Homeschooling the high school years and beyond

If you haven’t already laid a path for your children while they were in middle school, high school is the time to work out the big picture and start to zero in on the “how”. The big picture of what? What are the kids going to do to care for themselves when they leave your home? Plan to finish homeschooling well by playing the long game.

College is not the end goal. What is it that you want for your kids once they are grown, responsible adults? That is a very family-specific answer. Perhaps you want them to be able to get a job, keep a job, and pay all their bills on time. Maybe you hope that they will marry and have kids. Some answers may be more spiritually concerned, such as being involved in a healthy church, or spending time praying.

Write it down

Now is the time to write down your dreams and essential life-skills for your kids. I created a notebook and used separate pieces of paper for each category, such as finances and auto.  Auto is a life skill? For my kids, you bet. They need to know how to buy, sell, insure and register, and maintain a car. I want them to recognize when something goes wrong, and know what to do about it. That doesn’t mean that they will be auto mechanics, but just as with house maintenance, they need to have a game plan. Is that a skill they will pick up in class or a textbook? Perhaps, but they won’t be able to take a class for everything. You need to write these dreams and skills down, so you can teach them and not let them slip by.

We all know young adults who left home without knowing how to do laundry or to cook. Maybe you were one of them! Let’s help our kids get started on their own successfully. It sure is a lot cheaper to cook your own meals and repair your own clothes than it is to eat out or to buy new clothes. Make a deadline for accumulating these skills.

The future is uncertain

There is no guarantee that you will be available to coach them for the next twenty years. Just like making a will, plan for the future for when you might not be able to care for your kids. Consider that the economy might falter and they might lose their job. How will they eat or have shelter? SAT scores don’t mean much when you are hungry. How can you help them now to prepare for an uncertain future?

Don’t neglect the skills of gardening and caring for animals, along with preserving food, and cooking. Basic wilderness skills are also handy in everyday emergencies, such as having your car break down during a snow storm. First aid should be high on your list. These skills will be a constant blessing to your kids and their families throughout their lives. Finally, consider teaching them self-defense skills with their bodies, such as martial arts, and with weapons. Defending your life is a right, and you should have the skills to make it happen.

My kids are clueless

When kids are just in their teens, generally they don’t have enough experience to help them to know what they want “to do with their lives”. And even if they did, they will probably change careers at least once in their lives. Does it make sense to spend $120,000 on a college degree that prepares them for just one career? They should have the freedom to try different jobs and to make mistakes, without the burden of debt.

Take some time to think about what it means to be successful. Is it defined by income and accumulated things, or by a powerful position in work or another organization, or maybe something else? Your values will determine this. What does it mean to be happy for you? For your kids? Write down your answers in your notebook.

But what about high school

Kids have different needs and abilities.

You could push your kids to be great academic achievers with AP classes and high SAT/ACT scores. Tour the country’s finest college campuses and find out what it takes to get into your top choices. You’ll need to find out what their admission requirements are and tailor your high school plan to fit those schools. Research possible careers and how to get started in them. It is tough to start a career in a competitive field, only to find out you were not prepared correctly. Also, these schools help you to meet the “right” people.

On the other hand, your kids might not be interested in college after high school. Do plenty of career counseling and find out what they are willing to try their hand at for a while. Get them into internships, even while in high school, so they can experience the work first hand. Not all schooling is in a traditional college; trade schools and programs may be a better fit.

Somewhere in the middle

That’s where we are. I have researched the admissions requirements of our local state university and community college, and made sure their high school program meets them. Currently the plan is to have them attend the community college, which does not have a residency requirement, and to spend one or two years completing general education requirements for much less money per credit than the University, which has an agreement with the college to accept their credits. Once they are ready, the kids can transfer those credits to the University and finish their four-year degree.

I have recently stumbled on the CLEP test, which is administered by the College Board, which also runs the SAT. The CLEP test allows people to prove their understanding of different disciplines with their score. Some colleges and universities will award credit to students that achieve a certain score or higher on a particular CLEP test. Check with the schools that your kids are interested in; each school is different.

Make your plan work

Review your notebook regularly, such as once a month, to make sure you are staying on-track. Involve your kids in your everyday, mundane adult responsibilities. Take them to the DMV and explain, while you are waiting, the process and the paperwork. Let them know what is expected of them as adults.

Walk your talk. If you think that it is important to know how to grow your own food, grow it. Give the kids their own garden beds or flock of ducks. Let them make mistakes. Show them your mistakes. Learn together.

Now is the time to inculcate them with your values. Go ahead and share with them your fears for the future and your hopes and dreams. Be a transparent example to them and show them your struggles. Like a shipwrecked mariner, shout to them from the rocks next to your failure, “Learn from my example!” What a terrific way to give them an advantage in life.

After all, the greatest strength of homeschooling is time spent with you!

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