I have been homeschooling for 15 years, and have graduated one son, who is now 19 and attending our junior college, with plans to transfer to a local university to finish his accounting degree. ( I also have 2 younger ones, coming up behind him.) What an incredible journey it has been… this homeschooling high school. I remember how intimidating it was, as I stood on that threshold, right where you are now. But God is so faithful, and He will guide you each step, as you continue to be faithful to His calling on your life to home educate and disciple your children, all the way to the finish line. This season of high school is the harvest season for all the time we have devoted to the basics. At the same time, I believe it is a very important time of discipleship and a most rewarding time as a parent. It will set the stage for your relationship with that child, as a young adult.
A few points, and then I will share some curriculum ideas. I am no expert, and the Lord may lead your family in a different direction. But I will humbly share what the Lord has taught us over these years, and some of the things we learned and observed. The position you take on certain matters may look different than ours, but still it is helpful to examine them ahead of time, decide what is important to you, and plan your steps carefully as a family, rather than look back with regret at poor decisions, or find you were unknowingly sucked into situations that were not edifying for your children. The curriculum choices can be confusing, and there are lots of decisions to make. But just as important to the success of home schooling high school, as the curriculum and resources, are some other choices we make during those teen years.
It is helpful to reevaluate our goals for our young adult children, because those goals will steer your ship. College options seem to be the first thing that come to mind when we think about high school. Certainly this is a factor, and personally, I would recommend record keeping and curriculum choices that prepare our students for this option. But for us, college entrance was not our main goal. If my student got accepted to the best college, but wasn’t living for the Lord or in a right relationship with Him or us, my heart would be broken. So, our game plan was to pray and discuss what we DIDN’T want to see happen in our teen’s life, and then we worked proactively to avoid activities and situations that would put our goals at risk. At the same time, we chose curriculum that would be considered “college prep”, but sometimes a little out of the box. For us, it was a good combination.
Academic preparation for college is one factor. But we have found that that pales in light of the cultural warfare our young adults will face on most college campuses. Even most colleges with a religious affiliation do not teach from a fundamental Christian worldview. Most science departments teach evolution, and most classes incorporate some form of liberal politics and secular humanism and/or evolution, no matter how benign the course title is (geography, English, etc.). Keeping that in mind is helpful when choosing resources for high school.
There are several good resources for us as parents. Family Driven Faith, by Voddie Baucham is a good resource. Barb Shelton’s book, High School Formula is a little wordy (like me: ) ), but she has a lot of good ideas for high school. For practical, academic prep for college, record keeping, etc. CBD sells several High School Handbooks for homeschoolers. They all contain much of the same info., so any of them will be useful.
So, on to issues of the heart… The examples I share are not meant as the only “right” way to tackle these subjects. I know and love many families who have chosen a different path for their teens and their families, some with good outcomes and others with devastating outcomes. There is no magic formula or recipe for guaranteed success with our kids. But with God’s word as our guide, we can make some decisions that are counter-culture, and do our part as gatekeepers and protectors of our children’s faith.
I have watched as MANY homeschoolers in my circle of friends and acquaintances have lost the heart of their teens. Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason for this. But more often, it is linked almost directly to outside influences that could have been avoided. For some reason, many seem to think that the most important thing for their teen, is to have lots of friends, and activities and maybe a job, etc. But I would disagree with those ideas. Our teens do have needs, but those needs can and should be met by the family. I’ll be honest… it was a lot of work, and took up a lot of our time, but it was so worth it.
Let me give a few examples. We chose to avoid youth groups, AWANA, youth camps, and such, because we did not want him to develop friendships that would capture his heart, not to mention that we believe the KEY to parenting teens is supervision, supervision, supervision… by us. : ) All of the youth programs look like worthy activities, but they separate that teen out from his/her family, and foster peer relationships, rather than family relationships. Before long, those teens are often thinking of the parents as intruders, instead of partners, and often they are led down a path that they would never have chosen on their own, by those “friends” . It’s the classic wrong crowd situation, and that wrong crowd can be found at church or a place of employment ( like fast food restaurants, etc.)
As an alternative, we worked tirelessly to provide activities that gave the “illusion” of friends. : )
We met once a month with other teens and a parent, and enjoyed different activities, like game night, volleyball, etc.
I also started a High School Book Club, inviting families with homeschool high schoolers to join us. I wanted to mention that I so appreciate your heart for doing as much as you can that includes your 6th grade child as well. At the same time, as the maturity gap widens with our children, some topics and discussions are important to have with those older children, but just not quite appropriate for our younger ones. You will have to navigate that for your kids, but that is why I limited our Book Club to high schoolers. And again, at least one parent was expected to attend.
We also did high school science (Apologia) together with other families, which provided an academically motivating environment, and again fostered friendships with other home schooled teens. We always provided yummy snacks and some free time at the end, which contributed to the social aspects of the activity. The group started with Physical Science, and ended with Physics, so pretty much the same group of homeschoolers studied together for 4 years. Iron sharpening iron.
We wanted to give our teen a full schedule, with little down time to feel isolated or bored. We felt it was important for him to identify with other home school high schoolers, rather than feeling “different”, because his circle of associations were public school kids. One thing we often saw, was that as teens developed friendships with public school kids at church youth groups or a workplace, they became discontent with home schooling. Even if they are basically “nice” kids, most public school teens are living a very different lifestyle than we envisioned for our family. Even most churches encourage this lifestyle, imitating the public school model. (But that is another discussion. : ) ) Many teens are often independent of their parents and siblings in most activities, which means they are outside of their parents’ influence for most of their teen years. We wanted something different, and we wanted to keep our teen’s heart on board, and wanted him to be content with home schooling high school. Avoiding situations that fostered friendships with public school teens, played a large role in accomplishing this.
We didn’t allow our teen to work in a typical job environment. We felt that would open a door to relationships that might be a poor influence on him, and might make the youth culture more appealing, again, fostering a discontent with our choices. The risk was not worth the small paycheck. However, we did have him make up a flyer, and offer his services in our neighborhood to mow lawns, and do animal care. Both of these “jobs” grew to be plenty of work for his limited schedule throughout high school. For a daughter, babysitting or animal care is another needed service. The point is that he was able to earn some money, learn a good work ethic, grow in responsibility, yet avoid the pitfalls of those unsupervised relationships that often develop in a typical work environment.
One other big effort we made was in recreation. My son enjoyed sports, and needed the physical outlet that athletics provided. He played soccer as a younger boy, but when he hit 9th grade, we didn’t want to do the school soccer team. Same situation… contentment and/or peer influence were risks not worth taking. We decided to put him in tennis lessons ( a bit of a stretch for our meager single income, but sooo worth it!). Tennis turned out to be a saving grace for us during those high school years. In addition to the other activities I mentioned, tennis filled up a lot of time. It was a good investment of time and money.
On weekends, we scheduled family game nights, which again, committed his time to home. As he got older ( like 17 -18), he would turn down invitations saying, “ Oh, I can’t do such and such Sat. night, because we have game night at our house.”. Game nights provide a lot of laughter and conversation with those teens, and can include younger siblings. : )
As his sleep pattern changed, I stayed up later as well, to provide company and cook late night snacks, as well as supervision ( the TV and computer can be a temptation to a lonely or bored teen.) His few friends were always welcome, late into the night, or even to crash overnight. They always felt welcome, and I found that “If you feed them, they will come!”. : ) On weekends, my husband took a shift, and watched an a movie or played acceptable computer games, so my son seldom felt the need to seek outside relationships. Instead, he sometimes invited those same few friends to join him at home… where there was plenty of food, Mountain Dew, a ping pong table, computer games, etc., all under our watchful eyes and ears. Supervision. : )
Driving alone wasn’t an option until just before turning 18. It was tempting, but once that teen is driving, it opens a world of opportunity and freedom… we didn’t want that door opened at 16 years old. Again, it eats up a gob of time and energy to play chauffer, but it provides the needed supervision and accountability, and also gives lots of time to chat and stay close to those teens. : )
Cell phones and texting, and face book, etc. .. all open the door to unsupervised friendships developing with our kids. I won’t say a lot here, but I am amazed at the bad influence that come from these activities, and I really think we as parents need to be gatekeepers and guard this stuff.
These are just a few ideas and examples of how we attempted to make home and family the center of our teen’s life. He is not perfect, and neither are we, by a long way! Our relationship still has it’s bumps, etc. But as we looked at the issues facing families, and examined the source of a lot of the trouble, it seemed to all come back to abdicating our role as parents, and farming out our kid to others (youth pastors, AWANA leaders, charter school teachers, etc.) to fill most of their emotional, social and spiritual needs. I believe that God has equipped families to do most of that for each other.
Below are a few curriculum resources that I and others around me, have found very helpful for high school. As I considered curriculum, I was looking for a few criteria. I wanted resources that would prepare my student for college/adult level thinking. College admissions is a factor, and a college handbook from CBD will help you be sure you are meeting that criteria. That was the easy part. But even if our child did not go on to college, we wanted to equip him with the tools to effectively combat the culture, to read and write well, and to look at every issue through the lens of God’s Word. So, to prepare for college, or not, teaching Christian Worldview became the priority for us. Even with all the effort we put in to doing that, we still find that he is challenged in college, and we are continuing to revisit some of our old dvds and watching new ones on anti-evolution topics, and the founding fathers, etc. The attack of the enemy never ends, and we find that our children are pretty instantly engaged in cultural warfare the minute they step into the college arena. Their Christian faith is under attack and all they have been taught is scoffed at. Scary stuff.
Most all of these teach and/or support a strong Christian worldview. Also, they are all teacher friendly, and you don’t have to be an expert yourself to teach the material. Great teacher guides, or the course is actually taught by the dvd. I like that. : )
HISTORY… Diana Waring’s Ancient History is excellent, and can be used for multi ages. Includes commentary on Biblical role in history and a ton of very interesting information. We didn’t do all the extra activities ( cooking, drama, .. It just wasn’t his thing), but we read and read. Very interesting reading. She also has audio cds that are great to listen to, especially in the car. CBD sells her materials.
American Heritage by David Barton of Wall Builders is an excellent dvd series. Anything by Barton or Wall Builders is really good. Drive Through History dvds are entertaining but filled with great info.
I would check out from the library ( or sometimes buy from Amazon) an old movie that went along with what we were studying. For instance, we watched Luther when we were studying the Reformation. Teens often like movies, so adding dvds to our cuuriculum helped keep his interest. ( Most current movies had unacceptable content, so we tended to stick to the oldies. But there were a few more modern that were good and clean.)
GOVERNMENT… Institute on the Constitution, by Dr. John Eidsmoe. This is a dvd course. We went in with several other families, and split the cost, which made it very affordable. We met for 6 weeks, doubling the lessons, and earned our government credit ( usually done in 11th or 12th grade.) You could meet for 12 weeks if you wanted to. This is an excellent government course, and we later watched it again. It is loaded in great info.
Prior to doing this course, we read through Land of Fair Play, by Christian Liberty Press. This is a middle school Civics course, but honestly, it is appropriate for most high schoolers and adults. It does a great job of describing our government in layman’s terms, and familiarizing us with the terminology, and concepts, etc., before diving into the more academic constitution course.
LITERATURE… American Literature by Dr. James Stobaugh is a great, formal, Christian literature course. It is a little too writing intensive for us ( not our strong point… son is a reluctant writer to this day.). So, I limited the writing assignments, and focused mainly on the excellent commentaries and text. Also, I pulled in a movie, based on the book excerpts being discussed, every chance I could. : )
BOOK CLUB… this turned out to be a highlight of our high school years. I too had issues with many of the “classics”. The Lord guided us, and as a result, we read some excellent books, and explored great topics, like forgiveness vs. revenge, hope, slavery, freedom, comedy, and much more. (email for more details if you are interested.)
By tracking our meeting and reading hours, we had no problem including this course on our transcripts as literature credit. And our book list was taken selectively from college recommended lists. Again, email me if you would like a list of what we covered.
Total Language plus is a good resource as well, for exploring literature. If you come up with your own book list, and Total Lang. doesn’t have a guide for a certain book, you can usually google the title, and get spark notes on it, to use as you choose.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE… We used Bob Jones HomeSat Spanish course. The HomeSat program is gone now, but I think they sell each subject on dvd. For college purposes, you could use 2 years of the language of your choice. Other considerations are American Sign Language as a foreign language.
SCIENCE/WORLDVIEW/APOLOGETICS… Now this is what I call COLLEGE PREP! : ) LIFE PREP, actually! : ) …
I would use lots of resources by Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis… again great for all ages. Answers in Genesis is devoted to taking on the evolution religion being taught in our schools, K – college. There are curriculum resources, dvds, a website. I would saturate our teens in the truth of Biblical creation, and also use these materials to expose Darwin’s false teachings. If you go to their website, they have tons of dvds. Makes the learning painless. : )
Thinking Like A Christian… also a good Worldview course designed for older teens. I like this because it is written out, word for word, for the teacher.
Many of these resources are carried and sold by CBD, but I would also check for used items at www.homeschoolclassifieds.com or hslda’s marketplace (go to their website, and follow the link), or at www.amazon.com and look at the used items for each title. Finally, HSLDA has a monthly email newsletter for home schooling high school, which is encouraging as well as practical.
Just one more note… the Lord provided the inspiration, motivation and resources to teach our high schoolers outside of the public school/charter school option. Often, we think we can’t do it without the school’s help, but we can. : )