Let's assume you and your child are confident in the decision to homeschool high school. That's a big step.
Give yourself a pat on the back. (and ignore everyone who keeps telling you they could NEVER homeschool high school!)
You are homeschooling high school so your child can pursue their passions and become their own unique self. You are homeschooling high school because you don't want all of the horrible social pressures traditional high school can bring. You are homeschooling high school to give your child something MORE - something BEAUTIFUL - something tailored to THEIR NEEDS.
Somewhere along the line, however, your child (and YOU) lose the wonder in homeschool. You're checking off boxes and meeting college entrance requirements. Somewhere along the line you forgot these four years are about EDUCATION, not SCHOOLING.
Somewhere along the line you lost YOUR vision for high school and adopted someone else's.
This happened in our homeschool, and I want to tell you how (and why) we're making a big change.
The Blissful Early Years of Homeschool (aka "The Wonder Years")
My oldest had a wonder-filled homeschool experience in the elementary grades.
We have so many fond memories of our days using the Five in a Row curriculum - days where we would take nature walks, bake pies, read aloud, and spend hours and hours lost in an art project.
Then there were the years where The Story of the World was our guide . Wonderful read-alouds, notebooking, and hands-on projects were the staples of our days.
If there was a science topic my daughter was interested in we would research it and find a fun lapbook.
Those were GOOD days. My daughter learned so much and she LOVED learning.
We were so far from what a typical "classroom" looked like, but it didn't matter because I knew there was an abundance of education happening in and out of our home.
The stakes were low in elementary school and I knew we had several years to just soak it all in.
And Then... Middle School
As we got into middle school, adolescence hit - motivation decreased and we needed more accountability and motivation.
These were the years we visited a couple private schools and investigated ALL of our education options. I wondered if I could keep homeschooling through this stage of life. I wondered if my relationship with my daughter could survive it.
Have you been there?
Ultimately, we chose the CC Challenge program in the 7th and 8th grade years - it was an excellent fit for us. (You can read all about our time in Challenge A and B if you'd like.) The "seriousness" of our homeschool was taken up a notch and I felt we were getting the guidance and direction we needed for those years.
Throughout these years my daughter was showing a natural bent towards music (she played the piano and sang in a large children's chorus). She loved volunteering at a local preschool. She was showing some interest in the special needs ministry at our church.
I won't tell you these years were easy, because they weren't. But, I know this time around (as my son approaches 7th grade this year) that these changes are NORMAL - I don't take things so personally, and I am well aware of the turmoil that occurs in children during these years.
As we moved toward high school we had a few doubts about continuing with the Challenge program, but because we had been pleased in Challenge A and B and also because it is just such a beautiful curriculum, we forged ahead and committed to the Challenge years for high school.
I had a nagging feeling that we should maybe step away from Challenge and return our interest led routes, but in all honesty I was fearful: fearful about how I was going to transcript high school, fearful about college admissions, and fearful about how we would compare to everyone else.
(I confronted this fear I had --- even writing a blog post about it -- and felt equipped to tackle the future.)
Homeschool High School: Why MY Plan Didn't Work
My daughter 9th grade year -- Challenge I -- was a year rich in American history, music theory, personal finance, and all of the beautiful things Challenge I had to offer. Her tutor that year was truly a gift and invested a great deal in each student. It was a GOOD year, but I noticed that WONDER of learning was fading.
I assumed this was just part of being a teenager.
I began to notice my daughter spending A LOT of time doing her schoolwork. She didn't have time that year to volunteer at the preschool. Her piano practice suffered. While I knew she was learning a lot of valuable information, I had the nagging feeling we were losing what made Anna uniquely "Anna" in the process.
Once again, I assumed this was just what would happen - it was a natural part of growing up, a natural part of the high school years.
As we made the decision for schooling in 10th grade we decided once again to enroll in Challenge (this time Challenge II) -- most of the children in her group were moving up and it seemed like the logical choice. This was our trajectory for high school.
It was settled.
Anna's 10th grade year in Challenge II was full of beautiful subject matter, but extremely literature intensive. She had always been my child who loved to read, but the volume and intensity of the British Literature in Challenge II virtually killed her love of reading.
I told myself this was probably normal and that she would love reading again one day (or would she?) .
I loved that Anna was learning Latin (we had invested in the Memoria Press online Henle Latin classes and she was doing well - having completed Latin I and Latin II) - but she didn't like Latin and was begging me to take sign language.
Another big thing she WANTED was more of a regular classroom experience. In a very mature thought, she told me if she was accountable to a teacher she would be happier. She longed to have traditional grades and assignments. My normally shy, reserved child (who doesn't like new situations) was requesting to try something NEW.
While she did learn a lot in her 10th grade year, we strove to keep her involved in the things she loved. These loves, however, were always on the fringes of her "education". She was having to fit them in AFTER her regular school work.
As Anna and I sat and talked in the middle of the year, we started contemplating stepping away from Challenge so she could make those LOVES her education. She didn't feel a connection to her education. Somewhere along the line we had lost the wonder, and we BOTH agreed we wanted it back.
Somewhere along the line I had stopped listening to what my daughter wanted and started listening to what others said.
Please don't misunderstand - she learned MANY valuable things in her Challenge years. She is well read, articulate, and well versed in the fine arts. She has a good understanding of Latin and geography. She understands how everything is connected and how God is a part of everything. She can debate skillfully and carry on a beautiful conversation.
There was a definite time and place for her Challenge education. I know many wonderful young people that have schooled all the way through high school with Challenge. It just isn't the plan for us, so we can step away and make a new plan - and that's the beauty of homeschool.
God orchestrates everything for a reason, so I cannot look back and wonder why we made the choices we made.
All I could do was honor my daughter's request for her final high school years.
The "Plan" for 11th Grade
Once the decision was made to NOT return to Challenge III for 11th grade, it seemed like a huge weight was lifted from all of us.
She still needed the required credits for graduation, but we could go about them in a more flexible way.
Anna and I sat down with the high school graduation requirements and also the Music Therapy entrance requirements at a college here in Georgia (Anna would REALLY like to pursue Music Therapy.)
She decided she needed to start learning to play guitar (in addition to piano) to prepare her for Music Therapy. We found a FABULOUS guitar teacher who has done such beautiful things with Anna. She was thrilled that I honored her request to learn guitar - and she has done so much in just a few months! (This is my reserved child that vowed she would never sing alone in front of people.)
She wants to volunteer at a local school for children with special needs.
In speaking to a few college admissions offices I knew that a mixture of AP and dual enrollment classes are a good idea. I started to gain confidence about us designing a junior year that would be rigorous, yet interest led and more full of wonder for Anna.
So, what does this schedule for the coming year look like?
- AP European History (taken through HSLDA Academy)
- AP Language & Composition (taken through Memoria Press Online Academy)
- Pre-Calculus & Trigonometry (taken through Mr. D Math) OR Dual Enrollment College Math
- Chemistry (taken through a local Classical school)
- Sign Language (taken through a local homeschool academy)
- Guitar and piano
- Volunteer work with a special needs club & music ministry and babysitting
Now that we are in the summer before 11th grade, I see a big change in my daughter. Her delight and love of learning have returned. She has her nose stuck in a book again. She's keeping a practice schedule for her piano and guitar, even though it's summer.
I believe she has been freed up to be herself once I removed MY PLAN from her education.
My Advice (For What It's Worth) For Homeschooling High School
My advice to you is this:
Listen to your child.
Listen to your heart.
Pray some more.
Make yourself aware of all of the education options, but please don't be swayed by accreditation. I'm finding being unaccredited actually helps a child stand out during the college admissions process.
Sit down with your child and map out all of the credits they will need. Give them a hand in planning their high school years. Make sure it includes what they love to do. Ensure you are giving them opportunities to shine.
Seek opportunities for other adults to build into your child.
If your child is the type that needs accountability, make sure they have it.
Remind yourself of WHY you started homeschooling in the first place. There is no need to compromise during the home stretch of your journey. There is always a way to work things out if you and your child desire to homeschool.
ENJOY the process. Spend a lot of time with your child - because whether you think so or not, they really crave your attention.
Most importantly, NEVER forget your child's heart.
As I look back on all of the stages of homeschool each one has its highs and lows. Now that we're approaching the end of high school I'm thankful I get to hang out with a really cool kid - a precious gift from God that has been entrusted to me for a short time.
So, that's our story. So many of you have written asking about this. I hope it's answered your questions.
Talk to me about your homeschool high school journey. How is it going?