Our High School Journey: Fitting the Pieces Together
My husband, Joe, and I accidentally discovered our daughter’s penchant for the performing arts when we took her to see her first play at age 4. Thinking she would love live theater, we were quite surprised to realize that by the play’s end, she was agitated and frustrated. When we asked what was troubling her, she blurted out, “There was one little girl on that stage. I wanted to be up there. I could have done what she did.” She has been performing ever since.
When Lizzy reached high school, several of her friends began attending a performing arts magnet school housed in one of our local public high schools. (A magnet school is by definition a public school—which we certainly weren't—based around a particular theme or field.) I believed Lizzy had the talent to attend this school, but our desire was for her to continue being homeschooled. So we decided to establish a magnet-like school within the context of our homeschool.
Lizzy needed expert instruction in a whole host of areas to come close to getting the level of instruction her peers were receiving in performing arts specialty schools. We began to pray that the Lord would provide us with Christian teachers who were experts in their chosen fields. He did just that. When Lizzy graduated from our homeschool high school, in addition to her traditional academic credits, she had 14 fine arts credits in public speaking and debate, piano performance, drama, vocal and choral performance, and classical dance.
Enjoying the journey
Homeschooling in high school can quickly turn into daily drudgery. We quit living life as we have known it up to this point and begin operating within the context of graduation requirements and college entrance prerequisites. All of a sudden we have the overwhelming sensation that this is the “real thing.”
Of course, homeschooling in every grade is the real thing—the first eight years just don&squo;t have to be recorded on a high school transcript that will be scrutinized by college admissions personnel or potential employers. So how do we continue to enjoy homeschooling, while ensuring that we meet rigorous academic standards that will allow our children to pursue their college and career dreams?
Start with the basics. First, purchase a good high school handbook. (I would suggest Home-Designed High School by Diana Johnson or The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield.) Second, find a mentor or organization that can give you personal help and guidance. For a mentor, consider a friend who has experience homeschooling in high school. Some organizations, like the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools, have high school programs designed to help homeschooling parents in a myriad of ways.
Once you begin to feel comfortable with the basics, you can tackle the fun part—making your child’s high school program unique and dynamic. As a first step in this process, list your child’s learning style, personality type, strengths, and spiritual gifts. Next, make another list of your child’s interests, talents, hobbies, and extracurricular activities. Then record which subjects he has an affinity for and which he finds totally uninteresting.
Finally, use this information to begin mapping out your child’s high school years. Like my daughter, does your student have a distinct area of interest that warrants intense, specialized instruction, and recognition on the high school transcript? Or, if your teen does not have such an area of interest, what skills can he develop? What strengths is he motivated and gifted to pursue? Homeschooling can provide a unique opportunity for developing your child’s God-given talents.
Sources of creative credits
Extracurricular experiences & skills
Many activities that others would consider extracurricular, I considered curricular in my three children’s high school careers due to the significant learning and assimilation of life skills that occurred through these pursuits. Participation in team sports became the basis for physical education credits; attendance at Summit Ministries and Worldview Academy translated into worldview/philosophy credits; Patrick Henry College's Teen Leadership Camps contributed to journalism, American history, and American government credits; and volunteering for political campaigns earned government and civics credits.
Be creative as you classify and quantify activities for high school credit. Since the course credits will appear on your student’s high school transcript, use course titles and terms that will be readily understood by college admissions personnel or potential employers.
Internships, travel, & missions trips
For our children, internships with TeenPact, state and national officials, and a Christian radio station became the basis for high school credits. Missions trips and travel also contributed significantly to credits in subjects as varied as geography, history, foreign language, literature, and Bible.
What about socialization?
We’ve all heard that question hundreds of times. And you can bet that at least one potential employer or college admissions officer will ask that question as well. Your student should thoroughly document community involvement and extracurricular activities on his résumé. Some activities can also become the basis of credits that appear on the transcript itself.
Both of my sons served as pages in the South Carolina Senate for several years (about 10 hours per week) and in the United States Senate for six weeks. I documented these experiences and combined them with others to form a leadership credit. I hoped that by demonstrating a significant level of student leadership, the transcript would show college admissions personnel that my sons&rsquuo; socialization had been enhanced, not hampered, by homeschooling. What community involvement and extracurricular activities could you form into a high school credit for your student?
Perusing college catalogues can provide great insight into what types of courses colleges are requiring for admissions and offering to students. I have enjoyed taking some of these course titles (usually taught from a totally secular position), infusing them with biblical content, and teaching them from a distinctively Christian worldview.
In a course entitled “Ecosystems and Environmental Studies,” we used my son John’s summer camp experiences, our family vacations, and John’s fairly extensive travels as the basis for a half credit of science. During Lizzy’s senior year, I designed a course entitled “Women's Studies.” We read Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be a Woman as well as a host of other Christian women authors, studied and analyzed feminism and contrasted it with Scripture, and discussed marriage and family life.
Variety is the spice of life!
Incorporate a variety of activities and learning modes into your student’s coursework. For instance, studying American history and American literature together just makes sense. Unit studies of this type can include a variety of learning opportunities. In our case, we read lots of books, sometimes listening to them on tape or CD while driving to one of our field study destinations. (The benefits of traveling and experiencing learning firsthand are priceless.) We watched several video series. The children journaled extensively and conducted interviews with their grandparents on topics such as the Great Depression and World War II.
Same course—different significance
While John and Ty took the same biology and chemistry courses, my goals for them were very different because their goals were very different. At the time, John wanted to be a dentist. He needed rigorous training in lab settings and in lectures. Homeschool classes taught by a retired science teacher filled this need. Ty needed the classes to graduate from high school and go on to college.
The courses contributed to a well-rounded education for him, but I knew that the sciences were not an academic discipline he would pursue with career goals in mind. John also took physics from the retired science teacher, but Ty didn’t need to. While the courses had different significance for each of my sons, John and Ty both benefited from studying under a teacher with two essential credentials—expertise in his field and a strong biblical worldview, especially as it pertains to creation.
I can't teach that!
There are many ways for a homeschooler to take courses the parent prefers not
to teach. Distance learning opportunities abound through the Internet. (See
HSLDA's website for a list of distance learning resources to get you started.
Homeschoolers can also take classes at homeschool co-ops or enroll in classes designed specifically for home-educated students. Parents can hire tutors or enroll their students in community college. I used the Chalk Dust Company's video courses for almost all of our high school math. Families can also combine forces, one parent teaching science while the other teaches a foreign language.
Remember, God “is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think” in our lives and in the lives of our children (Ephesians 3:20, Holman Christian Standard Bible). He knows our needs; He knows their needs. When God is the superintendent of education in your home, remarkable things can happen! He owns the cattle on a thousand hills—He can provide the financial resources for tutors or computers or field studies. He is the Creator—He can give you creative ways to deal with academic challenges and requirements. God is infinitely strong—He can uphold you spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually as you homeschool through the high school years.
|About the author
Zan Tyler is the Home School Resource and Media Consultant for Broadman & Holman Publishers and the Editor of the Homeschool Channel for LifeWay's Web Network. She and her husband Joe have three children and homeschooled them all from kindergarten through high school (1984-2005). Zan is the author of 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child's Potential and speaks internationally on a variety of homeschooling topics.