Articles by Christopherus Consultant Barbara Benson

Homeschooling Sons through High School

Let me begin by saying that not much of my high school work with my sons would parallel what was done for academic subjects in a Waldorf school. After being a Waldorf inspired teacher of my three sons through eighth grade, I decided to take the approach that I would let my children work with specialist teachers (including me) and help them follow some of their unique interests while fulfilling what were the core requirements for an Indiana resident to be able to attend college. At the time there was almost no one else I knew doing homeschooling for high school (much less Waldorf) and I had two much younger children to raise and teach, so this seemed like the best plan under the circumstances.

My oldest son and I sat down together and talked about all the options, which included a local private school, public school, a distance curriculum and a portfolio approach. After some discussion, he settled on doing a distance curriculum and we narrowed it down to two choices, Oak Meadow and Clonlara. We picked Clonlara because it had a more unstructured approach that allowed me as a parent to be trusted to give exams and submit grades. Other features I liked were the creative Walk About program for electives, self-assessment by my son, a contact teacher, and a nationally accredited school that could provide a transcript and recommendations.

Clonlara ended up being a good fit for him since he was an eager learner and a self-starter. He did a number of Walk-Abouts like building his own music studio with his dad and brothers, performing in and providing much of the score for a homeschoolers’ Opera, and volunteering at a local music store. Speaking of volunteering, Clonlara required 300 hours of volunteer service and my son did this primarily through his committed service to Habitat for Humanity, which also earned him a Presidential Service Award. He did his core academic subjects as well, including Math with his dad, History and AP American Government with me (and he got a year of college credit for it), some English with me and with another homeschooling mom in a small coop, and journalism at the local private school. A friend of mine who is a  college Geology professor taught him a Basic Science class, then a college level Geology class and I taught him Biology (using an Oak Meadow outline) and a Health class with his twin brothers who were 2 years and 11 months younger. Another friend tutored him in German. My son’s primary focus, however, was music. He worked hours a day to improve his piano skills since he had only started playing at age 12 1/2! He took private composing lessons each week for over two years with a wonderful graduate student. These lessons were well worth the time and money invested as my son eventually was accepted at the Jacobs School of Music in composing. He capped off the summer of his senior year with study in England at Cambridge University with the Cambridge Scholars Program for which he also received college credit.

My twins decided to follow in their older brother’s footsteps with Clonlara but definitely to the beat of a different internal drummer! One of the twins really wanted to experience high school so he attended full time for about a semester in order to get a varsity letter in tennis. When he accomplished that goal he decided to come home again and homeschool. This son never particularly enjoyed academics but loved sports and real world experiences. So, I helped him focus on sports (tennis and weightlifting and biking) and volunteer work. He became a superb volunteer and ended up getting not only the Presidential Service award but the gold medal level of the Congressional Award, presented in Washington DC. Some of his volunteer work included helping out at a music and performing club for teens, giving tours at the history center, and working in the Big Brother program. He also has worked in restaurants for pay since he was 15. He started his own rock band and performed locally and was an excellent drummer. He took an honors History class and an English class at the local high school. He also traveled to Ireland and did volunteer work with children in Belfast. He is now in his sophomore year at college majoring in International Relations and planning to take a year off to volunteer in Americore.

My other twin was a more internal, quiet child. He is quite artistic and  had private art lessons in high school with two professional artists. One was a watercolorist and the other was an illustrator. He also studied with a cartoonist. He decided to take most of his classes through Clonlara and with me (including a computer web design course through Clonlara’s online program called Compuhigh). He also had a private tutor in computer programming and built his own computer with his tutor’s help. He created a line of watercolor stationary sketches of our Memorial Garden in Maine which he sold locally and won one art competition (Walk for The Animals tee shirt contest) and placed third in another. He began taking a studio art class at Indiana University his junior year but decided that year to discontinue art. Instead he focused on creative writing and attended two creative writing classes at the local high school. He wrote some poetry and one of his poems was submitted online and was a regional finalist. Most of his volunteer work was done at the public library or for a handicapped lady. He too won a Presidential Service Award. He also enjoys music and is a good guitarist. This son found college a much more challenging environment his freshman year and ended up taking a semester off and has now returned to school part time as a possible Creative Writing major and will be helping his dad do some web design work for his business.

My sons had quite different journeys through high school, and there were definitely emotional and academic bumps along the road to college. I tried to balance letting them make their own choices (and mistakes!) with guiding them in directions that I felt would help them grow into more capable, skillful and compassionate human beings. It has been a demanding adventure at times that revealed some of my own weaknesses as a parent and teacher but was also exciting and worthwhile. There were a few times in English and History that I felt I taught according to the inspiration of Waldorf subject matter but primarily it was my heartfelt commitment to their individual growth that was the biggest factor in the fulfillment of their home high school education.


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