Sometimes you think it might be a good idea to extend high school so your teen can have more time to get everything done.
But have you considered all of the ramifications? There's more to this than you might realize.
It can be a great fit — except when it's not.
Hear about both the good and the not-so-good in this podcast, so you can make an informed decision about what will be best for YOUR teen.
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Episode 68: Considering a Fifth Year of High School for Your Homeschooled Teen
Hi, I'm Ann Karako, and you're listening to Episode 68 of the It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.
So sometimes you just really need to let go of your own expectations in order to meet the needs of the teen. It's not about what you need or want; it's about what they need or in many cases want, because they're old enough now to be making some of these decisions for themselves.
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.
Hi everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. Happy to be here. We had a fifth Friday last month, so it seems like it's been a long time since we've been together, but we're here now.
And I wanted to talk about something. I actually scrapped what I was planning on talking about today in favor of this other topic, which kind of came up this week. I saw a question in the group, the Facebook group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School. If you're not a member become one.
And the question was in regards to their son taking a fifth year of high school. And, you know, if that would be a good idea in their situation. And I got to thinking about this fifth year thing and realizing that I'd never really addressed it. So I wrote an email about it to my people, my email subscribers.
And that's another thing. If you haven't subscribed to my emails, then go on to Annieandeverything.com and just get on an article somewhere. And you can put your email in the sidebar to get my timeline. If you are on the homepage, there's no sidebar on the homepage, but there is a place to put your email in. I want to say that one's to get my transcript cheat sheet. So that's another helpful thing to have; if you have not gotten on my email list, do so because that's who gets the first look at things that I'm thinking about and topics, and there's a lot of exclusive information you get there that you can't get anywhere else or don't get anywhere else. So just a plug in for that.
But anyway, so I wrote an email to my email subscribers on Monday as part of my regular weekly newsletter and discussed some of the things to consider as you're looking at the possibility of a fifth year for high school. And then over the course of the week, I just thought, you know what? This really could be a podcast episode. Let's flesh this out a bit more. Let's really delve into this topic.
So that's what we're doing today. A fifth year for high school. Is this a good for homeschoolers? We're going to break this up into three sections. First, we're going to talk about the reasons people do consider doing a fifth year. Then we're going to talk about some of the problems that arise from doing a fifth year. And then we're going to talk to some alternatives to doing a fifth year.
So based on those three topics, you might get the drift of where I'm headed with this. And let me just forestall that from the beginning and say that I'm not headed any particular direction with this. I never really am. Of course I have my recommendation, but that doesn't mean I expect you to follow it all the time. You have to do what's best for your situation. That is always the case. No matter what I say, as long as you are following your state homeschool law, that is the only should in any homeschooling situation. That is the only must do. After that, you have to make the decision that is best for your family. I just want to tell you that you have all sorts of options. And sometimes what seems like the best option, because we have the flexibility to do it, might not actually be the best option, but if it turns out to be in your case, then go for it. But let's consider everything before we make that decision. Right? So, okay.
Reasons to consider a fifth year of high school:
Let's jump right into reasons to consider doing a fifth year for homeschooling high school. So what do I mean by this? First of all, I mean, okay, your kid did ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. And somewhere in the middle of like 12th grade, you're like, but we don't have all the credits that we need, or we could just use a little extra work in this one area or whatever. We're going to talk about the reasons, but you think, okay, what if we did a year 13, some people call it a super senior year. What if we didn't graduate this May? And instead we put that off til next May and have a fifth year of high school. That's what I'm talking about.
They're behind credit requirements.
So yeah, I alluded to some of the reasons already. One is that your teen might be behind. So “behind” meaning: doesn't have enough credits enough high school credits to meet college credit requirements. Because when we talk about the word “behind” — and I have a whole blog post about this, which I will link to, including a YouTube video — when we talk about “behind,” in regards to homeschooling, really, there is no such thing as being behind. Your kid is working at the rate and the ability level that is theirs and theirs alone. And whether or not it matches up with societal norms or standards is beside the point. Let's let them develop at their pace, right? How could they be behind themselves? They can't.
So let's not talk about “behind” in a general sense; but in one sense, it makes sense, if you will. It makes sense to talk about the word “behind”, if you are referring to the fact that, oh, we are trying to meet college requirements and we don't have time to get them all in. This is when it makes sense to use the word because yeah, colleges do require a certain number of credits of high school level math. That's often the bugaboo right there, high school level English, high school level social studies or history, high school level science. And sometimes our teens either just failed to work hard and somehow didn't finish the courses when they were supposed to be finished, or they're just not at that level yet.
Like specifically in math, maybe they were able to get through algebra one, but they have no high school credits beyond that. And so we're thinking, well, maybe we take a fifth year in order to get some more of those high school math credits in, so that they will be ready to apply to colleges. So that's one reason why people might decide to take a fifth year.
Your teen is very young.
Another reason why people might decide to take a fifth year is if your teen is really young. This happened to me with two teens where they had September birthdays, and we started them in on homeschooling while they were still four, and they did not turn five until they'd started already. Yeah. I forget exactly the timing on that without going back and thinking it through.
But what happened was for instance, my daughter with the September birthday, she graduated at 17 and then went off to college at 17. And didn't turn 18 until after she'd gotten there. Most other kids turn 18 their senior year of high school. She didn't; she didn't turn 18 until she went to college. In her case, she did not need a fifth year. She was ready in all respects to go onto college and did fine there.
My son was a different story. He was the other one with a September birthday. You know how this can be, not always (don't get on my case about this), but it can be complicated when this is a boy we're talking about. So his September birthday meant he also graduated high school at 17. We'll go into more specifics about his situation in a little bit, but there was some thought process involved about since he is so young, maybe we should make high school last a little longer. I did even write a blog post specifically about boys and maturity and homeschooling and what that ends up looking like in high school when we've kind of pushed them forward academically, because they could handle it, but maybe maturity wise, they weren't there yet. So I'll link to that in the show notes as well.
And just to ease your mind already, the way to get to the show notes is to go to Annie and Everything.com and click on podcast in the top menu. And then you're going to look for episode 68 and click on that. And you'll get to the show notes with all the links you need to get to these articles I keep referring to.
So that's another reason for a fifth year is your teen is just young. They've progressed academically, but maybe not maturity wise. And you want to keep them home just a little bit longer in order to get them to the point where you're more comfortable with them tackling college, going off to college or whatever.
Your teen wants to — maybe to pursue a project or passion.
And then another reason to do a fifth year is that maybe your teen wants to. Maybe your teen just doesn't feel ready yet for anything next and just wants to stay in high school for another year longer. I'll be honest with you; I don't know that I've heard of this happening that much, but it is I suppose, possible that it could happen.
Oh, and I just thought of another one, because I know this happened to a friend of mine. Sometimes there's a life circumstance that brings this about. In her case, her kid got sick for a while and could not do schoolwork. And so in that sense they were behind. So, you know, any major life circumstance — divorce, death, illness, even moving — could cause you to get behind and perhaps be thinking about a fifth year.
So these are all lots of reasons why people consider it. And I think they're all valid reasons and I think it's worth considering. And I think in some cases it probably works out fine.
And I need to break in here for just a minute to say that this episode of the podcast is sponsored by CTC Math. Are you looking for a new math
And I do just want to tell you that we used CTC Math ourselves, and it is a thorough math program. As a former math teacher, I do recommend it. Thanks.
Problems with a fifth year
But let's talk about what are some of the problems — it's not all rainbows and unicorns when you decide to do a fifth year; what are some of the potential problems of a fifth year?
Age of your teen
So probably the biggest one in many cases is going to be, how old will your teen be when they actually do graduate? If you decide to do the year in the case of the younger teen, that's not an issue, but in the case of a teen who is already 18 as a senior, and now you're going to have them graduate at 19, this can be tricky.
It's not the same thing as holding them back in elementary school. One of my brothers got held back and repeated, I want to say, second grade. And so, yeah, he was 19 when he graduated high school, but that had happened way back when. It didn't happen during the teenage years, the high school years when he had a lot more stake, a lot more say, a lot more of an opinion about that, or would have had. So how old will your teen be when they graduate, in the sense of how is this going to go over with them?
All of their peers will be moving on. Is your teen going to want to put up with this for another year? Or are they going to lose their motivation? Or if maybe they have already kind of lost it in the first place — senior-itis is a thing, and it may not be just because it's senior year. It may be because of their age, who knows.
So the fact that they are getting older means that their motivation may struggle, and then you can get into relationship issues as well, because, okay, so now their motivation is struggling because they're older and all their peers have gone on to other things. And they're still doing high school at home, trying to slog through these last few credits or whatever. And so now they're not motivated as well.
And guess what, then who thinks they have to nag? That would be me, right? Mom thinks she has to start nagging. And she's frustrated that he's not doing anything. And we did this fifth year for you, but now you're not following through. And that can lead to relationship issues.
So do you have a plan for that? Do you foresee that? Are you certain that's not going to happen? And how will you handle that? If it does, these are things to think about for sure.
The other kind of big problem, if you will, about a fifth year is how do you handle their transcript? And some people will say it is totally fine to put a super senior year on the transcript.
I don't know if you number things, if you call it 13? I mean, I have on our transcripts, ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade, that's what I call them. So then for you to put a 13th grade, to me, that screams homeschooler; public schools don't have grade 13. This is just not even an option for them. They may keep people back a year; I don't know how often they do that in high school, but they certainly don't have a 13th grade on the transcript.
So I, for one never felt comfortable with the idea of putting a five-year homeschool career on a transcript, except for one possible way. And that is, let's take year 13 and let's call it 12th grade and back everything up so that what their senior year is now 11th grade, what was 11th grade is now 10th grade. What was ninth grade is now eighth grade.
And then it becomes, oh, hey, this kid earned some high school credits in eighth grade. This I can totally go for. And it's not like you said, oh, I'm holding you back a grade and you've identified, oh, we held you back and repeated 10th grade. No, it wasn't like that at all. It's just, okay, we're reframing how we're looking at this. And what we thought was ninth grade is now being called eighth grade. And that is totally fine. And then you're presenting a transcript to colleges that looks like other kids' transcripts do, whether they're homeschoolers or from public or private school.
This method also then preserves your kid's dignity. Right? Whereas adding a super senior year to the transcript is going to lead to having to explain it to admissions officers, or if he's doing interviews or anything along those lines, now it's gotta be, oh, well, we decided to take a fifth year because…, and that can be somewhat humiliating, I would think, for the teen to have to explain all of that, depending upon the reasons for it.
So again, I would say if you decide to do a fifth year, let's back everything up and just call the grades differently so that it looks like a “normal” transcript to the colleges.
The thing about that is those eighth grade credits, which you thought was ninth grade, some of them might be a little tricky now to call high school credits merely because they were taken in eighth grade.
You're going to have to use your best judgment on this. I have an entire podcast about giving high school credit before high school; it's totally doable, or I wouldn't even be bringing this up as an option. However, to me, there are some caveats involved with that. And the biggest one is I don't think it makes sense to give credit for English or history in eighth grade.
And the reasons I'll just give you the highlight is that when we're talking about math and science and foreign language, those are very objectively graded courses. It is very obvious that the kid is putting out high school level work. They either know how to do the math problems or they don't. Those are high school level math problems because it's a high school level course, and they are showing that they can do them. That is high school level work that they are putting out — same with science, same with foreign language, which is, you know, vocabulary, grammar. That's all very objective. They either know it or they don't.
When we're talking about English or history, however, it becomes a lot more difficult to tell if what they are putting out is high school level work. They may be taking in high school level content, but are their papers being written on a high school level? Are their projects being done on a high school level, are their essay exam questions being written on a high school level? And when we're talking about the difference between an eighth grader and a ninth grader, sometimes even with the academically proficient kid, sometimes the eighth grade output is just not the same as what it will be the following year when they get to ninth grade.
Now we know that in this scenario, we're talking about that “eighth grader” was actually a ninth grader at the time. But if we're reframing everything, now that English credit that they took in what was ninth grade, but is now eighth grade, becomes a little harder to justify to colleges.
And so that is something I would just bring up as something to think about, and go listen to that other podcast for the better fuller explanation (I didn't necessarily do the greatest job here) before you decide about that. But that means though that now if that English credit that they took in eighth grade isn't really going to count for high school, now that means we've got to put an English credit in the super senior year to make sure that it looks like they have four high school level English credits, which is what most colleges expect.
So that becomes a little problematic trying to reframe everything, but it is doable. And again, you have to decide whether you can in good conscience give high school level credit for English or history that was taken in what is now eighth grade.
I mean, essentially if you count every single credit that they took in eighth grade on this transcript as a high school credit, it's essentially calling it five years of high school then, because now every eighth grade credit was given as high school credit. And I don't know how that flies to me. It doesn't fit the spirit of the idea of giving high school credit in eighth grade.
Eighth grade is still middle school. It's not going to be high school, but in certain subjects, we're going to go ahead and do a high school level course — that's more what is implied in that situation. Not, oh, we took an entire course load of high school credits in eighth grade. That's not generally what getting high school credits in eighth grade is about. So that is something you have to weigh. I bring it up though, to be sure that you do think that through.
Alternatives to a fifth year
So now you might be thinking, oh, you know, I see what she's saying that this fifth year is not necessarily the best thing since sliced bread. There are some issues we have to think about and we have to consider, we would have to work through. So maybe I don't want to do a fifth year, but I'm in this situation and I don't know what to do about it.
Instead, there are plenty of alternatives to doing a fifth year. And I think that many of them might actually work out better in the long run than trying to extend high school. You know, when I think about extending high school, again, it scares me. It does kind of scare me to think about just that it should have been over already. And now we're trying to tack something onto the end. And to me, it sounds like it's not going to go well; it's just going to be difficult. And everybody's going to feel like when they get in the middle of it, that they wish they hadn't done this, that they just ended it back when it was supposed to end.
You know, it's like the TV series that goes on too long. And then for the final episodes, you're just like, okay, I am just completely done with this. It was better before, but they took it too far. And now it's just stupid.
That is my concern about the fifth year of high school. And granted, that is so emotional and non-objective, and again, you have to decide for yourself, but this is what I keep thinking and feeling when we talk about this.
So then in that case, what are some alternatives to prevent that from happening, that feeling like, oh, we're stuck now, here it is October. And we're stuck — to avoid that. Let's talk about other ways to handle this situation where you feel like you might want a fifth year or need a fifth year.
Dual enrollment or community college
What are some other things to do? One of the, probably most popular ways to handle this is okay, so maybe we put off graduation, but maybe we do dual enrollment for all of those credits now on that fifth year. So that they'll count for high school credits, but they'll also count for college credits so that the teen is not feeling like they're stuck in high school, but that they're actually doing further work. That's more exciting, more important, and actually giving them credit towards college.
Along those lines, community colleges don't have credit requirements. So instead of doing dual enrollment, you could still graduate on time and then just enter the community college without having to worry about how many high school credits of math they had.
Now, they might have to do some of those high school level courses at the community college in order to get themselves up to where the college level math would be. That's okay, but now they're actually going to college rather than being “stuck” back in high school.
So either of those options, if you want to keep them from graduating, but do dual enrollment, or if you want to just go ahead and graduate, no matter how many credits they have, as long as you've met your state homeschool law, that's all you need to do. And then head on to community college instead, that's another option.
Adapt graduation requirements
And that kind of relates to my second idea, which is to totally adapt their credit requirements for graduation.
I know if you followed my Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School book, you set up what credits you wanted them to have before they graduated. And you've been following that plan. And that is great. But sometimes the plan needs to change. Sometimes you need to decide, well, these credits are actually unreasonable or undoable or not necessary given our situation. And so then you can adapt those credits.
Maybe you were expecting four years of high school math, but maybe the college your kid is interested in only is asking for two, yet you still want to push for that fifth year to get your requirements in. When the college requirements have already been met, not necessary.
So many times, many times — and this is what we did with my son — many times you can adapt the graduation requirements so that they can still graduate on time and move on to something else. Often the reason the kid might be behind on getting the college requirements in is that they're just not academically minded. And so they work slowly or they just are having trouble grasping concepts or whatever, or they just, frankly, don't like bookwork. They'd rather be working with their hands, outside, whatever. So then why are we pushing them on these academic endeavors?
So maybe it's time to adapt to those graduation requirements, take off whatever they didn't make, whatever they didn't get done, say, okay, you know what? That's okay. This is a different situation than what we thought it was going to be when we started. And we're just going to reroute a little bit and it's all going to be great. And then you do graduate them on time because they now have met the requirements, because you've adapted the requirements, your requirements.
This is going to be based on their plans. Maybe they don't even want to go to college. But you had in mind oh, but we wanted four years of core courses, all of the core courses, all four years, that's our graduation. But if they don't want to go to college and, and it's coming up on graduation time, but they don't have all those core courses that you wanted them to have, does it matter?
So sometimes you just really need to let go of your own expectations in order to meet the needs of the teen. It's not about what you need or want; it's about what they need or in many cases want, because they're old enough now to be making some of these decisions for themselves.
Find other ways to get credit
Here's another thing that we did with my son to help his real senior year go a little smoother. And that was that we used his job for credit, for high school credit, which meant that we could back off on the academic course load for that year. And that helped a lot.
By the end of even junior year, we could read the writing on the wall that he was not going to be ready for college. And that he was also very frustrated with all of the bookwork. Okay, I get it. And we were both becoming frustrated in that situation.
So let's come up with a plan that's going to meet the needs and also be easier to live with. So he started, he had actually had this job earlier than that, but he was working 20 to 30 hours a week that last year at his job. And I counted those for credit. I called it work study on the transcript.
Did I already mention that I've done a podcast episode about this? Because I have, and I'll link to it in the show notes. And that meant that I backed off on some of his academic coursework. So he wasn't opening the
We were still very ready for him to graduate by the end of senior year. It was just a matter of let's be done. Let's cut our losses. You know, I will always be honest with you, and this is no slam on my son at all. This is just the circumstances that we found ourselves in, and the frustration level was high.
And so we decided it needs to end. We don't need to prolong this out of some sense of, oh, maybe it will get better. No, let's end this. And so we did, we, we finished up that year with as little academic requirements as possible. He graduated and then he went to work full time.
He was not ready for college. We knew that. So then he took that same job and went to work full-time instead of just the part-time that he had before. And it took him a couple of years to figure out what else he wanted to do. And that's okay.
In the meantime, we didn't do the fifth year. He needed more time to mature, no doubt, but we didn't do it as a fifth year of high school. We did it as gap years between high school and college. A gap year is a whole nother story. It's another option, right? Instead of a fifth year, I think it's going to be the subject of my next podcast episode. So stay tuned for that.
So here, we've talked about reasons why you would want to have a fifth year, but some of the problems that you might encounter, if you do that fifth year and maybe to avoid those problems, let's not do a fifth year, but what are some things we can do instead? So hopefully this has been helpful if you're in this situation and if you're not in this situation, maybe it's been helpful for you to just see some of the things to consider in any decision-making process.
Remember that the relationship with the teen is almost always the most important thing to consider. So that's why I brought that up as well. Is, is prolonging that high school into a fifth year. Is that going to help the relationship or is it going to make the relationship more difficult? Because when the relationship becomes more difficult, that affects your team's outlook on life, not to mention yours. And we want them to be confident and approaching the world from a standpoint of safety and emotional safety in the home. And when we can provide that, that becomes a priority over sometimes the academic requirements, just throwing that out there.
Well, as always, this has been a pleasure. Come back next time, share this podcast with your friends and I'll see you again!