High school. In the early years, it’s the time we homeschool parents look forward to: a time when our kids will be able to learn independently, when they’ll be able to get jobs and start making their own way. A time when they’ll have their driver’s license and we won’t have to drive them all over creation; instead, we’ll be able to hand them the keys. A time when they’ll be able to dig deep and start to really figure out ideas.
That all tends to change when the high school years loom close.
All of a sudden, we go from heady anticipation to letting our insecurities and fears run freely. (I’m speaking from experience on this one!) In the span of about five minutes, all the work we’ve put in over the past how-many-ever years suddenly seems like “not enough.”
Putting It In Perspective
The thing is, though, those fears and insecurities are often unfounded. Even if you notice that there are gaps or weaknesses in your child’s skill set, there is time to shore them up.
When my son entered 8th grade, I completely…well, freaked out. I panicked and moved from our eclectic way of learning – a method that suited us darn near perfectly – to one that really didn’t. I decided that “fun” school was over and it was time to get formal. Needless to say, that didn’t go well.
About November of that year, he finally came to me with a request. “Can we just go back to the way we used to do it? Because, um, I learn that way.”
Sigh. Yes, we can. And we did.
He ended up enjoying it so much that he decided to do extra, graduated early (once he maxed out his dual enrollment), and is happily thriving in college and other activities today.
I really doubt that would have happened had I ignored his request.
Getting Back to Basics
You see, there’s no huge difference when it comes to high school. Yes, the course work is more intense (as it should be) and the variety of classes is larger, but there’s no reason to panic. There’s no reason to make a major shift.
If something’s working, let it!
Instead of completely changing what you do, add to it. Allow your child to spread their wings and branch out. Let them take on some new things, give them guidance, and allow them to both succeed and fail while under your care. Show them how to gracefully deal with both situations.
As far as coursework, don’t feel like you have to plan the “expected” courses if they don’t fit your child. Instead, plan what will fit your child and his or her future plans. Obviously, realize that your child probably does not know everything their future will hold at age 14, so leave some room for changes. But plan according to who your child is and what they plan to do. Prepare them for their future – not for the one others expect them to take.
Different Paths to Consider
One of the great things about homeschooling your high schooler is that you have the opportunity to prepare them for whatever road they choose to take. We tend to think that college is the natural next step after high school, but this just isn’t true for all kids. I’m not anti-college in the least – my son is currently a college student – but it’s not the only valid path to take.
Some kids choose to go to college, some choose to learn a trade, some choose an apprenticeship or internship, and some enter the job force or become an entrepreneur.
College or University
Some kids choose to go to college, either because their future plans require a degree or because they simply want the challenge, growth, and experience college affords. Either way, if your child is college-bound, you will need to plan their high school coursework around what prospective colleges will require.
This can be intimidating to many parents, at least at first; the good news is, colleges will tell you exactly what they’re looking for! Most colleges and universities will list their requirements on the “admissions” page of their websites, and their admissions counselors will usually be happy to answer any of your questions.
I have heard many parents ask whether colleges and universities will accept homeschool graduates; most schools openly recruit them! Because homeschool grads tend to be out-of-the-box, critical thinkers (as well as independent workers), colleges and universities tend to love them. (We started getting recruitment letters pretty early on, simply from talking with representatives at homeschool conventions.)
Related Post: Considering Dual Enrollment Options
Trade or Technical School
Like I said above, not every student should go to college. There are a lot of beneficial paths to consider, and many students find that learning a technical trade better suits their goals. For some reason, we as a society have come to see learning a trade as somehow inferior to getting a degree; this is really unfortunate.
By learning a trade, your student can get a leg up in industries that tend to pay very well and offer many roads of advancement for those with a good work ethic. In turn, this can allow your child the freedom and funds to pursue other interests or causes that they value. This can be a very good thing!
And another upside…many times, your student can learn their chosen trade while in high school, either for free or at a reduced price! Check out the dual enrollment opportunities in your area; starting out their adult lives with a marketable skill and without debt can be a very good thing indeed.
Apprenticeship or Internship
Many industries offer an apprentice or intern program that will give your child valuable training and experience in their chosen field. This type of position generally does not pay well, but the training, networking, and growth that your child can experience makes up for it.
Each industry and business has different requirements for awarding an internship or apprenticeship. Generally, companies or organizations are looking for students that show an excellent work ethic, are highly teachable, and are self-motivated. Students that have taken steps to build their skills and leadership ability are also considered favorably.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to enroll your student in every single thing that might look good on a resume, but it does mean that you will want to help them seek out opportunities to grow and learn. Participation in something like Scouts or 4-H offers project management and leadership training, while summer jobs can show work ethic and persistence.
Entering the Job Force
For some students, entering the job force during high school or right after graduation is a good choice. Not all graduates know what they want to do yet; a year or two at a job can give them the time they need to figure it out and the skills to do it well. Some graduates prefer to start out in an entry-level position and work their way up, learning the necessary skills “on the job.” These are perfectly valid options, providing your student is willing to put in the work and really learn.
Work ethic and teachability are things that employers often look for, and if your child applies these traits on the job, they will often be the ones chosen for training and advancement.
Perhaps your child wants to strike out on their own as an entrepreneur. (Many successful entrepreneurs today were homeschooled!) Because homeschoolers are often raised not to live by the boundaries that society imposes, they are also often able to see solutions that others don’t. They are often comfortable with taking some risks and planning out projects, which can make for a successful venture.
If this is something your student might be interested in, I recommend planning courses into their high school years that will prepare them for the business world. There are elective courses based around small business ownership or entrepreneurship, as well as business math or accounting. Plan their electives – or even their core classes – around skills that will benefit them in their future venture.
Putting It All Together
In upcoming posts in this series, we’ll talk about how to make this all work: ideas for courses to consider, putting together a four-year plan, taking advantage of dual enrollment, and helping your child find the resources that will best benefit them. I’ll also go over easy ways to prepare for and put together things like transcripts, college applications, resumes, and more.
High school does come with its challenges (as does every age), but they don’t have to be difficult. Seeing them for what they are and approaching them as objectively can help you make the high school years incredible, rather than intimidating. I’m here to help you!
Wrapping It Up
So, I’m curious. What questions do you have about homeschooling high school? What road blocks have you run into, and what successes have you seen? Comment below and let me know!
High School Literature (+ free checklist!)