High School At Home
Doing high school at home; is it worth it?
“If you had it to do over again, would you still homeschool through high school?” Three moms blocked my path at a recent convention, and one repeated the question, “Would you do it again?” I always enjoy talking with families at homeschool conferences, and I often get challenging questions. This, however, wasn’t terribly hard — even though I wasn’t a perfect homeschooler and there were difficult moments, I would still homeschool from preschool into high school.
As I talked with those moms I realized that before you start, homeschooling high school looks as scary as Class 5 rapids to an amateur kayaker. Some parents worry that their teens won’t be able to get into college; others have talented students who want to participate in group music experiences, organized sports, and other activities; and a few even worry that their children are missing out on important social experiences. I’m here to tell you that the rapids aren’t nearly as scary as they look. Doing high school at home is a trip that’s exhilarating, exhausting, but well worth it! Let’s talk about three of the fears that parents of teens face.
Fear #1: What if my child can’t get into college? I don’t want to ruin his life!
Don’t worry! If your child can’t get into a college, it won’t be because you homeschooled; it will be because he didn’t try. Homeschoolers go on to college just as often as students from traditional high schools do. Ambitious, high-achieving students can enter more prestigious schools, while ordinary students can shoot for the local state university. Teens who just want to learn stuff can start out at the community college, and transfer when they are ready.
Most universities appreciate the kind of diversity that students with unique interests and experiences can bring to campus. Homeschooled teens have dozens of options they can pursue while in high school. They can start college early, try out a microbusiness, sample a variety of careers through formal or informal internships, travel, volunteer, or just spend time developing special skills and talents. The result of this rich experience can be a transcript that college admissions counselors pounce on!
Fear #2: We don’t want to keep our children from developing their talents!
If you keep up with the news at all, you’ll notice that a disproportionate number of talent and skill competitions (music, debate, robotics, etc.), as well as knowledge bees, are being won by homeschoolers. During the legislative sessions, you can easily discover that a surprising number of volunteers and pages are home educated.
Why is this? It’s because homeschooled students have motivation, time, and discretion to pursue special interests. If they want to spend three hours a day practicing music, there are no deadlines. If they want to spend a semester studying government by being involved, they can. They aren’t so tied up with busywork that they can’t participate in real-life activities! And because students choose and initiate activities, parents don’t end up with the unenviable task of trying to motivate them to do things they’ve grown tired of.
Most of the wholesome activities that can be found in a high school are just watered-down versions of the real thing that can be created or found in the community. A budding musician could organize a mini-chamber orchestra, band, or barbershop quartet, or practice for the Junior Philharmonic or church choir. An athletically inclined student could try out for a church or community league, or could opt to help coach a team of younger players.
In each case, the student would gain a far greater range of skills through active planning and participation than they would acquire by just showing up and passively doing what someone else decides they should do. In addition, in a church or community setting, the homeschooler would have the advantage of being involved with people of differing ages and experience levels, rather than being isolated with a peer group that has little wisdom or experience to offer.
Fear #3: I’m worried that my teenager will resent being left out of high school social life, and will miss activities such as the prom.
The truth is, that given the nearly limitless possibilities available to homeschooled teens, your teen does not have to miss anything good. A recent tragedy, in which a 16-year-old girl, driving drunk, killed another driver, sparked a series of articles in our local paper about the high school social scene. This eye-opening series and other articles suggest that high-school socialization is best taken in small doses.
Even if your teens occasionally feel they’re missing something good (and I rarely meet homeschooled teens who do), they probably aren’t. As parents, we have the opportunity to spread a rich feast of opportunities before them. Healthy social relationships can be formed within family, church, community, and homeschool support groups. Many homeschool groups offer co-op classes, a student yearbook, a newsletter, a prom, and even sports teams and music groups. If your teen wants to participate in an activity that hasn’t already been planned, they can learn a lot by planning it themselves. Once they get involved, they won’t have time to worry about what they are missing!
If I had it to do over, would I homeschool my boys? Absolutely! The rapids weren’t nearly as big as they looked from a distance, and though it took some fancy paddling from time to time, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Janice Campbell homeschooled her four boys all the way through, and there was joy in the journey (though she didn’t do all perfectly). She has been speaking and writing to encourage, educate, and equip other moms since the early 1990s.
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