Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Very Liberating Volume

A review of: CHC’s New High School of Your Dreams by Nancy Nicholson

Review by Mary C. Gildersleeve

Nancy Nicholson has just finished High School of Your Dreams – a long-anticipated 200-plus spiral bound pages of information for your high schooler. Nicholson has created a curriculum that’s flexible and fits the needs of different kinds of students. In fact, based on the information and advice in this book, I have decided to build my own high schoolers’ curriculum rather than relying on a canned curriculum!

This volume is very liberating to a homeschooling mom who believes in adapting the coursework to the student, focusing on learning over just passing tests, and still getting the student a good "leg up" on post high school living.

The first third of the book discusses developing a record-keeping system so that at the end of the high school time, the student has a valid transcript that would be accepted at most school and work places. She shows you how to transfer volunteer, internship or work hours into credit hours applied to the transcript.

This is NOT a book for those who need everything clearly scheduled and organized. This is a book for those who like to do their own searching and finding the best resources. Nicholson gives lists of suggested books, websites, essay topics and Church teachings. But it’s all up to the student and her parents to develop the individual “High School of Your Dreams”.

This book teaches the parent and student how to look for and find options to traditional subjects and ways of doing high school. She stresses that the student should be doing this resource work WITH the parent. The student needs to have buy-in with the plan throughout.

I love the way it embraces Catholicism (which you can use or not depending on your own household) through links to Catholic teachings on the various subjects. I also really appreciate the way she encourages the student to LEARN, not just study for tests.

In the back of the book there are sample charts including lesson planning forms, monthly hours’ charts, transcripts and a sample diploma. I would like CHC to have these available on-line – so you could download them right into your computer.

There are a few downsides to this book. I think to fully benefit from this “program”, you need to buy it and digest it while your student is a 7th or early 8th grader – possibly much earlier than a parent is ready to start discussing! That said, I think there is still great value to this book even if your children are already in high school.

I also found that some of the subjects are a bit deficient in their coverage of what the student should do (lack of links or creative suggestions). But, again, she has given you so many great examples that the savvy parent and teen could easily ferret out the information they need.

There is a lack of emphasis on the standardized tests. Nicholson implies that the SATs and ACTs are not as important as the portfolio and transcript. While this may be true for some schools, I would have liked more explanation of prepping the kids to take these standardized tests. From all that I have read, the test scores are often the “first” cut for applicants to most colleges and universities.

Those deficiencies aside, I was amazed at the scope of the solutions that Nicholson and CHC have created here. This answers so many questions parents have trying to get their children through and beyond high school. It’s a wonderful resource and well-worth the purchase price. It opens so many doors and helps parents and students go beyond the traditional high school experience.

Catholic Heritage Curriculum publishes this high school resource – as well as many other excellent Catholic homeschooling products. CHC is available on the Web at: http://www.chcweb.com/catalog/index.html or by calling 1-800-490-7713.


margot said...

HI Mary,
Great review - thank you for making it so comprehensive.

I wanted to comment about the SAT and ACT relevance. I took a class to maintain my certification last year and we talked a lot about testing. While portfolios and transcripts are important, and probably more authentic assessment, nothing is as telling for college success as the SAT/ACT test score. It is the NUMBER ONE most reliable indicator of a student's ability to complete a program. (They have tracked the test scores and correlated them with the grades and gradution statistics of those students. They also tracked by just transcript grades). This has been verified by so many studies that many (most) colleges do indeed use the test scores as the first cut. You can have a fantastic portfolio with lots of volunteer work and community leadership and still not get what you want for college.

Luckily homeschoolers have made strides into some colleges which look at the whole child and not just the test score, but that is not the norm. Sadly, if they can't get past the test score, they won't see the whole child. This is particularly true of large universities that do not have the time to peruse a portfolio, but can quickly glance at a test score and sort applications based on that.

I don't mean to sound doom and gloom about this; it is just the way it is. If you want to compete, you really must have that test score.

Mary G said...

That's what my dh heard at the private school where he teaches. GPA isn't even much used as an indicator. It's the "objective" test scores.

I think there still are some schools (none of which we can afford) that will look at the individual first, but these are becoming more and more rare.

The big schools do have people looking at these things; so if you can get to the PERSON, it's possible things can be inidividualized.

just a thought....