Homeschooling Through High School
Finishing the Course Well
By Lori Crank
(From Volume 2 Issue 1 of Unless the Lord ... Magazine)
Most of us started homeschooling our children during the elementary years. As time passes and our children draw closer to the high school years, we may begin to fear. Knowing our own educational weaknesses, how will our children get a good high school education? Or how will we find the time to teach the many high school subjects while also teaching younger ones? We begin to doubt ourselves and our ability to bring our children through these final years.
Also at this point our children may want to stop home schooling to attend a public or private school. They may want more friends or to be more accepted and less "weird" or it may be a sport or extracurricular activity at school that attracts them. With all of this it is easy to begin thinking that your high school aged children might be better off in a public or private school.
WHAT TO DO
When we came to this point, we realized the need to again look at the big picture. As stewards to God of our children, what were we trying to accomplish? What were the goals of our child raising? The end result we were seeking was mature, godly adults. What was the best and surest way of reaching this end? Did it make sense after all of our efforts with home schooling to now put them into a public or private school environment? During the teen years, children are becoming more independent and starting to make key decisions that will impact their future lives. This is also a time when peers exert a very strong pull. Though we are close to finishing the course, the risks remain high. Following bad influences or making very wrong decisions in the teen years can do great damage to their future lives. Is the high school really a better and safer environment for our teenagers than the elementary school was when they were young? I don't think so!
BUT HOW ?
For us, the key to teaching the high school subjects was self instruction. As our children grew older they took on more and more responsibility for their own education. Less and less personal instruction was required from me. By the time they reached the high school years, they were responsible for their own day-to-day schooling. We selected curriculum that was fairly easily self-taught. We used mostly A Beka textbooks but also used the Saxon math books. Both of these come with tests so they could learn test taking skills without a lot of work on my part to develop tests. We established the year's goals and about where they should be at different points in the year. My teaching role was mostly that of seeing they kept working and progressing. Occasionally I helped with explanations, occasionally their father helped a little with some higher math and science. But mostly they were able to get it on their own. Also they helped each other. Sometimes it was an older child helping a younger with something he had learned earlier. At other times, two might be studying the same subject and one caught on to something the other missed.
Our sons were interested in careers normally requiring a college education, so we stressed the importance of their doing well with their high school subjects. They all studied mostly the same courses, but with some differences based on their strengths and occupational interests. For example, our oldest son was interested in engineering and completed rigorous calculus and physics courses. Our son who was interested in architecture omitted these. Also our daughter, who was not preparing for a career and had little interest in these areas, found other things to focus on than calculus and physics. (Note: If your child is planning on college, you should look ahead to admission requirements when selecting courses.)
We also provided the boys with materials to prepare for the PSAT (must be taken in the fall of the junior year for National Merit Scholarships) and SAT exams, to improve their chances of scholarships and college admittance. All three boys lived at home and paid their own way with academic scholarships and work.
Teaching them educational independence also seems to have benefited our sons in college also. There was some adjustment to be made to the very different environment, but they were not dependent on professors to spoon feed them. This was a lifesaver with some courses where the class times provided no benefit whatsoever!
MORE THAN ACADEMICS
Of course there is more required for finishing the course well than just academics. If our training is to result in mature Christians, devoted to serving God, we must be very concerned with some other things during these final years.
This is the time to really encourage personal commitment to regular Bible study and prayer. This is also the prime time to get into the Word of God together as a family to search out the doctrines of the faith as well as your own family's Biblical convictions. Your children need to think through these issues and know why they believe. Your children also need to learn well how to search out God's truth for themselves and how to practically apply it in daily life.
It is time to teach more about courtship and marriage as the time now approaches for these key decisions. These are prime years for teaching your children wisdom and to warn again of the dangers of sin. Look at the many warnings and instructions addressed to the young man in the book of Proverbs. This is also a good time to teach or review what the Word has to say about being under authority. This helps reinforce your position as parents to guide them through these final years before adulthood. It can be a big help for responding wisely to employers and other authorities in the future.
During the teen years your children also need to be learning practical skills and gaining useful experiences. We did not allow our children to “while away” the summer entertaining themselves with meaningless activities. Sons can benefit by work experiences which both teach them skills and the discipline of hard work. We looked for Christian men in the church that would employ them for the summer. Daughters likewise can benefit from hard work of another sort, whether caring for babies or a large number of children or working hard at cooking and serving a large group. Also it is good to encourage your children towards some sort of ministry during this time. Possibilities include working with younger children at church (Sunday school, AWANAs, helping in a nursery), ministering to the aged, ministering through music, leading a boys' or girls' Bible study, etc. Get them in the habit of serving rather than merely being served by others.
We also found it necessary to limit the activities they were involved in outside of the home. Many families lose their teens because other activities push out all family time and others become prime influences in their children's lives. Just for each child in a family to be involved in one outside activity can mean that the family is rarely all together. We had to come to a point of deciding that while all things may be lawful, not all things are profitable. Family must come first and other activities must come second. That did not mean that there were no outside activities. We tried to weigh the benefit to the individual child against the cost to the whole family.
The high school years are not only a challenging time, but a time of great reward. As parents, we begin to see the fruits of our labors. We have run the race, we are completing the course, and now we see the prize. This is such an exciting time that I would encourage you not to give your child's education to another to finish. Don't be fearful concerning your abilities and don't be discouraged by children desiring to be educated with their peers. You have laid the foundation during the early years and now you are putting on the finishing touches. Allow God and His grace to guide you and your children through this special time.