Episode 67: How to Decide about Extras for Homeschooling High School

Overview: It can be hard to decide about homeschooling high school extras such as volunteering or other activities. Consider these criteria.

So many experts tell you that you have to do all. the. things. Dual enrollment. Honors classes. Volunteering. AP tests. Extra-curriculars.

Guess what? You don't have to do ANY of those things. We didn't, and all of our kids got into college and received scholarships without them.

BUT that doesn't mean you shouldn't do homeschooling high school extras if they are a good fit. How can you tell when it's wise to take on something more? I give several criteria to consider in this episode.


It can be hard to decide about homeschooling high school extras such as volunteering or other activities. Consider these criteria.

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This episode sponsored by Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School

Cure the Fear is my book that takes you step-by-step through the research and planning process for homeschooling high school. With forms to fill out every step of the way, you'll finish with a complete plan for all of the years of high school, so you can confidently get started and know that you haven't missed anything.

Other information includes how to prepare your teen to succeed in college, how to choose curriculum, a list of possible electives, and more. You'll find out everything you need to know to begin this journey!

Find out more about this helpful resource here: Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School.

Episode 67: How to Decide about Extras for Homeschooling High School

Related Resources:

Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School

Episode 64: Dual Enrollment for Homeschoolers

Episode 63: Self Care for Homeschool Moms

Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School – has a discussion about this topic and a chapter about your WHY

Why You Should Homeschool High School: Crafting your Mission Statement


Hi, I'm Ann Karako and you're listening to episode 67 of the It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.

There are so many different activities out there. We don't have to get caught up on one. I mean, we think we know our kids better than they do. And in some cases, maybe that's true. And in some cases it might be that they're like, “oh, maybe I do like this after all.” But I think that is by far the exception. And I think you need to weigh that battle very carefully and choose very carefully which hills to die on.

Welcome to another episode of It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people. So you can confidently, competently, and even contentedly provide the high school education that best fits your teen and your family — and live to tell about it. I'm your host, Ann Karako, from Annie and Everything.com.

Hello everyone. And welcome to the podcast. I am happy to be here with you as always. Today is a dreary day in my neck of the world. As I'm recording, I'm looking out the window and it's raining and getting colder and the sky is completely covered with clouds and the leaves are starting to turn. So they're in that kind of in-between state where they're not pretty colors yet, but they're also not pretty green. And my cat is meowing to get out of the room. Hang on. Okay. Back from that, she was happily sleeping in my chair. And then all of a sudden, “no, I want out of here if you're going to be talking.”

Okay. So anyway, back to business, right? Today, I want to talk about how to decide when something is a good fit for your homeschool high school. I have talked often about you don't need to do all the things that all the experts tell you that you should do. I don't like the “should” word. I'm not an expert. I'm just an ordinary homeschool mom who's been around the block a few times and who actually did the homeschool high school thing and got her kids into college without pretty much any of the extras that you hear about. We did not do dual enrollment. We did not do honors classes. We did not have any volunteering. We had barely any extracurriculars.

What else? We didn't weight grades. We didn't win any spelling bees. You know, nobody started their own business. We all just did our thing. My kids submitted a transcript, no awards. So they submitted a transcript and really not much else, but guess what? They all got into colleges and they all got scholarships for college.

So go figure; all of those things that the experts claim you need might not necessarily be that much of a need. Now, does that mean you don't do any of them or I'm telling you not to do any of them? Of course not. That is not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying don't feel like you have to do them.

Remember there's only one absolute must. And that is to follow your homeschool law, your state homeschool law.

And then the second thing you probably want to do is check to see what the requirements are for whatever your kid wants to do next.When we're looking at approaching ninth grade, most of us want to prepare our kids for college, even if they decide later not to go there. So that means that you will be checking college requirements and working those requirements into your plan for high school. That makes a whole lot of sense. I really recommend that to everybody, but even that's not necessary.

However, just a quick plug. If you want more information about how to do that, my book Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School will walk you through that entire process of finding out what your state homeschool law is, of researching college requirements, of making the decisions that are going to best fit your family as far as what requirements you are going to put into your homeschool high school plan.

So that by the end of the book — you fill out forms every step of the way — by the end of the book, you have a four-year plan of what credits are going to happen when for your teen. It also discusses getting ready for college in other ways, besides just academics. It also discusses curriculum choice. It's a pretty helpful book, if I do say so myself. Let's just say, why don't we, that this episode has been sponsored by Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School. And then that means we're done with the ad for today. And the rest of the podcast episode will be completely content. How does that sound? Alrighty.

So if you do want more guidance about making that plan and determining what those requirements are going to be, definitely take a look at my book Cure the Fear of Homeschooling H igh School. I will put a link to that in the show notes, of course; go to Annieandeverything.com; click on Podcast, look for episode 67 and scroll on down, and you will find the link to the book. It is also available on Amazon, if you just want to go to Amazon and search for Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School. Okay, I said I would be done; now I'm really, really done. Okay.

So yes, it's going to be wise to check college requirements and put those into your plan. But beyond that, everything you do is your choice. It is completely and utterly your choice. The question is, how do you make the choice, especially when everybody's telling you, oh, you need to do this and you should do that. And if you don't do that, you're going to ruin your teen's life.

No, none of that is true, but how do you decide? So I've developed some criteria over the years that I think about, or used to think about, I should say, whenever we were looking at a new activity — and they've done pretty well for me. So why don't I set them in front of you for your consideration? And we'll go from there.

How to decide when an activity or a curriculum or doing something extra is going to be the best fit in your situation.

Here are some things to consider.

1. Budget

Now, you know me, I am nothing, if not practical, right? So I'm going to say, I'm going to put it right up there at the top, let's just get this one out of the way: budget. Am I right? Budget. We all, well, probably most of us anyway, have to consider budget when it comes to our choices for homeschool; for us, it was very much at the top of the list. It's like why even bother to look into something further if I already know I can't afford it.

Things have gotten a lot less expensive and there's so many more coupons and discounts and giveaways than there ever used to be. So sometimes there are ways to make it affordable, but I always used budget to rule things out from the beginning of the process, rather than falling in love with something and then having to say, oh, but look at how much it costs.

You know, I pretty much do this in all of life. I am not much of a window shopper unless I actually have money to spend. So the same was true when it came to activities and curriculum for us.

So is it something that your family is going to be able to afford without killing yourselves? Now, if it's worth it, maybe it's worth a little bit of sacrifice. You know, you give up your Starbucks for a little while or, you know, maybe you don't get your nails done or the haircut or the hair dye job doesn't happen quite as often, or I don't know, just little things that don't matter much in the big scheme of things. Maybe you're willing to give those up for the good of your kid being able to do whatever this thing is.

I would say don't do that though, unless it meets all the other criteria that we're going to discuss. I think budget is a very valid, reasonable consideration. And I don't think we should take it lightly. I have also been down the road where we did not consider our budget seriously enough, and we're still paying back debt, right? So curriculum or activities are definitely not worth going into debt for, and if it means that you're going to have to make some serious changes to your lifestyle in order to make this thing happen, I'm going to say you have the power to say, no, it's not in the budget. And let it go at that.

Sometimes we get so worked up about serving our kids and making sure our kids have all the opportunities, especially because we're homeschooling them. We feel like we have to go over the top for that. No, no we don't; sorry, but we don't.

So if you need to say no, because of budget do not feel guilty about that. This is the reality of life. Let's start teaching our kids now, if we haven't already, that we can't get everything we want, we can't afford everything we want. And frankly, you know, the state of the economy and our country right now, it means that we are already feeling that, right? We're already feeling the amount of money, more money it costs to go to the grocery store and having to cut back in other areas. Oh, and to fill up at the gas tank, right? Those are the two biggies that seem to be hitting me, anyway.

So again, don't feel guilty about having to say no because of budget. Please do not. That is a very valid concern, a very reasonable issue. And we sometimes have to make those calls that's okay.

2. What does your teen want to do

Okay, the second thing I'm going to say is talk to your teen, make sure it's something they actually want to do. Now when it comes to curriculum, that's easy enough to, you know, I know we as homeschool moms have criteria for curriculum, right? We have certain things we are looking for, and we don't want to not have those things.

And that's totally fine, but you can have your teen take part in this decision by picking two or three curriculum options that are going to fit the need and also fit your criteria and then present those to the teen and let them choose from those two or three. So you're already happy with either one of these. It actually makes for a great conversation. You sit down, you show them your three options. Hey, the pros and cons of this one. And then there's this one and it's got its pros and cons. And then there's this one at the end. And it's got its pros and cons and that's a fun conversation.

And then your teen chooses one of those. And you're like, okay, great. That's what we'll do. You totally support their decision. And that builds bridges right there. And also it invests them in that curriculum choice, which means that six weeks from now, when they hate it, it's not you that's the bad guy, right? They chose it. And also maybe they won't admit to hating it yet because they know they chose it. So maybe their pride will make them muscle through just, you know, experience talking there.

I think it's always great to give the teens the choice on that whenever you can. And the same thing is true for anything not curriculum based. If it's an activity that you've heard about that you think would be a good experience for your teen, you need to not just go ahead and sign them up for it. You need to ask them what they want to do. Very, very important.

We did try an activity senior year for my last kid that we both actually sort of thought would be a good fit. I heard about it. I presented it to her. We collected data. We thought it sounded like a good idea, but within two weeks she was miserable. Okay. So what did we do about that? Well, I basically put the onus on her to communicate about needing to quit. I had done my due diligence and we had communicated and she had agreed. So I wasn't going to make it easy for her to back out of it. And then it's sort of embarrassing for all parties when she goes two weeks and hates it. Right? And that's fine; that is her choice. But I did make her be the one to take care of the departure from that activity.

In general, it is not a good idea to force a teen into an activity that they don't want to do. And it doesn't really matter what the reason is that they don't want to do it. You may not think it's a valid reason, but to them, it's a very valid reason. And I think we need to respect and honor that. There are so many different activities out there. We don't have to get caught up on one. I mean, we think we know our kids better than they do. And in some cases, maybe that's true. And in some cases it might be that they're like, “oh, maybe I do like this after all.” But I think that is by far the exception.

And I think you need to weigh that battle very carefully and choose very carefully which hills to die on. And I don't think that choosing activities or extras or whatever else, you know, when it comes to dual enrollment, ask your teen, that's a huge commitment. They need to be ready for it. If they're not feeling comfortable with it, don't force it on them, especially when it's not necessary. Right?

All of these things are choices. None of these things are necessities. So let's remember that that's the case. And if our teen is not into it, let's not force that. They're not going to learn what we wanted them to learn.

And all that might happen is the relationship gets strained because you're wanting them to take this seriously and whole-heartedly, and they don't want to. And it's just becomes a nagging situation. And trust me on this one, this is not the route to go down. This is not usually the hill to die on. So just bear that in mind.

3. How it will work for the entire family

The next aspect is going to be, is it going to work for the entire family? This comes into play often when we're talking about the oldest kid who is now in high school and needing, we think needing to do all the things, and yet we've got youngers, you know, that are going to be affected by the teens schedule, especially before they start to drive. Wow.

So when you're talking about dual enrollment and the kid doesn't have their license yet, that means you literally are taking them to class, if it's not an online class, you're taking them to class three days a week somewhere. What time of the day is that at; is the rest of the family going to be affected by you having to drive the teen over there? Does the rest of the family have to pack up everything and come with you? Are they losing school hours because you're going to be away with the teen? Is there even anybody old enough to stay with behind with them? How's that going to go down? Or are you going to be on the phone the whole time you're gone trying to referee what's going on at the house that you left behind?

Stuff like that is what you want to consider. How is it going to affect the family.

And things that involve driving, then that also becomes part of the budget discussion as well, right? Because, hey, if it's going to involve a lot of gas to get somewhere, you know, for us, some of the activities were about 45 minutes to an hour away. We had to weigh whether it was worth that gas cost to be involved in this activity. So yeah, this is something that is also a valid concern. How will this activity, even though only one kid is participating in it. How is it going to affect the rest of the family? Is it going to be something you can all flex with or is it going to be too much adaptation that all y'all are having to do so this one kid can do this one activity? Something to think about.

If it's something that teen strongly wants to do, you know, that may weigh; but again, if it's something the kid is only half-hearted about, then that helps you right there. Why should the rest of the family adapt in order for this kid to do something that they're actually only half-hearted about?

Anyway, it's a very valid consideration to think about how it's going to affect the rest of the family. It's not all about the one kid who wants to do this thing. It's just not. Even if they feel very strongly about doing it; I'm sorry, but we have a family to consider here, not just you.

4. How it will work for YOU

Another thing to consider, many aspects to this one, y'all, and I'm not putting it towards the bottom of the list for any kind of priority reason. Okay. So just be aware of that.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about you, homeschool mom, how is this going to affect you? Is this going to work for you? Let's talk about all the ways that whatever this thing is might affect you.

It might be a curriculum choice. It might be an activity choice. It might be they want to start a business. It might be they want to go volunteer. It might be that they want to take this kind of instrument lesson or this kind of drawing class or whatever it might be. How will this affect you? You know, in the aforementioned example, we talked about you having to drive everywhere. Well, that, that cuts into your schedule, right? So how is this going to affect your schedule?

Is it something you can fit into your schedule without too much trouble? Or is it going to mean you have to set something else aside, something that might be equally important or maybe more important?

How is it going to affect your energy level? I know those days where I had to pile everybody in the car and go driving around town were the most wearing days, physically wearing days. Usually it was a day where we were going into town later, you know, maybe for a church function. And so then we tried to cram everything into one day because for us, the drive into town is so long. We're not about to just go in for one little thing. So we're going to go into for lots of things. And so we'd be in town all day and we'd be constantly getting in and out of the car.

And, you know, in the old days that meant we were still dealing with car seats or whatever. And of course there's the snacks to consider and the restroom breaks and all of that. And those were very physically wearing for me. How is this going to affect your energy level? Are you going to be able to still do what you need to do? Or is this going to wear you down?

What about talking to your spouse? How are they feeling about this thing? If they have serious reservations about it, then that might be something, you know, obviously should be something, oh, I've used the should word, but in this case, I think it's valid. Should it be something you want to consider very, very strongly and that does affect you, too. I don't know that I would be comfortable going against my spouse on too many things, right? It would have to be something that, well, I mean, would there be anything that was worth going against your spouse for — I'm coming up with nothing.

So definitely talk it over with the spouse and see what their thoughts are, and it may not be that they have serious reservations about it. It may just be that they have things that you need to consider that you hadn't thought of. Always worth talking to your spouse about anything that you are considering, especially with regard to the kids and your schedule and your energy level. And he knows all the other things that you need to get done. Right? So maybe he's got some thoughts that you could do well to take into consideration.

Another thing in regards to you, what do you even want to do? We talked about what the teen wants to do, and us homeschool moms tend to neglect what we want to do. What do you want to do?

You know, there are some things that we are looking at doing, helping our kids get involved in that we're just, it's so out of our comfort zone, it is so out of our comfort zone and that's going to be okay. It's okay for you to have veto power sometimes; if it is too far out of your comfort zone, then you know what? You might have to say no.

I would hope that you would be willing to adapt a little bit. Maybe if it's only slightly out of your comfort zone, that you'd be willing to try something new in order to serve your teen. But again, let's think about all of these other things that we've been talking about and make sure they all match up too. If it's going to involve serious sacrifice of comfort level on your part in order to make this happen, I don't know that you need to make that sacrifice.

I think you need to consider that very carefully and not feel guilty if you decide it's something that's too much to ask of you. We are all individuals.

Maybe there's another way that this can happen. Maybe the teen will come up with a different way for this to happen if you say, I'm sorry, this is out of my comfort zone, and I just can't support this right now. That is okay. Maybe the teen will come up with a way that it doesn't have to involve you as much; who knows, but I think it's valid that we take ourselves into consideration. We're all about serving everybody and putting our own wants aside. And I got to tell you that doesn't work over the long haul. It just doesn't.

Does that mean I think we should always do what we want and to heck with everybody else? Of course not. We are first and foremost supposed to be servants. However, the best way to be a servant is to be emotionally stable so that we can serve our family well. And that involves a lot of different aspects of self care, which I've already done podcast episodes on.

One of the things in self care that I may not have talked about is setting boundaries on what you're comfortable with doing and abiding by those boundaries for yourself. And that is okay.

And beyond just comfort level, you know, what do you want to do? Just what do you want to do? Do you want to be driving that much? Do you want to be stuck doing X? You know, that length of time or every other day, or I don't know, just, is it something that you want to do, that you want to make happen for your teen?

And if you don't, consider that, that's okay to consider. You might decide it's okay to give up, that you are going to set aside what you want in order for your teen to get what they want. That would be very biblical. That would be very great if you can do that, but it doesn't always have to happen that way. Again, we sometimes have to set boundaries. And so wants are one of those things that we can give away, but we don't necessarily have to all the time. Use your best judgment.

5. Does it help (or hinder) your WHY

What I have reserved for last is certainly not least; it might actually come towards the top of the list, but I wanted to go out with a bang. So what is the final thing I want to talk about today?

(And I will say this, I actually didn't mention this in the chapter about this topic in Save Your Sanity while Homeschooling High School, which is another book. This will be just a quick plug, I promise. This whole conversation about things to consider when it comes to deciding what to do is also in the book, Save Your Sanity while Homeschooling High School. And there are lots of other great topics in that book as well. So again, I'll put a link in the show notes, but this last one, I actually didn't put in the discussion about how to decide, although there is an entire chapter about it in Save Your Sanity.)

What is the topic? It is your WHY. Does whatever you are considering doing or your teen is considering doing match up with your WHY for homeschooling high school? Does it help your WHY or does it hinder your WHY?

Let me give you an example of hindering first. Let's say that your WHY for homeschooling high school is to promote family togetherness. And yet the activity that's being considered is yet another one that your teen would be involved in that would take them out of the home for yet another evening of the week when they're already out of the home for several of them. And now this would be another one. Well, let's see here. You want family togetherness, but you're thinking about making a commitment for the family to be apart again.

Does that mean the family could never be apart if our WHY is family togetherness? Of course not, but there's a balance there. If you're trying to foster family togetherness, but you're making commitments that take everybody apart a large part of the time, then that's an example of hindering your WHY by making the decision to do this thing.

Something that might help your WHY is another story. Let's see, can I come up with an example? So one of my kids was a violin player and one of our WHY's for homeschooling was to provide enough time for her to get the practicing in that she needed to get in so that she could apply to college as a violin major.

And so there's the community orchestra that she wanted to be a part of. Well, if we are trying to foster her violin career, as it were, then yes, the community orchestra would be something that it's worth committing to in spite of it being 45 minutes away. Thankfully it was only one night a week. So that was helpful. We committed to that so that she could continue to foster that violin interest.

So maybe your kid has a consuming interest. That's one of the reasons you're homeschooling, well then maybe an activity that involves that consuming interest, even if it's outside the home or far away or might be slightly expensive, I'm not sure, maybe that's going to be something you do agree to because it is helping your WHY.

There are so many ways that activities or commitments, even dual enrollment or all of these things that we think about can either help or hinder our WHY. If you have not created a why for yourself and have not written it down somewhere while you're rational, so that in your emotional moments, you have it to go back to look at, I would highly recommend you do so. Also highly recommend you get the book, Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School, so that you can read the chapter on what a WHY is and create one for yourself, because it's going to help you with all sorts of decisions while homeschooling high school.

And I think it's incredibly important that you generate one of those. So it helps you make these decisions, but it also helps you determine whether you're being successful at homeschooling high school. It gives you something to say to your kids when they're wondering why you're homeschooling high school, and many other benefits are involved with having a WHY. I will, again, put that link in the show notes. I also have a blog post about it. I'll put that link there as well.

Your WHY can be a huge factor in deciding what you're going to do in your homeschool versus what you're not going to do. And I think it's incredibly important to consider. And so I just want to leave you with that.


Okay. So I didn't number them as we went. We talked about budget. We talked about what your teen wants to do. We talked about what's going to be best for your family. We talked about what you want to do and how it's going to work out for you, and all of the various aspects of that. And then we ended on is it going to help or hinder your WHY.

These are all great things to consider when it comes to should I do this thing that a) everybody is telling me I should do? Or b) the teen really wants to do or c) I think I'm supposed to do? Question mark? But I don't really know?

Most of the time there's no supposed to; again, the only supposed to is you're supposed to do your state homeschool law. And then it would be a good idea to add college requirements into that plan, at least until you know whether or not your kid is definitely not going to college, and then you can adapt from there. So I hope this has been helpful to consider these things.

Maybe you've got decisions going on even right now that you're wondering if it's going to be a good idea to do that. And then I would just advise that you walk through these criteria and see what happens. See if you get mostly yesses or mostly nos and then weigh it from there.

It's been great being here with you as always. I look forward to next time. I'll see you then.

It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

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