Family & Education

Homeschooling High School: Strategies and Opportunities

With careful planning, it’s possible to graduate high school early
BY Barbara Danza TIMEAugust 3, 2022 PRINT

Homeschooling through the high school years can seem like a scary proposition to many parents. Nicki Truesdell, author of “Anyone Can Homeschool, Overcoming Obstacles to Home Education” and a veteran homeschooling mom of five from Texas, wants parents to know that it need not be scary and, in fact, your child can even graduate early as a homeschooler if they wish to.

I asked Truesdell about her homeschooling experience and for her advice for homeschooling high schoolers. Here’s what she said.

The Epoch Times: You’ve homeschooled all five of your kids without ever sending them off to school. What led you to decide to homeschool from the beginning?

Nicki Truesdell: I was actually homeschooled as a kid, from sixth to 12th grade. I loved it, and knew there was no other option for my kids. 

The Epoch Times: Many parents, even experienced homeschooling parents, find the idea of homeschooling through the high school years daunting. Why do you believe this is a scary proposition to many? Should it be?

Ms. Truesdell: We have been conditioned to believe that high school is hard, and that teaching it is even harder. There’s always that one school subject that stumps us all; for some, it was algebra, and for others, it was chemistry or writing. But that one subject leads us to believe that we aren’t capable of teaching any high school subjects to our own children. It sounds impossible! But it really shouldn’t be. 

Homeschooling curricula are unique and varied, and there are more options to choose from than most people realize. These options always come with an abundance of help, such as instructor guides, answer keys, video lessons, and even complete online courses. Couple that with an ever-growing homeschool community, where you’ll find help within your local area, such as tutors or even other homeschool parents that are great in those “hard” subjects. I have friends who are homeschool parents and biologists, math majors, history buffs, and so much more. There are experts all around you. 

Epoch Times Photo
Nicki Truesdell, author and veteran homeschooling mother. (Courtesy of Nicki Truesdell)

The Epoch Times: What common misconceptions do parents tend to have regarding homeschooling high school?

Ms. Truesdell: One of the most common misconceptions about homeschooling high school is that a parent must know everything. That’s simply not the case. A parent must simply be the facilitator of resources. 

The Epoch Times: What strategies would you recommend homeschooling parents employ when navigating the high school years?

Ms. Truesdell: Consider yourself a parent, not a high school counselor. You are helping to navigate your teen into the adult world, not just graduation. Consider the whole person, and plan their high school years accordingly.

Prepare them for all aspects of adult life. All teens will become adults, but not all teens will attend college. We too often end up focusing on GPA and transcripts at the expense of real-world education. Teach them history, science, math, and language arts as they apply to all people, not just an incoming college freshman. 

Have lots of conversations. Homeschooled high school teens have a unique opportunity to let adults be their most influential peers, and this is a good thing. Talk about everything. Prioritize meals together without TV or smartphones. Talk about the news, their lives, their thoughts, and your beliefs. Chase rabbit trails about everything. Have fun together. 

The Epoch Times: You’ve shared that your son graduated early from high school as a homeschooler. How did you do it? Would you recommend that path to others?

Ms. Truesdell: We think of a 16-year-old graduating from high school as “early,” but it’s really just a more old-fashioned version of education. My son was simply able to condense his high school years by concentrating on what was important for him, and not for a state bureaucracy or school board. I learned early in my homeschooling years that there is a lot of wasted time spent in school, but with very little explanation for why we do it this way. 

Students don’t need 12 years of math lessons; they need to learn the math concepts, apply them, and move forward to the next one. This can really be done in six to eight years, depending on the child. The same applies to language arts: a child should learn to read—and read well—spell, compose proper sentences and lengthy papers, and carry on an intelligent conversation. None of these require 12 years of textbooks. There is so much “busy work” under the guise of education, and we’ve come to assume it’s normal.

This line of thinking requires that you don’t place your emphasis on grade levels, but rather education levels. Grade levels are a 20th-century invention, and are really only applicable to public schools. At home, they are not necessary. I have allowed my students to take courses at different times, such as biology or government. These were not dependent on their age or grade, but many other personal factors.

When my son was about 12 years old, he asked about graduating early. I responded with a proposed high school transcript, complete with the courses he would need to complete during his school years. He used it as a to-do list. After each course was complete, we marked it off the list. By the last year, he was determined to graduate at 16, so he did have to hustle the last few months. His courses included all of the basics and more: math, writing, science, history, geography, Bible, logic, American government, and lots of reading.

I do recommend this path to any family that wants to pursue more than just “schooling.” Home education allows for so much flexibility! My son is an artist and a musician, and has dreams of entrepreneurship. He now spends more time on those pursuits.

The Epoch Times: How do students who are homeschooled get admitted to college, should they desire that path? 

Ms. Truesdell: Homeschooled students attend colleges just like everyone else, through regular admission, on scholarship, and as dual credit students. Whether they should desire that path is a choice each student should make with their parents. 

As conservatives, my husband and I tend to encourage non-college pathways. If there is a specific degree that is important to our child’s future, we would not discourage it, but would be very deliberate in helping them to attend one that does not undermine everything we’ve taught them. 

The Epoch Times: When it comes to college admissions, do you believe homeschoolers are at an advantage or disadvantage?

Ms. Truesdell: Homeschoolers are at a distinct advantage when it comes to college admissions. In fact, they have been eagerly sought out by admissions departments for many years. Multiple studies have shown that homeschooled students consistently outperform their public-schooled peers on standardized testing, making them better candidates for higher education.

The Epoch Times: What have you found to be the greatest benefits of homeschooling your children through their high school years?

Ms. Truesdell: The high school years are when you take all of the information the student has learned and apply it to the real world and to the student, personally. This is the time that shapes their worldview, and whoever spends the most time with them is who is doing the shaping. I cannot emphasize this enough. 

Consider the typical high schooler’s day in public school: up at dawn, off to athletics practice or an early bus ride, at school all day, staying after for more practice or other extracurricular activities, and then off to work their part-time job or hang out with friends. How much time is this teen spending with people other than their parents? 

Who is shaping their worldview?

I believe that the high school years are the absolute most important time to homeschool for this reason. Parents get to be the education provider and so much more. As a homeschooling family, the home is the center of the teen’s world. Yes, there are still many opportunities for jobs, friends, lessons, and sports, but the center of their life is the home. Their peers are family members and a carefully chosen community of like-minded teens and adults. If you’re even slightly aware of what’s happening in our culture and in our schools, you know why this is so important.

My kids are fully aware of the culture, because we do live in the real world. But with home as the center of their world, we provide a safe and friendly place to learn about and discuss the issues all around us.

Barbara Danza
Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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