Homeschooling High School

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I often receive questions about how to homeschool high school. It seems that many parents begin to panic when they start thinking about those last four years of their child’s education. I want to help lay some of those concerns to rest today as well as share some resources that you may find helpful.

Now, I should start by saying that I have yet to graduate one of my children. Although, we are definitely in the home stretch as my oldest son is in his last year of school. He has 1-1/2 semesters left before I can finally say we have graduated one. I have two more to go!

The biggest piece of advice I like to give people though is simply this…”If it worked in the lower grades, it will continue to work in these upper grades.” You should not feel like you need to change everything you’ve been doing now that high school has arrived. It simply is going to look different.

What do I mean by that? The core subjects aren’t going to change. You’re still going to continue to have your child learn math, writing, literature/English, science, history, etc. They are simply going to be doing it at a higher level. At this point, your child should be a pretty independent learner. You shouldn’t feel like you need to stand in front of a classroom and lecture while they frantically take notes on what you are teaching. You do not need to be an expert on the subject they want to learn. You should become more of a guidance counselor and facilitator of their learning rather than the one actively teaching them.

So how does that look? For my twelfth grader this year, he is taking one all day class through a local adult education program. This is a one semester, college level course where he is taking classes in math, English, technology, and study skills/time management. If he successfully completes it, he will earn one credit to the local community college. While I’m tracking his hours there (more on that in a moment), I plan to give him a high school credit in all of the above subjects. Essentially he is “dual enrolled” at the moment (I’ll explain that too in just a bit). He is also taking a writing class online. His history is video based. We meet with a Spanish tutor twice a month and we also meet with an art instructor twice a month. The remainder of his subjects are mostly some type of workbook/textbook program. I do not actively teach him any of what he is learning this year. I do, however, schedule out his days and track that he’s actually doing the work and learning.

One of the more common questions I hear is in regards to credits. What exactly is that and how do you give credits. Simply put a credit tells how much work and effort went in to a course. Typically a high school level course is one credit.

How do you know when to give one? There are a couple of ways. The easiest way is to simply see what the publisher of the course has to say. If they say that their course is high school level and your child completes at least 80% of the course, they can be awarded a credit for their work. Some publishers even say if you do (for example) this history course and add in our literature course, you can give your child a one credit each in history, geography, and English. Trust the publishers.

However, what if you are making up a course or your child is doing some non-traditional learning? Then you’ll want to count all the hours put in to the course by your student. For example, you have family business and you run a mechanic shop. Your 16-year-old son works there part-time. He’s learning all the ins and outs of how to run a business from scheduling, to ordering, to balancing the books. In addition to all of that, he’s also doing hands-on learning by fixing the vehicles that come in. You may have to get a bit creative on naming your “course” but by all means, give your child credit for the work he is doing! By counting the hours, you can learn how much credit to give. The typical range is 120-180 hours for one credit. The lower end would be for a fine arts type course or even working in a garage. The mid-range, about 150, would be for a foundational course (math, English, etc). The higher end would be a lab science. You can also pro-rate the hours. If they complete 60 credits, give a half credit in that course. You can do quarter credits as well.

A lot of area community colleges and even universities will allow your high school level student to enroll in some classes. Some will even waive all tuition and only charge the course fees making it even more affordable. When your child is taking a college level class while still in high school, it’s typically called dual enrollment. This is due to the fact that they are earning college credit and high school credit at the same time. If they are taking a college level math class in the fall semester, as an example, and pass it, this will earn them roughly three college credits. However, it is worth a year’s worth of high school math. You can count both of these things on their transcript.

What about course of study? Or how many credits in each subject do they need? Currently in the state of Maine there are no state requirements. Each school sets up their own graduation requirements. So while one school might require four English credits, another might only require three.

So how do you figure out what to do? First, it’s highly recommended that if your child wants to do something very specific (aeronautical engineering for instance – like my 13-year-old keeps talking about), call the colleges they are looking at attending and ask them what they require of incoming freshman. One of the great benefits of homeschooling your high school student is that you can tailor their education to what they need.

I also recommend that you gear all your children towards a college education even if they insist they don’t want to go. I’ve heard of too many students who thought they were going to skip the college road only to end up scrambling in those last few years to catch up so they could apply because they changed their mind. It’s better to aim for a higher education than to try to fix it too late. Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has a great resource on their website that is accessible by anyone – even non-members. I highly recommend checking out their brochure called A Guide for Homeschooling Through High School (blue cover). Inside it gives information on how to plan out your child’s high school years including sample schedules to follow. It’s been a huge help to many, myself included.

Now, transcripts. Many will ask, “What about an accredited transcript?” Let me lay those fears to rest. The transcript you put together is just as good as the one from any local high school. In fact, there are quite a number of public high schools in the state that are not accredited! I was a bit flabbergasted about that myself when I came across that information. However, the accreditation process costs money and time and many high schools are simply opting not to go through the process to save both. Simply because they are public high schools means that most colleges and universities will treat them as if they are accredited.

Lee Binz at The Home Scholar has a great article about creating your own transcripts. I highly recommend checking out her site. Lee is a homeschooling mom who graduated her sons and went on to creating her own business that helps other homeschooling families navigate the high school waters.

Donna Young also has a great resource not only for transcripts, but for all things to do with planning and tracking high school. Here is a direct link to her information on transcripts.

There is so much more I could talk about, but I know this article is getting a bit lengthy. I’m going to share some of my favorite links for homeschooling high school below. I’m also going to link up the online radio show Trisha & I recently did discussing homeschooling high school. You may find that helpful as well. Happy homeschooling!

Click the link below to listen to the Radio Show (audio starts at about 1 minute)


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