Homeschool High School

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With the pandemic raging across the country many school districts are calling for either complete distance learning or a hybrid option.  Let me be clear—in most circumstances (not all, but most) what school districts are doing is simply moving school online.  It is NOT homeschooling.  As a result many people are unhappy with the way things went in the spring.  It was extremely difficult on both teachers and students.  Thus, I have received many questions about how to homeschool high school from parents looking for alternatives to what their districts are offering. 

One major benefit of homeschooling is that kids can learn in the way that fits them best so there is no one way to homeschool a high school student.  Deciding what is right for your child though involves a lot of honest self-reflection.  It also involves culling through the plethora of options in order to come up with a coherent plan.  Both the self-reflection and the coherent plan are equally important to your success as a homeschooler.  Do not rush the planning process.     

If you are willing to put in a bit of time and effort now, in due course you will find that things will run very smoothly.  Getting started is the hardest part, but the following steps will guide you through:

  1. Reflect on your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Reflect on your child’s interests and goals .
  3. Research your state’s homeschool laws
  4. Reflect on your involvement. 
  5. Design a plan.
  6. Design a routine.
  7. Reevaluate regularly. 

Strengths and Weaknesses

One thing that is great about homeschooling is that you can teach to a child’s strengths.  By the time a child is in high school they should have an idea of where they excel and where they feel a bit more challenged.  Obviously, there is a baseline of skills every kid must master regardless what they are good at, but you can tweak the curriculum to appeal more to how they learn and what they are interested in.  There are no shortage of choices, but the following questions will give you some insight onto what program(s) and/or methodologies might be optimal for your child. 

  1. Is your child more likely to remember something they…
    •  Hear  (go for online or prerecorded class)
    •  Read (use a living books program like Sonlight)
    • Write (use a classical approach)
    • Combination
  2.  Is your child easily bored by school?  (switch it up with a variety of curricula)
  3. Does your child learn better working directly with other people? (use live online classes, tutors and/or coops for their more challenging subjects)
  4. Is your child gifted or have other special needs?

My next post will use the answers to these questions to find the perfect curricula, but for now it’s just important for you to think about them.

Goals and Interests

In high school it is imperative that homeschool parents be prepared to have the necessary paperwork and recordkeeping to help your child achieve his or her goals.  Whether it’s college, the military, entrepreneurship or anything else your child dreams of becoming your homeschool program should reflect those interests and goals.

College bound students will need to be sure the work they do is college prep and you will need to write a transcript from early on.  There are many ways to do this either on your own or through a variety of transcript services.  I offer college planning for parents who would like a little more help in this area. 

Children interested in science should definitely be sure to use a comprehensive homeschool science curriculum that includes a lab component.  I also recommend taking at a minimum one live science class either online or in a co-op setting.  Summers should also include some science exposure or instruction be it through a camp or a internship type environment. 

There are far too many interests that kids pursue to address each here, but I do offer homeschool consulting and college planning services for a fee that will be personalized to your student.  This important thing is that you gear the curriculum towards their goals.

Homeschool Laws

Every state is completely different in how they address homeschooling.  Visit HSLDA to determine what your state’s laws are and how they are implemented.  It also helps to talk with other homeschoolers in your area. 

Reflect on your involvement

The beauty of homeschooling older children is that the parent’s role is a lot less time consuming.  I always view the homeschool teacher’s role as that of a guide, but by high school it’s less even a guide and more a compass or map.  That being said it is still involved and will require a strong commitment from you especially at first as you and your child adjust.  

Every parent has different constraints by work and home life.  It’s important to be honest about how much time and effort you are able to put into homeschooling each day.  There are excellent homeschool high school programs out there that require very little on your part.  I do think it’s important that a homeschooling parent (or any parent) stay involved in their child’s education to some degree regardless of the program you choose, but do you want to be a cheerleader or a coach is the question you must answer when reviewing curricula. 

To be honest by high school most homeschooling programs use very little in the way of parent led instruction, but some programs do require  more involvement in assisting with projects, testing, correcting etc.  than others.  Subject areas in which you are weak you may wish to outsource to an online class or a teach assisted program.  Think about all of these things in depth before looking at curricula.

Design a Plan

This is where you synthesize all your self-reflection into a coherent idea of what curriculum suits you and your child best.  Picking curriculum first depends on deciding what subjects should be studied each year and then finding the best materials and/or courses to learn those subjects.  Each child’s list of subjects will be different based on what is required by your state and dictated by your child’s goals, but in general the following is a good outline for most high school homeschools:

English—full four years including writing and literature

Math—full four years including algebra, geometry, algebra II (college prep should have at least precalculus)

Science—three years with lab including biology, chemistry, physics (college prep for science careers should have a full four years)

Social Studies—two years (college prep should have at least three years)

Foreign Language—two years (more if possible)

Arts—a minimum of one year of art and one year of music rounds out a high school education, but is usually not required. 

PhysEd—four years (does not need to be formal, but your child should regularly participate in activities that increase their heart rate)

(I also add in four years of theology and one year of health including nutrition and fitness.  If your child is not computer savvy you may wish to add in some computer classes as well.)

Your homeschool high school program might look a bit different and it really should because the benefit of homeschooling is that we can tweak a program to be the best education for our kids.  Within the guidelines of required subjects determined by laws and goals your child should have some input into what specific courses they would like to take.  For example your child’s English classes may be something traditional like American Literature  for a full year or you could have them do a semester on Science Fiction and another on Victorian Romance.  The point is to teach them to analyze literature and write well.  It doesn’t really matter the context in which they do this.  

In this next post I have listed some of my favorite high school resources and curriculum to get your started.  If you need any additional help please consider my homeschool consulting.  I have years of experience with tons of different curriculum and can help you decide what is best.  In the mean time let’s talk about your routine. 

Design a routine

If you haven’t already read it you might find my post on finding time to homeschool helpful at this point.  I will review some of the concepts discussed in that article here within the specific context of a high school student. 

By high school your child should be starting to develop some independence in organizing their day.  First, find a planner or online calendar that works for your child.  My daughters use Erin Condren Academic Planners, but there are plenty of options out there including the simple calendar on their phone.  Whatever it is find a way for your child to organize their life.  To me this is as important as learning math.  Take the time to help them develop good organizational habits and everything will be so much easier not only in high school, but also in life. 

For your purposes you will also need a planner that works for you.  I just put everything in my Erin Condren Lifeplanner with my work stuff, but some parents want to keep their work separate. It just depends on what works for you.  Again, the point is that you need somewhere to keep track of where your kids are in their academics.

Sit down with your planners to mark off the year.  Take time off for holidays, birthdays, etc.  Mark when you have stuff going on and give yourself time for all the extras.  (again, my post on finding time to homeschool goes into more detail on this) You should allow for about 34-36 weeks of homeschooling in addition to any breaks.  (your state might have different requirements) Also put in dates and times of online classs, extracurricular activities and anything else you or your child must remember. 

Now it’s time to come up with a study plan. List the curriculum you have chosen for each subject. (I will offer some suggestions in my next post to help you determine the curriculum).  On the list specify how many weeks and how many times per week the curriculum needs to be covered in order to finish on time.  (usually this information is in the teacher’s guide or table of contents)

Using this information compile a weekly routine indicating what subjects need to be completed each day in order to finish on time.  Then, in your planners mark benchmarks to check that you are working through the material at the right pace. 

For example, if there are ninety lessons in your child’s history book you know they should complete about three a week to finish before the last week of school.  So at the five week point they should have finished lesson fifteen. Mark in your calendar to check that they are at lesson fifteen before the correct date.  You can do this more frequently in the beginning—even every week, but once you get the routine going you just get into a flow and you won’t need to check as frequently.   Every couple months evaluate how you are doing. Make adjustments to the calendar to be sure you are working through everything at an adequate pace. 

Teach your child to take time each week—I do this on Monday morning—to look at everything that needs to get done over the course of the week and fill in the planner with a daily to do list based on the weekly routine.  Make adjustments to the routine if needed.  At the end of the week review what worked well and what didn’t.

A final word….

I run my homeschool high school a lot like college.  It’s not necessary to micromanage every assignment my children do.  I pick several major assignments/projects that will be evaluated, but for the most part the day to day work is entirely self-directed.  I definitely do spot checks to be sure they are reading the books and listening to lectures.  Their math programs have tests which I monitor, but I don’t tell them how many problems and examples they have to work through each day.  They just do however much they have to in order to understand the material.   

If this is your first year homeschooling you will want to do quite a few spot checks to be they are understanding the material. As you get into the swing of things though your child will become incredibly independent.  I know, for most families, this is an adjustment coming out of school where kids are used to constant oversight so it will take time. 

Once everyone gets used to the routine you will be surprised at how little time it actually takes to homeschool high school compared to going to a brick and mortar school. Don’t let this scare you. They are doing enough. Really. The extra time is vital to allow your child time to pursue hobbies and interests, travel, volunteer and otherwise grow into the adult they were created to be.

When you homeschool high school never lose sight though of the important thing—that students learn to learn on their own.  This will serve them well their entire life.  If you have chosen your curriculum well though kids will eventually realize they really like most of their school work.  They will learn to push through the stuff they don’t like because there will be so much more time to pursue their interests.

So start on the process now. Read this next post for help choosing the actual curriculum that fits with your plan. You might enjoy this post about planning senior year for my daughter.

Next Reads:

About Mary

Mary Stephens holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Mary spent almost twenty years homeschooling her four children and is now navigating post homeschool life in Alaska. She offers personal insights, recipes, homeschooling tips and tricks and travel advice on her website Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.


  1. Inspiration is a woman on July 24, 2020 at 3:14 am

    That’s something many women worry about. Very useful article. Thank you.

  2. Rachel on July 24, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    great tips. Thank you for sharing. Many people will probably be homeschooling this coming year and this will help a lot.

  3. Jennifer on July 24, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    These are wonderful tips! I especially like the section where you talk about running a homeschool high school like college. I do that too with my 2 boys. We do virtual public school through k12, and they are really independent. We don’t have as much flexibility with scheduling and course choice, but I don’t have to worry about creating transcripts. I think homeschool high school is in many ways easier than the early years.

  4. Andrea on July 24, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    Great tips. I have a while until I get to this point. This is great to know.

  5. Katie Frazier on July 27, 2020 at 11:57 pm

    Wow these are great tips especially for everyone who may decide to choose homeschooling this year!

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