A common sentiment I’ve observed recently is that many traditionally minded parents are interested in homeschooling their children, but are extremely worried about homeschooling in high school. There are various reasons for this, including a worry that they’ll stifle their child’s social skills or they are unqualified to teach their children high-school material. If you are one of these parents, I want to tell you this: you can do it! If you have a high-school degree, you can homeschool your children through high school. How do I know this? I may not have any kids even close to starting high school, but I was homeschooled through high school myself, and I want to share with you my experience, in the hopes of encouraging anyone out their on the fence.
My mother was my primary educator. She taught English, History, Theology, Latin, Spanish, and anything not related to math or science (my father taught those—I’ll get to that in a minute). My mother grew up in rural Kansas, where her father was a cattle rancher and farmer. For the entirety of her education, she attended public schools, which were abysmal. Her grammar is often suspect (she often says “we was” and “we is”) and definitely can't speak or understand a foreign language. And while she received a college degree from a local community college, it’s probably safe to say that anyone who has a high-school diploma is as educated as she is. If she could do it, producing two sons who obtained advanced degrees, so can you!
If you still want a few concrete tips for how you can make it work, here are a couple:
1. Find Quality Textbooks
Quality textbooks, which are easy to follow and well-suited to self study, are essential. My mother excelled at homeschooling because she knew where to find a good curriculum for each and every subject. She did her research by talking to other homeschooling parents and attending local homeschooling conferences. We used Seton Home Schooling for English and History with textbooks written from a Catholic perspective. Theology was taught straight from the Baltimore Catechism and Catechism of the Council of Trent, and we read books written by the Doctors of the Church. Foreign language (Latin and Spanish) was taught with the help of Rosetta Stone and other language tools. Obviously, get the teacher’s edition of any textbooks you purchase so that you have answer keys for all the tests and assignments, making grading easy.
2. Teach to Your Child’s Ability: A Tale of Two Students
My parents knew how to teach to their children's abilities. I was a self-motivated and quick learner. My mom knew this, so she would start the school year by saying “These are the textbooks you have to finish this year” and then let me work at my own pace. She was always there to help and administer tests, but often I learned the material myself. I excelled, graduating high school with a 4.0 grade point average (and for those who think parents conflate grades when homeschooling, think again. There was no such thing as partial credit). On the other hand, my sister had a completely different learning style and sometimes struggled with certain subjects. My parents were much more involved with her, giving extra time to teach and discuss material, work through assignments, and do practice tests. My mom actually tested us by letting both of us skip a certain assignment, since I had asked to because I felt it unnecessary. Naturally, my sister wanted to do what I was doing. So we both got to skip it and then take the test; I aced it, she... didn't. So, I got to skip what didn't help me learn, and my sister had to devote herself to the extra worksheets that really helped her.
2. Forget about the 8-hour School Day
Don’t feel like you have to fill an entire eight hours with schoolwork. Public schools don’t (believe me, they are lucky if they get 2 hours of solid instruction each day), so you don’t have to either. Once you have your curriculum, figure out what you need to do each day to finish the book by the end of the school year (most states mandate a minimum of 180 days of school per year), and stick to the schedule. If your child finishes their coursework for the day by lunchtime, so be it. Let them enjoy the rest of the day, volunteer for a non-profit (often a big boost in the college admission process), or schedule a fun field trip. This also allows them to get a part-time job to help pay for college, with a much more flexible schedule than most other high-school students. Don’t forget, sometimes the best instruction comes outside the classroom working in the real world, especially on a farm, where you have to practice botany (gardening), veterinary medicine (caring for sick farm animals), hydraulics (installing a new watering system), and calculus (to find the best shape for your new pasture that requires the least amount of fencing materials) all in one day. Furthermore, whenever my family went on road trips and visited a historical landmark or national park, we'd count it as a day of school, because we were learning while on vacation. How great is that!
3. Join Other Homeschoolers
There are often many homeschooling groups that you can join, so it’s usually possible to find one with like-minded parents. The Catholic homeschooling group I was a part of in high school formed a public-speaking and debate group that met weekly. You can also teach classes as a group, especially if a parent of one of the students is an expert in a certain field that may be daunting to teach for other parents (like physics, chemistry, or mathematics).
4. The Local Community College Is Your Best Friend
Are there certain subjects that you don’t think you’ll ever be able to teach, even with the best textbook? Certain math and science courses, like Physics, Calculus, Trigonometry, and Chemistry are usually the banes of most homeschooling parents. If your child is a junior or senior in high school with a driver’s license, enroll them in the course at the local community college. My parents did this for me with Economics and Creative Writing, and both credits transferred to a four-year college. This, combined with Advanced Placement credits (yes, you can take those tests as homeschoolers too!), allowed me to enter college as a sophomore. Many community colleges have dual credit programs geared specifically for high schoolers, in which a course counts for both high school credit and college credit. If your child is planning to attend college, it's a great way to reduce the overall cost and prepare them for a college environment. If you want more tips on how to reduce the cost of college, you might like this post here.
Many of the students I met while I was in high school attending community college were those that had made mistakes and poor decisions earlier in life and ended up working minimum wage jobs for several years, but found that they needed to increase their income to support young children and a growing family. Just from hearing them talk before class, I learned how living an immoral life or making poor relationship or financial decisions can derail your life. It was an eye-opening experience that helped me avoid those pitfalls when I went off to college on my own (and proved as inspiration for this post here).
I hope this helps ease your mind if you are considering homeschooling, and if you already are, I hope this gives you some consolation that your teenager is going to end up just fine. If you homeschool in high school, we'd love for you to add your tips in the comments!