Homeschooling During High School
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children are more likely to be homeschooled during high school than for any other grade. Parents homeschool high school age children for many reasons, including bullying, mental health, and a desire to provide their children with an alternative education. Homeschooling can give high school students the opportunity to get an education that is tailored to their needs — and their interests.
For some, being homeschooled during high school can be a positive and empowering experience. However, this is not always the case. As a nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, we have spoken with many formerly homeschooled adults who had negative experiences being homeschooled during high school. In some cases, these individuals found themselves ill-prepared for college, the workplace, or life as an adult. This means we know a lot about what can go wrong.
At CRHE, our goal is to help you homeschool successfully. We want your child’s experience to be the best it can possibly be. On this page, we offer practical advice on how to tap into the best aspects of homeschooling while avoiding potential pitfalls. We want to help you create an educational experience for your teen that is uplifting rather than dissatisfying, complete rather than deficient, and empowering rather than limiting.
Homeschool High School Basics
Most states’ homeschool statutes offer little in the way of requirements or guidance for parents homeschooling high school students. Therefore, we recommend that you let your state’s requirements for public high school graduation serve as your guide.
Most states require students to complete a set number of credits in a variety of subject areas. Our guide to navigating high school credits while homeschooling, written by experienced high school guidance counselor Christine Abrahams, offers a detailed overview of how to tailor public high school requirements to homeschooling, including information on planning and credits, designing your own courses, and verifying your child’s accomplishments.
Whether you plan to transfer your child to a public or private high school or homeschool your child through graduation should also inform the decisions you make.
If you plan to transfer your child into a public high school later:
While school districts usually place formerly homeschooled children in grades K-8 in the grade that is appropriate for their age, it can be a bit more complicated for teens enrolling in a public high school after being homeschooled for one or more years. If you transfer your homeschooled child to a public high school, your child may be asked to take placement tests, show documentation of their coursework, or repeat courses they have already taken.
When a high school issues a diploma, they are affirming that a student has earned the number of credits required for graduation. Public schools and accredited private schools have specific standards for what it means when a child takes biology, or U.S. history, which can make the process of transferring credits simple. However, administrators often have only a parent’s word that a homeschooled child has completed this coursework. For this reason, they may require you to verify your child’s homeschool credits before accepting them.
If there is any possibility that you will be transferring your child to your local public high school in the future, you should contact the school now to learn their policy for accepting credits for homeschool transfers. This way you can be prepared, and not caught off-guard.
If you plan to homeschool through high school graduation:
Unless you enroll your child full-time in a virtual public or charter school program, or in an official homeschool umbrella school, you will be the one issuing your child’s diploma and transcript. This is a big responsibility, and should not be taken lightly. It is important that you keep track of what your child needs to learn — i.e. what credits they need to graduate — and that you maintain careful, consistent records during their entire high school experience.
There is good news! Children with a homeschool diploma and transcript are admitted into colleges in all fifty states, and these documents are accepted as valid proof of graduation by most employers. Problems occasionally can and do crop up, but if you take steps to verify your child’s education, maintain careful records, and create a quality transcript and diploma, your child will be ready and prepared for success — wherever life may lead them.
Preparing Your Child for Independence
Being homeschooled will impact your child’s life beyond academics. The teenage years are a period of growing independence. They are also a time when children begin differentiating between family and self. When you homeschool a teenager, your child needs both your help and guidance and the freedom to interact with their communities, make and maintain their own friendships, and practice navigating between the values and ideas of their immediate family and the values and ideas of their communities.
During the high school years, children should be active and present in decisions about their education. If your teen wants to attend school, they should be allowed to do so. If they are interested in being homeschooled, you should involve them in creating their course of study, and in making decisions about what their homeschool experience will look like.
When you choose to homeschool your child during high school, you are taking on more roles than just teacher. You are also taking on the role of college and career counselor. In addition, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child has access to driver’s education, sex and health education, financial literacy education, and more. A well-rounded education is about more than academics; it is also about life skills. This is nowhere more true than during the high school years, when a child transitions from childhood to adulthood.
Your teen needs access to mentors and other adults outside of the home who can provide support and guidance, as well as letters of recommendation. Mentors might include club leaders, coaches, tutors, family friends, extended family members, or friends’ parents. Your child also needs access to friends who are outside of your immediate sphere; friendships become increasingly important as children grow older. All parents who homeschool — and especially parents of teens — should read our page on mentors and socialization.
As you homeschool your teen, it is important that you view them as an individual separate from you, with their own ideas, interests, and rights. Children who are homeschooled have a right to the autonomy they need to develop into self-sufficient, independent, functioning adults and citizens. Your mission, as the parent of a teen, is to guide your child into a competent, prepared adulthood, but not to micromanage that outcome.
Homeschooling for Excellence
High school is the last stop before adulthood; having a high school diploma and transcript is important whether your child intends to attend college or enter the workforce directly. In some cases, children who are homeschooled during their high school years do not receive an adequate education. This educational deficiency can have long term consequences.
Some data suggests that homeschool graduates may be half as likely to attend college as other high school graduates. The quality of children’s homeschool education can affect their outcomes in other ways as well: several studies have found that college students who were homeschooled for high school are less likely than other students to major in STEM fields, likely the result of a well-evidenced homeschool math gap. Receiving an inadequate education can make a child’s goals unobtainable and limit their options.
While not everyone wants to or is able to attend college, you should make it your goal to ensure that your child has access to an “open future”: that is, the meaningful ability to successfully enter a career of their choice or to attend an institution of higher learning with the major of their choice without substantial impediment. Homeschooling should push your child forward — and give them new opportunities — not hold them back.
If possible, you should allow your child to experience an evaluation by an impartial observer before they graduate, so that they will be prepared to encounter these situations in higher education or the workplace. Ideally, your child should experience taking a course from an instructor that includes receiving feedback and having their work graded, perhaps at a community college, through a homeschool co-op, or at your local high school. If your child’s first time being supervised or evaluated by a person other than you is college or in the workplace, they may find this transition challenging. Think of this like a skill they need to develop! Other ways to give your teen experience being evaluated or supervised by someone other than you include team sports, community theater, or an after-school job.
For some positive encouragement, read Arielle’s experience of being homeschooled through high school before going on to attend Princeton. “I believe that homeschooling responsibly entails pursuing academic excellence, encouraging kids to dream big, and supporting those dreams,” Arielle writes, adding that “where that leads will be different for every child.”