First Steps to Homeschooling High School

by Katrina Fujisaka

High school is an exciting time. So much to learn…so much to do! The thought of homeschooling high school is intimidating, I know. But it is also liberating. Creativity is your friend when you decide what and how to study. It is also time for you to hone your record keeping skills – as recording keeping is your key to successfully graduating your high schooler and securing college acceptance and scholarships.

There are a few things to consider when you begin. First, check with your state education agency to find graduation requirements for your state.

Next, research the admission requirements of several colleges and universities that your student is interested in attending. Even if you aren’t sure college is where your student will end up, a college-prep high school experience is an excellent life preparation experience.  No matter what they choose to do after high school, the basic knowledge in math, reading, writing, history, and science combined with the skills they have acquired in HOW to learn, will ensure you are launching  a valuable and informed member of society.

Homeschooling at the high school level allows you to creatively customize your student’s courses to best suit his interests and post-high school plans. Some examples of possible courses to consider in each subject area are:

  • Math-Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus

    Science- Biology, Physical Science, Earth Science, Chemistry, Physics

    History/Social Sciences- American History, Ancient History, World History, Civics, Government, Geography, Economics

    Foreign Language

Most colleges want to see 4 years of English or Literature, 4 years of math, 2-3 years of foreign language (2-3 years of the SAME foreign language, i.e. Spanish 1,2,3), 3 years of laboratory science, 3 years of history or government, 1 year of fine arts, 1 year of physical education, and a few electives.

When you begin planning high school it is important to understand how high school credits work. Most high schools use the Carnegie Credit system, which translates to 80 hours of work on a subject equals one credit.  Generally speaking, one semester is one-half of a credit. One credit is a full year of work. It is very important to keep track of the hours your student spends on the work you assign so as to be sure you meet this requirement – and can prove it if necessary. The fun part of this is that YOU decide what work counts towards each subject. English, History, Arts, and Electives lend themselves to creative approaches. Time spent on writing and giving talks can be considered part of English (speech).  So can some of the requirements in Personal Progress, Duty to God, or Boy Scouts. Between these, field trips, piano lessons, and service projects it is not difficult for homeschoolers to accumulate the necessary 80 hours.

Another way to assign credit is through completed tests in a published high school curriculum. This is easiest to do with math and the sciences. Most students will take more than the requisite 80 hours to complete a high school math course or science course. Sometimes that can be demoralizing, especially since they cannot use the extra hours towards another credit in math. Because of this, I don’t track hours in those courses, using  instead the tests published by the curriculum as my method to prove work and assign credit.

This method of assigning credit can also work to your advantage by allowing your student  to ‘test out’ of certain courses. For example, World Geography is a requirement for high school graduation in our state. We had covered geography extensively through our other studies and travels through the years. Rather than go through it all again, I ordered just the tests from a high school world geography curriculum and gave them to my student.  It took him about 5 hours to complete the tests that cost me about $18 and, voila! He had the World Geography credit we needed and the records to back it up.

Now, decide how you want to keep your records. It is VITAL that you keep written records of all your high schooler’s work. Record the time they are working and what they are working on. You can use a daily plan calendar to keep track of their work assignments and grade, or generate an Excel spreadsheet that will do the same.  I find the spreadsheet approach easier to use, because I can keep all work organized by subject. If you want lower tech, try The Daily Log Book from North Atlantic Regional High School ( It is a spiral bound book that allows you to track up to 9 subjects over 7 days a week. It costs $15 and is a wonderful, easy way to keep track of everything your student is doing.

Even if college doesn’t seem to be the goal of your student, it is equally as important to keep these records as you go. Record the course name, curriculum used, dates, assignments, and grades all in the same place. This will enable you to develop an excellent high school transcript when necessary. Waiting until senior year (when your student has changed his mind and decided now that college is the way to go) to try to pull this information together will make it a nearly impossible task. There is no way you will be able to remember all the great stuff you and your student have done.

So, your assignment this month is to research the high school graduation requirements in your state, and the college admission requirements for a few colleges that your student may be interested in attending. If they aren’t sure, check out your closest state university, Brigham Young University, and Princeton

Next month I will focus on high school English and History…stay tuned!