The Ultimate Guide to High School Homeschooling
High school is quite a bit different from homeschooling middle or elementary grade levels. From ninth grade and upward, the focus begins to shift to allowing your teen truly to take many of the reigns of their own education including life skills, college prep classes, and/or vocational training. At the same time, your child may be spending more time with friends, taking art or music classes, participating in sports, performing in the theatre, or any one of a dozen other social and recreational activities.
During these next four years, you and your child will have to learn how to manage time, shuffling around priorities as necessary to make sure that nothing is missed in the educational process. For you, the parent educator, it also means perfecting a transcript to be ready for the college application process, if necessary. There are other tests and skills you might want to learn more about, but we’ll get to those shortly.
I’m sure that, as you inch ever closer to your child’s ninth grade, you have lots of questions, about getting started and how it will all end. The good news is, we’re going to try to answer as many of those as is possible here in this blog post today. We hope you’ll follow along to find answers and encouragement!
Here’s where you start
As with any homeschooling endeavor, the first thing you must do is to make sure you are compliant with all homeschooling laws and regulations for your home state. They can vary from state to state so, especially if you’ve recently moved across state lines, be sure to check the HSLDA website to find the specific laws for your state.
Once you know exactly what the regulations are, get some goals down on paper. They don’t have to be grand or eloquent, just some things you intend to try to accomplish, year by year, starting with the freshman year. As you create your list of goals, however, be sure to remember that these are very apt to change, especially from year to year. The truth is, the things that are most important to you or your child may take a backseat in the years to come. So get the goals on paper, but do it in pencil and be willing to change when necessary.
A Curriculum is Important in High School Homeschooling
Now, more than ever, the right homeschooling curriculum is of the utmost importance. It’s tempting to begin your search with the question, “What’s the very best curriculum for high school?” That’s very noble, but I think the better question is actually, “What’s the very best curriculum for OUR high school homeschool?” The truth is, the high school curriculum that your best friend or neighbor is using might be the perfect fit for theirfamily, but it might be horrible for yours.
Finding the proper fit is far better than trying to win a popularity contest. You’ll have to ask a lot of questions, do a lot of research, and truly know your child’s learning style and goals after graduation, and that’s really just a good starting place. Once you meet all your requirements and preferences, you’ll find that all the time spent saves you a lot of money and stress.
A great way to choose the perfect high school homeschooling curriculum is to attend a Great Homeschool Convention. These conventions offer amazing speakers, events, and workshops, but one of their most attractive features are the hundreds of curriculum vendors you’ll find there. Taking your teen along to help examine the information in detail can help assure that the curriculum is a good fit.
Be sure to think about your child’s best study habits. Some children do great with workbooks, while others learn best with a self-directed activity such as videos, audio books, or audio CDs. What’s more, you might even choose something from an online provider that allows your child to take classes online, 100%. Most of all, make sure that you’re teaching subjects without a great deal of boredom. They should be interesting and easy to avoid boredom. They should (hopefully) lead to a desire to learn other things or research topics that are closely related to the original one.
Be sure to include your teen on the process of purchasing. Ask for their opinions, what they liked the most, and how they feel they could best work. It really pays to have these discussions with your children as it will make the entire year pass more smoothly. Tailoring the experience to their specific interests can change the entire year and, if you’ve been homeschooling very long at all, you certainly understand that!
Focus on Building Strong Study Skills
The ability to study correctly and completely is not a talent that one is born with. It is a skill that must be learned and honed in order to be used in ways that really benefit the educational process. Study skills can certainly be taught in earlier grades – in fact, we would never condone waiting until the ninth grade to start teaching it – but you and your child should really focus on this area as you move into the high school experience.
This would be a great skill to learn through attending a co-op or private homeschooling group or club. Some of these groups have scheduled study-group time that allows multiple students to gather together to study. This can take place in a parent’s home, a meeting place, the park, or a library. The possibilities are endless, so be sure to consider this an option, especially in the freshman and sophomore years.
If you’re like me, electives were one of my favorite things about high school. I couldn’t wait to get into Spanish class, and wood working was another favorite of mine. These classes are ones that truly add a personalized touch to your child’s education, offering them a respite from what they have to learn by giving them something they want to learn.
Your child’s favorite hobby, topic, interest, or skill can be turned into an elective class. For instance, they can plug in music lessons, sports, rock collecting, and so much more into these class periods and have an excellent time once class rolls around.
Keep Great Records
Many of the things we’ve discussed already are contingent on the simple act of record keeping. Making sure your records are clear and concise is a great way to keep order in your homeschool. Charting attendance, grades, field trips, reading logs, subjects covered, electives completed, volunteer activities, on the job training and SO much more is a great way, not only to stay current with your local homeschooling regulations, but also to be able to prepare a flawless transcript when the times comes that your child will need one. Never underestimate the importance of great record keeping. As the old saying goes, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!
Many parents have asked about what record keeping looks like for a family who practices unschooling. You can still keep great homeschooling records when living the unschooling lifestyle. Just make sure you are able to write out how what your child is doing during the day adheres to the state regulations, first of all, but also to your overall plan for the year. Life lessons are just as valuable – and sometimes more so – than actual “book learning’ so unschooling does not mean “a lack of learning”. It’s just another way of doing things.
Making Sure Your Child is Ready for graduation
Once your child meets the requirements necessary to graduate, you can issue a homeschool high school diploma, proving that they finished their coursework, as required by the law governing your home state. The earlier you can start planning for graduation – and all that it entails – the better off and more prepared you’ll be by the time the senior year arrives.
One thing that can be a great asset to newly graduated homeschool students is having some college credit under their belts. Consider the fact that if a child starts taking just one class a semester, starting at the age of 15, they can have up to 18 college credits by graduation. But it’s not just about the credits (although they look great during the application process), it’s also a great way to become acclimated to how college works, what is expected, and how things change.
This also has some pitfalls associated as well, including the fact that some colleges will consider a student a “transfer” if they have a certain amount of credits. This means they will most likely not get to participate in orientation and they will be roomed with an upper-class student rather than another “actual” freshman. Be mindful of this when applying with credits already in place.
SAT and ACT preparation is another thing you really can’t get enough of. Of course, preparing for both if your child is only taking one is unnecessary, so be mindful of what is actually needed and then focus on that. If your child has confidence as they walk into the room when it’s time to actually take those tests, there’s a far greater chance they will achieve a higher score.
Waiting until that last year to start planning, collect transcript grades, or focus on the details involved with the college application process can cause more problems than not. Save yourself, and your child, a lot of worry and hurriedness by making sure you’re headed in the right direction as soon as the high school journey starts.
High school homeschooling, especially if you’ve never homeschooled a high school student before, can seem like a daunting task. However, it’s easier than you think, once you break it down into manageable aspects. Take things one piece at a time, have a plan, and make sure to do your due diligence. When things start falling into place, you’ll notice it all begins to flow.
If you have the opportunity to do so, be sure to plan to attend a Great Homeschool Convention near you. With seven regional conventions across the United States, they offer many special events, hundreds of workshops, dozens of informational speakers, and extensive curriculum and resources vendors that all come together fully to equip you for the homeschool year ahead. To find out more, or to go ahead and reserve your spot for the upcoming convention, be sure to visit the Great Homeschool Conventions website.