Homeschool: Preparing for Graduation

Are you feeling unqualified to teach your child because you don’t have a teaching degree? You’re not alone. However, you don’t need to be a qualified teacher to homeschool. Homeschool curricula are crafted for parents like us without teaching degrees. Think of yourself more as a facilitator than a traditional teacher. 

Remember, homeschooling is an extension of parenting. It’s not about standing in front of a whiteboard, lecturing. It’s about guiding your child through life’s lessons, much like you did when teaching them to walk or make a sandwich. 

Our approach to homeschooling doesn’t confine learning to a desk or a specific room. We embrace the flexibility of learning anywhere – from our back porch to our minivan. This freedom is one of the joys of homeschooling. So, if you’re ready to learn alongside your kids, you’re more than qualified to homeschool. 

Exploring External Teaching Options 

Homeschooling also allows the flexibility to outsource subjects where needed. For instance, despite my college Spanish, I’m not bilingual, and I believe language learning needs a conversational aspect. We’ve successfully outsourced foreign languages for our kids. We have used a mix of homeschool co-ops, online classes, and personal tutors for Spanish and ASL. 

We’ve found creative solutions for subjects like math, which are challenging to teach with public school textbooks. My daughter, Campbell, who is blind, accessed various resources for her calculus studies, including email and Zoom tutoring, using a combination of braille notetakers and assistive technology. 

These experiences highlight the beauty of homeschooling – the ability to adapt and utilize diverse resources, from in-person co-ops to digital tools, ensuring accessibility and effective learning for every subject. 

Deciding on Homeschool High School Classes 

Are you wondering how to choose the right high school classes for homeschooling? It’s a mix of research and advice. I looked into state standards, our umbrella school’s requirements, and college preferences. I also leaned on the experience of friends who’ve navigated this before. 

Here’s a streamlined plan we developed: 

  • Foreign Language: Four credits in the same language, especially important for top-tier colleges 
  • Science: Four sciences, including three with labs, covering life and physical sciences (like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Anatomy, in that order) 
  • English Language Arts (ELA): Four credits, with a focus on different literature types, including British Lit. Consider AP English or dual enrollment for composition in the later years. 
  • Math: At least four credits, going up to Algebra 2, but Calculus 1 if eyeing a STEM major 
  • Social Studies: A mix of World History, US History, Government and Politics, Economics, and Geography 
  • Additional Areas: Don’t forget Health/Wellness, Fine Arts, PE, Personal Finance, and electives like sociology or psychology. Leadership or personal development courses are valuable, too. 

Remember, it’s about balancing required courses with subjects your child enjoys. For instance, Campbell focused on science, math, music, and creative writing. 

Understanding Your State’s Graduation Requirements 

It’s crucial to be aware of your state’s graduation requirements. For example, Tennessee requires 22 credits, but Campbell completed 41, including an optional fifth year of high school. To ensure you’re on the right track, check your state’s standards and consider the requirements of colleges, technical schools, or future workplaces your child might be interested in. Tailor your homeschooling plan to fit state standards and your child’s aspirations. 

ACT Preparation Strategy 

Campbell’s approach to preparing for the ACT and AP exams was primarily self-driven. She took six AP exams and enrolled in six community college classes. She utilized the Official ACT Prep Guide on Bookshare and braille practice exams for the ACT. Additionally, she sought help from her calculus tutor for the AP Calculus exam and gained insights from friends who taught AP US History and AP English. 

We arranged for teacher friends to be her readers for the actual tests. It’s important to note that while students can receive accommodations for these exams, the request process should start at least six months in advance. Be ready to appeal if your initial accommodation requests are denied. 

Focus on ‘Pointy’ Students in College Applications 

In the college application process, extracurriculars, community service, and work experience are as crucial as academics and test scores. Recently, colleges seem to favor ‘pointy’ students over ‘well-rounded’ ones. These students are deeply passionate about a particular area and integrate this interest across their studies, extracurricular activities, work, and community service. 

For instance, a student passionate about animals might study subjects like biology, zoology, and ornithology alongside core requirements. They could also gain practical experience by working at a vet’s office, volunteering at animal shelters, participating in 4-H clubs, and even managing a mini-farm at home. This focused approach can make a student stand out in their college applications. 

Embracing Flexibility in Homeschooling to Pursue Passions 

Homeschooling’s flexibility is a game-changer in allowing children to explore their interests. This flexibility isn’t just in curriculum choices but also in managing our time. For instance, my youngest spends two mornings a week working on a farm, an opportunity that wouldn’t be possible with a traditional school schedule. She’s back by 1:30 PM and completes her schoolwork in about three hours, sometimes while commuting to dance or theatre classes. 

This contrasts sharply with Campbell’s experience in public school, where she spent 7 hours in class plus 3-4 hours on homework nightly. Homeschooling has condensed her learning time, freeing up hours for her to engage in activities she’s passionate about. 

Addressing the Socialization Aspect of Homeschooling 

The common concern about homeschooling is adequate socializing. For us, it’s been a non-issue. We encourage our girls to engage in extracurricular activities they enjoy, where they naturally meet friends. However, we don’t pressure them to form friendships; it’s more about the experience than the social outcome. 

We value real-world interactions over the traditional school setting’s forced association. Life rarely mimics the school environment of spending hours daily with peers of the same age and background. Our daughters have a diverse social circle, encompassing various ages, incomes, and cultures, thanks to their real-world ‘classroom’. 

We believe typical school events like prom or sports only hold value if they matter to the child. We avoid projecting our own school experiences onto them. Homeschoolers can participate in these events through specific homeschool activities or public school options. We’ve found that activities with waiting times, like theatre, are particularly good for socializing, offering ample opportunity for interaction. 

Concluding Thoughts 

I hope our experiences and insights have been helpful. Remember, homeschooling doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. We approached it year by year, ready to reassess if it didn’t suit our needs. If you’re considering homeschooling, I encourage you to try it beyond the context of pandemic schooling. It might be a wonderful decision for your family, as it was for ours. 

Though we started homeschooling unexpectedly, my only regret is not beginning sooner. The time spent reading, watching movies, going on field trips, and exploring their interests has been invaluable. It’s not just about education but a healthier, more connected family life. We’re grateful for its positive changes to our relationships and daily routine.