It's been one of those days where I run from one thing to another and things like blog posts just don't get written. Better late than never, right? I've noticed that the back-to-school gear up has begun and homeschoolers are not immune. (I would like to be immune, really I would. I'm still feeling as though it's the middle of summer. Please don't disabuse me of that notion.) I've also noticed that, for homeschoolers, teaching high school, especially when one is just beginning is a major hurdle to wrap one's mind around.
I can remember that feeling of being a little (or more than a little) afraid of homeschooling high school when M. was a freshman. I was worried that we would have to completely change how we learned things; that we would never have fun together again because it would be all academics all the time or else I would have failed my daughter miserably. I can remember secretly hoping that she would decide that she never wanted to go to college, thus taking the pressure off me a bit and we could go back to enjoying our learning together. I was kind of a wreck, so I understand when parents who are new to homeschooling high school are a little anxious.
Having two children in college now (and both of them having successfully completed college level work), I am a bit more relaxed now than I was at this time 6 years ago. OK, a lot more relaxed, because really, high school is about so much more than academics. (Yes, learning things is important, but I'll get to that in a moment.) I think that homeschooling high school is important because in reality, while your children will always be your children and you will always be the parent, these are the last really formative years they have in your home. And they go fast... too fast. These are the years where you have a chance to help them learn how to navigate life as an adult. Will they be able to function on their own when they leave your home? Will they be able to cook and budget and make wise choices? Will they be able to stand firm in their convictions in the face of outside pressure, whether that pressure is from peers or professors? Have they become independent thinkers? What kind of a relationship have you built with them? Will they feel free to call you at 2 am with a sticky situation and trust you not to overreact? Can they diaper a baby and understand the value in and work involved with such little beings? To me, this is the point of high school... to develop the character of my high school age child and forge a strong and trust-based relationship with that child. It is the process of learning to treat them as the young adult he or she is, while still guiding their thinking and choices. It is hard work for both parents and child and it takes time. By homeschooling my high school aged children, I have been blessed with far more time with them than if they were away at school for hours a day. It is invaluable time and actually allows me to send them off to college with fewer qualms than many parents I know. I will miss them, but I don't feel as though I missed out on being with them.
Academics is important. High school is the beginning of the young brain's ability to think deeply and critically and understand things that were not accessible at a younger age. This doesn't mean that a high schooler's life should be all consumed with endless textbooks and busy work. I think we all become so consumed with 'getting into a good college' that we forget what the point of all of it is. And that would be a young adult who is familiar with how the world works and the scope of history, who is interested in the world around him, and who knows how to learn about things. Yes, I want my high schooler to learn a great deal. But more importantly, I want my child to be deeply interested in something that they learn it well and of their own accord. I want them to enjoy reading and not only read things that are easy and enjoyable, but seek out books that challenge them. It makes my day when one of my children mentions a book that they've read, which I didn't assign them, that I know is worth the effort of reading. I want my children to see learning as something that requires effort, but also brings great rewards and satisfaction for that effort. I want my children to know more about a subject that they are interested in than I do. This type of learning does not come from cranking through endless textbooks and checking off classes.
If a child is learning like this, the transcript comes easily. Life is one great endless learning adventure and it is just a matter of turning that into the right language that schools can understand. It has been fun to take the long list of different things my children have learned and studied and translate them into educationese. And it always seems that after the transcript is created I will realize that there were several different areas, which would have equaled credits, that I accidentally omitted. It's OK, because there were already enough credits, and people start to disbelieve you if you are too far outside the norm.
So if you are new to homeschooling high school, take a deep breath. It's not as scary and intimidating as the professional educational forces would have you believe. Focus on who your child is and is becoming and encourage them to discover their own interests and pursue them with vigor. If you do this, college will be a breeze.