Homeschooling high school can feel daunting– this will be your teen’s launchpad into college, career, the military, or life– so it’s a big step. But you can do it. There are a couple of truisms that are helpful to keep in mind:
- Start the planning process with your teen’s goals in mind, not your goals. You are helping your teen set the stage his life, not yours. But keep options open.
- Accept the idea that you will not have enough time for your teen to do everything you dream of him or her doing over the next four years, if you want him or her to do them well.
- Make a plan at the start (or now, if you’ve already begun) takes away 95% of the stress.
- Remember to schedule the extras– any required tests, applications, driver’s ed, etc, and put them on a calendar.
Start with your teen
Sit down with your teen at some point before the start of high school, or now if high school has begun. Have an open discussion about your teen’s thoughts about life after homeschool graduation. Does she want to go to trade school? Art school? Community College? 4-year College? Use the Delaware SEED scholarship? Travel? Join the armed forces? Work? Start a family? Make it clear that it’s okay to be uncertain, or to have more than one (seemingly incompatible) goal in mind. This is a conversation, not a binding contract. Consider your own observations of your teen’s skills and passions, as well as any biases you might have. Discuss the idea that preparing for one step more difficult than necessary is sometimes a good idea, so that if the first plan changes, there are other avenues still open; if your teen wants nothing except starting a family, consider perhaps being qualified to enter an associate degree program or skilled certificate program is not a bad backup. If your teen wants to enter a trade, shoot for something above minimum requirements, in case the requirements change before the end of your homeschool journey. While there are no universals, most teens enjoy being taken seriously by their parents, and will be more likely to invest in their homeschool education if they feel they have helped engineer where it is going and why.
The fun part of planning for high school is that the possibilities are nearly endless. The overwhelming part of planning for high school is that the possibilities are nearly endless. Enjoy some brainstorming for a bit, and step outside of the rigid traditional high school structure. Some classes for which your high schooler earns a transcript credit can be spread across more than one year in a homeschool environment. If you are lucky enough to know a meteorologist or an oceanographer or a hydrologist or a veterinarian, consider either an unconventional laboratory science or an unconventional twist on a typical science class. Consider combining classes that logically belong together into one class worth more than one credit– history, literature, geography, and rhetoric can all be one “world studies” or “American studies” or “African studies” class worth 4 credits, if your student puts in that much time on it, and it could end up being fascinating! If you live near an archaeology site or a historical re-enactment site, the cross-curricular class could even be combined with some volunteer hours for additional enrichment. Do you want financial awareness to be a class? Will it include just the basics of budgeting and credit management, or will in include stocks, bonds, insurance, and retirement planning? Look around at what others are doing and freely grab ideas. Theater? Music? Social Justice? Philosophy? PE class? Swimming? Teen hangout time? Public speaking? Online classes? Local college classes? Driver’s Ed? First Aid?
Next comes the part you will need to reconcile. If you’ve done your homework with the brainstorming, you will come up with more plans than your teen will be able to reasonably be able to complete during four years of high school. Even if you whittle them down to the more realistic goals (maybe ditching whittling his own canoe and paddling across the Pacific was a reach goal after all) the hard reality is that more is not always more. I’ll say that part again. More is not always more. In a high school education, you are striving for quality, not necessarily quantity. And if you lard in too much, your student just won’t have the ability to do any of it well. So keep your happy list of things you want– because you never know when an opportunity will present itself– and then make a list of the necessities to build around.
Now you know what your kid might want out of his education. You have a list of cool things to accomplish in this last, amazing stretch of homeschooling. It’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of planning. The first part is actually the easiest, and will go a long way to alleviating high school stress: sketch in the basic requirements.
Do some research on your own based on your the post-homeschooling goals. College? Look at the types of colleges that are likely to be of interest, and be sure to google “College of Mine, Homeschool Admissions.” Look at several of these pages, and you will get a good sense of their expectations for applicants. Military? Same thing– or go talk to a recruiter now, rather than waiting. Beauty school? Same thing. Office work? Go to some job fairs and ask questions, talk to an office manager if you know one, read help wanted ads, look at online job applications. Be wary of asking family for help, unless you can count on them to avoid unsolicited advice against homeschooling. “If you want to get into x, you must attend a real high school,” is probably an uninformed opinion, unless the person is an expert on homeschooling in Delaware, or a recruiter for that specific job.
Be sure to include, in any homeschool plan, at least the basics, modified of course for any special-needs considerations for your specific student:
- English, including writing- 4 years
- Math, minimum 3 years, 4 better for college-bound students
- History/Social Studies/Economics/Sociology, including 1 year American Government, 2 years world history – 4 years
- Science – minimum 3 years, 2 with lab; 4 years, 3 with lab minimum for college bound, 4/4 better. Should include at least biology and chemistry and conceptual physics, can include computer science.
- Foreign language – 2 years unless student has a language based disability that makes the requirement prohibitive; 3 for a college-bound student.
- Electives to round things out to 22-24 credits (a credit is about 160 hours of work, or a typical high school class).
That sounds pretty prescriptive, and non-homeschooly. However, there is a pretty wide latitude in how you implement these courses, of course. One student fulfilled English and history through theater courses, another through fiction reading and writing. One student loved math and completed math beyond calculus; another focused on computer science based mathematics and mathematical modeling, and another might learn to use a calculator effectively and jump off the usual algebra/geometry/precalc train to focus on consumer or business math, or statistics. A student could combine a statistics course with a science course, or physics and calculus. Biology could be explored through the lens of oceanography, chemistry through baking (as long as actual chemistry is studied, too). As discussed above, Lit, history, geography, and rhetoric can be one megaclass. If applying to a college that accepts ASL as a foreign language, learning ASL and volunteering could be one experience. The creativity comes in the implementation– just remember to document (see the page on transcripts). Some unschoolers do things that don’t remotely look like traditional school at all, but still can document education in a way that satisfies entrance requirements for their future goals.
Don’t be afraid to jot down your initial plan in broad strokes at first, filling in the details year by year as new opportunities arise. But if you at least know you need to cover World Lit, Chemistry, Geometry, and French 2 this year, then you don’t have to worry about whether you are missing anything when you add in the cool Social Justice co-op.
Write down your plan somewhere durable. Paper, computer, wall calendar– whatever works. Just avoid that back of the envelope that will end up in the recycle bin next week.
Then remember to schedule in on a calendar the bits and bobs– Driver’s Ed summer after the sophomore year. If desired, PSAT fall of junior year (and schedule the registration deadline). registration deadlines for any AP exams or the ACT. If there are any auditions or portfolio reviews, write them down. Any physicals needed for the military, write them down. Jot down when you want to visit colleges, even just generally (spring of junior year is good) and start the college application process (August of senior year is good) and the FAFSA deadline.
If you have it written down, even just as an outline or list, and you know where your outline is, you will always know you are on track, and you will have the freedom to work in some of those awesome brainstorming ideas– or to reschedule things when life tosses a medical or other curveball your way. You’ll know how to adjust and keep on homeschooling.