Something shifted in me when my firstborn began eighth grade. Suddenly I found myself at the edge of a cliff, staring wide-eyed like a deer in the headlights while pondering the futures of our children.
If I jumped off the cliff, it meant our family was plunging into the fear-inducing abyss of “homeschooling-through-high school-and-preparing-for-college.” How could I be responsible for such an intimidating undertaking? How could I allow my kids to miss out on all the sparkly opportunities that awaited them at our local, newly-built, state-of-the-art high school? If I blow this, what kind of future will they have? And what did I know about being a homeschool high school teacher/guidance counselor/multi-subject expert/teen opportunity-maker anyway?
We jumped off the cliff together.
Spoiler alert: we all lived. And nobody “missed out” on anything.
In fact, we discovered the opportunities are endless.
Each child chose a different educational path after high school. The first-born earned his B.A. in Business through a distance education program and loves his career. The second got her B.S. degree in Applied Health Science from a private Christian college and is now obtaining her Functional Medicine certification. The third opted out of college to pursue his budding career as a professional bluegrass banjo player and ancestry-genealogist.
So my simple answer to “What about college?” is…
Yes, you can do it! (Lots more about that coming below.)
And if your student wants to pursue something else, there are so many non-college options:
*begin an apprenticeship
*attend a trade school
*take courses from a two-year community college
*start a small business
*complete tests/online courses that lead to certification or degree (i.e. Lumerit)
*become a realtor (our “business major” kid got his real estate license while in college)
*pursue the mission field
*serve in the military
*explore paid internships
*discover ways to get paid through a talent/hobby
*participate in a one-year job placement program (i.e “discoverpraxis.com”)
(Parents, our children do not “have to” go to college because we want that for them. They “get to” go to college if they want that for them.)
If your student knows a college education is her desired path (or if she doesn’t know yet and you want to keep her options open), here are a few tips to keep the bases covered:
1. Begin creating a transcript in 8th grade. (This makes the transition to high school feel so seamless and less intimidating!)
A. Find examples online (or from other homeschool parents) and create a template in Google Docs or Microsoft Word so you can add courses and credits each semester through high school.
B. Organize the transcript by subject rather than year.
Did your student take Geometry in 8th grade? It goes on the transcript under the Math section. Did your student take Advanced Chemistry throughout 10th and 11th grade? It’ll be recorded in the Science section just once. Was your son on a basketball team for four years? You can list that as PE credit once on the transcript rather than four separate times.
C. To decide the number of credits, consider that a 1.0 credit course is approximately a school year’s worth of daily work. A .5 credit class is a semester’s worth of daily course work. (“Daily” for the public schools usually means about an hour a day is spent on the subject.) A homeschool student, however, may finish a 1.0 credit course in half the time or in twice the time! I found that our core subjects (for the most part) were worth 1.0 credit and most other electives were worth .5 credit or .25 credit.
2. Record any community service your student gets involved in.
A. Some ideas: church nursery volunteer, Salvation Army bell-ringer, food pantry worker, volunteer lawn mower for elderly, polling volunteer for elections, library or museum volunteer, Operation Christmas Child gift contributor, nursing home performer, charity fundraiser, meal server at a soup kitchen, tutor for elementary-aged students, animal shelter assistant, hospital volunteer, community garden worker, letter-writer to hospitalized veterans, participant in a walk-a-thon or other charitable sports event, Big Brother/Big Sister mentor, mission trip worker, Toys for Tots volunteer, packer and distributor of care packages to the homeless, etc.
B. Be sure to document community service each semester or each year rather than trying to remember it all at the end of senior year (speaking from experience).
3. Create an individual “Course Description” page for each course on the transcript.
A. Include the name of the course, the title and publisher of the curriculum, a list of the topics covered, and how you graded the student.
The table of contents or scope and sequence of your curriculum is a great resource for this. Some of my course descriptions were a full page with 10-point font and some were a quarter page with 14-point font. It simply depends on the class! See an example here.
B. Course descriptions can be included in a portfolio for potential college or scholarship interviews, a school yearbook/scrapbook (see blog post about this here), and for general record-keeping. They were also useful for me to recall what I did with my older(s) when my younger(s) began high school.
4. Allow your student to practice taking standardized tests a few times before high school (even if your state does not require it).
A. We did our testing in a variety of scenarios: large group, small group, and individually at home. When it came time for college entrance exams, they were not intimidated by the idea.
B. High school students can take college entrance exams multiple times. This includes the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. If your student is looking for academic scholarships, taking these tests more than once (starting freshman year) will result in higher scores.
5. Encourage your student to explore areas of high interest (and “count it” on the transcript).
A. For example, when our youngest son began playing the banjo seriously as a young teen, we created a “Music Performance” course on his transcript.
By the time he graduated, that course description included the names of multiple festivals and venues where he performed, contests he won, the CD titles of his recordings in Nashville, and his memberships to music associations. (In addition, we included his volunteer performances at nursing homes and fundraisers as part of his community service work.)
B. Another student had a passion for photography while in high school, so we created a “Photography” course for his transcript.
The course description in his school scrapbook included information about a website he created to showcase and sell his photos and services, his involvement with organizing community-wide photography events, and his experience of being selected to go to the White House to meet the official White House Photographer.
C. Another elective we concocted was based on our daughter’s fascination with human physiology and how it relates to nutrition.
We used two sources for her to receive a .5 credit on her transcript for a class we called "Nutrition 101." First, she studied a video course with 36 lectures by a college professor who is a Registered Dietician. Second, we bought a nutrition textbook from which she took thorough notes, created detailed diagrams, completed the suggested activities, and designed thoughtful, healthy meals. She was so inspired she began her college career as a nutrition major.
The point: let your high school students explore their interests to the fullest extent possible while they’re in high school so they can gain clarity on what they do and don’t want to pursue after high school. (Plus, having a myriad of experiences cultivates a more well-rounded human being!)
Homeschoolers are at an advantage because they can literally design their days based on their passions rather than on a brick-and-mortar school's predetermined class schedule and offerings. For our family, high school was about fulfilling the state's graduation requirements as well as the common requirements for a typical college-bound student and seeking or creating as many opportunities as possible to discover and explore interests at a deeper level. This included sports, music, the arts, special and unusual hobbies, favorite subjects, languages/cultures, and small businesses. It was “out-of-the-box.”
And guess what?
Colleges, internship coordinators, and employers opened their doors wide.
Parents, your students can homeschool through high school and be well-prepared for all of life’s adventures - whether those adventures include college or not.
So when you’re standing at the edge of the cliff, quaking with fear and insecurity about homeschooling through high school and wondering “What about college...?”
Hold their hand, jump...
...and watch them fly.