Homeschooling High School
When my oldest completed her Pre Calculus textbook at age 13, I thought to myself, “Oh, crap!”
Not because I wasn’t proud of her, but because that was the exact point at which I realized we were about to embark on high school.
I never intended to homeschool my kiddos all the way through high school. In fact, I never intended to homeschool them at all — it was a serendipitous accident.
But high school?
It had snuck up on me!
So I sat my daughter down and told her how much I had enjoyed different aspects of my public high school. I admit I may have been trying to talk her into attending high school.
After all, our local high school has so much to offer by way of AP classes and early college credits, band and orchestra, ballroom dance and musical theater.
And kids have matured so much by high school. They’re less self-centered and seem to care more about learning and preparing for college and life. So you don’t have to worry as much about mean girls and peer pressure and bullying.
Who was I kidding? I already knew that my oldest loved the freedom of homeschooling and would never voluntarily attend public school.
So I resigned myself to homeschooling high school and jumped in with both feet.
These are the things I wish I would have know before taking that plunge! Don’t let any of them deter you, just be aware of them.
1. Homeschooling is a Burden of Responsibility
You already understand the neverending responsibility of being a parent. Dental exams, orthodontist appointments, physical check-ups, 3 nutritious meals a day, music lessons and soccer practice and your child’s emotional and spiritual well-being — it all rests squarely on your shoulders.
When you decide to homeschool, you add the responsibility of education to your list. It’s not so bad in kindergarten, when your child is expected to know his ABC’s, but high school is another story entirely.
Universities publish pretty extensive lists of what they think your child should have accomplished in order to be admitted. With four years and a good plan, it’s really not that difficult, but in the interest of full disclosure — it can be overwhelming at times.
2. High Schoolers Have Attitude
Calculus, physics and Latin are the least of your problems.
No upper level math course will cause you nearly the grief that your teen’s attitude will. Each of my children is unique, of course. But the one thing they all have in common is that by age 18, both they and I were ready for them to move out.
I actually think it’s part of our Heavenly Father’s brilliance. Little ones make you want to squeeze their cheeks and hold them on your laps for stories, and teens make you want to give them the boot.
In the behind. To the street. Followed by all of their stuff.
And the thing is, they want the boot as much as you want to give it. It’s a good thing that young adults are ready to move onward and upward. The alternative is that they live in your basement indefinitely.
Consider it a stage of child development and embrace it. I have been known to tell my teens that I love that they feel perturbed by me, because it’s a sign of their need to move onward and upward.
3. You’ll Need to Plan Ahead
Your teen might be spending the majority of his focus on the new marvel movie. Younger teens, especially, can be pretty short sighted.
So it’s up to you, as the parent, to be sure that your educational plan is college prep — that it covers all the bases required for admission to University. Your child might be sure, right now, that he’s going to be a professional rodeo clown, but you want him to not have closed (and incinerated) all the doors if (when) he changes his mind down the road.
Be sure to look into the admission requirements of whichever Universities your child is interested in. Check out the median scores of their applicants college entrance tests and GPA’s, so your child has something to aim for. This will save you major headaches later on.
4. College Entrance Tests Matter
Have your child take his initial college entrance tests his sophomore year, especially if he has been homeschooled his entire school career. Test-taking is almost as much about knowing how to take a test as it is about knowing the material the test covers.
Most test prep courses will go over things like filling in test forms and various test-taking strategies. But your child will still need practice. And you probably don’t administer tests like that in your homeschool.
Your child will likely increase his test score dramatically each time he retakes one of these tests, just because he is becoming more familiar with the test. So start early and give him plenty of chances for retakes.
We found, with each of my 3 oldest kids, that college entrance test scores count much more heavily for homeschoolers than transcripts, probably because the transcripts were created by a parent. They really matter!
5. You Are Not the Teacher
Thank goodness, right?!
This revelation was such a relief to me!
When you homeschool high school, your role is more that of a guidance counselor than a teacher. As homeschoolers, we merely facilitate our children’s learning, which means that we learn together. By not giving our children answers to things, we give them opportunities to seek out and learn how to learn.
It’s beautiful that you are merely in charge of guiding your child and offering resources, allowing him the choice to partake. It’s beautiful that your child determines the extent to which he’ll partake and the timeline for doing so.
The reason it’s so beautiful is that your high schooler will learn how to manage his own time, set goals, motivate himself, and actually take control of his own education — all because he wants to. And it’s beautiful that your child is learning these adult skills while still under your roof and with your support, and with small repercussions.
6. College is Not the Only Option
Even though we’re working toward a college-prep education, just because we want to keep all the doors open (see #3 above) it’s important to remember that college is not the only option.
Even if your child is academically inclined, he might have other ideas for his future. Or he might want to go to college eventually, but need to take a break to work and adjust to adulthood for awhile.
You always hear about successful entrepreneurs who dropped out of college, like Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. But there are other paths to success as well, such as apprenticeships and technical school.
A friends daughter recently graduated their homeschool with a welding certificate and has already received mulitple, lucrative job offers.
7. Homeschooling High School is About More Than Academics
One of the questions you’ll hear most frequently as a homeschooler is about socialization. I guess people wonder if you are sequestering your child away in a solitary basement with a pile of textbooks and zero human interaction, lol!
What they don’t realize is that homeschooling provides ample opportunities for participation in extracurricular programs, both academic and non-academic.
My high schoolers have an outstanding debate coach. He has set up a homeschool debate league through the entire northern half of Utah, and he works full-time, in different cities each day, teaching all these homeschooled youth debate skills. More importantly, he’s teaching them how to think critically and how to do hard things.
All of my children participate in a local orchestra that caters to homeschoolers and has been awarded the Best of State for the last 11 years running. We also have time to volunteer to feed the homeless and sew menstrual products for the ‘Days for Girls’ organization. We wouldn’t have time for these things if we followed a public school schedule.
Your children will have time to work to earn money and learn responsibility. They will be able to participate in community sports programs. And they will have more time and freedom to add all of these critical things to their academic requirements.
8. Homeschooling High School is About the Journey, not the Destination
18 short summers, mama –that’s all you’ve got. That should put things in perspective.
When your children are young, it’s hard to even know what the destination is.
Is the destination college?
Is it adulthood?
How do we define ‘graduation’? Or success?
Those questions are exactly what I mean when I say homeschooling high school is about a journey and not a destination. Little by little, each day, as we spend our time together, we are teaching our precious children about so much more than academics.
For example, your high schooler is watching the way you deal with your toddler’s interruptions while you try to get through school. How do you want your child to parent his own children? He’s learning from you.
9. Embrace the Challenges of Homeschooling High School
Homeschooling high school will be challenging — you can take that to the bank.
In order for us to grow, we must have challenges that stretch us beyond our present limits. Think of your most recent challenges. Would you trade them? Or can you look back on them and be grateful for them because you can see (in hindsight) how much growth you experienced?
We must work our mind, body, and spirit in order to experience the joy that only comes through growth and hard work. There are few joys that exceed the feeling of conquering a difficult challenge.
The truth is, if you ever found yourself without challenges, you would become unhappy and restless. So instead of getting discouraged about new challenges, embrace them. You should be pumped to look back on this challenge from the future, and see increased skills and abilities.
10. Your Child is Also God’s Child
I forget this all too often!
My second child was particularly difficult, all growing up. When he finally graduated our homeschool (with 3 separate full-tuition scholarships to his first-choice University, I might add) I was elated that we had made it!
We helped him move into his new apartment, bought him groceries and toiletries, and walked around campus with him to help him find his classes and buy textbooks. The hubs and I drove home feeling pretty satisfied with our efforts.
I was at my kiddos orchestra a few months later when he called to let me know that he was not doing well. Of course he still had all the same problems he had struggled with at home. But at age 18, living away from home, what was I to do?
I didn’t know.
I sat in my car and cried and poured my heart out to my Heavenly Father, who let me know that He was also my child’s Father in Heaven and that He was my child’s father before I was ever his mother. I had done all I could, but God would keep working in my child’s life and on his behalf.
No experience before or since has ever brought me that kind of peace.
God knows and loves your children, too. He knows what is best for each of them, and He has a plan for their lives.
Keep These Things in Mind While Homeschooling High School
Keep these things in mind as you begin homeschooling high school, and you’ll find that the job is actually easier and more rewarding than you could ever have imagined. As you get to know your child in a way that you never could if you weren’t homeschooling, you’ll probably find that you really like this amazing person you raised.
Despite the inevitable challenges (many of which stem from arrogant teenage attitude) I’m betting that this endeavor will be one you will look back on as one of your crowning achievements in life. I already feel that way with my oldest 3 graduated and five still in my homeschool.
Happy homeschooling, friends!
Do you have any advice for your fellow homeschooling high school mamas in the trenches? Or questions? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below!
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Abby Banks is a former classroom teacher, now homeschool mom of five and pastor’s wife. Even though she grew up in a Christian home, she was never taught how to read and understand the Bible. After learning how to deep dive into the Word using the Inductive Method, Abby has taught it to kids, teens, and women in various church and homeschool contexts for the last 20 years.
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