I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

10 Keys to High School Success for Homeschoolers

high schooler sitting on the floor

When I started homeschooling 15 years ago, I knew about a dozen other moms who were launching too. We all had preschoolers or kindergarteners. With high hopes and big plans, we stepped into the role of homeschool mom with relative ease. Sure we were fearful. But only because we were venturing into something new and quite meaningful. 

Since we were only teaching four and five-year-olds, what harm could we do? we asked ourselves.

That first year was a success for all of us. For the most part, we loved it and so did our kids. But as the years went on, I began to notice a sad trend: more and more of those original homeschool mom-friends began to bow out. One by one, they decided that homeschooling had been great in the little years, but would surely be a slog in the upper grades.

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They had convinced themselves that homeschooling high school would be too difficult. They weren't equipped. They didn't have the skills. Certain that they would not be able to graduate college-ready teens, they closed up shop. All but two of that original motley crew of families forfeited homeschool in the middle school years and opted to send their teen to the public high school down the street instead. 

If I'm being honest, the thought of homeschooling until graduation scared me too. If you've read Homeschool Bravelyyou know that I'd rather eat a bag of hair than teach algebra. Math's the worst!

But, when two roads diverged in a yellow wood, I took a big fearful gulp and took the one less traveled by. And that made all the difference. I homeschooled my oldest child all the way through high school and I don't regret it for even a second. In fact, it went so well, I decided to do it again. 

I'm starting year two of a 4-year plan for my second-born and I've no doubt his experience will be just as successful as his sister's. Not because I'm a stellar high school teacher or because he is an academic prodigy. But because we've both learned a few secrets for how to do high school well at home. 

Here are 10 keys to high school success for your homeschool. 

10 Keys to High School Success for Homeschoolers #homeschoolhighschool #highschoolhelp #homeschool101

Use 8th grade as a warm-up

Regardless of the teaching methods you prescribed to in the early years, once your child hits 8th grade, begin to transition to more formal forms of learning. Provide assessments like quizzes and tests, issue feedback like grades and rubrics, defer some of the teachings to other adults by joining a co-op or attending a few lectures. 

To create a transcript that will accurately show college or career admittance potential, you'll have to rely on some of these more traditional tools of education. By implementing them in 8th grade, you will be providing your child with a full year of practice before his work has to be transcript-ready. 

Reverse engineer a 4-year plan

Admittedly, not every teen knows exactly what he wants to do after high school. (Golly, I'm 42 and I'm still not sure what I want to do with my life.) However, there are a few tools that can help your child brainstorm possible ideas. (Be sure to check out Best Homeschool Resources for Planning a College and Career if you or your teen needs some help narrowing down choices for a potential job path and/or post-secondary schooling options.)

Once you've helped him form a few general plans for what he'll do after high school, use The Quick-Start Guide to Brave High School Record-Keeping for Homeschoolers to map out which classes he'll need to take in high school and in what year/semester he'll need to take them in order to be ready for those objectives. Remember to hold this plan loosely. It's a guide, not a dogma. Don't be surprised if your teen changes his mind about what he wants to do after graduation. Be willing to pivot and restructure the plan as necessary. 

high school work

Emphasize time management

So much of a person's success in college has less to do with how well he knows the class material and more to do with how well he can manage his time and follow directions. Professors don't have time to babysit. They begin the semester by handing out a syllabus, class assignments and due dates, and a general style guide for how those projects and papers are to be produced and turned in. Each professor will have different demands. Some will prefer papers to be typed using the MLA style while others will prefer APA. Some will request a certain amount of participation in class discussions while others will want weekly critical reviews to be written. 

Your teen's ability to follow directions and be on time will be paramount. He'll not only have to complete daily assignments on time but also be disciplined enough to slowly chip away at larger projects that aren't due until the end of the semester. If time management is not something you've taught and nurtured already, high school is the perfect time to start. Give clear expectations and deadlines and then hold your child to them. Show him how to set up an assignment notebook/schedule for himself. Help him set small, incremental goals for completing a larger-than-average assignment.

Outsource some of the material

Your teen needs to begin learning how to learn apart from you. All too soon, he'll have to sit under the direction of a college professor, a superior officer, or a boss who will most likely have a different teaching style than what he's used to. By deferring some of his education to another adult, a mentor, or even an online resource now while he's still under your primary teaching, you will ensure a smoother transition for him into post-high school opportunities. 

Remember, homeschooling doesn't mean you have to do all the teaching. It just means that you get to decide what is taught, how it's taught, and by whom it's taught. (Still need some convincing? Here are 6 reasons why your teen needs a different teacher.)

high school boy doing work on the floor

Focus on life skills

Remember, you are raising a soon-to-be adult who'll need to know how to live independently. Begin now to bring your teen alongside you when you pay bills, file taxes, and negotiate transactions. Start handing over the responsibility of making appointments, filling out forms, and answering to others. Allow him to practice making purchases online, using a debit card, and writing a check. Teach him how to make a menu, shop for groceries, and cook a meal. 

Using the 5 Steps to Teaching, slowly introduce a new life skill every few weeks or months. (adapted from Small Group Leader's Quick Guide by Syler Thomas and Steven Tighe.)
  1. I do, you watch.
  2. I do, you help.
  3. You do, I help. 
  4. You do, I watch.
  5. You do. 
Head knowledge is great, but no amount of textbook learning will ever fully prepare a person to "adult." Life skills must be demonstrated and practiced often. 

Encourage a trade apprenticeship

One of the best decisions my in-laws ever made in their homeschool journey was to insist that both of their sons apprentice under a blue-collar/trade worker for at least a year before they could graduate from high school. Although my husband eventually earned a degree in advertising/graphic design, he spent most of his extra time in the high school years learning how to lay carpet and tile from the owner of a local flooring company. 

As his wife, I could not be more grateful that he had that experience. Not only has he been able to save us thousands of dollars over the years by installing all of our carpet and tile, but he's also been able to use his skills to minister to our family, friends, and neighbors. In addition, when the 2008 economic crisis sent the advertising industry into a tailspin, he was able to earn side-hustle income for a few years at a local carpet installation company in order that I could continue to stay home to teach our children.

No matter what profession your teen wants to explore someday, encourage him to use his flexible homeschool schedule to apprentice under a trade worker to learn a skill that will benefit him for years to come. 

Discuss current events

Your teen is a future decision-maker, a someday-voter, a prospective taxpayer. If he hasn't already, he'll need to learn how to see the world through a Biblical lens. Begin sharing local and national news stories with him, invite him into political discussions, and ask him for his opinions about certain current events. Incorporate Biblical journalism sources like World Teen Magazine and The World and Everything in It Podcast into your homeschool curriculum to help him learn discernment by example. 

high schooler in a home library

Provide feedback

Homeschoolers tend to be grade-averse. We don't like assigning grades or giving formal assessments because we don't want school skills to get in the way of true learning. That's an admirable opinion and one to which I, myself, subscribe. I don't give tests or assign letter grades on finished assignments. At least not in the elementary years.  

But, I don't completely disregard feedback. In fact, I give it daily and in many forms--verbal affirmation and critique, comments on worksheets, suggestions for improvement. Teens, especially, need to learn not only how to receive evaluations with humility but also what to do with an evaluation once it's been given in order to improve their work in the future. A college freshman who has never been given any formal feedback prior to high school graduation is in for a rude awakening on his first day of class. 

Keep accurate records along the way

Updating a transcript at the end of each high school year might seem like a chore, but making incremental changes on a form from year to year is much easier than creating the entire thing from scratch a week before graduation.

Even if your child does not have a desire to go to college or trade school, prepare a transcript anyway. Young adults have been known to change their minds years after high school. By keeping accurate records now, you'll be saving your future self a lot of time and mental energy. (Once again, refer to The Quick-Start Guide to Brave High School Record-Keeping for Homeschoolers for help in creating a college/career-ready transcript.) 

high schooler doing art

Welcome natural consequences

Definitely keep a watchful eye during your child's teen years, ensuring him that you are his safety net, but don't always be quick to intervene when he fails. Stand with him when he has to face the fallout of poor choices. Don't try to diminish the discomfort. In the end, whatever collateral damage he must suffer because of his right now choices will be much less painful than the penance he might have to pay someday if he doesn't learn under the weight of his teenage decisions. But, when he must stand to face the firing squad of retribution, stand with him. 

Remember, how you react to childish immaturity and stupid mistakes--no matter how frustrating or embarrassing they are--could very well set the course of your relationship with him for years to come. 

A final word

Homeschooling through high school feels scary because the world has convinced us that it should be. Teenagers are scary, they say. Upper-level subjects are too difficult, they say. You'll mess it up, they say.

Don't let the pessimism of others frighten you into quitting during the final stretch. Know that whatever "mistakes" you might make in creating a 4-year plan, keeping grades, teaching practical life skills, or anything else, will not cripple them for life. 

Chances are, you probably worried about starting kindergarten years ago, assuming that you were going to do it all wrong and ruin your child's entire academic career. But time has given you clarity and you now realize how foolish it was to think that you could possibly ruin kindergarten. In the same way, you'll look back at these high school years and see how all your worry was for nothing. 

Trust me, colleges will accept your teen. (I've yet to hear of a college that refused to take someone's money.) He'll be a contributing member of society and spend the rest of his life learning whatever he didn't learn in those first 18 years. 

So, take a deep breath and enjoy these final years!


  1. What a wonderful blog post! This is my 6th year homeschooling my younger two children and my second year homeschooling high school. I will admit, when we first decided to pull our children from public school to homeschool, I had no intention of homeschooling in high school. The plan was always to send them back at that point. But as the time drew near for my son, I could feel the calling on my heart that I was meant to continue on with this homeschooling journey. I jumped both feet in his freshman year praying everyday that I didn't mess it up! Did I do everything perfect that first year, heck no, but I did learn some things that I have taken into this second year. I just keep reminding myself that we don't grow in our comfort zone and I want my children to understand that too. And what better way to show them that then with this. Thank you again for this great blog post! You made me feel even more equipped to continue to the end :)

    1. What a fantastic perspective and as you said, an opportunity to demonstrate trust in the Lord to your son. Have a great sophomore year!

  2. I love how you talked about different options. Basically plan for anything and encourage them in their God given gifts. When I graduated from public school nearly 20 years ago, pursuing a trade, taking time to work, or anything out of the University college mold was quite frowned on/shamed. My husband and I agreed we won't ever push our kids to go college if they don't want to, and if they do we hope they'll be very discerning about those specific choices as college is definitely not what it was a hundred years ago. :/ We aren't to high school yet quite yet, though I've started my middle schooler on a planner which helps immensely, but looking forward to it! Even though I already miss the little years where we read Chicks Chicka Boom Boom 50 times.

    1. College is just simply not the be all, end all that it was once believed to be. Besides, not everyone needs to go to college to accomplish their vocational goals. I'm of the opinion that the trades will actually prove to be more valuable in the coming years than any other professions.

      It sounds like you have started the journey out well with your middle schooler!