I have been a somewhat lonely homeschooler for the past several years. It began when we chose to homeschool high school — and most of our homeschooling friends did not. True story: out of the 20-30 families we knew who homeschooled back when our children were in the early elementary grades, I can think of only a handful of them that continued homeschooling through the high school years.
I confess that this bothers me.
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Of course I’ve wondered why this phenomenon occurs — because I don’t think it’s specific to just my experience. In general, it seems that most families that begin to homeschool their elementary child do not continue homeschooling through high school. I’m sure there are several reasons for this, but I have no doubt that one of the biggest is just plain fear. Fear that homeschooling high school will be hard. Fear of the more difficult subject matter — I mean, chemistry, and calculus, and AP History, yikes! Fear that their child won’t get a good enough education to get into college. Fear that they will shortchange their child in some way. Put very basically, fear of inadequacy.
And I get that; I really do. The idea of homeschooling high school can be very intimidating, even for those who have homeschooled through all of the elementary years. But you know what? I can truthfully say that it doesn’t have to be that hard, y’all! Just think a bit about these things:
1) By the time they reach high school, your children will most likely have the ability to learn most things independently.
That means that they will be the ones teaching themselves Chemistry (or any other “too hard for me to teach” subject), not you. And lest you see this as shirking your responsibility, I would say that by forcing them to figure it out for themselves, you are actually doing them a valuable service. Education should be a continuous process; it does not end after high school or college. You want your child to develop the habit of processing information, occasionally working through something that may be more difficult, and coming to a place of understanding, by utilizing their own effort. It is by this process that they will be prepared to continue learning through college, during continuing education at the workplace, and later in life.
Of course, if something is just plain too much for your student to figure out, you might need to seek out someone who knows more about the subject than you do. That’s really not much different than finding a doctor when your child is sick or a piano teacher when they want to learn how to play music. There’s probably someone in your church, or on your street, or at your hubby’s work, who would be willing to answer a question or two over the phone every now and again. And you’d be surprised how many questions can be answered just by Googling them. More on that in #3.
2) The homeschool high school experience does NOT – I repeat: NOT – have to replicate the public or private high school experience.
The state does not decide the specifics of what your homeschool looks like; you do. Obviously you will follow the requirements of your state’s laws, but usually they provide a lot of leeway in regards to things like these:
a) You decide what high school courses are required for your student to graduate. You do not have to follow your local school district’s requirements. You can graduate your child whenever your own requirements have been met. This is a very freeing thing. For instance, if your child has no intention of majoring in anything technical at college and does not want to take math every year, then you don’t have to make them take it. (And I didn’t. And guess what — they got accepted to college anyway! :-) For more about this, read How to KNOW What Your Teen NEEDS to Get into COLLEGE.)
b) You decide what to give credit for. If your child is a violinist and you want to give them 3 credits per year for violin because they practice three hours a day, you are free to do so. (And I did.) If your child is spending a bunch of time learning to drive, you can give credit for that (and I did). Homeschooling high school means your child’s interests and activities can be counted as part of the school curriculum, rather than in addition to it. This means you don’t have to fit in as many academic credits or try to come up with a bunch of electives just to fill the schedule. See how much easier this is beginning to sound?
c) You decide how quickly your child must complete a given course. There is no need to rush through to be done by the end of the semester, unless this works better for you. If your child needs to spend an extra week reviewing a particularly difficult chapter, you have the flexibility to take that time. You can continue working into the summer, if need be. This is another case where you are not shortchanging your child but actually creating a better learning environment. And knowing you can take as long as your child needs, because you are the decision-maker, definitely decreases the stress level.
d) Guess what? No homework. Because it’s all already been done during the school day. And no getting up early, either, if you don’t want to. It doesn’t get much easier than that! Now listen, I know what you’re thinking, but just because these things seem simplistic doesn’t make them any less true. And these are the type of thing that make the difference between a difficult day and a not-so-difficult one…
3) There are more resources now for making a success of homeschooling high school than ever before.
Especially because of the internet. There are online courses, online tutors — and you can almost always find the answers that you just can’t seem to locate in the textbook by doing a search. (Trust me; I know this, MANY times over.) Homeschool co-ops abound; then there are conferences, LOTSA high school curricula, blogs such as my own — in short, there are plenty of ways to find support when you need a helping hand. Knowing you are not alone in this thing goes a long way towards relieving those fears of messing up or being inadequate.
And it goes without saying, that if I can do it, anyone can. I am by no means an intellectual or a go-getter. I am just little ol’ average me. I was afraid, too, at the beginning; but as time went on, I realized I didn’t have to be.
All we have to do is take it one step at time, and what looked like a big scary mountain becomes something very achievable. Homeschooling high school is no different. At least that’s the way I see it. What do you think?
UPDATE: This article became the springboard for a Facebook group! If you are homeschooling high school (or are thinking about it!), then come join us at It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School for encouragement and support!