Written by contributor Sarah of SmallWorld at Home
Homeschooling high school. Those three little words can alarm the calmest parents. I have seen the stress cross their faces and watched their hands clench tightly. “I know my daughter is only 8, but I am already getting nervous about high school!”
Oh, please don’t get nervous. Don’t throw away those precious years pondering how in the world you will teach algebra and chemistry and essay writing. Enjoy them while they still like climbing trees and making baking soda-and-vinegar volcanoes.
But one of these days, yes: you will have to think about high school.
It used to be common in our homeschooling support group for kids to go to public school for high school for various reasons. Some parents felt that they could no longer meet their kids’ academic needs at home, that their reasons for homeschooling no longer applied, or that adequate social opportunities just weren’t available.
Times have changed in the 12 years since I started this journey. Our co-op classes offer an extensive variety of subjects, easily covering the basics (math, sciences, English, and history) as well as electives (art, drama, computer skills, personal finance, study skills, etc.). Rather than a mass exodus after 8th grade, we now see only a few students opting for public school.
Let me say right now that I maintain it is perfectly acceptable to send your child to public (or private) school at any level. I am a strong advocate of educational choice based on each individual family’s needs and desires. (Check out Jena’s experience in “What About Public School?”) For our family, homeschooling has worked beautifully, and so we continue. But if one of our kids came to us and asked to attend public school for high school, we would absolutely consider it.
I think that we in the homeschooling community need to be careful not to look down our noses at fellow travelers who decide to put their kids in public school. These families haven’t “failed” at homeschooling any more than we have “failed” at public schooling, and to express dismay or disappointment in friends who choose a different path is dangerous territory.
So while for some families putting kids in public or private school for high school is intentional, for many the decision is made with great reluctance because of a lack of self-confidence or that perennial fear of “missing something.” It is a response to that nagging voice (whether our own or a well-meaning friend’s) saying, “You’re not going to homeschool for high school are you? How can you possibly teach all those subjects?”
You really can. Or if you can’t teach them, you can find the resources to do so.
- If your kids are still fifth grade and under, just keep enjoying them. Tuck this article away for the future and snuggle on the sofa with a good read-aloud.
- If you have a sixth or seventh grader, you should start doing some research, talking with other homeschooling parents, and getting a general idea of the path you’ll take. At the very least, you should look into your state’s requirements for high school. (See “Transitioning into the Big Kid Years.”)
- If you have an eighth grader, the time has come to get serious about mapping out your high school plan. Our old friends fun and flexibility may become a little less prominent during the high school years, but please don’t leave them by the roadside altogether!
Resources for Homeschooling High School
Homeschooling Thru High School at HSLDA
Absolutely packed full of information on everything from curriculum choices to testing to college admissions. Here’s a great place to start: “Can you give me an example of a typical high school program?”
Lee Binz has one central focus on her website—to help parents homeschool high school. This is a tremendous resource. The HomeScholar has loads of free information, but there is also a Gold Care Club that offers support to its members. This might be particularly important to those who don’t have a local support group available.
With over 2,600 videos on everything from algebra to physics to art history, and with practice exercises to go along with many of the videos, Khan Academy is a dream-come-true for homeschooling at the high school level. Oh, and it’s all free.
Homeschooling co-ops come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a few families to hundreds of students. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a homeschooling co-op, but if you have one available to you, high school is a fantastic time to consider joining. It’s more than just the academics offered at a co-op: the social factor and the accountability become very important. (Read more about this in my article “The Road to Independence.”)
College Dual Enrollment
Dual enrollment programs can be a fantastic way for students to be accountable to another teacher and to get accustomed to a classroom. Why not get college credit and high school credit at the same time? If you don’t have a local college or university that offers dual enrollment courses, check for online options.
The bottom line: Don’t be intimidated by secondary education. You can homeschool through high school if you have a plan!
And the inevitable question: Are you planning to homeschool through high school? If you already are in the midst of high school, what advice do you have for others?
This year my oldest went to highschool and we are all happy with this decision. Next in line, my middle daughter, is an entirely different personality/person and I’m not sure what she’ll do. While I wouldn’t support my child heading to school before grade 10, we think by that age it is very important to fully engage them in the decision process. They each have their own goals and dreams and they need to know WHY they are following a certain path; that it is helping them get where THEY want to go, you know? Anyways, we’ll evaluate our options as we get a little closer (she is currently in grade seven)…but “secretly” I want her to homeschool all the way through. Our small town doesn’t offer much to homeschoolers, in the way of strong community or opportnities so this is a real challenge.
Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Gratitude
Jen @ anothergranolamom
My two oldest (15 and 13) started an online high school this year. While I don’t think they are being educated as well as when I was in charge of their curriculum, this was the right decision for our family this year. My 15 year old wants to, and will have, the credits to graduate next year, but he won’t receive a diploma from the online school. Instead, I will be writing his diploma. When I called the college of his choice to see how this would affect his admission and scholarship applications, they said, “Get your diploma notarized.” Other than that, it would not change anything about his admissions! This was very reassuring to me. I would strongly suggest that if your child has definite ideas about what they are doing after high school, make sure your schooling choices help them to do it.
Having taught him the first two years of high school, I know it can be done. I hope that our family circumstances will allow me to continue schooling the rest of our children through high school. It is a very educational journey!
Jen @ anothergranolamom’s latest post: Kids Running: Our Marathon-in-a-Month
What program do you use
I would second the co-op options. We are very fortunate to have many of these options in our area. Some accredited and some not. I have two currently in high school. One graduating this year and the other next year. My son (graduating next year) has been in a “hybrid” program since the 8th grade. He goes one day a week and works from home the rest of the week. It has been a great option for him. It has taught him fantastic time management skills as well as given him a great classical education. My daughter has done a mix of at home and co-op. One thing I would encourage others to do is know what your colleges expect. The college my daughter wants to attend has two different scales for admissions. One for accredited students and one for non-accedited. If she had come out of an accredited program she would have been able to be admitted based off her GPA. However, because she has not; her admission is based off her SAT or ACT scores. She has a great GPA, but struggles with standardized testing. So, in hindsight I wish I had put my daughter in an accredited program. Thankfully, it has worked out and she got the score she needed last week. My son, on the other hand, got a score on his first try that could get into just about any college. So, just know your children strengths, weaknesses and the requirements of the colleges they are interested in attending.
Very helpful! I’ll “tuck it away” for now, since my kids are still below 5th grade, but this is DEFINITELY a question for me…I get asked all the time if I will continue on through high school. I usually answer, “We are just taking it year by year for now.”
Some colleges offer online courses specifically for homeschooling. Brigham Young University has classes in its Independent Learning program that act as a curriculum for 7th and 8th grade and after that, a plethora of class choices for high school a very large array of AP courses.
We are still in preschool here, but if we decide to homeschool, I think this will be a go-to resource for us.
Amanda’s latest post: Use It Up or Throw it Out!
Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds
I am planning to homeschool throught high school and, not to sound like I’m arrogant or anything but, I am not worried at that I won’t be able help them attain a good, no, a great education. I just picture what I would have loved to study in high school and I know I could have given myself a better education than the public school offered me. As for social activities and sports, we will have to cross that bridge when we get there. I never cared about any of that suff so I will just have to see what my children want. I am not 100% against public school, it will just depend on the individual child’s maturity to make the decision for themself.
Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds’s latest post: Friday Fotos
I just want to say that I really appreciate the tone of this post. My oldest homeschooled all the way through his second year of high school, and then suddenly decided that he wanted to attend high school. It was a big shift for all of us, especially because most of the kids in our support group at the time tended to homeschool as teens in conjunction with the local community college, and most didn’t go choose to go to high school. I felt an underlying sense of disapproval from some of the members of my support group (many of whom we’d homeschooled with for over ten years!) It was very upsetting to me; it seemed that in the eyes of some, we’d ultimately failed at homeschooling. I didn’t think so. On the contrary, as homeschoolers, our kids had always been allowed to choose how best to learn. It seemed a natural evolution to support our son in trying school, if that’s what he wanted to do.
A few years later, our daughter decided to go into high school as a freshman. I think my kids have taken some of the stigma away from making the high school choice in our support group, as a few others have chosen high school as well. There’s a lot about high school that I don’t like–mostly regarding academics, not social stuff, contrary to what people might fear. Lots of busy work, very formulaic writing instruction, etc. But overall, the kids have thrived and haven’t regretted their decisions for a minute. I would have loved to homeschool with them all the way through, but it wasn’t what they wanted.
I still have a ten-year-old at home; who knows what he’ll choose? Meanwhile I appreciate how you’ve reminded people to respect the decisions of other families. Especially because the decision to attend school can be a very natural outcome for kids who have had a happy homeschooling childhood.
patricia’s latest post: the rule of three
My son and I both laugh at some of his school assignments; we don’t consider them “real learning”. Still, we accept that they are part of the system that he chose for now. Some of his classes have been great, though, and offered a chance for great dialogue with peers/teachers and he has appreciated this.
Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Homeschooling When Life Throws You A Curve-ball… Or Two
Sarah at SmallWorld
I’m so sorry you were treated a certain way. I have seen that as well in our community, but like you said–the stigma seems to be easing some!
Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Putting Pinterest to Use: Newspaper Blackout Poems
I was homeschooled through 8th grade and asked my parents to go to public school for high school. They let me and I enjoyed it immensely but I still would seriously consider homeschooling my kids through high school. That’s a long way off so we’ll have to see what happens…
Steph’s latest post: Little Things
Bernice @ Living the Balanced Life
I think that it is a personal decision for each and every family and actually each child. We homeschooled for 8 years and all are graduated now, but the options today are amazing. And definitely doable!
High school is such an impressionable time. Also, my kids had time to explore their passions, community theater, horses, dance, skateboarding competitions, things they would have not had time to do if they had been in a school setting. Definitely consider and explore the options!
Bernice @ Living the Balanced Life’s latest post: I can do anything I want, if only I knew what that was
I really appreciate this article and links to resources, but I know I will continue to feel overwhelmed until I really sort through everything and figure out what’s what. I’m thrilled that there are so many options now, but ugh! (My kids are 5th and 3rd grade this year.)
Jen, please do not be scared! The resources that are available these days are amazing.
I wish my parents had been more pro-active in my “high school” years. I was home schooled until college and I feel like it gave me a very good foundation, but my mom started working part-time when I was a teen and both she and my father inexplicably started ignoring the fact that I was doing little to no school work every day. A typical teen, I took advantage of their distracted state and watched MTV all day, every day for two years straight with no negative consequences (from my parents-it had horrible consequences on my psyche). Fortunately, at some point in there I took a few classes at a nearby state college and my cumulative gpa, plus a mediocre SAT score, was enough to get me into the only college I applied to – a small, private college in MA. All of that to say, my parents really failed me academically during those years, but I still turned out fine. I graduated college with departmental honors and received my Master’s degree a few years later. I had the strong reading and time managment skills that I needed in college and learned all the study skills I lacked within the first few semesters. I wish things had been different (especially once I found the IQ tests my parents had me take when I was 6 – I will always wonder if I would have cured cancer or won the Nobel Prize by now if they’d pushed me harder), but ultimately things worked out the way things were supposed to and I have a professional career that I love.
Sarah at SmallWorld
I really enjoyed hearing this from you. You aren’t the only one. I have seen this happen with several kids in our co-op, and I don’t understand it. I am bewildered by parents who were absolute dream homeschoolers practically all the way, and then just seemed to go “poof,” leaving their high schoolers to fend for themselves. I am curious as to how (or if) your parents have explained this?
Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Putting Pinterest to Use: Newspaper Blackout Poems
You know I just recently got really curious about this too, but haven’t gotten up the guts to ask yet. My parents are pretty sensitive. Of course at the time I didn’t want to mention it, because I didn’t want to ruin a good thing! My parents always wanted us to become “independent learners” so maybe they thought I had become so independent that I didn’t even need books in order to learn??? Just kidding, I think they just gradually got less and less involved in the day to day process of “schooling” until they were so busy with their own lives that it wasn’t even on their radar anymore. That’s what I’ve always assumed anyway. It’s good to know we’re not the only family to fall prey to this, and as I said – I turned out happy and healthy nonetheless.
Sarah at SmallWorld
You are definitely not alone! I’m glad it all worked out so well for you!
Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Putting Pinterest to Use: Newspaper Blackout Poems
This is a couple years later, so I wonder if SS is still there. I would like to hear if your parents ever responded to your question about their “blackoout” during high school years. The same thing is happening to me, as a parent! I was a dream homeschoolling mom until a few years ago. I suppose that my bad years, which included cancer, two difficult pregnancies and later miscarriages, and a plethora of injuries keeping me in casts and boots, left me depleted. I panic to see my 14 yr old laying on the couch reading his schoolwork books but doing otherwise very little. No science labs, no more writing. I cannot teach him–he argues and groans and has little initiative–and I have all this other running around to do, plus four other children. We live in a terrible district and cannot afford private school. I feel that my son is wasting away. He is a talented artist, musician(only dabbles. now) and he is very articulate and funny. A good kid too. I will ponder your post.
Hi Marcy. My heart goes out to you and your son – you’ve clearly been through so much! Have you checked out Thomas Jefferson Education? It is a philosophy that takes into consideration the four phases of learning in a child’s development, among other things. It’s very possible, due to trauma or other reasons, to not progress to the next phase naturally. This could be what is going on with your son. The good news is that phases can be renegotiated and then progressed through, no matter what age he is now! Many families have done so and been able to unlock their child’s love of learning again. To wrap your head around this more I’d refer you directly to your site. If it resonates with your heart at all, you can find more to read there: http://www.tjed.org/about-tjed/ They also have a Facebook group that is so helpful: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TJEdDiscussion/
I just found your reply. Thank you SO MUCH. Your story made me smile. I think sometimes I just need encouragement.
I’ve nosed around on the homescholar website and am feeling much better. What an amazing resource! Part of me is so very excited at the prospect of making it all happen and the other part is intimidated, but I know with God’s help, we’ll be just fine!
Thank you again!
We are homeschooling our girls through high school and it is remarkable! I blog about it – not trying to plug – but it may be helpful for some to see how we do it!
We love it!
Kiersten’s latest post: Reading Party
OpenCourseWare can be a great tool for high school too.
Thanks so much for the shout out! I’m so glad my website helped you. Here is my freebies page for anyone who needs a quick boost of confidence!
Thank you for this article! My husband and I are homeschooling my 14 year old brother and actually finding it much easier than “homeschooling” our 3 year old. Our 3 year old needs much more constant supervision and involvement and each activity doesn’t last as long. For our 14 year old, we have a white board in his bedroom on which I write his assignments for the next week when he goes home for the weekend. He has checkboxes to check off everything (we always planned on unschooling but this one thrives with structure and is miserable without it). For example, he might have one check box for his reading for the week, one check box for each section of math he needs to finish, five check boxes for his physical activity (one for each day), etc. He works independently and comes to us for help if he needs it. If I see something coming up that needs further explanation (for example when he learned about Punnett squares in biology and the explanation in the book was pretty vague), we’ll set aside some time to work on it together. This method means that I can focus on our little ones while still being available for my brother. I don’t have to nag him about his schoolwork so the majority of our interactions are positive and focus more on our relationship, values, things like that. Its really worked out well.
Robin’s latest post: Post Secret
I wanted to mention our site as well, as I think it would be a super help to homeschooling families in the high school years. LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com is a completely free resource site and forum for both parents and students. We have tons of free downloads and printables, an amazingly large and growing blogroll of parent and student blogs, an event calendar that highlights homeschool-high-school-related events around the country, a full high school curriculum directory, and much, much more. Hope your readers will stop by and check us out! 🙂
Kerry’s latest post: Download: Homeschool High School Diploma Templates
I was briefly home schooled in between moves as a child, and my parents were basically my tutors throughout high school, so I don’t see any reason why homeschooling through high school wouldn’t be possible. The only problem I can see is if you have a divergence of interests, ie. you’re a physicist, but your child wants to be a linguist, you might not feel confident teaching them alone. It strikes me that a tutor could be useful as a way for your child to delve into topics you’re not so familiar with. There are loads of online tutoring services now, like these guys http://www.transmission-education.com/ who use tutors from my alma mater in the UK. I had a lot of fun being home schooled by my mom, and I’d hate to see others put off just for a lack of confidence! With a little help, anything is possible!
Hi! I’m Jade and I’m 16 I’m starting Ecot online school and I’m behind in school unfortunately I’m a freshman ….. But do you have and advice …. or things I should know I really want to graduate.
can you still get a highschool diploma through homeschooling? that’s the major reason I’m not homeschooled is my mom doesn’t think you can get 1 through homeshooling
I will be offering both ALGEBRA II Honors and Multivariable Calculus (for the 7th year) starting in September in a Live, Online format and NOT just watch and work!
I wonder if it is possible to allow your home schooling community to know about the availability of these two courses.
Many thanks for your help,
David Abineri firstname.lastname@example.org
My daughter is a freshman in highschool. It has been a disaster so far due to her anxiety about school. I made the decision to homeschool her but I also work full-time. What are your thoughts on that? I am not in a position to stay at home. I think my daughter can handle independent study. Has therr been any success with homeschooling high school when the parent works full-time? I am very nervous. Thank you.
Yes, Danuta! This can work very well, especially if your daughter is highly motivated to do it. No need to worry. I would just recommend you read through the links in this post, so you know what you need to do as far as your state’s laws, etc: http://simplehomeschl.wpengine.com/how-to-homeschool/
As you find what’s available in your area, you can find ways to get your daughter involved in homeschool programs in a way that works for your schedule and that eases her anxiety. You can totally do this!
I just found this older blog ( which is wonderful) this morning but I see that your post is quite recent. We have been homeschooling for 14 years and the oldest of my four kids went to public school for Grades 10, 11, 12. It is quite a nice school but not nice enough and the experiences there have had some very difficult effects so I really respect your decision and courage to look into homeschooling based on your daughter’s feelings. It was necessary for me to begin working full-time about 6 years ago and I still have three that I am homeschooling ( ages 17,15,12). I don’t know what your work schedule is like but mine is a combination of day and evening so it is the same each week but not each day. What I have found really helpful is to just look at the week as a blank slate as a starting point and work some fun and rich pieces into the parts of that week that work best for us. The hours that I am working outside the home can be used for anything that the kids can be self-directed with, reading, personal projects, leisure and I am quite involved with the other pieces. My teens are sort of self-directed but not nearly as much as the 12 year old actually ???? so we do a combination of online Ontario high school credits ( the classes are live so pretty interactive) and more eclectic homeschool learning offline as well. We are also still really connected to homeschool networks and community sports, youth groups ,etc. There are some great online options here in Ontario and I’m assuming likely in your state/province as well so that can be a great option but don’t feel it’s the only option. There are some very rich homeschool learning resources and opportunities that still allow you to be really in touch with learning, even if you can’t be there during what we think of as “school hours.” Learning has no set schedule really. Prepare to be tired but I’m not nearly as tired as I was when I was navigating the roadblocks of the school system. If you can come to a place of seeing homeschooling as an abundant and exciting opportunity rather than an escape, it will likely feel so much better! All the best!!
Thank you for posting this. I am sifting though your suggested links… right now!
Amazing post to share. Keep up the good post.
Even parents who have homeschooled for many years sometimes question whether to homeschool high school. When you homeschool high school, students are more mature, often have better study habits, and are able to take more responsibility for their own learning.