349 | Homeschooling High School: I'm Not Afraid Anymore! (Jennifer Cabrera)
Don't be afraid to homeschool high school. After putting in the sweat, worry-lines and coffee grounds to get this far, don't ditch now! Let's talk about why homeschooling high school is the most rewarding part and why the part that worries you most is the exact reason you should give it all you've got.
Jennifer Cabrera, the Hifalutin Homeschooler, is the writer of homeschool truth, humor, and inspiration. Jennifer lives in Salado, Texas with her husband and three brilliant boys. She is a licensed Physician Assistant/MPH, but set aside that career for her ultimate life's work. She is also the author of Socialize Like a Homeschooler: A Humorous Homeschool Handbook and Revolting Writing, a hilarious writing, vocabulary, and illustration journal for reluctant writers. She is a featured speaker with Great Homeschool Conventions and her memes and witty insights are widely shared on social media.
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Jennifer Cabrera Hello and welcome to another Hifalutin Homeschooler episode of the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jennifer Cabrera and I am one of many hosts here on the podcast. Each week we bring you an encouraging conversation, inspiration, tips, tricks and/or humor from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. Now, while the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we do not pretend to have the answer to every question related to homeschooling. But we do hope to keep it real through lessons we've learned, and urge you toward Jesus Christ and prayer with Him as the greatest parent-teacher conference available.
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"Homeschooling High School: I'm Not Afraid Anymore." So if you've ever seen Home Alone--the Christmas iconic movie with Kevin McCallister--just after he realizes that his home is the target of the thieves in the neighborhood, he finally gets the courage to walk out the door and shout into the darkness, "I'm not afraid anymore!" Of course, then the old man pulling the trashcan full of salt and salting the sidewalks comes strolling by and Kevin screams his head off, turns around and runs back in the house, not knowing at the time that the poor little old man that is coming up the street is actually someone's sweet grandfather and it's really nothing to be afraid of. Well, it's kind of like that with homeschooling high school--which is easy for me to say now that I have twins just about to graduate high school and one starting, and I feel like I have my sea legs now, so hindsight is 2020. But, homeschooling high school used to be this imaginary distant realm that I pondered only when nosy strangers or worried relatives brought it up. (Or between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. on days of the week that end in "y".) "We will worry about it when we get there," I'd say. Or, "Yeah, we might put them in private school. What's it to you? Are you paying?" And now it's finally happened, of course, so all four of my men wear the same size socks--and folding laundry is still a joy. But I'm there, at the point of homeschooling high school, and it's not as scary as I thought it would be. And the truth is, is that it's not as scary as homeschooling K through 8th grade and hoping that I could actually teach them to read, or write legibly, or turn fractions to decimals and vice versa. And, whew, I mean mornings of butting heads over flashcards and handwriting and all of those things! And then at the same time, in the back of my mind, fretting in fear of homeschooling high school someday. It was completely unwarranted because I will take homeschooling high school over handwriting and fractions any day. (And this could be because I have a particularly hard-headed third child, who--now that he's actually doing high school work--all arguments can be written on the transcript as "Logic and Debate". Boom. At least all of my effort counts toward credits.) But I'm not afraid anymore.
Now I know looking down the road towards homeschooling high school when your kids are still elementary/middle-school age is horrifying, because if you think back--if you actually went to public school or even a private school--everything that went into your high school education seems completely overwhelming and not reproducible at home. Right? You're homeschooling. That's the point! Why would you want to reproduce any of that? But I do know what you're worried about. Well, first off, you've probably have some friends or relatives or strangers in a checkout line that'll ask you, "But you'll put them back in for high school, right? I mean, homeschooling... it's great for a time. And I'm sure you're making some great family memories, but you'll put them back in for high school, right? Because that's probably the best thing for you to do because you can't really teach those upper-level courses." And then you start to believe that, even though so far, possibly, you've been able to teach your kid all sorts of things you thought you couldn't at some point. Perhaps you've even rediscovered a love for something that you used to enjoy in school or something you didn't pay attention to yourself, and you just learned it all over again with your child. There's nothing to say that you can't continue to do that through the high school years.
But other things that you might be worried about are (in no particular order): extracurricular activities, band, sports... Can you provide these things? Would it be weird to give your kid a kazoo and have them march around the backyard before Sunday football? Yes. Do it anyway, it sounds like fun! Also, can you provide them with the right type of science labs that they need? You don't have all of those great little Bunsen burners and all those pickled baby pigs and things behind the glass. All right, let's just be honest: I don't know about you, but in my high school, they never opened those cabinets. We never actually got to touch or even look at or talk about the things that were in these beautiful cases. I really think it was just there to make our parents think that we were doing something. But there were like six or seven people all around one Bunsen burner and we only used that twice and all of chemistry. So I wouldn't worry about the labs there. But other things that you're probably dealing with in your brain right now that you don't think you can do: transcripts, UIL competitions, math competitions, poetry competitions, health/science related competitions that all these high schools provide (and bus their kids to and give them vouchers at the Chick-Fil-A), SAT scores, ACT test prep classes, prom, homecoming, football, all of the things-- the parades and the pep rallies and all that goes along with it-- you won't be a part of the community. Or you may even be worried about being seen as sheltering your children too much. A helicopter parent. Oh my goodness, forbid! Who cares what other people think about how you raise your kids? Right? Oh, but we do care. And so we follow the status quo and we think, "Well, you know, we did good by homeschooling them up until, you know, eighth grade, but now we should put them back in. They need to be a part of the world. They need to learn to deal with certain things that we can't provide for them at home," Yada, yada, yada. But if I'm going to be honest here, the best years of homeschooling, so far for me, have been the high school years.
Sure, I miss, you know, all the little snuggles in the morning on the couch with cocoa, and then the fun experiments like elephant toothpaste, and volcanoes, and dissecting whatever dead animal we found around the neighborhood, and silly picture books, and all the fun things that we do with the younger kids. Sure, I miss that. But the best years of homeschooling are high school for two reasons: Number two-- I'm going to start there and count down to number one because it's like a really long list, even though there's only two-- But the second best reason to homeschool high school is that they finally talk about things other than Minecraft. Whew! And you can talk about really cool things. I mean, they're having adult friends in the house that you get to boss around. That's the best of both worlds. You can still make them do the dishes, but then you can have like a really deep discussion about culturally-related topics, political-related topics, family, all kind of things. And it's actually fun talking to them because we're not laying red stone bricks and your eyes aren't rolling in the back of your head listening to all the jokes from the book that you bought them and that you kind of regret buying them. Even though you love them! But it's good to have more adult conversations as your kids grow and not necessarily be their best friend... but it is more of a friendship-type, sit-down, mature conversations that you can have.
For instance, once, around the time that my twins were in the ninth grade, I was trying to explain different types of poetry in a conversational way that they would grasp and actually might make them laugh--and I could be the cool mom for 10 seconds-- So I said, "Ballads, guys, ballads rhyme and they always tell a story dealing with big-life drama like love, death, war, etc." And so they're staring at me with these blank looks like, "Okay, why do we care?" So then I begin to sing. "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold..." And their eyes got really big and in unison they piped back at me, "And she's buying a stairway to heaven!" Aha! Light bulb. And then I was totally cool, and I was on their turf, and I found what works. And now they really know what a ballad is and that it's not just a rock song, but actually poetry. So, win for Mom. Also, along the lines of talking about more mature topics that are interesting to mom and dad as well, we also get to read books together that are exciting for all of us--ones that I've read in the past and can't wait to share with them and to see what they think about them and how they react to different scenes, and then new books that neither of us have read together, and it's not like board books and pictures that get a little monotonous. Though we love them!
Now, my number one reason that homeschooling high school is the best years is the one thing that you're probably most worried about in the first place: Socialization. I mean, "How will they learn to deal with others that they don't agree with or from different backgrounds or have different political views? And how will they learn to deal with bullies and people that they don't like?" I always want to ask, when people ask me this question, "So do you actually want your child to be bullied? I mean, you would put them in school so someone would bully them?" Really? It seems pretty obvious today with all the things we see in the news about what's going on in schools and around town, and with the critical race theory, and all of the gender confusion, that socialization would be a reason to keep kids out of school. But still, parents are concerned about whether or not their child will fit in. Fit into what exactly? If we're trying to educate our children academically in subject areas--like math, reading, science, those kind of things--but we're also trying to raise mature, strong Christian adults that can take care of themselves and stand up for their beliefs, then we certainly shouldn't go putting them in places where standing up for themselves could get them in trouble or harassed. And how do you counter what they're being submerged in for 8 hours a day, five days a week, when you only have them at home in time for dinner and to sleep and go back and then a little bit on the weekends? And if you are able to counter the ideas and cultural depravities going on in our world today, does your child-- and yes, I say "child" because they are still children. They're still maturing. They're still learning their place in the world around them. And they're still very vulnerable to the influences upon them, which would be very strong in the school setting. And you're not there to counter it-- But if you are able to counter it somewhat at home, how is your child able to be themselves in this setting, much less stand up to things they don't agree with and, at minimum, ignore them, and survive without being harassed or influenced to change who they are? It's almost impossible. So it's like I always say, "If you're going to ruin a child, you might as well keep them home and do it yourself.". Homeschooling high school really is the most important part of homeschooling. You are putting the finishing touches on a work of art that you don't get to keep. And you don't want a crazy world putting little smudge marks all over it and messing up all of your hard work right there at the jumping-off point before you put it on the auction block and sell it to the highest bidder. No, I'm just kidding. (That's just what it feels like right now as we're maneuvering through the college application process. But more on that later.).
Another issue, that I myself had, and maybe some of you had if you're still worried about homeschooling high school is there's no one else to blame if you mess up. There's something kind of like a crutch to say, "Well, you know, the school messed up. That's why my kid didn't turn out that good. And so I can just blame it on them, right?" Like, if they didn't learn algebra, it's because the school didn't teach them right. But, there again, if you had the chance to do it differently and you didn't try or didn't take the opportunity, then really who is to blame? So you can turn that little excuse around right in your face because you could have tried-- And so we're ultimately responsible for our children, their education, spiritual growth, maturity, and those things, regardless if we turn them over to the school or if we keep them home and ruin them ourselves. But the truth is--all kidding aside--you're going to care more about the outcome anyway.
Even if you didn't do very good in algebra when you were in high school, you don't have to teach it yourself now. There are so many online courses, and there's co-ops in your area... There's tutors in your area. Your kid may even be capable of teaching themselves. Who knows? I have one that taught himself pre-cal, taught his brother pre-cal, and now helps me teach his younger one to "Please, show your work!" over and over and over. I mean, he's in there in the fight with me. And he's even tutoring college students in math, even though he's a senior in high school, while taking calculus and preparing for calculus two. He did not get that from me. I'm pretty sure it skipped a generation. My dad is awesome at math. I, however, did not get that gene. Neither did my husband. The point being, you do not have to recreate high school at home. It's probably the last thing you should do. There are so many other ways to teach, to learn, to prepare them for their future. So we shouldn't simply abandon the chance to homeschool our children to their individual potential, simply for conformity to the status quo in the community, for false assurances that the public school can do a better job, or to save our own egos from being to blame if we don't get our kids to the highest pinnacle of education that we think makes them successful because not every kid can, will, or even wants to become a scholar, a doctor, or a lawyer. Kids, homeschooling curriculum, public-school curriculum...none of it comes with a guarantee of such achievements anyway. Even if you set up their college savings account during your Lamaze classes, or you scheduled three ACT prep courses per year starting in seventh grade, there is no guarantee of academic and life success when choosing between public school and homeschooling. However, homeschooling allows parents to immediately right their ship, and address and fix problems as they arise. The public school system can't make changes that quickly, and certainly not on an individual level for each child. And also, there are as many unique learning styles as there are kids in assigned seats in school. Sadly, institutions consider all but one or two of those styles to be signs of inadequacy, but those unique styles of learning may be exactly what your child needs to bring them to their potential. And what better time to hone that potential than in the high school years, where you can point them on their own individual path to what they will excel at?
So don't be afraid to homeschool high school. If anything, you should be afraid not to. Because when you homeschool high school students, you give them time to find out who they are, who they want to be, who they are capable of being. They can seek interests outside of the school walls and the limited subjects available there. Not every teen enjoys cheerleading and football and mathletes and whatever limited amount of opportunities are at their local high school. There are thousands of different types of careers out there that I didn't even know existed until I got out of high school and through part of college, and then just actually opened my eyes to the world around me and realized what all I wasn't taught in high school, or what careers that existed that I wasn't made aware of until I stopped and looked around. You know, you're told that: "Oh, well, you can be a cop. You can be a teacher. You can be a nurse. You can be a doctor. You can be a lawyer." All these mainstream careers that we all heard about in high school--firemen, astronaut--those kind of things. It was basically talk of these popular careers. And "If you don't work to achieve one of these careers and the stuff-that-we-talk-about-here, then you're going to ride on the back of a garbage truck for the rest of your life." But that's just not true. You can ride on the back of a garbage truck if you want to, and you shouldn't be ashamed of it. Maybe you're riding on the back of a garbage truck and earning money while you're paying your way through electrician school. That was never offered, right? We have these skills that are lacking in the career force in America today because every one of us were told that we had to go to college and be something fantastic that everyone else was being, and these other skills and good jobs out there have been left behind.
Well, when you homeschool your high school students, you can point out all these forgotten careers that people don't think about that are actually in high demand and have really great pay. And they can actually try these skills early on, get some job shadowing done, or even an actual job with one of these type of skills. But basically, they're not wasting time between the walls of a school campus meeting someone else's idea of learning and checking the boxes on some bureaucrat's idea of graduation requirements. They can go on to find out who they are and what they're capable of without trying to fit in to what's popular on Tik Tok this week, just to make it through a day without being picked on at school. And maybe they can't do algebra all that well to save themselves from 15 hours of homework and tutoring each week at school. But if they're homeschooled, they might be able to learn to weld, or spend hours on an intricate recipe in the kitchen and one day go on to chef school, and/or see just how good they can get at another skill, such as programing or sewing or all kind of things out there that are not offered in school. Or if they are, they're not offered as in-depth as homeschooled students can take them.
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Now, not to be a hypocrite, but yes, I wanted my kids to go to college because I see that the careers-- the paths that they have chosen and the interests that they have are basically only doable with some bit of college, if not a lot of college. So I always wanted to prepare my students to have the option to go to college and be anything they wanted to be and not be handicapped by what I chose not to teach them at home or how I chose to teach it. So I kept up with state requirements and the schools that I thought they might want to go to just to make sure that we had a well-rounded transcript. And I said I would get back to those transcripts. So, keeping in mind that I wanted my kids to have the option to go to school, I made sure that they had the courses that they needed in the interest that they had for the degrees that they might want to get to actually have a working transcript. And now that we're on the other end of things, I know a few more things about homeschooling high school than I used to, and I'm not scared anymore. Ask me in a year and I'll even have more to say, because we're in the throes of applying to colleges and universities right now.
So I have some tips for those of you who are hoping to get your kids into college and some things to ease your mind that maybe I overthought and really didn't need to. First off, transcripts really are no big deal. If you can type on a computer and use a word program or a spreadsheet, then you can build your own transcript. Or there are plenty of templates--all on the internet available at different blogging sites. HSLDA is the one that we used. We paid for them to build us a transcript. And by that I mean they have a program that you pay to use. You enter in all of your information, your child's classes, the grade that you're assigning them, and they put it on this pretty little paper. And it looks like this magnificent--probably better than some high school's transcript-- But it lists you, the parent, and you could put the name of your school if you'd like to have a name--to make it look more like a real school. And then they will actually mail it off for you to the universities and colleges that you're applying to, or jobs-- And it would come sealed in an envelope and look completely official, even though you have complete control and access to editing it at any time. It's really been great and made my life easier and I've done that with all three of my kids. And my seniors now have applied to different schools-- three different schools each. That's six universities I've sent this transcript to; and of the six, not one has called, emailed, or returned with any questions whatsoever on the transcript.
Another thing, I believe that has fortified their transcripts and their homeschooling education as far as trying to get into college after homeschooling is the fact that they did some dual credit coursework. And actually my twins have done enough dual credit coursework that they're going to be graduating with their associate's degree two weeks before they graduate from our homeschool group graduation. So they're actually graduating from college before they graduate from high school. But I do believe that that dual credit that they have done--and applied to universities now with--proves that they are capable of matriculating into a university setting. And sometimes universities want that proven. But those courses showing up on their high school transcripts, as well as a full dual credit transcript I think have helped. No questions asked on our applications, and, if anything, made them stand out and shine above even their public school counterparts.
I'll also tell you that I know a lot of schools now, especially the ones that--the six that we have applied to--are test-optional, meaning the SAT in the ACT are not required for applications. Now one of the schools my children have applied to did require homeschooled students to submit a test score, which seemed a little bit unfair. But there again, it played into the whole: "Are you prepared for college?" And the truth is that homeschooled students are usually more likely prepared for college than a lot of the public school students. But I didn't want to get into an argument with an admissions counselor on that. My children did take the ACT, and so we did go ahead and submit those scores, which I think helped fortify the whole "no questions asked" about our applications, which really eased my mind. And by the end of all of this--the "my transcript", and the dual credit, and making them take the ACT, and actually they did some ACT prep classes as well--I can honestly say I think that we overdid it, because-- though not all of the admissions processes are done yet and I haven't heard back from all-- but they have already been admitted to three different schools and with scholarships. So yay! This is not a brag moment. This is a calm down and realize that you don't have to be as scared as you think you do about applying to college with a homeschooled student. It has actually been very welcoming to go and visit schools and hear how excited they are that we're applying and how much they love homeschooled students, how involved the parents are, how they know that the students that are coming so far as to take a campus tour and apply and submit recommendation letters and all of those things are really prepared, and have learned to study on their own already, and are likely exactly the candidate that they're looking for. So I've learned to calm down a little bit and my third child is reaping the benefits of this now that he's a freshman in high school. Mom won't be quite a stickler for finishing every little thing that we might need to do to get into college. And so since I've chilled out about the getting into college aspect of high school homeschooling, I look back and see the rewards of homeschooling, above and beyond getting into a university, are the relationships that we've built as a family, their relationship with God--and knowing who they are and what their faith really leads for them and where their purpose in life is headed--and also making connections in the community with extracurricular activities that we were able to provide them outside of the four walls of what the school provided. And those activities were things that really mattered to our kids and interests that they had. And that came in the form of even recommendation letters to the schools that I could not have imagined that people would write about my kids and for my kids, and really see what amazing kids that they are without being prompted by me to tell them what to say. It was just kind of an eye-opening, humbling experience...that all of the things and connections that they have already made at 17 years old. And the friends that they've made-- the friends that are friends not because of forced association, but because of beliefs, faith interests, family connections, all of those things that will last throughout their life and not end with graduation from high school. They already have their built-in social system--people to lean on, people to guide them. It's really a rewarding thing that I didn't see happening, but looking back at it now--now that we're right here at the end of the tunnel--I'm so thankful that we beat off this homeschooling endeavor. If for nothing else, the confident young men that they are become, and having the support around them of the right type of people that they needed in their life.
And also life skills-- possible job skills-- those things are important. Looking back with homeschooling high school: "Do you know how to use the washing machine? Can you do the dishes? Do you know how to mow the yard? Can you change a tire if you're stuck on the side of the road?" We have time for all of these things. And of course, kids that go to public school can learn these things as well. And it's not just strictly a homeschooling thing, but there are more times for it. And because they're home during the day, they just kind of get automatically lumped into more things. And I think they get to witness more real-life occasions to learn than can be scripted in a curriculum. And another thing that I'll say about homeschooling high school that's been rewarding is that-- even though I don't think kids should have to have it all figured out-- but they have some things figured out because they've been able to find out who they are, what they're interested in, and try things. So they have a plan. And maybe that plan changes, but they have the opportunity to test the waters of where they might lead in their career, or skills training, or at college.
So when it comes to homeschooling high school, I hope that you can someday also look back or look forward even and say, I'm not afraid anymore. Because when parents do let go of the world's expectation of: "You're going to put them back for high school, aren't you?" And instead homeschool for the individual success of each of their children, then amazingly unique, productive people can emerge from their homes. Individual homeschool success happens when parents forget about following the general model and let their kids show them who they are individually and what unique gifts they have to offer the world. Then, in homeschooling high school, parents can design their home school to each kid's learning style, what drives him or her, seeking experiences and opportunities outside of the traditional classroom and setting them to reach their own talents and interests. And above all, homeschool success is a child who is growing his or her academic strengths and personal interests, and developing real social skills, moral responsibility, and integrity grounded in truth. So say it with me. I'm not afraid anymore. (And even if sometimes you do get a little bit afraid and scream and turn around and run back in the house and peer out the curtains like Kevin McAllister. That's okay too. I still have my worry sessions late at night as well. That's why God invented chocolate.) But I know at this point that homeschooling high school really is the best years of homeschooling, and I wouldn't change a thing. So until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.
Thank you for joining me here on the Homeschool Solutions Show again. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share for healthcare you can trust. To learn more about why over 400,000 Christians have chosen Medi-Share go to Great Homeschool Conventions.com/Medishare. Now if you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you are there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. And this will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected with our community. Also, you can find us on Instagram @homeschoolingdotmom and on Facebook @homeschooling.mom. To let us know what you thought of today's episode, leave us a comment. Let us know what you think. Lastly, have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling event of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit hall in the United States. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you in Texas. Also, if you'd like to connect with me, you can find me on Facebook at Highfalutin Homeschooler, and on Instagram @HifalutinHomeschooler. That's Hifalutin Homeschooler. Also, you can email me directly with any questions, concerns, anecdotes... I love to hear stories from other homeschoolers. That's [email protected]. Till next time, stay weird and homeschool on!