Our Family

Our Family

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Homeschooling High School: The Senior Year

In a little more than 3 weeks, my oldest will be graduating!  Unbelievable.  I know that High School can be very intimidating for homeschoolers.  Parents fear that they won't be able to teach the more in depth subjects.  They fear that they won't keep good enough records or be able to create a transcript that will be appealing to colleges.  They worry that their homeschooler will have trouble getting accepted to the college of their choice.  Some may even worry that their high schooler is "missing out" on opportunities that Public School children have.

I am in no way any kind of expert on homeschooling high school (maybe I will be by the time Emelia graduates!) but we have managed to get through the high school years successfully and I wanted to share a little bit about what I have learned along the way especially during the senior year.

Don't stress!  You can successfully homeschool through high school!  Before the 9th grade year, take a look at what (if any) requirements your state has for homeschoolers to graduates.  Since our state does not have any specific requirements, I took a look at what the requirements were for public school students who were college bound so we could meet those.  Here is a suggested course of study for college bound students:

Subject Suggested Credits Possible Courses
English 4 credits Composition, American Lit, British Lit, World Lit, Rhetoric, 
Creative Writing, Speech/Communication, Journalism, Debate; 
also consider AP courses

Math 4+ credits Algebra 1 & 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, 
Calculus, AP Calculus

History 3-4 credits ESSENTIALS: World History, American History, American 
Government. CONSIDER: Economics, Geography, 
Constitutional Law and AP courses
Science 3-4 credits Physical Science, General Science, Earth Science, Biology, 
Chemistry, and Physics. CONSIDER: AP courses

Foreign Language 2-4 credits French, Spanish, Latin, German, Russian, etc. (2 years same 
language preferred)

Physical Education 1-2 credits Many options available

Fine Arts 1-2 credits Art, Music, Drama, Photography, etc.

Electives 5 credits Practical Arts, Life Skills, Home Economics, Bible, Computer 
Skills, etc.

Total Credits: 23-27 credits

Then make a tentative plan with your student showing what they will be taking when.  I say tentative because this can (and probably will) change.  This is just a general idea.  Keep track of their courses and grades.  This is something I did not do a good job of.  When I was keeping her records, I was very vague in what I wrote down and then 3 years later when I was trying to do her transcript I could not remember the full title of the course. Thankfully I have this blog and could look back to see everything we did.

Find out which tests the colleges your child is considering has for their admissions requirements.  Most of the schools in our area required the ACT, but some schools prefer the SAT.  Have your child start preparing for these tests early in their junior year.  These tests are important not just to get accepted, but also for scholarships.  I would suggest having your child take it at least once in the junior year so they can get a feel for what the test will be like.  You can take the ACT as many times as you want and they will replace the lower scores with higher ones.  If you happen to score lower on your second try you still keep the higher score so you have nothing to lose by taking it more than once.  The test costs $35 each time you take it.  We used an ACT prep book that I bought at Walmart.  Chelsea took the ACT twice once as a junior and once as a senior, and did very well her second time.  If I had it to do over again, I would've had her take it one more time.  

At the end of the junior  year take a look at the courses and credits they have earned so far and make plans for the final year.  A lot of people ask about concurrent courses.  These are courses that a high school senior can take an earn college credits while still in high school.  We chose not to do these.  They may be a good idea for some students, but if you earn too many credits than you will no longer be entering college as a freshman which can lower your scholarship opportunities.  CLEP tests are another thing worth looking into.  You pay to take a test and if you score high enough you earn college credits.  We did not do these either.

Plan on taking your standardized test early in your senior year and start choosing which colleges (if you haven't already) your child is interested in so you can visit and apply.  In January, things start getting busy as this is when you need to start getting ready to fill out the FAFSA and completing other college paperwork.

Filling out the FAFSA is not optional to go to college.  Everyone has to fill it out. Everything that I read said to fill it out ASAP. So, the day after I filed our income tax, I filled it out.  The problem with that is that they have something called an IRS Retrieval Tool and if you start filling it out too soon after filing you can't use it.  I didn't think this was a big deal and skipped using it and entered in my numbers manually. Every school we sent the information to required you to use the Retrieval Tool.  So, I had to go back and edit the forms using the tool which made the first time I filled it out a waste of my time.  And as of today April 29th, we are still waiting to hear back from her two schools about how much financial aid she is eligible for.

The colleges we looked at were very homeschool friendly in their admission processes.  They required the ACT scores of 19 in each area.  We also needed to provide a transcript to them.  One school however did not require any transcript or other paperwork.  Chelsea got an unconditional acceptance based on her ACT scores.  

I had her transcript made by the Arkansas Education Alliance which is an organization in Arkansas who works for homeschoolers rights and provides things like ID cards and transcripts.  They are signed by the president of the Education Alliance and have a seal on them.  I sent all of her information in to them and they created her transcript and calculated her GPA.  I was happy with the way the transcript turned out, but I personally would have counted some of her credits differently.  They automatically counted her Home Ec courses as .25 a semester and I would've counted them as .5 because she has had so much course work in these areas and definitely deserved at least .5 of a credit.

The biggest amount of stress for me came during the month of February.  We were receiving all these things in the mail from colleges needing us to send things in, plus had to redo the FAFSA, plus had to fill out the paperwork for her graduation ceremony, and had to get her transcript information sent in.  But, we got it completed and sent in.  

I think trying to stay as organized as possible is the key.  I am not good at organizing by nature, but after going through the high school years with Chelsea, I will be more organized for my next child.  I am so thankful that I have this blog as a record of things we have done.  Also, encouraging your child to work on staying organized themselves is a big help.  When our old computer crashed, I was very thankful Chelsea had a printed copy of her transcript we were working on filed away in her college folder.  

Do not let the high school years intimidate you!  You can successfully homeschool through high school and prepare your child for college or whatever future plans they have for their lives!
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