Of course youll send them out for high school... wont you?
But what are you going to do about science? Or calculus?
How can you possibly teach everything shes going to need for the SAT?
Wont she want to go to the prom?!"
Home schooling is becoming more mainstream in many countries. In the USA, Canada, the UK and a few other places, folks dont bat an eyelash when you announce that your young child isnt attending a brick and mortar school. Most thinking people realize that to teach a child to read, and the basic content of an elementary education, is well within the realm of any average adult.
But then your child turns thirteen, and all of a sudden theres a noticeable shift in public opinion. The above questions begin trickling in, gently, from well meaning friends and family, a little less gently from the harsher critics and for the first time you may find yourself questioning the wisdom of continuing and your ability to meet all of those "scary" high school needs.
In the next few paragraphs I hope to help to restore the confidence youve had all along, that you CAN successfully educate your child, from cradle to graduation. Ill tell you part of our story and share some resources that Ive found helpful and that perhaps you will too.
The Main Point Of This Article
The one thing I hope youll take away from this article is that there isnt one way to get this thing called education done. The brick and mortar schools, public or private, do not have the corner on the education market and theyre not necessarily best for every child. That being said, we need not throw the baby out with the bath water and some kids benefit greatly from having part of their education come in the form of traditional classes. Theres no right way to do it. Theres only whats best for your individual child.
Doing whats right, educationally, for your individual young person requires a certain amount of bravery, mixed with a healthy dose of deaf ear to the nay-sayers balanced with value placed on the input of others who share your vision and know what theyre talking about.
A Bit of Our Story
You may be asking who I am and what my qualifications to talk about home or road schooling through high school are. Fair enough, its important not to take everything you read at face value.
Im Jenn, Im the mama of four wild adventurer children who weve home educated since birth. Theyre currently aged 9-15 and are in grades 3-12. I've spent the last decade doing educational consulting and curriculum design for families who wish to educate differently. I composed a curriculum that is a blend of the Classical and Charlotte Mason philosophies that runs pre-school through approximately 10th grade. My degree is in education and I've taught in public and private school classrooms at a variety of grade levels. I, myself, was educated by a variety of means including public, private, catholic & road schooling. Weve been on the road full time for well over three years now, schooling as we go. Two of my children are in high school now. Gabriel, 13, is just beginning, and Hannah, almost 15, is almost finished with her required work. If youd like to learn more about our family, you can visit our website: www.edventureproject.com
I am not an unschooler. Although much of what we do looks like unschooling and Im very excited about democracy in a childs education and interest driven learning, I do believe wholeheartedly in a parent-directed, liberal education for all children, regardless of their natural bent. Especially in the early years. I believe, as a parent and professional educator, that its the job of the teacher to facilitate a childs passions, teach to their strengths and work diligently to develop areas of weakness so that the developing person is prepared for any path in life he or she may choose later.
My Uncle Dicks 7 Ps apply to so many areas of life, and certainly to road schooling your high schooler: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Half of whats daunting about tackling high school is the sobering realisation that what you accomplish, or dont, during those crucial years really does affect the rest of your childs life. Thats scary stuff. You cant approach it lightly.
The most important thing you can do, from the beginning, is to plan your attack. If you're a traveling family then you understand the concept that if you don't know where you're going, it's going to be very hard to get there. You have to create a map:
- Think up front about what youre trying to accomplish,
- Talk with your teen about her plans and goals,
- Research basic graduation requirements,
- Look into the admissions requirements for the specific Universities shes interested in,
- Tailor your educational plan to your childs over all goals for the next ten years.
PLAN YOUR ATTACK and do this with your student.
Covering the Content
This is the part that has too many parents shaking in their boots: "How will we ever teach ..." fill in the blank with the subject that you failed in high school.
Relax. Take three deep breaths.
First, you have to figure out what the required content really is, and thats going to vary depending on the longer term goals of your student.
This K-12 table is useful in outlining the basic definition of a high school education in the United States. That doesnt seem so bad, does it? If you're not from the US, contact your country or states Department of Education to find the right "required content" for your child. If at any time you're having trouble communicating a subject to your child, there are resources to help like tutors at takelessons.com.
Because what you teach within each subject area could vary widely, depending on whether you have a future musician, engineer, journalist or potter on your hands, Im going to refrain from telling you what curriculum works for me, or others, and instead provide a few resources that might be of use to you in finding a good fit for your students:
There really is no substitute for writing, and writing a lot. We made a deal with our high schoolers: that when they become published writers (for money and not just a contest for kids to win, or a couple of short blog posts for $10 each) they can quit taking English as a subject.
Of course, what I know is that once theyre paid authors, theyll never quit pursuing increased excellence in their writing!
High School English Resources
Institute for Excellence in Writing: Were judged, not by what we know, but by how well we can communicate that. Writing is perhaps the most important thing your child must learn to do well in the high school years. Regardless of whether your child is advanced or struggling with writing youll find a solution here.
The One Year Adventure Novel is a fascinating approach to teaching English outside the box and will be inspiring to just about any sort of student. I love that at the end of the year theyve written a real novel!
This article http://www.home-school-curriculum-advisor.com/home-school-writing-curriculum.html gives a review of quite a few writing programs to help you find one that might be a good fit.
Its tempting to cover the basic required math and call it a day. Can I encourage you not to do that? Pursue excellence in all things. If your child is through the required courses by 14, as our daughter was, keep going. The more math your child has under her belt, the more marketable shell be in a variety of fields.
This Homeschool Math article provides a very comprehensive list of math curriculum options, reviews, comparisons and first person testimonials from families whove loved or hated them. Very useful!
Chemistry! Shivering in your boots yet? Breathe. You have options and your kids are NOT going to suffer because you dont have an entire lab set up in your bike panniers.
This article compares and contrasts a few of the science curriculums available to home schoolers.
Other science resources that are outstanding:
MIT Open Courseware: Not just for science, check out the AMAZING collection of completely free courses from MIT. These are the real thing!
Radio Lab: Sigh. Were in love with this show.
The only way to really learn a language to the point of natural fluency is to travel and go live where the language is spoken. I speak three languages, you can trust me on that. However, if youre looking for a high school level language program then I have something to admit: Im biased. Weve tried a bunch of things, and at the end of the day, Rosetta Stone our favorite because it really, REALLY works.
Its expensive, I know. But if you want the second best thing to living there, a program like this is it. Theres no price you can put on fluency in a second, or third language. You can trust me on that too.
History & Social Studies:
Read, read, read and write, write write! Keep a list of every book your child reads and a copy of every written record or reflection. Keep track of museum and historical sites attended, and every other thing that relates to history or social studies in any way.
Homeschool Reviews provides some great reviews of various social studies curriculum possibilities as well as a dizzying list of reviews of the history options. Not all of these are specific to high school.
Electives & Getting Ahead:
This is where it gets fun! This is also where you childs future goals should be in the drivers seat. Our daughter, who turns 15 in July, has one eye pegged on journalism for a career and the other on social justice. Our son has never wanted to do anything but farm.
The result? Were creating courses for Hannah with names like Ecological Awareness 101 and working with her to invest her time in getting her writing career off the ground before she ever enters college. This winter she took her first solo backpacking trip with her friends, to Belize while we were living in Guatemala, and shes using it as a spring board for her travel writing aspirations.
Our son applied for an internship at a hydroponic lettuce and sheep farm (the sheep arent grown hydroponically!) for the summer and he got it! Hell live dorm style with the other college aged interns and work 40 hours a week for part of the summer and get paid to pursue his passion. And it will count toward his high school hours. Did I mention that he just turned 13?
GET CREATIVE. Use these years to do some FUN, outside the box things that will give your kids a leg up on their university plans and their long term goals. Your kids life doesnt start at 18, nor need his career, his life is happening NOW. The teen years are some of the most energetic and passionate of a persons life, let loose the reins a little and watch your kids fly!
A few books we've found inspiring on this front:
What About Testing and University?
How will kids raised outside the system perform on the dreaded tests? Will they be able to attend University? We all chew our pencils in unison with fear. Don't worry!
Entrance to University is certainly possible for children homeschooled throughout the high school years, but it is important to check the requirements for the country where you plan to send your child to university. You also need to check with the University that they would like to attend. Requirements change from country to country, university to university, and between degrees. Some universities have their own entrance exams, others accept standardised test results like the SATs. Some require children to be enrolled in an official distance education program for at least the final year of high school, while others have very few requirements other than an application and demonstration of learning, such as a port folio or internship. Many Universities allow students without a university entrance rank to enrol in a single subject. If your child passes this subject with high enough marks they can then apply for full entry.
Since the requirements vary between countries, Universities and degrees it's important to find out what they are in advance so you can plan ahead.
I'm going to cover the requirements for America, because that is what I am familiar with.
If you plan to send your child to university in the USA, then you should consider taking some AP classes and tests.
You should also consider the CLEP tests to help your child get college credit for high school experiences
You might also consider enrolling your high school student in a community college, at home or abroad to get dual enrollment credit. This is called double dipping and saves thousands of dollars while putting your child ahead in terms of his college timeline, and its completely fair and above board.
Youll want to invest some serious time into preparing for the SAT exams, as well as the ACT and PSAT to increase your childs competitive edge for college admissions.
If youre NOT planning to send your child to university in the USA, I have some GREAT news: You can skip the SAT, the AP tests, and most of the rest of the standardized test rodeo that defines the American higher education system, AND you will not put your child at a disadvantage! Just think of what she could learn with all of that extra time on her hands!
How is this possible? Its kind of a long story, but the short version is that international schools dont use the same admissions procedures or measurement tools as American schools do. They are often much cheaper and of equal, or higher quality than their American counterparts and your child gets the competitive edge of having study and work abroad experience added to their eventual resume. Its a win-win situation.
The Global Student by Maya Frost breaks it all down for you and makes it highly doable.
Accelerated Distance Learning by Brad Voeller explains the whole test for credit approach to getting ahead, saving money, and quantifying those out of the box learning experiences in test form.
Are you from another country and homeschooling a High School child? If you know the requirements for your child to attend University in your country, leave a comment on this site so we can add it to the article and build a fantastic resource for road schoolers! If possible, include a link to an official website in your comment.
What About Socialisation?
When people ask this question I have to work hard not to roll my eyes, because usually it comes directly on the heels of some Wow! observation about how great my kids are in some capacity.
Our kids have missed out on bullying, the experience of being confined to a desk for hours at a time, standing in straight lines, eating industrial food lunches, being forced to work ahead when they dont get it or held back when they do. Theyve missed out on bad language, wasted time, exposure to drugs in the sixth grade, blow jobs given on the back of the bus in seventh grade (true story) and the pressure to have sex by ninth grade.
Instead, theyve traveled the world, become fluent in a second language and learned parts of five others, climbed ruins on three continents, attended political rallies in Rome, learned the difference between pot and hash in Amsterdam, swapped stories with backpackers in hostel common rooms, played board games with grandparents (not their own) in Belize, taken salsa and swing dance lessons, played their instruments in restaurants and bars, and had dinner with Israeli fighter pilots.
Clearly, theyre at a social disadvantage.
Im not really that concerned about whether or not they miss prom. A good share of kids IN high school choose not to go to prom; are they at a social disadvantage too?
On the contrary, teenagers freed from the social constraints (yes, you read that right) of a traditional high school often turn out to be some pretty fabulously creative, interesting and trail blazing individuals. When they spend half of their time worrying about which outfit is LEAST LIKELY to get them mocked, beat up, or jammed into a locker on a given day theres not a lot of brain space left over to pursue a passion; especially if that passion, too, would cause them to be the object of ridicule and be ostracized.
My teenagers have been known to blend seamlessly into a group of backpackers, casually sipping their licuados and discussing where to go, or not, in a given country. They love to sit and visit with octogenarians, They know so much, Mom! They have quite a following of little children who think the moon rises and sets on them because theyre happy to sit in the grass and roll a ball when most big kids dont give the littles the time of day.
Socialisation is about learning to be a functioning member of society at large, across the generation gaps and age boundaries. High school doesnt help kids do that. Road schooling always does.
Let go of the socialisation fear.
There are SO MANY great resources out there for high school kids to further their educations in really fantastic, out of the box ways. Here are just a few. Be sure to share others you know of with us in the comments section:
The Khan Academy: Have you seen this?!!
iTunes U: Free courses from the best colleges!
Homeschool Transcripts to help you produce a transcript a university will recognize
Getting Started: Homeschooling Through Highschool an article with links to help you get started
HSLDA Home School Legal Defense Association especially if you are a legal resident of the USA, this organisation can be a great help as well as providing legal services if you ever need them. They write a letter for us every year that we carry with us as we travel, stating that were homeschooling legally. This is particularly useful if you plan to travel in some of the less homeschool friendly regions of the world; Germany for example.
MIT Open Courseware. Its not just for science!