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Roadschooling Highschool: You CAN do it!

Published on 17 June 2011 by Jennifer Miller | 8 Comments |

Of course you’ll send them out for high school... won’t you? 

But what are you going to do about science? Or calculus? 

How can you  possibly teach everything she’s going to need for the SAT? 

Won’t 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 don’t bat an eyelash when you announce that your young child isn’t 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 there’s 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 you’ve had all along, that you CAN successfully educate your child, from cradle to graduation.  I’ll tell you part of our story and share some resources that I’ve found helpful and that perhaps you will too.

The Main Point Of This Article

The one thing I hope you’ll take away from this article is that there isn’t 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 they’re 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. There’s no right way to do it. There’s only what’s best for your individual child.

Doing what’s 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 they’re 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, it’s important not to take everything you read at face value.

I’m Jenn, I’m the mama of four wild adventurer children who we’ve home educated since birth. They’re 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. We’ve 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 you’d 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 I’m very excited about democracy in a child’s 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 it’s the job of the “teacher” to facilitate a child’s 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.

Getting Started

My Uncle Dick’s 7 P’s apply to so many areas of life, and certainly to road schooling your high schooler:  Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Half of what’s daunting about tackling high school is the sobering realisation that what you accomplish, or don’t, during those crucial years really does affect the rest of your child’s life. That’s scary stuff. You can’t 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 you’re 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 she’s 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 that’s 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 doesn’t 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, I’m 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:

 

English:

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 they’re paid authors, they’ll never quit pursuing increased excellence in their writing!

High School English Resources

Institute for Excellence in Writing: We’re 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 you’ll 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 they’ve 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.

Mathematics:

It’s 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 she’ll 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 who’ve loved or hated them. Very useful!

 

Science:

“Chemistry!” Shivering in your boots yet? Breathe. You have options and your kids are NOT going to suffer because you don’t 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!

How Stuff Works and their Stuff You Should Know 

Radio Lab:  Sigh. We’re in love with this show.

Languages:

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 you’re looking for a high school level language program then I have something to admit: I’m biased.  We’ve tried a bunch of things, and at the end of the day, Rosetta Stone our favorite because it really, REALLY works.

It’s expensive, I know. But if you want the second best thing to living there, a program like this is it. There’s 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 child’s future goals should be in the driver’s 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? We’re 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 she’s 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 aren’t grown hydroponically!) for the summer and he got it! He’ll 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 kid’s life doesn’t 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 person’s life, let loose the reins a little and watch your kids fly!

A few books we've found inspiring on this front:

The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn 

The Global Student by Maya Frost

College Without Highschool by Blake Boles 

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. 

For Americans

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 it’s completely fair and above board.

You’ll want to invest some serious time into preparing for the SAT exams, as well as the ACT and PSAT to increase your child’s competitive edge for college admissions.

If you’re 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? It’s kind of a long story, but the short version is that international schools don’t 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. It’s 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 don’t get it or held back when they do. They’ve 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, they’ve 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, they’re at a social disadvantage.

I’m 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 there’s 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 they’re happy to sit in the grass and roll a ball when most “big kids” don’t 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 doesn’t help kids do that. Road schooling always does.

Let go of the socialisation fear.

 

Some Resources

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!

NROC National Repository of Online Courses

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 we’re 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. It’s not just for science!

 


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Comments

  • This is so great Jenn! Thanks for sharing. A very helpful resource, in an area that I don't have any experience in yet. I'll be sharing this with my readers.

    Thanks again!

    Posted by Rachel Denning, 22/06/2011 10:45pm (3 years ago)

  • Hi Col,
    this website is pretty good for the UK rules & regs on homeschooling (it also focuses on routine which isn't so easy on the road) but the uni entry thing for the UK seems uni specific;

    http://www.ahomeeducation.co.uk/home-schooling-making-university-application.html

    "Note when considering applying for university that some courses have their admission criteria defined by a professional body, whose requirements may include qualifications such as GCSEs, and in this case the university will probably be bound strictly by these criteria. It is best, therefore, to begin researching course and study options as soon as a home schooled child shows interest in continuing a certain subject (or beginning a new subject) to a higher level, since then their education and proof of ability can be developed in that direction, well in advance of the time to apply to university."

    Posted by Miriam, 23/06/2011 7:58pm (3 years ago)

  • Almost all my experience has been in public American education, both as a student and a teacher.

    Articles like this are so helpful. And if homeschooling or worldschooling does anything, it gives people an option. And choice is good.

    It clearly places more responsibility on the parent, but maybe that is what children, and adults need. The biggest thing that stands out to me is the involvement of the parent, no matter what educational system the child is in. I think when education is successful, adults, parents are involved at a high level. The main difference of course is that with homeschooling the choice is up to the parent and the child, not the state or a salaried teacher. Educational politics and power struggles so often effect the simple, basic education of a child. On many levels, homeschooling seems to take education to its core and cut out the garbage.

    We are choosing to travel and homeschool our young children, not so much in fear of the effects of traditional education, but more so for the advantages of educating our kids around the world. We are lucky to have the opportunity and happy to take advantage of it.

    Hearing stories of families like the Millers is nothing but encouraging. And having the information like this is fantastic for a newbie family like us. Thanks!

    Posted by Justin, 24/06/2011 12:08am (3 years ago)

  • LOVE this article Jenn! I especially love all the links to resources you mentioned. I thought I had seen most of the online content out there, but you threw some new ones into my stash. I'd never heard of iTunes U before!

    And I totally agree on the whole "socialization" thing. I'm so thankful we've not had to deal with bullies, foul mouthed show-off kids, etc that my kids would be facing in a more traditional school setting. Now that we're adding travel to their education, they're all clamoring for new experiences to learn more about. It certainly does stretch mom and dad as educators, but we're up for it!

    Great post. Now I'm off to bookmark it to reference it later!

    Posted by Susan Whitehead, 29/06/2011 3:14pm (3 years ago)

  • Justin, EXACTLY. Home schooling out of fear (or not home schooling because you're afraid of it) is a terrible idea! Fear is NEVER a good motivator (unless you're trying to out run a bear!) We home school our kids because of the amazing opportunities they're afforded as we travel, for the benefit and the depth of education that is possible outside of the four walls. There is a place for traditional education, and it's a GOOD THING... but not for every single child or every single family. Having options is such a blessing and the more I travel to places where people have fewer options the more thankful I am for the freedom to educate as we see fit.

    Thanks, Miriam, for the link to the UK specific information! Clearly, the most important thing is to start early and do lots of research in the specific vein of your child's career interest!

    Rachel... thanks sister... you'll blink and they'll be teenagers... it happens crazy fast. :)

    Posted by Jenn Miller, 30/06/2011 12:11am (3 years ago)

  • I was contacted via email by Annette Levesque who is the director of the Canada eSchool who heard VagabondFamily.org during a radio interview on CBC Ottawa, with Alison Gresik (http://www.cbc.ca/ottawamorning/2011/07/04/selling-the-house-and-hitting-the-road/)

    [Email start]
    I am on summer holidays and heard about your website today on CBC Ottawa; I think it is a fantastic resource for traveling families. I wanted to let you know there is another option for road schooling (high school students) www.canadaeschool.ca . Canada eSchool is accredited by the Ministry of Education in Ontario provides online high school credits for students globally. Textbooks are provided with courses so traveling students can do a good deal of their work offline and send it to their teacher from an Internet cafe weekly. Have a great summer, Annette Levesque, OCT Director Canada eSchool P.O. Box 277, 921 Notre Dame Embrun, ON K0A 1W0 Phone: (613) 443-9522 ext. 708 Fax: (613) 482-4504 www.canadaeschool.ca
    [Email ends]

    I have no personal experience with this school but thought I would add it in as a comment and an additional resource for people to look into.

    Cheers,
    Colin

    Posted by Colin Burns, 06/07/2011 11:44am (3 years ago)

  • Great article Jenn! I always love your blunt approach that comes off as nothing but encouragement.

    Posted by Amy , 13/08/2013 9:11am (1 year ago)

  • I really enjoyed this sensible and informative post. It's refreshing to read about a world schooler who is not also an unschooler (meaning the whole endeavor is a lot easier to navigate.) I've been homeschooling my daughter since grade 2 and now she's 16. We aren't road schoolers (though she'd like to be) but definitely use her passions, talents, and interests in designing the curriculum. The downside has been trying to jump through the hoops of the standardized tests and APs in order to apply to selective colleges. I miss the more carefree days of homeschooling before high school.

    Posted by Evelyn Krieger, 11/04/2014 1:07am (7 months ago)

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