Homeschooling Your High Schooler

A conversation with homeschool expert Julie Bogart
By Barbara Danza
Barbara Danza
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.
November 23, 2021 Updated: November 23, 2021

Many homeschool parents can wrap their minds around teaching the ABCs and 123s. They can easily read books with their children on their lap and enjoy crafts, experiments, and field trips as they progress through the elementary years.

As children advance, though, subjects such as math become more complicated, and their children grow in independence and competence. Parents can envision the high school years more clearly on the horizon and it can be intimidating. Can Mom and Dad really give each child what they’ll need to cross the finish line and head out into the world to college or to begin a career?

Epoch Times Photo
Author and curriculum creator Julie Bogart. (Courtesy of Julie Bogart)

I asked Julie Bogart for her advice for homeschooling parents trying to wrap their minds around the high school years. She’s a homeschooling veteran, curriculum creator, and author of “The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life.” Here’s what she said.

The Epoch Times: Homeschooling parents often feel intimidated by the idea of homeschooling high school. How does homeschooling typically change as kids enter the high school years?

Julie Bogart: Homeschooling high school is a time to “triangle in” other adults in your child’s life. It’s a time for teens to do some big, bold activities that expand their horizons and provide them with meaningful risks and adventures. For instance, some teens will join a Shakespeare acting troupe in town, others will volunteer at a local animal shelter or elementary school in the middle of the school day. Some teens take up rock climbing or a select sport. Others will hire tutors to learn Latin or they’ll join a co-op to learn chemistry. Lots of teens travel whether as exchange students or backpackers in Europe. Other teens develop talents like writing their own music and performing or joining an e-sport.

The key to homeschooling high school is to get clear on who your teen is and what that teen needs. In my own family, some of my teens were even able to participate part time in the local public high school for activities like marching band or choir. Look at the college trajectory of your student and then reverse engineer the life that makes the most sense for that student. Not all kids want college right at 18. There’s no harm in allowing a teen to explore options and make that decision later in life. High school is a great time to dive deep into a passionate interest, even while still learning the core subjects.

A great book on the topic is “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” by Grace Llewellyn.

The Epoch Times: Some homeschooling parents wonder if they should enroll their kids in a traditional high school when the time comes. What factors do you recommend they consider when working through such a decision?

Ms. Bogart: This is a great question. I had one child who tried the local high school experience and hated it. I had another who chose it and thrived! Each homeschooled student has learned a valuable lesson by age 13: Their appetite for learning is more important than the method. If the method quells that love of learning, they will resist. That said, lots of teens are ready for the experience of competing with peers or participating in the group-oriented extracurricular activities that a high school can provide. Talk with your teen about their goals. Take a look at whether the local school district allows for part-time enrollment. I had a daughter who took classes like French, chemistry, and acting at the local high school while doing all the rest of her education at home or with tutors. She loved that halftime experience.

The Epoch Times: What can homeschooling parents do to best prepare themselves and their children for the high school years?

Ms. Bogart: Be careful not to borrow worry from the teen years into the preteen years. It’s not more important that you “prepare” for high school than that you enjoy junior high with your preteens now. Making comments like “A high school teacher would never let you get away with that” or undue pressure on your preteen to make up for lost time or to get ahead undermines the power of home education in the present moment. Instead, use these years at home to indulge all the ways home makes learning a joy. Do the experiments, go on the field trips, read a book for an entire day curled up by the fire, take the necessary time to learn math—don’t race through. As you prepare for high school, think about what gives your child the best chance to flourish as a person; think less about being a student. Colleges love homeschoolers and homeschooled kids are quick to make up any lost ground because they are usually more motivated and less burnt out than traditionally educated kids.

The Epoch Times: What are some common challenges parents face when it comes to homeschooling high school?

Ms. Bogart: The biggest challenges are teaching your teens the subjects you don’t know well as an adult. For instance, I didn’t have a science background so I outsourced biology and chemistry to parents who were educated in science who taught a group of homeschooled kids together. I taught high school academic writing to their kids as a swap! Same goes for math or learning another language. These are seen as sometimes difficult to provide as a parent. Co-ops, tutors, and online classes can fill in the gaps there.

The other challenge is social. Teens are ready to make friends and have lives outside the home. Remember: Homeschooling is your adventure. For your kids, it’s just ordinary life. By 13 to 14, your kids want to get out of the house to test their wings in the bigger world. They can do that by joining organizations, getting a job, being in a performance group of some kind—whether sports, ballet, theater, or martial arts—and travel. They need friends and it’s important to find places for them to make them.

The Epoch Times: What are some benefits to homeschooling high school that parents may not realize?

Ms. Bogart: Homeschooling high school is amazing for kids who have passions that drive them. My oldest used his teen years to learn Klingon, to teach himself advanced math, computer programming, and constructed languages. He participated in a Shakespeare company for teens. He got into urban gymnastics. I know teens who’ve developed successful music platforms, who’ve started nonprofits, who’ve learned to build low-tech housing in their backyard, and one who cross-bred fish! Truly, when given time and space, many teens take advantage of these years to become more of who they dream of being.

Another benefit is that you get a front-row seat to the development of your teen’s worldview and beliefs. This is an exciting time to watch their minds grow!

The Epoch Times: What was your favorite part about homeschooling your children through the high school years?

Ms. Bogart: I love the conversations! This is the time of life when teens are asking the big questions, testing their unconventional answers, and discovering that more ideas are out there than the ones they learned at home. It’s such an incredible time of cognitive development! And naturally, I loved working on their writing with them. That was deeply satisfying. I also loved watching them perform. There’s something about seeing your teen participate in a group that is satisfying. They look grown-up for the first time!

Teens are amazing and high school is a great time to explore all their interests and passions. Homeschooling allows you to do that in ways that are sometimes prevented by a full school schedule.

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.