How Do You Home School a High School Kid in All or Most Subjects?

Updated on March 07, 2014
K.F. asks from Carmel, CA
12 answers

In reading the question asking if the poster was too late in starting to homeschool I got to thinking about this subject.

I have a college degree, in business not education. While I feel I would be capable of home schooling my kids through middle school I am certain I could not offer them a stellar high school education. My sophomore is in AP and honors classes. I would be able to teach her through some courses but not most. Honors physics and biology are daunting. High level Spanish, Calculus and AP World History remind me of classes I took in college. I am not equipped to lecture in those subjects the way my daughter's teachers are and the amount of reading I'd have to do in order to get up to speed seems overwhelming.

If you home school a high school student I would assume you have a college degree. In what field would it be? How do you cover the material yourself and then "teach" your child? It seems so time consuming and that it would be really hard to offer the same depth of learning that a good HS offers. Teachers specialize in their field of knowledge and teach those specific classes how can a parent be prepared to teach all or most subjects simultaneously?

This is not meant as judgement towards those that do. I know there are people who do it really well and some students who have been home schooled are incredibly well educated. I'm just curious about how you fit in learning the material yourself well enough to impart it on your child. Are you all super smarties to start with?

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answers from San Francisco on

Excellent answers below. I think a common misconception about homeschooling is that it's exactly like public school, only it's at home. That's not the case at all, actually. Once kids can read well and have solid reading comprehension skills, most homeschool books are directed at the child, not at the parent. My 6th grader rarely needs help from me, surprisingly enough. Typically, she may want to confirm with me that her understanding of a math concept is correct, and we will review it together. But in terms of history, literature, social studies, and art, most of our curriculum is very well explained and self-contained. She turns in her work to me, and we look over it together. Just like any teacher, I'll point out areas where she could have improved (and generally, she will take her paper back to her desk and do exactly that). We will discuss ideas for further study, and she will spend her afternoons (after her "regular" school work is done) doing a "deep dive" into subjects that interest her. She has become adept at searching out primary sources online, and finding the right kinds of books at the library.

In any case, we know many families who are homeschooling older children (junior high and high school aged), and it's much the same for them. One of my employees is a high school Senior this year, and has been homeschooled since preschool. She had a 2200+ score on her SAT test, and has been accepted at every college she has applied to. Neither of her parents has a college degree. (For the record, her older sister had similar scores and attended her first-choice college as well.) They do belong to a homeschool co-op, but it's mostly for socializing and doing crafts. :)

Bottom line, homeschooling is a completely different animal than public (or even private) school. The curriculum is different in that it is much more complete, and doesn't really require a teacher to interpret it.

That being said, I went to a very good girls' boarding school (just the next town over from where you live ;), and I'd love to send my girls there. But for $50K per year per girl? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can provide a more than decent high school education for my girls at a MUCH lower cost. Think of the college classes they could take for a fraction of that cost! Would it be as wonderful an experience? Probably not. But I have to be realistic and try to determine how to get the best bang for our buck. Unfortunately, the public schools where we live aren't great, so we have to be creative.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

I'm sure everyone will have different answers on this but this is my experience.
I was homeschooled after 5th grade and rarely needed guidance from my parents. There were a couple things in math that were harder for me to understand, and my dad helped me learn how to do them and I could do it myself from there. The books are MADE for homeschoolers so they provide direction on HOW to work the problems so most of the time, the parents don't have to TEACH high schoolers.
I am homeschooling my kids but my oldest is only in the 2nd grade so I don't have to worry about this quite yet....

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

Congratulations to you on having such a superior high school in your neighborhood. I hope to get somewhere where I do too by the time my kids are that age because I'll be exhausted from homeschooling by then.

As you know, parents who homeschool usually do not have teaching degrees. There are many jobs people do well on in life without degrees. Like parenting. As you also know, many high school teachers are NOT exceedingly awesome at relaying their vast knowledge to students. I can honestly say I didn't learn much edging through my dry history text books in high school after the teachers read out loud from them for a while...You don't need a college degree level of understanding of each topic yourself "first" and then instruction on how you teach it. You just need the material, which you have been going through level by level through the grades, so you should comprehend it as well as your child, and the allotted time frame in the day to cover it. There are amazing learning resources out there the schools never use.

For instance, we're studying medieval times in history right now (younger kids, my oldest is in second grade). They don't teach it at the local pubic elementary school. We study history from about 11am to noon each day, and my kids are small. Our text book chapter today was on the Crusades, Saladin, El Cid. The curriculum which runs for 4 years through 4 time periods in history includes maps and coloring pages and activities and book lists and tests. I don't have to be a history major myself and know all of those things before I can guide my child through the material, I just need to work through it too with enthusiasm, and close attention to how well they're getting it. I would also be able to understand those subjects at a high school level. I'm 44. You don't lecture, you read and discuss and let them do related activities and keep the discussion alive with extra outside books from the lists. We've got stacks from the library always. Same with the grammar, spelling, writing curriculums, you just work through the material which is all broken down for you into lessons if you are doing a classical style. If you can understand it, you can teach it.

The homeschooled teens I know, many of which entered college early and excelled, are largely doing their work on their own since they can read and write and research their materials themselves. Same with kids in school, the teacher talks a little, often from the school mandated text, and then the students do their own work.

Homeschool math curriculums are very thorough, and if they have been doing their work through the lower grades, they comprehend the higher grades step by step. There are teachers manuals, online courses, and DVD classes that accompany the books to cover each new concept. If a child is not learning it, and the parent does not understand it either, then they can get a tutor or take a class in a school, but the math curriculums like MathUsSee and Singapore Math etc are as advanced or more advanced than what regular public school students get. They are also laid out to build on themselves over the years so students never jump ahead before they are ready and they have a better mastery. My cousins who were all homeschooled took college math courses IN COLLEGES during their high school years. With Americas science and math scores being what they are compared to other countries, obviously high schools here are NOT teaching it all that well.

If you can comprehend the very thoroughly laid out material as well as a teenager, then you can be sure they get their work done. You can also branch off into many real life activities that accentuate that learning without being tied down to a school day.

Now, if your local school has all that great academic material being effectively taught by the best teachers in the profession, then obviously, there's no need to homeschool. But in most of the's not a given.

I sat and listened to a middle school teacher tell me how amazing it is that her 8th graders were reading "Into the Wild" because it was "their first classic book ever, the language was difficult for them at first but once they got into it, they really learned a lot and liked it." My daughter is in second grade and just finished reading the abridged Moby Dick and now she's reading A Wrinkle in Time. And she writes cursive which they no longer teach in PA and she memorizes poetry regularly. My friend is retired high school teacher, and as of the past ten years, she says the kids can barely write. It varies WIDELY all over the nation. I don't have a degree in teaching, but I can read classic literature and follow the materials, and you could too if you had to. I could also comprehend advanced high school level material if I had to. But again, hopefully we'll be in a better district by then because I'm pooped. We're trying to go to France next year so I can send the kids to school and let them learn a foreign language at least.

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answers from Washington DC on

Full disclosure: I'm a public school teacher, but I have seen home school at the high school level done very well.

In my school and in my school system, there are many teachers who are teaching not just one course, but up to 3 courses in one discipline or multiple courses in multiple disciplines. Special educators may teach 5 courses in 5 different subjects. My grandmother taught every subject including PE in the same year. So it can be done.

Many home schoolers in my area seem to use online courses for high school. Some are expensive; others are free.

Others hire a tutor (a public school teacher, grad student, or adjunct professor) to teach their child privately or rely on the home school coop to find qualified instructors for group courses.

I know a grandparent who is home schooling twin grandsons 1 course at a time. They cover 8 courses in about 11 months of their school year. She attends a lot of the free educator workshops offered in the DC, MD, and northern VA area. She was not a teacher, but these kids seem to be doing challenging stuff.

Homeschooling parents can sign up for the same AP training that teachers receive. It can be expensive ($500 and up), but there are also lots of kids who take AP exams without ever having the actual AP course. For AP social studies classes, the hardest thing to teach students anyway is how to write the Free response questions and document-based questions. For "lectures", there are a ton of good things online or on DVD which AP teachers rely on anyway. And, of course, the AP textbooks. There may be 3-4 really great ones for each course. Stearns for AP World, of course, but he isn't the only game in town.

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answers from Washington DC on

You let the kid take classes with the school or with a community college or with a co-op when you can't tackle the subject. That's how friends do it. Their daughters mostly work at home, except for a few subjects. Another friend was homeschooled and the kids traded homes when one parent was best at math and another best at history or music.

I think a college degree of some sort is useful, certainly, but I know some very smart people who never got to college who I would think would know how to use resources or teach their children. The are now supplemental online programs that parents can use, too.

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answers from Austin on

There is absolutely no way I could have given our daughter the incredible education she received from all of her teachers. Most of them have their Masters, Most of them are considered Master Teachers and the energy, creativity, experience at teaching is so above anything a video a book and I could ever have imgined. Some of her teachers are State recognized and Nationally recognized.

At her elementary school, EVERY teacher, teaches Gifted style to every student in the school. If a new teacher joins the faculty, our PTA helps to pay for the training.

The extras that our schools provided were creative and exciting and the kids do not just pass tests, they blow them away, but also the tests are not the main focus, because the teachers have learned how to surpass these tests and really teach and guide the children to question and then search for the answers.

I have a cousin that has home schooled all 5 of her children now for 13 years. They lived in their barn, while they designed and built their home. The children were all a part of this. They maintain this ranch, they helped build a dam on the property, helped to raise all sorts of animals.. it has been really exciting to see how it has all worked out.

I could not handle all of that for a day.. Her children re very well behaved, sweet and smart. I think t takes a special parent to be able to educate their children. But I was realistic about the type of education our child needed. It was the typical neighborhood schools with trained teachers. She loved the structure, the daily leaving the house to be in her classrooms with her classmates, with her amazing teachers.

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answers from Washington DC on

i homeschooled both my kids through high school. i have no college degree. my older son has an associate's in business, a bachelor's in music and is getting ready to enter a master's program. my younger has an associate's in psychology and is now working on a bachelor's in molecular biology.
so your assumption that everyone who homeschools highschoolers has college degrees is off, right off the bat.
my older brother, a public high school teacher, had many of the same concerns you do. he told me that he was worried about his beloved nephews, because there was no way that any one person could convey the vast breadth of knowledge and experience that a full staff at a school can do. and of course he's right.
but homeschooling is completely different. my goal was not to have my sons sit before me while i imparted knowledge to them. it was to have them vitally entwined in the learning process themselves, and to learn how to learn, and how to seek out knowledge, and how to discern for themselves what was worth their time and what didn't need much focus. unlike public school students who have to learn what's served up to them, my kids were part of their entire curriculum and syllabus selection, and they drove the ship, they weren't just the galley slaves.
we belonged to co-ops. we went to the library. we went on field trips. we sought out experts in fields in which my kids showed interest and sought out their advice and wisdom. and nearly all of their work by the time they were doing high school was self-directed. i did no 'covering the material myself and then 'teaching' my kids.' i held classes here at the house in which i myself had expertise, ie shakespeare and homer and gilgamesh and the eddas and filled the house with kids. i took my kids to other homes where there were workshops on science and math and geography. they were in battle of the books and other competitive teams. they took classes at the local community college. they did a lot of independent study, and they joined, and formed, study and interest groups themselves.
it's a myth that in schools kids learn 'everything.' every single educational system out there has holes. and when kids get to college and find they're deficient in some areas, there are always excellent 98 and 99 programs they can take to catch up and be ready for the credit courses.
i was my kids' facilitator, chauffeur, brainstorm partner and sounding wall. i was their educator too, but to a very small degree. my kids were the movers and shakers, and because it was their dealio, they ran with it.

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answers from St. Louis on

There are several alternatives if you want to do it right and you want your kids succeed in the future.
Some families use co-op, which are organized groups of homeschooling families who join together to enrich their homeschooling experience by learning from and with one another. There are plenty of them everywhere. Some other families use a curriculum like us. We use a curriculum from an accredited private school. We buy the homeschooling texts (that are different from the regular books/material used at PS). It comes with course plans (weekly or daily), exams, and assignments) The school provides us with transcripts, a college package that helps with all the things we need to know, and diploma. I am not a teacher, but I have a college degree, and I worked for many years in my field. Now days, I am studying to get a teacher certification, and at the same time home schooling my kids. So everybody is able to do it.
Since most of home schooled kids have learned to manage their time, it is not difficult for them to follow simple course plans and do their assignments. Some supervised, others semi supervised or guided. They learn time management skills and independence while mom, the teacher is teaching other siblings, grading tests, reading the material, filling records, having a break, etc. It is possible! Hard?? yes it is time consuming but IMO, it is worthy. We cover the material not slightly as you may think, that is the idea of home schooling, teach the kids and follow a plan thoroughgoing. We combine the curriculum and the co op so the kids have the chance to share time with peers and friends as well. They also have access to graduations,bands, chorus, lab science, theatre, etc.
I am homeschooling 2 kids (elementary, jr high school) and one already in college studying computer science (homeschooled for 8 years). I am a very proud home schooling mom! Not bragging here..just sharing....
A. :)

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answers from Washington DC on

I don't homeschool but the difficulties you mention are exactly the reason why there are things like homeschooling cooperatives. The parent does not necessarily have to do ALL the work in every single subject if the kid is able to go to homeschooler classes or tutoring through a cooperative. There are cooperatives around us (huge suburban area) that I know do this kind of thing. I think it's a myth that homeschooling means just the parent(s)and the child and the online or printed curriculum and that's all there is. I knew a homeschooling family where the teenager was in a homeschooler drama club, an art group, and a math group, all with other homeschooled kids.

With HS age kids my concern would be ensuring they had a GPA and records acceptable to colleges and that they were prepared for the SAT or other tests colleges might require. I'm sure cooperatives and homeschooler parents have a network of information about all that, though.

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answers from Denver on

A good homeschool curriculum will have plenty of resources (good teacher and student guides, DVDs, websites) for teaching the more advanced courses. Here's a helpful site with some good info (look under the "Considering Homeschooling" tab on the left, and read the FAQ's and the Absolute Beginner's Guide.

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answers from Boston on

The home schoolers who I know of in my area (I don't personally know any) use collaboratives to teach. Meaning, they get together with other home school parents and have a small group of students learning a subject together under either the expertise of a qualified parent or a tutor. Many use distance learning (on-line courses) or have their children take classes at a local college as well.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't know if it's quite the same as homeschooling, but I had a high school student intern at my work one year, and he actually did a cyberschool. So all his classwork was taught online by certified teachers. He took AP and honors classes just like your child does - just not physically in a classroom, but on a computer instead.

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