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One Parent's response to Online AP English Literature taught by Maya Richman Inspektor....
Jacquie Reed, 4/29/2010

Jacquie Reed is a longterm homeschooling mother of Lauren (19) and Jackson (17), and a writer herself (we look forward to publishing future writings on a wide range of family and homeschooling topics in the future!). She wrote this letter to our daughter, Maya (Molly) Richman Inspektor, after receiving the mid-year evaluation of her son Jackson's progress in AP English Literature-- and I felt this would help many families gain a feel for what can be accomplished and experienced in an online interactive class. Most of our AP Online teachers ca be expected to send out detailed mid-year reports, helping parents gain insight into the course and how the students are doing. In sharing about her own homeschooling background, Jacquie shared that they'd been homeschooling for 7 years, "They have been great years for us. I was teaching high school in a private school where the children were attending in the lower school. When we decided to take the kids out and just punt for the rest of the year, Jackson was in 2nd grade and Lauren, our daughter was in 5th grade. We all loved it. When I asked them separately to make a list of pros and cons, they each had somewhere on that list, 'homeschooled kids like their siblings more.' They had realized it before I had. It is one of my biggest blessing on this journey." The Reed family lives in Washington state.

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Dear Mrs. Inspektor,

We just received your thoughtful and discerning progress report for Jackson. Thank you. We are so appreciative of the work, thought, sensitivity and (unless you are superhuman in your writing skills) the time you put into your instruction, assignments and your responses to all your students.

Regretfully I can’t read all the students’ essays and discussion questions, but I try to read a selection of them. I like to read each, gain a sense of the beauty or lack thereof, try to put it into words, and then read your response. Your response so often concretely and eloquently conveys what I feel, makes observations come into focus for me, gives strong understandable suggestions to the student for improvement, and leaves the writer with legitimate encouragement and hope. The grace, intelligence and humor in your responses is lovely.

In looking at this class last summer, my fear was that an online AP Lit class could not deliver in the discussion arena. In reality, Jackson has not missed out on the honing and sharpening that come from the verbal confluence of ideas and, due to the guidance of your questions and the additional reflection required by the process of writing, the class dialogues are more thoughtful and mature....

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Comments: 4


PHAA Bylaws Now Require Narrative Evaluations
Howard Richman, 4/28/2010

Starting with evaluations for the 09-10 school year, PHAA evaluators will need to write personal, narrative evaluations to maintain their standing in PHAA.

[Reprinted from Issue 107 of PA Homeschoolers Newsletter]

What makes our homeschool diploma program, Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency, different from the other six organizations recognized by the PA Department of Education? Well, there are lots of things:

  • Last I compared, we were the biggest -- 374 graduates in 2009.
  • We have the best student newsletter, The Excelsior.
  • We are state-wide and have two graduation ceremonies, in both Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
  • We have the best high school at home conference, held each July in Carlisle.

But all of those are superficial. What really makes our organization different is our high standards. We believe in excellence and do our best to attain it. Our latest bylaw change testifies to that: at our membership meeting on July 17, 2009 at our conference, our members unanimously voted to propose an amendment to the PHAA bylaws that would raise our standards regarding evaluation letters....

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Comments: 6


Results of PA Homeschoolers Eastern PA Volleyball Tournament on April 19
Howard Richman, 4/26/2010

A total of 46 teams participated in PA Homeschoolers first ever Eastern PA Spring Volleyball Tournament at United Sports Training Center in Downingtown on April 19. Two teams came from Fairfax Virginia; the others came from almost every region of Pennsylvania:

  • Western PA. There were two groups of teams from Western Pennsylvania, the Salt & Light teams from Beaver County and the Mustangs teams from Allegheny and Westmoreland County area.
  • North Central PA. There were two teams from North Central Pennsylvania area, the Shore Servers from Jersey Shore and the Leopards from Lewisburg.
  • Harrisburg Area. There were several groups from the counties surrounding Harrisburg including TNT and CAVA from the West Shore area, the Snypers from Snyper and Perry Counties, and CHESS from the Lebanon County area.
  • Rural Eastern PA. Teamworkz was from the northern part of Lancaster County, Petra from the New Holland area, Rockville from the Honeybrook area between Lancaster and Chester Counties, WOW was from Chester County, and the Air Raiders teams were from Berks County.
  • Philadelphia Area. The western suburbs were represented by the Hot Tamales and Hot Peppers and the northern suburbs by the Catalyst teams.

Here are the results:...

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Comments: 6


Encore! Home School Productions, a cooperative theater arts program, celebrates 10 years!
Nancy Emerson, 4/23/2010

Nancy Emerson is a long-time homeschooling mother of four-- and her youngest two children have loved being involved in the Encore! musical theatre productions for students in the CHESS cooperation learning program and another co-op program, The Learning Center. This type of huge endeavor, to professional standards, shows how far the homeschooling movement has come in 30 years-- few people would have thought something like this would be possible 'way back when'!

*Members of the cast of 'Suessical the Musical' getting ready for their big performance*

Why do already-busy homeschoolers decide to make a huge commitment to putting on a musical each spring?  For some students, it’s the love of theater.  For others, it’s the opportunity to get together with friends on a more frequent basis.  For most students, though, it’s a combination of the two.  And, for parents, it’s for the children!  However, they often find themselves benefiting from their show involvement as well.  I know I have.

Encore! Home School Productions is an all-volunteer, cooperative, non-profit theater arts program in central Pennsylvania.  It started as a drama class at a homeschool co-op....

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Comments: 2


How the Odyssey of the Mind program Gives Shape to Content; Using Art and imagination to Solve Problems.
Dianne Settino, 4/20/2010

Dianne Settino and her husband Linus Meldrum have been leading our first ever AP Studio Art: Drawing online with PA Homeschoolers this year-- within a month we plan to have an online art show of the students' amazing work completed for this outstanding course. Dianne and family live on a small farm in rural Juniata County, and she and her husband are the proud parents of two PHAA graduates (one now a graduate of Franciscan University and one completing her freshman year there), and one son now in 7th grade at home.

Four years ago when I heard about the Odyssey of the Mind program, I remember thinking, “where were you when I was a kid!?!”. This international creative problem-solving competition is all about the kind of imaginative art, learning and play activities that my family loves! In Odyssey, students learn to use creative skills of any and all types to solve one of five problems, and then present them when they compete at the local, state, and international level. One problem each year usually lends itself perfectly to an all-out art plan of attack. Go to www.odysseyofthemind.com for all the amazingly fun and exciting details! Since its inception, literally millions of students have enjoyed designing creative solutions to fun problems.

You may be thinking "FUN PROBLEMS!?" While my children were jumping with joy when the obligatory “creative” project was assigned in many co-op classes, some of the other children and their parents were groaning. As a school student, I can distinctly remember thinking that the most interesting math lessons were at the back of the math textbooks. They usually involved building models or tessellations or geometry. I eventually realized that we would never get to these. There were never enough weeks in the school year to get to the more experiential math. Each fall, a new textbook was assigned with the never-to-be-reached interesting lessons at the back. If you have a child who’s reluctant to learn a particular academic course of study it might be time to break out the lessons that we often never get to. Include more creative, "thinking outside of the box" assignments. Maybe one year you could do some of the end-of-the-year math lessons interspersed throughout the year.

Today, schools and families are trying to find ways to include creative aspects in all areas of study. If a bit of creative work is included throughout a child’s early education they probably won't dread these assignments. While it is important to learn the grammar to all subjects it is equally important to learn to use that grammar in ways that create content. This content can illustrate a student’s understanding of the subject’s ideas and concepts. A child that can take ideas and develop them into an interesting performance or presentation that teaches others is definitely learning. This type of creative sharing will also help them learn to love the process of learning. Teaching this way with even one subject will help the student think creatively across their curriculum.

Odyssey of the Mind requires the students to thoroughly understand the subject matter needed to solve their problem. As they reform the content of the solution into a performance/presentation the resulting shape is sometimes a hysterical dramatic presentation.  At other times, ity’s an awesome surprising vehicle of some sort. Young competitors are only limited by the project’s budget and their imagination!

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*one of Jessie Kusuma's self-portraits for AP Studio Art: Drawing*

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Comments: 5


Results of PA Homeschoolers Central PA Volleyball Tournament
Howard Richman, 4/16/2010

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The above photo shows the CHESS Masters, the top team in the top division at PA Homeschoolers Thirteenth Annual Central PA Co-ed Volleyball Tournament on April 5 at Messiah College. Pennsylvania Homeschoolers organizes three volleyball tournaments each year, one in eastern, one in central, and one in western Pennsylvania. Our Eastern PA tournament is at the United Sports Training Center in Downingtown on Monday (April 19). You are welcome to come and watch the action. Admission is free.

Here were the Final Standings at the Central PA tournament:...

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Comments: 13


Taking History Outside the Classroom: AP European History and Beyond
Meghan Bishop, 4/15/2010

Meghan Bishop is a PHAA homeschool graduate, and a graduate of Western Kentucky University (BA in History) and Indiana University (MA in History). She will be leading a 2nd section of our very popular online AP  European History course starting this fall-- you can read her full course description up on our www.aphomeschoolers.com website. I think you'll readily see that Meghan will bring the richness of her own homeschooling history studies, as well as her expertise gained from her university studies and professional work at many history museums and sites, to this course. It's great to have Meghan 'back' with us, this time as a teacher!

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*Meghan Bishop at her most recent job at the Tryon Palace Historical Site in North Carolina*

Stop for a moment.  Think of the word “history.”  What comes to mind?  What thoughts or memories does it conjure?

As you may well be aware, contrary to popular belief, history is not a subject that requires students to sit at a desk listening to a lecture or reading from a textbook for hours on end.  Teachers can bring history outside the classroom, into real life, and use it to educate students on an endless number of subjects.

The following article offers ideas for history education from my own homeschool, college, and career experience.  Starting in August 2010, I’ll be teaching AP European History online through PA Homeschoolers....

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Comments: 4


Project Fair 101 -- our first time with our elementary age kids!
Christine Whiteman, 4/13/2010

Christine Whiteman is a homeschooling mother of two delightful girls. Her piece here reminds me so much of earlier years for our own family, when all of our children also benefited from just this type of homeschool project fair. Having an event like this really us to focus in and create a meaningful and in-depth project-- having an audience and a deadline, as well as a fun culminating event with lots of other kids participating, is a real recipe for success. And these sorts of events really build momentum-- notice that Christine shares that her girls are already thinking ahead to their projects for next year's fair! I hope this inspires you to jump in and take part in any local homeschool project fair in your area-- or to start one!

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           In early March my family and I travelled to Grove City, PA to the Grove City Homeschool Project Fair, organized by Gaye Welton.  It was our first project fair experience, so we were a little nervous about what to expect.  We all had a great time and learned so much!  The fair itself is the climax of a journey involving research, writing, organization, presentation and, of course, the opportunity for your kids to immerse themselves in a topic that they want to learn more about.  Since there were over sixty-five entries from kids of all ages, my girls had the opportunity to see a wide variety of topics, presentation styles and displays.  As a mom, I really enjoyed seeing the displays and written papers prepared by other kids. 

                The Grove City Project Fair is structured so that each child is competing only against himself or herself.  The children are judged by two parents attending the fair, and at the end of the competition the children are given a ribbon based on their score of Good, Superior or Excellent.  This system avoids competition against other students and also avoids hurt feelings, but still offers some constructive criticism and praise for excellent work.   Since you , the homeschooling mom, are not the one scoring your own child’s work, the project fair is valuable both to you and your child in that there is a third party looking objectively at your child’s work....

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Comments: 2


Taking the Gap Year Gift
Michelle Deatrick, 4/8/2010

Michelle Deatrick has homeschooled her children for fourteen years; her daughter Elizabeth took several AP Online courses through PA Homeschoolers, and her son Alexander will take his first PA Homeschoolers’ AP class next fall.  Michelle is a part-time technical consultant and an award-winning writer whose work has been published in several literary magazines and the anthology Best New American Voices 2006.  She is currently at work on a novel.  Michelle and her family live on an 80-acre farm in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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I’d never heard the term “gap year” until, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, I met a new teacher in a nearby village, a young British woman who had deferred entrance to Cambridge in order to teach at a Kenyan elementary school.  Taking a gap year—deferring college, usually for a single year in order to pursue volunteer, internship, travel, or learning opportunities--has been  popular in England for decades.  Even Prince William spent a year volunteering in Chile--and mucking out stalls on a British dairy farm!  As a National Public Radio piece recognizes, the idea has taken root in the U.S. and is rapidly growing in popularity  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92528052  .

My homeschooled 18-year-old, Elizabeth, calls the choice to defer college “one of the best decisions of my life.”  The list of things she’s learned and accomplished in this year....

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Comments: 0


Homeschoolers Guide to the Recession
Howard Richman, 4/7/2010

[This article originally appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of the PA Homeschoolers magazine]

My wife and I sponsor online classes that prepare homeschooled high school students to take Advanced Placement exams so that they can earn college credit. I teach AP Macroeconomics, but we have teachers working with us that teach many other subjects.

At the beginning of this school year I was talking on the phone with Rachel Califf, the teacher of our AP U.S. Government course. I remarked that the registrations for her course were coming in heavier than ever. She pointed out that there was a presidential election coming up and interest in politics was higher than ever.

Economists don’t like to be upstaged, so this year they produced a worldwide recession. It certainly has increased interest in economics, hasn’t it?

Economists haven’t blown it this badly since 1929 when the Federal Reserve let credit almost disappear from the American economy. Since then, economists have learned how important it is to keep credit supplied to the economy. But they still haven’t learned how important it is to keep debt from growing, and that’s what caused the current worldwide recession....

 

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Writing Club Idea: Encouraging Kids to Write from Nature....
Susan Richman, 4/4/2010

Susan Richman, editor of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, has been leading a homeschoolers' Writing Club since her almost 33 year old son was 11 -- and she highly recommends this simple idea to other homeschoolers everywhere. Just find a group of kids of all ages, and arrange to meet at least once a month for about 2 hours at someone's home -- and of course the idea would work equally well at a homeschool co-op program. Here's an idea especially suitable to our spring weather right now, when everyone wants to get outside anyway:

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(Our grandkids at the beach-- lots of nature observing there!)

Nature Observations…

I want you to go outside—you are going to be really observing outdoors…. I don’t want you to do this just ‘from your mind’, but instead from genuine real experience.  I want you to look around and find something that just seems to call out to you, to pull your attention and your wonder, and then I want you to take an even closer look....

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Comments: 0



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