Junior Year Reflections || Homeschooling || 2017

So…I’m closing out another school year, and I wanted to write a blogpost about how my Junior Year went. (Yes, I know, I’m gonna be a senior next year. I can’t believe it either). I hope this post is helpful for anyone who’s looking to homeschool in high school, or wondering what classes to take, or stuff like that. Although my family and I have been blessed by a lot of guidance through our homeschool group, there were still SO MANY things that I just wish I’d known, or that I could’ve done better on.

Junior Year Reflections.jpg

I’m giving you permission to not read this post at all if you’re interested! This post is mainly for my own records, and a link for me to give to others when they ask ‘Oh, so what exactly did you do in high school?”

Again, like last year, I’m going to divide this into classes, tests, and extracurricular activities.

I took AP Lang and AP Calc BC this year, both online. As I’ve stated before, I don’t do particularly well with online classes, and this year, honestly, just proved that again. Both the courses were asynchronous, which meant that there was no lecture, and you just worked through the course subject on your own at your own pace, every week for AP Lang and every day for AP Calc.

AP Lang wasn’t too bad. I took it through Bluetent Online with Mrs. Brigid Thompson, and let me just say, Mrs. Thompson is AN AWESOME teacher. She was very encouraging, and was incredibly supportive throughout. I felt like the asynchronous course worked out really well for AP Lang: I learned just through forum discussions with classmates and readings, and I didn’t really miss the lectures at all. At some parts of the school year, I felt like there was a *bit* too much discussion, but overall, the courseload felt about right for an AP level course. I highly, HIGHLY recommend Mrs. Thompson’s English courses, and I’m taking AP Literature with her next year. Overall, I felt about 80% confident about the AP exam itself, and I’m *hoping* for a 5. It was the first actual AP test that I actually felt confident about, so there’s that. (I’ll talk about the test later on). We had to write a final paper about technology and reading (lowkey turned mine in two months late, oops).

AP Calculus, on the other hand, was another story. I took AP Calc through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers with Mrs. Gilleran. I feel sure that the course was a really good course, but I just wasn’t expecting the coursework to be so heavy. I was behind by the third day of class. Unlike AP Lang, I feel like this course would really benefit from a live/video lecture. Without that, I was basically learning by myself. In addition, there was very little practice. Every day, we would read a section of the textbook and do some online exercises. Having been taught with Saxon math for most of my advanced math (ie, after algebra), I need a lot of practice problems to completely understand the concept, and this had none of that. This course mainly relied on good problem solving skills (which I don’t really have), and you were supposed to ‘master’ a topic after doing 5 or so practice problems, after which you wouldn’t see that topic again until the chapter test. I struggled a lot there too. If I were to have done *all* the work assigned every day, I would have spent an easy 5 or 6 hours a day just doing math. (and um, ew, no?)

On top of all that, in December, Mrs. Gilleran went and got cataract surgery. While she DID do it over Christmas break, she hadn’t been able to see very well before it, and so couldn’t do a bunch of the administrative type tasks, which was annoying. AND THEN, in March, which is the start of AP Test prep, she had a heart attack and had to have open heart surgery. Although I understand that was inevitable, we didn’t have a substitute teacher, we just had to plow through the rest of the coursework on our own.  By the time she had recuperated enough to give us instruction, it was April and we all had to take practice test after practice test. Overall, this class was just. . .unnecessarily difficult and poorly structured. I *did* get some of the basics, but I’m incredibly uncertain of myself in calculus, and I’m planning to take essentially the same course again next year, although definitely not THIS exactly class.

For sciences, I took physics at a local homeschool co-op like thing. There’s nothing much to say about it…the teacher was AWESOME: he was lighthearted and fun, while teaching you and making sure you understand the concepts. There was very little homework, despite mastery of the concepts, which was AWESOME, and I really appreciated that, because if there’d been a lot of time involved in that, I’d have been sunk. For our final project, we had to build bridges with popsicle sticks and glue. That was fun, although it consumed my entire life for a week XD

I took world history at home this year, using Abeka’s World History book in conjunction to some Sonlight reading. I took notes on the vocabulary, the outline, the timeline, and answered the questions in the back. Honestly, at this point in the school year, I just want to get it over with, and wish that I hadn’t given myself so much busy work (I could easily have just read the chapters and answered the discussion questions…but NOOOO, I had to write down ALL the bolded words, and ALL the dates, and ALL the topics they covered, and then EXPLAIN all of them). As usual, Abeka was a bit extra in defending Christianity…always portraying Christians as the only people worth mentioning throughout history. If I’d learned and accepted world history as they presented, it would go something like this: “The people who didn’t accept God all killed each other and died, but the Christian civilizations had the upper hand because God helped them, so that’s why America exists, one nation under God, hallelujah, praise the Lord.” Obviously, they did teach history, but their bias was a bit much.

The other class I took at home was Chinese (because, heck, I specialise in weird things). The warning that Chinese was hard wasn’t a joke, y’all. I can speak the best, then read, than write. (Also like brush strokes? Like I couldn’t write already and now I also need to remember the order to write the darn words in?) The pinyin (chinese in english) thing was really helpful, because I could more easily connect spoken words to written words. I’m still not done with that yet either (again, self-assigned busywork), but, hey.

I also took an extracurricular course, called “Study Skills and Time Management” at the same place I took physics. Aside from the fact that the class was meant for middle schoolers going into high school and taught stuff that I’d already had to implement into my life to keep from failing high school, and life in general, this class was decent. The teacher was really nice, and it was a nice easy class, although so completely unnecessary. I might recommend it for a middle-schooler looking for an easy-ish class to take, but not for a high schooler. We had to make about 8 weekly charts of 24 hour logs, so literally EVERY. SINGLE. THING. we did throughout the day, to see where our time went, and that was pretty interesting.

As for hour-logging classes (it’s legal for me to log 120 hours of a ‘thing,’ and count it as a credit), I did Bible, PE, and music.

Bible was pretty straightforward: I logged the time I spent doing Bible stuff, like doing devotions, or going to youth group, or going to church. There’s just that. I need it to graduate XD

PE: Again, a plethora of PE-like things I did, like swimming, golfing, or hiking. There’s not really a need for me to do more PE, because, like, I’m the most unphysically active person ever, and I’ve already gotten my credits, but apparently colleges like seeing PE credits, so I’m including it XD

Music was a big part of my life, as expected. I took private lessons in flute and piano, and also played flute and bassoon in band. I had new teachers in both flute AND piano, and they are both great, although my flute teacher is moving away, so I’m going to have to look for a new one again. Piano, again, wasn’t one of my focuses. I did increase my repertoire by a bit, and that was nice, but I didn’t really spend a tonne of time practicing. I also increased my flute repertoire because of private lessons, and also worked on tone and stuff like that. I was also first flute in band, and that was lots of fun, because I got to play some solo-y stuff, and that was cool. I also got to play flute for a few sections in jazz band, and that was super cool. (As a sidenote, if you’re playing flute in jazz band, please don’t forget to bring your flute on stage during the concert and have to sight read the bassoon part during the concert? Thanks. Sincerely, Learned That The Hard Way). As for bassoon, I played it during jazz band, and nowhere else XD Honestly I’m not sure where to go for bassoon, and was contemplating giving it up completely. However, our bassoonist in band graduated this year, so I *might* be called upon to play it? I don’t know yet.

That’s it for my classes. Now for tests.

As I mentioned earlier, I took the AP Lang and AP Calc BC tests, and also took the PSAT, 3 SAT tests, and 2 ACT tests.

The PSAT was the first test I took this year, mainly because juniors just need to take it. I scored 10 points below last year’s (boo) but it was still decent. It really wasn’t good for much though because I didn’t make the NMSQT thingie.

I took an ACT 6-week course, but that honestly didn’t help too much? It was fine for reviewing test taking strategies etc but it wasn’t like “ooh now I can easily score 5-10 points higher!” kind of thing. We were supposed to take one before the course started (December) then another one after (June, because I couldn’t make the April one), so I took both of those and we’ll see how that goes. The December went pretty darn well so I hope I could at least match that on the June one!

The SATs are a similar story, except that I just didn’t take a prep course. I did do some prep via Khan Academy, so there’s that, but aside from that, it was pretty self-taught. I got a decent (but not good enough yet) score in December with a terrible essay score, and an okay (10 points lower) March score, and I’m hoping that the June one is my last one!

The AP Lang test, as I mentioned earlier, was the first AP test I’d taken that I actually felt prepared for ever, thanks to the practice tests and essays that I got in my course. I was up too late the night before, though, so I may or may not have fallen asleep for the last fifteen minutes of multiple choice? The essays were okay though, even though I had so much to write and felt like I ran out of time a little towards the end, but overall, I feel pretty good about it.

AP Calc? As expected, it was the mirror opposite of AP Lang. The multiple choice was actually comparatively more easy than I’d expected, but the free response made  up for that. It. Was. Hard. Again,I’m taking calculus next year again since I can’t imagine that I did well on it.

Overall, I had lots of testing and it wasn’t fun waking up early (ha! #homeschooler) but they themselves were fine. I also had two stints (December and June) of taking the SAT and ACT on consecutive weeks, so that was interesting…

As for extracurricular activities, I basically did the same things as last year: 4H, Science Olympiad, and band.

I only really did 4H for the first semester, then had to stop because of a conflict. Well technically I’m still in 4H, but I’m no longer as active in it as I was. I finished my Diamond Clover Level 5 this year, which was fun.

As for band, as I’ve mentioned, I was first flute (mainly because the first flute last year graduated lol) and also played bassoon (as a bari sax) in jazz band. There’s not much to say…band’s always fun and I love every single moment of it.

And then…Science Olympiad. I did all repeat events this year: Experimental Design, Anatomy (nervous, endocrine, and sense organs, of which I did the latter two mostly), Helicopters, and *restrains self from using all caps* Rocks and Minerals. It was lots of fun because I already had most of what I was supposed to do ready, such as knowing how to build helicopters or having a rocks and minerals binder, or knowing how to make aan anatomy  notesheet, or knowing what I was supposed to do for experimental design. This year we also went to my first invitational, which was fun (despite the fact that it was a week before regionals, and that made it a bit nervewracking). Like last year, we got first at Regionals and second at States, so it’s yet another year of no nationals.

Aside from extracurriculars for me, I was also an AWANA Cubbies leader for my second year. I had three kids in my group, one from last year, and two new ones. One of them, I’d known since before she was born, so that was fun.

I also babysat a couple times, and I also started teaching piano. I started out the year a little unsure of myself (who wouldn’t? It’s determining whether a kid will love music?) but overall, I felt like either I was at least a little competent in teaching, or else the kids managed to learn stuff out of my blundering. One or the other. XD

That about wraps up my Junior year…it felt very long and tedious, but then also really not at the same time. Soli Deo Gloria. 😊😊

 

 

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