Should You Homeschool for High School? Part 2

Back to school on chalkboard with chipmunkLast week I talked about some of the reasons why we decided to homeschool through high school. I realized that I left out one very important advantage. It’s easy to hold a student back if necessary. It doesn’t have to be the result of bad grades and there isn’t any social stigma of repeating a grade.

I know because we did this with our son. In the middle of his sophomore year, we realized he wasn’t where we wanted him to be academically. With a July birthday, he would have been one of the youngest in a regular school class. And while he wasn’t immature for his age, we just thought that he wasn’t going to be ready to start thinking about college the following year. So with his agreement, his sophomore year became his freshman and three and a half years later he went off to college without a hitch.

However, I have to admit that I don’t know if I would have homeschooled through high school if I had more than one child. Let’s face, it’s pretty easy when all you have to do is to focus on the needs of one child. And given that it’s not uncommon for a family to homeschool one child while keeping another in school, it’s reasonable to consider returning to school for high school as a possibility.

We all have our limits in terms of how much we can handle and do well. For some families, it makes sense to put older children into school for high school to ensure that they give the same amount of attention to their younger ones as they did for the older ones. Or maybe the younger ones need even more attention than some of the others, after all, every child is different.

Attending high school is also a way for homeschoolers to start establishing some independence and making their own decisions. They can choose their own activities and friends with far less support/oversight/interference from their parents.

It also gives them a chance to see how they measure up against their peers and provide confidence for being successful in college. And as a friend of mine who sent her older kids back to high school put it, “The kids got to see that school was actually easier in a lot of ways than being homeschooled.” I suspect this had a lot do with math classes but I know a lot of homeschoolers have higher expectations of their kids than they have to meet in school.

Of course, there will be drawbacks. There are going be some influences over your children that you won’t be thrilled about. And there will be teachers who will do things (or maybe not do things at all) that you won’t be able to do anything about. Ultimately, it’s a matter of tradeoffs and deciding what is best for your family situation.

The important point is that whichever choice you make, to continue homeschooling or to send them to high school, you need to be planning ahead.

My friend who sent her oldest back to school for 9th grade, sent her next one back in 8th. Why? Because she didn’t have to fight to have her placed in the appropriate level classes. By attending eighth grade, her daughter was able to prove herself so that she would start high school with the right classes. Also, by starting at eighth grade, she was able to be at the “top” of the school pyramid for a year before having to start as a freshman.

If you are planning to send your kids back to school, be prepared to document to the school’s satisfaction that they meet the requirements to start at the course level you consider appropriate. The school isn’t likely to place your child into an honors class just because you say so.

The advantage is that by providing documentation for appropriate placement in eighth or ninth grade, you won’t be having to do it for college. That’s what the high school transcript is for.

Planning is just as important should you decide to homeschool through high school. Your child may not need to be thinking about college yet but you have to. If you are unschoolers, you need to be prepared to document your children’s activities through portfolios. You need to know what will be considered acceptable for applications to your state’s public universities.

When (if) will your child take the ACT or SAT? What places will let homeschoolers take the PSAT or AP exams? Who will provide letters of recommendation for your child?

In our case, we had our son start dual credit classes his junior year specifically so he had people he could ask for letters of recommendation. But then that means being prepared to have them apply for dual credit programs in their junior year.

You need to start thinking about college as soon as you start high school because some classes simply have to be taken sequentially such as foreign languages and math. Others, such as laboratory science classes, are possible to take simultaneously but there is a reason why they are generally spread out over four years of high school.

This doesn’t mean that you have to plan out four-years of high school to be successful. But it is a situation where the student needs to be aware that choices have consequences.

And even then, the higher education system is forgiving. If you don’t have the credentials to be competitive for traditional four-year colleges, you can always spend a year at a community college. This will establish credentials and allow students to apply as transfer students without having to worry about missing high school requirements.

Next week I’ll discuss how to homeschool through high school in terms of program options and curriculum.

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