I recently graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree. I’m still looking for work, but as far as homeschooling goes, on the surface I’m a success. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately from parents who have recently decided to homeschool their kids during high school, and I want to reach out to those parents about this since I was homeschooled for most of my education, and I wish my mom had known some of these things when she homeschooled me. In earlier childhood years, homeschooling is much simpler. Here are a few things to know if you’re homeschooling for high school:
1) Keep records of EVERYTHING.
HSLDA agrees with me on this (scroll down to the section on Record Keeping). There will come a time when you will need to prove that your child received an education. Down the road, your child will be looking for employment, or applying to college, or even just getting a driver’s license for the first time. Guess what? A high school diploma or official transcript counts as a form of ID when you go to the DMV. Regardless of whether you’re getting a real diploma or printing one out, save every essay, every quiz, and every test. Keep it all organized by subject. Keep track of what curriculum you used for each, and what textbooks you used.
Here’s where HSLDA and I disagree. I strongly believe that if you print out a diploma on your computer, you run the risk of the DMV telling you it doesn’t count. You run the risk of an employer questioning whether or not you received an education. When you apply to a college, you will have to provide high school transcripts, and in the competitive world we live in, when it comes to college applications, you’re going to be hard pressed to convince admissions councilors that your mom didn’t just give you straight A’s to be nice if you don’t have proof that you actually did school work.
I still have the records from my high school career. As I’ve said in previous posts, I used a school called NARHS, which is a school in Maine that allows homeschoolers to follow the requirements in the state of Maine, submit documentation each year to the school, and receive annual transcripts, and a diploma after they complete all the requirements. I highly recommend that parents consider NARHS or a similar program. It still allowed my mother a lot of freedom to choose what books/curriculum she used, and I’ve never had anyone question whether or not my diploma was valid. Furthermore, NARHS’ transcripts allowed me to apply to colleges with relative ease.
The only issue I had was when one college told me they wanted quarterly transcripts, which NARHS did not give (at least at the time. This was five years ago.) because they only reviewed academic work annually, not quarterly. The college refused to speak to me or my mom about this, and only relented when a representative from NARHS talked to them.
Most homeschoolers, as HSLDA notes on their website, do not go through a school, and have no such representative to speak for them. As you can see, even with an official transcript and diploma, I had a homeschooling related issue when it came to applying for college.
I can’t even imagine what that process would have been like without going through NARHS. Many application processes still aren’t homeschool friendly–and I applied to colleges five years ago, when homeschooling wasn’t exactly a new phenomenon. The Common App, for example, asked me for the name of my guidance councilor. What homeschooler has a guidance councilor? I put in the name of my NARHS contact person, but I’m told that most homeschoolers put in the name of a parent. (On a paper form this wouldn’t be a problem, but online forms like the Common App often do not let you proceed if you skip a question or give an answer it considers invalid).
2) You need to be open to the idea of not teaching your child every subject yourself.
If you are homeschooling by yourself, in all likelihood, you will not be capable of teaching your student every subject. Maybe you’re inclined toward science and the humanities escape you, or vice versa (In my experience, it was usually the other way around.) Whatever the subject, we all have that one area we hated in high school because we sucked at it. When you were homeschooling for elementary and middle school grades, a quick reading of a textbook chapter might refresh your memory enough to explain a concept, but by high school, the concepts are much more difficult to grasp, and you probably haven’t thought about them in a long time. Please, don’t let your inability to grasp (or remember) something slow down your child. Here are some options to consider in order to give your student a strong home education in the subjects you cannot tackle adequately:
1 – Get a tutor. Have someone else come in regularly to teach whatever that subject is for you.
2 – Look into homeschooling co-ops in your area. You may be able to find a group with a parent who majored in music to teach music classes, or a parent who is a chemist to teach chemistry.
3 – Especially in his or her junior and senior years, community colleges are a wonderful option. My mom signed me up for a basic chemistry course at the community college, and that helped knock out a lab requirement. It’s a bit like taking AP courses because it can allow you to graduate from high school with some college credit. In fact, it’s somewhat easier than AP classes because there’s no special AP test to study for, just the regular testing and assignments that go with the course. I transferred 9 college credits into my four year college, which put me in the same place as a lot of students who took AP courses in high school.
I especially recommend numbers 2 and 3 for science lab courses. A few of those are generally required if you want to get into college. I can tell you from experience that lab courses are very difficult to do successfully from home.
3) KEEP YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT.
Is it more important that your student receives a good education, or that you control every aspect of that education? Every student has different needs. Homeschooling is not the best form of school for every student in every situation any more than public school is. Don’t get me wrong. I think homeschooling can be a great opportunity, and an excellent form of education. However, it doesn’t work for every student, or even continuously for every student. My mom did a lot of things right when she homeschooled me in high school, but she also did a lot of things wrong.
By the time she pulled me out of Catholic high school to homeschool me, something had changed. I was no longer of an age where homeschooling suited my personality or learning style. Even though I was inundated with copious amounts of homework in 9th grade, and the administration of my school was terrible, something new was happening–I was learning rapidly.
At home, my mother barely supervised me, and the result was that I only learned in subjects I had a particular interest in, which meant I wasn’t very well rounded academically. I was an excellent reader and writer, but I would pick what aspects of school interested me, and study only them. Without supervision, when I was told to study ancient Greece, I read the entire book of Greek myths my mother bought for me, but completely ignored any history text that explained actual historical events. As far as I was concerned, Zeus’ many extramarital affairs were far more interesting than actual history. I now understand why skipping the subjects I didn’t like was bad. When I got to college, there were enormous gaps in my knowledge because that was how my education had continued for years. When I had absolutely no choice but to do my least favorite school work, I looked for the answer keys my mom kept so that I could get it all done (in other words, cheat) quickly and go back to the subjects I enjoyed.
4) Be as picky as possible about your textbooks. Nope, pickier than that. No, no, even pickier.
Many homeschooling families are religious, and that’s completely fine. However, regardless of your religious background, you need to be aware that the vast majority of the popular homeschooling texts out there are written with a particular religious worldview in mind, sometimes (too frequently) with absolutely no regard for facts. Over the years I used all kinds of textbooks in every subject–books written by Mennonites, Evangelical Christians, and Catholics. Many of the things I read turned out to be partially or completely wrong. I had a health book that used an outdated food pyramid, told me women are not allowed to have short hair, and completely skipped over sex ed. You might belong to one of those above groups or none of them, but what ultimately matters is that the information you’re teaching your child is as accurate as possible. While it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid biased writing, if you can find a secular (that doesn’t mean anti-religious. It means neutral. It means not religious) text for as many subjects as possible (except religion if you’re teaching that. Use whatever you want for religion), especially for science, history, and health, please do it.
Also, find a health text that teaches comprehensive sex ed. How you discuss these subjects with your child is your decision, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Make sure what you’re teaching is as accurate as possible. I didn’t fully understand the concept of consent until I was in college, which was too late because it was after I had been sexually assaulted (I was in high school when that happened, and it was by another sheltered homeschooler.) There were other hideous gaps in my knowledge that I’m still filling–and I’m a college graduate.
Your children deserve the best education that they can get. It’s up to you if you homeschool. Good luck.
Anyone have any other advice they’d add? Any questions? Anything here you disagree with? All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before commenting.