list (with the exception of the English curriculum they'd chosen), but then I found while searching the site that they promulgate only the Tridentine rite and the fifteen decade rosary (Pope John Paul II added five other beautiful decades which some Catholics cannot deal with), which I find...wrong. It's too bad, because I loved -- ab-so-loooote-leee loved -- what they had to say on their FAQ page about homeschooling and parental responsibility. It really spoke to me; the beliefs they expressed are the same beliefs that my husband and I hang onto every single year. But we are not going to go to a Latin Mass and we are going to continue praying the twenty decade rosary every week, so this is unfortunately a non-starter.

5. Seton Home Study School -- Based in Front Royal, Virginia, (St. Elizabeth Ann) Seton is a well-known entity among Catholic homeschoolers. I love their books; we use their English Grammar, English Composition, reading comprehension and thinking skills books already. I really loved their ninth grade course plan, but I already know that this won't work for us. Seton has an accelerated curriculum that is tremendously demanding. Enrollment in their accredited program requires parents to do a whole lot of snail-mailing, mostly tests and essays. We know from families in our homeschool group that if you enroll in Seton, Seton is ALL you do: every bit of time you have is spent at home, bent over a book with another pile at your elbow. No more art museum, art lessons, Book-It lunches, HISTO, Shakespeare Workshops, nothin'.

I think the pace of this program would cause Meelyn to wither. I know how she is about stuff like this. We've known other students who have buckled under the pressure and fallen by the wayside, hyperventilating and in need of smelling salts. We know some homeschoolers who use this program, but we never see them because they're always working, fearful of falling behind. Our happy-go-lucky family would go one of two ways with this: we'd either be hideously miserable and sweat it out for one year and then go through the pain of transferring her credits to another program, or we'd pay a ton of money to enroll and then end up giving it the boot by November.


So far, out of five programs, only the first two look likely. I want to go research the Indiana Academic Standards and see how many credits students here need for graduation; it seems more and more probably that we'll either go with Mother of Divine Grace or our own self-assembled program, made up from the best parts of all the other programs I've looked at.

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