Guide to High School Homeschooling

homeschooled teen

Many people are wary of doing high school at home, for a variety of reasons. Many homeschooling parents decide to put their teens into the school system during these years because they are uncertain about how to prepare the student mentally, socially and academically for college. Homeschooling through high school is possible, and while it may require some pulling together of resources, your child can thrive.

What to Teach

If your student is planning on going-on to college, start looking at potential schools as early as 8th grade. While your student certainly doesn't have to make a decision on where to go or what he wants to do, it is a good idea to get a feel for what the admissions requirements are for the type of school your child might like to attend. When you're plotting out four years of high school, keep admission requirements in mind so that you don't come up short when it's time to apply somewhere. According to HSLDA, most colleges will want to see the following courses as a minimum:

  • Four years of English
  • Two to four years of Math
  • Two to four years of Science
  • Two to four years of History
  • At least two years of a Foreign Language
  • Electives

For highly-selective colleges, you should consider four years of each of the core courses (English, Math, Science and History), and your student should take AP classes his junior and senior year along with a variety of interesting and stimulating elective courses and extracurriculars.

High School English

teen boy reading
Include classic literature

A high school English course generally is made up of communication (writing and speech) and literature. Some courses will divide up the writing, speech and literature in one comprehensive course. You may also take individual courses like Speech, Composition, Shakespeare, etc. Generally plan to spend about half of your time on communication and the other half on reading and analyzing literature.

Consider also, having your student participate in programs like the Toastmasters, Debate, or entering essays competitions. These are all great ways for the homeschooler to get recognition outside the home, in addition to practicing communication skills.

These are a few of the well-known resources available for homeschoolers:

  • Institute for Excellence in Writing - This is a classical approach to teaching writing skills. Students start with a DVD course and then from there choose a variety of other resources.
  • Center for Lit - A classical literature program that uses the Socratic method to discuss works of literature.
  • Brave Writer - Written by a professional writer, this Charlotte Mason style writing program offers curriculum as well as online classes.
  • Total Language Plus - Teaches grammar, vocabulary, literary analysis and reading comprehension through high school using great literature.


Don't let the requirement for foreign language daunt you. You have several options for helping your student learn a foreign language - even if you don't speak it. There are many language study programs available online and through computer software programs. Also, keep in mind that because you're homeschooling, your student has the option of taking almost anything he wants, not just the standard offerings of French, Spanish, or German. Some of these include:

  • Rosetta Stone - An immersion based program where students see pictures and hear words asssociated with those pictures. The homeschool version includes writing exercises. Rosetta Stone is available as software or as an online course.


Generally speaking when you contemplate high school math, think about your student's life goals. A student who is considering an Associate's Degree in fashion design, doesn't really need to take Calculus (but business math might really come in handy.) Consider the following courses of study depending on what your student's goals are:

  • Most Students - Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 and Trigonometry
  • High-performing Students - Geometry, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, Calculus
  • Non-math-related Career Goals: Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Accounting or other type of business math

There are an abundance of good math curriculums, a few of which include:

  • Saxon - Saxon uses an incremental approach that repeats learned material frequently to ensure understanding. Starting in 4th grade and continuing through Calculus, you can purchase the DIVE dvds which feature a knowledgeable teacher helping students understand difficult concepts.
  • Thinkwell - Thinkwell is an online program. It is known for teaching students to think through problems and is easy to implement.
  • Teaching Textbooks - Anyone can teach with teaching textbooks. These courses are designed for the student to use entirely by themselves.


teen doing science

Typical high school science classes cover a variety of subjects. While most students take Biology and Chemistry as freshman and sophmores respectively, junior and senior years can be filled with interesting coursework of your student's choosing. If a student has a particular interest in pursuing science in college, he should pursue more advanced science topics throughout high school. The National Human Genome Research Institute offers some guidelines about subjects typically taught during the high school years.

In addition, think outside the textbook box. Do you live near an aquarium, zoo or nature center? These places will typically offer internships for high school juniors and seniors. Also, look for local volunteer opportunities through various environmental groups. You could end up spending time counting wildlife, document native species of plants or studying vernal pools.


Elective classes are usually included in high school vary from art classes, music, drama and physical education. A lot of homeschoolers use life experiences as electives. For example, if your student is involved in 4-H, the work she does there can certainly count as an elective. Does your child sing in the church choir? That counts as an elective too. The process your child may have to go through to obtain his driver's license can also count as Driver's Ed in high school. Have your student keep track of some of these things via a brief journal so that when you go to put together his transcripts, you have a running record of the time spent and the types of things done.

How to Figure Credits

There are actually several ways to assign credit hours to your student's work in high school, all of which are acceptable. On top of that, you do not need to assign credits the same way for every course your student takes. Choose the method that makes the most sense for the course subject. Do decide on how much work has to be done to award a credit before your student starts a course. This way both you and your student know what has to get accomplished in a year.

Method #1: The Carnegie System

When you see a transcript say that a student has earned one credit hour for a course, this generally means that the student has spent approximately 120 hours of class time or time with an instructor in a subject. This is useful information because it allows you to figure out how much credit to give for subjects where a student is accumulating hours in lieu of following a specific course or working through a textbook. Generally award one credit for a course that took 120 hours or more to complete. A 60 hour course would be worth one-half credit.

Method #2: Textbook or Coursework Method

This is by far the easiest method to award credits to a homeschooler if they are working through a specific course or textbook. Generally, one course is equivalent to one credit. Keep in mind that covering a textbook doesn't necessarily mean finishing every single program in the book. It just means covering the material in a thorough manner.

Method #3: Predetermined Coursework

One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the ability to complete coursework that provides rich and unusual opportunities for the student. It is perfectly acceptable for you to determine what makes up a credit in your homeschool. Use this method if you do unit studies or if your student has an opportunity that doesn't translate easily into credit hours. For example, if your student has the opportunity to help in a stable in exchange for riding lessons, you could count the course as a credit in Equine studies in this way:

  • 30 hours of riding instruction (an hour per week for 30 weeks)
  • 30 hours of volunteer work at the stable (an hour per week for 30 weeks)
  • 50 hours of study through textbooks on horse anatomy and physiology, the natural history of the horses, and methods in training horses.
  • 10 hours of shadowing a horse vet

You'll note that the total amount of hours are equivalent to 120 hours. When you and your student are creating courses, it's always a good idea to shoot for at least 120 hours of work, but it is always okay to go over.


A transcript is a formal record that includes all of the courses a student completes during their high school years. It also shows how many credits he has earned for each course, a final grade and personal information. A student who is doing high school at home will still need a transcript and may even want a decorative diploma to display. The HSLDA provides some good sample transcripts to use as an outline, however, there are a few tips that you'll want to keep in mind to make things go more easily.

  • Keep records of everything. Hours you student spent practicing violin or soccer, time he spent gardening, or even times where he planned and made the family dinner all can count towards credit hours.
  • Do talk to college admissions officers. Many colleges have an admissions officer just for homeschoolers. Generally speaking, you will find that colleges are very willing to work with homeschoolers and their non-traditional approaches to education. Find out if they have a preferred format for transcripts. This way you can fill out the transcript as your student goes rather than all at once.
  • There are companies that will help you translate your coursework into transcripts such as Homeschool Tracker and Homeschool Sked Track


Depending on your state law, you may have to offer your child standardized testing. However, even if you are not required to offer such testing, most high schoolers will at least take the PSAT and SAT or ACT, and they may take AP tests as well. All of these tests are offered through the College Board, and you can find out the most up-to-date information regarding registration deadlines, testing centers, dates, and study helps at their website.


The PSAT/NMSQT is a good opportunity to get used to the SAT, and scoring well can mean scoring big scholarship dollars. Your student can take it as a freshman and sophomore, but if they want to qualify for the National Merit Scholars Program, they must take it as a junior. It is only offered in October once so if you miss it, you will not have another opportunity to take it. To register for this test, you must contact the guidance counselor or principal of your local high school and register through them. Online registration is not available.

SAT, ACT and SAT Subject Tests

Colleges will usually use the SAT or ACT to help determine whether your child is a good fit for a particular college program. Most students will take this test during their junior or senior year of high school. You can take the test more than once, and many students opt to do this to help improve their scores.

SAT Subject Tests offer an opportunity for a student to demonstrate his knowledge in a given subject area. Be aware that some colleges may require subject tests from homeschoolers.

You can register for the SAT, ACT and Subject tests through the Collegeboard website. Once you register you will choose your testing location and date.

Advanced Placement

Just because your student is homeschooled, doesn't mean they cannot complete AP classes. In addition, students can take AP tests without sitting through a formal AP class (although the class certainly helps for test prep). The advantage to doing AP courses is two-fold. If your student scores well enough on an AP exam, he can earn college credit at a fraction of the cost. In addition, AP coursework looks great on a transcript and demonstrates that your student has what it takes to engage in rigorous coursework.

The exams take place in May so your student should be prepared by then. Register for an AP exam early in the year through your local high school.

Online Helps for Coursework

One important thing to realize is that you don't have to teach everything. There are a variety of schools online that can help you with either the tough classes or all of your child's classes.

  • The Potters School - Has online classes in a number of different subjects for students who wish to take their studies via the Internet.
  • Internet High School - Students can enroll in online high school classes if they want some extra help from certified teachers.
  • Liberty Online Academy - Liberty University has a high school program where students can enroll in a single class or go full time.
  • The Keystone School - Even students outside of the United States can enroll in classes at this online school.

More Socialization and Extra Curriculars

teens socializing
Socializing is important in high school

Years ago, homeschooling throughout the upper level classes meant that the student missed out on many social activities that are a big part of the high school experience. However, as homeschooling became more popular groups of families got together to do things like proms, student clubs, and graduation ceremonies. Many homeschool cooperatives offer:

  • Specialized training and tutoring for students
  • Choir
  • Sports teams
  • Drama
  • Higher math and science
  • Graduation events
  • Proms
  • Social events

High school students can participate in those memorable activities that are part of the fun of high school while still getting all of the benefit of a homeschool education. Church groups also provide many social activities for youth. Look in your community for things. If you actively make your teens social activities a priority, your teen is less likely to dislike being homeschooled through high school, and may see it more as a privilege.

You Can Do It

Many students have successfully completed high school at home and gone on to do well in college and their careers. Although it can be intimidating, homeschooling a teen can be beneficial as it allows the child to concentrate on his studies while giving him time to pursue other interests. Much of the high school years are meant to prepare students for college and their careers. This should also be the goal for homeschooled high schoolers. Parents should talk with their kids to find out what types of classes they are interested in taking and what career path they want to pursue. Parents can then tailor their student's education with these goals in mind. Parents should verify that their child's credits will count and that a diploma can be issued. If the parents are not required to keep records and are not going through a school, then they will have to check into getting their child a GED, which is equivalent to a high school diploma.

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Guide to High School Homeschooling