Category: Middle and High School

Why Homeschool High School?

Anyone who is thinking about homeschooling their High School student feels nauseous, frightened, and more than a little worried.  Seriously, anyone in their right mind would.  It’s downright scary.  Now it matters.  If you, as the parent, mess up now, it will permanently affect your kid’s future. No pressure.  

The temptation is to homeschool during the younger years and then put them into a more traditional school setting during high school because high school can seem so daunting.  It matters now because I need to G35C2270have a transcript and each class needs to be creditworthy.  I know when my oldest was in 7th grade I went to the convention and went to every class on preparing for high school.  I started noticing that there was a small herd of us that seemed to be going to all the same classes.  Finally, I asked the person next to me what grade their child was in and the whole room of us realized that we were all parents of students that were going into 7th or 8th grade and we were all terrified of making a mistake. It actually made me feel a lot better to see a whole room of parents that were as nervous as I was.  Now 7 years later, I can tell you that it was a good idea to prepare then, but I didn’t need to have so much fear.  My kids are thriving in high school and indeed, beyond into college.  It has been worth every sleepless night, every panicked call to my best friend, every hour spent on their transcripts to see who they are becoming and how they are stepping in to God’s path for them.

In High School you finally reap the benefits of all those other years of homeschooling.  I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into my kids and the high school years are when you start to reap the benefits.  I never thought I could say this with a straight face but high school has been a wonderful blessing and some absolutely great years.  There are some real quantifiable benefits to homeschool through High School.

  • Better Academics – Just as in the younger years, in High School we can tailor a child’s education.  We can meet them where they are and that will show in their test scores.  They are also more likely to attend college.  Statistically, 76% of homeschool students had taken college courses versus 46% of the same age group of 18 – 24 years olds.
  • In 1999 Stanford University accepted 27% of homeschooled applicants which was twice the acceptance rate of publicly and privately schooled students.
  • MIT states on their webpage that, ” they have a long history of admitting homeschooled students and these students are successful and vibrant members of our community.”
  • Studies show that in testing, homeschooled students score significant higher than either their public or private schooled peers. If these stats don’t convince you that you can provide an academically strong education through High School, I dont know what will. National Home Education Research Institue
  • Biblically Strong – The ability to mentor and disciple our children.  After high school graduation, homeschooled students are statistically shown to internalize the values and beliefs of their parents.  We spend two years reading and studying through the entire Bible so we know what God’s Word says and then we spend the next two years studying Worldviews, Apologetics and learning how to answer challenges to our faith.  We study philosophy and psychology and learn to be Bereans by taking every theory and testing it against what the Bible says.  We study Logic and Rhetoric so that we have the skills to defend our faith.  We work hard to develop habits like everyday Bible reading, daily prayer, accountability and keeping fellowship with others so that when our kids leave home they know how to and have practiced the habits that help them to keep their faith strong.  We are so blessed that homeschooling has allowed to spend this kind of dedicated time to disciple our kids while still having time to give them a strong academic foundation.
  • The ability to help your child find and develop their passions.  How To Be a High School SuperstarDo Hard Things and Start Here are three books that changed our homeschool and allowed Connor to follow his passions through high school and are now helping Caileigh and Collin to do the same.  I know I talk about this often but I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about it.  My kids are learning who God made them to be and to follow His leading in their lives now.  Get these books and read them now before you even start planning the academics.  
  • The time to Volunteer – We have told our kids that they must accumulate a total of 100 hours of Volunteer hours to graduate from our High School.  Volunteering has helped our kids start changing the world now.  Our teens need to know that they can change the world around them right now.  It helps them to see that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  It helps them to follow James’ mandate in James 1:22, “ But prove yourselves doers of the Word, not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  We require our kids to pick a place to serve in church by the time they are in 7th grade.  It’s an easy place to start, most churches desperately need the help and they can serve alongside us.  My kids, depending on their interests, have done sound, manned the computer, helped in the toddlers class, led small groups, cleaned up the church grounds etc.  Once they get in High School our kids have branched out.  Connor taught STEM classes to kids around the country via the internet, flew to California and taught kids in inner city LA and has moderated and mentored kids in the SCRATCH community.  Connor volunteered more than 100 hours in the summer between his Jr and Sr year alone.  ( One of the unexpected benefits of this was major scholarships because of his dedicated volunteer work ) Caileigh mentors a group of third grade girls during our churches Princess Classes.  She helps to teach and shows them what modesty and purity really look like.  The 20 minutes she spends with those girls are far more powerful than anything I say.  Collin co-leads a weekly small group of 4th and 5th grade boys.  Those two teen boys who lead that group of rowdy boys are a Godsend and are changing the lives of those 15 kids.  The twins also volunteer through their Robotics team teaching STEM camps, deliver meals and this fall I think we, as a family, will lead a First Lego League team.  We need to teach our kids to the value of volunteering while they are young.  Now, the downside to all of this is that I have to drive them to all of these things but I can see the growth in my kids and the lifelong learning they are getting so I am willing to step into that.
  • One of the real benefits that I didn’t expect, was the fact that my kids have had the freedom to be who they have been created to be.  They have had very minimal “peer pressure” to fit into a certain mold.  I have a College student who confidently wears bow ties, composes beautiful piano pieces, has spoken at conferences around the world and still likes to Geek out about the newest Rebels cartoon with his siblings.  I have a daughter who dyes her hair blue in support of her Robotics team, draws beautifully, can program,  plays the guitar so sweetly, can wield power tools and still loves to play with her 4 year old cousin.  Collin confidently teaches 15 boys a week, can machine a part, consistently wins the “Most Christlike” award at Bible Bowl but can also wipe the floor with his Dad on video games.  They are happy to be who they are and are confident in that.  I don’t see that same freedom in most kids in more traditional school settings.  That is a huge benefit in my mind.  They are in the world but not of the world.  They are not isolated but they have been protected from the worst of peer pressure until they are old enough and mature enough to handle it appropriately.

 

I know the thought of homeschooling through High School is daunting but the benefits are so very worth it.  In the next couple of weeks, I will get into the nitty gritty of structuring and planning along with a list of my favorite resources, but I feel like the first place to start is the benefits and motivations of homeschooling through high school. It’s so very worth it, if I can survive it both as a graduate of homeschool and now as a parent of a homeschool graduate, you can too!

Make sure you have read Middle School Vision Casting and Passion led High School!

 

Middle School Vision Casting

Often we see Middle School as just a stop-gap between Elementary School and High School but it is a vital step to prepare our kids properly for High School so we can then properly prepare them for College or Career.

Middle School is the perfect time to teach independent learning, time management, stuff management, as well as start vision casting.  It is so important in these Middle School years that we spend time chatting with our kids about what they think they might be interested in. It is important that we tell them that God has great plans for their lives and we want to partner with God in that. Start talking about whether they see themselves going to college and if so, what colleges and for what.  Start asking them where they see themselves in 10 years. Allow them to dream and talk about their passions and desires, this is the time to talk to them about the fact that God has a purpose for their lives and it is our job to help prepare them for that.  Spend some time looking at careers and talk about schools that might help them follow their passions and God’s will. Let them know that it’s not time to make decisions, it is time to dream.  Want to be an Astronaut?  Okay, great, let’s see what that takes. If they don’t know, that’s okay too, but maybe there are a few things they are interested in and see if we can pursue them.  This is a great time to let your Middle Schooler know that you believe in them and that you are willing to help them put in the hard work that it takes to follow their dreams.

I recommend the book, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell which talks about people who did extraordinary things, not because they were necessarily extraordinary, but they were willing to put in the work. He talks about the fact that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something and that’s the difference between many people who do extraordinary things – the time and hard work expended.  We need to be telling our kids this.  They are smart enough to do whatever they want, but are they willing to put the 10,000 hours of hard work in to follow their dreams? Have them read the book.  It is fascinating as it shows real examples of people who had the talent but not the perseverance and they failed and those who had just enough talent but serious determination and they achieved great things.

Caileigh often compares herself with others and generally puts herself in the negative. Last summer, I really started talking to her about the value of perseverance and hard work.  We talked about setting goals and then spending the time and hard work to meet those goals.  She set some big goals for herself and then put her head down and got to work.  I have never seen her so determined and hard working and she has met her goals and exceeded them.  It is so amazing to see and it has given her great confidence.  Not because I told her she could, but because she has worked hours and hours and is seeing the fruits of her labor pay off  and she feels good about her hard work so she works harder.  What a great life lesson this has been for my 14 year old girl. As a matter of fact, she set two goals for herself in some of her passion areas and despite the fact that she has been on Chemo level drugs for her Autoimmune disease, which make thinking hard, she has more than accomplished both.  Not by just sheer talent, but by a massive amount of hard work.  She works hard and long until she accomplishes those goals.  There have been times that she has sat in tears on my bed because things come easier to others, including her brothers, but she recognizes that she can accomplish what she wants to by will power and long hours.  She wanted to be a Rookie of the Year for Robotics, she set the goal in October and she, her brother and her best friend were awarded the Rising Star award in Robotics last Saturday. Much of the success for Collin was that he was encouraged, goaded, and pulled into the things that Caileigh was excited about.  Both Caileigh and Collin set a goal to be on a tournament team for Bible Bowl at the beginning of the year and they put in the work to make it happen.  We must stress to our kids that the difference between talent and success is hard work.

Our job as parents is to take some of of their dreams and aspirations and help our kids get started.  If they are interested in Engineering, get them books, sign them up for Lego League.  If they show interest in Knitting, get them some books, and some cheaper yarn and needles and set them free.  Are they interested in physics?  Get some books and then some science kits.  Start little, then if they start showing more interest, dig deeper.  Talk to people who specialize in that interest and find out how they got started.  Be interested and help them see the possibilities and keep telling them it’s possible with enough hard work.  If they decide it’s not for them, that’s okay, that’s why you start with little things.  If they talk about being an Astronaut, don’t start by sending them to Space Camp ( unless you are my husband, but he just needed an excuse to go himself) start by watching Earth to the Moon and playing Kerbal.  If they show interest, then help them by taking a step and getting them some books from the library and then watch to see if they want to take the next step.

Start looking at colleges that have what your kids are interested in and figuring out what requirements they need to get in. We started looking at Colleges with Connor at 12.  He wanted to go to MIT or Cambridge.  We started talking about what he would need to do to make that happen. Connor didn’t end up going to school at either of those places, but he did end up being a finalist for the Boettcher Scholarship, which is a very prestigious full ride scholarship in Colorado.  He didn’t win it but because he was finalist he was awarded enough scholarship to almost pay for his college tuition for all four years of school.  He also was accepted in the Engineering Honors program at CU which will allow him to be double honors at graduation which will help to get him into Grad school.  We started planning and setting these things up in Middle School.  Dream big and let them dream big at this stage. That will help to give some guidance to our kids and start showing them that we believe their goals and dreams are possible with a lot of hard work.

Next read a Passion led High School

 

Passion led High School

As we are entering the last semester of High School with Connor, and have had a surprising level of success both with admissions and scholarships, I have been asked several times recently about how we made Connor such an attractive prospect to schools.  Ultimately, the answer is God.  God has a plan for Connor’s life and made him such a unique, wonderful guy that we knew God has paved the way.  That being said, there are some things that I have both seen in Connor’s High School career and in the High School career of friends who are seeing the same level of success, that I think can be quantified.

1.  Excellence – We have always pushed our kids to strive for excellence, not perfection, but excellence.  If we are not as good at something or don’t get it right the first time, that’s fine but we will not move on or give up until we understand. If they got a problem wrong in math, that’s fine but we work on it until we get it right.  Understanding is the key and we work on something until we know it and can do it successfully.

2.  Failure is an option –  we have tried to instill in our kids that we should always try.  We might fail but then we just get up, brush ourselves off and try again.  Failure is just an opportunity to do it again, but better.  What if Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison gave up at their first sign of failure?  The world would be a much worse place.

3.  Middle School is vital – Middle School is where we ramp up, it’s where we start making judgements on the world, it’s where connections start making sense.  Middle School is where we really have to start paying attention to our kids passions.  It’s where we start talking to them about what interests them, what makes stand up and pay attention, what makes them tick. It’s also when we start dream and aspiration casting.  “What do you think you want to do?  What colleges do you think you are interested in?”  At this age, we set no limits.  Cambridge, Harvard, MIT?  Sure, all of that is possible but it’s going to take WORK!  Academics needs to be really kick started in Middle School because it’s where we prep for High School which is where we prep for College or Career.

5.  Follow their Lead –  In or Around Middle School we really started paying attention to our kids interests.  When we went to the library, I would tell our kids to get a history and a science book they were interested in.  I started paying attention their choices and patterns started emerging.  Caileigh picked out gardening books and books on gross germs and diseases.  I gave her some seeds and a patch of the garden and got more books on Biology.  Connor wanted books on programming and inventors.  We started him on Scratch and started looking for First Lego League teams.  Collin likes facts, physics and Legos.  We started buying more Physics books and talking about what things he likes to build.  We asked why they were interested in those subjects.  What would they like to do about those interests?  Tried to find people in their life that they could talk to about those interests.

6. In or around 8th grade, we have them read, “How to be a High School Superstar” by Cal Newport. This is a great book that talks about following a passion, not only following but purposely structuring time and energy both towards finding a passion and then following that passion.  We also like them to read, “Do Hard Things” and “Start Here” by the Harris brothers.  We want them to do hard things in God’s kingdom and these books are a great starting place. This is also a great time to discuss that we can be workers in God’s kingdom without following the traditional path of Pastor and Missionary.  For kids who want to do God’s will sometimes they can miss the fact that God can use them in many different areas.  Connor has taught inner city kids Computer Science and witnessed to Professors in major secular universities by being involved in Scratch and SNAP!.  God created our kids and will work His will into whatever paths He leads them in and our kids need to understand that.

7.  Structure High School to allow time to follow their passions. – I actually struggled with this with Connor.  I had a pretty rigorous plan in place before I read, “How to Be a High School Superstar” and I struggled with the thought of changing those plans.  After much prayer and discussions with my husband, we restructured.  I kept a base level of an academically sound education in History, English, Arts and Foreign Language which would prepare Connor for college but then ramped up Math, Science and Computer Science.  We also gave Connor extra time in his day to work with Scratch.


8. Be willing to say, ‘yes’ and follow through. –  Looking back I can see several times that we could have said , ‘no’ to Connor because it was too hard, too time consuming or too far fetched which would have completely changed Connor’s High School career.  It is hard and sometimes it seemed completely far fetched, like Connor actually be invited to speak to Comp Sci a educators in Barcelona.  I mean, who expects that a 15 year old can figure out a problem that graduate students at Berkely haven’t been able to?  We said ‘yes’ and allowed Connor the time to do so and he did.  We said ‘yes’ when they were interested in First Lego League (FLL) and started a team.  We said ‘yes’ to Caileigh when she was interested in Aquaponics and Scott spent hours helping her figure the system out and she did and successfully built an enclosed system with fish and plants which then fed us with fresh herbs and vegetables.  It does add more work and time and sometimes money.  Start small with their interests, buy seeds and give them a plot of ground with some library books if they are interested in gardening.  If they are interested in knitting, buy them cheap needles and Wal-Mart yarn and see if they follow through.  If they do, take the next step.  Find a class for beginners to help them and then watch to see what they do with it.  When we did FLL we discovered that Connor didn’t like building the robot, he liked programming the robot.  We took that and moved in a different direction. It takes a lot of work on a parents part to say, ‘yes’ but ultimately it is worth it.  I know it can seem really expensive but I can also see where God supplied the money when we needed it.  Sometimes the kids worked for the money, Grandparents have helped out or we had an unexpected extra job to help pay.  Now, it is paying off