Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been homeschooling kids since kindergarten, thinking about homeschooling through the high school years is daunting. What records will you need? Can lab sciences and pre-calc really be done at home? Even though thousands of other homeschoolers have graduated and gone on to successful post-high school experiences, it can still seem like a grand experiment until you’ve graduated your own child.
I have found there are five keys to high school planning. Follow these to curb misgivings and missteps.
1. Start with the end in mind. Before you look through the first catalog, sit down with your child and talk about post-high school goals. Does your child prefer a large state university or a small liberal arts college? Will she likely go into the service or to a vocational school? While not immoveable, knowing the end goal will help you shape the high school years.
In our family, we knew our children would most likely go to a state university because of their career goals and an excellent state scholarship program. With that in mind, we looked at two things: the state universities’ admission requirements and any special homeschool conditions. One university required homeschoolers to take several accredited courses, or alternatively, SAT II exams in those subject areas. Armed with that information, we were able to fold in accredited classes over the high school years. It would have been a major roadblock had we discovered this during the senior year admissions process!
Once you know your student’s post-high school vision, you’re almost ready to open the catalogs. But first, pause and reassure yourself with step 2.
2. Just take the next step from 8th grade. Moving into high school is much like moving a child from kindergarten to first grade or from 6th grade to 7th. While high school may seem like promotion to a whole new world, the student is just progressing up one step academically. For many core subjects, this simply means going to the next level in that subject. In math, for example, the student might move from Saxon Algebra I to Algebra II. If you already have favorite curricula, some of it can be used right into high school.
Even the schedules and learning style you found in the middle years can be used in high school. Thinking of just going up one level, rather than creating a whole new structure, will help take the angst out of high school planning.
3. Research state graduation requirements. In most states, homeschoolers are not bound by state graduation requirements. But these standards help indicate two key things: what colleges in your area are looking for and what credits graduates will have taken — graduates in the same college application pool as yours. If graduates in your area routinely take four years of core academic subjects (math, science, social science, language arts and foreign language), you will want your student’s transcript to reflect that as well.
Also, while most college admission sites list the minimum requirements, be sure to look at the freshman profile page. This page gives a picture of the test scores, GPA, and credits for the freshman class actually admitted and attending. At this point, you’re ready to make the four-year plan, only in light of Step 4.
4. Sketch a four-year plan. In pencil. Now that you know your child’s goals, what worked in eighth grade, and your state’s requirements, you’re ready to rough out a four-year plan. Go ahead and add in details like curriculum you might use or online classes that would fit. Be sure to write in tests that should be completed along with courses (AP, CLEP or SAT II) as well as tests necessary for dual-enrollment and college (PSAT, SAT, ACT).
Now is the time to get out the catalogs and dream big! Just remember that this draft will change. Before your child graduates, new books will be published. Outside classes and local opportunities will appear. Or your student may develop a new passion. Of course, the beauty of homeschooling — sometimes most clearly seen in the high school years — is being able to tailor learning to our children. Even in pencil, this sketch will provide a great scaffold for the next four years. Just one more thing to add:
5. Consult a local source. This is my favorite part because it usually means I get to take another homeschool mom out to lunch. Choose someone who has already put kids through high school and is familiar with state requirements. Ask her if she sees any problems with your four-year plan. In the best of worlds, this parent will share the transcripts, planning forms and tried-and-true wisdom learned from the process.
Planning for the high school years does not need to be intimidating. Even for those completely new to home education, these five practical steps will get you started and help you craft a plan for your high schooler. And be sure to stay tuned, as Sandbox to Socrates will cover the high school years in more detail in October.
Lisa Appelo is in the 16th year of homeschooling her seven children. The oldest three were homeschooled through high school and went on to their first choice colleges. Lisa continues to teach the others in grades 2nd through high school at home, most recently as a suddenly widowed single mom. Each day is an adventure in life and grace.