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!
Well, it’s time to finally talk about something controversial: classes for homeschool teens. I’ve read a lot about what kinds of classes are available for homeschoolers, how to make the most of opportunities, and even how to earn college credit with high school courses. But I don’t see people talking about the basic question we need to consider first: why should homeschool students take these classes?
Because when we stop and think about it, we are homeschoolers, right? That means we have decided for one reason or another to remove our students from the traditional classroom and educate them counter-culturally. And now we’re looking for ways to put them back into a class? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at first.
(Don’t get mad yet. Stay with me. I may not be concluding the way you imagine. Actually, you might understand this entire article better if you read this one first.)
What’s more, the biggest push for homeschool high school classwork is dual credit, the opportunity for high school students to earn college credit while taking the very same high school courses required for graduation. So as high school students, they take college courses at the local community college. Classes taught by secular instructors in secular classrooms filled with (by and large) secular twenty-somethings. And that’s where we send our 14, 15, and 16-year-olds.
Because we aren’t sending them to public school . . . why?
But it’s super tempting. When my oldest was in middle school, I had every intention of dual-crediting him all the way through high school. Who wouldn’t want their 17-year-old to graduate from high school and college — BAM — at the same time? That’s so totally awesome! And as a homeschooled teen who graduated a year early just to prove I could do it, dual credit sounded like a challenge with my name all over it.
It’s tempting to believe I can do all things because I’m just smarter than the average bear rather than to rely on the Lord
Then life happened. My son turned fourteen, it was time to start high school, and he had no desire whatsoever to accelerate his learning. Actually, getting the bare minimum done was more than he aspired to do (teens! go figure!). What’s more, neither he nor I felt like he was mature enough to handle college coursework.
Also, I had another concern on my hands. I had met enough homeschool graduates to know that young men who had never learned outside their own four walls faced another big temptation — intellectual arrogance. After learning and researching and achieving so much independently, it’s tempting to believe I can do all things because I’m just smarter than the average bear rather than to rely on the Lord. I wanted him to learn mental humility — the ability to learn from others, the understanding that one person can’t know it all, and the submission to follow instructions, formats, and requirements of other teachers.
And I was just plain tired. Let’s be honest, homeschooling four children can wear a mother out. When she starts going through puberty with more than one of them, she’s about done in. Pray for the homeschool mom near you.
So for all those reasons, I told my husband it was probably time to put our son into a couple of classes. David was all for it from the beginning, but we still discussed it to make sure we knew why we were making this decision and how it lined up with our family values:
- to support our family’s educational values (teaching them to love God, love others, and work hard),
- to teach the student how to learn from teachers not related to him by blood,
- to prepare him mentally for the rigors of college ahead, and
- to give new insights, new understanding, new opportunities not available from my teaching.
Once we had those priorities clarified, it was immediately clear what classes we would choose. I wanted to get him into an online discussion with a good literature teacher that used our same curriculum that guides our humanities studies: Tapestry of Grace. I found they offered online classes that utilized discussion in a small group to reinforce the literary principles he would be learning. He would be graded on his participation in class (and that teacher was a tough grader! He had to really offer detailed analysis!) and on his presentations to the group (another opportunity I couldn’t provide at home).
My son also asked if he could take science classes online from a “real scientist.” So I found classes that he took for three years online. It was his hardest class each year, but not his best. He did learn something valuable: he didn’t want to be a scientist after all.
If we make sure we knew WHY we are homeschooling, we will know how to line everything else up with our family values
So my daughter is taking one online class: that same literature course. After taking science online last year, she opted to study on her own (and she’s actually doing better). She does have a desire to take dual credit courses at some point, but her father and I have pointed out these points above. Any classes she takes in high school outside our own homeschooling must fulfill those requirements. In that case, dual credit at the local community college does not support our family’s values, so that would be a step backward away from our homeschool why. She may choose to pursue dual credit online through an accredited Christian institution later.
Now, here’s the bottom line: most of my friends don’t necessarily agree with me on the issue of homeschool high school classes. All the homeschool mommies I know use a combination of online and co-ops and dual credit, and they are very happy with their decision. I’m not standing in judgment over them because I’m too busy chasing my own tail over here. I even have friends who run their own co-ops. More power to them. In most of those cases, I know those moms have found classes that support their own homeschool why. And that, my friend, is the entire point.
If you are weighing the pros and cons of homeschool high school classes, pray over these things for a bit. Then sit down with your husband over a burrito bowl and bag of chips and talk through your family’s why, the priorities that drive your homeschool forward. Then you will find the solution that fits you best.