adolescence / homeschooling / self-directed learning

high school options and post secondary school

Leaping into the great unknown is a homeschool family considering homeschooling high school. “They say” that homeschoolers must renew their homeschool intent when they cross the threshold from grade 8 homeschooling to high school homeschooling. A whole new world of commitment.

There’s a whole new world of social pressure to consider. Not everyone that homeschools wants to homeschool high school. I know fewer families homeschooling high school in the area than I can count on one hand (as far as I know). Homeschooling high school is, by no means, an unusual scenario in many parts of Canada or the United States. But it is where I live.

Lee Binz, author of all things homeschool high school, reminds, “the grass is not greener in a brick and mortar high school”.  Most of us have been there, done that. We know! We know there is no magic at a public high school. No magic to getting an education we need or want. No magic for setting us up for a lifetime of work satisfaction, purpose or meaning. No magic in providing us healthy socialization. The grass ain’t greener.

We know it. But dang, as homeschoolers, we might think it would be easier to have someone else take responsibility for such a significant part of our child’s education, the one that sets them up for the ‘rest of their lives’?

Or are we parents responsible for their education no matter where or how they’re educated, school or no school? Yes. Indeed. Our responsibility.

Parents learn quickly that different approaches for different kids is required when we parent more than one child. It’s not favouritism. You don’t equally drive a Subaru and a Dodge Dart through a snow slick road with the same results. But they’re both ‘cars’. Test drive, and you’ll see. (PS Go for the Subaru, it definitely makes it up sharp inclines of ice and through two foot snowdrifts).

Kids are the same as cars. As in they’re different. Gotta parent them uniquely.

I began prepping for homeschool high school when my eldest entered grade nine. I had no thought of her going to high school, and was firmly entrenched in the notion that school was neither necessary, nor required. Academically and socially, I still think it’s not.

But sometimes kids just want to know what’s outside their four walls, to know what we already know about school, to see the world through their own eyes. Call that process what you like. I like the Gordon Neufeld’s adolescent term: individuation. But as a mother, I don’t always enjoy the process.

Still, my daughter eagerly stated her intentions in attending a brick and mortar school, even writing an essay, as per my request, with her reasons. Some reasons I knitted my brow, some reasons convinced me. I acquiesced, eventually, and suggested: “Let’s get you started in grade 9”, and she said, “Not yet”. By grade 10, I drove her to the bus for her first day of school in eight or nine years. Tears, tears, tears…

So I didn’t actually take the leap into a home based high school experience for our first daughter, though I definitely did my ‘homework’ prepping for it. I hadn’t expected that this uber independent soul, who I even unschooled for a time, would want to do any academics, especially formally, like in a classroom, with tests and science labs and math classes and deadlines. This is one uber surprised mama.

Our second daughter is now considering how to structure her final three years. A little bit of school? A little bit of homeschool? One or the other? On-line classes primarily? Continue learning at her bakery job? Choir? Dance classes? Private school a city away? What will be the focus of her last three years?

No matter the approach taken for the next few years, I know I can facilitate her education at home with some encouragement from Ms. Binz:

1. “You can’t learn high school in your first month,” Lee Binz suggests. Now why would she say that? Because we homeschoolers tend to be organized, detailed and hypervigiliant, eager to cram every knowledge bit into our kiddos everything (if that were actually possible). But only God and Google know everything.

Ms. Binz encourages parents not to beat the love of learning into their children. Make them perform activities beyond their abilities, finish book lists for the sake of finishing them, do every math page in the book, criticize sentence structure in their clever stories, and other stuff like that. I have had my share of these learning moments in our homeschool, and it was me who had to learn.

2. Continue to pursue english and math at their level. The goal is learning to communicate and express and learning math concepts that are building on math concepts they already understand. At their level. The beauty of homeschool: self-paced.

I’ve discovered BraveWriter this year. Love these folks. Love Julie (my husband says I sound just like her. Compliment!) I’ve also enjoyed using Essentials in English programs, a variety of book study guides, poetry reading from all manner of poets, Literature through Language workbooks, SAT spelling workbooks (though, reading may be as good as spelling practice). But there a 1001 ways to accomplish English learning.

I have consistently used Math-U-See throughout our homeschool decade. It works. I understand Steve. The kids understand Steve. He’s on CD once a week, my husband or I engage the concepts as the kids proceed. They know this guy like they know any school teacher, what he wears, his change of appearance over the decade;) If I wasn’t doing Math U See, I’d be doing Teaching Textbooks, one of many possible options.

3. Practice writing course descriptions for each of their classes, and learn how to grade their classes too. So you can learn to write and present a fair, clear transcript to future post secondary institutes.

It may sound onerous that I write down what they do, what they read, what they write, what they watch, science experiments, lab reports, essays and research papers, and everything else, IN SHORT FORM. However, it makes creating a year portfolio much simpler. And a solid reason to do this: I realize how much experience and exposure and education they have received over the last year. Uber educations. (And it makes learning to write course descriptions easier when you have something to write about).

4. Though it is atypical entrance into Canadian post-secondary schools, SATs and transcripts have long facilitated entrance into American schools. If Canadian schools proctor SAT exams, surely they should actively accept them too. Time to pioneer the SAT into Canadian acceptance. 

Having said that, I have been privileged to hear all sorts of stories of kids entering post secondary facilities with all manner of other entrance approaches, besides a high school diploma. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

5. Binz encourages grade 10 students to take practice SATs in early grade 10. Then try an ACT exam as well, comparing the child’s percentiles in both exams. Whichever result is in their favour, write that into their high school transcript. Then write them again later.

6. In grade 11, Binz encourages students and parents to attend college fairs. Then check out the colleges with your own four eyes (yours and your child’s). Find a way to get your child into college dorms for a night. Experience the energy of the place. What is seen on the college catalogue, or what is heard through the grapevine, might not be his/her practical experience.

7. Binz reminds that grade 12 is an extremely difficult year to homeschool, because you’re homeschooling a near adult. A different individuation from the previous individuations that began when they were about 11-12, then 13-14, then, oh you get the idea. They’re really REALLY independent and you should give them the freedom to be free.

8. Choose four to eight colleges and apply. And apply early.

If you’re interested in learning more about Lee Binz’s incredible contribution to homeschooling high school, and how to prepare for post secondary school, you can find all sorts of resources here:



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