Welcome to the month-long series “Homeschool HIGH SCHOOL Made Easy,” a follow-up to the popular “Homeschool Made Easy” series (now published on kindle). I’m sharing tips from my experience as a homeschool graduate and homeschool mother, showing YOU how easy and enjoyable these high school years can be for you and your teen. Be sure to sign up for the entire series so you don’t miss a thing!
I spent a lot of time in Homeschool Made Easy explaining how to find your teaching style and how to identify your student’s learning style. These two concepts are separate. Your teaching style is they way you communicate with your children, the style of teaching you naturally gravitate toward, the materials you find easiest to use. You may be a hands-on, crafty, creative mom who dreams of dioramas and lapbooks and who starts every lesson with “let’s go to Hobby Lobby!” If so, you’re nothing like me. I’m an avid book collector and easily lapse into lecturing and waving my hands in the air to magically waft the knowledge into small brains, and I’d love to start every lesson with “let’s go to the museum!”
Often times our homeschool angst comes from watching other moms at the co-op (or stalking them on facebook) and beating ourselves up for not homeschooling like they do. But sister, you aren’t me and I ain’t you, and neither one of us should be teaching our children the exact same way. We have different skills and talents and personalities and backgrounds that lend themselves to teaching different ways. “You do your homeschool,” to borrow a popular cliche.
The same thing is true of our students. They each have their own way of approaching new problems (and all of learning is a new problem!). Rarely should we need to force a student to learn a standardized way. Instead, if we can help him find his best way of tackling new subjects, we can give our student a valuable problem-solving tool for the rest of his life!
So if, like me, you love Venn diagrams, you can imagine a big circle of your teaching style and another big circle of your student’s learning style. And right where they overlap is that really special, yummy, beautiful sweet spot that is your family’s unique learning culture. That’s where you want to live Monday through Friday, if at all possible.
Find Your Homeschool Teaching Style and Your Homeschool High School Student’s Learning Style
Ok, so how to find that special little bubble of beauty, that wonderland of teaching and learning awesomeness that is where your teaching style and your student’s learning style intersect? Let’s start with you.
Homeschool Teaching Styles
Up to this point, you may or may not have been very conscious of your teaching style. So let’s take a moment to pay attention to what we’re doing here.
In traditional classroom learning, there are many different recognized teaching styles. The common ones include authoritative (tell them), demonstrative (show them), facilitative (clear a path for them), and delegative (answer them). But homeschooling, a primarily one-on-one educational model, has developed different teaching styles. Most homeschoolers are more familiar with a few of the most popular styles, though there are myriads more.
And most homeschool families will experiment with several different styles before settling on a hybrid of teaching methods that fits their own family best. I know I sure did. We were very traditional at first, then we morphed into Charlotte Mason and nearly unschooled before settling into a loose classical style. Lots of high school homeschoolers are very passionate about their way of doing high school. Their co-op, their online class, their curriculum, their CLEP classes, their dual credit courses are the only way to go – for them. Remember that as you smile and nod and say, “I’m so happy you found a great plan for you!”
Remember, homeschooling is easy when we prioritize our focus (love God, love others) and communicate the way God enables us uniquely. Find your why and communicate it your way. Don’t ever feel pressured that any one style is better than another or that there is one right way of teaching your child. God disciples each of us personally, doesn’t He? Whatever method(s) fit your family culture best, use that to the best of your ability. With confidence. And coffee. Lots of coffee.
This is your style if you want your lesson plans already laid out for you, scripted, with matching worksheets and pre-made tests and answer keys. And no matter what your homeschool style from preschool through middle school, you are likely to use traditional textbook method for at least some of high school.
This style seems to have a bad rap with a lot of homeschoolers, but that’s their hang-up, not yours. Use what works for you. You will likely feel more confident teaching with traditional textbooks if you need that list of things to do each day to feel like you are homeschooling right or if you prefer to hand something to your teen and let him manage his own academics.
Make it easy – Micro-manage his assignments less and less after his freshman year, noticing how well he performs. By sophomore or junior year, you should be able to simply tell him when his tests will be given and let him decide how much studying he’ll do and how he’ll do it. Remember that mastery of the material (and the grades to prove it) is the goal for high school, not completing every question or example. If that helps him learn, then great. But if he just needs to work through a little bit and he has it, then more power to him!
If you are looking for textbooks that make planning and accountability super-easy, are thorough in content, and simple to understand and use, check out Master Books. (see MasterBooks.com)
By junior or senior year, your student may be responsible enough to plan out his own course entirely. Tell him when you have scheduled the course deadline for his final grade, then let him tell you when to give him each test. That way he could even finish early if he wishes!
Key thought — Let the student customize his own course and even deadlines.
This is your style if you believe in letting your student choose his educational path, letting his natural curiosity ignite his love for learning. Sometimes called delight-directed learning or even child-led learning, this style is known for a lack of curriculum, plan, or structure.
This is the only style of teaching, quite frankly, that I have a problem with. It’s a philosophical issue: I firmly believe it is the parent’s responsibility to guide, direct, and train the child, not vice versa. However, I have followed a quasi-unschooled approach during periods of family stress and serious illness. And we didn’t immediately get struck by lightning. Also, if there is ever a time to lean toward unschooling, the early years is the time. Unschoolers have the edge on making learning fun, natural, and organic to our daily lives, which is the entire purpose of the early learning years. So there is something for all of us to learn from unschooling. Many unschoolers switch to more traditional textbooks in high school for an objective measurement of mastery.
If you are an unschooler, now is time to tighten up your educational plan. How are you going to document and measure learning for high school? What proof of achievement can you show colleges and employers? What standards will you use for each course completion and for graduation?
If you are transitioning to a more traditional or textbook standard of education for high school, most of that will be covered for you. Just be aware of these big changes for your student so you can help him adjust.
Even if you wish to remain unschooling through graduation, your student’s college plans may affect your courses. If he wishes to pursue higher education, this is a great time for you to help him learn what his professors will expect of him in the classroom (or online courses). Help him master test taking, essays, and research reports, and make him turn in projects on deadlines. He needs to become accustomed to documenting how and what he has learned.
Make it easy — If you did not begin transitioning toward textbooks during middle school, be aware of the difficulties your high school freshman may experience adjusting to the new style. Help him develop study skills early so he can enjoy more independence later in high school.
Key thought — Plan, measure, and document.
Charlotte Mason and Classical
If you know what a real book is (and your bookshelves are full of them), you prize discipline as a necessary virtue, and you can tell if your child understands by conversing with him, you are Charlotte Mason. Ok, maybe that’s not your name, but you are a follower of her teaching methods. The Charlotte Mason style encourages gentle teaching for the early years with a careful eye toward character development and communication. What’s not to love?
If you yearn to synchronize your subjects together — history, literature, writing, the arts — and study everything as a whole, if homeschooling means the humanities, if the answer to every question is a history lesson, if you love drawing connections through your subjects across the span of time, if the idea of teaching all your children together in four-year cycles of world studies makes your heart flutter, then you are likely a classical homeschooler. With or without the Latin.
By high school, Charlotte Mason students very closely resemble relaxed classical teens, so I’ve grouped them together. And high school studies are rewarding for all these students. At last, after years of working hard to memorize facts and outlining events in their timelines, these students can put together all the lessons they have been learning, and examine the unified themes running through all their subjects, and communicate their own carefully considered beliefs. They begin applying the lessons from the past to the challenges of the present. They are more articulate and mature in their thinking, so discussions are thought-provoking and interesting.
If you have been teaching in a classical or Charlotte Mason style for a few years, your teen has likely been moving toward independent learning since middle school. In that case, the transition to high school isn’t very difficult. The hard part for him is tackling weightier subject matter, heavier reading, and longer writing assignments. But, hey, that’s his problem, not yours! ha!
By this point, you should be able to meet with your student for about one or two hours once a week for each subject. Beyond that, he should be preparing for each class time with you by completing a week’s worth of assignments, reading, and writing. So your job is just to help him with corrections and to keep him going in the right direction.
Make it easy — Sit down with your teen before the academic year starts to discuss each subject — what will be required, what resources he’ll use, and how the grades will be determined. Work together on a schedule for class times, when you will meet together for discussion, correction, and tests. Then hold him accountable for being prepared for each class.
Key thought — Let him take charge of his learning.
Maybe you aren’t really any one style but rather take ideas from several different methods for your own. I personally am several different styles, depending on the subject matter! We are fairly classical for the humanities and pretty textbook for the sciences. The longer you homeschool, the more comfortable you will be making your homeschool style your own. And that’s the secret to success in anything.
The key to high school success is simple:
- let your student take responsibility for his learning
- find objective measurements for grading each class
- document his learning
- hold him responsible with painfully honest grades
Keep it simple — Remember that at this point your teen is responsible for his own grades, not you. It’s hard not to take his failings personally, but his failures are so important to his own learning. Don’t get in the way of that. Dock his paper for being late. Use a consistent rubric for grading his papers. Let him know how his grades are averaging out so he can work himself to bring them up.
Key thought — Let your student earn his grades.
High School Learning Styles
Let’s take a closer look at learning styles. The discussion of learning styles either simplifies things for you or makes you feel guilty. I used to be in the latter camp. My gut reaction to learning style theory was to feel anxious that I was not properly igniting my child’s passion in his own educational language. You know, that I’m not teaching right feeling. But that’s just not the truth.
Instead, learning style theory is designed to make us feel more empowered — and our students more empowered — to learn the way they learn best. The basic idea of learning styles is that everyone gravitates toward one or two ways to learn new things, strategies that help us understand and utilize new information easily. It’s one of many educational models; there are other ways of looking at how we learn. But this is one model that is easy for both teachers and students to understand, so it is popular for homeschoolers to turn to learning styles when overcoming learning roadblocks, in particular. My favorite book on learning styles is The Way They Learn.
So there are three basic learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. In a nutshell, visual learners learn by reading, looking at diagrams, and even writing what they are thinking about. They learn by seeing. Non-verbal communication is very important to visual learners (I have a hard time talking on the phone because I’m such a visual learner!). Auditory learners prefer to listen, discuss, and recite to aid understanding and memorization. They learn by hearing. And kinesthetic learners (as well as most teen boys who drive their mothers crazy) learn with hands-on experiments, making messes, trial-and-error, experimentation, and anything that involves not thinking ahead to the consequences. They learn by doing.
If you have more than one kinesthetic learner in your house, I will add you to my daily prayer list. If you are a kinesthetic learner yourself, I love you very much, but I cannot understand anything about you (yes, dear husband, I’m looking at you).
Now, learning styles should be a blessing when we don’t use them to berate ourselves for not teaching to our student’s favorite style every day. That’s my hang-up, please don’t adopt it as yours. Instead, we should be empowered that our teen can find an avenue for loving learning. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday and for years to come.
Whether your student recognizes his learning style or not, you will need to help your teen figure out how to tackle difficult high school subjects. You want to teach your student so much more than simply how to survive this one assignment or even how to ace this test. The more important lessons are how to endure difficult courses, how to learn and apply the challenging material, and how to learn independently. Those are the lessons that will last a lifetime.
So while you may be giving gentle reminders and encouragement to your high school freshman, by the senior year your student should be applying his own learning style and studying on his own successfully.
Here are some ways many high school students and even adults apply their learning style independently:
- research and study at the library
- collect a personal library of resources
- google for more information and illustrations
- subscribe to industry magazines
- take notes during lectures to retain more information
- read and study alone, asking questions only when necessary
- attend lecture or discussion to learn new information
- listen to audio books
- join a performance group
- seek out professionals and other trusted advisors for help
- repeat/recite new information to internalize it
- walk, jog, or bounce a ball while thinking about new concepts
- spread out supplies, materials, and resources while learning
- create hands-on projects or experiments to test knowledge and application
- create reminders, routines, and sensory triggers to remember important tasks or information
Many kinesthetic learners enter high school and college thinking they are worse students than their peers. This is a grave error. While many high school and college courses are designed to maximize the natural strengths of auditory and visual learners, kinesthetic students win every time at application. This isn’t intuitively obvious to students, however, and they need more encouragement to find their edge. The truth is that adulthood is about applying what you know. Encourage your teen to put into practice everything he’s learning as quickly as possible, whether that is tutoring, helping younger siblings with their work, presenting mini-reports, completing projects, volunteering in the community, or even getting a job. As he sees his success putting his education to work, he’ll be motivated to continue doing his best.
Ok, now it’s your turn:
What is your teaching style? And what is your teen’s learning style? Have you found that sweet spot where they connect?
Leave me a comment below!
This article contains affiliate links to help support this site, but all recommendations are products I actually use and love. I am not a legal expert on graduation requirements in any state; please do your own research and plan accordingly.