When I first began homeschooling my children, we had tons of homeschooling friends. We live in an area with many local homeschoolers, homeschool groups, and homeschool co-ops. Through kindergarten, elementary school, and even middle school we had so many friends who homeschooled. But when high school began getting closer, I noticed that many of the homeschooled kids I had known for so many years were being enrolled in public school for high school.
This made me begin to worry as my own kids came closer and closer to their high school years. Why were so many moms avoiding homeschooling through high school? Were there things I didn’t know? Were there things I should be worried about? I started to doubt our decision to keep homeschooling in high school. What if there were things about this whole homeschooling through high school deal that I couldn’t figure out?
I’m now further along the homeschooling road. I’ve officially graduated two kids, and I have two more who will be starting high school next year. I’ve survived the high school years. Twice! And I’ve learned a few things along the way. If you’re considering homeschooling through high school but you aren’t sure, if you’re a little concerned that it might be too difficult, don’t worry. Take a deep breath. And then consider these five things you need to know before you begin homeschooling through high school.
It’s not as hard as it can sometimes seem.
If you are still homeschooling in the elementary school years, you may have heard parents of high schoolers talking and been a little overwhelmed. The talk will invariably shift to transcripts and ACT scores and SAT prep and how many times their children took the PSAT and what colleges they all applied to and how many college visits they took and…on and on. I know that when I used to overhear these conversations, I would get a little knot in the pit of my stomach. How am I ever, ever, ever going to manage all that?
Now, speaking as a parent who has survived the high school years twice, I can tell you that it isn’t all that complicated. Find out your state’s requirements for high school graduation. Decide if your child wants to go to college. Pay for an SAT prep class if you want to or just have your child practice with one of the 1,001 practice sites online.
If you have a homeschool friend or support group, ask to see the transcript of another high school student to give you an idea of how to write one. You can also find lots of online resources that can help you write a transcript for your child. But don’t make homeschooling through high school harder than it really is. Take each step one at a time, each high school year one at a time, and it will be less overwhelming.
Your kids’ high school years don’t have to look like those of any other homeschooled high schooler.
I’ll never forget going to lunch with another homeschooling mom the year my first child began high school. This mom had a child graduating that year, and we were talking about the high school years. She was sharing some things they had learned and were figuring out as her daughter had been applying to colleges. She began to describe for me a portfolio that she had created for her daughter. This thing was massive. She had had it printed and bound at a copy shop. It had sections for everything from academic achievements to elective classes to volunteer services to fine arts experience. She sent this to each college her daughter was applying to.
I have to admit that I was terrified. The thought of creating something like that for my daughter- and then potentially for all four kids!- was so overwhelming. I couldn’t fathom how I would do it. Guess what? I never did. My daughter was accepted into every college she applied to and offered top scholarships.
Now I’m not faulting my friend. She obviously enjoyed creating this portfolio. And her daughter did get into the college she wanted. But I am pointing out the fact that your child’s high school experience doesn’t have to line up with any other homeschooler you know. Just because your friend’s child took three foreign languages and played in an orchestra and applied to Yale doesn’t mean your child should. Your child’s high school experience can be totally unique.
Maybe your child will be planning on college. Maybe she’ll take the ACT or SAT or both. Maybe he’ll love music and want to be in an orchestra. Maybe she’ll plan on going to a tech school or will even get a tech school degree along with a high school degree with dual enrollment. Maybe your child won’t go to college at all but will go on to learn a trade and work in it. Your child’s high school path doesn’t have to follow that of anyone else.
Homeschooled kids have so many more opportunities during their high school years.
Your child has so, so many options available to him when he’s homeschooled through high school. Traditional high school doesn’t give a kid time for much besides school. I taught at a local public high school. Kids were in classes by 8:30am. They didn’t get out until 3:45pm. Some of them had after school activities, but they had to decide whether or not to do these considering the two or more hours of homework they usually had each night. Between the hours of school and the hours of homework, these kids often didn’t have much time for anything else.
Homeschooled kids, though, have some flexibility. Because we can adapt school times and even the amount of work kids are doing based on their future plans, these kids have lots of choices. My son decided last year that he wanted to work more hours. He worked at the beginning of the week to get all his schoolwork done, leaving the latter part of the week free so that his boss could schedule him longer hours on those days. My daughter had kids in her gymnastics group who were also homeschooled. Homeschooling allowed these girls to devote many more hours to their sport because their school hours were flexible.
Homeschooled kids are free during the day to go and learn a trade with a mentor. Do you have a child interested in mechanics? You can adjust your school hours to allow your child to spend time working with a mechanic and learning the trade. Do you have a child who’s passionate about music? Flexible school hours means your child can devote more time to playing an instrument and spending time learning it well. Although some traditional schools try to offer kids some of these opportunities, they are much more bound by a specific schedule and by the homework kids have to complete.
Your kids don’t have to miss out on the social aspect of high school…if they don’t want to.
I’ve heard some parents say that their decision to put their child in public school in high school was so that they wouldn’t miss out on the social activities. But homeschooling and an active social life are definitely not mutually exclusive. If you get involved in a local homeschool group, your kids can have plenty of opportunity for the social aspect of high school. We are members of a high school co-op as well as a high school social group. These kids have dances, go on trips to the movies, visit local attractions together, plan pizza parties, and much, much more. They are certainly not missing out on any kind of social activity.
And there are some kids who want nothing to do with a hopping social life. My oldest likes to hang out with a few select friends, one or two at a time. She has no desire to go to dances or pizza parties or game nights. Because she’s homeschooled, she has the freedom to be that person without being ostracized or considered odd or a loner. She’s not pressured into difficult social situations by being required to be in a classroom of other students every day of the week for four to seven class periods. Homeschooled high schoolers can be involved as much- or as little- as they want in social activities.
Homeschooled kids can go to college and do well.
What if my child can’t get into college? This questions lurks in the backs of all homeschool moms’ minds as they consider high school, I think. Homeschooling will not cause your child to miss out on getting into college. Many colleges actively seek homeschoolers because they tend to be more motivated and be able to work independently.
Of course not all homeschoolers automatically have these skills. And not all homeschoolers are automatically prepared for continuing studies after graduation. But all traditionally schooled students aren’t either. Whether or not your child can or even should go to college depends on many factors. And being homeschooled won’t make your child less prepared and may make him more prepared.
I have one child successfully in college and one who has decided not to go and is following a career path. I also have friends with kids who graduated from homeschooling who are doing exceptionally well in college. Do not let fear of missing out on or not being prepared for college prevent you from homeschooling through high school.
If your child wants to go to college, make sure to look at your state’s requirements for a diploma as well as requirements for specific colleges your child is interested in. Keep up with the classes they’ve completed with a transcript. Have your child take the SAT or ACT or both. And your child will be well on the way to getting into and succeeding in college.
If you’re thinking about homeschooling in high school, I’ll be the voice that reassures you that it can be done.
It’s not a huge, insurmountable task. It’s a very doable process. It’s also very rewarding, and I love the relationships I’ve built with my kids as we’ve continued to homeschool through high school.