Can I Homeschool High School?
Yes! You can homeschool high school!
Many homeschoolers who are comfortable homeschooling in the younger grades question their ability when it comes to high school. “Things are a breeze when kids are little!” they say. After all, it is easy enough to teach a child their ABCs, count to 10, and learn shapes, right? Reading time with your little first grader snuggled up on your lap looking at a book together is blissful. And you don’t have to worry about ACTs, high school transcripts, or college admissions. Oh, for those idyllic days of homeschooling simplicity!
Of course, the truth is not so straightforward. There are pros and cons to everything. Teaching little children can be easy in terms of content, but issues like behavior and attention present their own unique challenges. We also tend to wax nostalgic about homeschooling the younger years because our children were little, sweet, and adorable. We miss that as they get older.
However, the reality is that homeschooling young children requires more energy. This is because you need to be much more engaged for the elementary years. As we say in education, teaching elementary requires more “time on task” since young children don’t possess the discipline to work as independently like older children.
Viewed from this perspective, homeschooling high school is simpler. Yes, you read that right! But how can this be? There are a variety of reasons. Here are six different ways that homeschooling high school is simpler, easier, and less of a hassle than you think!
Self-directedness is the ability to know what one ought to be doing and do it without external compulsion. A self-directed person does not always need to be told what to do.
In general, who possesses more self-direction, a 16-year old, or a 6-year old? Who is more likely to say “I’m bored” five times a day? Who is more likely to make a mess and not clean it up? Who can’t be left home alone unsupervised? Who needs to be constantly reminded about what they need to be doing lest they forget?
Younger children possess less self-direction than high schoolers. High school students are much easier in this regard. They are better at keeping a schedule without having to be reminded constantly. They can assess what they are supposed to do and get it done on their own. And best of all, they can work unsupervised.
Obviously some high schoolers struggle with this, but in general older students possess more self-direction than their younger counterparts. They will still need your guidance and input on how to user a planner and keep a schedule. However, you do not need to expend as much energy managing the minutiae of your high schooler’s daily routine—and that’s great news for you!
2. Better Study Habits
Study habits are actions students regularly perform to accomplish the task of learning. They are effective or ineffective depending upon whether they serve the students well. Examples of study habits are reading, taking notes, working in groups, or studying for a test.
It takes a long time to develop effective study habits. For example, think about the act of reading a textbook for comprehension. It sounds simple, but there is a lot of skill that go into learning from a textbook! First, the student needs to be able to simply read the text and understand the raw meanings of the words. Then they need to be able to use textual cues like section headers and topic sentences to understand the main point of what they are reading. They will need to be able to use context to figure the meanings of new vocabulary words. The student will also need to know how to read undistracted and take notes for maximum retention.
How do children learn to do all this? It doesn’t just come naturally. It takes years of practice to develop effective study habits. A high school student is going to be far more experienced with positive study habits than a younger one. Better study habits mean study is more productive (i.e., less time can be spent studying, leaving more room for living life). They also increase a student’s confidence, competence, and self-esteem. These are all more realized in a high school student than a young child who is only beginning his educational journey.
3. Focused on the Future
High schoolers are more focused on the future than younger students. While young children do not think about graduation and college, high school students have begun to contemplate their lives after school—will they go to college? If so, where? What will they study there? What will they do with their lives?
This means a high schooler has an elevated sense of the seriousness of their studies. Elementary children—God bless them!—are innocent about why they are learning. They are simply told “Today we are learning multiplication”, and they go along.
High schoolers think more about why they must complete their studies, relative to their plans. Perhaps they want to get accepted to a certain college program or test out of some general ed requirements. Maybe they want to maintain a certain GPA for military enlistment. It could be something like “Mom said I have to do well in math if I want to go to summer camp.”
Whatever the rationale, you will find your high schooler possesses more focus than younger students. They take their course work more seriously, which means you won’t have as much head butting with them over why they should be studying.
4. Can Access Online Resources
We homeschoolers tend to have a love-hate relationship with the Internet. On the one hand, it puts the entirety of human knowledge and experience at our fingertips—an inestimable blessing for any home education program. On the other hand, it also puts the entirety of human vice and ignorance at our fingertips—a regrettable fact every parent must reckon with. Its value and universality mean we can scarcely do without it, while its less savory aspects mean it should only be accessed with great caution.
Thankfully, high schoolers are much more capable of utilizing the Internet than younger children. Of course, proper safeguards and oversight need to be in place whenever any child goes online. Even so, high schoolers can use the Internet with greater effectiveness. They can access and read emails from their tutors on their own. They can use search engines to do research with minimal assistance. And they have begun to develop a sense for what are and are not reliable sources of information. They have greater technological capabilities than younger children.
5. Capable of Independent Study
For me, this is the major benefit of homeschooling high school: the high schooler’s capacity for independent study. It is an exhilarating feeling when you wake in the morning to find your 10th grader is already up getting a head start on the day’s math. Or when you can go grocery shopping and trust your 12th grader to complete his history reading while you are gone. Or when your junior works through her science project quietly while you are helping your younger children with their phonics lessons.
This definitely makes things easier on you! When your children get to a place where they do a lot of their work on autopilot, that’s a great feeling! Second, independent learning enables your high schooler to take ownership of his or her own education. And that’s ultimately the end goal of all our educational endeavors—to get our children to the point where they are willing and able to educate themselves.
If your teen is struggling with independent study, consider working with an accountability mentor. This can be a local parent or you can use a service like Professional Mentoring Associates, a Catholic homeschool service.
6. They Are More Responsible
This sixth point is really a summation of everything we’ve reviewed thus far—homeschooling high school is easier because high schoolers are simply more responsible than young children. This responsibility means more of the nuts n’ bolts of homeschooling can be assumed by the teenager as they approach graduation. As your child grows into a teen, he or she is equipped to actively engage in their education.
Include your teens in your homeschool decision-making and course planning. Give them the opportunity to exercise their growing responsibility for their own benefit and for yours!
Bonus: Online and Co-op Classes
Part of being a good homeschooler is knowing when to ask for outside help. There are countless resources to help you teach upper-level coursework. One of the biggest objections to homeschooling high school is the difficulty of the coursework. Don’t hesitate to utilize online and local co-op classes to help you homeschool your teen.
Here are homeschooling high school resources to help you in this endeavor:
- Free Transcript and Record Keeping Forms
- Online Homeschool Classes for Catholics
- Catholic Teen Accountability Mentoring
- Life After High School Discernment
- Catholic Homeschooling Podcast
If you’d like to continue this discussion, I invite you to join us at our Catholic homeschool community.