Academically rigorous secular curriculum options? - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-21-2013, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Eva isn't feeling challenged by what we're currently doing. She'll be starting "8th grade" next fall age-wise. My local community college offers classes for homeschoolers, but they're geared toward high schoolers. We've been relaxed/eclectic homeschoolers so far. I'm not sure what, if anything, is out there for academically gifted teens who aren't religious homeschoolers.


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Old 03-21-2013, 07:01 PM
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My oldest has the same issues.  We have found the Art of Problem Solving to be challenging for math.  She is using pre-algebra this year.  She has been plowing through the last volume of Easy Grammar.  It isn't especially challenging, but she doesn't care for grammar and this "gets the job done".  She uses vocabtest.com online for vocabulary work.  We made an effort to learn a bit of chemistry with a gentle introduction (Ellen McHenry's Elements and then the American Chemist Society's free middle school chemistry program online).  However, neither of those were particularly challenging, but they were interesting.  Other than that, she has been doing self directed unit studies.  This is where we see the most growth.  For example, she was interested in photography.  She researched how a camera worked, learned about the history of the camera, etc and finally culminated in taking an afternoon photography class by a local photographer.  She learned a ton--it was a class for adults primarily, so it wasn't watered down.  She reads a ton, belongs to a bookclub and now a spin off "writer's group" and "shakespeare club".  We were lucky to find that bookgroup.  It is not religious, though some members are.  It provides my daughter with a lot of wonderful people and experiences.  

 

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Old 03-21-2013, 09:56 PM
 
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Have you read The Well Trained Mind?  Classical Education is very rigorous, and can be done in a secular manner.

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Old 03-21-2013, 10:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I haven't read WTM. It seems to be very popular with Christian homeschoolers.


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Old 03-22-2013, 08:42 AM
 
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Check it out from the library - I think you will be pleasantly surprised. :)

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Old 03-22-2013, 10:08 PM
 
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We are using it secularly. It's a tad challenging at times (to do it in a secular manner) but so far worth the effort.


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Old 03-22-2013, 11:17 PM
 
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I'll second the recommendation for Art of Problem Solving. I tried intro to algebra in 7th with my gifted middle dd (11 turning 12 at the time) and it was too much for her to do without parental guidance. A year or so later it would have been perfect. Very challenging, beautifully presented.

In terms of "rigorous" I'm not really sure what you mean. Are you referring to the amount of work required, or the amount of structure, the presence of external accountability or the amount of intellectual challenge? We haven't done much that has a lot of work, or a lot of structure, but we have found some cool resources with a fair bit of intellectual challenge. We've liked a number of the Teaching Company's DVD series for college freshman courses. The Joy of Science, and some of the World History offerings, for example. My kids have really liked the Campbell AP Biology textbook and its on-line package (virtual labs, etc.). One of my dd's really enjoyed the Cambridge Latin series, another loved Rosetta Stone and DuoLingo for second language learning. Browsing used bookstores for slightly-out-of-date college textbooks has been a productive avenue for us: one of my kids learned the meat and potatoes of a college intro to psychology course, another an anthropology of ancient cities course, another is using a survey of architectural history text (albeit in a very casual way; she's only 10 so not looking for college-level academic challenge). But those have been really useful for my kids.

I will admit though that my kids have ended up attending school, either part-time or full-time, once they reached about 10th grade age. And that's largely because they wanted external structure to their learning -- and in our remote rural location school was about the only way for them to get that. They had resources and self-directed options that contained sky's-the-limit amounts of intellectual challenge, but they wanted someone (not themselves, and not me or their dad) to create structure and accountability for them. They wanted peers and teachers to create that community of scholastic pursuit for them. And they've been happy for it. I think it's not uncommon for homeschooled (or unschooled, in our case) kids this age to begin to want an externally-imposed scholastic rigor. So if you haven't already, I would dig a little into precisely what it is your dd wants to change. What would her ideal study of, say, science or world history look like at this stage? Is it structure and accountability she's craving, or intellectual challenge and a larger workload? If you can tease that apart, you may avoid making mistakes as you adjust to her changing needs.

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Old 03-28-2013, 02:36 PM
 
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I agree with the Well Trained Mind. VERY easy to secularize. I would avoid Apologia like the plague. REAL Science Odyssey has a new good biology program out. Art of Problem Solving is good for some students. Otherwise Saxon or Singapore are secular and thorough. Teaching Textbooks is another option. Oak Meadow is good, but pricey and not as "rigorous", but there is a lot of room to add things in.

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Old 04-16-2013, 02:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by UlrikeDG View Post

Eva isn't feeling challenged by what we're currently doing. She'll be starting "8th grade" next fall age-wise. My local community college offers classes for homeschoolers, but they're geared toward high schoolers. We've been relaxed/eclectic homeschoolers so far. I'm not sure what, if anything, is out there for academically gifted teens who aren't religious homeschoolers.

 

Is it challenges she's craving or is she just craving more captivating and fascinating intellectual experiences? You might also want to check out the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum for ideas. I know a couple of the people who've been associated with that group for quite awhile, and they have a lot of first hand experience.  - Lillian

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Old 04-16-2013, 04:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all your feedback. :)

 

I think part of the problem is that a lot of our long-term planning is either in my head or in my notes. She doesn't know where it's going next. I'm going to create a chart or list or some sort of visual "plan" so she knows where she's going beyond just, "We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

 

She's also highly driven. If she's not doing something, she feels like she should be. I think I need to "schedule" some time for her to relax each day, so she doesn't feel like she has to fill that time with something more "productive."

 

I do like the look of Oak Meadow's literature curriculum. I think we'll switch to that. For math, I'm torn. We've been using Khan Academy, and I really like it. I'm hoping if I help her use the goals function on that, she'll feel better about her progress.

 

I'll look into REAL Science Odyssey. I've never found a science curriculum I'm happy with. I like the idea of TOPS, but I never manage to get around to DOING it. I loved Singapore Math, but their Science was disappointing. 

 

And, we'll keep talking about it all over the summer.

 

Thanks again, everyone. And if you have any more suggestions, post them. 


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Old 04-16-2013, 07:10 PM
 
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She's also highly driven. If she's not doing something, she feels like she should be. I think I need to "schedule" some time for her to relax each day, so she doesn't feel like she has to fill that time with something more "productive."

 

What a great idea! I think that's something that we all should probably do for ourselves.  smile.gif

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Old 04-16-2013, 11:04 PM
 
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She doesn't know where it's going next. .......

 

 And if you have any more suggestions, post them. 

 

My suggestion is to involve her in the planning and execution. She's academically driven and almost in 8th grade: why is she not doing the majority of the planning (with your facilitation and support, of course) already? I really think it's time to start passing it off to her. Then she'll know where it's going next, because she's had a hand in deciding. As part of the process of guiding her through her own planning among other things you can talk to her about the importance of scheduling "chill time," and creating balance in her life. But I wouldn't do it for her! Help her understand the need, and learn how to create goals and plans and balance for herself.

 

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Old 04-18-2013, 08:55 PM
 
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As hard as this may feel, I'd plan in small increments. It's hard to predict when the leaps will happen, and what direction their interests will take.

 

Off the top of my head, a few things we've liked that would work at that age, I think:

 

AoPS--can't say enough good things

Excavating English (linguistics/history of English)

 

for fun, supplemental math:

Math A Human Endeavor (textbook with interesting problems, thoughtfully arranged)

Historical Connections in Mathematics

Constructing the Universe (beautiful geometric drawing)

Math Without Words (fun and challenging puzzles)

 

a lot of people also seem to like the following for language arts:

Michael Clay Thompson series for language arts

Analytical Grammar

Institute for Excellence in Writing

 

We find a good balance to be some rigorous scaffolding materials, a few at a time (grammar, mathy stuff, linguistics, and Latin at the moment, but could also be copywork, spelling....), PLUS lots of time for going deeply into particular interests like history. With too much of the former, we wouldn't have the depth and richness; without any of the former, DS tends to feel a bit unmoored. Mine are younger, so take that for what it's worth :)

 

If you don't mind being inundated with suggestions, the well-trained mind forums are a fantastic resource for curriculum (not exclusively secular, but mostly so, and it's fine to request suggestions that are). A few searches will pull up more than you need. (We are not entirely classical, but find it to be a useful place to find challenging materials for specific subjects.)

 

Heather

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