Homeschooling: What About High School?
I get asked this a lot. Either ‘how long are you going to homeschool for?’, or ‘what about when they get to high school?’ Maybe it’s because we all remember what high school was like. The work got a lot harder, and when our parents tried to help us they didn’t know how because we were doing it differently than they had learned when they were at school. So it seems like a really difficult thing to teach the curriculum to a high school student! Me? I’m not so worried, and I thought I’d explain why…
My child is six
Yep, my eldest daughter is only six. High school age is a long way off for her so it’s not really something I think much about. You don’t have to think too far ahead into the future. Just like we do now, we will adapt and find a way to help our children learn what they need/want to learn, no matter what age they are. When you decide to homeschool it doesn’t have to be a decision for the next 12 years, you can take it one year at a time, or one term even. School is always there if you change your mind. I remember having the same fears and found out that it’s really not as hard as it seems and you make it work the best way for your family, growing and learning together.
I don’t need to be an expert in the school curriculum
When I hear that ‘high school is much harder these days’ and that there is so much more that kids need to know it just makes me wonder, is all this really necessary? Do you remember everything you learned in high school? I bet the answer is no. So, if we’re all functioning adults in the world today yet we all learnt different things in high school, most of which we do not remember, how relevant is it? We’re succeeding in life despite not being able to recall the multitude of facts we studied way back then. What I really think is that it’s not what you know, it’s knowing how to find the information you need. Say you’ve been educated in an environment where you were able to follow your interests, where you felt passionate about learning, where you were the one in control and it was up to you to find the answers to your questions, where you had guidance and help from others when you needed it, and where you could learn at your own pace. Well I think it’s pretty likely that you’d be resourceful, inspired, creative, passionate, self-motivated, confident, and more than capable of making your way in the world. Which brings me to my next point…
Preparing for a world we don’t know
“…it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue…what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.” – Sir Ken Robinson
We cannot know what knowledge a child will need, what career they will choose, what they will want to do with their life when they ‘grow up’. The world may be a very different place by then and technology is advancing so fast. The best I can do is nurture their love of learning and life and give them the skills to find any information they need, when/if they need it.
Just like it is with adults, much of a child’s learning is done independently. As they get older and can read, write, use technology, etc, their independence only increases. We’re there to help and guide when needed but really, when they are confident in learning independently the sky is the limit! Information is so readily available these days that they will be able to learn whatever interests them.
We’re not alone! If outside help is needed, it’s there. There’s classes, courses, tutors, community, experts, libraries, anything you need! We’re surrounded by valuable sources of information and we’ll use them if we need them.
Maybe the most important one. I trust my kids. I trust that they will learn everything they need to know for their life. It’s sometimes a hard thing to do when your own experience of education is within a mainstream schooling environment. But, the more I watch them the more confident I am that they’ve got it covered.
“Children do not need to be made to learn about the world, or shown how. They want to, and they know how.” – John Holt
So, no, I’m not worried about high school. Although our days might look different than they do now, the intention to them will be the same. Respecting our children’s interests, learning at their own pace, trusting them, and adapting to their changing needs. We can do that.
eI wish I felt the trust you have. I have two boys, we home school, we didn’t always.Ihave tried to educate them using a method close to school, but they resisted. I tried /am trying unschooling. Noone is interested in very much.I agree about not using the ridiculous amounts of education I acquired. I hated school. I was bored.I will admit, I wish now that I had found a path. I successfully avoided a 9-5 job. But, now I don’t feel so successful. I have two very different son’s and mostly they are always bored.They are 10 and 12, and so it’s a bit different. Instead of embracing hese choices we have made, and enjoying home schooling, everyone seems a little lost. .They miss their friends. There is not really any sense of a home schooling community. This is the hardest part when leaving school. They had built in structure, and they had friends that they saw everyday, now, there are just hours to be filled and they have been mostly in the house, because the weather here has been so frigid. I have yet to connect to a group of home schoolers with boys my kids age.They attend a little ” school”far away that I pay for, but even there, they are bored.In our city, you can not just send your kid to school, they have to go to the school where they are living and the school where we are living, is not integrated. It is also an under profoming school.
Here, if you do not do well on standardized tests, you can not get into one of the better schools. I can not afford private school. So, these choices, that seem like they might exist, don’t.What they really want right now, is to be like everyone else. They want to know what they are doing and when and they want to see their friends. But, their friends are in school and their friends are scheduled. My son’s no longer get invited to birthday parties. They are out oof the loop and the little circle. There are no kids in our neighborhood for them to play with. I have spent huge amounts of effort and time trying to create situations for them to see friends, but everyone else is busy!There is no community, with helpful people wanting to give you a ride or take your kids, there is not a group of women sitting together ,while kids play and to be honest at this point, I am enjoying sitting in the house with two boys who are bored and me being unable to work or have any breaks.So, those choices you talk about don’t really exist here. When they were small, fidning oppurtunities for them to play was rather easy, they went to the park or the playground and there were kids to play with.Kids are scheduled, kids go to after care. Kids are singed up to classes, and then signed up for more classes on the weekend.I have one son, who really thrived in the environment of school, mostly. He loved getting those A’s. He was always invited to play at kids houses and he enjoyed all of the activities mostly. He is only interested in sports. Nothing else: He hates to read , he hates to write, he wants to play football, and or skate boardor be a part of a team.I do provide this for him, he plays basket ball, and he plays baseball, and he takes guitar lessons. But, both kids are rather pissed off and bored. He will not search and find anything to do! They are both very different kids and I am a single mom, trying to get both kids to the place s they want to go. I don’t how it is where you live, but, it is not very easy to even get your kids into high school here. The only thing they can come up with that interest them is t.v.and or computer games!
I am sad, because I had great hopes for home schooling and it has been miserable. I can not move forward with my own life and that is frustrating too.I wake everyday, with renewed enthusiasm, only to be met with their determination to do nothing.There is no community in the city for my son’s.
From this comment and others you have left it really sounds like you are all unhappy with your situation right now. If it’s not working it’s ok to send them to school. Is there a reason that’s not an option? The most important thing is everyone is happy I think! xx
Hey just want to say I hear you and I feel for you. I stress so much about my children moved them to differnet (better) schools I think looking back I should have treated them as individuals and not as a unit, what one needed was different then the other. One needed structure the other not so much one was self disciplined the other not so much .Im sorry your so frustrated its so hard having no support (I know). Remember this is there life they are not you don”t try and fix your mistakes thru them if you know what I mean. I did that so I know its not the right way.may I suggest calling out to God who is our father and a husband to the single mum ,give it a go and see what happens. All the best xo.
I’ve had this experience many times as I’ve tried to unschool two older boys. They came out of school at your boys ages. I can say what’s happening to you is normal at this age when they have been in the system such a long time Unschooling is a much longer process that requires a lot of trust and patience. I would say fabulous they have an interest in skateboarding etc I would go with that. Great they like computer and games let them do that for six months without any worry or pressure. Take a break for six months. Pursue their interests maybe suggest to your son he compiles a playlist of skateboarding videos or even better make his own video! Go to the cinema together go on outings. Ask one of them to organise the weeks meals and devise a menu and shopping list. Try and give them more responsibility and chores but relax on everything else. Learning will come naturally but you need that down time to all reset into a new journey.
The other thing you could consider is online school. I did that with my 12 year old. He used first college. As its online he didn’t mind doing it and their philosophy is really gentle.
My older son went to a home education centre which we we’re lucky to have. But outside of these they were the same -lethargic and uninterested.
What I learnt in retrospect is that de schooling is a much longer process with older ones especially boys who at that age hormones are making them sleep late etc.
What I have read about unschooling children, is let them do whatever they want if they are learning something. Let them tell the parents what they are going to do, because the child wants to, and feels they can learn something from ie taking apart the kitchen sink, the washing machine. Do you allow a child to take the washing machine apart to see how it works. No, I am not being negative, just want to know if i need to leave it open for my child to decide to take thing apart by himself/herself so he/she can learn on his/her own. Also if I plan for a time or disturb him her while they are learning will it distract from his/her learning. Some people say to schedule such as allow the children to play video games for six months if that is what the child wants to do as their personal learning plan. then change for six month. Isn’t this too controlling what if the children do not feel they have had enough screen time? If my son/ daughter wants to take the washing machine apart and then loses interest for a week or two who fixes the washing machine? Will it harm my children if they are not able to put it back together and so I do it? ( during this learning experience the clothes cannot be washed) Is it acceptable to say “, n”o to my child who so wants to learn a certain thing and wants to paint on the table all day. What if my other child wants to make cookies on the same table. how do I accommodate more than one child who wants to learn in a way or place that takes away learning possibility of another sibling. With more than one child only one gets what they want many times.
I’m sorry you’re having such a difficult time. From what you’re saying here, I think everyone in your family might enjoy life more if the boys went to school. You said yourself that they (or at least one of them) enjoyed the structure and the feeling of accomplishment that came from getting A’s. If that kind of thing makes them thrive, I think sending them back is worth it, even if it’s an underperforming school. I think YOU would also feel better because you don’t have to be disappointed every day, and you don’t have to feel like you have no breaks or time for yourself, as you put it.
If you’re determined to continue trying unschooling, I second all Debby’s suggestions. Let them do their own thing for a while (I don’t mean being permissive, but let them free in what they want to do). If that’s skateboarding and playing video games, fine. I think it’s a really great idea to tap into those interests, and Debby already had some great ideas. Perhaps you can also enjoy some of those interests WITH them – let them show you their video games, or any new skate board tricks they learned. That way, they might be more open to…I don’t know, watching a documentary on video game programmers, or professional skaters…which could even motivate them to looking into what it takes to be a video game designer or a top athlete. I know I’m making huge leaps here, but it’s just an example. What I mean is, perhaps they just need some time to adjust before they are motivated to do other things.
Whatever you decide, know that you’re NOT failing in any way. You are just experimenting with schooling and finding out what makes most sense for your family :).
I agree with most of what you’re saying here, and I firmly believe in the value and effectiveness of self-directed learning.
There is one thing I wonder about, though. At one point, you say: “Do you remember everything you learned in high school? I bet the answer is no. So, if we’re all functioning adults in the world today yet we all learnt different things in high school, most of which we do not remember, how relevant is it?”
To me, it’s a little more complicated than that, because I enjoy being a well-rounded person, and I value that quality in others, too. I’ve always been part of traditional education, and it’s true that there have been subjects that seemed totally pointless or super uninteresting to me. And although I hated them at the time, I’m still glad I took them. Take biology, for example. I’ve never been interested in cells, the structure of DNA, or the workings of my intestinal tract; in fact, I’ve always been a little grossed out by learning about any of those things (ha). And while it is true that I would’ve been able to get where I am today without learning about any of these things, I’m glad I did: it makes it easier to discuss work with friends who are in the health field, it makes it easier to understand what might be wrong when I go to the doctor, and if I happen to come across a newspaper article describing new treatments for a specific type of genetic disease, I have at least a vague idea of what they’re talking about because I took those classes on DNA.
Similarly, I have a friend who couldn’t stand learning about history in school. Really, she could care less. Yet, it would be really hard to understand contemporary race relations in different countries without being familiar with the history of colonization and slavery, for example. Not knowing that history, or only having a surface understanding of history might lead to gross misinterpretations or oversimplifications of current events. And while that certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world, it would be a pity, because it runs the risk of widening the gap between people who are still facing the consequences of those historical events, and those who don’t (and may feel that those “other” people are just complaining for no reason, which is a very real risk if you’re clueless about the historical context for those complaints).
This isn’t an attack on self-directed learning and unschooling, by the way – as I said at the beginning of this post, I actually agree with most of what you’re saying here, and in terms of raising passionate, confident, motivated kids, I do believe unschooling is generally the way to go. I just wonder if it would be possible to make sure kids are also well-rounded if they are pursuing their own interests…because honestly, that’s the only thing making me wary of unschooling myself when I have kids someday! 🙂
I understand what you’re saying Bee! What I was trying to say was that it’s possible for kids to still learn everything they need to know without us having to have all the answers if that makes sense? So I don’t need to be a teacher and I don’t need to know the curriculum inside out. Because they’re curious and exposed to lots of things I expect them to be interested in the world and want to learn about it anyway! So I definitely think you can achieve a well rounded education with unschooling, if that makes sense 🙂
Yes, that does make sense, and I agree that you definitely don’t need to have all the answer. I mean, even professional teachers don’t have ALL the answers ;-).
I’m just afraid that if I have kids, and I decide to unschool them, they won’t want to pursue some things further because of a lack of interest (like me and biology, or my friend and history). Thinking about it a little more, though, I guess it also depends on HOW you expose kids to these things…a lecture won’t do much, but a museum might (or talking to an expert in the field)! 🙂 This has given me more to think about – thanks for that.
Yes exactly! The world is an interesting place. My kids probably already know as much about the digestive system as me lol.
I was homeschooled from 2nd grade until I entered University. Although every child learns differently, I found homeschooling immensely enjoyable due to my kinesthetic learning style. From this experience, I am a firm believer in educating children in whatever way suits their learning style and interests! Glad to hear that others are doing the same for their children.
I get asked this question all the time, too. I love that you emphasized the fact that she is six. No one else, with school children, is wondering about high school. Everyone needs to relax a bit, I think. Great post!
Oh yes! I get asked this a lot, and sometimes even by the same people. In my seven years of homeschooling, I can’t count how many times this has been brought up to me.
I think the misconception is like what you were talking about, when teens bring home their work and the parent can’t really help them because they don’t remember how to do those math problems they did from 20 + years ago. But I think many don’t fully understand how many resources are available now to homeschoolers. From online curriculums, to classes outside the home. I didn’t even know until we were a few years into homeschooling ourselves.
Oh there’s so much to help if you need it! Makes it so easy.
Encouraging you:) We’ve just graduated our third child, all three were hsed all their lives, it has been a wonderful privilege and we’ve more to travel this journey yet.
That is fantastic!! Thank you for sharing.
I love this post, it really reaffirmed many things that come to mind every time someone asks me this question, especially since our eldest homeschooler is also just 6. We’re just taking it one day, and one kid at a time in our house. Our eldest has found what he needs from a special needs classroom in a public school while our younger ones are all finding great success with homeschooling so far. Thanks for sharing!
Great post. Yes, take one day at a time. One year at a time. I’m starting my 12th year of homeschool… yes, my oldest is a “rising” 11th grade student. WOW! That doesn’t seem possible. My homeschool is different now than it was when my oldest was Kindergarten age. I’ve grown, my “season of life” has changed. What “worked” then may not still be the “best fit” now that my youngest is in 4th grade. “Survival” was key when there were toddlers still in the home and I needed something “open and go”. Now, I can spend more time planning and customizing. And I think high school should be more about pursuing interests than “meeting the requirements” on the transcript. Yes, we cover many of those topics, but in a much less “traditional” form. We are Charlotte Mason learners on the verge of “unschooling”. That would have scared me starting out, but its really how we learn best now.
Wow! Thanks for sharing your experience.
Really misleading article title from a mom whose oldest child was 6 at time of writing. Seems like you were just trying to get clicks.
And how is that? I get this question even though my kids aren’t high school age. I am allowed to answer it.