Homeschooling High School Students
If you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, or an unschooler, or interest-led, or you like unit studies, or you practice an eclectic mish-mash of all of these (and more!), you might be looking ahead to the high school years with trepidation. You might be thinking you’ll need to change everything, because high school COUNTS, hello, and there are certain things your kids must learn to graduate. And you will need to give them grades for their work, and credits, and it all seems a bit overwhelming.
And depressing, because this lovely homeschool lifestyle you’ve built will have to be sacrificed to the “getting them ready for college” gods.
I’m guest-posting here on Lara’s beautiful blog to reassure you that you can truly homeschool high school while still enjoying the style(s) of homeschooling you’ve come to love in the elementary and middle years.
All you need is a little information about some of the things you might be worried about. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but in this case, ignorance is NOT a good idea, lol. Let me enlighten you so that you can be reassured and hopefully even inspired to try this homeschool high school thing for yourself!
I’ve graduated four of my kids from our homeschool (one to go!), and you can trust me when I tell you that it is a very doable and worthwhile endeavor and that you can do it YOUR way.
Reassuring Information You Need to Know about Homeschooling High School
1) Graduation Requirements — Guess what? Most states do NOT have graduation requirements for homeschoolers. Some do, but most do not. So that means your teen can study whatever you want them to, or whatever THEY want to.
If they are headed to college, you will definitely want to check college requirements and aim to meet them. But college requirements don’t tell you HOW your kid needs to learn, just WHAT your kid needs to learn. And they only give very broad subject requirements, like “American History” or “a lab science.” Within those topics, it’s all fair game! Let your teen spend mondo time in World War 2, if that is their interest, and count it all as “American History.” You do have that kind of decision-making power!
And colleges don’t actually specify your kid’s entire high school career. There is plenty of room for your teen to work on whatever interests them. My eldest daughter wanted to major in violin performance — so I was able to count her three-hours-per-day practice schedule for 2-3 credits per year during high school. Interest-led? Totally!
2) Grades — yes, these are a thing, because you will need to make a transcript to include on college applications. But how you give them is up to you. Tests aren’t the only way to evaluate learning, as you probably well know. Your evaluation practices don’t have to change just because your teen is now doing high-school-level work.
True, the grades you give your teen may be more subjective than they might receive at the public school or using a boxed curriculum — but frankly, they might not. I can remember one teacher when I was in school who gave the girl who sat next to me one point higher on her SEMESTER grade just because she operated the filmstrip projector ONE time in class. Not so objective, huh? Nor indicative of learning. Sigh. (I wouldn’t remember it to this day, except that the one extra point moved her from a B to an A, while I was stuck with my 89 and had to live with it. Sheesh.)
3) Credits — another thing that does exist. And colleges usually like to see a certain number in some given subjects — for example, most colleges like an applicant to have completed 3 credits of high school math.
What is helpful to know is that high school credits are determined mainly by two things:
a) The amount of time spent in the study of a particular subject. NOT the actual information studied. I mean, yes, there is the basic idea that what is studied should be high-school-level material, as in Algebra 1 vs. the multiplication tables — but even that is flexible depending on the child.
If your child spends 80+ hours on a particular core subject, whether that be reading, watching documentaries, discussing, writing, problem-solving, computer modeling, etc etc etc — then they earn 1/2 credit. If they spend 160+ hours, they get 1 credit.
b) Finishing a “boxed” curriculum that is either designed to be a certain number of credits or is generally considered to encompass a certain number of credits will then earn those credits, no matter how long it takes. Algebra 1 is a good example of the latter: finishing an Algebra 1 curriculum means earning one credit, whether that takes 3 months or 2 years.
But if you don’t want to use a boxed curriculum, and you are willing to keep track of your student’s hours somehow (or have THEM keep track, hello), then you can be confident that their credits are well-earned and not disputable.
4) Succeeding at college — you might be afraid your kid won’t be ready for college workloads if you don’t start them studying textbooks during high school. Well, in my experience, the biggest determining factor of college success is not the type of curriculum but whether or not they know how to learn independently. If they can read and understand, process, and work with the information they’ve encountered — no matter how — then they will be fine in college. That is something that is basically built into Charlotte Mason and interest-led learning, am I right? So no worries there.
I will just say that using a textbook for certain courses will not mean that you are selling out. For subjects such as math and science, a textbook might be the most efficient way for your child to learn the topic they are interested in.
Or they might not be interested in it, lol — but to reach their goals, there may be some preliminary prerequisite material that MUST be mastered. High school is a great time to learn that not all in life is based on what we want, that sometimes “have to” does become reality. And maybe that means slogging through a textbook if it means working towards a desirable end result.
Hopefully, you are feeling a bit better now, reassured that you can truly homeschool high school the way you would prefer. Your high-schooler can still participate in unit studies with the rest of the family. They can still read living books — and should! They can follow their interests, varied or few, as they grow through the high school years. The exploration of truth, goodness, and beauty can still be a main focus. The possibilities are truly endless.
You truly can design a high school plan that encompasses all of this and whatever else you want to include!
“Ok,” you say. “That’s all well and good but HOW do I do this? How do I know what colleges want? How do I know how much work is the right amount? How do I know when my kid is ready to graduate?”
It’s true I’ve only given you a very basic overview here. It is beyond the scope of one blog post to answer all your specific questions, lol.
BUT I HAVE A RESOURCE FOR YOU. I have written an ebook that will take you from square one of not knowing anything about homeschooling high school, step-by-step all the way through doing the necessary research, deciding what your goals are for your teen during high school, and creating a general map for how their four (or five) years of high school will look. It comes with eight printable forms for you to fill out every step of the way.
When you’re done working through my ebook, you will be CONFIDENT that you know what you’re doing and also what your kid should be doing to meet their goals. It answers all those questions above and more that you didn’t even think to ask yet!
Here’s where to see more information about my ebook: Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: How to Be Sure You’re Not Missing Anything. Check it out!
I sincerely have a heart for encouraging families to homeschool all the way through graduation. The high school years have been the BEST years of our homeschool journey. And they can be for you, too, especially since you can do them just the way you want to!
Ann is the (very) middle-aged mom of five who writes at Annie & Everything about calming the chaos of homeschool life. She says, “I don’t do complicated!” and is known for her down-to-earth common sense about all things homeschool and the homeschool lifestyle. Having graduated four children (with one more to go), she has a heart for helping families choose to homeschool all the way through high school. To that end, she has written the ebook Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: How to Be Sure You’re Not Missing Anything, and she admins the popular FB group called It’s Not that Hard to Homeschool High School to give encouragement and support to moms of homeschooled teens. She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.
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