Self-Directed High School Homeschooling - Scholar Phase in Our Home
Updated: Jan 5, 2022
Over the last year, our homeschool rhythm has been shaken up as my 14yo daughter Alina has entered self-directed Scholar Phase. For years, we have followed the same general homeschool routine (with a few changes as my kids got older). Alina's Scholar Phase is a welcome change, but it also means I've had to re-figure out how to make our homeschool flow smoothly.
Herein I'll share with you some info about Scholar Phase, how it has worked in our home, and a peek into Alina's first semester.
Phases of Learning
The overarching philosophy that has made our homeschool thrive is Leadership Education (also known as Thomas Jefferson Education or TJED). Leadership Education focuses on preparing each child for his/her own unique mission in life. In the TJED system, there is a strong emphasis on honoring children's developmental phases in their education.
Young kids are wired differently than adults, and their ideal education needs to take that into account. Young adults, too, have their own unique developmental needs.
Our homeschool up until now has focused largely on character development and instilling a strong Love of Learning in my kids. This was done in preparation for the teen years, when kids become developmentally ready to engage in committed study in Scholar Phase.
What is Scholar Phase?
When kids have developed strong character and enjoy learning, they naturally progress into Scholar Phase in the teen years. In Scholar Phase, the teen engages in self-directed study of a wide range of topics with increasing ability and commitment.
Scholar Phase typically lasts from ~13-17 years old. It does not have a set starting age, as it really depends on each child's unique developmental timeline. During Scholar Phase, the youth's study hours increase over time, such that she/he will eventually be studying 8-12 hours per day. However, Scholar Phase starts with a much smaller amount of committed study time.
Two Scholar Phase Guideposts
After dabbling with setting some educational goals for herself over the last couple years, my 14yo daughter Alina decided she was ready to officially embark on Scholar Phase about 6 months ago. For me, this was exciting and daunting all at the same time. "This thing I read about is really happening! But *how* is it supposed to work?!"
It was time to refresh my memory of what Scholar Phase actually looks like and how to make it work well. Two resources that have been tremendously helpful are:
Chapters 6 and 7 of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille
Hero Education: A Scholar Phase Guidebook for Teens, Parents and Mentors by Oliver DeMille
(If your kids are 10yo+ and not yet in Scholar Phase, I highly recommend that you read these ahead of time so you have a good initial grasp on the concepts. Then you can quickly refresh yourself when your kids actually reach Scholar Phase.)
Scholar Phase in Our Home
With guidance from those two books, we implemented Scholar Phase for my daughter last semester. Alina and I started by developing a Scholar Contract and Book List.
The purpose of the Scholar Contract is to document Alina's learning goals, the changes to her overall list of responsibilities, and her plan for achieving her self-directed Scholar goals. Alina is still participating in our morning Breakfast School block, which includes some math, history, and science throughout the week. A few days each week, she has a dedicated time block for Scholar Time.
The Scholar Contract also includes a daily report about what Alina worked on in her Scholar Time. This daily check-in provides accountability, a chance for course-corrections as needed, as well as an opportunity for Alina and me to discuss what she has read and learned. Here are snapshots of Alina's first Scholar Contract and her daily written reports.
The Scholar Contract is not set in stone. Rather, it is a work in progress that needs to flex with other changes in our overall lives. Thus far, it has worked well for us to re-work the Scholar Contract every ~6-8 weeks.
The Book List
As a self-directed Scholar, Alina develops her own curriculum of books to read (with my guidance). As recommended in Hero Education, Alina worked on a list of 10 books at a time.
Alina’s First 10 Books List
Scarlet Pimpernel by Orczy (with Mentoring in the Classics Introduction and Debrief)
The Emperor’s Soul by Sanderson
Conversations with God: Book 1 by Walsch
Little House in the Big Woods (with Mentoring in the Classics Introduction and Debrief)
Math Doesn’t Suck by McKellar
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by Gatto
Pollyanna by Porter
The Rithmatist by Sanderson
Intelligence by DeMille Robinson
Alina's First Semester in Scholar Phase
Overall, Alina's first semester in Scholar Phase went very well! Naturally, it took some time for us to adjust to the new rhythm and there were a few small bumps along the way. On he whole, though, it was a great first experience for both of us in learning how to implement Scholar Phase in our home.
Completing the Book List
Alina completed her First 10 Books list, and also ended up adding in a few other classics including Heidi and The Fourth Turning:An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny.
Alina is an avid reader, so she also continued to read many other fiction books in her spare time, such as Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman and the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan.
Towards the end of the semester, Alina had a couple books from her 10 Book List that had not been completed (including her math book). We talked about whether it was important to her to finish these books by the end of the semester, and ways that she might want to structure her time in order to meet this goal. Ultimately, the decision was up to her.
She ended up deciding to push through and complete these books before Thanksgiving, as she was looking forward to a month-long Scholar Break in December. She worked for several hours a day on finishing her math book in the last week, by her own choice. This was a good experience for her in seeing that she could decide to push hard in order to meet her goal.
Literary and Artistic Pursuits
Besides reading, we wanted to make sure that Alina's Scholar Phase also gives her time to work on her other goals and interests. There is so much more to being educated than just academic study, and Alina is passionate about writing, art, and sewing.
During her Scholar Time, Alina has the option to work on her writing, art, and creative projects. She is working on writing several books, and Scholar Time gave her the opportunity to dedicate some more time to this.
Alina also found that it worked well to engage in her ongoing sewing projects while listening to classic audio books. Additionally, she started working through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and utilized Art for Kids Hub for additional drawing practice.
Audio Books, Videos, and Other Electronic Media
There is great value to utilizing electronic media in the form of audio books, art lessons on YouTube, Mentoring-in-the-Classics, typing lessons, etc. Alina has the option to use these learning tools during her Scholar Time.
We both recognize, though, that there is a potential pitfall if Alina comes to rely too much on utilizing electronic media in her studies. Therefore, Alina and I agreed that she would have no more than an hour per day of electronic media during her Scholar Time.
In order to make sure that Alina maintains physical health during Scholar Phase, she is encouraged to make physical activity a regular part of her Scholar Time. She uses an under-desk-elliptical machine to get physical activity while reading, and is also allowed to use yoga videos as part of her one-hour-maximum per day of electronic media.
We know from past experience that having something to look forward to is a big motivator for Alina in doing things that may be difficult or tedious. So, throughout the semester, whenever Alina was having a hard time meeting her Scholar Phase goals, we looked to incentives to help boost her motivation.
For instance, when she was having difficulties with making math practice a regular part of her Scholar Phase, she was able to give herself a "reward" by doing an Art Hub for Kids video at the completion of each math chapter in her book.
Towards the end of the semester, Alina used the incentive of a a month-long-break in order to push herself to complete her 10 Books List.
We all need breaks sometimes, and it was to be expected that Alina would need periodic breaks from Scholar Time. As described in Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, whenever Alina needed a break, she was free to revert back to her pre-Scholar Phase routine.
On those days, Alina resumed participating in our family school time as well as doing additional daily chores (which had been removed from her list of responsibilities for Scholar Phase).
Planning for Next Semester
Alina tends to like change as opposed to unvaried routines. So, for the next semester, she is planning to use TJED High to guide her Scholar studies.