The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling High School
Homeschooling High school is quite a bit different from homeschooling middle school or elementary grade levels. From ninth grade and upward, the focus begins to shift to allow your high schooler to take many of the reigns of their high school courses, 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 extracurricular activities.
As you navigate these next four years of high school together, 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 homeschool parents, it also means perfecting a high school transcript to be ready for the college entrance process, if necessary. Of course, you'll want to make a high school plan, but there are other tests and skills you will want to learn more about, too, but we’ll get to those shortly.
I’m sure that, as you inch ever closer to your child’s high school years, 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 article. I hope you’ll follow along to find answers and encouragement!
Start Here When homeschooling high school
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 your state regulations are, get some goals down on paper and make a high school plan. They don’t have to be grand or eloquent, just some things you intend to accomplish, and what high school classes your student will take year by year, starting with the freshman year. As you create your list of goals and courses, however, be sure to remember that these could change. The truth is, the things that are most important to you or your child going into high school 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.
Curriculum is Important in Homeschooling High School
Now, more than ever, the right homeschool 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 their family, 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 is 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, audiobooks, or audio CDs. What’s more, you might even choose something from an online provider that allows your child to take online classes. 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. Of course, your child may not have a love for social studies or high school math, but they should love most of what they are doing, the core subjects aside. And, even if they don't love the subject, hopefully, you can find a homeschool curriculum that they will love, with their help.
Be sure to include your teen in 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 learning style and specific interests can change the entire year and, if you’ve been homeschooling very long at all, you certainly understand that!
Individual Pieces of Homeschooling High School
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 high school education. 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, a park, or a library. The possibilities are endless, so be sure to consider this option, especially in the freshman and sophomore years.
Choose Electives Specific to Your Child
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 woodworking 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. These individualized classes also make your child look a bit more well-rounded to the colleges they apply to.
Your child’s favorite hobby, topic, interest, or skill can be turned into an elective class and counted as credit for the high school transcript. For instance, they can plug in music lessons, sports, rock collecting, and so much more into credits to count on their homeschool transcript. And, they get to have fun while doing it!
Keep Great Homeschool Records
Many of the things we’ve discussed already are contingent on the simple act of good record keeping. Making sure your records are clear and concise is a great way to keep order, as homeschool parents. Charting attendance, hours worked, 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 high school transcript when the times comes that your child will need one, either for dual enrollment or the college admission process. 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 from year to 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. Each year of high school provides its own set of challenges. Work through each year's plan as you go through the four years in order to successfully reach graduation without panic!
One thing that can be a great asset to homeschool graduates 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. Although it’s not just about the credits (but they do 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, all while doing it from the safety and comfort of home.
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 and be sure to check each college's policies regarding dual enrollment.
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 for the test they'll take 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. You can find practice tests online at both act.org and collegeboard.org.
Your student should take the ACT® or SAT® in their junior year in order to be prepared for the senior year college application process. Knowing that you'll want to have them start practicing for those tests in their sophomore year.
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 stress and 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.
Homeschooling high school, 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 pieces. Take things one step 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.