How Do Homeschoolers Plan for High School?
Are you a homeschool planner or a panster who flies by the seat of your pants? No matter where you fall on the planning spectrum, homeschooling your high schooler requires intentional preparation. The good news is that creating a comprehensive 4-year high school plan doesn't take a lot of work. You can do it! And this article covers much of the information you need to create a homeschool plan from the first step to high school graduation.
Individualizing each student’s high school plan is a great way to prepare them for their future. Whether they intend to pursue fine arts, plan to attend college, desire to go to a trade school, or aren't quite sure yet, the four-year plan you create can take their long-term goals into consideration. You’re embarking on a wonderful journey!
Why Is Creating a Four-Year Plan a Good Idea?
Why plan at all? Couldn’t you just keep ordering the next level in a popular curriculum and call it a day? Yes, you could, but you’d miss the opportunity to personalize your student’s high school experience. Homeschooling gives your student the opportunity to have input and influence in their education in a way public or even private schooling can never offer. It’s one of the best things about homeschooling.
1. Planning Ahead Saves Money
There are two more excellent benefits of creating a physical 4-year plan for your homeschool high school years. The first is affordability.
A plan narrows the field of courses and ensures your student meets the requirements for high school graduation. Knowing what you will cover helps you search or save funds for curriculum choices, supplements, and electives. Knowing what courses will be taught and in what year of high school will help you to begin to gather the resources when you need them. For example, the best time to find a Government and Economics course is not the month before your child’s senior year.
If a course requires the purchase of large equipment, such as a microscope or telescope, you can research what fits your family best. Sharing equipment, sharing resources, or looking for sales can save you hundreds of dollars.
Another perk: Having a four-year plan can help you plan for field trips to major historical attractions. High school is an ideal time to tie the world around you to what your teens are learning in their high school courses.
2. Planning Helps Keep Homeschool Students on Track & Engaged
The second benefit of creating a homeschool plan for high school is that your students are as engaged in their education as you are. Knowing their exit requirements gave my teens the ability to choose their courses and set their own pace for high school. The flexibility in a four-year, five-year, or even three-year high school plan is unique to homeschooling.
Students know when their education is not about them, which is often the case in a public school setting where teens are shoved into molds that don’t suit them. Without a connection to the material, some students lose motivation, become unfocused, and fail academically despite their intellectual ability. This disconnect between ability and performance is one of the reasons parents turn to homeschooling in high school. Homeschooling can mean the rescue of a failing student and can set a gifted student free to learn at their level for the first time.
My oldest son started formal school at seven and graduated right on time. His brother was able to graduate as a junior because of the choices we made with our core work. My daughter used her exceptional writing skills and fierce determination to keep up with her brothers and graduate at fifteen. She took AP and college prep courses as a tenth grader in the local public school as well as Sonlight’s British Lit and Psychology from home in preparation for the AP test for college credit. Homeschooling gave her the freedom to attend college full-time at sixteen.
Giving your child a clear map of the next four years will help them take ownership of their high school experience. When you work together, your kids get a chance to see the benefit of accelerating their studies to accomplish other learning goals. Or, conversely, they can slow their pace to accommodate personal interests or learning needs while still meeting their graduation goals.
High school is the time to pass the reigns of responsibility to your kids. Creating a clear exit plan helped my kids keep working because they could see that they were moving forward on their goals every day.
What Is the Best Four-Year Plan for High School?
The best plan is always one that fits your student’s needs. Before ending ninth grade, ask questions and make observations about your student’s interests and learning path. During the high school years use college planning resources to jointly create a plan with both their career path and high school graduation in mind.
Create a Four-Year Plan Based on Your High Schooler’s Goals
Each student’s high school plan is going to look slightly different depending on their goals. Their natural inclinations and talents as well as their aptitude for academics and character will help you narrow the focus. The next four years should be used to create a high school transcript that highlights preparations for the future.
Students will likely fall into one of four categories:
- college bound & academically inclined
Each of these career orientations can be approached with a coordinating plan that will help your student plan for their future. A student focusing on Fine Arts is going to have a different course of study than a student determined to gain entrance into medical school. The dancer, photographer, or visual artist will have many more hours of elective study to show knowledge in their field of study. The University-bound student will need to use the four-year plan to complete the higher number of science and foreign language credits. Both can show mastery in their high school program with very different transcripts.
With the appropriate training and high school credits, homeschool graduates are every bit as well prepared for the future as their public school counterparts. Knowing their goals will help your graduate meet enrollment requirements for community college, conservatory, vocational school, or college.
Don’t Forget Life Skills & Electives
Core academic requirements aren’t the only factor that you need to consider to determine what to include in your four-year plan. Someday, your homeschooled high-schooler will graduate. Besides using a homeschool high school curriculum that teaches them the reading, math, writing, and science they need, how else can you ensure that your kids are best prepared for life beyond homeschool? Electives!
High school students need skills for life. The best high school plan includes elective subjects that prepare your child for after their homeschool graduation. Elective courses are the best way for homeschool parents to ensure that their kids are ready for life. Personal finance, health, communication, and household management (for men and women!) are all crucial life skills that should be included in your plan to homeschool high school.
How to Make Your High School 4-Year Plan
The first thing to do is determine the credits required for graduation in your state. I checked the online handbook of several local high schools to get an idea of the average credits needed. That proved more difficult than I thought. One school required 50 credits to graduate while others required between 28-32.
Since there was so much disparity in exit requirements from the high schools, I decided to go where earned credits mattered most—higher education. If your child desires to go to technical school, a specialized college, or a large university, check directly with the school for their requirements. This is where having an idea of where your child is interested in attending helps. You can also find out if specific schools require anything additional from homeschooling graduates to apply.
Two of my sons are in tradesman apprenticeships. They needed an official high school transcript with their applications to trade school. Don’t fail to prepare a transcript for your child because they are not academically oriented. High school transcripts provide vital information, and it is our responsibility to provide a well-kept record for our teens’ sake.
Educating high schoolers? Get your free guide for Homeschool High School Transcripts.
Know What You Need Ahead of Time
Community colleges offer placement evaluations like the Compass Test, while other schools require ACT or SAT scores. My daughter applied to a university that offered portfolio examinations in lieu of testing—a huge benefit for non-academic-based majors like visual arts.
If your homeschool students plan on attending specific colleges, look to those colleges for their incoming freshman entrance requirements. This gave us a much clearer picture of what we needed to complete for our own record keeping. If your student is unsure about their future, don't worry too much. Choose a local community college, an in-state college, and one out-of-state large university to get an idea of the average requirements.
For example, these are the minimum general freshman requirements from the University of Iowa:
- English - 4 years
- World Languages - 2 years (4 years for medical)
- Social Studies - 3 years
- Science - 3 years
- Algebra - 2 years (plus 1 higher math for engineering)
- Geometry - 1 year
Educating high schoolers? Get your free guide for Homeschool High School Transcripts.
What Is Your High School Four-Year Plan?
With a good snapshot of the minimum requirements we were able to build a spine of requirements for the next four years for each one of our students. We fleshed out the spine by adding electives and activities that were meaningful to each teen. We chose topics based on their interests, goals and future plans.
Prepare for the Best Outcome
Aim for the minimum requirements for college entrance. Yes, your child might hate math today. Maybe, like my son, your child has dyslexia and can’t spell a legible grocery list. Our job as parents is to see the longer vision for our teens. When doing geometry with a math-reluctant child, assure them that because of classes like this one, they can choose any path they desire in the future. My son got so much writing support in college that he is now headed to law school, proving you can’t know how far a student will go based on their elementary school performance.
Although all of my three graduates used Sonlight History / Bible / Literature H and 100-400, their individual transcripts reflected their unique talents and interests. My daughter has credits for piano and formal music training. My son has more technology credits for online coding and computer sciences courses taken through dual enrollment at the local high school. Both have used their high school homeschool diploma to pursue their higher education goals.
Using the goals that you created with your student and the necessary credits required for graduation you can write a plan that prepares them for their future, too.
What About My Weekly Schedule?
Did you know that you can flex your school week and your yearly schedule as well? Is your schedule a negative factor when determining if your family can homeschool? There are several ways that you can flex your homeschool to fit your life.
The homeschool day is shorter. Imagine a school with no homeroom, announcements, assemblies, class changes. There is no attendance, homework turn-in lines, or reviews of last week's work for those who missed it.
There are creative ways to solve scheduling problems. For example:
- We have schooled year-round, with six weeks on and a week off.
- We have opted for a four day week while I worked outside the home.
- I have traded upper level classes with a friend.
How Can a Homeschooler Graduate High School?
If you are homeschooling independently, then you are the one who issues the high school diploma. I have had the privilege of doing this four times, and it is a beautiful way to celebrate all the years of working with homeschool curriculum, reading great books, and growing as a family.
You can throw a party, take your kids to dinner, or hand the diploma over at breakfast. You get to decide. Go big, go small—it’s up to you. Iowa’s state homeschool support organization holds a graduation ceremony every year so homeschool students can be recognized by their parents in a large gathering. We have purchased personalized diplomas online through HSLDA. They offer a professional leather case and are filled out with beautiful calligraphy. If you have a co-op or support group with a couple of graduates this would be a great activity for homeschool families to share together.
What Is the Best Homeschool Program for High School?
The best homeschool program for high school is one that allows you to remain flexible in your course of study while meeting your students academic needs. It is easy to use for both parent and student and reinforces independent learning.
We chose Sonlight for our family through the high school years, and have been able to use it with a wide variety of students. Some years, I do the majority of the reading. Other years, with my stronger readers and more determined students, I am a facilitator to the learning process. I like that our curriculum can flex with my children’s learning needs.
The best homeschooling curriculum for high school covers a broad range of subject matter, with academic strength. The high school years are for re-introducing students to topics they have touched on a few times in elementary. A great curriculum sparks that interest and shows students how to discover more for themselves.
Sonlight books do that for our kids every year. I can not tell you how many new favorite topics we discover every year. Choosing their curriculum, such as these mix-and-match high school courses, sparks their love of learning and helps them become independent thinkers.
What Is the Best Online High School Homeschooling Program?
Is there an area in your four-year plan that you know you are no match for? I have been there. The best news is...you don’t have to teach everything yourself. Turn to online teachers to supplement your homeschool.
I use tons of online resources to help us homeschool. We live in a tech world, and it is best if we use it to our advantage. From foreign languages to higher-level science labs, online courses are a great way to bring a specialist into your home. Thanks to online courses, apps, and subscriptions, my children have learned coding, spelling, geography, art, and more.
You can also choose online classes from your community college or dual enroll for credit at another institution that offers classes your student is interested in. This way your teen will earn high school credit and college credits at the same time.
Does Harvard Accept Homeschoolers?
Approaching high school causes a great deal of fear for homeschooling parents. Many fear they are not equipped to handle the more difficult subject matter of upper grades. They are afraid they will ruin their children's chances of getting into college if their four-year plan for high school isn't perfect.
The truth is homeschoolers are doing a great job of getting into the top schools in the nation, even getting recognized as homeschoolers for their work ethic Harvard, Yale, Texas A&M, the Virginia Military Institute and many other top schools send acceptance letters to homeschoolers every year.
We’ve gone through the college application and enrollment process, and contrary to the common fears, we have not run into any issues with colleges. In fact, my son was offered $64,000 in scholarship funds with our own home-printed transcript and his ACT test results. My daughter accrued over $80,000 in scholarship rewards through a site called RaiseMe and has offers from several colleges. College was far more attainable than I was ever led to believe, and there is scholarship money available to homeschoolers.
In the end, both of my students attended Graceland University on full academic scholarships; additional athletic and honors scholarships covered the majority of their living expenses. They will complete their four-year degrees with little debt. This year they are applying to graduate school. Homeschooling prepared them very well to meet the academic demands of higher education.
Create a Plan for High School Today
There is little in the way of research that needs to be done to create a four-year plan for every student in your homeschool. With what you have read, followed by a simple search of your local high school and community college, you can have a great outline ready to share with your student.
A plan helps your student stay motivated through the high school years since they have input into the process.
High school years are the best years to build independence with your guidance. Embrace your teen’s input and help them shape their view of the future right now. You can then use your four-year plan to help you choose curriculum and classes throughout their four years of high school.