10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting to Homeschool High School

Overview: Starting to homeschool high school can seem scary, but with advice like this from a veteran homeschool mom, you'll do great!

(NOTE: This article is the first of hopefully many from a new monthly contributor! Sara Dennis is a veteran homeschool mom, and she has lots of great wisdom about homeschooling teens. I know you'll enjoy her articles! For more about Sara, see her bio at the end.)

Are you looking ahead and realizing that you'll be starting to homeschool high school before you know it? After homeschooling four children through high school, graduation, and beyond, let me assure you that you can homeschool high school. It's completely doable!

However, there are a few things I wish I had known before starting to homeschool high school. Let me share them with you so you don't have to learn them the hard way as I did!

10 Things to Know Before Starting to Homeschool High School

1. Check university requirements for each child

When my oldest was starting to homeschool high school, I checked the university requirements for any school my kids might be interested in attending, especially local colleges. Then I stopped worrying about it.

After all, how often do the universities change their requirements anyway?

Several years later, I was chatting with a friend who had a child a couple of years older than my fourth kid. She informed me that the requirements at the state schools had dramatically changed. 

I was shocked. This meant I needed to adapt my high school plans for my 4th child. Thankfully he was in the 9th grade and my plans were easily adapted to the new requirements.

The lesson I learned was that you should always check university requirements for each child as they entered high school. It’s much easier to adapt your high school plan in the 9th grade than adapt to changing requirements in the 12th grade.

Related: How to KNOW What Your Teen Needs to Get into College

2. Create a plan before starting to homeschool high school

As each child enters high school, create a plan of attack. This means you’ll want to sit down with them to ensure they’re taking the correct credits for any school they’re interested in attending. 

It’s much easier to know at the beginning that a child will need to take physics than discover that they aren't eligible for a school because they took two years of chemistry instead of taking a year of physics.

You’ll also want to have an idea of how your child will take all required classes. Some families plan on using the local community college to handle science and foreign language classes. Other times it works best to plan for online classes or co-ops.

The plan doesn’t need to be set in stone, but it helps to sketch out what your child will take each year.

For a step-by-step workbook to create your own plan with college requirements in mind, see Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School.

3. Each child needs a different plan

Each child is different. You probably know this by now, but it bears repeating, LOL. Each child is going to have different goals for what they’d like to study after high school. They have different needs.

So plan each child’s high school based upon their interests rather than upon what an older child studied.

And don’t be afraid to adapt the lessons to fit your child. Does your child need more discussion time, extra books to read, or to cut back on some of the work so they can have a social life as well as an education?

Get your kids involved in choosing their high school classes. 

Related: Episode 61 – How to Involve Your Teen in the Planning Process

4. You can create custom courses if you want to

Don’t be afraid to create your own course if you can’t find a class to fit a child’s needs. After all, kids learn best when they’re interested in the material.

In my case, I actually allowed one child to create his own classes. He came up with a plan for my approval. The plan was more academic than I would have required! 

He loved his studies and did the work. Win-win!

5. Kids mature

Little did I know when my oldest started high school that kids mature a lot between 9th grade and 12th grade. So I loaded my 14-year-old up enough work to keep an 18-year-old busy.

This lasted about one month before he came staggering to me. I thought I’d failed. We removed a few classes, lightened his load, and he thrived academically.

Two years later, I asked my son if he could handle the workload I was considering. My son replied, “Go for it. I can handle it!” And he did!

The issue is that 9th graders are still kids. They haven’t changed much since the 8th grade. 

Plus, it's the reason 14-year-olds don’t drive and 16-year-olds do. Kids mature quite a bit between 14 and 18.

Starting to homeschool high school can seem scary, but with advice like this from a veteran homeschool mom, you'll do great!

6. You can count credits by work completed or time spent

Just so you know, credits can be counted by the amount of work completed or the amount of time the work took.

Work completed means that your child completed the necessary chapters of the science textbook or finished their math textbook

You can also look at the amount of time your child spent studying the material. This is handy when you want to give your child a course that doesn’t include a textbook. You can keep track of how much time your child spent reading and writing. 

Knowing that you have two options for counting high school credits gives you more flexibility as you plan your child’s high school career.

Related: Clearing Confusion about Credits

7. Give teens room to explore

High school is a great time for kids to explore their various interests. It’s been amazing to watch my kids enjoy an activity that sometimes I thought was a complete waste of time, such as creating their own computer games.

Make certain you’ve included enough downtime for this to happen.

These interests may not look good on a college application but they’re still valuable. Teenagers learn about themselves, and they may even find new things to explore — and you never know when that interest might turn into a lifelong passion.

8. Stay connected to your teen

When a teenager is struggling with their schoolwork or avoiding math like the plague, it’s too easy to end up arguing and nagging your kid constantly.

The problem is that when every conversation you have with your child is about their lack of diligence, it damages your relationship. Your teenager no longer wants to tell you about their successes. They won’t talk to you about their struggles. 

So you need to figure out a way to stay connected to your child. This doesn’t mean you drag them along to events you love. This means you join your child in activities they love.

Play their video games. Go to a concert together. Watch a favorite movie. Give you and your teenager something to talk about other than academics.

Hold onto the heart of your child.

9. Balance social life and academics

Giving kids an excellent education is important. At the same time, kids need to learn how to be a friend, how to make friends, and how to interact with people from all walks of life.

And to do this, kids need a social life. 

As you’re going through planning your child’s high school career, make certain you’ve allowed time for your teenagers to hang out with their friends. That they have time to go to the movies or to head to the local park to throw a frisbee.

Keep in mind that structured activities don’t always have enough downtime for kids to make friends. Because when kids are either sitting in place or running around a field following a coach’s instructions, there’s no time to chat. 

Ultimately, don't forget to balance your teen’s academic and social needs in high school.

Related: 100 Ways to Socialize Your Homeschooled Teen

10. Starting to homeschool high school is simply the next step

Back when I jumped into homeschooling, I was scared. What if I do it wrong! Am I going to mess up my child’s life if I don’t send them to school? Homeschooling was an unknown and as a result terrifying. We started homeschooling and life went on. 

Homeschooling became normal. 

We read, we wrote, and we studied. Then middle school came and high school loomed ahead of me. Again I worried, what if I do it wrong? Will I mess up my kids? Will they get into college, have a good adult life? What will happen! I planned. I worried. And I stressed.

When you're starting to homeschool high school, once more it looks almost impossible from the outside. 

But when push came to shove, it turned out that we simply moved on to the next math book. We moved up a level in history. The teens and I kept right on going, until one day they were graduating high school and leaving for college.

Homeschooling high school is simply the next step in the road. You can do this!

Sara Dennis
Latest posts by Sara Dennis (see all)

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