My kids are still young (7 and 9 as of this writing), but I’ve been around the homeschooling world for a while and paying attention to what others post about high school. What I’ve learned has made me really excited for this stage! There are so many options, and I can’t wait to see which my kids want to explore. There are life skill and employment options, online courses, and so many free options.

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I’ve been reading some unschooling books lately, including Blake Boles’ College Without High School and The Teenage Liberation Handbook (Grace Llewellyn). Both are amazing books, and lo and behold, offer very similar advice to what I offer here! I will definitely be giving my kids a copy of at least The Teenage Liberation Handbook when they’re older.

Life Skills for High School

I think one of the most important things we can do for our kids during the high school and teenage years is to make sure they know how to take care of themselves. Personally, I am not going to demand my kids move out at 18 (unless we’re making each other miserable!), but I want them to have the ability to be successful at that, if they want. So while I’m already working on life skills with my kids, we’ll probably step it up once they’re teenagers.

  • Cooking – my kids can already make some simple meals, but when they’re teenagers they’ll be responsible for more of our meals. This is largely because I am not a great cook or comfortable in a kitchen, and I want better for my kids. Since my husband is a great cook (and a much more patient person than I!), he heads the charge to teach our kids this skill.
  • Budgeting – my kids are already in charge of their own funds, but they honestly don’t have much to work with right now. Hopefully, they’ll have more to work with as teenagers. Also, we’ll involve our kids in our own budgeting for the entire household.
  • Vehicle Maintenance – my husband has started with the kids (and me!). Living on the road, it’s important that all of us know how to take care of our vehicles, especially as one of them is a 2007 school bus and not readily taken care of by Jiffy Lube.
  • First Aid – my kids are already really good at this. I’m also an herbalist, and believe in each individual’s right and responsibility to take care of their body. One of the advantages of homeschooling is we have plenty of time to slow down and figure out what our bodies need. However, we’ll be looking into formal First Aid and CPR courses when they’re teenagers.
  • Household Cleaning – again, we’ve already started with my kids, but we’ll continue working on that
  • Household Maintenance – as an adult, my husband has learned how to fix almost everything we’ve ever owned. However, that’s something he had to learn as an adult because we never had money to hire someone or constantly replace things. I do think it’s important, and we’ll continue to teach our kids as they grow up.
  • Relationships – as a family, we work really hard on having open communication that’s non-confrontational. This is the only way we’re all able to live together in less than 400 square feet of space.

Employment

Two of the biggest advantages of homeschooling during the high school years are giving our kids the freedom to delve deeply into their interests and passions, and having lots of free time. This will give my kids the option to pursue employment opportunities. That could be volunteering, an internship or apprenticeship, working a traditional job, or even starting their own business.

Books

I can’t wait to explore the People’s History books with my kids! Howard Zinn wrote the first book and it was so influential to me. Most history is told from the point of view of old, rich, Christian, white men. These books explore history from the point of view of everyone else:

Games

You knew I would get here, right? There are so many games that are perfect for teenagers and encompass a lot of learning, too! I haven’t had the opportunity to play most of them as my kids are still younger, but I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about them.

Curriculum Options for High School

There are some curricula designed specifically for teenagers:

Many university courses are available online, for free. You have to pay for the credits, but if you just want to learn for free, try these websites:

Finally, Wondrium/The Great Courses has some amazing courses. They can be expensive to purchase individually, but Audible has many, and your library might, too!

Depending on your state, your student might be eligible to take community college courses tuition-free. I don’t know about other states, but ours (Washington) has this option. This can be a great stepping-stone to entering a university!

College Prep

Speaking of college, many parents worry about whether they’re adequately preparing their kiddo for college. I’m here to tell you that you can do it!

College Isn’t for Everyone

First, though, you get to read my caveat: I don’t think college is the right answer for everyone. My husband and I are the poster children for maybe reconsidering whether college is a good fit. He thinks he has most of an Associate’s degree, while I have both my bachelor’s and my master’s.

Guess who has held down a big-boy job for most of his adult life? You got that right; my husband, the man with barely any college. (After 15 years of working in a factory, he quit so we could go full-time on this traveling life, and he is so enjoying working for himself now.)

Me? I’ve had jobs in retail and customer service, temp jobs, and owned businesses. But everything I did, I could have done without my degrees and the accompanying student debt. There are certainly some careers that really do require college, but I don’t think it benefits our kids to just assume they’ll go on to college.

Will your Teen be Ready for College?

Okay, now on to the actual college prep. First of all, if you’ve had your teen take any of the courses I discussed above (online university courses, community college classes, or even The Great Courses), then I’m sure they’ll be fine. Especially courses administered by universities and community colleges, in which you’ve paid for the credits and they’re on your child’s official transcript from that school–those really lend credibility. I would add one or two classes for credit after your child has taken some without the credits, so you both know they’ll be ready and get a good grade.

What Courses Should your Teen Take?

Next, look at the colleges that your teen is interested in attending. (And I mean look at them with your teen; they should be doing as much of this work, with your guidance, as is possible.) What are their requirements? Most colleges and universities have similar admission requirements, so let these inform your choices of what classes to schedule for your teen. It’s also going to depend on what major(s) your teen is interested in.

Standardized testing isn’t the best metric for student success. More and more higher education facilities are even dropping admission requirements for them. But if your teen tests well, plan on them taking one or more and including those scores.

Leverage Particular Interests

Does your teen have a specific hobby or interest that they have explored a lot? See if you can reword it as a class that an admissions officer will recognize. Do they play sports? That’s obviously P.E. But do they read about sports, study the history, know batting averages, have they delved into the societal impacts on sports and of sports on society? Do they study how to best prepare their body for different sports, learn about muscle groups and proper stretching, injury care, and nutrition? These are all different subjects, and should be treated as such, at least on the transcript. Don’t just put “football” on there; see how else they’re diving into their favorite topics and how they can be translated into an academic subject.

Don’t be afraid to delay college by a year or two. Universities are realizing that non-traditional students often do very well. They have lower drop-out rates as they’ve had more time to figure out what they need. In addition, many colleges actually prefer homeschoolers, some going so far as to actively recruit them. Homeschoolers often haven’t been burnt out on the busy work of public school, they have more time to figure out who they are (and thus are less likely to change majors or drop out), and tend to be independent learners.

By combining courses, books, games, life skills, and employment opportunities, you too can help your teenager craft an amazing high school education!

What do you think?

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