When my oldest was just started out and we were beginning our homeschool journey, I remember worrying and scurrying to get all the things. He needed an easel. He needed colored pencils and crayons and notebooks and workbooks and curriculum. We needed a designated school area. We needed a schedule. I needed to check boxes.
As time went on, I realized that a beautiful part of homeschooling is not having to recreate school at home. I was a classroom teacher before having kids and I thought that homeschooling meant having to set up a classroom in our home. If that’s your jam… go for it. BUT… if the idea of having to have all the things to be a successful homeschooler is stressing you out… in the words of Elsa… Let it Go!
For years I was able to adapt and adopt our delight directed approach. I gave up many preconceived notions and began to include the kids in the learning goals and material choices. It was a beautiful thing. But then… Then my oldest went into ninth grade and that familiar panic crept back in. All of the sudden I felt like I needed all the things. Like my son needed all the things or I was going to completely fail him and leave him unprepared for the world. I started entertaining the thought of buying curriculum, enrolling him in classes, putting him in school. Somehow highschool just felt scary. Like the game just got more real.
As I was in a flurry of planning and explaining to my son all the things he would have to do, he said, “Wait… I thought we were unschooling delight directed kind of people…how does that work with high school?”
He was right… why would I need to change our philosophy and vision now? How could I continue with interest led learning? How do we continue create life long learners?
Please remember that I am living in North Carolina. My homeschool experience and knowledge of the law is through the North Carolina lens. Please do your due diligence and research the homeschool laws in your own state. Some states are more regulated and some are less.
In North Carolina, there are no requirements to graduate high school. You, the parent, are the chief administrator of your school and therefore create and set the learning goals. However… if you have a college bound child… it would behoove you to look into the requirements for admission and work backwards from there. Not every student will go to college. I have told my kids that I don’t know if they are college bound, but I am not going to be the reason they don’t have the option. I will build our homeschool in such a way that they have the option to go to college when they graduate.
I heard a friend describe homeschooling highschool like this… the core subjects… like math and language arts and history and science are the scaffolding on which the school experience is built. You have to have those core subjects to build the foundation. When you have those in place, you can design your education to fit your interests and needs.
Most colleges look for students to complete 4 English courses, 3 Math courses, 3 Science (with two of those being lab sciences), 3 Social Studies, 1 Health, 1 PE, and 6 Electives. Now… HOW you complete those can be flexible and creative. Some areas of study have little wiggle room… like math. Sorry… but Algebra seems to be a non-negotiable. I told my son that if he could find a solid college within a 300 mile radius of our home with an arts program that did not require Algebra for admissions…we could totally look into dropping Algebra from our school… but until then… he just needed to do it! Not everything is pleasant or fun. Sometimes we just have to endure and work through hard things. That is life and learning endurance and resiliency is super important.
Tips for Homeschooling High School
- Involve Your Student. Sit down with your student and look at the scaffolding for the year. Involve them in the choices for their scaffolding and for their electives. What do they want to pursue? When you include them in the planning, it goes well for both of you!
- Steer Towards Independence. Let your student have control where they can. Let them be mindful of their workspace, of their schedule and managing their time. Allow room for growth and for error. Your child is not you. They may have a different way of looking at things, organizing things, accomplishing tasks. Give them the freedom to learn themselves and be successful in their way.
- Encourage Interests and Passions. You may notice this has been a common theme throughout my Getting Started Homeschooling Series. One of my major goals for my kids when they leave my homeschool is to be able to identify what they want to learn and have the ability to go after it. I want them to know how to learn. While under my roof, they should have the ability to experiment, fail, and succeed. If they want to be an entreprenuer- we will learn about good business practice. If they want a career in food, we will seek out opportunities to learn more. Maybe give them a specific night of each week that is theirs to create the menu, plan, and prepare dinner for the family.
- Be creative in your records. A trap I think we fall into as parents and educators is that we have to complete a book or course in one school year. We think that the disciplines should be separate… like chemistry and home economics are two different things. Or math and life skills do not over lap. But they do. My son took a food Chemistry class last year. He learned about cooking and his labs consisted of food related experiments (that often ended up in a delicious dinner for the rest of us!). Maybe your child doesn’t take specific computer skills course, but rather you incorporate using Google tools like Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. into their regular rhythm of school. At the end of four years, you can look back and see the hours of training put into learning word processing, spreadsheets, etc. and you record a Computer Skills class on their transcript.
- Encourage Volunteer Work and Service. Teach your student to be a good human. How can they use their time and talents to give back to the community. Not only does this prepare them to be compassionate adults… it also looks good on a college application! Look for local opportunities to serve… help in a food pantry, do yard work for seniors, read books to children (or animals apparently at the local animal shelter), write letters to seniors who are trapped in retirement communities with no visitors due to COVID, organize a silent auction with proceeds going to a local charity, collect coats and blankets for the homeless, deliver meals on wheels… opportunities to serve are out there. Encourage your teen to find them and engage.
Your involvement in your teen’s high school homeschool experience can vary from teacher to tutor to guidance counselor to bus driver to cheerleader. You are preparing a young adult to launch into this world. They aren’t ready yet… they will still need you! Hold loosely to your highschooler as they grow more towards independence each day. You may be surprised with what they can do!
Last tip… know your strengths and weaknesses. You do not have to teach all the things. Goodness… high school sciences and math… whew… outside my wheelhouse! I am so thankful for online resources and classes. My oldest will be taking Spanish online through Luma Learn. He is going to do book studies through Progeny Press for his Language Arts. We are currently working on creating a small co op where he can learn with other high schoolers. Classes will include world history as seen through the arts and public speaking. Lean on your community. Realize that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Tons and tons and tons of resources are out there for you! Easy Peasy, Khan Academy, and School Yourself are just a few of the great FREE options out there!
SchoolhouseTeachers.com has put together a great option that takes the guess work out for you. They are offering virtual “Boxed” curriculum through your membership. This is really great because veteran homeschoolers have curated courses to create a wonderful and full homeschool year. And guess what!!! There is a great sale going on right now with Schoolhouse Teachers. Buy one year, get the second FREE! Two years for just $179 (and you get a free tote bag… just saying!).
Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are: