St Gabriel Windows

St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homeschooling High School, can you mess it up? (part I)

Is this a trick question?  Ha, it is a serious pondering.  I read another blog recently (a Charlotte Mason affiliated one), and as much as I hold Charlotte Mason dear to my heart and use many of her methods, I was very disappointed by what I read to be advice on home schooling through high school in a Charlotte Mason manner.  Basically, someone had written in to ask the question regarding their 14 yr old student and how reluctant this student was toward school,  and could they [parent] mess up high school doing it the Charlotte Mason way…?  The blogger pretty much answered, no, they really couldn’t.  And then went on to describe a student led course of studies, not particularly formative or rigorous (not for college preparation anyway;  more on that later) and to be honest, I cringed.
This gave me pause.
The truth be told: indeed, you can mess up homeschooling in high school.  Not trying to frighten you off. And I suppose it depends on what you/student are wishing to get out of it.  A college preparation?  A high school education only?  Yes, it does depend ….
As a veteran of home schooling through high school into college, I’m here to say that YES, you can also achieve it, quite wonderfully at that, and unfortunately, you can really mess it up in many ways.  I have seen others do both. I have seen those using Charlotte Mason and doing a wonderful job and successfully navigating college.  But there are a lot of myths out there also.  High school is not the time to experiment with methods and curricula but rather, a time to “get the job done” and choose an appropriate course of studies that will both serve as formative for your student and meet the state’s requirements for graduation, and provide acceptable college requirements. 
(Let me also mention, it takes a rare student of unschooling to make it to and do well in college – it can be possible, but it’s not usual and it’s certainly not the majority of those home schooled.  Also ACT/SAT scores are a big determining factor in substantial scholarship monies to students – the bigger the score, generally the bigger the scholarship, with a solid GPA and college ready high school transcript to back it all up).
Okay, really I’m not up to writing a book on this subject, in fact, there is likely a book already written.  But having home schooled for nearly 18 years now and launched two of my children into a liberal arts college, I feel I have something to offer and say about this topic.  It will likely come in Parts I, & II at least, and will be based solely on my own experience in this area.
Any inkling toward failure in homeschooling high school is highly avoidable, that’s the GOOD NEWS! You of course, need a plan.  Primarily, the plan needs to be your own commitment to excellence in your home schooling endeavor as the parent, of course you and your student BOTH have to have an active part, but you the parent will be the guidance counselor, the facilitator, the cheerleader, (you must be…) and you will need what I call the TWO most important things about homeschooling that will guide your curriculum choices, methodology and rigor:
1) If you know your child is planning to attend college and college is the goal, give them the best education in the home as possible, so they will be ready for college level work.
2) If you don’t think your child is necessarily going to attend college, and college is not the goal, just a high school education is…..still divert to #1 and give them the best education possible in the home, because THIS WILL BE THEIR ONLY EDUCATION – if the buck stops here, then make it the best one possible before they leave the nest.  You never know if they will decide to pick up their college education later, many years down the road. 
In a word:  prepare them for college whether they are going or not.
Now, that’s just my opinion.  It is what I have and will continue to do with my own children.  I understand others who might be thinking in terms of, my child is NOT college material.  It would still be in the interest of that student for you to pursue college preparatory standards.  There are many wonderful and highly doable programs and curriculum choices available to get this job done.

First things first.  Realize that you have to be very active in home schooling your high school student. This isn’t the time to take a backseat and let them “be independent”, “be mature.”  Yes, yes, you WANT THEM TO BE.  I understand.  But understand this,  chances are like most high school teens, they will be neither of these in 9th grade.
While high school is a time they should be developing independent habits in education, it isn’t a time for you to back off entirely or become lax in guiding them.  It’s time to step up to the plate even more.   In fact, the more guidance, the better. The more experience you bring into it, the better.  YOU went through high school already, they haven’t.  Don’t let them think they can just do “whatever.”  I know parents that have let junior choose their own curriculum and path for high school, thinking because they chose it, and are most interested in it, there will be less argument about their studies and they will succeed in it.  This has not been the case.  It usually turns out that this student isn’t doing nearly the quality or quantity of work necessary for credits or to cover required subjects.  Don’t let regular teenage angst lead you to believe the “curriculum” isn’t working for them – yes, maybe you need to tweak here and there.  But the truth is, most teens will put up a fuss in some area….I had a son that was eons behind in his Latin, English grammar and Algebra I as a freshman; and it was a battle believe me.  He did these subjects well into the summer months to have them at least completed enough to justify a grade and credit.  (two-thirds usually needs to be completed).    By the time he was a senior, he was excelling…by the time we looked at colleges, and a liberal arts college with a traditional art program was decided upon that included all the courses that struck his fancy, like philosophy, religion, literature…he received an abundant scholarship for both academic achievement and art proficiency.

A lot can change in three years; just because one year isn’t going well in high school, doesn’t mean it’s a wash…don’t throw in the towel.  But use that year’s experience to re-group, re-think your courses and what needs to be done in both the student and the resources.
Now, it’s not a bad idea to allow your student to be part of choosing courses, within reason.  There is a general college preparatory course of studies that needs to be addressed.  Math 4 years, English 4 years, Science 3-4 years, etc.,  Your child might really want to explore further some specialized subject, and maybe it will qualify for an elective and can be placed on their transcript.  That is all perfectly fine as long as those regular main courses that are required and are what colleges are looking for, are on there also.
What if your student says, I don’t know WHAT I want to do in college?  Frankly, I have told my own children, that’s fine not to know, let’s get you started there anyway and see what you may end up liking most when you get there and begin to be expose to the general courses.  Because we have only stuck to Liberal Arts colleges, a liberal arts degree track is a sensible choice.
                                 ~ End of Part I, watch for Part II soon~

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section.


Chris said...

Thanks, Denise:)
Great tips..looking fwd to Pt 2...

Love ya

Home School Mom: Denise said...

Hopefully will have Part II up by tomorrow....;)
thanks for reading! Hope it helps those needing some tips.
XOXOX Denise

Lisa said...

Good tips! I guess I tend toward that more "interest-led" learning because I was a classroom teacher for a lot of years. I saw the waste of teaching to the test. It has failed. Our nation's children are poor achievers and getting worse every year. Teaching to the standardized tests stifles curiousity, creativity and imagination. Those are the things that I feel need to be encouraged and fostered in our children for them to truly succeed in our society. The world's best authors, doctors, scientists and inventors would tell you that their own learning styles had to be understood and encouraged and they had to have freedom to imagine and create. And, lately I have felt that some have the "Hs" mixed up. My vocation, I believe is to get them to Heaven, not Harvard. :-) I still am trying to undo the damage that traditional schooling did to them and just to replicate that at home is becoming less and less my style as time goes on. Does it mean my kids won't go to college? I don't think so. I have multiple college degrees, so I am not down on them, at all, but I am also practical and the way our society is collapsing economically (not even counting spiritually), the way we prepare our children with practical skills and allow them to develop entrepreneurial skills can make all of the difference for their future. God bless, Lisa

Home School Mom: Denise said...

Thanks for your input Lisa. Good food for thought! It's very different to take your children out of school and undo as you say. Within homeschooling, by it's very nature, children have more time for interest-led learning and that is a built-in perk :) I don't agree in teaching to the tests at all, but there are many homeschooling who do not use enough of an academic standard to even be successful with the basics on the tests, unfortunately. Of course, this is true of many attending schools as well....The bottom line: someone has to care and take an interest in the education of children, it makes sense that if they are your children, you should be the one doing that :) It sounds like you are doing a very good job of it!