Most parents approach the idea of homeschooling their child or children while they are still in the very early years. Their minds aren’t often drawn, immediately, to the high school years. This can be a very intimidating thought for those who have never homeschooled through high school before, especially if college preparation is expected. The good news is, though, that it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, this can be one of the most gratifying and rewarding times to homeschool your children, as you watch them turn into the young adults you always prayed they would become.
Still, as you begin transitioning into high school, or for those just now going into it, if this is when you chose to pull your child out of public school, it can be very beneficial to take some steps in the right direction first. You should know right away, there will be plenty of trial and error moments, as you find out what works best. You will find your niche and things will suddenly get a little bit easier as time moves on. Take advantage of every resource available to you during this time, and always be ready to research lots of options, even ones you might think to dismiss at first. Remember that Google searches don’t always return the “best” options first! The algorithms they use can cause unrelated searches to show up on the first page or two, so be ready to go a bit farther if you want a good array of answers.
Have Faith! You Really Can Do It!
One of the things that might cause you to trip up the fastest is coming under the impression that you have to create an experience for your child that looks just like the public-school model. Understand me when I say: that is NOT necessary! Of course, you have to follow the rule of law regarding certain things, as is laid out state by state, but they do not, under most circumstances, have the ability to meddle with the specifics of what you do.
You get to decide, for instance, which specific courses are required for graduation. When my daughter started into high school, I wasted a LOT of time researching our state graduation requirements, because I thought I had to adhere to that in teaching her. At that point, I had not yet learned that this was unnecessary. And it’s probably one of the best pieces of news I could have received. For instance, my daughter had absolutely no desire to take a foreign language at any point during high school. However, since graduating, she has undertaken to learn Japanese and Dutch and is doing very well in both.
You also are free to assign credit for anything you feel is worthy. Interests, activities, and hobbies can easily be counted towards required coursework, especially if you see how much effort they put into it. This not only eases the tension that many teens feel in these important years, but it can also help you avoid overfilling a schedule just to try to cover a certain number of electives that aren’t entirely necessary.
Don’t worry about assigning hordes of homework either. In public-school, the average day is filled with so much inconsistency, busy-work, and unfulfilling activities and interactions that in order to get anything out of a lesson at all, a good deal of the work must be done at home. In homeschool, however, we don’t dawdle around with unnecessaries. Making every minute count means you won’t need so many minutes… nor as much homework. And that makes everyone happier!
Most of all, go easy on yourself. Nothing in your homeschool has to be perfect, it just has to work. If you spend all your time, for instance, fighting to make sure each and every class begins ON time EVERY time, you might just miss something very important along the way. It’s unlikely that a late start today or tomorrow will translate into any type of failure. And that’s a very important fact to keep in mind.
Make Good Connections
If you thought connections were good for the elementary and middle school years, you’ll definitely feel that way about the high school years. Co-ops and homeschool groups can really be a lifesaver during this time, especially for special classes, field trips, community service opportunities, and so much more. For you, the parent, it can mean the difference between diving into a sea of curriculum choices with no idea what you’re really looking for, and learning from others what works, what doesn’t, and why.
Many other resources can be found in local community colleges, theatres, sports teams, musical venues, and even support groups. If you can’t find anything local and in-person - although you would be hard-pressed to be at a complete loss - then you can look towards online classes, social media groups, and YouTube content that can give you a wealth of ideas for pertinent connections.
Consider the Big Picture
These four years are the ones that will send your child out into the real world, and there’s nothing better than homeschooling to fully equip them for that. Instead of focusing on many of the unnecessaries that come standard in the public-school setting, you can help prepare your children for college or the job market, whichever they will be transitioning into. It can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to help our teens see past what’s right in front of them, but it’s worth it. It takes vision and sound judgment, along with a good bit of interest.
If you have the opportunity to start homeschooling before or during the freshman year, you can tailor the entire four years for the specific plans your child has, if any, following graduation. You might even think about dual enrollment, giving them an opportunity to earn credits towards college, if they seem interested in that avenue. Those teens who take a job during their high school years can utilize that on-the-job experience to consider whether furthering that track will be worthwhile.
Other ideas to put on the table can include apprenticeships, trade or technical school, military service, or college. This is also a good time to think about financial aid, student loans, or scholarships if any of these are to be used. Each of these avenues takes time, and certain steps are necessary along the way. It’s always best to plan ahead and make sure those steps are taken.
The Importance of Planning
It is one thing to homeschool through the elementary school years, and through middle school as well. But it is quite another to homeschool through the high school years. This is the stage in which your children will need some academic challenges. They are ready for a more independent take on coursework, even possibly to include some college courses. Your young adults are better able to join in on decisions that impact their overall path.
In planning, you’ll want to want to lay out your child’s requirements for the high school years. State mandates will play a role in those requirements, as will individual requirements and preferences, the specific style you plan to use, what and how you’re going to teach, whether or not they will be going to college and whether you plan to entertain the possibility of dual credits towards college.
Making a plan for these four years before they even begin is not a bad idea. After considering all the things just mentioned, you can then develop a plan to help create a foundation on which to build. Make loose notes per school year, freshman through senior, and note specific records of importance so that you will have what you need at the end of each year.
As you develop your high school curriculum you also have the ability to outsource subjects as well. For instance, you can send your child to nearby classes, activities, co-ops, volunteer opportunities and so much more for which credit can be earned.
The Importance of Record-Keeping
Different states have various reporting requirements with regard to the records you keep. For instance, some only require that you keep attendance records and a portfolio of their work. In high school, however, records are extremely important, but need not cause you to become overly anxious. It’s much easier than you think.
A homeschool high school transcript is fairly simple to create. It’s a list of all the courses and classes your child completed during high school. You can include facts about whether they took these classes within the confines of the homeschool, from an outside educator, as dual credit college work, or anything else. Adding the final grade for each course should also be included. If you are using a boxed curriculum, the necessary forms should be included. For those who go about their own curriculum construction, there are many places online where you can find free forms that offer everything you need to create your child’s transcript.
The high school diploma is awarded at the end of the senior year, a congratulatory piece for completion of the prescribed subject matter. As with the transcript, curriculum sets might include this documentation. Otherwise, you can do an online search for a variety of different templates that are customizable and will work perfectly.
During this most important and crucial time in your homeschooling career, attending a Great Homeschool Convention can be of immense value. If you are a first-time high school homeschool teacher, you’ll find many of our speakers, vendors, and workshops to be excellent resources. Even the connections you’ll make in meeting like-minded homeschooling families will be a great benefit to you as well.
Our seven Great Homeschool Conventions are held regionally, which means there is likely one near you. We do offer hotel discounts for travelers, military discounts, and free admission for active clergy members so that everyone will have a great opportunity to attend.
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And remember, Great Homeschool Conventions are: Equipping… Encouraging… FUN!