5 high school truths I wish I’d known

Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

We graduated our first homeschooled student in 2014.

While homeschooling high school wasn’t a bad experience for us the first time around, there are things I wish I had known because I would have done them a bit differently.

They would have made our good experience an even better one:

1. One-on-one time is often needed all the way through graduation.

With my oldest, I wish I’d been more cognizant of the fact that many, if not most, kids are going to require one-on-one time all the way through graduation. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to need a parent sitting over them all day, every day.

It does mean that they will probably need a one-on-one meeting time once a day – or at least once a week.

When my oldest was in high school, I made the mistake of thinking that, with the DVD instruction and the student book, she could work her way through algebra on her own. That caused way more stress and frustration than it ever should have because, if I had given it some thought, even as a college student, I couldn’t work my way through algebra without going to the math lab a couple of times a week to get help on difficult concepts.

Most students are going to have some concepts – or even entire subjects – that will require one-on-one explanation, whether that’s with a parent or a tutor. Don’t make the mistake of setting your high school student adrift on his own. Most independent learners will still benefit from regular parental involvement.

homeschooling high school

2. Some colleges count ASL as a foreign language.

Yes, this is pretty specific to my family, but I wish I’d known that some colleges – including those in our area that we would have considered – count American Sign Language as a foreign language. My oldest was fascinated by ASL and learned a great deal on her own through YouTube videos and television shows.

Don’t get caught up in what you think should be on your student’s high school transcript to the exclusion of things in which they have a high interest or for which they have a high aptitude.

So most kids take French or Spanish. So what! Most colleges require two years of a foreign language. If your teen has a strong interest in a particular language, check to see if the colleges you’re considering will count that in their requirements. If so, learn that one!

3. Study skills need to be taught.

Parents and teachers are frequently telling kids to study harder. However, study skills don’t come naturally to most people. Teach your student how to take notes, summarize, and study.

Read up on a variety of study skills and techniques and find out which ones appeal to your student’s personality and learning style. Practice those skills and model how to put them into practice in your homeschool. Encourage your student to take notes during church, outside classes, or while watching a documentary.

4. It’s important to effectively capitalize on interests.

In addition to all the academics that colleges expect to see on transcripts, the high school years are the prime time for students to discover their passions.

It’s when they should be exploring as much of what interests them as possible because you never know what might turn into a career field. Even if something isn’t a career option, your student may discover hobbies that he will enjoy throughout his adult life.

high school electives
Photo by antos777

Most of your students’ interests can probably be listed as electives on their transcripts–colleges like students with diverse interests.

I wish I had known how much my oldest enjoyed singing and had known where to find voice lessons at the time. I wish she’d followed up on the cake decorating class she mentioned a time or two. Both of those could have easily been added to her high school transcript.

Now please don’t think that I spent my daughter’s high school years being a slave to her transcript. I didn’t. I just like to point out to parents just approaching the high school years that following as many of your teens’ interests as you are financially able to can be a win-win situation.

Doing so allows your student to explore his passions before he has adult responsibilities and, if he opts to attend college, they can look great on a transcript.

5. Modeling writing is a good idea.

Writing was another area in which I expected too much of my oldest without providing her a solid foundation. It is okay to model good writing for your student. It is okay to sit down with her and flesh out her ideas. It’s okay to give her examples of good topic sentences – and let her use one of your examples until she gets the hang of coming up with her own.

It’s okay to take her ideas and pull her along until the techniques of good writing start to come more easily to her.

So often we feel like we’re giving our kids the answers, but sometimes they just need some good solid examples and need to see the writing process worked through a few times before they’re ready to strike out on their own.

Each of these are truths that I’ll take into account with my 8th- and 10th-graders.

My poor, guinea pig oldest had a good high school experience, but if I had known then what I know now, it would have been even better with far less frustration.

Have you homeschooled high school yet? What truths do you wish you’d known when you started?

About Kris

Kris Bales is the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest voice behind Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She and her husband of over 25 years are parents to two amazing teens and a homeschool grad. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.


  1. Excellent advice. I’m knee-deep in learning what really matters with my first high-schooler.
    Anne’s latest post: A Week, Briefly (#9)

  2. Kimberly Reece says:

    Thank you so much for this, Kris! Our oldest is 12 years old, and we are beginning to dig deep and research homeschooling high school. While it seems completely daunting, I’m looking forward to it. This is super helpful – thanks again for sharing your experience!

  3. Thank you for validating some of my thoughts. It’s nice to know there is some wiggle room.

  4. I’ve got years to go until we reach high school, but I know time moves way too quickly for my liking. Keeping this for the homeschool planning files. Now if I can only remember to put into practice all the good advice I’ve been getting for all steps of the journey!
    Amy M’s latest post: Exploding With Possibilities

  5. Thanks for the tips. I would probably tend toward giving too much independence too soon. I’ll take your advice to heart when my kids hit high school age.
    Leslie’s latest post: A Mom’s Sacrifice of Praise

  6. I love all this insight!! I am still at the “praying my kids still want to be homeschooled when they are high schoolers” stage. And thanks for the tip about ASL! My kids love signing so I am planning on including that in our curriculum from now on 🙂
    Katie | The Surly Housewife’s latest post: Link Love – Week 40

  7. Finally figuring out about the whole giving-them-credit-for-pursuing-their-passions thing. It took awhile, but we’re getting there!

  8. Really great stuff in here, Kris! Another thing that I would add is that, if you have a student who “doesn’t like to read,” make them read anyway. Make them read short passages of fiction and nonfiction such as would be on the ACT. Make them do reading comprehension books. This kind of goes along with your point of teaching them how to take notes and summarize. Many kids are not natural test takers and need to learn how to scan and skim and answer silly questions. I despise teaching-to-the-test, but I think starting in middle school to learn how to read for the test is essential.
    Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Mid-Month Wrap-Up

  9. In the middle of high school education with my eldest right now, I believe you’re spot on about so many observations here. Perhaps one thought, however, is that parents need to weigh up the big picture as well as the process and practice you cover here. I’m sort of a “vision-thing” kind of person, and like to re-evaluate every so often about what I want for my kids’ whole homeschool experience: not just getting into college, but beyond. Issues like good character, life-long learning, spirituality, apprentice-style opportunities, and a vague path for a career that really lights their fire.

  10. Would you be willing to share your information on study tips? Specifically what did you use and what topics did you cover? I would love to hear this information. Maybe you could do a blog post? Thanks so much.

  11. I’m homeschooling my third high schooler now. Like homeschooling in general, it has gotten easier with practice. And put everything on those transcripts! A clean bedroom and a recipe learned? A+ in home ec! Lol!

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