Whether you are thinking about homeschooling your high school aged child or you have already taken the plunge, these tips are for you!
I am currently homeschooling my 13-year-old daughter through her high school years and will also be homeschooling my 12-year-old daughter next year. Below is the information I have discovered through researching our journey. I hope it helps you.
1. Do Your Homework!
No pun intended.
Homeschooling is legal in all Australian states, all 50 US states, Canada, the UK, Northern Ireland, France, Austria… the list goes on. It is easier to say where it is illegal.
You may not homeschool in Germany, Brazil, China (not illegal for foreign students though), Turkey, Croatia, Greece, Iceland (unless the homeschool teacher has a teaching degree), Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine.
Each country where homeschooling is legal, and the states within that country, have different legislation relating to homeschooling.
For example: in Australia, each of the eight states and territories has their own regulations.
If you live in a country where homeschooling is legal and a school principal or teacher tells you that you can not homeschool, do not listen to them! Make sure you know your rights before approaching the school. A simple Google search will give you an amazing amount of information.
I had no idea what I needed to do to arrange to homeschool my 13-year-old daughter when we decided to begin in August this year. I dropped her off at school (she got out of the car once her tears had dried and I promised to look into homeschooling) came home and went online. I found the application form online and printed it off. It said my application would take 14 days to go through but when I told my daughter, she couldn’t wait another two weeks so the following day I went into the school office and said I needed to un-enrol my child. The ‘exit co-ordinator’ had never done a transfer to homeschooling before and after I signed the form she said she would get in touch after she had done some research. All she had to do was write ‘homeschool’ where the form said ‘school’. I emailed her the acceptance once it arrived.
I was lucky because at that time, in Victoria Australia, all I had to do was register my child. The regulations have changed and from January 2018 when you apply for registration you must include a learning plan and briefly describe how you will address the 8 KLAs (Key Learning Areas) for the first 12 months of registration.
In Victoria the 8 KLAs are:
English, Mathematics, Sciences (including physics, chemistry and biology), Humanities and Social Sciences (including history, geography, economics, business, civics and citizenship), The Arts, Languages, Health and Physical Education, Information and Communication Technology and Design and Technology.
It sounds daunting, but I have discovered that it is not. The homeschool community is very welcoming and helpful.
2. Are You Qualified?
You will be asked many questions by well-meaning relatives and friends and complete strangers when you begin (and throughout) your homeschooling journey. Are you qualified? is only one of them.
The answer, by the way, is yes.
You know your child.
You can teach your child.
You are qualified to teach your child.
My 12-year-old daughter, who is still in mainstream school until the end of the year, tells me everything (at least I think it’s everything) that happens in her class each day. She does not get along with her home group teacher (long story) and there have been issues that my wonderful, outgoing child has taken care of by herself (I offer to help but she says she’s ‘got it’).
Miss 12 and her BFF both have a great sense of humour and unfortunately, some teachers do not. An ‘incident’ occurred last week where one of their friends began a rumour that their teacher (who was away) had ‘nits’ (head lice). Miss 12 and her BFF were blamed for starting the rumour. They did not ‘dob in’ their friend. Instead, they endured looks and questions from the teachers – ‘Do you think she has nits?’ After the incident (which, I admit I laughed about when Miss 12 told me – Bad mum!) the teachers did not know how to approach the girls.
Miss 12 and her BFF are fun, outgoing girls who have good relationships with most of the teachers. But after the girls had been reprimanded the teachers didn’t know how to react. The girls sat at the back of the class instead of the front, they were quiet instead of fun and loud and laughing with the teachers. The teachers would move to go over to them then change their minds.
They are not parents!
Only one of the year 6 teachers is a parent and, according to Miss 12 – who has been reprimanded by this teacher – once it’s over, it’s over. She still goes up to the students and talks, smiles, laughs with them.
In my opinion (after 10 years of having children in mainstream education), parents are the best teachers. They live with children, they understand children, they love children.
Parents are qualified to teach their children.
3. Curriculum or No Curriculum
Choose Your Method
There are many different methods of homeschooling.
Whichever method you choose, many advise that your child undergo a period of ‘de-schooling’ if they have attended mainstream school. The advice is one month of ‘de-schooling’ for every year of mainstream school. De-schooling is the process the child (and parent) go through to adjust to learning in a more relaxed, unstructured environment.
After taking Miss 13 out of mainstream high school she relaxed at home, doing whatever she wanted for a few weeks while I tried to get organised. When her siblings were home from mainstream school I gave her the day off. When they have holidays, so does Miss 13. Eventually, she began to do some work even though her siblings were sick. This was a major victory.
In Australia, the most common way to complete school-at-home is through Distance Education. I thought this would be the easiest way to homeschool until I did my homework. Distance education is available for students who meet the eligibility criteria. In Victoria, it was easier to register Miss 13 for homeschooling and find a different way. I sampled a few different full package online curriculums but quickly realised they were not right for Miss 13.
With unschooling, child-led schooling, interest-led schooling, learning is done in a natural, everyday way. There are no strict schedules, no set curriculum. Life is the curriculum. Not every child is ready to learn to read at six. With unschooling, the child sets the pace. Unschooling high school means the teenager chooses what they want to learn and when they learn it. There have been many success stories about unschooled high school teens who have gone on to university courses early – once they were given the time to work out what they wanted to do with their lives. Not every child is cut out for the pressures of high school.
When we attended the information evening at the local high school when my son was in year 6, one of the first things mentioned was knowing what the students wanted to study in years 11 and 12. I’m sorry, but how many 12 and 13-year-olds know ‘what they want to be when they grow up’? I know I didn’t. My 13-year-old son did but the school couldn’t help him so we moved him to a sports academy. Miss 13 changes her mind or says she doesn’t know. At the moment she wants to be a hairdresser. Miss 12 has some idea but adds and subtracts them weekly.
c. Relaxed/Eclectic Homeschooling
Most homeschoolers use a relaxed or eclectic method of homeschooling. They use various resources, taking what is relevant and useful for their child/ren. A mixture of resources may be workbooks or worksheets for math and English, co-ops and outside lessons for music, drama and dance, online programs for language and science, and unschooling for other subjects.
d. Zeatilda Academy (Our Homeschool)
Zeatilda Academy is the name of our homeschool – it is a combination of my daughter’s names.
Relaxed is definitely how I need to be about the whole homeschooling journey we have embarked upon. Miss 13 is extremely shy, very anxious, and a bit behind in a number of subjects – the very reasons we have decided to homeschool. We have good days and bad days – when I say ‘days’ I mean subjects. We only ‘school’ for a maximum of three hours per day, Monday to Thursday, not including PE.
This morning math was difficult so nothing else was learned – and that’s fine. Miss 13’s last two math test results at mainstream school were 7% and 12% and most of the class failed.
We use maths online and each lesson is scored. Miss 13 received 90%, 100%, 70%, 70%, 70%, 100% and 90%. Last Thursday she repeated her lesson as she received 60% and wasn’t happy with it. I went through the steps with her (and was accused of ‘treating her like a baby’ – I was just trying to make sure she understood! Bad Mum!) She has noticed there is no tick next to the lessons where she has received 70% and decided on her own that she will repeat them when she has finished the rest of the lessons. Not bad for a child who hates math.
When we began homeschooling in August we only used worksheets – downloaded free from the internet or homemade. The first thing Miss 13 did was relearn her times tables. We used worksheets from ezy maths and math salamanders.
As Miss 13 is so shy and does not do well talking to new people, I thought having a pen-pal would be good for her. After introducing herself to almost 20 homeschooled girls from around the world she now knows how to write a letter about herself and ask questions. She loves it when a letter comes in the mail for her.
Throughout primary (elementary) school, Miss 13 was always placed in the lowest group for English. She understood what she was reading but she refused to answer the questions the teacher asked her about the text. No matter how many times I told the various teachers that she could read harder books, they didn’t listen. I even told them that she would come and tell me all about the stories when they interested her. Miss 13 still talks about the time a teacher put her up a group, and how much fun it was in that group until another teacher realised where she was and put her back down a level! As a result, Miss 13 does not like reading.
Both Miss 13 and Miss 12 say they don’t like reading so… Guess what they are getting for Christmas? (Bad Mum!) Soccer books for Miss 12 and young adult fantasy/romance for Miss 13 as she likes to watch The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, The Walking Dead, Grimm and Stranger Things.
We have not begun science yet. We will start next year so the girls can do their experiments together. I plan on videoing them and putting them on the blog.
I want them to learn about the universe so astronomy will be their first topic. What would you like your children to learn? What have you always wanted to learn and can now learn together with your children?
We will also be using Science by Doing which is a free resource in line with the Australian curriculum. You can create your account as a homeschool parent.
d.4 LOTE (Language Other Than English)
I studied French for six years in high school and the high school Miss 13 attended also taught French. It makes sense for us to continue with French but your child can learn any foreign language (and so can you). I began by finding free worksheets online and creating my own. Now we use Duolingo (it’s free).
Next year the girls will also begin learning Auslan (Australian Sign Language).
In Australia, humanities include history, geography, economics, business, civics and citizenship. Yes, I want my children to learn all these things. But, the beauty of homeschooling is that you are not limited by what the education department thinks your children should learn and their suggestions are merely guidelines. Some topics within these subjects are merely touched on. I want my children to learn the true history of their country. Yes, in all its ugly, barbaric, criminal, racist, past. I believe we have to learn history so we do not repeat it – and so we can stop others from trying to repeat it.
Again, what do you want your children to learn?
d.6 The Arts
Sketching, painting, sculpting, drama, dance…
You do not need to spend a fortune making sure your homeschooled children study The Arts.
My daughters enjoy drawing and sketching (I can’t draw at all, so they definitely get that from their dad!) and they make up their own dance moves. Both Miss 13 and Miss 12 took dance classes when they were little – Miss 13 lasted longer than her sister.
I have some garden furniture that needs painting… There’s an art class right there!
d.7 ICT (Information and Communication Technology & Design and Technology)
Miss 13 is using typing.com to learn how to touch type. It is also a lesson in patience on her part, as she told me the other day that she can only do one lesson at a time because she gets frustrated and she’s worried she might break her keyboard!
Maths, French and Typing are online subjects for Miss 13 and next year Science will be videoed and uploaded… All subjects count as part of ICT – as do any projects (powerpoint) that they do online.
Coding is something all children need to know. They use technology so why not teach them how to create it? Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a tech wizard to help your children learn. I have no idea but my girls will be learning all about it next year (Miss 12 will probably be more interested than Miss 13). Check out these 19 coding websites for kids.
d.8 Health and PE
In our homeschool, health and PE are two separate subjects.
Miss 13 has a cooking lesson one day a week (usually Wednesday) and I will be putting the recipes and pictures on the blog. We’re starting with nice, easy snacks and desserts but hope to move on to main meals next year (well, I hope they do!)
What are some of your family’s favourite foods?
One of Miss 12’s classmates (she still attends mainstream school until the end of the year) was amazed that she is allowed to make and cook pancakes and scrambled eggs by herself. The classmate is not allowed near the stove!
I am planning a vegetable garden – so this goes under ‘Health’. Miss 12 is soccer mad (it’s contagious – she caught it from her brother!) so we will be learning about nutrition for teens and athletes.
Which brings us to PE.
Soccer for Miss 12, plus she has devised her own work-out regimen for the days she does not have training. Having two very physical siblings has made Miss 13 a bit self-conscious (damn puberty), and as she doesn’t enjoy her sisters’ workout she has found one on youtube and does that instead. Both girls also want to learn horse riding next year. I grew up on a farm with horses so I couldn’t say ‘no’ to that!
As a family, we enjoy long walks with our dogs, bike rides, and camping. What activities do you enjoy as a family that can contribute to Health and PE?
d.9 Excursions (Field Trips)
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that everything is a learning experience. Ever since our children were little we have been members of the Zoo and Museum. For a reasonable annual fee, we can go as often as we like throughout the year.
A trip to the Art Gallery will give you and your children ideas and inspiration.
You will only run out of ideas when you have learned about everything you are interested in, and your children have too.
If spending hours online finding curriculum is something you dread, check out these curriculum sites. I have not tried all of them, most I just came across in my online travels.
Home Learn (sampled with Miss 13 – it didn’t suit her but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for your child)
Skwirk (Australian Curriculum Aligned)
Khan Academy (Free)
CK 12 (Free)
Easy Peasy (Free)
Also, check out these sites:
Teachers pay Teachers – free and reasonably priced worksheets and booklets for every grade and subject.
Student Handouts – free K-12
4. The Big S (Socialization)
The question we are always asked… ‘What about socialization?’
Even the relatives who understand why I’m homeschooling Miss 13 have asked this question. Fortunately, I did my homework and I knew the question was coming so I was prepared. Are you?
How many times were you or a classmate told off in mainstream school for talking during class? Were you told school was for learning, not socializing? Were you or your child bullied? There are some horrific stories about bullying and unfortunately, they are not isolated incidents.
Miss 13 has always been shy. When we first began homeschooling she was very clingy with me. I was not allowed to go anywhere without her – it’s part of her anxiety and the reason high school was so hard for her. At primary school, she had her older brother for support and, a year later, her younger sister as well. I know of a few homeschool groups that meet up weekly but so far I have not been able to get Miss 13 interested in attending. I stopped asking a few months ago as the thought of it made her anxious. Hopefully, next year, with Miss 12’s help, we will be able to start attending regularly.
Miss 12 plays Soccer so she has her teammates to socialize with as well – and they also get together away from the pitch too.
As homeschooling parents, we get to choose who our children socialize with – definitely not a bad thing. Most homeschooled children have a broad range of socialization and are comfortable speaking with people of all ages and backgrounds.
You can find information about homeschool groups in your area online and on Facebook.
5. What About the ‘Real World’?
This is one of my favourites. ‘What happens when they have to join ‘the real world‘?
In my opinion, high school is not ‘the real world’. The ‘real world’ is outside the classroom.
I grew up being told that ‘the high school years are the best years of your life’ and I suspected that my parents were lying. I certainly hoped it was just their way of trying to get me to go to school without a fuss because high school was definitely not the best years of my life! Like Miss 13 I was extremely shy and found it difficult to socialize with my high school peers. As an adult, I feel extremely sorry for anyone whose ‘best years’ were the six years of high school. Ages 13 to 18 were a long time ago for me and thankfully I am still living my ‘best years’. Anyone whose ‘best years’ were their high school years has spent a heck of a long time being miserable or just existing, and I really hope my parents aren’t two of them.
As homeschooling parents, we are helping our children begin their ‘best years’ during high school instead of having to wait until afterwards like I did when I got to join the ‘real world’.
I hope this has helped you in some small way. Remember, enjoy the journey.
Until next time…
Author: Lara Galea
Lara is a freelance writer, blogger, photographer and homeschooler. When not helping others with their journey, she is either reading, binge-watching Netflix or creating havoc in the kitchen.