My younger kids take a weekly class at our local children’s museum. Today I was talking with one of the museum employees, who seemed to be college-aged.
It was obvious that we were homeschoolers since we take community classes during weekday mornings. So she mentioned that she had been homeschooled up until 8th grade, at which point her mom put her back in public school.
I asked her why and she shrugged and said that was what her mother had done with all of her siblings—it was just how they worked things. She thought another minute and said she thought her mom probably felt insecure about homeschooling high school.
Friends! I hear this all the time!
Parents who feel perfectly qualified to teach their children arithmetic, reading and writing suddenly feel compelled to hand their kids over to the school when it comes to Algebra and beyond. The very thought of Chemistry and Calculus just seem to leave parents shaking in their boots.
There is a common erroneous belief at fault here—the belief that knowledge must be imparted through teaching.
If you attended public school, you were probably taught that you needed to be taught in order to learn. And you probably learned that you needed to be taught specific subjects and meet certain standards each grade level. You needed to achieve a standardized amount of knowledge, and it needed to be evaluated annually and compared to all of the other children in your level.
The truth is that education and schooling are not mutually exclusive. Education doesn’t require schooling, and schooling doesn’t guarantee an education.
In reality, the best learning we humans can achieve—the things we learn that become integral to who we are, the things we’ll never forget—are not handed to us but are rather fought for. And they must be fought for by a person who wants to understand something.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a child who wasn’t motivated to figure things out, to find the answers to personally relevant questions. However, I’ve met (and taught) plenty of kids who aren’t motivated to sit quietly and listen to someone else talk or to memorize the definitions of a list of words. That lack of interest doesn’t suggest an absence of motivation (to be remedied with carrots and sticks) but a problem with the model of instruction and curriculum.” ~Alfie Kohn.
Humans of all ages love to learn. It’s as natural and necessary as breathing. We have an inborn hunger to make sense of the world by exploring and examining the things we find interesting.
Think of all the things you did today. How much of it was taught to you by a school teacher or parent? And how much did you learn on your own?
Do you think that if someone had not taught you how to count money you would never have been able to purchase anything?
Do you think that if you’d never been taught to tell time or tie your shoes or read a recipe that you’d never have been able to feed yourself or dress yourself or keep appointments?
As homeschoolers, we merely facilitate our children’s learning, which means that we learn together. I like to think of myself as the CEO of my children’s educations rather than their teacher.
As we shift our paradigms and rid ourselves of the false belief that our children must be taught the things they need to learn, we’ll realize that homeschooling our high school-aged kiddos is just as doable as homeschooling the 3 r’s.
So what qualifications do you need to be able to homeschool high school?
You have to be a parent
You already have the number one qualification you need to homeschool your high schooler—you are his parent. No other person on this planet loves your child like you do, nor are they as motivated to help him succeed.
You have to be willing and committed
Obviously, you have to want to homeschool your high schooler and know that it’s the right choice for your family. You have to be willing to get up every morning, even when you don’t feel like it, and oversee the learning.
You have to be willing to set an academic standard (just like you do with chores and other areas of their lives) and hold your child to that standard. You already know how difficult that can be.
You have to be willing to sacrifice your time, money and energy for their benefit.
You have to know your why
Why do you want to homeschool your high schooler?
I homeschool mine because I feel like I can do a better job in much less time, leaving them more time to pursue their passions. I know homeschoolers who do it because their children have needs the public schools can’t meet, or for religious reasons.
Whatever your reasons, they need to be rock solid. There will be days that you wonder if you’ve made a terrible mistake, and knowing your why will be essential to get you through.
You have to dare to be different
You have to be so confident that you’re doing the right thing for your children that you can withstand the inevitable negative opinions from friends and family. You have to be cool with your neighbors thinking you’re weird. You’ll even have to come to terms with random people stopping you in the grocery store to question you about your life decisions.
You have to completely trust your child
It’s pretty easy to make your 1st grader sit at the table with you and complete two pages of math, you know? Okay, maybe that’s not always exactly easy. But it’s easier than making your 15-year-old sit at the table with you to complete two pages of math.
You’re going to have to trust that your high schooler is capable of teaching himself and learning on his own, with you acting as his facilitator.
“Children are biologically predisposed to take charge of their own education. When they are provided with the freedom and means to pursue their own interests, in safe settings, they bloom and develop along diverse and unpredictable paths, and they acquire the skills and confidence required to meet life’s challenges. In such an environment, children ask for any help they may need from adults. There is no need for forced lessons, lectures, assignments, tests, grades, segregation by age into classrooms, or any of the other trappings of our standard, compulsory system of schooling. All of these, in fact, interfere with children’s natural ways of learning.” ~ Peter Gray, Free to Learn
It might be difficult to trust that your teenager will learn without being force-fed, I know. I worried about that until my oldest graduated (our homeschool) with scholarships to every University to which she applied. Same with my second child. They are both attending a prestigious university
on a full scholarship. My third just graduated this week with scholarships to both of his first choice universities.
My experience has been exactly in line with the quote by Peter Gray above. My children have pursued interests I’ve known nothing about, and I’ve enjoyed learning alongside them despite not having any prior knowledge of the subject.
In fact, my boys won a regional science fair (and full tuition scholarships!) by building a prototype graphene supercapacitor, after reading an article on graphene in a Popular Science magazine. At the time, I knew nothing about graphene and little about supercapacitors, but the three of us put our heads together and had fun taking an educational journey.
That’s what it’s like to homeschool high schoolers. You don’t have to have mastered all the subjects. Rather, you just have to be willing to facilitate.
After 17 years of homeschooling, with three now graduated I can tell you with certainty that homeschooling works beautifully! Not only have my children graduated our homeschool successfully, but they have graduated with associates degrees from a local university.
And even more importantly, they have strong relationships with their siblings, and they share our family values of hard work, discipline, integrity, creation (as opposed to consumption) and high morals. Strong relationships and values are much easier to instill in a homeschool setting because the child is actually home.
Learning that is hard won is valued more highly than learning that is spoon fed, or even worse, force fed.
So where do I go from here?
The decision to homeschool your high schoolers can be intimidating. But instead of letting your worries overwhelm you, let them spur you on to diligence. You can give your children the individual attention and guidance they would never receive in a public school.
You can do this, mama! You’re already his parent. Are you willing? Are you committed? Do you have compelling reasons for wanting to homeschool him? Do you dare to be different? Do you trust your child—or can you learn to trust your child? If you can answer yes to all of those questions, then you are ready!
The next steps aren’t complicated at all, but I can’t list them all in one post, so if you are wondering where to go from here, I’ve got an entire series of articles about homeschooling high schoolers at my blog. Feel free to check them out!
Amy blogs at Orison Orchards (named after the farm/orchards the Saunders family owns) where she helps homeschooling mama's find the confidence to educate their children using a child-led approach and live life to the fullest without breaking the bank. She is currently homeschooling five of her eight children, because the oldest three, who were also homeschooled, are now on scholarship at a prestigious university. Her youngest is 6-years old.
Amy advocates sunshine, pinches pennies, and is the Chief Idea Officer of the Saunders family. If she were ever offered a superpower, she would choose 'Entropy Annihilation'. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
More posts in the series:
Feeling Unqualified to Homeschool High School?
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