I have to smile when I remember a comment made by an adult neighbor to my oldest child, several years ago: “How can your mom teach you all of the subjects?”
Teaching is not a matter of knowing everything and regurgitating it into a child’s mind. It is a matter of knowing a child, being willing to find what is needed for that child and guiding him or her to it.
How do I guide my teen?
There are as many paths to knowledge as there are individuals. The beauty of home schooling is that each kind of learner is easily accommodated.
Some teens are highly motivated and pursue a path of excellence with minimal guidance, and very little pressure or parental involvement. These teens do well with a basic list of requirements, access to good books and an ACT or SAT prep guide.
Other teens need written courses of study and enforced deadlines, so that they will do what needs to be done and actually be happier doing it. These teens need everything laid out for them: which papers to write about which topics and when they are due; how many chapters of each book need to be finished, and by what date; which math lesson to complete each day; a tutorial on how to do each assignment–and someone who is going to check to see that it all gets done.
Still others quietly follow non-traditional paths that align with their personal interests. These are creative kids who may write novels, paint or write poetry; build or construct; train horses; or teach themselves to program computers. These teens often follow a completely different path from anyone else you’ve ever met. They are very self-motivated in certain directions, but will not always do what you think they ought to. The key is to feed the flame and encourage them to be well-rounded. They may surprise you and become the next Benjamin Franklin or Abigail Adams.
General Guidelines for College/University Entrance
Most universities suggest that high school students complete: 4 years of English (I would throw in some Logic, too); at least 3 years of math (Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II); 2 to 3 years of Science (Biology, Zoology, Chemistry, Physics); 4 years of Social Science (History, Geography, Civics); 2 years of Foreign Language; 2 years of electives (Music, Art, Animal Husbandry, Physical Education, Theater, Shop, etc.). (See “Welcome to Homeschooling” for links to suggested curricula.) If your student completes all of this with enthusiasm, he should be at the top of his game scholastically.
It’s also a great idea to learn how to perform well on the standardized entrance exams: the ACT and/or SAT, depending on which college or university the student would like to attend. Printed and online prep guides are available through the websites for the ACT and SAT. There may also be test prep classes available through home schooling groups in your area.
As early as possible in your teen’s high school career, check with the colleges and universities your child may be interested in and learn what their entrance requirements are. Check back yearly to see if they have changed. Most do not require accredited work from high school. Some do require a notarized transcript from the parent. Some require a notarized letter from the parent stating that the child was home schooled according to the regulations of their state.
Example: Harvard currently reviews home school students the same way as they review everyone else. Admissions forms are the same. Suggested ACT score (with writing): 28+; suggested SAT score: 1800+, and SAT Individual Subject tests (two of your choice): 600+. No accredited high school diploma is necessary. One tip they offer for home schoolers is to think carefully about who you get your recommendation letters written by. (Probably someone other than a parent would be a good choice.)
Record Keeping and Transcripts
It is important to keep a record of your teen’s studies beginning at least in 9th grade; earlier is even better. You will want this record so that you can create a transcript for college entrance. It is helpful to have a running transcript saved in your computer. It will save you hours of work down the road.
You may create a transcript by pasting this url in to your browser, clicking the “doc” icon and saving it in your word processor:
There are many different formats for transcripts. You can even create your own. I happen to like the above format.
High School Diplomas
It is a myth that a high school diploma is required for college. In most cases no diploma is required anywhere, but it is a nice touch and allows the student feel confident saying that he or she has graduated from high school, when asked. We have an official name for our home school that is used on all official documentation.
You can order official home school diplomas here.
Accredited high school diplomas may be required for some branches of the military. Check with the local recruiting office for more information on rules for home schooled applicants.
There are organizations that will grant accredited diplomas for documented home school work. Two of these are Harmony Ed and NAHRS. I have not used either. People who use either or both seem to like them. Do your own research before jumping in.
The GED is also an option, if an accredited diploma is necessary.
Alternatives to College
Some young adults aren’t interested in college. There is no reason to rush into the expense and rigor of college. If your student is unsure of his or her path, it might be good to take a year to do something else while they figure it out.
Here are some alternatives you might want to consider:
Enjoy the journey!