How to unschool high school.

A homeschool family wondering how to unschool high school is a different kind of homeschool commitment. 

“They say” that homeschoolers must renew their homeschool intent when they cross the threshold from grade 8 to high school homeschooling.

A whole new world of commitment.

So how to unschool high school?

There’s a whole new world of social pressure too.

“Let them go to high school. Surely your kids want friends. Surely your teen wants to have the high school experience.” (Things said to families considering homeschooling high school.)

Not every one that homeschools wants to homeschool in high school, of course. I know fewer families homeschooling high school in my community than I can count on one hand. 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.

Jim and Madelyn Wiedrick: how to unschool high school

Lee Binz, author of all things homeschool high school, reminds us, the grass is not greener in a brick-and-mortar high school

Most of us have been there, done that, so 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 with healthy socialization.

The grass ain’t greener in a public high school.

We know it. But as homeschoolers, we might think it would be easier to have someone else take responsibility for such a significant part of our teen’s education.

On the other hand, aren’t we parents still responsible for our teen’s education no matter where or how they’re educated — school or no school?

Parents learn quickly that different approaches for different kids are required when we parent more than one child.

Just as we don’t choose the same vehicle to drive down a snow-slick road with the same results — we acknowledge that both the Subaru Forester and the Dodge Dart have different results on a snow-slick road. Yes, they are 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. Since I was a staunch advocate of homeschooling, I wouldn’t even entertain it.

But sometimes kids just want to know what’s outside their four walls, to know what we parents already know about the school, to see the world through their own eyes. Call that process individuation (thank you, Gordon Neufeld, author of Hold on To Your Kids). Still, as a mother, I don’t always enjoy the process.

However, my daughter eagerly stated her intentions in attending a brick-and-mortar school, even writing an essay, as per my request, with her reasons. My response to some reasons: I knitted my brow; other reasons convinced me. I acquiesced, eventually, and suggested: “Let’s get you started in grade 9 then,” and she said, “Not yet”. So the first day of her grade 10 years, I drove her to the bus for her first day of brick & mortar school in eight years.

Tears, tears, tears… (This time I did not follow the bus to school, ha.)

So I didn’t actually take the leap into a homeschooled high school experience for our first daughter, though I definitely did my homework prepping for it. I hadn’t expected that this uber-independent child, who I even radically unschooled for a time, would want to do any academics, especially formal ones in a classroom, with tests and essays and math classes and deadlines.

So how to unschool high school for our second daughter?

the Wiedrick kids: how to unschool high school

Our second daughter had to consider how she would structure her final three years of high school.

A little bit of school? A little bit of homeschooling? One or the other? On-line classes primarily? Continue learning at her bakery job? Choir? Dance classes? Private school a city away?

Encouragement from Lee Binz helped to facilitate our second daughter’s high school education at home:

“You can’t learn high school in your first month.”

Now, why would she say that? Because we homeschoolers tend to be organized, detailed, and hypervigilant, eager to cram every knowledge bit into our kiddo’s 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.

Continue to pursue English and math at their level.

The goal of English is to learn to communicate and express oneself. I discovered BraveWriter essay writing and SAT online classes. 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, and SAT spelling workbooks (though, reading may be as good as spelling practice). My daughter attended a community college English course too. There a 1001 ways to accomplish English learning.

Continuing to learn math concepts that build on math concepts the teen already understands. I have consistently used Math-U-See throughout our homeschool because it works. I understand Steve. In fact, I’ve learned math from Steve. The kids understand Steve. He’s on CD once a week, then my husband or I engage the concepts as the kids proceed (mostly my husband). They know Steve 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.)

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 for future post-secondary institutions.

It may sound onerous that I write everything she does, what she reads, what she writes, what she watches, science experiments, lab reports, essays, and research papers, and everything else, IN SHORT FORM; however, it makes creating a year portfolio much simpler.

A solid reason to do this: I realize how much experience, exposure, and education she has received over the last year: an uber education. (And it makes learning to write course descriptions easier when you have something to write about).

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.

Though it is an 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.

Having said that, I have been privileged to hear many stories of teenagers entering post-secondary schools with all sorts of other entrance approaches, besides a high school diploma. I facilitated that with my second daughter in both an English class and a History class at our local community college. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Students and parents should attend college fairs in the grade 11 year.

Then check out the colleges with four eyes (yours and your teen’s). Find a way to get your teen to visit the college dorm. Experience the energy of the place. What is seen in the college catalog, or what is heard through the grapevine, might not be the teen’s practical experience.

Binz reminds us that grade 12 is an extremely difficult year to homeschool because you’re homeschooling a near adult.

Different individuation begins (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.

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

If you’re heading the post-secondary route because not all teens are.

If you’re interested in learning more about Lee Binz’s 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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