Thursday, April 10, 2014

Homeschooling through High School 101...

I recently spoke to a group of homeschool moms regarding homeschooling through high school.  It's so hard to believe we only have a month left until Angel's graduation.  That time went really fast!  Today, I thought I'd share with you some of what I've learned along our high school journey.

Before beginning to homeschool high school (or any grade for that matter), it's important to know your state law. In Wisconsin, homeschoolers are considered private schools. To meet private school requirements, homeschooling families must check that they comply with Statute 118.165. This statute requires that educating families choose an educational program or curriculum based on a private or religious-based education that is privately controlled. The educational program must provide 875 hours of instruction with a curriculum that progressively increases instruction in each of the required subjects. The state of Wisconsin requires all children have regular instruction in the subjects of language arts, reading, mathematics, social studies, science and health.  Homeschooling families can provide this instruction in any way they wish to enhance their student’s educational opportunities such as utilizing field trips, community activities, co-op classes, educational games and community sports opportunities. Wisconsin homeschooling laws do not require homeschooling students to take standardized tests.

WI law further states the education program chosen by homeschooling families should not operate solely to avoid the compulsory attendance law. Based on these requirements, Wisconsin school officials can only check homeschooling students' attendance records, not their academic records. These requirements also state that parents do not have to pick any curriculum or educational program that conflict with their personal beliefs, giving homeschooling families in Wisconsin freedom to choose their own materials.

In other words, WI law does not require education as in you need so many credits of this or that to graduate.  WI parents award transcript and diploma based upon their family goals and ideals.  (Disclaimer - The above is my interpretation of the WI homeschooling law.  I am not an attorney and this is not an attempt at legal advice.  Please consider studying your state's homeschooling laws before beginning to homeschool.)  With that said, I sense that you want to do more than just keep attendance so let’s begin planning those wants. 

Planning is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling.  In all honesty, I may be a better planner than implementer of my plan.   When I began to plan Angel's high school, I considered each of the following:

- Plans after high school – college, military, work, missions, etc.

- Subjects required on PI-1206

- Potential college entrance requirements

- Local public school requirements

After considering all the above, we created our four year plan.  A four year plan is an outline or road map of your students projected four year high school experience.  The plan will be fluid in that it will change from 9th to 12th grade based on your student's finalized plans after high school and life's unexpected quarks.  Remember, some of the best laid plans can change at the drop of a pin, so be flexible.  Customize the plan accordingly by balancing easy/hard classes, fun/challenging classes, and huge time commitment classes with less time commitment classes.  Limit the number of classes on the plan to 6-8 per year.  

The next step is developing a system of record keeping.   Remember, in WI we are only required to keep attendance.  However, it's to your student's benefit to keep some record of their four year high school experience.  You may need this later in life, particularly for entrance to college.  Students can assist you in this process.  Give them a blank composition book and/or school planner; start a file with projects, field trips, plays, concerts, book lists, etc.  At the beginning of 9th grade, I gave Angel a blank composition book with sections tabbed: Jobs & Volunteer Work; Clubs & Organizations, Memberships; Camps, Civic Events & Conferences; Travel & Field Trips; Sports, Competitions, & Contests; Plays, Radio, TV, & Movies; and Books, Magazines, and Newspapers.  It was her job to log hours or cite any resources she used in each of these sections.   You may also consider photocopying the cover & table of contents from textbooks, being careful to honor copyright laws.

There are several ways to issue credits to your high school student.  For example, 1 credit can equal a number of hours; successful completion of high school textbook or yearlong correspondence class; parent established criteria (student reads and reports on 20 novels, 2 plays, book of poetry, & 2 research papers); parent set standard of proficiency (student reaches typing speed of 50 words per minute with 95% accuracy = ½ credit earned); or any combination.  The average number of credits given over four years of high school study is 20, which equates to five per year. 

A typical high school schedule equals approximately 5-6 hours per day, 5 days per week, 36 weeks a year, or 180 days per year (180 days x 5 hours per day will give you 900 hours total).  By using this calculation, you meet the required 875 hours that you committed to when filing the PI-1206. 

A general guide for determining credit hours is:

- Electives are typically 120 hours (40 minutes x 180 days)

- Required classes are typically 150 hours (50 minutes x 180 days)

- Classes with labs can reach up to 180 hours (60 minutes x 180 days)

You will need to determine how you will issue grades in your homeschool.   Don’t stress over this.  Public school districts vary on grading from school to school as well as within the schools.  Grading can vary from teacher to teacher.  Grades are subjective any way you look at it.  Regardless, I feel some sort of evaluation is important at the high school level.  Grades can be used for transcripts.  Scholarships can be awarded on grades.  I also believe at the upper levels you need some sort of accountability to teach or evaluate employability of your student. (i.e. Can they get up on time? Are they motivated self starters?  Can they manage their time wisely?  Can they meet deadlines?, etc.)  Whether entering college or the work force, these employability factors are necessary skills. 

Upon graduation, you will need to issue your student a transcript.  A transcript is a record of all courses taken and grades earned in high school.  There are free online transcript calculators.  Click here for one I plan to personally use.   Typically transcripts are one page.  You do not need to use your child's social security number, extracurricular activities, attendance records, or test scores on the transcript.  In addition to the transcript, some families keep a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of materials or projects demonstrating what the student learned in a particular class or activity.  It's a scrapbook of sorts.

The following is an attempt to define some common high school terminology: 

- Elective = class chosen by your student, may or may not be required in your school; often interest driven – art, music, auto mechanics, home economics, agricultural studies, etc.

- Extra Curricular = activities that are not part of your school day – sports, theater, dance, recreation, etc.

- Life Skills = skills needed for life – automotive skills, obtaining drivers license, household maintenance, shopping, personal finance, cooking/baking, yard/garden maintenance, food preservation, self care, study skills, career skills, manners, character qualities, etc.

** It can be hard to differentiate between electives, extra curricular, and life skills in a homeschool setting.  Again, don't sweat it!  Take a look at the overall picture and look for holes.  Then plug these holes with the skills acquired.  Bible or scripture study can come under electives or life skills.

- Career Cluster Interest Survey – career guidance tool often given in middle school or early high school

- PLAN – ACT practice specifically for 10th graders; consists of 2 parts: academic component, which is a shortened version of ACT and a career component – results used as a tool for career planning and will give predicted ACT score

- PSAT – SAT practice, when taken in the 11th grade year, it’s the qualifying test for National Merit Scholarship Program

- SAT, ACT – college entrance exams

- Compass – CVTC entrance exam

- ASVAB – career exploration tool, if taken in 11th or 12th grade it can be used as a military entrance exam; scores are good for 2 years

- AP – advanced placement; college level classes usually for 11th and 12th grade; taken to prepare for advanced placement exams administered by college board and may or may not result in college credits or advanced standing

- CLEP – similar to AP, but not as rigorous; fewer colleges accept CLEP tests for credit – may consider for psychology or sociology or other philosophical courses that may be contrary to Biblical Worldview

In closing, I would recommend finding a mentor to guide you through your high school experience.  This person will not only answer any questions you may have, they will also pray with you and calm your doubts and fears.  This person should be a trusted source with whom you have a close alignment in thinking.  In other words, choose someone with a similar homeschool style as your own. 

Above all, “The function of education is not to give technical skill but to develop a person; the more of a person, the better the work of whatever kind” (Charlotte Mason Vol. 6, p. 147).  God has called each and every one of your students to be wise and accept instruction so that they may seek His glory.  Homeschooling through high school is a privilege and a gift.  I pray that you will take advantage of it :)

Homeschooling through High School Resources

Senior High: A Home Designed Form+U+La by Barbara Edtl Shelton (website)

From Homeschool to College and Work: Turning your Homeschooled Experiences into College and Job Portfolios by Alison McKee

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer & Jessie Wise – guide to classical education at home

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist – Catholic classical education Ambleside Online on Charlotte Mason high school - HSLDA homeschooling through high school web page - an interview with Dr. Jay Wile (Apologia Science) regarding homeschooling through high school - Barb at Harmony Fine Arts at Home blog posts on homeschooling through high school – Charlotte Mason/Classical Education combo – Barb of Harmony Fine Arts – high school lesson plans


  1. Thank you for this post, Melissa, it is very well put together! I loved the idea of giving your student a notebook but, didn't get a chance to write down all the tabs. Thank you for listing them. Also, the reminder to keep it "fluid" is a good one for me ;) I'll be keeping and sharing this post.

  2. You're glad it was helpful :)