Here is a step by step guide on how to homeschool high school, written by a former homeschooled student.
The decision to finish high school at home is not always an easy one. Parents who have homeschooled their children since grade school may still be on the fence about whether to continue homeschooling into high school. As a former high school homeschooler, I can tell you that I turned out just fine! As a now college graduate, I wanted to share my tips for how to homeschool high school from a former homeschooled student.
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How to Homeschool High School
If you have already started high school, get ahold of your transcripts. Know what classes you’ve already taken.
1. Research the laws in your state
There are different requirements and laws for what you will need in each state. The first thing you want to do is find out how many credits your child will need by doing some research into the high school requirements in your state. For example, I live in Indiana. In Indiana, we have to keep records of our coursework but are not required to have any annual testing.
Look up “YOUR STATE high school requirements” for more accurate information of what you will need to graduate and to make sure you meet all the requirements.
These are some of the basics that you will most likely need:
- 3-4 credits mathematics (Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus)
- 4 credits language arts (literature, English, writing)
- 3 credits social studies (World History, American History, Geography, Government)
- 2 credits health and P.E.
- 2 credits foreign language
- 3 or 4 credits science (physical science, biology, chemistry)
2. Keep detailed records and transcripts
Transcripts are one of the most important parts of ensuring that you have everything you need for your high school graduate. You will need to keep full transcripts in order for your child to get into college after graduation. Make sure you are keeping detailed information about everything you do during those years of homeschooling, from regular coursework to extra-curricular activities.
My suggestion is to buy a planner and document the work that you do. Here is an example:
- Algebra 2 – 90 minutes
- Language – 60 minutes
- Spelling – 30 minutes
- Foreign Language – 50 minutes
For more information about creating a transcript, here are some resources:
- Homeschool Transcripts Explained
- Creating Course Descriptions for Transcripts
- Building a Homeschool High School Portfolio
3. Build quality book lists
During your high school years of homeschooling, you will likely encounter a lot of books to read. These may be both for independent reading or for school classes. Having a strong list of books under your belt can look great on a transcript, so make sure to keep a detailed list of some of the books that you read. Plus, when they enter college, remembering examples from great literature is very helpful!
You want to make sure that your book list includes:
- the month and year that the book was read
- The title and author of the book
- Number of pages
- Publish date
Try to keep a read a mixture of classics and modern books. A few noteworthy ones:
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
4. Keep end goals in mind
One of the beauties of homeschooling is being able to adapt your “curriculum” to YOU! For example, my passions were business and WWII, so I was able to adapt my electives accordingly. Be flexible about your curriculum so that you can give your child an education on the topics they care about as well as the required materials.
5. Choose a curriculum that works for you
There are many different kinds of approaches to teaching high school. I believe that high school homeschooling should have a textbook backbone with additional changes and supplemental teaching as needed. The curriculum is really important for homeschooling high school, but you can choose the one that works best for you and your needs! Find textbooks that cover the topics you want to discuss and add in what you feel like the textbook leaves out.
Be sure to check with your high school state requirements to figure out if there are any grading specifications are needed for your state.
In Indiana, you get 1 credit per semester. Therefore, Algebra would be 2 credits. In all the other states, (or most of them) you get 1/2 credit per semester. Therefore, Algebra would be 1 credit. Determine how many credit hours will equal each semester and full course in your high school. For example, I am doing 80 hours in a half-year course and 120 hours in a full year course.
- One semester course is half a year.
- A one semester course is 1/2 credit. (one credit in Indiana)
- Two semesters, a full year course, is 1 credit. (two credits in Indiana)
- A one semester course is approximately 70-90 hours of study.
- A full-year course equals about 120-180 hours.
Decide how many hours you want to use for a full credit and half credit at the beginning of your homeschool.
7. Try dual enrollment
Dual enrollment can be a great way for your high schooler to be able to earn some college credit while they are still in school! Look into online classes at a university, a nearby college, or even community college. Dual enrollment is a relatively cheap way to get credits out of the way to graduate early or lighten coursework.
8. Test out of classes through CLEP testing
If your child wants to get a head start in college, consider having them take AP or CLEP tests to help them get ahead! You can take this test at a local high school and list it as an Honor on your high school transcript if your child passes. (You don’t want to list it as an AP class since this class was not taken with a certified AP teacher.)
From art, science, business (CLEP), foreign languages, English language, math, and social studies, there are a lot of tests to choose from. The $80 test could equal hundreds to thousands of dollars in a college course students don’t have to take!
CLEP tests are taken at a college and were designed for adults going back to school. With that being said, they are easier than AP and out of the two, I’d recommend taking CLEP tests! Students are given a score of 20-80. A score of 50 is passing. I took the Principles of Marketing (see my study notes) and passed.
AP tests were created for high performing high school students. Students are given a score from 1-5. A 3 out of 5 is passing. I took the AP English Language and got a 2, unfortunately. (My sister, who went to a public high school, took the US History one and got a 2.)
9. Take the SAT and ACT tests
The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that can be taken at a local high school. I’d recommend taking the SAT twice: in junior year and senior year. I didn’t take the ACT, but you may have to depending on your major or the college you’re interested in.
You can find practice tests and study guides online or from the library!
When it comes to curriculum, which curriculum you go with really comes down to personal preferences. Check out Cathy Duffy’s reviews for the variety of different curriculum options! 🙂
I have always used Abeka and Saxon and loved both. I used Abeka up until Algebra 2. Later, I switched to Saxon since I felt Abeka didn’t always explain things that well. Both used a spiral approach and were very rigorous.
Teaching Textbooks (video based and great for reluctant learners)
Language Arts and Literature
Marie’s Words is visual flashcards created by a former student. I used them for SAT prep and LOVED them.
If I had to redo my experience, I really enjoy Sonlight‘s philosophy and mission of teaching through incredible literature.
Apologia is one of the top curriculums for science. I’ve never used it, but it’s a quality choice.
I used The 101 Series which is simple but video based, which I enjoyed!
I enjoyed Stobaugh’s history series. He has American, British, and World History. History is the one subject I wish I would’ve done more customized and literature based.
Learning a foreign language doesn’t have to be expensive. I don’t recommend Rosetta Stone. For why, read this and this review. For a list of the best/worse courses and tips on learning a language, read this great course.
I took Hebrew in high school and college and used the textbook Basics of Biblical Hebrew, which I enjoyed.
Electives and Unit Studies
For Indiana, electives came down to how many hours you spent. I created a customized World War II elective where I read dozens of novels about World War II and the Holocaust.
This article from the Home Scholar talks about how investing money into delight-directed (passion) learning can really make your homeschool, and set your student apart from others during college. You don’t need a curriculum, you (the parent) doesn’t have to know what they’re doing, all you need is passion.
Your passion could be specific (Russian history, WWII, animal science, guitar) or as the Home Scholar figures out, it could be chess.
There are a lot of various resources for electives (including creating your own!) online.
After high school, I went into college with 12 credits, which is about a semester’s worth. I was able to graduate from college in 2.5 years, completely debt-free! Read my story below.