High school. Two little words that bring out nostalgia in some, yet regret over awkward adolescence for others. Let’s face it. High school is not easy for anyone. Still, it is a rite of passage. It marks a time when we (and now our children) slip from child to young adult. It’s a personal age of discovery and growth.
However, what may change for some is how this time passes. The journey from point A to point B during the high school years is not down the same traditional avenues. There are other options to traditional schooling. For many, home schooling has become the norm. Days spent walking the gauntlet of school corridors are not the only way some kids are transitioning through their late teen years into the twilight of their primary education.
Before delving into the pros and cons, it’s important to place them into two, distinct categories. For parent/teacher and student, the pros and cons weigh in separately. For example, a home-schooling parent may consider costs as one potential negative. On the other hand, a student may not be as concerned over costs as a parent. Where do these two separations in need meet? Overall, with the academic and social success of the student.
Homeschooling in High School: For the Parents
Okay mom and dad. You’ve decided to move ahead with homeschooling your high-schooler. So, what are the considerations? You are now assuming the roles of principal, career advisor, and teacher. While it sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Rather than overwhelm yourself with these duties, set aside some time and write them down.
What are your end goals? Graduation, of course. College admission is another goal to consider. How about a well-rounded education? Consider this: homeschooling offers one educational path that traditional schooling may not offer. That is an interest-led curriculum. Does your child have an affinity for a certain career path? You have the option to foster that desire. In the end, your child may not pursue it. But, in the least, he or she will have settled that option before making costly choices down the road at the college level.
While many parents tout the advantages of homeschooling, one of them the cost, don’t dismiss this issue too soon. Let’s be honest with ourselves. The needs for homeschooling at the elementary and middle school levels are easier for a family to absorb. However, once your child enters high school, those costs will escalate. Dramatically. You’ve left the realm of guided lectures and lesson plans. What high school presents is an introduction to advanced work in science, mathematics, the arts, and more.
The courses themselves will be more expensive. Aside from that, consider the other requirements for these courses. The laboratory components may require microscopes or other equipment and specimens. Remember those days in the biology and chemistry labs? All those nice samples are now your responsibility. Fortunately, there are some on-line laboratory discussions that could serve as a substitute here. The question to ask yourself is this: will foregoing the laboratory work be a setback for your child? If they are not looking forward to a career in the sciences, this may be an area where you can scale back on the costs.
Some of the costs you will incur regardless of your schooling choice. A computer is one option that you would have to buy anyway. Keep this in mind when planning your courses. Don’t skimp on quality. Instead, check with your local school district. Chances are that as a homeschooler you may be able to purchase a computer at the discounted rates offered to the schools. It never hurts to ask.
Always consider grants and scholarships. Yes, these financial aid options exist for high school students. Start local, and expand outward. Public libraries are a great starting place for these searches. Also check with the school district. If your child is active in any organizations, see what they may offer. You may be surprised at how many organizations out there offer funding for homeschooled students. Focus in on the subject areas that interest your child, as this will be where most of your expenses originate.
Finally, don’t forget to look into co-operative learning experiences. Some school districts open up their science or humanities departments to give homeschoolers access to labs and performance opportunities. This hybrid approach has worked for many parents. In addition to keeping costs down, it also gives your child the social experience of high school.
Some would argue that this is the greatest strength of a homeschooling program. What it lacks in structure it more than makes up for in flexibility. Look back at your own high school days. Was your senior year curriculum full of “filler” classes? When homeschooling, take advantage of the flexibility. While it’s true that your home school day may not exist between typical school hours, make that the strength of your curriculum. Knock out useless classes. Focus on coursework that will give your child an edge in the college admissions process.
This is also a perfect opportunity to individualize your child’s learning plan. Will they get this level of attention at a traditional school? Most likely they will not. You may also consider extra-curricular learning activities as part of this aspect. Look for internships with local businesses and organizations that interest your child. For example, is your high-schooler an animal lover? Ask your local veterinarian if an unpaid internship is available. Since your student is available at all hours of the day, it’s likely that he or she will face less competition. Sometimes being able to attend to standard coursework outside of traditional hours has great benefits. This flexibility allows your child to engage in meaningful internships during actual business hours.
Okay, so we see that flexibility can be a good thing. But the structure that a school provides is also a good thing. Life happens. When it does, how will it impact your homeschooling routine? There is no denying that homeschooling is a huge commitment for parents. No matter what happens on the home front, a traditional school provides the opportunity to learn without these distractions close at hand. Sure, they will always be on a student’s mind, but time away can be a welcome respite.
Remember to keep this in mind. While the flexibility of your program is a strength, recognize its limitations. As parents, it’s important to keep a structured routine in place. Occasional deviation is fun, and can keep the mind fresh, but do your best to have some sort of set routine. For some, it could be a reading period. For others, it’s an internship. At times you’ll notice that your student is looking forward to those moments for a break in the day.
The College Admissions Process
I can think of no more daunting event for a graduating teen than the college admissions process. Homeschooling in high school can make this time even more stressful for parents and students. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
More than ever, colleges and universities are looking to create a more diverse student body for their incoming classes. Fortunately, many of these schools are looking to homeschooled students to fill this need. Homeschooling does not have the stigma once associated with it by college admissions offices.
Why is that? Let’s look at the curriculum you have in place. While your student may not be in a traditional school with a standard transcript, if you have done your work, your student’s experiences will rival those of other applicants.
How? Remember the flexibility in your schedule? Show the admissions office how it benefitted your student. If you’ve instituted an interest-led curriculum, note that on the application. Show the school how your homeschooling program exceeded expectations and made your student the better candidate. Because if your child has an aptitude for a certain subject area, and if you guided that enthusiasm, he or she will be in a better position to succeed at the college level in those subject areas. Tout the extracurricular activities, like internships, to show a level of social involvement and practical experience.
As a homeschooling parent, it’s important to quantify each experience. Everything matters, from reading lists to coursework. Keep this in mind when developing your curriculum.
Homeschooling in High School: For the Students
What about high school highlighted those years for you? It was a challenge, right? Because it was supposed to be. The challenges of high school are for personal growth as much as academic growth. It’s the last stop before our children will enter the larger world beyond.
For homeschoolers, there is a bit of isolation. So, let’s not ignore this fact. All those traditional high school events that we’ve experienced, and that continue to be a part of our pop culture, your student may miss out on. May is the operative word here. While some of those events may not be within reach, there are plenty of other opportunities elsewhere that will give your child the social interactions they seek.
For beginners, let’s look at the basics. Sports. Way back when, playing for the high school team was the only option. However, all that has changed. Most communities have athletic clubs within a reasonable driving distance that offer the same opportunities to excel at almost any sport. Sure, there’s no school spirit, but that sense of team will make up for that. Many colleges even scout these athletic programs. So when college application time comes, get it on the application. Further, these coaches make great references for college applications.
Is your child into the arts? Community theaters provide plenty of opportunity to get involved in either the performance or production side of theater and music. If that’s not an option, other community groups will stage plays for smaller communities. Get involved. Encourage your student’s goals. We all start somewhere.
Be sure to check with local community colleges―they often put out a casting call to the community. What’s even better is that well-known theatrical groups sometimes involve themselves in these productions as part of their outreach programs. You never know who you will meet at these events. Take full advantage of them when you can!
Also keep in mind that some school districts allow for homeschoolers to participate in sports and other activities. Always check with your local school district. Being homeschooled doesn’t necessarily mean your child won’t participate in these activities.
Lastly, get involved with local organizations. Church groups, scouting, social clubs―they all can make a difference and show your child’s involvement in the community. Many even offer scholarships. In the end, a college is looking for the best rounded student available. There are many ways to be involved.
Homeschooling in High School: Pros vs. Cons
What it comes down to are the details when deciding whether or not to homeschool your high schooler. Each family is unique. Keep these pros and cons in remind when deciding what is best for your student:
- Cost: high school level courses are more expensive. On the other hand, there are alternatives, such as interest-led curriculums tailored to your student.
- Flexibility: without needing to be at a certain place at a certain time, your student can partake in opportunities that make learning more fun and practical.
- Structure: homeschooling lacks the structure of traditional schools that our children need from time to time. To address this, consider blocking out a few hours each day for reading or other individual assignments.
- College Admissions: admissions offices are more open to homeschooled students. Allow for the flexibility in your curriculum to be a strength.
- Extracurricular Activities: think outside the box. Plenty of opportunities are available to make up for the social experience of high school.
Opportunities abound for homeschoolers to be better-rounded students and active members of their communities. The greatest benefit is the individualized level of education not available in traditional schools. However, parents must be ready to meet those needs and prepare themselves for the challenging work of being educator, parent, and school administrator.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, ages 8, 6, and 3. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the screen when the kids are occupied. She can be reached through the Contact Us page.