When you fear that your Homeschooled Teen is BEHIND

Overview: The seemingly far-reaching ramifications when your homeschooled teen is behind can be very scary. I'm here to reassure you that it will truly all work out!

One of the homeschooler's worst fears: my child is behind.

And the one that will keep you up at night: my child is behind in HIGH SCHOOL.

Which means, of course, that I am a HORRIBLE homeschool mom and my child will have no future worth considering and will consequently completely fail at all of life. All because of me. My fault, my bad, mine mine mine. At least, that's what it seems like in the dead of night as you lay in bed staring at the ceiling and wondering if the sun will EVER rise again.

Related: Episode 65 – How to Tell if You are Successfully Homeschooling High School

Well, let me help you get back to sleep. Deep breaths, y'all; it's all gonna be OK.

It can be scary when your homeschooled teen is behind. I'm here to reassure you that it will truly all work out!

The main fact to remember is that when you homeschool high school, the word “behind” only really applies in one very specific instance.

And even then, it is a doable thing to get past it. Let me explain.

The only time that the “B word” applies when homeschooling your teen is if they are not going to be able to complete college requirements by the time they graduate. Colleges do have certain things they want their applicants to have accomplished, and high school level course work — so many credits of this, so many credits of that — is one of the main things they look for.

But guess what? COLLEGE IS NOT THE ONLY PATH TO TAKE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL. I know this can be hard for us to believe, but it's true. :-) And when you think about it, why send your child who already struggles with academics into a situation that will be even MORE difficult for them?

True story: my second child tried college for two years. She struggled with deadlines, and she didn't always follow instructions — which led to less-than-stellar grades. The only classes she enjoyed were the ones in her major, which was Art. She was a bit of a loner. And she began having anxiety attacks, which she had never experienced before in her life. Since quitting school and coming back home to work full-time, she is much less stressed and is enjoying life, making friends, earning money, and spending time polishing her craft. She says it was the best decision she ever made. All I know is it warms my heart to see her relaxed and laughing again.

College is NOT for everyone, and neither you nor your child are a failure if you decide on another path. Just breathe that thought in and rest in it awhile. :-)

So then, if your child is not interested in going to college, or would most likely be stressed and not successful there, then guess what you get to do?  You get to design their high school coursework for what fits their abilities best. If that means they never get past Algebra 1 — who cares? As long as you are following your state's homeschool laws about what kids must do to graduate (which are surprisingly minimal, as you can read about in Homeschool Graduation Requirements — What You Need to Know), then your child will not be “behind,” because YOU will be determining what they should accomplish. They won't have to try to live up to an outside standard.

(Speaking of outside standards, I wrote another post that discusses the government grade level standards and how they apply to us as homeschoolers. You can check it out here: Dear Homeschool Mom Who Worries about Her Child being Behind.)

But if your child does want to go to college, then the word “behind” can become a thing. 

I don't think we should downplay that. Because a child who only gets through Algebra 1 in high school will most likely not have met most college's requirements — thereby classifying them as “behind” in a very real sense.

But let me hasten to reassure you that this is not an insurmountable obstacle!!

When your homeschooled teen is behind, they can still graduate high school and go on to college even if they haven't met ALL of the requirements.

For classes like English and Math, colleges have prep courses that a freshman can take before jumping into the college level courses for those subjects. Passing those means you have objective validation that they are now ready, even if they may not have been before.

Does this take a little extra time? Sure. But does that matter in the long run, if it matches the learning pace of your child? Not at all. An additional semester or two taking prep courses on the college campus may be exactly what your child needs to be ready to take on the rigors of regular college courses.

Also, colleges come in all different kinds. Don't think Ivy League standards apply to every one of them. There is most likely a college out there that will take your child's GPA and test scores and coursework, even if they are not stellar. And the courses there will be ones that your child can handle. Take the time to look around for schools like that.

And don't forget the local community college! It is often a GREAT fit for a student who needs more time to be ready. Most of them have very minimal entrance requirements, if any at all. Which means that the child who graduates high school without having met the usual college requirements can still get started on college. So then did being behind really matter???

UPDATE: I recently became familiar with another option for “catching up” in math. Check out my review of Learn Math Fast and see if this curriculum will meet your needs! It's a GREAT resource! Click here: How to Learn Math Fast (really!).

I go into more detail about all of this in a video that I did live in my FB group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School. In it you see the real me, as we learn that live videos don't always go perfectly, lol! (Hint: wait for the “blooper” at the end.) But I think it will encourage you to watch it and realize that the word “behind” doesn't have to be a bad word — and it doesn't have to keep you up at night! :-)

HUGS, everyone!! Sweet dreams!! :-)

When you homeschool high school, the thought of your student being behind is very scary. What if you ruin their chances to get into college? Or whatever else they want to do? Read this post (and watch the accompanying video) to rid yourself of this fear once and for all!
It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

33 thoughts on “When you fear that your Homeschooled Teen is BEHIND”

  1. I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out what to do about my daughter concerning Science and History. She’s not doing very well on tests (she used to get all A’s in public school, so it’s really hard on her), and I’m concerned about what her transcript is going to look like. Is is alright to just give her an overall grade for the course without taking into consideration the individual test scores??

    1. You can grade however you feel is best. I personally do include test scores, because I think studying and learning how to take tests is a vital part of high school, if the teen is planning on going to college. But they don’t have to be the ONLY part of the grade. You can factor in the discussions that you have with her, and her participation (did she have a good attitude and do her work diligently?), etc. As far as “what her transcript will look like” — it is OK if she does not have all A’s. Find a college or career path that will accept her just as she is, without the need to feel like you must pad her grades to make her look good. Remember, too, that studying for tests is a learned skill. Maybe you could help her through it by starting with open-book tests and gradually working up to studying for the entire chapter.

  2. This article has eased my mind greatly. My daughter is autistic and can read words on grade level but has much lower compression. She will begin 9th grade next year and I have been deeply concerned with what to teach, mainly for ELA. Everything I look at shows Shakespeare and other authors like him. (Classical). Although she can read all of this, she will probably never understand it. Now I know as long as she’s reading and writing on her level, she can still earn a diploma. She may not go to college bit I do not want to close that door for her. She is very independent and very vocal with great possibilities. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for this. It’s helpful and affirms where we are with my younger child. I’m still concerned with my oldest, though. How do you handle if the ACT math portion is weak? My son rocks on most subjects, and did great overall on his early high school ACT (we had him take it in 9th grade so he could go in with no pressure and just see what the test was all about. He’s feeling less anxious about future tests now.) However, since we’ve gone at his speed in math, that score portion was low, making me feel he’s behind in math. We need him to have that high score he’s capable of for scholarships. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Laura! I think I can set your fears at rest by telling you that the ACT has a lot of Algebra 2 on it, which is something most kids don’t take until junior year. So the fact that he took it in 9th grade means he probably just didn’t have the knowledge yet. Probably by the time he gets to taking the test to actually count towards scholarships, he’ll do just fine. :-)

      1. This is absolutely true. The first 30 or so questions on the Math ACT are related to Algebra 1. The remainder of the test is Geometry, Algebra 2 and a handful of right triangle Trigonometry questions at the end. If your son took the ACT test in the 9th grade while taking Algebra 1, then he has only seen 50% of the test material. The ACT is a Reading Test…every section.

        Your son needs to be able to read and comprehend what is being asked, then apply the mathematical technique that will solve the question. Fundamental, procedural Algebra is the underpinning of the test. Reading comprehension, critical thinking, and problem solving skills are what he needs to do well on the ACT and these are developed over time during the high school years. Don’t stress! Slow and steady progress and he will be fine. Good luck!

  4. Indiana doesn’t recognize homeschoolers so we have to follow their law on education. They see us as private schools. The law says equivalent instruction as public school. Plus we have to follow Core 40 for graduation requirements. Sadly there are not separate laws for homeschoolers. We have to follow the State of Education laws in Indiana.

  5. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!! This is exactly what I needed to hear. I can breathe and sleep!!! We have homeschooled from day one, tooooo many obstacles over the last 5 yrs. here and there have really put our school on the back burner. One thing is for sure, our kids have learned a ton of life lessons in the last 5 years. At this point it would be too late to put our 3 kids in public school. I’m afraid of what grade they would be in! Our kids are smart, the 16 yr olds both work at a fast food restaurant and all 3 do volunteer work and go on mission trips, our youngest, 13, babysits.
    Any of the 3 can care for themselves if they had to, thanks to multiple hospitalizations. I was overwhelmed trying to figure out how I was going to double up on EVERYTHING and school year round to attempt to catch up. Only one out of the 3 wants to go to college, and he is very self motivated. Okay, sorry for going on and on. Thank You!!!!

    1. You are welcome, Mary! Deep breaths! Your kids are probably better prepared for the real world than most. And that is our goal, is it not?? HUGS!!

  6. My daughter sounds much like yours, artistic and not much into academics. She’s in 10th grade and we have not yet attempted Algebra. She isn’t sure she wants to go to college, and after reading your blog I am feeling more comfortable with that. I would love to know if your daughter has a plan for any kind of trade school, or other paths to take if college is not right for them.

    1. Right now she is doing art every day, working and saving towards a non-college school that she wants to go to. She’s also investigating the idea of trying to make money online with her art.

  7. Wow, i needed to read this. My daughter is an amazing artist who already sells digital art work on her own at 13. She is a loner and struggles to make friends though she desperately wants to. She is advanced but believes she’s behind because she can’t spit out the jargon other regular schooled kids do. She is only behind in math. I don’t think college will be a good fit as I think a business is a better fit. But i have those horrible frars that I am failing her all the time!

    1. If she is already selling her own work, she is doing GREAT! It will only get better from here! You are NOT failing her — you are giving her the space and resources she needs to develop her craft. You go, mom! :-)

  8. Wise words! We actually extended our daughter’s high school to five years, and she had no probs getting accepted into college etc. That wasn’t her chosen path, but just to encourage mamas…we spend SO much time worrying about doing things “right”. Turns out that things really do work out just fine ♥

    1. How do you do five year HS with getting ready for graduation and college acceptance deadlines and such? Our son is a senior, and is due to take the CLT next month, but he’s not even halfway through Algebra II because we have let him go at his own pace. I am so stressed! More than he is, lol! And we have family members who HATE that we homeschool – I know they would bad mouth it even more. We have to do whats best for him, I know…

      1. Many colleges only require 3 credits of math, and Algebra 2 would be the third credit, if he’s taken Algebra 1 and Geometry, so I’m not seeing any cause for concern. Those exams do have some Algebra 2 content on them, but that doesn’t mean he’ll do poorly. He’ll probably do just fine, good enough to get into a school that will be a great fit for him. We get so worried about getting high test scores and don’t remember that we want them to be comfortable where they do go, without feeling stressed all the time. No worries!

  9. I am so thankful to have found this. Do you have an idea on how to handle sports? We are doing a longer pace HS (5 year I have heard it called too) but was just trying more to give them the time they needed. We have run into a question now on how to “roster” our son for sports. He made the team and I wasn’t worried about wether he was a freshman/sophomore because we were doing 5 year.
    But now they are asking. And I am up nights worrying what to do. He’s 15 (16 in spring ) and worried about people thinking he’s too old to be a freshman
    Our easy going HS Homeschool life just got complicated and I now feel like I’m behind etc

    1. This is a great question, Emmy, and while I think I would say to call him a freshman regardless of age, I asked people on Facebook what they thought so you could have some advice from a wider range of homeschoolers. You can see their answers here: https://www.facebook.com/annieandeverything/photos/a.1768661520024818/3063591143865176/?type=3&av=1726873194203651&eav=AfbqNcQ7mUDwz53wBr_wRvNCCjEp5Z-OPPXtozXvK-4Fg__3vzVX8o_YCM9AiQ3v0mALj8XyQx6MtwzFHDUQqhmT&theater

  10. Can you go onto your Facebook for me and thank everyone? This is exactly what I needed. I don’t want to post because it will link me but I am very thankful to everyone. He is allowed the 4 here and we do want the benefit of strength and maturity for his postgrad playing. He would not have an advantage over others. He is not playing more than the eligibility of 4 years.
    He does want to pursue sports after HS. He will have extra credits and we were doing the extended academic credits so that he would be really ready for college.

  11. I have no idea when this was written, but it is exactly what I needed right now. Because of a few extremely stressful years we got behind with my oldest in high school and now she is a Senior and does not meet all the requirements for math for college. She is on track with everything else! She does want to go to college, but we have an excellent junior college nearby. This has given me so much comfort.

  12. OK I have a 16 year old I just started homeschooling we live in KY and he is not wanting to go to college. So my question here is can u please view our homeschool policy and let me know what you think. I love the way you have made this sound. Can I actually do the whole high school like you mention? Im so knew to this and where he isnt going to go to college I just want him to know the basics, I want him to be ready for the real world when that time comes.Please could you help me to understand how to do highs chill the way you mentioned it. I have also went to the Facebook page to join hopefully I can learn alot from this group. Thank you so much

    1. Hi Misty, The best way to prepare for high school is to get my book called Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School. It will walk you step by step through the research and planning so you can feel confident. It will answer your questions! I know you can do this! You can see it here: Cure the Fear.

  13. I know this was written years ago but I am grateful that I found this right now. I have four kids. My oldest is getting ready to turn 14 and I feel like I am failing so much at homeschooling. I have lost my joy in it and my kids do not want to get ahead in anything. I do not have a support system and most days I want to give up because my kids fight me so much and I feel like I am fighting a battle I will never win. I fear for their future and it keeps me awake at night. This blog has helped a lot. Lord, I just need it to get better.

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