Many parents enjoy the lifestyle and success of homeschooling in primary/elementary years but then wonder if they can homeschool highschool. Highschool seems scary and it seems to have a bigger impact on our kids’ adult lives and so we doubt taking homeschooling any further. We have homeschooled from preschool to end of highschool (3 out of our 4 are finished schooling now and we have one still homeschooling) and I’d like to say – yes you can homeschool highschool.
Though there are two things to consider:
- Your goals: We need to be clear what our goals are for our kids – it is only knowing what we want to achieve at the end that we can choose an appropriate course of action. Our goals have been to grow the whole child – their spiritual, moral, intellectual, social, emotional and physical being. We want them to have a love of learning and an ability to learn, to have passions and to have the skills to use those passions, to be of good character, to care for people, to have the skills to be responsible in life – which includes being employed. Often highschool is seen as a preparatory path for employment – I don’t see it that way – I want to look at preparing them for their whole of life.
- Your choices – with these goals in mind, I then choose whether to homeschool or send my child to school. Once I choose to homeschool I then look at the individual child – their inclinations, abilities, passions, learning styles and find courses that suit their needs – courses that both challenge them, but that are also achievable and have purpose.
We must be clear on our goals – on what we want to achieve otherwise we will be swayed by other people’s opinions, or by the choices others make. You need to know why you choose to homeschool highschool, you need to know your goals for the individual child and for your family, and you need to know how you plan to meet those goals.
Doubts about Homeschool Highschool
Questions that parents have are:
–Can I teach higher level subjects? I have seen statistics that say the biggest influence on a child’s education is their parents involvement – but I don’t think that means their parents have to teach – we just have to be interested and supportive. There are so many different resources that teach highschool subjects that you will be able to find a solution where your student can either learn independently, or you learnt with them! These resources range from online courses (some designed for homeschoolers, and some a part of adult education) to curriculum written for the homeschool student to community courses to books in the library. When we choose homeschooling we can step outside of the usual teacher/student model and find a way of learning that suits our situation.
–School offers so many different subjects, how can I compete? To be honest, a school only offers subjects if they can afford the teacher and the equipment. Which means every school doesn’t offer every subject. Instead of looking at what you can’t offer, look at what individualised choices you can offer. A highschool student can learn from project based learning, from online learning, from night classes, from community clubs. If your child wants to learn it – you can find a way to make it happen.
–Schools offer so many electives how can I do that? We ask this question because we don’t want to limit our child, and fair enough. But there are options out there for homeschool highschool students. You can focus your funds into supplying tools and materials for a passion – like sewing, or woodwork, art or computer technology. You can find like minded adults in your community, join a club, start a club, or ask someone to teach or mentor your student. Online classes or youtube videos give clear instruction helping our kids try out many different hands on skills.
–What about friends? I believe teenagers need friends, but they don’t need to find them at school. Church, Sport clubs, interest groups and volunteer organisations all offer good social opportunities – not only to meet peers but to also get to know people of all ages.
–What about getting into University, TAFE, or Apprenticeships? In Australia there are several options for homeschoolers – you can do year 11/12 in TAFE or Online; you can do a bridging course, or an English course through Open University instead of year 11/12, you can skip year 11/12 and immediately start either TAFE or Open University courses gaining credits as an adult learner. This is something I didn’t have my head around early enough – but if I was doing it again, for students who were able in terms of social, emotional, moral ways I would skip year 11/12 and start with adult learning options as soon as possible.
–What about work experience and career advice? Once again, in Australia, you can purchase insurance that covers workplace arrangements from HEA – once this is sorted you can ask employers if they would take your child on for a 1-2 week work experience. I have found it a little hard to access career advice, since that seems to be connected to the school, but other places might be different. Some alternatives is to brainstorm different career paths around different interests and make a poster of these choices so the kids can see the diversity springing from their passions or interests. Another resource is to talk to student counsellors at Universities – they have been helpful to get our heads around that direction.
Lessons we’ve learnt along the way
–They don’t study the same subjects all the time in highschool. One of the mistakes we made in our early highschool years was we didn’t stop and look at the different subjects that were being studied at highschool levels. On the one hand this was because we didn’t feel we needed to copy but on the other hand it would have been helpful because we would have had true comparisons in our heads. I forgot that a highschool student’s work load increases in depth but narrows to be more individual interest/ability specific. We need to do the same.
–Life’s interruptions aren’t as educational as they used to be. When our kids are young every family life activity and experience was educational in that our kids would either learn something or practice something but our older kids don’t learn from every interruption, neither do they need to practice – so we need to be more selective about what we allow to interrupt their studies. This shouldn’t be too disruptive as you and your younger children can do what needs to happen and your highschool student can study independently (at least for most of the time).
–They need to be independent but still held accountable – just because our student can study idependently, may even choose what they want to study, they still need to be held accountable. Two ways of doing this is having them write their study plan in a diary – and tick it off as they go, and secondly to plan a parent-student meeting regularly to check work, goals and progress.
–Passions can lead to project based education – we can still shape our highschool students studies to their passions and abilities. Project based education is a great option because it creates an opportunity for whole life learning at an adult learning level. Each of our children have completed at least one project in keeping with their passion before they finished school. This wasn’t a commercial project or even a formal project, but a body of work that reflected their passions and abilities outside of bookwork.
–You don’t have to do year 11 and 12 – as I have already said – if your student knows what they want to do after highschool, then they can start that instead of finishing traditional year 11/12. In Australia, if you complete several adult learning courses, and gain credits then when you apply to the next institution, they look at the last learning qualifications. Which means if you do courses with no pre-requisite you gain credits, and build your CV as an adult learner, not a homeschooler – this is a good alternate entry to university. My advice is – get into adult education as quickly as you can – it is much more homeschool friendly!
–Some professions need you to have a year 11/12 – This is true. But there are alternative ways of achieving this. You can study your homeschool curriculum and find an alternate entry pathway – which will work for some, but hard to make happen. If your student is capable I would still consider getting these qualifications by studying externally with either TAFE or online Universities. Another option is to delay university and enter as a mature age student – which in and of itself has many benefits.
When our eldest was about 12-13 he asked if he was going to be sent to boarding school as many of the boys in town were taking that option. Until this point we had always taken year by year, in fact we had his name on the waiting lists for a private boarding school. But when he asked me this question I had a sense of clarity and made an on the spot decision. I said to him that no, I didn’t think he would be going to boarding school and that we would continue homeschooling. He asked why (which wasn’t a rebellious question, just asking for understanding). I replied: you have been given the freedom to study what you want to study, when you want to study and how you want to study – why would we put you in a system that told you what to study, when to study and how to study? His reply was: Fair enough!
It has really been from this statement that we have shaped our highschool years: Giving our children the opportunity for an individualised education that makes the most of their strengths and encourages them in their weaknesses in ways that actually works for them, not overwhelm them. The strength of homeschooling highschool is an individualised education.
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So yes, you can homeschool highschool. You can shape highschool learning to match your child’s needs and passions. You can prepare your child for further learning, for employment and for being ready for life!
Each of my children are very different from each other in their personalities, their interests, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses. Some overwhelm me more than others but I can confidently look at the diversity and say I know that God has given me what is needed to parent each of these unique children. There have been many times of praying for wisdom not knowing what step to take next with my teenage child – but I have seen prayers answered and that encourages my heart.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
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