Homeschool a high schooler vs homeschooling younger grades


I remember the some of the first advice I was given as a new parent. The days of being able to sleep through the night are over.  When they are newborns, they do not sleep through the night. Then they are colicky. Then there are night terrors. When they are teenagers, you are up worrying about them. Are they safe? Are they going to be successful?  Are they involved in illegal drugs and alcohol?  Are they visiting websites like Fair Go Casino?  And most of all, are they just plain happy and healthy and going to be happy and healthy adults.

Some parents homeschool for the younger grades, and send their kids to a formal school for the high school grades.  Others send their kids to a standard school for the younger grades, and homeschool for the high school grades.  Still others, homeschool through all of the grades.  But regardless of which category you family fits into, you if you have a high schooler (or a middle schooler who will soon be approaching high school), you are starting to think about post high school.

The Preschool Years and Homeschooling

Some people describe these years like a bamboo tree.  You don’t see much going on from the outside, but beneath the surface the root structure that is forming the foundation of the tree.  Or you can say it like the poem from the book “Everything I need to Know In Life I Learned in Kindergarten”.

“Play fair, don’t hit people, don’t take things that are not yours, say you’re sorry when you hurt someone … Live a balanced life (work and play) -‐ learn some and think some (always grown) , and draw and paint and sing and dance and play (enjoy life), and work every day some (everybody has to work and have a purpose in life) … watch our for traffic (be safe) … stick together (your friends and family are there for you) … be aware and wonder (pay attention to what is going on around you) … (and of course) milk and cookies make a good after noon snack (treats are okay when combined with healthy foods as well)”

You can read the whole original poem from the book above (without my own commentary in parenthesis).

Or if you take the religious approach, to quote Hillel, “Do to others as you would want them to do to you.”

As for recordkeeping, there are no requirements for recordkeeping at this age, because in most countries, mandatory schooling does not begin until 1st grade or around age 6-7.

Elementary School and Homeschooling (K-8)

By this age range, schooling is mandatory.  Most countries allow homeschooling, but the kind of record keeping that is required depends on local regulations.  On one end of the spectrum, the requirement is, “to meet or exceed a public school education”.  So you have to maintain enough record keeping that if anybody questions if you are homeschooling, that you can demonstrate that the child is getting an education.

Some parents go for a more formal route, essentially doing “school at home”, including homework assignments, quizzes and tests.  While other parents take a more informal route of maintaining a portfolio or journal, either electronically or the traditional paper route.  The most important thing is to demonstrate that growth had occurred.  This can be as simple as showing examples of the child’s math and English skills at the beginning of the school year, and examples of their math and English skills at other various points in the year.

Your local area may also require science, history, art, and music.  But even if they are not required, it is good idea to include them.

Some locations are very strict to a level where the parent has to record minutes and/or days of schooling.  Others require an educational plan to be submitted once a year or once every two years.  The ones that are the most strict usually have homeschooling groups where a person can get help getting through the government red tape.

A lot of public schools publish their curriculum online.  Since these are documents that were created with your local tax dollars they are considered in the public domain.  In other words, either they will be published automatically on their website or you could just ask for them.  In most states in the United States, it is forbidden for a school district to deny any tax paying citizen the right to see the official school curriculum.

There are also publish curriculums, sequences, or recommendations (whatever you want to call them).  Here are few for your own reference.

  • Core Knowledge Sequence —  A sequence of topics for grades K-8, including a topic outline, month by month planner, daily planner, teacher’s handbooks, copies of artwork, CDs for music, worksheets, and even lesson plans that have bee submitted from other teachers.  This does not include math and English, because those are skills based and not topic based.
  • Common Core State Standard Initiative – Covers math and English, but not history, science, art, and music

The combination of those two will tell you what you need to teach for grade K-8.  Then you need to figure out how you want to teach it.  There are several main approaches that people take.

  • School at home – Essentially copy the standard schoolroom model, but do it at home.  You can buy everything in one box, including even the pens and pencils.
  • Unit Study – You follow unit topics and then try to connect all of the subjects into that unit.  The Core Knowledge Sequence in some ways follows this method.  When Ancient Greece is being learned in History, stories from Ancient Greece are learned in English class.  Gym has a mock Olympics.  Music may teach the music from the Olympics.  Art will focus on art from Ancient Greece and architectures from Ancient Greece .  Science may focus on how buildings were built in Ancient Greece.
  • Montessori Method – Hands on approach.  In the younger grades, hands on with manipulatives is used a lot more.  In middle school, it may still be used, but a lot less.
  • Charlotte Mason – Uses “Living Books”.  Living books is the concept of using a regular book that was written by somebody who has a love for the topic, as opposed to traditional textbooks.  There is also the concept of breaking up the day between fixed classes (required topics, traditional learning) during the morning, and the afternoon that is more what some people call unschooling or student lead learning.
  • Unschooling – Student lead learning.
  • Inverse classroom – Where the student uses videos for the “lesson”, and then the time with the teacher, or parent in homeschooling, is more like a tutoring session.  Instead of homework being done at home, the lesson, through video is done at home, and the school time is when the student does the “homework” with the teacher right there to help with any questions or problems.

High School and Homeschooling

In terms of how to teach a child, most of the approaches that are used during the elementary school grades can be applied to high school.  Even the Montessori Method of hands on learning, but most people usually call it labs or projects in traditional schools.

The record keeping is the main area that is different.  In terms of the local government, it is usually not different.  The main difference is that at the end of the road you need to be able to convince a person at a college that the student education was taken seriously and it was at a level where the student is ready to handle college level work.

This is the approach that I took.  Others may have a different approach.

Pick a school district that you respect, and figure out what information do the provide to the public.  When a student applies to college, what information does the college ask the student to submit to the college.

  • Course Catalog – Public information in most districts that have a good reputation.
  • High School Transcript – What is submitted the college
  • Textbooks or other resources that the school uses – Not generally published publicly, but pretty easy to figure out with some phone calls and internet searches.  Most colleges can easily figure out which textbooks which schools are using and the general education of the students graduating from those schools, especially in public colleges serving local areas.
  • Course syllabus – A little more detailed than  1 paragraph course description.  Tells what was used to determine the final grade.

So when you begin your high school record keeping, those are the three main areas of documentation that you want to easily be able to produce for the college that you are applying to.  Some  colleges may say that they want a course syllabus, because that is what colleges call the detailed document for each course.  But generally the title of the course, a short description of what was taught, resources that were used (textbooks or other resources), and what the final grade was.  For courses that are related to the area the child wants to study, they may also want to know how the grade was determined.

High School, What Topics are taught

Generally for most people the main topics will fall into the following main categories:

  • Math
  • Science
  • History, Geography, Civics
  • English

Most schools usually require something along the following:

  • Fine arts or practical arts
  • Physical education and health education

Other districts might have their requirements.  For example, Niles Township in Illinois requires consumer education and public speaking.

Then, of course, there are electives.  Some students may bounce around, trying to figure out what they are interested in.  While other students find a path they are interested in, and start taking a sequence of course to help lead them down their chosen educational path.

High School and the Course Catalog

The course catalog is a document that describes, in general terms the name of the course, a paragraph description of the course, how many credit hours the course if worth, and any prerequisites the student must complete before taking the course.

Here are a couple of schools that provide their course catalog as a public document.  You can look at them to determine how to create your own.  Unless you know you are changing something, you can just copy and paste the course description into your own document.  If you are following an online video course, you can do the same thing.

  • Niles Township District 219 Course Catalog (Illinois)
  • Edison Township High School Program of Study (New Jersey)
  • Brooklyn Technical High School Course Descriptions (New York)

The first two are single documents that generally contain the following information:

  • Requirements for graduation.  What is the minimum number of credits (years) a student needs to study history, science, math, English, etc. in order for the student to be considered to have graduated from that public school.  Some of these are state requirements, but most district add onto this for their own district.
  • What is considered an A, B, C, D, or F.
  • Does the school use a weighted system.  The three levels are usually regular (academic), accelerated (faster pace), Honors (does something above and beyond the regular textbook requirements/sequence), or AP (advanced placement, college level learning in high school).  A transcript usually submitted to a college includes both the weighted and unweighted grade point average.
  • The course listing for each major subject.  What courses were required and what were electives.  The title of the course.  The level of the course (academic, accelerated, honors, or AP (Advanced Placement, college level work).  One paragraph description of the course.  Any prerequisites.  Sometimes, what comes after the course in a sequence of courses.

Remember that requirements for college will most likely be different than the base requirements of the school district.

High School and Course Syllabus

Brooklyn Technical High School publishes course syllabuses instead of a single course catalog.  This includes course description, materials, number of tests, and how the grade is determined.

Either approach is acceptable.