When we started homeschooling we told ourselves we were doing this one year at a time, not locking ourselves into a path that one day we might find wasn’t right for a particular child. At one stage we had Joshua on the short-list for a private school for highschool.
There were a few years we told the school, “not this year, ask us again next year”. And then one year Josh said to us, “Do you think I’ll ever go to boarding school?” He was simply asking for information as he could see that is what most kids from our town do. It was at that point I knew that we were going to homeschool the whole way through. I said to him, “No, I don’t think you will.” He asked why, and I replied, “Why would we send you to a school that told you what to learn and how to learn, when you’ve been used to a more personalised education?” His response was simply, “Good point!”
I would like to think that we are still flexible, and if there was a reason school would be better for our kids we wouldn’t die on this hill, but it would have to be a very good reason!!
I think my answer to Josh though gives a good starting point regarding homeschooling highschool – it can be an individualised education. Individualised learning is one of the things that we delight in during primary school but for some reason once highschool comes along we start conforming to what is happening in the schools. The biggest reason we do this is because we want our kids to do well after highschool and we think highschool is preparation for further study and a career. It is never easy doing things differently than the crowd, but neither is there any guarantee that the crowd has got it right.
What happens after homeschool highschool?
There are many options for entry to further education: TAFE, Open University, bridging courses, Portfolio and Interview entrances (and there may well be others). These pathways may not be the prestigious way (not like a top ‘score’ should your smart kid go to school) but at what cost. Both choices (highschool and homeschool) have its positives and negatives. Each family have to work out where the trade-off is for them. For us, individualised education where we could continue to influence the growing of their heart was more important than the extra year it may take to jump through some hoops for a university degree.
We also need to remember that university isn’t the mark of success. When we were getting our head around further study for Josh I heard someone say “You don’t go to university for an education, you go there for qualification.” There is truth in this – and there is also a hidden inference that you can gain an education elsewhere as well. At around this time, Jess said to us “I don’t want to go to University, it can teach me nothing that I want to know.” She wanted to continue learning, but she knew what she wanted to study and recognised that university wasn’t the best place to go. She since has found an online course, offered privately in a field of industry that she is interested in (Professional Organising).
Homeschooling encourages independent learning
One of the goals for our kids is that they learn independently. This is a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their life. Each of my four students is different, and I know I say that often, but it gives a good illustration that there is a variety that we need to remember. My children have taken on independent study at the ages of 9, 12, 14, – They may well have had the skills of independent study before this, but it was at these ages, that I was able to give them a unit of work, and say, “go and learn!!” Getting to this point has to be one of our major goals – and yet we cannot afford to put a time limit on it – they will gain these skills, when they gain these skills – each child will be different. Our task is to teach them the skills, and then give them the opportunity to practice while we supervise and encourage and help where there are deficiencies.
The key skills for independent learning are:
- Read to learn (not just for fun)
- Take notes (and understand them)
- Ask questions
- Find answers to your questions (Research)
- Communicate your ideas and knowledge to others (there are a variety of forms to communicate: verbal, written, artistically, practical projects)
- Set goals
- Keep yourself organised
What to study in Highschool?
The question of ‘what to study’ is an important one and heading into the highschool years we are very aware of gaps and inadequacies. We have to be careful that our decisions at this point aren’t based on fear and comparisons. We must give our children the freedom to continue to grow and be themselves. We must also be diligent and intentional in helping our children in all areas of their life.
I ask three questions when trying to decide what direction to take in the highschool years:
- What skills are missing? Notice, I asked what skills not what content. They will never learn everything, but I want them to be able to learn.
- What are the things Peter and I want them to know? We think it is important for them to know God’s word, to know how knowledge fits into God’s word, and how to think when things around them are in conflict to God’s word.
- What do they want to know? What are their passions, talents, interests?
When our kids were in primary school, and the first few years of highschool, we want our kids to have a broad general knowledge and that is our focus along with confirming and fine tuning the independent study skills. At some point though we have to say, it is okay to move on from that. Regardless of what my children do after highschool my years of teaching their heart, of preparing them to face a world that is in conflict with God’s word are numbered. I want to make sure that we are focusing on the important things, not playing catch up on topics that we think we should have taught by now.
Though my kids may have independent study skills I keep teaching Bible and Character. These are discipleship subjects; these are the key times that I have to shape their belief system (their heart).
What do you believe about education?
Regardless of how well prepared your student is, there will be challenges when they finish school. Kids that go to school have challenges. Homeschool kids will have challenges. It isn’t about removing all challenges and making their lives easy – it is about preparing them to face whatever challenges comes their way.
For us to homeschool highschool successfully though we need to make sure our practices are in line with our beliefs. For that to happen, you have to think through what you believe.
- What do you believe about success?
- What do you believe about the value of your kids’ passions?
- What do you believe about the importance of peer groups?
- What do you believe about university?
- What do you believe about your kids?
These issues shape our choices regarding highschool. And if we can’t answer them then we will be making choices based on what society is doing, or on our previous experiences. These questions would be good conversation for husbands and wives to think about. Once you know what you believe, then you need to make sure that the choices you make are consistent with those beliefs.
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