, would love an update on how school is going for your girls! <-- wrote this while you were submitting the above post... thanks!!
Fiona is back to home-based learning part-time. She's picked up an online Spanish course, because she's got an empty block at school and a less-than-challenging array of courses this semester. She's also doing some Grade 9 math tutoring, and helping the senior math teacher put together MathFest, which is part of a STEM day experience held at the high school for Grade 4-6 kids. She's putting together some sort of interactive stringed instrument (a single-string guitar-like thing, I think) to explore the role of fractions in musical pitch theory, which is kind of cool.
She'll have a spare block next semester too, but because she's going to miss almost a month of school she thinks it may be best to just leave it empty to allow for catching up on learning and assignments. If she were keen to graduate as soon as possible, she could fit in one of the last two courses required for her diploma (English 12 and Career Planning 12) and then take the final one online over the summer. But she wants to round out her senior courses with biology and calculus by doing at least one more year of high school.
One of the unfortunate repercussions of her rich unschooling past is that the electives her school offers, which normally you'd think would be great for an academically-accelerated student to take advantage of, are mostly things she's already delved into with some depth. We were looking through the elective list:
Art: took this last year at school and has done years of amazing homeschool art classes
Ceramics: did a term of children's pottery classes at the community Fine Arts College
Photography: did an intensive adult DSLR photography course and a big photography project portfolio at age 12, as well as a homeschoolers pinhole camera course where she learned B&W darkroom skills.
Psychology: worked through the entire MCAT psychology module at Khan Academy at age 11
Music (band, chorus or guitar): has so much piano, voice and string experience that her pace of learning would massively outstrip the class pace
Dance: already doing 12 hours a week of dance at a level beyond what is offered at school
"Fit For Life": see above, plus does dance-prescribed yoga and strength/conditioning workouts most days
Foods and/or Cafeteria Training: focused on cooking during several years of unschooling and can already cook circles around most adults, has her FoodSafe (government food-handling safety course certification) and has worked at a café as well as participating in large-scale catering operations
Sewing: did two terms of sewing classes and learned to create garments without printed patterns at the local "Stitch Lab" at age 12-13
Media Arts and Design: has done graphic design work for various non-profits for several years using a variety of software
Outdoor Education: has done lots of alpine hiking, overnight backpacking, extended kayaking, canoeing, downhill and XC skiing, and a 'project' at age 12 focused on learning survival skills like shelter construction, fire-starting, building snares and identifying edible plants
Theatre Arts: has done a two summer theatre workshops/productions including work on character development, set design, costuming and script-writing
There's no doubt that there are some things taught in some of these subjects that would be new to her if she were keen to extend her learning. And there are a few elective subjects they offer that she's barely touched on: TV production, digital modeling & computer animation, law, mountain biking & trail development, adventure tourism leadership and the various shop courses (woodworking, mechanics, automotive tech, drafting, metal fabrication). If she needed the credits, if she didn't already have such a well-rounded array of experiences and skills, it would be no big deal to sign up for something and do it. But to do extra credits when she's not particularly interested? Nope. Unschooling has left her not really needing or wanting to be pushed into doing structured courses simply to fill time and be exposed to things. She's been exposed to plenty.
So we're still grappling with the balance between stress and lack of challenge. Last year she felt too much stress from the workload of school and the busy-ness of her weekly schedule, or at least, enough stress that she got pushed into a negative spiral of insomnia and anxiety. This year is the opposite problem: she feels unengaged, unchallenged, like she has too much empty time. Is there a happy medium? We think the point of healthy balance for her must be as thin as a razor's edge!
Dance teacher emailed me asking whether she should be concerned about her "dramatic weight loss over the summer." Ughh. I hadn't noticed much, though her muscle mass in her legs is obviously diminished and now that see her in her ballet leotard it looks like she's probably lost 8-10 pounds which is 8 or 9% of her body mass. My older two girls flirted at the edges of having a disturbed relationship with food and altered body image during mid-adolescence, so I should have decent radar. (They both got things straightened out on their own, in time, without anything getting really problematic.) I've spent the last couple of days wondering and worrying about Fiona. Other than the weight loss, there are absolutely no red flags. She has a healthy, non-obsessive relationship with food, no apparent issues with body image, takes pride in having big muscles, is wanting to build up her legs and seems to be eating well with no secretive behaviour or quirks. Pretty sure it's just a combination of things: her work schedule over the summer interfering with meals, the fact that food at home (as opposed to in town during the school year) is all low-fat for her dad's benefit, and the lack of daily workouts at dance curbing her appetite and reducing her muscular training.
Still, need to keep watching.