Uncollege Gap Year

Uncollege is the brainchild of Dale Stephens, a homeschooled student who went on to become a regular college student. He never felt that he learned anything in college that he could not have learnt himself. That got him thinking about creating an experience for other college students who were going through the same process.

An experience where they could take a year off from college and get uncolleged. This was the term he used to mean helping students find their areas of interest, speed up their learning and staying happy as they moved on to the next stage of their lives. Going from students to productive citizens.

The typical student who enrolls with the organization for an uncollege gap year is between 18 to 26 years of age. They could be yet to start college, some where in between the four years of college or have just finished the college experience. The stage they are at does not matter.

During their year with uncollege they go through three successive phases. These are termed the Voyage, the Launch and the Internship. The Voyage stage allows the students to travel to different countries and immerse in the local culture. They work in the local community doing anything from teaching students English, to helping with construction of homes.

During the Launch they return to the Uncollege HQ in San Francisco for a period of ten weeks. Each week they meet a specialist or an expert who teaches them more about the field that interests them. This is followed by an Internship. Based on the interest of the student this could be paid or unpaid. They will also have coaches and mentors guiding them throughout the year.

While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea to enroll for this year long process, it would be a good idea for homeschool students to try to do something similar on their own steam. Travelling to Europe was a coming of age ritual for a reason for the older generation. There are so many skills that the students develop as they backpack through the old world. It may be a good idea to customize a gap year for your homeschool student as well.

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Extending Homeschool to College

A number of homeschool students prepare to join regular colleges after they finish K-12 in the homeschool classroom. The parents are usually helping them to find a college and courses that will best suit their interests and needs. Most colleges are happy to take in homeschool students as they are self motivated learners who genuinely want to know more about whatever class they are taking. Some even have special counselors who help them through the admission process. This makes it easy for homeschool students with updated transcripts to get into colleges of their choice.

However there is a growing trend where homeschooled students in regular colleges feel unsatisfied. Having become used to learning at their own pace and in as much depth as they wish to, they don’t feel that college is helping them learn things that they couldn’t have picked up on their own. The joy of learning is lost for these students as they are forced to follow a stricter pattern of assignments and submissions. Not to mention the additional financial expenses that their parents have to undertake to ensure that the students get admission to a good college.

More homeschool students are looking at options besides regular college in order to gain their undergraduate degrees. They take up online courses from colleges offering credits on them. This allows them to stay at home and work on their studies while pursuing something else on the side. They could take up a part time job or even work on getting enough credits to graduate early. This work is supplemented with regular homeschool college sessions with the homeschool teacher.

Another option is taking courses at a local community college. Again this works out less expensive and if the course is not interesting enough, the students are not enrolled in a year long process. They can quit any time that they want to. Switching to another course that they feel that they would enjoy better. This affords them greater flexibility while not becoming a huge financial drain on their parents resources. No wonder the number of homeschool college graduates is on the rise.

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Handling Homeschool Schedules

It can be tough tying to move through a fixed schedule day after day in the homeschool classroom. What makes it worse is the fact that as you begin to fall behind with things that were supposed to be done on previous days, the rest of the days get even more crammed with things that need to be done.

Things start piling up and you never seem to have enough time to catch up. Eventually there is a feeling of total overwhelm that the homeschool parent begins to suffer from. How then, do you recover from this space?

The Timer is an Invaluable Tool

On a regular day you may have the luxury of stopping and smelling the flowers, but when you are on a mission to make up stuff from seven previous days, this may not be possible. Don’t expect to make the recovery all at once in a single day. That is just not going to happen.

Do begin working on the stuff that is due in an organized manner. Try to follow the current day’s schedule as best as you can so as not to fall behind on more stuff, but in between that find ten minutes to work on the other pending stuff. Just use a timer to work exactly ten minutes on this.

Sleep is not a Luxury, it is a necessity

One of the biggest mistakes a homeschool parent can make is trying to finish doing extra work in the hours when they should be getting a good night’s sleep. You may feel that missing a couple of hours of your nightly sleep is a good idea, so that you can make up on pending stuff. Trust me, it is not a good idea.

I would go so far as to call it a terrible idea, specially when you consider the rather gruesome effects that lack of rest can have on your system. As of now you are only backed up in your work and chores. If you start missing sleep you are also going to be cranky and irritable. Do you really want to subject your children to that?

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Making Exercise a Part of the Homeschool Schedule

Keeping healthy requires taking care of mind, body and soul. This means that as a homeschooling family you not only must educate the mind, you must also exercise the body and find a way to nourish your soul. The study aspect usually gets taken care of by the syllabus that you need to cover in the homeschool classroom. Here we find a way to focus on exercising the body in a fun manner.

The Activity Wheel

Going for a jog every day can become boring. So can only swimming in summers, or just playing basket ball. The idea of the activity wheel is to come up with half an hour of a form of exercise that everyone in the homeschool family gets to do together. The unpredictability of what will be done keeps it fun and exciting.

Here’s how it works. All the exercise activities are written down on the wheel. Each day a different member of the family gets to spin the wheel and whatever activity the pointer marks when the wheel stops spinning is the exercise of the day. Everyone spend the next half hour doing that exercise.

Learn a Sport Together

Badminton, basket ball, base ball, foot ball, skating, tennis, or cricket. It doesn’t matter what the sport or game is. The idea here is to find a physically challenging game that allows everyone to get plenty of exercise. Then play the game together as a family. If you don’t know how to play, sign up for a coach’s classes.You could even use the resources at a community center if you don’t want to spend too much setting up everything at home.

The activity will not just become a physical exercise that the homeschool family does together, but also a great way of forming fun memories. All the physical activity will also help keep the fitness levels of the family in check, not to mention allow the children to run off all that extra steam that they have. There is an additional benefit of everyone actually being hungry enough to eat after all that running around.

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Story Telling and Homeschool Students

Developing creativity is a skill that is not focused much on in regular school. Luckily homeschool parents are already thinking outside the proverbial box. This makes it easier for them to raise children who are insightful and creative. One of the easiest ways to get creative is to take your imagination out for a stroll. Telling stories is a great way to start. Here are some story telling activities that you can use with your homeschool students.

The Add a Line Story

This is a fun activity which can be played with any number of participants. Get the homeschool students to construct a story one sentence at a time. Each member gets to add a line before the baton passes to the next person. Have one person write down the story as it emerges so that when you have reached the end, you can read it out loud for everyone to enjoy.

This activity can be as structured or unstructured as you want to make it. You can fix a genre, a time period and a plot before hand if you want everything to go in a specific direction. However it’s usually the most fun when everything is left more or less spontaneous and everyone is free to add just about anything they want. Try it out both ways to see what works best with your kids.

The Paragraph Prompt Story

In this case give your students a starting paragraph. It could include just about any details that you want to give. About hundred words to start them off on a story that they need to tell. The idea is to give them the freedom to take a few ingredients and spin it as they want.

Have them write it down with a pen and paper. There is a greater tendency for the children to stay focused when they have to actually write down the story than simply say it out loud. If you want you can even give them a time deadline in which they need to stop writing and adding to the story. It gives them a better idea of how to structure their ideas when they are working against time.

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Organizing a Quiz in the Homeschool Classroom

While the schedule may call for lesson plan after lesson plan, it’s a good idea to insert some fun activities into the lives of homeschool students. You can make your homeschool classroom a place where your children and others can come and have fun as well as learn.

Make it a Formal Event

Adding play time to the schedule will ensure that you adhere to it. Otherwise it is much too easy to skip it altogether when you are running behind in lessons. Also try and get other homeschool families to participate in the game. This will help give the children hands on experience on social skills. It’s much more fun to play games in a group than with just your own siblings.

Keep the Format Simple

A quiz type of event where you have different rounds filled with questions of a specific topic works well in the homeschool classroom. You can provide age appropriate questions to each student which can help earn points. You can even team up students of a similar grade together if you have more homeschool families participating. Make sure that you keep the level of difficulty the same for different grades so that no one gets to complain.

Have Scoring Visible

The score board with the points earned per round is an essential feature. It not only helps you keep track of the winners, but also motivates the homeschool students to do better in each round. You can even take a break between rounds to officially announce the scores to rev up the excitement all around. A parent of one of the other children can be made in charge of this activity.

There Must Be Tangible Prizes

If your children are competing in a game with others, they need to be rewarded for their win. You need not spend a lot of money on the prizes, but let there be actual physical rewards that are handed over to the children at the end of the quiz. You can even set out a table with the prizes marked with 1st, 2nd and 3rd position if you have enough teams playing.


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Skills a Homeschool Student Develops Playing Games in the Classroom

Games are not a waste of time. They can be a fun tool to teach your homeshcool students a multitude of skills. Here are some skills that will be developed in your kids when they participate in educational games in the homeschool classroom. Of course they will also have a whole lot of fun.

Enhanced Verbal Communication

The homeschool student learns how to collect his thoughts and frame a sentence expressing them. The time bound quiz game also ensures that the child begins to do this really fast, thus enhancing his verbal communication skills. The more they play the better they get as expressing their answers well.

Learning Self Regulation

You can’t answer when it’s not your turn and expect to earn points when the quiz is being conducted in the homeschool classroom. The homeschool student learns when to hold back and when to speak. They also figure out how others need to get a turn without interruption so that they can have one themselves.

Focusing Attention and Listening Well

If you don’t hear the question correctly, you will not be able to answer it properly. That requires the homeschool student to focus on the parent when the question is being asked. Then pay attention to what the answer can be among the options listed. This makes sure that they listen well before attempting to answer the questions.

Learning Social Skills and Cooperating

You can’t play the game on your own. You need to get along with your siblings to have fun when you play. This ensures that the homeschool students learn social skills and get along with their siblings. They will also learn to cooperate with each other when they are placed in the same team.

Following Directions as Instructed

There may be many ways to get things done, but if it’s not done in the way that the homeschool teacher asked you to, you risk not getting any points. So to avoid losing the game you need to learn how to do stuff the way you have been instructed to. This ensures that homeschool students learn how to follow the directions that they have been given.

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Why You Need to Play Games in the Homeschool Classroom

There are a lot of resources available on running a homeschool classroom well. You have organizers, schedules, lesson plans and a whole bunch of other stuff that tells you what all you need to do, how you need to do it and how much time you should do it in.

Now breathe a deep breath and ask yourself, do you really want to keep hopping from one educational activity to the other all day long with your homeschool students? If you answered no, read on. Games are just as important in the homeschool classroom as the actual grade wise syllabus that you are trying to get through.

Building Stronger Bonds

Playing games allows you to build a better relationship with your homeschool students. No one will remember how you made them memorize the twelve times multiplication table fondly. However they will remember the time you made them play “Simon Says” and got them to do small tasks. Yes, since you are in the homeschool classroom the tasks can be educational. That way you won’t feel like you are completely wasting time.

Connect With Your Children

As you have the homeschool students compete in a game involving a multitude of school related skills like writing, reading and math, you will connect with them better. You will be able to get direct feedback about which child shows promise on certain subjects, but may need help with others. Make sure you have a physical trophy or reward for the homeschool student who wins the competition. Do ensure that the questions are appropriate for all grade levels playing the game.

Make Fun Memories

Keep a rolling trophy for the weekly event. That way the homeschool students come to expect all the fun and games that they associate with the competition each week. You can take pictures as they perform specific tasks. Have a page on the notice board tallying the number of overall wins the children have in a month. Treat the champ of the month to something he loves. It will get the others that much more determined to win the next time.

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Cold Light Experiment

Mix together three colors of liquid light! When you mix three cups of red, green, and blue paint, you get a muddy brown. But when you mix together three cups of light, you get white.


Here’s a trick question – can you make the color “yellow” with only red, green, and blue as your color palette? If you’re a scientist, it’s not a problem. But if you’re an artist, you’re in trouble already. The key is that we would be mixing light, not paint. Mixing the three primary colors of light gives white light.

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Stanford Linear Accelerator

Aurora is also a part of the Central Coast Astronomical Society, and she arranged for the club to have a special tour of the Stanford Linear Accelerator on January 26, 2017. Here’s a report from a club member about the trip:


The Central Coast Astronomy Society visit to SLAC was a very intresting trip.  SLAC is located on the Stanford Ranch just to the West of the Standford campus in Palo Alto.  SLAC was originally designed for particle physics work in the early 1960’s.  It was the longest linear accelerator in the world.

Over the years the SLAC facility has evolved, expanding to include storage rings where sub-atomic particles could be banged against each other.  By the late 1990’s, even with numerous updates and expansion of the facility, it was becoming dated.  The Department of Energy considered dismantling SLAC but then a physicist came up with a way to use the electron beam from the linear accelerator to generate a very high power coherent X-ray source (an X-ray laser) that could be used for a great many physics experiments.  Since the development of this coherent X-ray source SLAC has created more physics tools using the old linear accelerator and when we visited they had a part of the the old accelerator closed down while they built a new tool.

Our tour included a video on SLAC and a visit to the accelerator, where we had a lecture on the components of the original linear accelerator and then went out above the beam line to see some of the old (but updated) microwave sources and related equipment.  After leaving the old accelerator we went to one of the old target buildings. At that building we saw a new wide area telescope being built at SLAC that will go into an observatory in a desert in Chile.

Our guide was a graduate physicists student working on a device that would detect dark matter deep in an old gold mine in South Dakota.  The photos give images from our tour.


Tom Coughlin


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