I can’t claim to be an expert, but, I can tell you that I’m in the trenches when it comes to homeschooling high school. I’m a humble learner that has gained plenty of experience navigating around the system, and I can share with you some of the things that I wish I had known when I started with our oldest son, who is now entering his senior year.
So much of the information comes bit by bit as you knock on doors based on the interests, gifts, and abilities of your children, but there are definitely some bedrock things that are true and important for all students and parents homeschooling at the high school level.
I’m not sure if there were a lot of resources around when our oldest son first started high school four years ago, if I didn’t find anything because I was overconfident in thinking I knew how to navigate the process because I graduated as a homeschool student myself (spoiler alert, it’s a lot different), or if it’s just genuinely as piecemeal-scattered-all-over-the-place as it feels, but I honestly still feel like I still learn more about navigating it all EVERY DAY. If I can do ANYTHING to make that process easier for ANYONE, I’m happy to be here, and share what I know.
So, here’s my take. If it’s done well, it’s hard. (But most things worth doing are!) I can do it – especially when I reach out and connect with others, find community, and live with a lot of grace and communication. It is an amazing experience. We have the opportunity to be deeply connected as a family, and even be, dare I say, friends – all while giving them a high quality education. And that’s something worthwhile.
So, here is my basic, must-have, essential checklist for homeschooling high school.
- Know the homeschooling laws in your state. If you’ve studied your American history, you know there’s this constant back and forth between what things states have a right to individually decide, and what should be decided by the federal government. (To my surprise, when we studied this again this past year, I found that was the actual intention of the founding fathers – all of this back and forth swinging, even between political parties, was intended to keep one particular ideology from controlling the government, policies, and people.) In this case, schooling laws are governed by each state, so each state has different requirements, regulations, guidelines, etc. You should always be in compliance with these. This interactive map of the US is great starting point for finding out what your state requires.
- Find out what your state requires for high school graduation. Each state has a written statute laying out its terms for high school graduation. A simple google search for “__________ (your state) high school graduation requirements” should pull up a link to your state’s official legislature site, which will have the state statute. You can see the Florida statute here. Most states will require at least four high school level math credits, four high school level English credits, three high school level science credits, three social science credits including one credit American History, one credit world history, half credit American government, and half credit economics/financial literacy. Our state additionally requires that one of the math credits be Algebra, and one of the science credits be Biology, two of the sciences to include a significant lab component, at least one credit in the arts, one physical education credit, and eight additional elective credits. It also requires a minimum total credits for graduation.
- Keep a gradebook. I’ll be sharing more on this later, but this is a book where you track and document all of your student’s assignments, work, tests, and evaluations.
- Keep a portfolio. Usually, large tabbed binders that you use to keep all of their work and assignments in one place. You can organize your portfolios by year or by subject, but having all of your student’s work organized in a single spot is an easy way not only to prove the work of your student, but to showcase their progress and talents.
- Plan your curriculum. Planning high school course loads and work is not unlike planning for a college degree. The courses build on each other, and you have all of those requirements that you’re trying to reach. If you work on them year to year and split everything up, it’s fairly simple, but trying to cram things all at once is tough. A lot of high school curriculums offer what’s called a “scope and sequence”. I had no idea what this was when we started, but came to find out that it’s an amazing tool. It basically tells you the range of courses that the curriculum offers (scope), and the order in which the courses need to be taken (sequence). Here’s a link to the scope and sequence for Bob Jones University Press – our program has one that’s given to enrolled students and parents. I also highly recommend trying to find a good fit with your curriculum in ninth grade and sticking with it all the way through. We switched in our son’s junior year, and he had additional credits he needed to pick up because the sequence the curriculums offered was different. Our old curriculum took American Government and Economics in senior year, but our new curriculum has it taken in sophomore year, so we have some swapping and extra things to move around.
- Document your student’s courses and grades by creating a transcript. I’ll be sharing more on this in another post. Your transcripts pull all of your student’s information together in one space regarding the courses taken, grades attained, and their GPA.
There is so much more to all of this – qualifying for scholarships will usually require certain courses, GPA, test results, extra-curricular activities, etc., but this is a really good place to start. And documenting all of your activities and projects are really important for college applications and admissions. But with this list, you’ll be thinking and moving in the right direction, and keeping on track will keep high school from getting stressful.