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As you begin to look ahead to homeschooling high schoolers, the thought can be intimidating. The stakes are higher and that changes the game! When it comes to the four year plan, a homeschooling parent takes on the role of teacher, mentor, and guidance counselor. I’ve written and maintained three four year plans so far. In 2016-2017, we’ll be homeschooling three high schoolers. I thought I’d share How to Set Up a Four Year Homeschool High School Plan to encourage you!
Know the Requirements for High School Graduation
This first piece of advice is pretty basic. You have to know what your state requires for homeschoolers to graduate. In NY, homeschoolers do not currently earn a high school diploma. We apply for a Letter of Equivalency from the school superintendent which says our students have completed the equivalent of a high school program of study. The base requirements for homeschoolers are not the same as the college bound public schooled students. So, it’s important to have all the pieces before you begin. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Courses of study which are required and how many credits of each– some of the choices you need to make are done for you.
- Credit hour equivalent– how do you know what amounts to a credit? Generally speaking, a one credit class is three hours a week of work, a half credit is an hour and a half a week, and a quarter credit is forty five minutes of work a week.
- Your Own Requirements– Consider what courses are required to graduate from your homeschool. There might be areas of study beyond what the state requires. What are they? In our house, math and science are with our students to the end. Although not all of our kids will want to study these much beyond high school, we require a basic understanding of core science subjects up through physics and the math that goes with it. What is important in your home?
Bring Your Student to the Table
As I read other articles about planning for high school, the thing noticeably missing for me is the student’s input. To me, that is one of the most important factors in making a four year plan for your homeschooled high schooler. You cannot make a plan without them being a part of the process. Some things to consider:
- This plan belongs to your high schooler– ultimately your student is responsible for carrying out this plan and being prepared for what’s next.
- Bring them into the conversation early on in the process– we think it’s all on us, but the truth is our students will need to own this plan and make it entirely theirs.
- Be open to your student’s ideas– and let them know if they want to implement something that is not currently on your radar and might be a different approach, they will need to convince you it’s a good idea. Put them in the driver’s seat, but give them some parameters.
- It’s time to transition to being a mentor– Your job as the parent during high school will transition from teacher to mentor. I can be a guide and I can help them to navigate high school, but the days of lots of heavy direct instruction are drawing to a close. I’m here to help them assimilate ideas, discuss books and issues, and to give feedback on their work.
Check with College Requirements
Whether or not your student knows where he’d like to apply, you can check with some likely places and get an idea of the types of requirements for your student’s interests. Then as you continue to evaluate your plan, you can get more specific in your search.
- They can give you direction when it comes to details.
- Learn about requirements beyond what your graduation requirements are. For example, our oldest learned that one of the schools he’s applying to asks for three credits of the same foreign language. He has more than three credits of a foreign language, but before we checked he only had two that were the same language. We adjusted accordingly.
- Check for homeschool requirements at application time- one of the universities our kids will likely apply to ask homeschooled students to provide a book list as an attachment to the Common App.
- Not only does browsing college websites allow you to find out requirements, but it also opens up a world of possibilities. Our second semester sophomore this last year learned more about a program she was tentative on and now wants to pursue that for sure.
The earlier you and your student explore colleges, the easier it is to make a plan. The plan doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it’s nice to be informed as you start out.
Choose Electives Wisely
Your student’s electives should reflect what your student is about. When we think of electives, some things come to mind:
- This is where you can incorporate your student’s talents, interests, and achieve that stand out status with their studies.
- Allows you to explore career options
- Calls for authentic experiences- your student can be in charge of his learning and incorporate many different ways of learning.
- Leave room for unconventional experiences- this could be internship you and your student arrange. What matters is that electives don’t have to require lots of book work.
Keep a Record as You Go
Don’t want until your student is a senior to start your working transcript. If your state does not require much in the way of record keeping, it’s a good idea to begin the first year of high school keeping your own records. In NY, we are required to turn in so much paperwork that by the time our students are seniors and we turn in the transcript worksheet, the work is really already done. I turn in the transcript, but the information on it must match the reports I’ve been turning in for years. Either way, there’s no need to complicate this process. Here are some tips for the job:
- Keep the names of your courses simple– colleges and universities may ask for curriculum choices, but they don’t want to know up front that your student did “Movies as Literature” for their junior year elective. Simply name the course, “English III”. If you are asked to provide that information, then you can list your materials, but the course is English III.
- Keep your main assignments– such as papers and major skill oriented projects. Some institutions reserve the right to ask to see them.
- Document your grades as you go– at year’s end simply record the course name with the grade the student has earned.
- Compile the paperwork on towards senior year and prepare the transcript -which will largely be finished except for the senior year final grades.
General Tips for Planning Homeschool High School
I have a few other pieces of advice not necessarily fitting neatly into other categories. Keep these in mind throughout their four years of high school.
- The Big Picture– Creating a Four Year Plan requires looking at the big picture, but remember that each day and year comes one at a time. You want to have an overall guide, but the goals in that guide will be met one day and one year at a time. Try not to be discouraged in the details.
- Be Flexible– Plan can change. Plans do change. Interests can diverge. Illness can set in. Be willing to evaluate regularly and see if the plan is still meeting your student’s needs. If not, you and your student can make adjustments.
- Stay Informed– As time goes on, make sure your student is paying attention to new information that is relevant to her plan. If her interests change, check on college requirements again. The last thing you want is to take a wrong turn because you weren’t aware of a need.
- Keep Your High Schooler Accountable– This is their full time job. Yours is to mentor. Allow natural consequences to happen when they make less than ideal choices. Make sure they take on more responsibility along the way. Give advice where needed. Encourage them to take the initiative. This is important for every kind of student at every level. Whatever it means for them to be independent is what you need to focus on. These are the final years to make sure they are ready beyond your homeschool. They can do it! And so can you!
Resources for Planning High School
Curriculum choices for high school I’m saving for another post, but I will leave you with some resources that I found helpful when I first started.
- College without High School: A Teenager’s Guide to Skipping High School and Going to College– a great book on how to approach high school unconventionally to prepare for college. You’ll find practical ideas on turning authentic work into a winning transcript. This author also gives insight to launching without college.
- Homescholar Coffee Break Books– Lee Binz has a whole series of short books to encourage you on the road to completing high school with your students. Don’t miss these!
- Homescholar’s Guide to College Admission & Scholarships: Homeschool Secrets to Getting Ready, Getting In, and Getting Paid– How can you go wrong with this title? If your student is college bound, this is a great read.
Other High School Posts at Blog, She Wrote
Homeschooling Students Who Have a Chronic Illness– Ethan, our high school senior, has had Lyme Disease for two years. He’s in long term treatment with a long way to go yet. Although, he was to graduate in 2016, he was unable to complete the few credits he had left and the reality is he’s been sick for half of high school. How does this affect the four year plan? Most obviously, it turned his four year plan into a five year plan.
High School Help– A page here at Blog, She Wrote with a compilation of posts directed toward high schoolers.
How to Engage Your Teens with Books– A fun post all about teens and books! You can learn how to get started and what to do if you don’t have time to read with your teen. There’s information on a master class I taught at the Read Aloud Revival and a free eBook if you are subscribers.
Working with a Bright and Sometimes Motivated High Schooler: Tips & Strategies– Do you have one of these? We all know students who are smart, capable, and not a fan of hard work. These are some ideas we have used with our students like this.
Creating Opportunities for Your Homeschooled Teen– As homeschoolers, we know that we need to make the opportunities for our kids. What does that look like in high school?
Should My Homeschooled Teen Get a Part Time Job? – When we were teens, most everyone had a job, but it’s not as common anymore for a variety of reasons. It can be a valuable experience. How do you decide?
High school is a wonderful time to homeschool! The discussions are lively. Their work is lovely. You get to see them transition from a younger student to young men and women with opinions and ideas all their own. Enjoy these final years of schooling! They are among the best.