Homeschooling during the high school years can seem like a daunting proposition for many parents. Nicki Truesdell, author of “Everyone can homeschool, overcome barriers to homeschooling” and a veteran homeschool mom of five from Texas, wants parents to know that it doesn’t have to be scary and, in fact, your child can even graduate early as a home school if desired.
I asked Truesdell about his homeschooling experience and advice for homeschoolers. Here is what she said.
The Epoch Times: You homeschooled your five children without ever sending them to school. What made you choose homeschooling from the start?
Nicki Truesdell: I was actually homeschooled as a kid, sixth through 12th grade. I loved it and knew there was no other option for my kids.
The Epoch Times: Many parents, even parents with experience in homeschooling, find the idea of homeschooling throughout the high school years daunting. Why do you think this is a scary proposition for many? Should it be?
Ms. Truesdell: We’ve been conditioned to believe that high school is hard and teaching it is even harder. There is always this school subject that blocks us all; for some it was algebra, and for others it was chemistry or writing. But this subject leads us to believe that we are not capable of teaching secondary school subjects to our own children. It seems impossible! But it really shouldn’t be.
Homeschooling programs are unique and varied, and there are more options to choose from than most people realize. These options always come with plenty of help, like instructor guides, answer keys, video lessons, and even comprehensive online courses. Add to that a growing homeschool community, where you’ll find help in your area, like tutors or even other homeschool parents who are great at those “difficult” subjects. I have friends who are homeschoolers and biologists, math majors, history buffs and so much more. There are experts all around you.
The Epoch Times: What common misconceptions do parents tend to have about homeschooling in high school?
Ms. Truesdell: One of the most common misconceptions about high school homeschooling is that a parent needs to know everything. This is simply not the case. A parent simply needs to be the resource facilitator.
The Epoch Times: What strategies would you recommend for parents to homeschool as they go through the high school years?
Ms. Truesdell: Think of yourself as a parent, not a school counselor. You’re helping your teen navigate the adult world, not just graduation. Consider the whole person and plan their high school years accordingly.
Prepare them for all aspects of adult life. All teenagers will become adults, but not all teenagers will go to college. Too often we end up focusing on GPA and transcripts at the expense of real-world education. Teach them history, science, math, and language arts as they apply to everyone, not just a freshman.
Have lots of conversations. Homeschooled high school teens have a unique opportunity to let adults be their most influential peers, and that’s a good thing. Talk about everything. Prefer meals together without TV or smartphone. Talk about the news, their life, their thoughts and your beliefs. Chase the rabbit tracks about everything. To have fun together.
The Epoch Times: You shared that your son graduated high school early as a homeschooler. How did you do? Would you recommend this path to others?
Ms. Truesdell: We think of a 16-year-old graduating from high school as “early,” but it’s actually a more old-fashioned version of education. My son was simply able to condense his high school years by focusing on what was important to him, not some state bureaucracy or school board. I learned early in my homeschooling years that there was a lot of wasted time in school, but with very little explanation of why we do it this way.
Students don’t need 12 years of math lessons; they must learn mathematical concepts, apply them and move on to the next. It really can be done in six to eight years, depending on the child. The same goes for the language arts: a child must learn to read – and read well – spell, compose appropriate sentences and long papers, and carry on an intelligent conversation. None of these require 12 years of textbooks. There’s so much “busy work” in the guise of education, and we’ve come to assume that’s normal.
This line of thinking demands that you focus not on grade levels, but rather on education levels. Grade levels are a 20th century invention and really only apply to public schools. At home they are not needed. I allowed my students to take courses at different times, such as biology or government. These did not depend on their age or rank, but on many other personal factors.
When my son was around 12, he asked me to graduate early. I replied with a proposed high school transcript, with the courses he should take during his school years. He used it as a to-do list. After each course is completed, we marked it off the list. Last year he was determined to graduate at 16, so he had to hustle the last few months. Her classes included all the basics and more: math, writing, science, history, geography, Bible, logic, US government, and lots of reading.
I recommend this path to any family that wishes to pursue more than just “schooling”. Homeschooling allows for so much flexibility! My son is an artist and musician and dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. He now devotes more time to these activities.
The Epoch Times: How do homeschooled students get admitted to college, should they wish this route?
Ms. Truesdell: Homeschooled students attend college like everyone else, through regular admissions, scholarships, and as dual credit students. Whether or not they wish to follow this path is a choice each student must make with their parents.
As curators, my husband and I tend to encourage non-academic paths. If there is a specific degree that is important to our child’s future, we would not discourage them, but we would be very deliberate in helping them attend one that does not compromise everything we have taught them.
The Epoch Times: When it comes to college admissions, do you think homeschoolers are advantaged or disadvantaged?
Ms. Truesdell: Homeschoolers have a clear advantage when it comes to college admissions. In fact, they have been eagerly sought after by admissions services for many years. Several studies have shown that home-schooled students consistently outperform their publicly-schooled peers on standardized tests, making them better candidates for higher education.
The Epoch Times: What do you think are the biggest benefits of homeschooling your kids during their high school years?
Ms. Truesdell: The high school years are when you take all the information the student has learned and apply it to the real world and to the student, personally. It’s the moment that shapes their view of the world, and whoever spends the most time with them is the one that shapes. I can’t stress that enough.
Consider the typical day of a high school student in public school: get up at dawn, go to track practice or catch an early bus, school all day, stay after for more practice. or other extracurricular activities, then go off to work part-time or hang out with friends. How much time does this teenager spend with people other than his parents?
Who shapes their view of the world?
I believe the high school years are the most important time for homeschooling for this reason. Parents become the provider of education and much more. As a homeschooled family, the home is the center of the adolescent’s world. Yes, there are still many opportunities for jobs, friends, classes and sports, but the center of their lives is the home. Their peers are family members and a carefully chosen community of like-minded teenagers and adults. If you know even a little bit about what’s going on in our culture and in our schools, you know why it’s so important.
My children are fully culturally aware because we live in the real world. But with home as the center of their world, we provide a safe, friendly place to learn and discuss the issues around us.