High School Isn’t as Scary as it Seems, by Apryl
I often hear parents lament over how they will manage high school. It seems to be a huge fear for many younger homeschooling families, but it really doesn’t need to be. We began our homeschooling journey when my girls were in the 3rd and 6th grades and now my oldest daughter will be graduating this year. Other than doing some planning ahead, and being a bit more detailed in my record keeping, our actual schooling methods did not change much. I believe that looking ahead at what you have to get done to meet your homeschooling goals is the most essential part of being successful in high school. That may look a little different in each family, but here is a glimpse into how we have navigated high school.
Beginning in 7th or 8th grade, I began to think about what I wanted to require of my students to graduate from our homeschool. One of our educational goals was to prepare them to enter college should they choose that path. Not all of my girls want to pursue a degree, but I wanted each of them prepared to do so upon graduation so they would not be limited in their chosen paths. I have given them a little flexibility in how they achieve that goal and how hard they want to push themselves to go beyond my set goals.
The first thing I looked at was the undergrad admission requirements for several schools. My main focus was on our local university. These are the course requirements they expect to see from incoming freshmen:
- 4 units of English
- 2 units of algebra
- 1 unit of geometry
- 1 unit of trigonometry, calculus, statistics, or other advanced math
- 1 unit of biology
- 1 unit of chemistry or physics
- 1 unit of additional science
- 1 unit of American history
- 1 unit of European history, world history, or world geography
- 2 units of a single foreign language
- 1 unit of visual or performing arts
Next, I looked at what our state board of education (Tennessee) required for graduation from high school. This was their list:
- Math: 4 credits, including Algebra I, II, Geometry and a fourth higher level math course (Students must be enrolled in a mathematics course each school year.)
- English: 4 credits
- Science: 3 credits, including Biology, Chemistry or Physics, and a third lab course
- Social Studies: 3 credits
- Physical Education and Wellness: 1.5 credits
- Personal Finance: 0.5 credits (May be waived for students not going to a University to expand and enhance the elective focus)
- Foreign Language: 2 credits (May be waived for students not going to a University to expand and enhance the elective focus)
- Fine Arts: 1 credit (May be waived for students not going to a University to expand and enhance the elective focus)
- Elective Focus: 3 credits consisting of Math and Science, Career and Technical Education, Fine Arts, Humanities, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB)
Then, since we use an umbrella in our state, I looked at our umbrella school’s requirements. They were very similar to the state requirements, with the main difference being in how they listed electives.
Using those lists as my guide, I began to lay out what courses they would take from 9th to 12th grade. This was simply a guideline, not a rigid schedule. Throughout their high school years, we have changed things up quite a lot. Sometimes this was because of a need to slow down to grasp material, and sometimes it was because a new interest was being developed.
At the beginning of each year, I look through the list and plan our courses accordingly. Also, at the end of each year, I go back and make sure we accomplished what I had set out to do. I keep a record of how they did and submit grades at the end of the year to our umbrella school. I also keep a list of all the literature they read for school and add that to their umbrella’s records.
To give you an idea of what it looks like in practice, the following is what my oldest child has done for high school:
Math: ALGEBRA I, 1 Credit – Saxon Algebra I, Khan Academy, Jacobs Elementary Algebra
Social Studies: ANCIENT HISTORY, 1 Credit – Mystery Of History I and II, Historical Fiction Novels, Research Materials
Elective: BIBLE, 1 Credit – NKJV Bible, Daily Study and Discussion Of Scripture
Science: BIOLOGY, 1 Credit – BJU Biology With Lab
English: CREATIVE WRITING AND GRAMMAR, 1 Credit – One Year Adventure Novel, BJU Writing and Grammar 9
Physical Ed: MARTIAL ARTS, 0.5 Credit – Tae Kwan Do-Private Instruction
Fine Art Elective: THEATRE ARTS, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Class-Acting I
Science: ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY, 1 Credit – The Human Body Book And Workbook, Online Resources, And Teacher Written Curriculum
Elective: BIBLE OLD TEST. SURVEY, 1 Credit – Old Testament Survey (2nd Edition) By Paul R. House And Eric Mitchell, NKJV Bible
Fine Art Elective: DRAMA, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Acting Course covering Improv, Plays, And Stage Presence.
English: ENGLISH 10, 1 Credit – BJU Writing And Grammar 10, Writing Strands, Vocabulary From Classical Roots
Foreign Language: LATIN, 1 Credit – Co-Op Class, Latin Road To English Grammar
Social Studies: MEDIEVAL HISTORY, 1 Credit – Mystery Of History II And III, Historical Literature
Fine Arts Elective: MUSIC – CHOIR, 1 Credit – Formal Choir instruction and participation in the Church choir
PE: BALLROOM DANCE, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Class taught By a professional Ballroom dance instructor.
PE: FENCING, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Class taught by a professional Fencing instructor
Math: ALGEBRA II, 1 Credit – Teaching Textbooks Algebra II
English: AMERICAN LITERATURE, 1 Credit – Notgrass And Various Novels: The Scarlet Letter, Little Women, Company Aytch, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Narrative Life Of David Crockett, Narrative Life Of Fredrick Douglass
PE: BALLROOM DANCE, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Class
Elective: BIBLE, 1 Credit – Bible, Notgrass
Science: CHEMISTRY W/LAB, 1 Credit – Apologia Chemistry
HEALTH: Health and First Aid, 0.5 Credit – EMT Textbook, CPR/First Aid Class, Online Resources.
Foreign Language: LATIN II, 1 Credit – Wheelocks Latin
Elective: MUSIC – CHOIR, 0.5 Credit – Formal choir instruction And participation in the Church choir
PE: FENCING, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Course
PE: BALLROOM DANCE, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Course
Social Studies: U.S. HISTORY, 1 Credit – Notgrass Exploring America
Elective Foreign Language: BEGINNING CHINESE, 1 Credit- Dual Enrollment at Community College
ECONOMICS: We haven’t decided on a curriculum for this yet
Math: ELEMENTARY PROB. & STATISTICS, 1 Credit – Dual Enrollment at Community College
English: World Literature – Excellence In Literature, The Word Within The Word
PERSONAL FINANCE: Personal Finance, 0.5 Credit – http://www.PracticalMoneySkills.Com
U.S. GOVERNMENT: American Government, 0.5 Credit – BJU American Government
If you look closely at her courses and compare them to the requirements, you’ll see that she will graduate with more than enough credits. We have also taken advantage of our state dual enrollment grant this year. She could have taken DE classes in the 11th grade as well, but we chose not to do that.
Another thing that helped me greatly was to look at the ACT and SAT recommended testing schedules and dates. Not all colleges and universities require these test scores, but some do, and you should be prepared. Our local community college requires a certain ACT score for dual enrollment. For my oldest, we took part of her junior year to study for the ACT and took a lot of practice tests. For my younger two, we will work on this during their sophomore year.
An important part of the high school years for my students is volunteering. They have volunteered at food banks, libraries, raptor rescue centers, church and co-op nurseries, nursing homes and summer camps. These things look nice on college applications, not to mention how they teach the importance of contributing to your community. I try to keep a record of their volunteer hours and locations. Many places can give you a document tracking your hours.
What about the differences between students? The high school plan for my oldest child looks a bit different than that for my younger two. My oldest is a bit of a free spirit and really doesn’t have any idea what she wants to do after high school. Thanks to a new program in our state, she will be able to attend the community college for two years at no cost and plans to do so. We aren’t sure if she will pursue any further education after that point. We have also taken a bit slower path with her because she is in no hurry at all to grow up and needed a little more time to mature. It has also given her time to explore all of the literature she can get her hands on, and to dabble in multiple foreign languages. She will be 18.5 years old when she graduates in the spring.
My twins, however, are on a much faster path. They skipped the 8th grade and jumped right into high school work after 7th grade. They will begin dual enrollment their junior year and are planning to take the ACT multiple times in hopes of scholarship money. They will graduate early, at 16 or 17. One of them hopes to get a scholarship to a four-year university right out of high school and is considering a STEM field. The other wants to get a business degree at the community college and then attend culinary school. Their high school courses are reflecting these goals as well. One is taking a wonderful forensic science course, and the other takes all the culinary classes she can find. The flexibility of homeschooling through high school is a beautiful thing.
An interesting site that has helped me in creating course descriptions can be found HERE.
Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart. She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. She is an artist, photographer and a homeschooler. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool. When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades. Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years. You can visit her blog at Almost a Farm Girl