Homeschooling for High School: Academics

Note: All of the Catholic Homeschool Curriculum Providers (such as Seton, Kolbe Academy, etc.) have complete high school programs available. You can read more about the different programs on our Curriculum Providers page.

A reasonable amount of structure is necessary. Remember that this is one of the areas which should be individually tailored to fit the needs of your child. Some students are excellent independent learners and will really take off almost on their own. Others need much more supervision. Setting goals together will help teenagers take more responsibility for their education. Parents will be the guiding force, helping the student to discipline himself.

"I...knew I wanted a curriculum which demanded a certain amount of rigor, something challenging enough to be stimulating. At the same time I knew that I would have to be careful to ensure some success for each child." Laura Berquist, Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum

"The answer is a balance between structure and non-structure. But this balance must be reached after a consideration of various factors. These factors include the age of the student, the learning ability, the best learning style for the student, the teacher-mother's ability, and the subject matter itself." Mary Kay Clark, Catholic Home Schooling

Setting Goals
There are many fine High School programs available from Catholic Homeschool Curriculum Providers. Even if you do use a structured curriculum, it would be wise to look into college admission requirements early. The requirements for graduation in a particular program are not always enough to meet the admissions requirements for a particular college. Work with your teen on setting goals for academics and planning how to achieve them. Goals need to include plans for how many years of Math, Science and Foreign Language your teen will study. Even with a structured program there are various ways of accomplishing the assignments. For example, some students work better spending several hours on one subject without interruption and perhaps studying a particular subject, such as science only once a week. Others prefer to take things in smaller doses and study each subject every day for a shorter period of time.

Handling Tough Subjects
There are many options today for parents who are not experts in Math, Chemistry and Foreign Languages. Some parents are sending their children to public school for Math and Science. Some take junior college courses. Homeschool curriculum providers (such as Kolbe, Seton, etc.) often provide indepth support via telephone or e-mail (which is especially helpful for the "tougher subjects").Several of these schools (icluding Seton and Kolbe) allow students to sign up for individual courses in order to get that support on particular subjects without being signed up for their entire program.

Some homeschoolers swap classes with other parents (I'll teach your kids Latin if you teach mine Calculus). Some families get together and hire a teacher for one or two subjects. CDRoms and the Internet are other potential resources for these academics. Don't forget to check with friends or relatives (especially homeschool Dads) who may have some expertise in the subject you are concerned about.

Developing Necessary Skills
(such as Self-Discipline, Public Speaking, Group Discussion, Meeting Deadlines)
Getting some classroom experience seems to be very helpful in rounding out a homeschooled high schooler's preparation for college. This experience can be very helpful in developing skills such as being accustomed to meeting deadlines, having a sense of classroom etiquette, and gaining confidence in discussing and asking questions in a group setting.

Some ways to get this experience include - one or two classes at public high school or junior college or a homeschool "class" with an outside teacher or knowledgeable parent.

"...several of our students...have enrolled in community college courses for advanced math, advanced scsience, and advanced foreign languages. Taking only a single course limits social interaction with the other students." Mary Kay Clark, Catholic Home Schooling.

Note taking - Good note taking is a real life skill necessary for college and many aspects of professional and social life. In an article in the September 1998 Seton Home Study Newsletter, Mary Alice Rice of Christendom College gives some suggestions for practicing note taking outside of a formal classroom. "Since there are very few opportunities in the normal home schooling setting for listening to a lecture, taking notes, then being tested on the material, you may have to create the situations. Have him take notes on the homily at Mass, on an EWTN program, or on a talk at a public library. (It doesn't matter if he thinks the subject is boring--there'll be a few boring lectures in college as well--but it's better if it's a topic about which you know more than he does.) Three or four weeks later, write and administer a test based on your understanding of the topic, not on the student's notes. The student must not discuss the subject with you; he has to rely on what he has written."

Public Speaking -"Classroom experience", recitals, and discussion groups can all help in the area of public speaking. Remember that this isn't a skill that is automatically picked up in a conventional school either.

Writing and Spelling - Remember that some of the conveniences of home will not be available in a college classroom. Students can't rely on a computer with a spell check for tests, but must have legible handwriting and good spelling in order to succeed.

Staying on Track
Assessing Progress - Regular meetings between parents and teens to discuss progress toward your goals would be an excellent idea. Perhaps going out to dinner with you monthly or quarterly would be a good setting to discuss "how things are going." This is one of the important places for the father to be involved. Parents should listen seriously to the student's concerns - do they need more structure or more space, are they really struggling with particular subjects, etc. Don't forget to talk about what's going well and encourage your teen about the successes.

Transcripts/Record Keeping - Also see the College Board's No Transcript, Air Force Academy information for homeschoolers and Thomas Aquinas College's Homeschool Information Page.

Keeping a Journal - One aspect of record keeping that might be more important than letter grades is a journal of material you've covered - books read, reports written, experiments performed, courses completed, etc. Consider allowing your teenager to be in charge of organizing and entering information in the journal - with regular checkups from you of course. Doing this work can be excellent practice for your teen and save yourself time and energy.

Grades/Transcript - If you are very concerned about keeping a transcript, or if the college you're hoping to attend is very strict about a transcript, it would probably be wise to work with one of the homeschool programs such as Seton, Kolbe or Our Lady of the Rosary. At the very least, you should faithfully record more objective scores (such as test results). If parents are assigning quarterly grades for each subject, it might be wise to record some comments on why that particular grade was earned as well as individual test scores that were used in figuring the grade.

Portfolio - It is advisable to keep a portfolio of work samples as well. (see No Transcript )