Home Schooling in High School: Making a Four-Year Plan

Before you begin home schooling your ninth grader, you and your child should sit down and plan out, in general, what you will cover over the next four years. If you have already begun high school, making this plan should be a priority. In the state of Washington, an independent home schooling family must complete courses that approximate the courses that the public school students in their school district must complete before graduation. If you are home schooling through a private extension program, you are responsible to fulfill the graduation requirements of that private school. Other states will have other guidelines, but they should be similar. Be sure and learn about those guidelines from your state wide home school organization. They often have that information on their web site.

Most states would have similar graduation requirements. This can also vary depending on what the student plans to do after graduation. First, find out your state’s the minimum requirements for graduation. Second, find out what students planning on attending community college should do. Finally, find out the requirements for students who plan to begin at a four-year college.

Another variable is how credits are counted. Traditionally, a one-credit class in high school meets for 50 minutes for 180 days. These credits count 150 clock hours as one credit which is the equivalent of 50 minutes times 180. Schools have diversified this standard, so be sure you know how they will be counted in your state or school district. For the purpose of this article we will assume one credit as 150 clock hours. College bound students should earn approximately six credits each of the four years of high school, or three each semester. Most classes are one credit, but some are one-half.

Generally, students are required to earn 3-4 credits (or years) of English and Math. History or related classes comprise 2.5 – 3 years, including State History (if not studied in Junior High or Middle School), American History, and World History (and / or geography, government, economics). Lab Science and math based science is essential for those going into a related area in college. Students need two-three years of science. Other requirements or electives include physical education, health, occupations, foreign languages, and fine arts.

Other important considerations include:

  • “What does the student plan on doing beyond high school?”
  • If going to college, “What does the college require for admittance?”
  • Whether going to college, or not, “What job skills can the student learn to gain job experience and a means to help pay for college expenses?

Home school families may get help on these steps with variations of these two:

  1. Find a consultant that will help you in your initial planning and any time you need help.
  2. Find a private school extension program to plan with you and provide a constant guidance and possibly accredited diplomas.

For general information, including your state laws, statewide home school organizations and resources visit: http://www.hslda.org

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, MD – Chapter 5 – Midnight Resurrections – Stroke Victims Learn to Move and Speak Again

“Stroke is a sudden, calamitous blow. The brain is punched out from within. A blood clot or bleed in the brain’s arteries cuts off oxygen to the brain’s tissues, killing them. The most stricken of its victims end up mere shadows of who they once were, often warehoused in impersonal institutions, trapped in their bodies, fed like babies, unable to care for themselves, more, or speak. Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in adults.” P. 135

Doidge tells of Dr. Edward Taubs, “constraint-induced” movement therapy that operates on the principle of neuroplasticity. Doidge gives the example of Dr. Michael Bernstein, an eye surgeon who suffered a stroke, went through the Taub Therapy, and was able to return to his busy practice. This intensive two-week program went non-stop from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. five days a week. p. 132-135

Using a surgical procedure, Taub worked in an experimental lab where they were cutting a monkey’s afferent (sensory) nerves allowing no sensory input. This caused test monkeys to not sense where their limbs were in space, feel no sensation or pain when touched. Also working on this area, Nobel Prize winner, Sir Charles Sherrington, in 1895, “supported the idea that all of our movements occurs in response to some stimulus and that we move, not because our brains command it, but because our spinal reflexes keep us moving. This idea was called the ‘reflexological theory of movement’ and had come to dominate neuroscience.” P. 138 Spinal reflexes do not originate / involve in the brain. (example: knee reflex) F. W. Mott found that when he cut sensory nerves, not motor nerves, the monkey could not move that limb. “…he proposed that movement is based on, and initiated by, the sensory part of the spinal reflex, and that his monkeys couldn’t move because he had destroyed the sensory part of their reflex by deafferentation.” “Other thinkers soon generalized his idea, arguing that all movement, and indeed everything we do, even complex behavior, is built from chains of reflexes. Even such voluntary movements as writing require the motor cortex to modify preexisting reflexes.” p.139

Taub took this one step further, by putting the monkey’s good arm in a sling, the monkey was forced to use the one that had been deafferented. He wanted to apply this information to stroke patients who could not move their limbs. After further tests and much controversy, Taub laid Sherrington’s reflexological theory to rest. P. 141 Once there has been a trauma when sensory nerves have been disabled; there is a period of “spinal shock” that lasts from two to six months.  During that time, an animal may try to use affected limbs, but without reinforcement, it stops trying – learned nonuse. P. 141 Further, he learned that he could correct learned nonuse in monkeys. He, then wanted to apply this to stroke patients – addressing both massive brain damage and learned nonuse. After six years defending himself against PETA, he was then given a job and a grant to work at the University of Alabama in 1986.

The Taub Clinic – treatments:

  1. Grown-ups wear mitts and slings on good hands and arms for 90% of their waking hours.
  2. Many small rooms and one large room for exercises developed by Taub and physiotherappist, Jean Crago. “The Taub clinic always uses the behavioral technique of ‘shaping,’ taking an incremental approach to all tasks.” P. 147 For example:
    1. games that appear to be for children – as they relearn tasks
    2. pushing large pegs into pegboards
    3. grasp large balls,
    4. pick pennies out of a pile of pennies and beans
    5. 6 hours a day – 10-15 days straight (conventional – 1 hour – 3 times a week)
    6. patients get tired and nap
    7. mild stroke patients – nearly all recover; severe stroke patients – 50% recover

“What rewires patient’s brains is not mitts and slings, of course. Though they force them to practice using their damaged arms, the essence of the cure is the incremental training or shaping, increasing in difficulty over time. “Massed” practice – concentrating an extraordinary amount of exercises in only two weeks – helps rewire their brains by triggering plastic changes. Rewiring is not perfect after there has been massive brain death. New neurons have to take over the lost functions, and they may not be quite as effective as the ones they replace. But improvements can be significant …” p.  149-150

Doidge also tells of a young woman who had brain damage due to radiation treatment for a brain tumor. She also benefited from the Taub clinic. P. 150-154                Taub’s clinic uses “Constraint – Induced” therapy or CI. It also has been used for patients with speech aphasia (Broca’s area of the brain) — when an individual can not find words. Mitts and slings do not constrain the good side when the damage is to the speech area. “The ‘constraint’ imposed on aphasics is not physical, but it’s just as real: a series of language rules. Since behavior must be shaped these rules are introduced slowly. Patients play a therapeutic card game.” P. 154-155 Key elements:

  1. 4 people – 32 cards – 16 different pictures
  2. 1st – not point, but use language in any way they can
  3. Discard matches. Winner – one who gets rid of cards first.
  4. 2nd – must ask for by name, “Can I have the dog card?”
  5. 3rd – must ask by name politely, “Mr. Schmidt, may I please have a copy of the sun card?”
  6. Later – more complex cards are used (colors and numbers).
  7. Beginning – praised for simple tasks; Later – praise for more difficult tasks only. P. 155

Taub’s training principles:

  1. The closer to everyday life, the more effective.
  2. Training should be done in increments.
  3. Work should be concentrated into a short time. “massed practice” (like immersion for foreign language learning)

Taub’s methods have successfully treated other difficulties – children who had strokes in utero, those with cerebral palsy etc. Merzenich, Taub and others later demonstrated that neuroplasticity could affect larger areas than first seen. P. 159-163

This research and these activities are foundational to the neurodevelopmental approach. Read more about our work on our website: www.centerforneurodevelopment.com


Homeschooling in High School: How to Get the Most Out of a Good Planner

So, you plan to home school a high school student. Many parents have home schooled successfully through the lower grades but start to get nervous as high school approaches. While there are additional considerations, you can continue to home school successfully throughout high school. Unlike previous generations, we have a multitude of resources at our disposal. In this article, I will confine my comments to the elements and use of a good planner.
Parents and students that home school will find general and home school planners in abundant supply. Your first task is to find the right planner for your family. Consider these elements:

  •  Instructions on the use of the planner especially regarding high school including graduation requirements.
  •  Brief plan for 4 years of high school.
  •  Place for goals, objectives – long term (whole year); short-term (semester / quarter); weekly and daily.
  •  Record of hours spent on specific courses ( Generally 1 credit = 180 days x 50 minute sessions = 150 clock hours.)
  •  Forms to plan individual subjects / classes – i.e. required assignments, materials, grading criteria.
  • Place to record what has been accomplished.
  • Format that is easy to follow.
  •  Physical or digital – your preference.

Now that you have researched the possibilities and you have the chosen planner, you need to use it. For some, using a planner is difficult and for others it easily becomes your constant companion. Whether you are working with an organization which will validate the work done or if you will produce your own home school transcript, keeping records is essential. At the beginning, you and your child will need to work together on completing the necessary record of the work accomplished. Gradually, you will turn over the responsibility to your child and you will be more of a coach who looks it over from time to time.

  •  At first, plan with your child and meet at least daily around the planner.
  • Gradually, your child will take the responsibility and you will be the coach, meeting less and less frequently.
  • If at any time during this gradual transition, your child fails to follow through, do not be afraid to step back a little and stay on that step for longer before trying to take the next step. The amount of supervision and the length of time it takes for independence to be established vary from individual to individual.
  •  For those who have trouble, begin with a small portion of the planner and gradually add more tasks.
  •  Using pencil rather than ink allows for plans to change – which is so common in life.
  •  Making general plans, talking about more specifics and recording the information should occur before the beginning of a class (often in the fall, but could be anytime you begin a new course of study).
  •  As time goes on fill in with more specific information.
  • Have the planner handy during study time so that changes can be made or actual work can be documented.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Candice Childs and Diana McAlister of Academy Northwest / Family Academy have produced the following resources:

Homeschooling the High Schooler (a complete how to guide)

High School Your Way (a planner for high school students)

Teaching My Own (a planner for elementary students)


Academy Northwest  – an accredited school that champions “family-directed education.” http://www.academynorthwest.net

Family Academy offers – Able to Teach to parents who home school or want to home school http://www.familyacademy.org

A Book Review: Too Wise to Be Mistaken, Too Good to Be Unkind by Cathy Steere – Dealing With Autism

Years ago a lady from my church invited me to a seminar given by the neurodevelopmentalist that she worked with to help her son, Drew. I had been looking for a way to further my education with the goal of having better solutions for families who came to me with learning challenges. With my M.A. in Special Education I worked with home schooling families, but I noticed that the tools I had learned with that Master’s were primarily accommodating the learning challenges rather than eliminating them. I wanted to help more so I had begun a search for a way to actually help families in a meaningful way. This timely invitation led me to the neurodevelopmental approach.
That lady was Cathy Steere who has shared the story of her family’s journey with autism. When you read her book, Too Wise to Be Mistaken, Too Good to Be Unkind, you will know why I have been studying and applying the neurodevelopmental approach in my work ever since.
Amazingly, David and Cathy Steere did not have a diagnosis of autism until Drew was almost four years old. They felt like they had lost so much time, but the beauty of their story is that they had been faithfully following God’s Word in the training of Drew. They had focused on building his character and disciplining him according to God’s direction in His Word. All of that made the individualized neurodevelopmental plans that their neurodevelopmentalist, Cyndi Ringoen, eventually wrote for Drew much more efficient. Often, parents have to begin with getting behavior under control before they can make any progress at all. By not knowing they were dealing with autism, but knowing what the Bible taught about the nature of man and the nature of God, they proceeded with God’s plan for Drew and later their second son, Elliot.
Whether or not there are learning or behavioral challenges, any parent will find encouragement as you read this account. For those who are facing any sort of challenge, you will find comfort in knowing that God has given direction to parents in the form of principles. God will lead parents to professionals who can come along side to give encouragement and tools to work with your child to meet his needs. By reading this book, you will learn how the neurodevelopmentalist looks for missing pieces in development and teaches parents to do activities that stimulate the brain in a way that encourages that development.
Personally, I cry with the Steeres every time I read Cathy’s book. Some are tears of sorrow for the difficult times they experienced. Others, are tears of joy when Cathy wrote about the first time Drew ran to her for comfort, giving her his first awkward hug. Though often taken for granted, that simple action in a child with a condition like Drew’s, is a milestone in development. I count it a privilege to work with families like Drew’s because of the perseverance of these parents in researching and following through on whatever it takes for their children.

To order your copy: http://www.centerforneurodevelopment.com/search?searchwords=Too+Wise&searchsmall_4920=Search