High School Courses
There are no required courses for homeschoolers under Virginia law. As the parent, you choose the coursework and curriculum for your homeschooled teen. Some families take a traditional path and have their student study traditional middle school and high school subjects, using similar materials and approaches to those used in public or private schools. Others take a more unconventional approach and create a customized curriculum around their teen’s interests and local resources. Accredited correspondence schools, co-ops, and community colleges are popular resources with many families.
A typical homeschooling family uses a mix-and-match combination of different curriculum options and resources for the high school years. Each option has its pros and cons, and there is no one single approach that works equally well for all families or all academic subjects. Research each option carefully and discuss them with your student, then choose the curriculum options and resources that work best for your family and situation.
Textbooks, Workbooks and Traditional Classroom Materials
First of all, everyone is familiar with textbooks, workbooks, and other traditional classroom materials. In addition to books, today you can also find instructional materials on video, DVD, and CD-ROMs, as well as the Internet. You can buy these new or used from homeschool textbook companies, curriculum providers, homeschool conferences, used book stores, other families, on Ebay, or over the Internet. You do not need to use the exact same textbooks as the ones used at your local high school.
Correspondence Schools or Distance Learning Programs
Many private individuals and companies offer courses for homeschoolers through correspondence schools or distance learning programs. The student works with a teacher who assigns reading and homework, grades his work, and answers his questions. Some of these programs only offer one or two classes in a particular subject like math or anatomy, while others offer dozens of different subjects.
Some distance learning programs are run by accredited schools which award official high school diplomas. Usually you have to be enrolled in the school for at least a year before you can receive a diploma. There are lots of “diploma mills” out there, so do a little independent research and make sure your correspondence school is accredited and has a good reputation before you enroll your student.
Public School Online Courses
Some public high schools in Virginia and elsewhere are beginning to offer online courses to homeschooled students. Some schools are offering the courses free of charge, while others are charging tuition. Check with your state homeschool organization to learn more about the status of these programs.
“Learning by doing” or experiential learning is very popular with many homeschooled teens who find they learn better through hands-on activities and projects than through textbooks or “book learning.” This might involve learning from paid employment, community service, travel, clubs or youth groups, personal hobbies, and so on. For instance, homeschooled teens have studied biology by monitoring streams and helping with wildlife counts, studied language arts by writing their own novels or creating their own websites, honed their math skills through running their own businesses, and learned about civics firsthand by working on political campaigns.
Another popular approach is unit studies, where the homeschooled teen explores a particular subject or area in depth, like the Civil War or fly fishing or Japanese language and culture. Unit studies may be organized by the parent, but often at this age the student is the one who takes the lead, reading every book at the library on the subject, getting involved with relevant activities in their community, finding mentors who can help them learn more, and so on.
Tutor and Outside Classes
What if you feel uncomfortable teaching a particular “tough” or unusual high school subject? You may have the option of hiring a tutor to teach a particular subject, or provide special one-on-one assistance with a problem area or skill. Many families have access to academic and recreational classes in their community. Sometimes these are run by other homeschooling families, and other times they are available through local schools, community centers, or private businesses. Many homeschooled teens also participate in homeschool co-operatives or co-ops, where the parents take turns teaching different academic or enrichment subjects.
Part-time Enrollment in Public School
Students in some states and communities have the option of enrolling part-time in classes at a local public or private high school. Some of these students also have the opportunity to participate in high school clubs, team sports, or other extracurriculars. Laws and policies on part-time enrollment vary greatly from state to state, so contact your state homeschool organization to learn more about what is available in your community.
Earn College Credits
It’s not unusual for a homeschooled teen to earn a semester or more in college credits before graduating from high school. Some students choose to earn college credits by examination, taking AP exams through their local high school or by taking CLEP exams through a local college or university. Others choose to enroll part-time in classes at the local community college. This provides a chance for students to experience a classroom environment while getting a jump start on college or vocational training. Check with your state homeschool organization and your local community college to learn more.
Most communities today offer formal and informal opportunities for homeschooled teens to get together and socialize. Homeschool organizations and support groups often organize homeschool graduation ceremonies and yearbooks, as well as homeschool dances and proms.
After watching this, you probably have additional questions like “how can I teach foreign languages?” or “what is the best way to prepare my homeschooled teen for admission to the college down the road?” Your local library and the VaHomeschoolers Bookstore have resources which can help you answer these and other questions. Your state homeschool organization or local support group can put you in touch with homeschooling families in your community who can share ideas and resources with you and your teens.