When it comes to high school, most homeschooling parents approach these years with fear and trepidation. I will admit that I did, as well. But I am so pleased that we decided to take the plunge and continue home schooling our oldest daughter rather than pursuing private or public school for these final four years. We are now homeschooling our son who has reached the high school years as well.
Are the high school years approaching in your home? I encourage you to stop, take a deep breath, and consider the possibility that homeschooling your high schooler might be a tremendous boon for you, your student and your whole family. Here are some reasons why…
1. This is when homeschooling really begins to pay off. Your student has become an independent learner and can schedule and manage his own work load. High school level work should not require a great amount of your time (although more of his than he might be used to!).
2. Ideally, your student, who is approaching high school, has become a real helper to you and her younger siblings. This is a wonderful time to have your teenage children at home by your side, learning to cook, garden, manage a home, build a deck, balance a checkbook, etc. Often high schoolers enrolled in public or private school do not have time to learn practical life skills because of the excessive class time and increased home work that their teachers demand.
3. High Schoolers are fun to be around. This is when your children become your friends. Now, don’t get me wrong, you still need to be their parent, BUT you are beginning to let go, little by little, letting them make their own mistakes, letting them learn from their own successes and failures. This is a time when kids can really begin to open up and talk – talk about real life issues, debatable topics, philosophical or theological differences, social pressures… Wouldn’t you like to be the one that he or she turns to? Wouldn’t you like to be the one that he asks advice from? Wouldn’t you like to continue developing that life-long heart-to-heart friendship? Homeschooling through the high school years can foster and grow this relationship because you have time to just “hang out” together.
So these are just a few reasons for you to consider as you decide whether or not you will press on. But how can it practically be done? This is a good question because we all know that high schoolers are learning material that is often above our heads. We often do not remember our Algebra 2 courses or advanced grammar exercises.
Here are some ideas that you can think about that might make homeschooling high school a more do-able scenario for you and your student:
One of the intimating factors about homeschooling your high schooler is that it is most likely a 4 year decision. It is much easier to pull your student out of public high school than it is to stick him back in. Do your research before you make this big decision. These are the types
of things that you will want to find out in advance:
1. Find out what type of subjects and the number of credits that your state requires. Do a Google search to find this information. Type “(your state) high school requirements” into your search engine of choice.
2. Find out what needs to be recorded on a transcript and begin keeping this information from year 1 – when your student is finishing her freshman year. (We’ll talk about transcripts in just a minute).
3. Find out what tests you need and/or want your teen to be prepared for. Every high school junior should take the SAT (or ACT). Will you have your son or daughter also take the PSAT? How about CLEP or AP exams? Is your teen college bound and what type of college or university does he want to attend? The answers to these questions will help you decide which tests to pursue. Write down when tests are held in your area and help your teen prepare adequately for them.
4. Find out what kind of programs are offered in your area for high school teens. Will these classes satisfy high school credit requirements? That brings me to my next point.
I don’t know about you, but there are just some subjects I would rather not teach. I have found out that there are many, many classes out there that my teens can take for high school credit, such as science, math, writing, speech/debate, Spanish, etc. Most of these classes are taught by private instructors in a traditional style classroom setting (although
smaller than a public school classroom – usually 8-10 students).
Here are some avenues for finding high school level classes in your area:
1. Ask your local homeschool support group leader.
2. Ask your state homeschool support group organizers.
3. Call your local homeschool bookstore.
4. Find out if your student can take classes at the junior college for dual credit. (This option is sometimes reserved for just juniors and seniors)
5. Check the bulletin board at your local community college for tutors who are available to teach individual subjects.
6. Find out what classes can be taken online through virtual conference rooms and correspondence.
Think outside the box and find out what types of programs are available for your students.
MAKE A PLAN
You do not have to plan everything out in advance, but jot out a rough plan for your high school student’s education, knowing that it will change as he specializes in certain subjects as high school progresses. Make sure that you know your state’s requirements for high school graduation and then make a loose plan from there.
If you know that your son dislikes foreign language, then just plan for 2 years of Spanish, instead of 3 or 4 (as long as that will satisfy your state’s requirements). If your daughter wants to work for NASA, then four years of higher math needs to be planned into the schedule. If you have a student that wants to work in Bible translation, then continue with grammar and even beginning linguistics all the way through the four years. So, make a plan, but stay flexible for changes down the road ahead. Your teen doesn’t need to know right now what his career is going to be, but he should start to think about it and pursue his possible interests.
Help your students to understand that their classes are their responsibility and that you are not going to hand them an “A” or a 4.0 on a silver platter. Good grades must be earned. This is the time to get your teen a planner where she can break down her assignments and write them into her day’s schedule. Let her make some decisions about how and when she will study her subjects, as long as she completes her assignments on time (she still reports to you as teacher). You will no longer need to hover over every assignment, but do insist that she turn in her work on time (whether that be once a week or something else that you decide). Tell your student up front what is required to gain an “A” in a particular subject. Then place
the responsibility for earning that “A” in her lap.
Note: For example, perhaps you have decided that to earn an A in medieval literature would mean that your student must read 8-10 books on a reading list that is provided for her and to write at least 3 papers during the course of the year. Anything less would result in a B grade or below. Communicating your requirements and expectations up front leads to much less pressure at the end of the year as your student is finishing up her assignments.
(This is just provided as an example – you are the teacher and can decide what constitutes an A grade for a particular subject. However, writing a couple of papers in any given subject matter is always a good idea. You can substitute with a science project for science and certainly no papers are necessary for math or P.E.!)
Now, that said, you can decide that a 1 credit course is not quite complete in May and give your teen a month or two more to finish the requirements during the summer months. Again, you are the teacher and can make these critical decisions along the way. Or you might choose to give half a credit now and the other half during the following year if those requirements are finished up later. This flexibility is one of the beautiful aspects of home education.
It is so hard to know when your student is entering his freshman year, whether he will attend college or not at the end of four years’ time. However, it is important to choose a route at the beginning so that all requirements are finished during the high school years.
In other words, unless you are certain that your child will not attend college, it is best to choose a college bound course of action. In this way, all the requirements that he will need to apply for and be accepted into the college or university of his choice will be completed. You may even want to look into the requirements of specific colleges and universities that your son or daughter might be interested in attending so that you can plan to meet them in the next four years.
Often your student can take courses at your local community college and earn dual credit during his junior and senior year. This may be an added benefit for acceptance into his college of choice or may hurt his chances. It is best to find out before he takes dual credit.
Your child may also want to take some CLEP (College Level Entrance Placement) tests along the way in order to test out of some college classes that are general in nature and cover material already learned during the high school years (i.e. general biology).
You may be certain that your son or daughter will not pursue a college degree, but rather apprentice or start his or her own business, or take another path altogether. That is fine and then you can plan for more freedom or focus during the high school years.
If carpentry is the career of choice, then by all means, put some of the school books aside and let him get out there and build things. But remember, carpenters use math every single day! If in doubt about whether your child needs a class, have him take it to be on the safe side!
How to Keep a Transcript
Starting in your student’s freshman year, keep track of his progress with a transcript. On this transcript, you will record the classes that he has finished, the grade that he earned, the credits he received and any pertinent test scores (such as SAT and ACT). If you wait until his senior year to record this information, you might forget and then he is really in a pickle. So, start this process in grade 9!
Here are two links to transcript templates that you can use:
1. http://www.homeschool-curriculum-savings.com/homeschool-transcript-template.html (this one requires MS Excel, but it’s free).
2. http://e-library.net/HIGH-SCHOOL-TRANSCRIPT-Template__visit3582.html (this one is not free, but he will provide a free software to use with it).
Do not fear the high school years. They are delightful, focused and rewarding. Consider homeschooling your high schooler. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I was!