When I began homeschooling over 10 years ago many people applauded what they called my “determination and bravery”, but assumed that, naturally I would enroll my children in high school when the time came.
While I am not one to shrink from a challenge, I’ll admit that at the time the thought of teaching high school—or even jr. high—was daunting. I was teaching one child 1st grade at home during the baby’s naptime. That was pretty easy. I wasn’t exactly sure how I would handle homeschool life when the subjects being taught became more numerous and difficult, and more children were added to our family. Could I handle it without losing my mind?
I decided at the time that I was putting the cart before the horse. After all, I hadn’t signed a lifetime contract! I would take it one year at a time and make that decision about high school when the time came.
As the years passed and I became more comfortable and confident in my ability to homeschool my kids, I was no longer afraid of what I didn’t know about homeschooling high school. One thing I had learned as a homeschool mom is that there are a ton of resources available. All I needed to do was educate myself. I was determined to do it right if we were, indeed, going to do high school on our own.
So, I dove into the internet and spent countless hours combing sites for information. I talked to many veterans who had already walked the high school path. I found loads of really useful information that helped me formulate a plan...and it worked, as my first homeschooled child has now entered college at the age of 15.
So I’m going to share with you the biggest helps I found. The first conclusion I came to as a result of my research is that traditional jr. high work is a waste of time. Most 7th and 8th graders are capable of at least some high school level work. They should do that work and receive high school credit for it!
The next conclusion I came to was HOW we were actually going to do the work.
There are a couple of resources that were pivotal in defining for me how to do homeschool high school. These are excellent, and I highly recommend you look into them if you can.
The first is the Transcript Boot Camp DVD seminar from Education Plus. This is produced by Inge Cannon, a veteran homeschool mom of 35 years. The information presented will help you understand what is high school level work, how to use a notecard system to track all of their work (church, scouts, academic work, volunteer work, hobbies) in a manner that will allow them to be awarded high school credit for it. The program is well worth its $79 price tag. I would highly recommend that every LDS homeschool group have a copy of this in its library for lending as well.
Education Plus also produces Transcript Pro, which provides a fantastic template for a homeschool transcript that is professional enough to be submitted to colleges and universities.
There are several distance learning high schools that, for a tuition fee, will allow students to work at home. Essentially it is accredited online schooling. American School, Calvert, Clonlara, and Brigham Young University all have such programs. Some of them can be quite pricey, and none of them let you choose the curriculum you want to use.
If you are looking for accreditation but want to retain complete curriculum control, I recommend North Atlantic Regional High School. NARHS is an accredited, private school in Maine that will accredit work done by homeschoolers and provide an accredited transcript of that work. This is done for an annual fee that is well below the cost of tuition at other distance learning schools.
If accreditation is not important to you, North Atlantic Regional High School
Publishes several resource books that are available for purchase whether you enroll in their program or not. Their High School Handbook describes in detail what is necessary to receive credit through their program and is, therefore, an excellent primer on what should count as high school level work and what should not.
The High School Resource Advisor has a detailed list by subject of curriculum ideas and suggested typical courses of study for those subjects. It also provides some guidance in ways to evaluate the work and grade it. Even providing forms that will help you grade research papers and essays, science experiments, and individually designed courses like, say, Hot Rod Building.
And finally, the 1st Great Book of High School Course Descriptions is a comprehensive guide to self-designed (non-textbook) course ideas. It gives you title, course description, objective ideas, activity ideas, resource, and evaluation suggestions.
There is no reason your high school has to be 4 dedicated years. Most kids can do some high school level work by the time they are 12 or 13. Many can ‘test out’ of state required courses just based on their life experience alone. My son received a full year’s credit in Geography with 5 hours of testing that we administered at home. He didn’t need to bang his head against a book….he had already learned extensive world geography in the course of our daily family life! World Geography is a required subject for high school graduation in our state, so we had to do it. But if he can pass the tests, there is no point wasting any additional time on the subject.
You CAN homeschool high school, and you can start it in jr. high! Start your research and begin building your plan now. Decide how you want to keep school records and how you will organize your children’s efforts as proof of their work in every subject.
The streamlined nature of homeschooling makes it easier for students to move at a much faster pace than their public schooled counterparts if they so choose. The beauty of homeschooling: EVERYTHING counts! Going on a family ski trip? Time spent planning can be logged as time in any number of courses, from geography, science, or history, to personal management, and of course, all that time spent skiing is potential PE credit. Working on scout merit badges can also count toward school credit. All citizenship badges can provide time toward history classes, and even some English time, too. The science based badges provide obvious time as well. Work done in Personal Progress, Duty to God, and Seminary can also be applied toward high school credit.
Give your kids a jump on their future, and don’t waste time in jr. high. Homeschool high school is not only possible, but it is also a powerful way to prepare your kids for entry into college and adult life. And while it may seem like a lot of work, it really is a load of fun!