Are you a homeschool parent staring the reality of teaching high school in the face? Chances are, you get a little nervous just thinking about it. When your kids were small, you could pretend “growing up” wasn’t a thing, and you could sit around the kitchen table and play math games forever. Now though, you’re thinking about algebra, socialization, and summer jobs. Colleges. Community. Careers.
And you feel inadequate for the task. Maybe your teen just announced he wants to be a biologist or an engineer or go into the military. Yikes, you think, that means advanced, technical skills are needed that I don’t have and know nothing about! Or perhaps you’re concerned because your child doesn’t have any particular interests and can’t say yet who she would like to be as an adult. Just thinking about keeping a teen focused and on track to graduate with enough high school credits and a firm grasp of advanced math gives you a small panic attack!
Thankfully, many homeschoolers have gone before you. Homeschooling through high school does work. No matter how intimidating it seems, the fact that you’re putting in the work to tailor your teen’s education to his individual wants and needs sets the stage for a well-rounded, successful education.
So, if you have any doubts that you can do this, put them to rest. With hard work, you can teach advanced subjects to your homeschool teen.
Plan For Success
The first step is to plan to succeed. This hopefully starts even before your child enters high school. Don’t start junior high without setting a good foundation by mapping out a game plan. That means knowing where you hope to be in two, three, or four years, and working towards that vision.
Research is a homeschool parent’s best friend. As soon as high school begins to loom on the horizon, begin with the basics: research curriculum.
If you can find a curriculum that works, your job will be so much easier. Often teens can work through courses, books, and other curricula with limited outside guidance, especially if it’s already split into lessons for them. It’s all about picking the right one. Every child has a unique learning style. TheHomeschoolMom says, “Many parents start with the question, ‘What’s the best homeschool curriculum?’ A more productive question is, ‘What homeschool curriculum is the best fit?’”
How you craft your curriculum depends on your kid’s grade, situation, and individual needs. Keep those individual needs at the front of your mind. There are many factors and people involved. It takes a certain number of high school credits in most states to qualify for a diploma and college, so, to some extent, you’ll need to shape your school year around getting those credits to satisfy the requirements of your state. Take into consideration your teen’s needs, your own needs, your family’s needs as a whole, and whether your teen is going into college or taking a specific career path.
That last point is important. The way you homeschool through high school can be heavily influenced by what your child intends to study after he graduates. Or what job he wants to pursue, even if he doesn’t want to do college. Some teens haven’t decided yet, but at least having a good idea of college admission requirements and skills your child might need is a good place to start.
Lastly, plan how your teen will study. What time of day and how long? This may be tricky if your teen has a job or classes to attend outside the home. How do you plan to help your teen retain the information she reads? Will she take notes? What will that look like? Are there any SATs or other exams she’ll need to be ready for?
Diversify Your Homeschool Methods
As a homeschool parent, it’s important for you to take responsibility for your child’s education. That’s usually the whole point of homeschooling, right? You find value and even joy in teaching your children yourself.
When your children become teens it gets a little more complicated. It’s been a while since you were in school yourself. Maybe you have a job or need to educate your younger kids. You don’t have all the knowledge, energy, or time in the world to teach every subject at an advanced level.
So here’s what you should do: decide what you do have time for. Play to your talents, take the subjects that you know the most about and teach those. And teach those well! Put all you can into it. Your teen will sense that you’re invested and catch on to your excitement.
Your next step is to, basically, “outsource” the rest. This can mean simply buying a complete book on algebra with lesson plans and quizzes. Or it can mean something more comprehensive like taking a class at your local community college. Some parents opt to hire tutors for particular subjects or pool together with other homeschool families to create small group classes.
An example of this is a teen may need extra guidance from you when it comes to math, while at the same time he can easily conduct his own history lessons. Another may need to combine science classes at the local community college with math, history, and English subjects done at home. You may choose to do a writing course out of a book and a class on coding online.
Your first resource is your teen. As a teenager, she can have the freedom at this point to take on certain subjects all by herself. There are also thousands of free classes online, such as the hundreds found at Khan Academy, and entire programs dedicated to subjects, like Institute for Excellence in Writing. Don’t be intimidated by classes that are labeled as “college level.” Sometimes they are perfectly accessible to high schoolers, like Hillsdale College’s courses on government, for example. But do your research and make sure that they are appropriate for your teen’s grade and comprehension level.
Online classes are invaluable, but so are in-person classes. Homeschool groups, or “co-ops,” such as Classical Conversations, are great ways to facilitate learning advanced subjects. If it’s the right fit for your family, you may want to consider dual enrollment with your local community college or high school.
Of course, if your teen is taking college classes, that means he is not only earning high school credit but college credit at the same time, often for a discounted price. If that’s not a win-win, what is? And if classroom settings aren’t your thing, you can choose to do CLEP tests, which mean your teen will be studying college courses at home and only going to your local college or testing center to take the final exam.
Teaching Diligently points out, “Between the internet, homeschool groups, and community colleges, homeschoolers can not only meet the standards of their peers in schools—they can also surpass them.”
Don’t Underestimate Yourself
Homeschooling Today says, “It’s assumed a person can only teach those areas that they are experts in, or at least have a college degree saying they are an expert. Don’t let the critics fool you. You do not need to be an expert in every subject in order to teach high school. Why? Because home is not a school. But it’s an incredible place to learn.” They go on to list the qualities of a good teacher: facilitator, mentor, and cheerleader. As a parent, you can be all three.
You can’t be an expert. Not on every subject, anyway. But you can be a good parent. And a good parent will facilitate learning for their child, no matter what.
Be open to new ideas and new methods and create a personalized high school experience for your teen. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t fit into a neat little box. Some teens need a lot of guidance, some need only a little. Give them a bit of leeway to make their own choices. Listen to their ideas. Don’t expect them to always need you! Let them have autonomy in the areas you see fit to give it to them.
But on the flip side of that, don’t expect them to survive alone under all the pressures that high school brings. Let them know you’re always ready to step in and help.
Homeschooling When You Don’t Feel Qualified
Remember, you don’t need experience or a degree to homeschool. All you need is a reason. You love your child, you value excellence, and you want to take responsibility for his education as you believe you should.
That doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes feel unqualified. When you think you’re inadequate to teach a teenager, remind yourself why you chose homeschooling in the first place. Then get out a notebook and start planning.