Homeschooling the High Schooler
Shirley M.R. Minster M.S. Ed.
In this article Shirley addresses some of the important issues facing parents and students who have chosen the homeschooling route at the high school level. In her daily consulting experience with homeschooling families, she has worked with hundreds of high school students and their parents - helping them to sort through some of the complex problems associated with this particular age and academic level. The following are 'snippets' from Shirleyâs new teaching tape entitled Homeschooling the High Schooler. This is available in it its entirety through Home Education & Family Services. You may write Shirley at: P.O. Box 1056, Gray, Maine, 04039.
11th Grade or Acceleration?
When a student is completing 10th grade or beginning 11th grade, the parent should think about the possibility of the next year using either a traditional 11th grade program or accelerating the program because the student wants to finish the academic work one year early. In a traditional school system especially, acceleration is not often considered. Their explanation is, "We do things our way, and that's all we do. I know acceleration works, but we do it our way. The student must complete our program in our time schedule." Acceleration means completing the high school years earlier than tradition dictates. It is understandably a very scary concept to parents because they do not want their children to leave. The children, now young adults, are completing a chapter in their family ãbookä.
The student is not saying that he wants to finish school early because he does not like his parents or homelife. Because your child is homeschooled, he has begun thinking about life-after- school. He has probably experienced jobs and situations that the more traditional student has not been given the time to try. I have also noticed that overall, girls want to accelerate their education sooner than boys. This does not mean that boys are immature; it has nothing to do with that. I think, instead, that once girls have begun puberty, their bodies go through a lot of changes. And just as the body is changing, their thinking process is going through many changes. Girls seem to start the maturity process towards adulthood sooner than boys do. And the girls want to start building what I call 'their nest' ö settling decisions about post high school life. With boys, it seems their inner time clock chimes at a different, later time, at about 11th grade. For girls, usually about the time they begin 9th grade, they begin the process of formulating goal-oriented ideas and settling down. Boys usually wait a couple more years.
A student interested in finishing their high school track early may make this choice for several reasons: they would like to move out into the work world at a safe and gradual pace; or perhaps they would like to take some extra time to explore their options before making a decision about different post-high school educational programs; or, if saving money for future schooling is important, they will have more time to devote to earning and saving. Some students do want to move into the local college arena earlier but wish to retain the security and balance of homelife while making the adjustment. There are many good reasons for acceleration, and often, homeschooled students have the time and motivation to devote to the extra study it takes.
It is important for both the parent and child to agree together on the serious step of acceleration. It may not be advisable for the student to accelerate rapidly or to accelerate at all because the student is looking too quickly toward the future and not realizing all the little steps that must be made along the way. The student also may not understand that the workload is increased. He is probably going to need to double up on courses in order to finish earlier than planned in the 9th grade. These decisions should be given careful consideration and a clear understanding of requirements will help the student avoid misconception or disappointment.
Life Worries and Seniors in High School
It is not unusual for students to begin experiencing what I call 'life worries' and self-doubt. As I said, most girls seem to settle the life worries issue in about the 9th grade. For boys, it is absolutely normal that the closer they get to finishing the high school years, the more scared they become. They are getting ready to 'fly from the nest' and are not sure if they like what's down below. Your student needs to know that you are supporting him at this critical moment.
I cannot tell you how many school systems as well as individual high school boys have contacted me at a moment of crisis. One guidance counselor called me and said he had a student he wanted me to work with.
"Peter is a senior here. He dropped out of school earlier this year. He came for the first quarter, dropped out in the second quarter, and then returned in January. In order for him to graduate in June, he needs to complete 80 hours of English." The school would only recognize a literal 80 hours side-by-side tutorial in English with me.
When Peter arrived for his first appointment, I asked him why he had dropped out. He said, "I just got scared. This was my last year. What was I going to do? How was I going to support my girlfriend?"
He lived with his girlfriend in their own apartment because they had both been kicked out of their homes. Sometime during the second quarter of school, he realized that he had responsibilities coming up and frankly, he didn't want them, so he dropped out. Once he was out, he recognized his poor timing and told himself, "That wasn't very smart."
So then he dropped back in. The school, being a caring, concerned school, seemed to want to punish him for admitting his mistake. Here was a boy who had discovered the foolishness of dropping out and was willing to do whatever they required to correct his error, but they would not give him credit for the first quarter of English. So that meant sitting down with the exact same books and repeating the first quarter which he had aced and then continuing on into new materials. This was not a school that understood the high school studentâs needs and worries.
Some other worries that a student wrestles with are "What am I going to do for a job? How am I going to support myself? What will my friends be doing? I'm going to miss all my friends. Will my parents still let me live at home? How will I eat?" (That's always a big worry.) All of a sudden, the weight of the world is on his shoulders, no matter what parents say. The important thing is to be there, supporting your child, diligently listening and making appropriate suggestions occasionally.