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Chris Perrin

Senior Thesis for Homeschooled Seniors?

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If you are homeschooling a high school student--do you plan on having him or her do a senior thesis? In what ways are you seeking to prepare your student for this project?

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Posted (edited)
On 8/27/2018 at 8:19 AM, Chris Perrin said:

If you are homeschooling a high school student--do you plan on having him or her do a senior thesis? In what ways are you seeking to prepare your student for this project?

I did not make my first two graduates, partly because I didn’t have to submit one when I graduated. We had a mamoth research paper, which we were not previously prepared for, but that is not the same. 

What are the advantages to taking on such a task? Because I still five more to graduate. ☺️

Edited by Cheryl Floyd

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It's a no here--not something we did (or will do, with my youngest). I have had my seniors do a senior project, which we tailored to their talents and interests. For example, one daughter kept a January-December nature diary, writing an essay for each month and painting/drawing to illustrate. Another daughter had to write a *non-fiction* book on a topic of her choice. She chose the 20th century space race (something that fascinated her, and happened before her lifetime, so it felt like history to her). She had to choose ages 4-8 or 8-12, and write to that audience. (Mine also did one research paper, on a smaller scale, just so they'd be aware of what the process entailed when they headed off to college.)

My purpose with these projects was to give my students a chance to use the talents they have to produce something worthwhile, perhaps to spark ideas for future possibilities for them. The idea of a "senior thesis"--high school seniors, ages 17 or 18?--seems a bit premature to me. I've never looked into it (maybe it means something else than I think it does), but I associate the idea of a "thesis" with a master's or doctoral degree.

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On 3/9/2019 at 2:40 AM, KarenG said:

My purpose with these projects was to give my students a chance to use the talents they have to produce something worthwhile, perhaps to spark ideas for future possibilities for them. The idea of a "senior thesis"--high school seniors, ages 17 or 18?--seems a bit premature to me. I've never looked into it (maybe it means something else than I think it does), but I associate the idea of a "thesis" with a master's or doctoral degree.

I had the same reactions, Karen. Even as a bachelor's student at my age, I do not feel ready to synthesize everything I have learned into a thesis paper. I thought that was a graduate level skill as well. 

I like the idea of some sort of "celebration" project that helps a student reflect upon their education, and maybe includes a contemplation of the future. It could be a paper I suppose, or a speech, like a commencement speech? But I'm not sure. What do your projects look like, or what is their focus? 

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I agree with @Cheryl Floyd and @KarenG. I love your suggestion, Karen, of a senior project tied to talents and interests. I think that might also be a great addition to a transcript package, showing deep involvement and hopefully some level of mastery in one discipline.

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2 hours ago, kweitz said:

 I think that might also be a great addition to a transcript package, showing deep involvement and hopefully some level of mastery in one discipline.

Is it a classical approach to show mastery in one discipline? I didn't realize that is the purpose of a senior thesis paper. 

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On 8/27/2018 at 6:19 AM, Chris Perrin said:

If you are homeschooling a high school student--do you plan on having him or her do a senior thesis? In what ways are you seeking to prepare your student for this project?

Although not meaning to put in a plug, we're using CAP materials as our tools to prepare for a senior thesis (i.e., Writing & Rhetoric, Argument Builder, and eventually Rhetoric Alive!).

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I've had the chance to review (but not use) both of the Rhetoric Alive! books and I think they would work quite well for homeschool education (or schoolhouse education). 

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On 4/3/2019 at 4:00 PM, Cheryl Floyd said:

Is it a classical approach to show mastery in one discipline? I didn't realize that is the purpose of a senior thesis paper. 

@Cheryl Floyd Good question! I've been immersed in C. S. Lewis lately, and I in mind had his words in Surprised by Joy about how too many subjects can actually destroy a student's standards. Dr. Perrin also referred to this in a recent article at Inside Classical Ed:  https://insideclassicaled.com/1461-2/  So, I would say, yes, in my understanding, mastery in certain limited disciplines is indicative of a classical approach.

Focusing on one question/discipline in a thesis will offer students a significant move towards mastery in the particular question or topic related to that discipline (not in an entire discipline — I should have been more specific). That has been a major purpose of the thesis I just finished for my master's degree. But of course, there could be other thesis questions that more broadly span disciplines. So I suppose it depends on the question that the thesis is designed to answer.

 

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30 minutes ago, kweitz said:

That has been a major purpose of the thesis I just finished for my master's degree.

This was alluded to earlier in this thread: theses seem to be more appropriate at the master's degree level. The seven liberal arts themselves are broad by nature. My understanding is we ought to not use them to explore a plethora of content, but to go deeper with specific content areas. I wonder if a seventeen or eighteen year-old is actually ready to express a thesis of his or her education broadly or narrowly, and do so well. And how do we actually equip them to attain such a level of expression? Why is it needed when it isn't even required of BA graduates? Just some thoughts I am considering. I thought it was strange when it started becoming a standard for high school graduates. 

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I can't speak from the perspective of homeschooling specifically, but I can say that at our school the senior thesis project is one of the highlights of the year, and that a great deal of the value of a thesis project could definitely translate into a homeschool setting. We emphasize that the thesis is an unprecedented opportunity for students to explore and research topics in which they are interested in great depth. Once the thesis has been written and an oral presentation has been prepared, the senior thesis then becomes a contribution to the intellectual life of the school when it is presented and discussed before classmates, teachers, family, and friends at the thesis defense.

As to its origin, I suspect a lot of classical schools started it simply because Dorothy Sayers wrote about it in "The Lost Tools of Learning."

Here's an article I just wrote last month on the senior thesis for our school's blog (it includes a lot of quotes from students on what they got out of the project): https://www.carychristianschool.org/learning-how-to-learn-the-senior-thesis/

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