Homeschooling Through High School
by Sheila Kippley
Used with permission, first published in CCL Family Foundations, May/June 1996
Many homeschooling parents call it quits after the eighth grade and send their child to an institutional school for high school. If you are nearing this situation, please give it careful consideration.
Every problem associated with teens escalates during the high school years, and good Christian families find that their teens are not immune to these problems. Sex, abortion, drugs, heavy drink-ing, and violence can be common occur-rences even in religious high schools. It's reported that many teens think nothing of cheating, stealing, or lying. Physical and emotional harassment in the form of "big bully" among children and teens is epidemic in our schools. I figure, "Why would I send my child to an environment where I would be extremely uncomfortable myself?"
Obviously the four years in high school are very formative years and they are precious years. Parents should still want to be the primary influence in their child's formation. The concern of many parents is their child's faith. In our culture only 50% of teens attending Catholic high schools go to Sunday Mass regularly and only 30% of Catholics believe in the True Presence. Instruction and practice of the faith via homeschooling will be far superior to what's provided in many Catholic schools. There is a real crisis in the Church today among its members, and it's very evident within the Catholic schools.
Another area of real concern to me is the school's ability to disassociate the teen from his family by stressing that the young teen is now old enough to question and think out his own set of values and religious convictions. The teen is now autonomous. This comes across in the texts and even in their brochures. At the local Catholic high school, a recent brochure promoted homemaking skills, not so the teen can be a source of help to her family now and a good homemaker later, but so she could develop the life skills needed to be on her own. In addition, there is the subtle transmission of values. If you are trying to promote the idea of fulltime mothering, consider the message when your teen's favorite teacher returns to fulltime teaching a few weeks after she's had a baby.
"The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute. The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2221
Besides avoiding pressures to conform in high school, your homeschooled teen will also be less exposed to the typical distractions such as boy/girl relationships, popularity concerns, social life on week-ends, clothes, etc. While these distractions are not absent with homeschooling, they are less, and I have found that interest in purely social activities occurs much later with homeschooling.
More attention at home
Studies show that public high school students average two hours and 13 minutes of academic work a day. At home you know they are learning and doing their work in each subject. If they "fail," or show a weakness in a given area, you can offer loving support and backtrack to review their weak areas. I have done this quite often. In regular school this individual attention is lacking, and the teacher continues even though your child has missed the concepts or has not memorized sufficiently. In addition, encouragement can be offered in the teen's strengths, and acceleration can occur where there is a strong area of interest. I am convinced that Christopher's high school education up to now is superior to what I had back in the 50's. My experience, admittedly limited, leads me to think that most homeschooled teens will do the same or better if they are homeschooled and if their parents are somewhat involved and conscientious about their education.
Flexibility is a big advantage of homeschooling teens. You can teach at night or early in the morning. You can work around family trips, seminars, sports, part-time jobs, and special family events. You and your teen can have a say in the curriculum ... whether it be work-books, texts, hands-on material, computer courses, video courses, publications, etc. And you can share your reli-gious faith and values in the ways you choose. Frequently, homeschooled parents discover that their own faith is enlightened and strengthened as they teach and strengthen their children's faith.
With high school homeschooling, you as a parent should have more peace of mind. First, because your teen will be different in a good sense. He or she will more likely stay close to the Lord and is less likely to become a problem for you. Secondly, you do not have to fight the schools. I have not heard yet of any parent who has had a major impact on chang-ing the schools. Dialogue with the schools often leads to frustration. We've certainly been through this approach which is why we've chosen homeschooling.
Teens desire friends and they need good, religious friends. It is extremely important that parents go out of their way to help their teenager have good friends, especially when you homeschool. One obvious source is other homeschooling teens.
Remain Close to Your Teen
One of the most common complaints among parents of teens is the distance they experience with their teenager. I was on a panel last year with three other homeschooling parents trying to encourage other parents to continue with homeschooling through the high school years. Interestingly, all the parents had one common experience with their teens: we were close to our teenagers. Granted, homeschooling does not guarantee this closeness, but but it is often experienced by parents who keep homeschooling through high school. It is this closeness that allows us to continue to be a major influence in their lives.
Can you do high school? Yes! I am very average in my teaching abilities, but we manage. And I enjoy learning right along with Chris. God does give you the graces when you fulfill your duties for His purposes. You can attend homeschool conferences which have workshops on doing high school; you can talk to parents who homeschool high school. The Lord will lead you.
To homeschool, you must be home. You have to be there to teach and guide. It is time-consuming and sometimes difficult, but I find it very rewarding and I am so grateful for the years we have home-schooled. In spite of the ups and downs, I enjoy it very much.
College Admission Not a Problem
Will my homeschooled teen be able to get into college? Yes! Back in 1993 I sent a letter to the Home School Legal Defense Association asking for help. I needed proof that Chris would be able to get into college if we homeschooled him through high school. His four older sisters severely criticized us for our decision to homeschool Chris for high school. They found fault with the books I used and said I was incapable of teaching the diffcult courses.
Because of their concern for their brother and their hostile objections, Chris felt he would end up on welfare if he was homeschooled for high school! He was open to high school homeschooling if he could get a good education and be college material. HSLDA provided me with that information - a list of colleges that have accepted homeschoolers from high school. Today that list has expanded to include 252 colleges and universities.
If you choose to homeschool through high school, let your child know early and let him know that there is no other option. John and I look at the first eight years of homeschooling as preparation for the next four years. The new revised homeschooling packet available from CCL does contain some thoughts on how to motivate your youngster for high school homeschooling.
Again, I encourage you to consider homeschooling for high school. We have a real crisis in the Church and in the religious education in our schools, we have a crisis in American education in general; and there's obviously a crisis in our society due to the lack of virtue and morals. Continuing to educate your child at home during high school may make a positive difference in their lives.