4 Easy Steps to a High School Plan for Homeschoolers
I never intended to homeschool kindergarten, let alone high school!
And yet, there I found myself.
My oldest missed the kindergarten deadline and was completely distraught to watch all her little friends climb on the bus without her. So I offered to do school at home. We had so much fun that we continued.
Next thing I knew, that little girl was 15-years-old!
So I did what any sane, rational mom would do, and I tried to talk her into attending the local public school. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I actually still loved homeschooling and wanted to continue.
But I may have told her how much I enjoyed high school and how much fun I had participating in school musicals and ski club and student government. She wanted none of that, though.
So I did what I always do and headed to the library and google for more information.
I already felt pretty confident about homeschooling itself. It was just the high school stuff — the required credits and record keeping and transcripts and how to get into college — that had me sweating.
It turned out to be a whole lot simpler (and more fun!) than I had anticipated. My oldest is now on the cusp of graduating college, and I just graduated my 3rd child.
All three of my homeschool graduates have graduated with associates degrees and multiple scholarships to each of their first and second choice universities.
I think the best thing I’ve learned from my experiences homeschooling high school is that a really good plan makes a huge difference!
Today I’d like to share the 4 easy steps to a high school plan for homeschoolers.
Why use a four-year high school plan in your homeschool?
A four-year plan is a useful tool for planning your child’s course of study during high school. It’s a great way to organize your high school credits, plan your studies, and develop goals for the future.
You will save yourself time and headache down the road, too, because you’ll be less likely to forget requirements and have to scramble to fit them in. You’ll also feel better able to focus on the things that are most important to you once your core classes are laid out on paper.
And you’ll feel more confident to proceed! Having a four-year high school plan is the best way to organize your homeschool experience.
How do I create a four-year high school plan?
1. Begin with the end in mind.
I’m kind of a DIYaholic, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the many years of DIYing, it’s to always start with the end in mind. Otherwise, you end of tearing out a brand new tile floor to re-route the plumbing you should have moved first.
So it was second nature to me to start creating our high school plan by looking up the universities my child planned to attend, to see what they required for admission. (And don’t forget to check the requirements for scholarships, too!) At age 15, she wasn’t positive what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, but she thought she might like to be a film score composer.
So we looked up potential universities — ones with great, commercial music programs.
We checked the specific classes and requirements for her transcript for admission to each university. And then, on top of those requirement, there were additional requirements for admission to the commercial music program.
She wanted to earn college credit as a high school student, so she could hopefully start right into her program. So she would also need a portfolio of musical accomplishments and compositions to be able to apply directly to her desired program.
If your teen has decided to do something other than college, such as the military or vocation school, they will likely also have admission requirements you can use to construct your high school program.
You’ll also want to check your state’s graduation requirements. Remember that most states have separate requirements for homeschoolers than for their public schools, if any at all.
My state, Utah, actually has no requirements for homeschoolers, but a long list of requirements for public schoolers. Even if you aren’t required to meet the same requirements as the public schools, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that those requirements are probably pretty close to what local universities will require for admission.
Most colleges and universities require the following:
English 4 credits
Math 4 credits
History 3 credits
Science 4 credits (at least 2 of them should include labs)
Foreign Languages 2- 4 credits
PhysEd 1 credit
Fine Arts 1 credit
Electives 6 credits
Total Credits: 26 – 28
These requirements are intended as a jumping off point to create something, depending on what your individual child’s plans are for his future.
Some homeschoolers suggest that teens should be on different “tracks”, depending on what their plans are after high school. They suggest that the above requirements would be a rigorous, college-prep plan, only for students applying to prestigious universities.
A slightly less rigorous plan would be allowable for students planning to enter community colleges or state schools. And a much less rigorous plan would be appropriate for students entering military service, vocational schools, or going straight into the workforce.
I find that advice infuriating, because who knows the actual potential of your teen? My 3rd child earned straight F’s for most of 7th, 8th and 9th grade. I tried everything from personal tutors to online classes, hoping to help this child.
He was completing some of his work, and just not turning it in. But he wasn’t even beginning most of his work. I would walk him through assignments, both of us hunched over his textbooks until midnight the majority of the week.
I could see that he understood the material, but I couldn’t make him care about it. I grew very tired of having to defend his intelligence to his teachers and tutors.
And then in 10th grade something clicked. And that child earned an associates degree (from a mixture of concurrent enrollment and AP test credits) with a programming emphasis and straight A’s for the rest of his high school career. Just last week he graduated magna cum laude with academic distinctions for earning his associates degree during high school.
What if I had put him on a vocational track?
If you only shoot for the stars, you will never reach any higher. Just keep that in mind.
2. Choose electives wisely.
One of the very best things about homeschooling is that it gives your children lots more time to explore their own interests and discover their talents and gifts. And they’re so much fun — they keep the love of learning burning!
But did you know you can also use those electives strategically?
Yes, high school electives can help your child earn admission to the college of his choice. High school electives can also help your child choose a career path.
I’m always sure to leave lots of room in our 4-year high school plans for electives.
Be sure to leave room for Drivers Ed if you live in one of the 32 states that currently requires a certified driving course in order for teens to get their licenses.
3. Set goals.
Career goals would be a very effective exercise for this part of the planning process. But you 15-year-old might not have the slightest inkling about his career. A future career might seem so far off and huge that it feels overwhelming.
In that case, start with nearer goals, like college goals or even just interests. In the case of my oldest daughter, when she learned that she should have a portfolio to submit as part of her application to the commercial music program, she made a list of things it should include, so she could start working on them.
My 3rd child set the goal of earning a couple of computer language certificates and a computer repair certificate so he would be able to earn his way through college making more than minimum wage. Those things also counted as electives on his transcript, and one of them also counted toward his associates degree.
Because he plans to have a career in computer engineering, which requires a very technical college degree that has little to no room for electives, it was smart of him to focus his associates degree electives toward tech and coding and computers.
Your child’s goals should be pertinent to your child’s course of study both in high school and afterward. Think about things like intermediate training that will be needed in order to realize long-term goals, and create goals for the realization of that training.
Help your child work toward achieving prerequisites and gaining experience that long-term goals might require. Be as specific and detailed as you possibly can about these goals, increasing the likelihood of them being met.
4. Create your 4-year high school plan.
I always tell my kids, a goal without a plan is just a wish. It is time to create your plan so that your goals can become reality.
Now that you’ve determined the specific path to your long-term goals, it’s time to create your tentative 4-year plan. Keep in mind that this plan is not set in stone.
The purpose of the 4-year plan is to guide your teen toward high school graduation in a way that provides him all the opportunities he wants for his future. It’s a flexible plan that you can tweak as often as necessary as your teen’s vision for his future changes or becomes clearer.
All four of the 4-year plans I’ve created with my children so far have been revised and reworked to a point where they are almost unrecognizable. But in each instance, they’ve morphed into something more individualized and better.
Now here are the nuts and bolts of my 4-year plans. I’ve included a 4-year plan template (below, in bright red) for you just in case you think like I do. But don’t take this as the gospel truth. You need a 4-year plan that you can live with, so tweak this one until it fits your needs, or create a new one entirely.
I needed everything in Google Drive because I’m allergic to paper clutter. I do realize that the cloud is really just someone else’s computer, and that I should back everything up. But I figure if Google’s servers ever crash, I’ve got bigger problems than just not having a backup of my daughter’s 4-year plan.
So I keep our 4-year plans in sheets. I create a new one for each child, with the help of that child. I also scan things like AP test scores and keep them in a Google folder for each child.
I love that I can add as much information as I need to (think curriculum and book lists and URL’s) to each cell, and then just click on that cell to see everything at a glance. I also love that it’s so easy to edit, even from my phone. When I want to keep previous drafts (it helps to see where you’ve come from to know where you’re going), I just save it under a different name on Google Drive, and proceed as usual.
The first page of my 4-year high school plan is titled the 4-year plan. Imagine that! It looks like this:
The second page is called the HS Schedule. Our 4-year plan, the first sheet, tells us what we should be completing each year, so we use it to put together our schedules. We then research and decide on the specifics of each class — the curriculum, the course description, etc…
If we’re trying to choose between a couple of online classes, I’ll copy and paste in the URL’s so we can spend some time researching and then come back to it. The schedule is a very important part of the planning process.
Here’s a screenshot of the way our scheduling sheet is laid out:
I don’t do much by way of Language Arts, besides enrolling each of my children in the most fabulous Speech and Debate class on the planet. (I’m truly sorry that the teacher is local, because every homeschooler should have the opportunity to learn from him.)
But we read a holy ton of great literature! My kids hate writing (like tantrum-throwing on the floor revulsion) and they love reading. They regularly read multiple 1000-page books each week. So this is my recipe for sanity.
Our entire Language Arts program consists of reading great literature. And we do play the occasional grammar game. But mostly we just read. Anyway, I keep a huge list of classic books that I think every high schooler ought to have read before graduating.
My high schoolers choose one book each week from that list to enjoy along with their other library choices. We record the books read, along with a little information about each, in this google sheet.
Why? Because my brain is like a giant, black abyss. Or maybe more like a black hole, since it actually sucks in information, never to be heard from again. So I record the reading material so that I can keep track of what has been read and has yet to be read.
Here’s a screenshot of that page:
And the last page is for test scores. I never administer math tests or spelling tests or pretty much any tests. Rather, this is where I record AP test scores, CLEP scores, college entrance test scores and the like. These are helpful to have on hand when it comes to creating your teen’s transcript upon graduation.
It’s seriously sad, but I have been known to forget that my children have even taken certain AP tests, let alone what their scores were. Here is what our Test Scores page looks like:
In order to be able to edit this template, you’ll need to open it using this link, then go to ‘File’ and select ‘Make a copy’. Once you have your own copy, you’ll be able to edit and make any changes you’d like.
Customize, personalize and individualize your high school plan.
I just can’t reiterate enough that your high school plan should work for you. Your plan could be similar to mine, or it could be completely different, depending on your preferred university’s admission requirements, your teens interests, his choice of college major and career, and your homeschooling style.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, and to create opportunities your child needs if they don’t already exist. My oldest wanted to get a jump start on college by taking college classes during high school.
Our local high school offered several concurrent enrollment classes, so she enrolled in those for a semester. The problem was that the local high school wasn’t keen on letting her come and go for just a few classes.
They also had rules about their concurrent enrollment students being on track for a high school diploma. We knew she didn’t need a diploma and didn’t want to waste time jumping through those hoops.
A few of the students in her classes were more serious about education, like my daughter was. But the majority of them were disinterested and a few were downright disruptive. She complained about the atmosphere at the school.
The biggest issue, though, was that the course materials and instruction were not high quality. If they had been, we could have ignored the other issues, and I would have happily fought the administrators to make exceptions to their policies.
Unfortunately, the classes, which were live, online university classes, broadcast into classrooms statewide, were not high enough quality to fight over. One even contained graphic, explicit content. Several parents objected to the content and were told that our children were technically college students and as such needed to be handle adult content.
My daughter had to finish out the semester, because these grades were going on her permanent college record. But we began looking for other options. We cobbled together a program for her of a mixture of online university offerings and on-campus classes.
University campuses aren’t, in my mind, ideal places for 15-year-old kids. There is a huge discrepancy in maturity between age 15 and age 21. It was difficult for her to be a part of something academically, but not socially. It was difficult for me to have my life so tied up with driving her (we live an hour away- and I had 7 younger kids to drag around with me) and paying tuition.
But there was no better solution available. I knew from talking with other homeschool moms that we weren’t the only family looking for a concurrent enrollment program geared to homeschoolers, so a friend and I decided to create one exactly to our specifications:
- it needed to provide high quality concurrent enrollment classes on our campus so that we could have the final say over curriculum and content.
- it needed to hire professors itself so we had some control over what was taught and how.
- it needed to provide a full load of classes each semester so our students had the opportunity to earn an associates degrees in two years.
- it needed to schedule it’s classes in a way that allowed students to attend classes only twice per week, so as to allow students the freedom and flexibility to continue with homeschooling.
- it needed to allow students to graduate without a high school diploma — to not require all students to jump through the hoops required for a high school diploma. It should allow them to skip the high school diploma and jump straight to the associates degree or beyond if they preferred.
It took us over two years from when we began writing the charter application to when we finally opened our doors, so my oldest was never able to use it. But my 2nd child was part of the first graduating class at that charter school. And my 3rd recently graduated in our third graduating class.
Just don’t be afraid to think beyond what is merely available and create exactly the opportunities your child needs, from high quality concurrent enrollment classes to internships with local businesses.
You’ll never regret the work you put into a high school plan.
These four years will speed by, and before you know it, graduation will be here!
Everyone complains about teens, but they can really be delightful. Of course, everything won’t be perfect all the time, but it makes such a difference to have your teen at home the majority of those years. You are his primary influence, and he will have strong, deep family attachments that will remain intact.
My oldest three have moved away to university at this point, but they still call and text back and forth with their younger siblings. The first person to find out anything about my 12-year-old son is his older brother away at college. That’s because they shared a room and they shared their lives here at home.
I can’t deny that creating the perfect high school plan for each of your children is work. But it’s the type of work that will pay off for eternity!
Please feel free to leave questions in the comments below. I’ll answer them as best I can! I’d love to hear about the high school plans you have created for your own children, too!
Pin this advice for your 4-year high school plan for homeschoolers so you can find it later!