Homeschooling high school

Last night B. and A. were part of a panel of homeschooled high schoolers. As I sat and listened to these 11 young people, I tried to imagine myself with just young children and contemplating in the far future the possibility of homeschooling high school. What would I make of them? How would their answers color my thoughts about the possibility and do-ability of homeschooling high school? Would I want my children to be like them?

I know I can't really put myself back in that position or look at my children that dispassionately, but I can remember being in that place and looking at other people's children. When we were just starting homeschooling and it was a new and unknown adventure, I can remember meeting some much older children. I was impressed with their articulateness, with their relationship with their parents and siblings, and with their good-natured normalcy. I thought if that is the way homeschooled teenagers look, then I think we're on the right track.

I hope the parents sitting in the room last night had the same impression of my children and their friends that I did of those other high schoolers so long ago, because I think their pretty great people, and I'm rather fond of them. But if you are homeschooling younger children and the idea of high school still seems far-away and a little bit scary and intimidating, you're probably wishing I would just share what they said. I'll see if I can condense it into a few highlights.

The panel consisted of 10 high school students (later joined by an 11th) and was moderated by a returning college student who was also homeschooled. Interestingly, I'm pretty sure that all of these students (except the later addition) have been homeschooled their entire lives and have never attended a traditional school outside the college level. Styles of homeschooling varied from unschoolers to the very structured. There were seniors down to freshman and both boys and girls. Of the seniors, all have been accepted at private universities where they will attend in the fall.

Some of the questions...

Did you ever consider going to public (or traditional) school?
Except for the moderator who had thought about the idea of attending a private high school, the panel all resoundingly said no. They didn't even stop to think about it. They all indicated that they were very happy with the choice of homeschooling and didn't wish they had taken a different path.

What are the pros and cons of homeschooling?
Some of the pros shared: flexibility of schedule, ability to tailor school to how they learn best, more time to sleep, and freedom to follow their interests. There was only one con mentioned and that was the difficulty of keeping up with traditionally schooled friends as their schedules did not match in the slightest. [I will chime in here and connect some dots that I think the students weren't seeing. They saw their schedules as opposite, when they had free time, their schooled peers weren't and vice versa. But as they were describing their friends' schedules I didn't see the problem as opposite schedules so much as the homeschooled students actually had free time to spend with friends and the traditionally schooled students had very little free time.]

Who plans what you learn in school?
The answers ranged from the student collaborating with their parents about what they would study to students taking full responsibility for what they learned. As I listened to their answers, it seemed as they grew older they took on more and more of that responsibility with the freshman doing more collaborating. Many of the students also wrote their own transcripts as well. There was a sense that school was their responsibility, not their parents'.

How do you decide which extra-curricular activities to do and do you choose them based on college applications?
This question was a stumper for the group. They all looked a bit puzzled and said they chose their activities based on their interests, as if, "Who wouldn't?" And the idea that what they did outside of schoolwork should be done with an eye towards college didn't seem to be something anyone had considered. Many even added that they chose what they wanted to do without even a thought to what friends wanted to do it. The thinking was if they did something that was interesting, they would then find friends with that same interest.

But what if you want to go to prom? [Chiming in again. Why, why, why does this question always come up? I just don't get why one dance is the determining factor to a long a happy life.]
The response was to laugh. For one, one of the boys had already been to two proms this spring. For another, as they all pointed out, there are plenty of homeschool high school proms out there if you care to go. Basically, it was another non-issue.

Do you find your relationship with your parents to be confrontational and how do you manage to have them be both parent and teacher?
Little disagreements aside, everyone said that they had a very good relationship with their parents and siblings. It was not confrontational but much more collaborative. They felt as though they were all on the same time. Several students posited that it was because they spent so much time together that it allowed them to get to know each other as real people.

How do you prepare for college?
Of those who had already applied to colleges, all had taken some sort of high-stakes test (PSAT, SAT, or ACT). Some had taken one or two of them several times, others had taken their first standardized test when they went to take it for college entrances. Nearly all of the juniors and seniors had already taken college level classes at various community, state, or private colleges in the area. When asked about this, the overwhelming response was that they could be frustrating. When asked why, the response was that they moved too slowly. Each student was used to going at their own pace and learning to mastery and it took a bit of adjustment to modify that to a group setting. There was also a general disdain for test-cramming without actual learning.

That was pretty much the bulk of the discussion. What you don't get from this are the evident friendships in the group and the good rapport with parents who also were there and listening. You also don't get to see some excellent social skills in action. The student who arrived late to the panel was not known by the majority of the group. Afterwards, as the parents were waiting (and waiting and waiting) for their children to stop chatting and go home, it was interesting to watch the large group of students introduce themselves and welcome the new student... and the new student being comfortable not knowing a soul and meeting a large group of teens. At least no one outright asked about socialization.

My biggest problem with homeschooling high school? You only have more years with them at that point. By the time they reach high school, they are fun, interesting, and enjoyable to be with. I like spending time with them. And then they leave. Phooey.


rodiemom said…
The prom question cracks me up. I've never heard that one, but my oldest is only 10, so I'm sure I will eventually. I never would have thought of it as important, though. I went to public school, but did not go to my senior prom. My boyfriend (now my husband of 14 years) was in a college ensemble that was singing the national anthem at a minor league baseball game the same night. It was a no-brainer for me that we go to that instead of a school dance (although he did leave the option up to me, saying he would miss out on the game). Saved a bunch of money and was WAY more fun. Thanks for writing about this. I love hearing from seasoned homeschoolers as the later years are definitely intimidating to me. It does seem more attainable, now that we are heading into Jr. High/Middle school, but still intimidating :)
Julie Bernstein said…
Was sorry to miss the panel discussion, but my husband was able to attend and share it with me. First, I can attest that your children and their peers did indeed leave the same positive impression that you experienced of others long ago. :-)

Second, I think I can clarify the Prom question, as it came from my hubby, but as I believe it also reflects a question that many of us who have chosen the homeschooling road ask ourselves from time to time. I see it (and know he intended it) not as a question just about Prom, or an assertion that Prom is the be-all, end-all for anyone, but simply as a question about whether there are any school-based events or 'rights of passage' that kids feel they miss out on.
Amy said…
I loved reading this. I was homeschooled through high school as were two of my brothers and all three of us did very well. My younger brothers are proof to me how well homeschooling all the way through high school works.
sandwichinwi said…
Phooey, indeed! I am enjoying my high schoolers SO much (one of which is in public school, but she was homeschooled thru 5th grade and it really shaped who she is)

I gleaned much from this post and I thank you. Even tho I am homeschooling a high schooler, we only have one year under our belts and I feel like I am still learning.

Interesting about writing their own transcripts! I hadn't thought of that.

thecurryseven said…

My reaction to the prom question probably has more to do with it's frequency than anything else, but I appreciate your clarification. I hadn't thought about it standing in for all of the traditional milestones of high school.

Since I wasn't homeschooled, I chatted about this a little more with B. He assures me that such things don't even enter his radar. He doesn't think about them... at all... because they don't exist. They are not part of his culture.

I think that is the key. You are often most concerned about what is immediately in front of you. If you are in public high school, then the things which surround you are the things you care about. Even though homeschooled teens hear about these milestones from their public schooled peers, it seems it is more along the lines of hearing some interesting traditions from another part of the world... interesting, but not part of your reality.

As a parent, I am concerned with what concerns my children. Since none of them have ever mentioned or agonized about the things of public school, they tend to fall off my radar as well, even though, oh so long ago, I attended public school myself. So I guess that's why questions about such things take me by surprise.


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