Algebra and biology and research papers are scary. Who is going to be in charge of dissecting the frog? How will they learn to diagram sentences? A parent can’t possibly produce a college-ready graduate, can they?? The high school years often cause a deer-in-the-headlights mentality when it comes to homeschooling. Even well-educated adults are somehow reduced to fear and trembling when the prospect of teaching their own kids basic high school subjects comes up. But why? If we survived it, why can’t we teach it?
I want to tell you what you don’t often hear: high school is actually the best part of homeschooling.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s definitely more work involved, for the parent and the students. There’s more thinking involved. There’s more of you that’s necessary. But that’s kind of the point. In the preschool and elementary years you did little fun things and taught them all the new things, like colors and letters and reading and multiplication. Sometimes it was fun and a lot of the time it just wasn’t. But in the high school years they have all the tools they need to learn, and now they’re using those basic tools to really advance their knowledge. They’re becoming people. They’re being shaped for the future.
And if you’re the one doing the shaping, it’s an unexplainable gift.
This is where the fun begins, if you will let go of the fear of school work and embrace the calling of parenthood. As your teens study history or economics or scientific advances or read the great authors, conversations arise that provide a world of opportunity for a parent to have an impact. Whether you share a common obsession with a favorite author, discuss and debate capitalism vs. communism, or dig deeper into apologetics, your relationship with your child grows deeper and stronger. Your influence is unmeasurable. And in my experience, each day is just more fun.
If you hire out these classes, you may just miss some of the best parts of homeschooling. Your kids may be under the most qualified teachers or best Christian thinkers in your area, but they still aren’t sitting with you. They may not be having some of the most important conversations with you. And that means you are not necessarily shaping their hearts, their minds, their worldview.
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Some of the best school days we have are the ones where we end up following rabbit trails based on something we discussed in our lessons. We willt put aside the lesson plan because the kids asked questions that needed answering. These discussions are probably my favorite part of homeschooling. They aren’t on the lesson plan; there’s no worksheet or quiz. But these are the times when kids are thinking. They are the ones asking the questions. They are actively involved in their education.
When cultural topics arise, or scientific questions, or inquiries about political happenings, it’s such a privilege to be there to point them to the truth. I cannot stress this enough. The social climate in which we live today is toxic. It is anti-biblical. It’s not just a blessing to be able to guide my children in their biblical worldview; it is imperative that I do so. This past year alone we have worked our way from the Civil War to the rise of fascism. Can you even fathom the topics that come up in this time span? Slavery, civil rights, feminism, evolution, capitalism, communism, nationalism— it’s really amazing.
You can’t plan this. There’s no teacher script for it. And that’s probably why it’s so scary. What if they ask questions you can’t answer? What if you don’t remember that part of your education?? Who’s going to dissect the frog???
(By the way, I have a college degree, and have already homeschooled two kids all the way to graduation, and we have never dissected a frog.)
Don’t underestimate your abilities
Let me tell you what all the other veteran homeschool parents know: homeschool moms learn more as the teacher than they ever did as a student. Even the best-educated ones. Sometimes they learn as they go. Sometimes they say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but let’s look it up.” In my 20 years as a homeschool mom, and in my previous years as a homeschool kid, one of the things I have heard the most (second to the socialization question!) is how much new homeschool moms love history and science and all the other things they only thought they knew.
I’ve seen a pretty great meme floating around the internet that asks the right question: Why do we send our kids to be educated by a system that left us feeling inadequate to teach the very things that system taught us?
It’s because we live in an age of experts and we are conditioned to believe that only experts and professionals and certificate-holders are capable of teaching. We are taught (successfully) to believe that reading instruction is a profession, that math takes specialized training, and that science…well, only a scientist can teach that.
Let go of that idea, because it’s just not true. Certified teachers get certified because the system requires it. They are paid with taxpayer dollars, so they must meet certain standards to get hired. That’s a good thing. But that doesn’t make them the only capable teachers.
I can promise you that a concerned parent is the best teacher. Whatever you lack in “professional credentials” you more than make up for in love, desire, and determination.
I was raised and taught by a mom who dropped out of high school in the 9th grade (because she was pregnant with me). She didn’t have a high school diploma, but she had a conviction that raising my sister and me at home was her responsibility. That was her credential. She was an expert in her children.
With the limited curriculum options in the 1980s, she gave us a great education. We had a very structured school day, using ACE curriculum. There were no co-ops or homeschool hybrids or university model classes available. In fact, we didn’t leave the house during school hours for fear of arrest (which also happened). We also didn’t have a TV (and no one could even imagine the internet!).
But we had two parents who were involved. We spent all of our time together learning, working, playing games, having conversation, and growing together. We read the Bible and memorized large portions of it. We read books together as a family. We went to church together every time the doors opened. My mom taught us everything she knew how to do, like sewing, cooking, gardening, typing, and keeping a checkbook.
The teen years are hard
You know it. You remember. The teen years are difficult. Physical changes, hormones, friends, social situations — they all contribute to making this part of childhood kinda rocky.
Can I just say that NOT being in school really softens the blow of the teen years? I can attest to this for two reasons: I was a homeschooled teenager, and my mom and my husband were not. The comparisons we can make are incredible.
Don’t get me wrong: the teen years are hard no matter where you are educated. But being at home with loving parents is a thousand times better than being in the social cesspool of a high school when your face breaks out like never before, or you suddenly feel like crying all day and you don’t even know why, or you know you’re not one of the “in” crowd.
If you went to a public or private high school, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Now imagine that you did not have to experience any of that. I didn’t. When the teen years came, I had the security of home and family as the main background of my day. I still had acne, I still had raging emotions, I still got nervous around boys; but it wasn’t the majority of my day, and it didn’t rule my thoughts.
And social pressure? It was very minimal. My friends were from church. My influences were my parents. My heroes were characters in the books I read. And our days were always bathed in scripture.
Getting down to basics
Despite everything I’ve just said, I know you’re probably still thinking, “But what about math? I hated writing a research paper! I just don’t know what to teach!” If you’re worried about the mechanics of teaching high school, then you aren’t aware of the enormous amount of curriculum on the market created just for parents like you and me. I did hate math. I’ve never been scientifically astute. And didn’t advance past pre-Algebra in high school.
But I’m teaching my son algebra. I taught my niece geometry. I’ve taught my kids some pretty obscure parts of history that I never knew. And even though my government textbook in high school was literally my favorite, I don’t just wing it for my own kids. I found resources I really like and teach from them.
The resources are available and they are widely varied. This is one of my favorite parts of the homeschool world: surprising new parents with the staggering amount of options. I use Math-U-See for math, because I love the video instruction. I use Institute for Excellence in Writing because…ahem…video instruction. Teacher guides and online help make teaching high school almost painless. In my opinion it’s been much easier than the tears experienced with multiplication tables or handwriting practice!
If high school scares you, you are not alone. And also, you are not alone. Literally. There is a world of support available in the homeschool community. There are incredible options for curriculum. You don’t have to figure it all out at once. Reach out and ask others how they do it. You’ll get lots of varied answers, and that’s okay. There’s no one right way to teach your kids. Learn from other moms and see what will work for your family.
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If you need help with the difficult subjects, it’s okay to get it! But choose wisely and be stingy with your child’s time. Get help for the things you really feel uncomfortable with, and take the reins for the rest yourself. You can do it. It may be a little scary, but the scary things are usually the best things.
Now that two of my children are grown, I am incredibly thankful for the amount of time we have spent together. And I don’t just mean that I’m glad we did math together. I’m glad we did life together. I’m thankful that I have been their teacher, their guide, and their mentor in many areas. I’m thankful for the times we spent reading good books together. I’m thankful that their teen years were not monopolized by the typical high school schedule of classes, extracurriculars, and homework assignments from other people. This is why I can say with certainty that high school is actually the best part of homeschooling.
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