Homeschooling high school without driving yourself and your teens crazy

Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Teenagers are pretty insightful beings. About midway through his junior year, my son made a profound statement. He said,

“You know, I think the last couple of years of high school should focus on getting me ready for what I want to do after graduation.”

Um, yeah. They should. Really, all four years probably should.

Sometimes we first-generation homeschool parents get it wrong. We can get so focused on what our public school experience tells us the high school years are supposed to look like that we forget this simple truth.

The purpose of homeschooling high school

High school should prepare our teens for life after graduation. And – news flash! – they won’t all do the same thing after graduation, so they don’t all need to all do the same thing during their four years of high school.

I’ll admit, my thoughts on this have changed a lot since our first foray into the high school years.

My oldest child’s transcript looks pretty much like any high school student’s transcript. It shows four years of English and math (including Algebra I and II and geometry). There are three years of science with a lab (physical science, biology, chemistry) and two years of a foreign language (Spanish).

There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily, particularly if your student is planning to go directly into a four-year college. Those are the sorts of courses most four-year colleges expect to see.

However, if your child’s plans include something other than a four-year institution, you may want to consider alternatives to the traditional courses. And, you may want to consider alternatives anyway, because many four-year schools like to see diversity in their incoming freshmen’s educational backgrounds.

How to allow flexibility in your homeschool high school

There are basic skills that every teen needs to learn and there are some topics with which all need to be familiar. I’ve started thinking of high school more like college in that the first couple of years, students need some of the same basic core classes regardless of their major (or what they want to do after graduation). After that, they can move on to more specialized classes.

Additionally, it’s wise to offer some flexibility within those core classes.

All adults benefit from strong reading and written communication skills. That means our high school will always include reading, writing, and grammar. However, it’s okay if what each of my teens is reading and writing about is drastically different.

We will also always cover the core math courses (algebra and geometry) because most students will need them for any secondary education.

Some umbrella schools or state homeschool laws may require specific courses such as civics, personal finance, or health.

My kids will get their 3 or 4 science credits, but that doesn’t have to mean biology (though that one is useful to most students, I think), chemistry, and physics. For example, my youngest is interested in astronomy, so that was her 9th-grade science course. I know of kids who’ve taken courses such as marine biology or botany in high school.

Not every student will need two years of a foreign language, but for those who do, they don’t have to choose Spanish or French. That’s what’s taught in most schools because public schools don’t have the means to offer a huge variety. As homeschoolers, we can.

Anime fanatics may want to learn Japanese. A future missionary will likely benefit from learning the primary language spoken in the country where he intends to serve.  Your future interpreter may choose to learn American Sign Language.

If your student plans to attend college after graduation, check to make sure that the language he or she wants to learn is accepted as a foreign language there. Beyond that, let him follow his passions.

Take advantage of electives

Most high school diplomas give at least six hours of elective credit. Nearly anything can count as an elective, so capitalize on this.

My son hopes to go into the music field in some capacity. He loves performing, but he’s also very interested in audio production.

So far he has elective credit for learning to play the guitar and music theory. In the upcoming school year, he plans to pursue credits in audio production and, possibly, learn to play the piano. His transcript will look very different from that of his younger sister, who isn’t sure yet what field she wishes to pursue.

Even though she doesn’t know what she wants to do after graduation, we are taking full advantage of elective credits to explore her interests. Last year she took a photography class. She’s also taken voice lessons and wants to try a creative writing class.

She’s dabbling in digital editing and creative writing, along with both Japanese and Spanish.

I like what author and homeschool veteran Lee Binz says about homeschooling high school. She says that even if your student doesn’t plan to attend college, you should give him a college prep high school education because teenagers change their minds.

And, if your student ultimately chooses not to attend college, the high school education provided in your homeschool will make up the highest level of education he receives.

What I’ve learned, though, is that a strong, college prep high school education doesn’t have to mean a cookie-cutter education for every student. You can give your student an excellent educational foundation while still tailoring it to his gifts and talents.

What passions are your kids exploring in high school?

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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.

Comments

  1. Kathleen Szczepanski says:

    Thank you Kris! I needed this today. I have been praying and trying NOT to stress out about my twin girls entering HS this fall. I feel like I want to keep lots of freedom for them to pursue their interests and passions but I also hear a voice in my head saying, “Nope you can’t do that. High school is the time to buckle down and embrace a rigorous schedule…just like their non-home school friends.” Appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences about your own kids. 🙂

  2. Karen E Spencer says:

    Thanks for the advice! My daughter still has a year before we’ll be looking at high school, but we’re already thinking about it a lot. I am meeting with an admissions adviser (from a university she’ll likely apply to) next week to get some advice on what will prepare her. This was a timely post for me! Thanks!

  3. My oldest completed base requirements for diploma, but started working full time in his desired field when he was a junior age. He’s had awesome opportunities and loves what he does. He has no interest in college, and his boss offered him apprenticeship when concurrent enrollment with college ended up being a wasted-time mess.
    The second is a gifted and talented animal caregiver, trainer, farmer. She runs our small farm, does horse 4H, and shows in junior livestock. She will have more than four years of sciences just because of this area. She has two years of “high school” left, and already knows where she wants to gain additional training and schooling in her passion areas. It is not traditional college.
    My last will be freshman age. He also works with agriculture, but enjoys creating with wood working, metal works, and welding. Those are classes he’s working with. He has been asked to work at the same place as his brother, and is seeking to pay his own way for whatever educational endeavors he pursues rather than think parents will pay for it.

  4. Terri Torrez says:

    My 9th grader has a passion for game design. Last year he did some video game programming but ultimately decided that isn’t where he wants to focus. This summer he’s putting in a lot of time prototyping and polishing a couple board games. Next year we’re incorporating some business into his Econ class so that he can self-publish and market his games. This will likely be a side gig to whatever he majors in but for now it’s enough to simply pursue the passion.

  5. Myou youngest is a passionate birder. Her highschool transcript so far includes 2 ornithology credits, with possibly one more to come. My second youngest got interested in economics and politics so his training script included several credits in those areas. None of his siblings studied either economics or politics. He’s now majoring in economics at university. Oldest always loved maths and science especially chemistry. So his high school years were heavily weighted towards those areas. Nobody else did as much math as him and I’m not sure any of the others did high school level chemistry. Oldest got a PhD in chemistry and now works as a computer programmer in the financial services sector. (He taught himself programming since his thesis ended up involving a lot of computational chemistry – which I didn’t even know was a thing!). The other child did a psychology course at home. It was a compromise I arrived at when her father required her to do more science but she vowed she hated science, couldn’t bear to do any more. Any way she love psychology and has just started a PHD in the area. Nobody else yet has done psychology for high school. I’ve suggested it to my youngest but so far she’s not interested. Do my four all had very different high school experiences , and thus far theyes followed that interest to university. But as my oldest shows they can still end up going in directions you wouldn’t have predicted!

  6. Hey Kris. Really great article on high school. I teaching all high schoolers next year. Neither of them know what they want to do nor do they want to go to college. UGH. At first, I was freaking out. Now I’ve decided to take your advice and give them the core in case they change their minds. Becuase-kids! And I sure didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. 🙂 Thanks!
    Jen’s latest post: Coffee, End of the School Year, and Summer!

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