“Homeschooling through high school”- just speaking those words out loud can strike fear and trembling in the most seasoned homeschooling parent. It all seemed so simple when you were teaching phonics and math and doing science experiments in the backyard. Time flies by and all of a sudden you are there, or almost there, and you wonder: “How can I do this?” “Can I do this?” “How do I do this?”
Over the past five years I have had the incredible privilege of helping families navigate homeschooling through the high school years. As we have given our “Help for Homeschooling High School” seminar, there is one word that has become critical as we help people think about homeschooling through high school. If you had to think of a word to describe homeschooling in high school, words like “credit,” ”transcript,” “portfolio” and “admissions” might come to mind. While they are all good high school words, they are not the word that I think is most important. The most important word, in my mind, is the word “proactive”. In a nutshell, I think being proactive in many areas can help ensure success as you navigate high school at home..
Dictionary.com provided me with the following definition of proactive.
Adjective, serving to prepare for, intervene in, or control an expected occurrence or situation, especially a negative or difficult one; anticipatory.
This is exactly what we need to do as we plan and prepare for high school and the years beyond. We need to plan, prepare, and anticipate where things might go awry so we can be ready for what is to come. Today we want to examine several areas of homeschooling high school where being proactive can make all the difference.
I think it is best to start investigating high school when your student is in Grade 7, or at the very latest, in the Grade 8 year. This can give you time as a parent to look at the options for doing high school (there are many) and see what might best fit your student and your family. This is also a time to begin to engage your student in the planning process. You can discuss hopes, dreams, and different approaches and explore this together. It gives time for you to learn what a good program would include and how you can meet the goals of your student. It can be a time to prepare for a change in how you do things. In the elementary years, record keeping can be minimal; in high school that often changes. Grade 7 and 8 can be a training time for you and your student as you learn to keep more records, develop study skills, and possibly work towards more independent study. This is so much better than waiting until mid-August before school starts and panicking about how you will put a plan together.
Secondly, it is wise to be proactive when considering what courses your student should take. Is your student very academic? Do they have aspirations to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.? If so, then it is important to make sure from the beginning that you have academically challenging courses that will be good preparation for university study. Perhaps you have a hands-on student or someone who will find their career path through college or apprenticeship. In this case, you may not need to keep the academics as challenging. If academic study is not their bent, then choosing courses that will meet college requirements will make your student’s high school years more enjoyable and not overwhelming.
Often, when students start high school, they have no idea what they want to do in the future. That is fine. Just keep them as academic as is reasonable and wait patiently till God reveals the path they are to take.
Thirdly, we want to be proactive in planning for post-secondary admissions. Colleges and universities often have very specific requirements in order to enter a certain course. As soon as your student knows what they would like to do after high school you should start contacting prospective post-secondary schools. Pre-requisites are often found simply by looking at the college/university website. That is the first step. The second step is to get in touch with the institution of interest and ask what they require of a homeschooled student for entrance. This is particularly important if your student will not have a government issued high school diploma. Each school has its own way of doing things. One school may want a transcript and a portfolio; another may ask for SAT marks. Looking ahead and working to meet requirements can go a long way in avoiding disappointment and lost time. An added benefit to this is that, as you ask questions, you actually get to know admissions counsellors and other staff. This relationship allows your student to become more than a number on a form. Taking time to visit and discuss the process with the school is a great way to take this to the next level. Often, once a counsellor meets our children they see great individuals who would be an asset to their school. This means that they will have a higher interest in seeing that your students actually make it into their college/university.
The last area where we need to be proactive is after your application has been made. As mentioned earlier, you may need to submit SAT marks or other documents to be put with your application. If you have to write a special entrance exam, it is crucial that these documents get put with your file. In a perfect world, this would just happen. However, over and over I have heard that this does not always happen automatically. In most cases the school will not let you know they are missing something. They just assume it was not sent in. I have personally known people who did not get into a particular school because their documents were lost. It is important to call regularly to make sure that everything that is required and has been submitted is actually in your student’s file for review.
While this can seem a little daunting, it is really just a matter of looking ahead and not assuming anything. Always remember, you do your best and leave the rest to the Lord. He has a plan for your student. Things may not go exactly as planned, but as long as they are in line with His plan, all is well.
Having your students at home during the high school years is such a blessing, both for the student and the parent. Don’t get lost in all the books and miss the joy of time together. Take some time to smell the roses and live, love, and laugh together.
Louise and her husband Harold own The Learning House, a Canadian homeschool supply company. She has been assisting homeschoolers for over 20 years and has a passion to help families succeed in this endeavor. She can assist with program planning, curriculum choices, special needs and more. For the past 5 years she has been presenting a seminar called, Help for Homeschooling High School. You can find her at her own blog: From House to Home or contact her through the company website www.learninghouse.ca.