Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Learning Dangerously Newsletter #5

If you’re new, thanks for signing up! As promised, I’m giving away a copy of THE YEAR OF LEARNING DANGEROUSLY every week to new subscribers. This week, the winner is Molly P.! Molly, I’ll be in touch. I’m writing this at 4:23 in the morning; Alice is sick. Nothing awful, just the usual cost of doing business when you breathe in air others have exhaled, but in case you ever thought homeschooled kids didn’t get sick, I have a hacking kid down the hallway to prove otherwise. Actually, homeschooled kids are just like any other kids. They socialize, they learn phrases you heartily wish they wouldn’t use around their grandparents, they beg to be allowed on social media, they sulk when they are denied social media; in sum, they get infected in all sorts of ways, same as any other child. One subject that always gives prospective homeschooling parents the cold sweats is AP tests. “But,” they say, pulling at their collar like they aren’t getting enough air, “how would I prepare my daughter for the AP Physics test? I don’t think they even had Physics when I was a kid!” Courage, I say. There are options. First of all, there are study-skill franchises like Kumon et al, many of whom offer AP tutoring. It’s pricey and I can’t vouch for their effectiveness, but if your child learns best sitting next to someone, it’s worth checking out. There are teachers at any local high school who, sadly, aren’t getting paid enough and would probably be interested in doing some AP tutoring on the side. I know parents who love these people and have been very happy with the result. Some other options are Stanford and Apex. I also know of some families who have studied on their own, or have even seen their teenagers take responsibility for prepping for the test and have seen it turn out well, but that takes a pretty seasoned homeschooling family or a nearly mythic teen. Something to consider is that while many colleges still give college credit for an AP test with a score of 4 or 5 and let the child skip some college classes, that is increasingly not the case at the most prestigious universities. An AP test is a great deal of work; you have to decide whether it’s the right work for your family. Which takes us back to where we always are either as the parents of homeschoolers, of students in traditional school, or as parents in general: frequently at a loss. But here again, whatever decision you make will be a good decision and if you don’t like how it’s turning out, I give you permission to change your mind and that will be fine, too. If it seems like I’m avoiding taking a strong position here it’s because I am. Education in the new century requires flexibility and feedback. The best experiences are those that allow both. Next week, I’ll give you the greatest secret pass I’ve found in the Community College system so far; you can use it for your homeschooler or your traditionally-educated teen. Until then, here are (as of this writing) links to 800 free online college and university courses. In the news, I went and took a tour of the Pasadena branch of Fusion Academy. If you’ve ever wished your child could homeschool for certain classes, but step into a classroom for some of the others, while also getting some peer time every day, this might be something to consider. They’ve got fifteen branches up and running and four more opening in the first quarter of next year. The space was interesting and the kids I saw congregating, doing homework or hanging out together between classes, seemed happy and engaged. I’ve already suggested it to a friend who isn’t necessarily in a position to homeschool but has a child who might need it. And now, speaking of children who need things, my daughter needs a box of Kleenex. See you next week, Quinn

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