Episode 80: Gena Mayo Shares Her Best Advice for Homeschooling High School

We have another guest podcaster this week, Gena Mayo from I Choose Joy and Music in Our Homeschool. She has graduated several children from their homeschool — and has several more to go! She'll share her best advice for homeschooling high school, including what she's done that has been successful for their family.

I love the opportunity to hear from other homeschool moms, don't you? There may be a new idea for you to try!


Gena Mayo of I Choose Joy, who has graduated three children so far, shares her best advice for homeschooling high school. SO helpful!

This episode sponsored by My Father’s World Curriculum

If home is the center of education, God’s Word should be the center of the home. With My Father’s World Curriculum, God’s Word is not just a subject. It’s central to everything your child will do every day. From preschool through high school, My Father’s World combines the best of Charlotte Mason’s ideas, classical education, and unit studies with a Biblical worldview and global focus.

For high school families, My Father’s World has teamed with Unbound to provide an exciting new coaching program helping students and parents through the difficult high school years. Students will receive 18 bi-weekly group coaching calls as well as gaining access to an online community of coaches and like-minded students in a secure, private environment. Quarterly “Design Your Future” calls with student leaders will provide insights on the struggles and rewards of a Christ-centered life in this season.

From preschool through high school, My Father’s World has you covered. Go to mfwbooks.com today, download a catalog, schedule a free consultation, and let us help you find the fun, engaging, life-transforming curriculum your family has been waiting for. Go to mfwbooks.com today!

Episode 80: Gena Mayo Shares Her Best Tips and Advice for Homeschooling High School

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Gena mentions:

Gena's blog: IChooseJoy.org
Also IChoosejoy.org/preparesenioryear
Gena's music courses for all ages: Learn.MusicInOurHomeschool.com
Khan Academy

Other Related Resources:

Homeschool Transcript Essentials: What You Need and Don't Need
Clearing Confusion about Credits
Episode 37: How to Start Homeschool High School – Your State Homeschool Law
How to Plan Your Teen's High School Coursework in 4 Easy Steps
Episode 61: How to Involve Your Teen in the Planning Process
Episode 64: Dual Enrollment – Is it Right for YOUR Teen?
How to Create Your Own High School Curriculum
How to Get Fine Arts Credits for Your Homeschoooled Teen — with a review of Music in Our Homeschool
Episode 89: Kristin Moon's Homeschool Experience — Do's and Don'ts for High School


Ann Karako: Hi, this is Ann Karako, and you are listening to Episode 80 of the It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.


Welcome to another episode of It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people, so that you can confidently, competently and yes, even contentedly provide the high school education that is best for your teen and your family. I'm your host, Ann Karako, from notthathardtohomeschool.com.


Hello, everyone, and welcome. Today, we've got a special treat, we have another guest podcaster. In fact, I've signed up guest podcasters for one episode a month for the next several months. Why this is exciting is because we get to hear from other moms who have homeschooled high school with their best tips and how they did it with their kids successfully, and I am all for that. I certainly have never claimed to be the be-all and end-all, or the only way to do things, and so I'm so excited to be able to hear from other moms telling us how they navigated this journey.

Today, we get to hear from Gena Mayo. Gena is a homeschool mom of eight kids, ages 21 down to 10, and she has homeschooled from the very beginning. She is also a music teacher and has taught music for over 25 years in many different forms, including early childhood music and movement classes, voice lessons, and vocal directing for full-length stage musicals. She began blogging at I Choose Joy, which is ichoosejoy.org, in 2006, where she shares about homeschool family and homemaking.

Her most recent venture began about six years ago with Music in Our Homeschool, and you can find that at musicinourhomeschool.com. She has a desire to provide the resources for every mom to include music in their homeschools. Her online course site, learn.musicinourhomeschool.com, provides online click-and-go courses to make it super easy. I actually have a review of Gena's courses on my site, so I will link to that in the show notes.

Gena is not here today as a music teacher. Today, she's going to share with us her experience homeschooling through high school, having graduated several of her kids. I'll let her give you the details about all of that.

She's going to be giving us her best tips and advice based on her own experience. Anything that Gena mentions today will also be linked to in the show notes, and I think you're going to find this super helpful, and you know how to find the show notes is to head to notthathardtohomeschool.com, click on podcast in the top menu, look for episode number 80, and then scroll down and there will be all sorts of links under Related Resources so that you can check any of them out that you are intrigued by.

All righty. I'm going to let Gena share her wisdom with us and her experience and then I'll pop back in at the end.


Gena Mayo: Hi, everyone. It's Gena Mayo, and I am from Music in Our Homeschool. I would love to talk to you today about my experiences with homeschooling my high schoolers. So far, I've graduated my three oldest from high school, two of whom were homeschooled all the way through, and starting this fall, I'll have the next three in our homeschool high school.

Today, I'd like to share about homeschooling high school from my own experience, my best tips, curriculum recommendations, and advice. I started homeschooling my first child for kindergarten way back in 2005. By 2012, I had eight children and I've homeschooled all of them the entire time, except for my oldest son, who did his last three years of high school at the public school.

In 2019, my second child graduated from our homeschool high school, and this year, my third child did. All three got into the colleges of their choice and received scholarships, so I know we did something right.

Let me tell you about how I started our homeschool high school planning. The first thing I did was learn about credits and transcripts. Next, I researched our state homeschool laws to see what was required. I live in Illinois, and they aren't too specific with their requirements, especially for homeschoolers.

Third, I checked with the websites of our local public school, the small Christian Pre-K through high school private school which is in the next town over, and the large college prep Catholic private high school which is in my town, to see what their high school graduation requirements were. For example, how many credits of English, science, math, foreign language did they require? How many of physical education and other electives?

Then I took those lists and sat down to write out a suggested plan for my kids. After I had a basic plan written out, I put all the information into the transcript software that I use. I actually use what's called fasttranscripts.com.

What I really like about this site is that I could create a transcript for all of my kids at the beginning of their high school years, and it's so easy to just switch it out if they change a class or they drop one. On the side, it lists the basic requirements for what they call general high school, general college prep, and rigorous college prep.

I use general college prep for most of my kids. The general high school I use for my daughter who's doing cosmetology at the Tech Campus, that's a high school vocational school in my area. She'll graduate homeschool high school ready to take her test for a cosmetology license and won't be going to college.

Next, after I have this plan written out, before I actually purchased the curriculum or the courses for the year, I sit down and talk with my high schoolers about their goals and what they would prefer to take the next year. For example, this year I asked my soon-to-be 10th grader if he'd rather take chemistry or marine biology this next year. I talked to my 9th grader to see if she would prefer a live teaching class for Algebra 1 or self-paced.

There are always elective slots available for the high schoolers. I want them to start exploring different classes to help them grow and discover their interests. We always have these ideas, and I let them put as much planning into it as they can, but other times, I make the decisions for them.

For example, for several years, we were part of a homeschool co-op, and the classes being taught there usually determined what my kids would take. There were classes like advanced biology, or government, personal finance being taught. Because those were being taught, I had my kids take those classes at those semesters.

There are times when I want two of my high schoolers to be doing a class together to make it simpler for me so that they can work together. Also, I know that there are times when an actual live class is better to do. Even though a few of my introvert kids would prefer not to interact in an in-person class or a live online class, I have required it for certain subjects, such as Spanish and biology.

Sponsorship Announcement:

Ann Karako: Hey, I'm just going to jump in here for half a mo and tell you that the sponsor for this episode is My Father's World. If home is the center of education, God's Word should be the center of the home. With My Father's World curriculum, God's Word is not just a subject, it's central to everything your child will do every day. From preschool through high school, My Father's World combines the best of Charlotte Mason's ideas, classical education, and unit studies with a Biblical worldview and global focus.

For high school families, My Father's World has teamed with Unbound to provide an exciting new coaching program, helping students and parents through the difficult high school years.

Students will receive 18 biweekly group coaching calls, as well as gaining access to an online community of coaches and like-minded students in a secure private environment, quarterly design your future calls with student leaders will provide insights on the struggles and rewards of a Christ-centered life in this season.

From preschool through high school, My Father's World has you covered. Go to mfwbooks.com today, download a catalog, schedule a free consultation, and let us help you find the fun, engaging, and life-transforming curriculum your family has been waiting for. Go to mfwbooks.com today. That's mfwbooks.com.

Gena Mayo: In our area, the local public school allows homeschool students to take certain classes, even though they are not going there full-time and won't be receiving a diploma from the high school. This is something that you will have to research in your area and see, because every district, even every school is different. I've even heard that one year you have a certain principal who allows it or doesn't allow it, and the next year, the principal changes, that could change too.

You'll just have to research that in your area and see if that is a possibility. I have a friend in my neighborhood whose kids took band at the local high school. My second son did two classes each semester for his junior year. He took some hands-on classes that I couldn't easily teach him at home. I wanted him to have the materials and resources to use because his goals included studying mechanical engineering in college, which he does right now.

That year, his junior year of homeschool high school, he took physics, woodworking, and graphic design at the public school. He loved what he learned in the classes and getting to use those materials. He's still applying some of what he learned in his college and personal endeavors, but being at the public school that one year helped him decide that he did not want to go back his senior year.

His senior year, he decided to take some classes at the local community college instead, chemistry and precalculus. I'm really happy about this dual enrollment that he did that year because I think it helped prepare him for college. He was able to see how a college class is different in terms of the speed in which it's taught. For example, you do chemistry in one semester rather than a whole year, as you would do in a regular high school class. He realized how much more organized he needed to be and how much studying is required.

My oldest daughter who just graduated, did her entire year for senior year, except for dance and piano, at the community college. What's really neat is that it counts for both high school and college credit, and a one-semester class at the community college provides a full credit course for the high school transcript. She was able to get extra credits, which I believe helped her get accepted into the honors program at the college that she will attend this fall. That was one of her goals.

Again, I know that this experience prepared her for her freshman year of college since she learned a lot about seeking help through on-campus tutoring, seeing the professors for office hours, and how to take notes in class and study better.

One thing I love about homeschooling high school is that you can design your own electives. After my second son took a semester of graphic design at the public school, he wanted to continue growing his design skills on his own during his senior year. I took what I learned about how many hours are required for a high school credit and told him to just keep working on his designs and track his hours.

He received a half credit for that elective his senior year. He uses the skills to make money now while he's in college by providing commissioned t-shirt designs for an online store that a friend of his runs.

I mentioned earlier that my fourth child does not have college as a goal. Years ago, she mentioned that she wanted to become a nail tech, so we planned to send her to cosmetology school upon graduating the homeschool high school. Then we discovered that our local Tech Campus, which is a vocational school for high schoolers located next to the community college, provides cosmetology as an option. It teaches the exact state-mandated curriculum that the cosmetology schools in Illinois teach, but because it's through the public school system, it's basically free.

Not only will she be graduating high school with the hours that she'll need to take the licensing exam, she'll be doing it two years early and saving $10,000 to $20,000.

I know things are changing as far as colleges requiring the SAT and ACT test for admission, but as I've discovered with my daughter applying to colleges this year, many are still requiring test scores for earning an academic scholarship.

I've had my kids start out by taking a free test through our library, which is sponsored by a testing tutoring center in the area. After taking the test, the tutoring center provides a free consultation and explains the results, and gives recommendations for which tests would be better, ACT or SAT, for that particular child so that they could just focus on one and study for that one, and which subject areas or skills they need to improve in.

There are online apps and resources such as those through Khan Academy, as well as testing workbooks that kids can use to improve their skills. You also may want to have them take a workshop or a class or a course. All three of my kids got a decent score and earned an academic scholarship.

My next tip is to visit colleges in person if at all possible. It's amazing what a student can learn just by stepping onto the campus, walking into the buildings, dorms, classrooms, and dining rooms, and meeting some of the students and professors. Often the student will be able to tell soon after leaving whether it's a place they see themselves at or not. It really helps them narrow down the choices.

We did quite a few college visits with my oldest sons after their junior year of high school. Unfortunately, we couldn't do it during the summers of 2020 and 2021 with my oldest daughter. She did a lot more virtual tours, and I will say that these have greatly improved in the last couple of years prior to how they used to have virtual tours in the past. If you can't visit in person, be sure to at least do a virtual tour.

How to pay for college. Well, we don't allow our kids to take out loans. We tell them how much we're willing to pay each year, and they have to pay the balance by choosing an affordable school, earning scholarships, and if needed, paying for it by themselves through a job. I believe that having them put so much of their own effort into paying, whether it's actually cash that they've earned, or through applying for and being awarded scholarships, they're much more willing to do what is necessary to excel in their college work.

My final thoughts. Homeschooling high school has been a joy for the five years that I've done it so far. I love to see my homeschooled high schoolers' varying interests and help them find a way to meet their goals. I love to help them discover their interests and begin to grow in their skills. Kids grow and move away, but homeschooling them has helped me get to know them better and have a good relationship with them. What can be better than that?

If you'd like to know more about how to prepare the summer before the homeschooled high school schoolers' senior year, you can see a post I wrote at Ichoosejoy.org/preparesenioryear.

I run Music In Our Homeschool, and I have high school credit courses in music appreciation, advanced music theory, and beginning singing. You could see all of those courses at learn.musicinourhomeschool.com. Bye-bye.


Ann Karako: Well, I don't know about you, but I found that super practical and helpful, and just neat to hear how somebody else did homeschooling high school in their family. I hope you enjoyed it. Next time, it'll be just me, and then do stay tuned for more guest podcasters in the next few months. Thanks for being here, see you next time.


It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

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