Giving Our High Schoolers the Education They Need

Last week, I drafted an encouraging blog post about homeschooling through high school. The post fairly oozed good cheer and confidence. You’ll have to take my word for it, though, because you won’t be reading it.

Later that very day, my current high schooler confessed to me, “I don’t know if you and Dad are giving me the education I need.”

Ouch. If my own son wasn’t reassured, there wasn’t much I could say to the general public. I scrapped that cheerful, confident blog post. If nothing else, homeschooling over these many years has taught me that we never get everything completely figured out.

So how do we know that we’re giving our children the education they need? It’s the question that rides on the back of homeschooling parents and students alike, weighing us down and keeping us up at night. Fortunately, there are a few good ways to answer it.

First of all, know your state’s basic academic standards. Darren stays up-to-date on the public school’s graduation requirements to know what colleges expect to see. He also administers standardized tests each year. The results are never a surprise to us, but they highlight where the kids are doing well, and what we need to focus on.

Secondly, plan your high school courses to cover the subjects your teen needs. And yes, this is much more easily said than done. Darren happens to enjoy the process of drafting out a year’s course, looking through catalogs, and attending conferences where he can thumb through books. But I don’t enjoy it; if it were all up to me, I’d drown without help. Today’s homeschooling parent has options—indeed, a bewildering array of curricula and classes to choose from. HSLDA’s high school consultants proved to be a valuable resource for us. They offered us advice on choosing curriculum, making a high school plan, record-keeping, information about the “big tests” like SAT and ACT, and many other hurdles that face a high-school homeschooling parent.

And there are hurdles, make no mistake. Once the school plan is in place, Darren and I work as a team to cover everything we need to. We’ve also joined co-ops to take on some of the academic burden, enrolled in online courses or community college classes, and found local private schools that allow homeschoolers to participate in classes and science labs.

But even with all that figured out, there’s still one more important element to consider: the student.

We’ve had to learn and re-learn this: if an approach works with one kid, it doesn’t necessarily work with another one. Bookgirl’s high school career was largely independent. Darren gave her assignments, I drove her to her community college class, or she logged into her online history class through HSLDA Online Academy. She even went through SAT prep mostly on her own, with Darren on hand to help her through difficult sections. Our biggest challenge with her wasn’t making sure she understood the material, but checking in to see that she wasn’t overwhelmed and trying to handle everything in silent desperation.

Well, that’s not how Gamerboy operates. He has trouble focusing if he’s left to himself, and there’s nothing silent about his desperation. So Darren and I go through his lessons with him. Darren spends an hour or so in the evenings reading Shakespeare, economics, or Bible with him. During the day, I watch his math lectures with him (another HSLDA Online Academy course) and keep him moving through his assignment. Next year’s SAT preparation will be a much more time-intensive process than it was with Bookgirl.

It’s a lot for parents to keep up with—and an even great challenge for a teenager with no frame of reference to judge his own progress. No wonder Gamerboy was anxious. Darren and I sat down with him to discuss his high school career, comparing his progress against the state’s graduation requirements. Then we discussed what still needed to be done for his senior year next year. Gamerboy relaxed when he saw that he really was advancing as he should be. For that matter, Darren and I also relaxed.

Homeschooling through high school is hard work. It’s not something that one blog post can address, no matter how cheerful and confident it is. Fortunately, parents today have many resources to help us plan, persevere, and build support networks. High school homeschooling is not a race that we have to—or should—run alone.

—Sara

Note: Our teens are looking toward community college instead of launching into a four-year university right after graduation. That lower-key pace is reflected in how we plan their coursework. If your homeschool graduate has transitioned directly into college, I’d be very interested to hear about how you prepared for that—either in the comments, or by emailing me at SaraRJones77@gmail.com.

Photo Credit: iStock.

One thought on “Giving Our High Schoolers the Education They Need

  1. Having graduated 6 with 3 more to go – and we homeschool through high school without any online or dual enrollment programs – I think a key factor is helping them discover what they want to do as adults and focus as much of the core subject matter, along with personal development/life skills and reading toward that goal. This helps them have buy- in to their custom tailored homeschool high school program

    Liked by 1 person

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