Homeschooling Highschoolers

This is a long overdue response to a comment left on a homeschooling related post back in September.

Normally I wouldn't take the time to post such a long response to a comment but it's good for me to write out my thoughts. It helps me when I experience moments of doubt along the path we've chosen. Plus, I really love my homeschooling soapbox.

So here's the question in a nutshell.

Sure it's fine to homeschool your cute little rugrats but what about when they are teenagers? Will you send them to high school? If they go would they be behind? And what about college? Could they get in? Would they be academically and socially prepared?

My sassy, buck the system, answer to all of that is "yeah so what about college?" My responsible parent answer is kinda' long. I've broken it down into parts, skip ahead if you're ever bored.

First, a pragmatic answer to "what about high school and college?", then a philosophical viewpoint. The practical stuff is boring but necessary because obviously the minor details of my kid's education (like college readiness) do matter. But the part of the discussion that I'm really passionate about is our family's education and life philosophy. Oh, I'm excited already! But first, let's answer the questions.

kitchen science study

Just the Facts Ma'am

(I want to preface this section by saying that every jurisdiction is different. In Maine we're blessed with many educational freedoms but what is true of our experience is hopefully applicable to others.)

High School 

We plan to homeschool our kiddos till they graduate from high school. Our children can learn from home any subject taught in school and as they grow we have several options to choose from. Every subject imaginable is available to purchase as curriculum - math, sciences, art, music, second languages - you name it. And for those areas of study that you personally can't teach, like dance or calculus you can always find some person or program that can.

At this point with young ones our preferred curriculum is living books and our community.

The people, places, art, culture, industries, museums, nature preserves, music and history unique to our area. These offer a wealth of learning and growth so we'll continue to tap the amazing resources in our community as our curriculum base. In their high school years we may mix in (depending on interest and need) some public school classes and first year college courses.

In our state homeschoolers have access to all the same resources, classes and opportunities as public school students. As far as graduation, if homeschool families keep good records they can prepare their own transcripts and diploma. Or they can enlist private schools such as NARS to help them put together high school credits and a diploma. These are just two options, I'm fairly certain there's more. Homeschooling a high school student is absolutely doable and I have friends (both parents and students) who are doing it right now.


Of course homeschoolers go to college. Assuming they want to and they get all their ducks in a row during the high school years (and have the necessary grades). If this is the path the child chooses it's important to be on top of record keeping and transcript preparation during the high school years.

I know of homeschoolers in my local homeschool support group with kids in college, very talented & bright kids I'd like to add.

But what about "fitting in".

This is where things start to get philosophical. I don't want my kids to fit in with most of society's teenage standards. I vision much more for these precious, talented, beautiful, creative and independent children than "fitting in". Having said that I don't want my children to be social misfits, and they aren't, and I haven't met any of the so-called homeschooled misfits. The homeschooled teenagers I know are well... precious, talented, beautiful, creative and independent thinkers.

Philosophy - Freedom to Learn

After saying my kids can take all the math, science, second languages, arts, music, yada, yada that is available to "schooled" students I am going to shock you by saying that our high school aged children will largely study what they want, just as our elementary aged students largely study what they want.

Notice I said largely. There are times our kids don't want to practice handwriting or work their brains on math (we never do busy work or worksheets to fill time), but we feel these skills give them a basic educational foundation to build on. And we've never "required" our children to read but they choose to read, create & build most of the day.

Hum... if you're thinking this all sounds rather mamby, pamby it's not. Our children contribute meaningfully to the running of the household. That includes cooking, laundry, cleaning, dishes and pet care, also known as "life skills". We all work together to accomplish those tasks and support each other as we meet individual goals.

But back to our high schoolers studying largely what they want. We are raising our kids to recognize what their strengths, gifts and talents are.

We fully expect that as they near teenager years they will have a better idea of types of work they would find meaningful as adults. As they identify those we will, as a family, tailor their education to prepare for a life of meaningful, industrious, satisfying and creative work. If their desires and interests require vigorous academics, so be it. Or maybe they'll be looking for apprenticeships and mentoring.

Who knows? But all those options and more are open to them and they will be the ones who decide, hopefully seeking our input, what they want to do with their lives.

Ultimately we are not home educating our kiddos so they can re-enter "the system" in high school and whoop some academic butt. We're not home educating them so they can win spelling bees. We're not home educating them so they can get into the local community college or a prestigious liberal arts college on the east coast.

We're home educating them because we seriously (as in we're sacrificing a second income, a better car, more personal time for mom) treasure these years together as a family. And we have values that we want to spend their growing years communicating to them, day in day out.

Guiding Values

  • Our children are immeasurably loved and were created to love.
  • God has a unique, only they can do it, purpose for our children. We want to help them discover that. We will spend their growing years developing that.
  • Life is about giving, serving and encouraging. Growing, creating and loving. Not achieving honors or climbing the corporate ladder.
  • Our gifts and our talents are for the good of everyone, not to make us well off while others suffer.
  • The attitude of your heart is more important than your "grades".
  • The quality of your work matters more than the quantity. 

So far I haven't seen any of these values reflected in local schools, public or otherwise. Even if they were I wouldn't send my kids, no one loves these children like us. No one cares as much for their future as us. We are the ones who will provide for their education.

In short, home education is preparation for adult life not preparation for high school or college, even though those may be a part of our children's lives.

Life is an adventure that starts now, when you're 5, 7, 9, 32, 35. Real life doesn't begin when you start kindergarten, middle school, college, your first job, retire. The adventure starts now and we intend to live it, together.

2013 Post Script: This post was written 5 years ago. Our oldest daughter is now starting her high school years and we live in Québec, Canada which has a completely different homeschool/public school system than what we knew in Maine.  

Our philosophy remains the same. Our children have the freedom to learn what they are interested in.

Céline has no clue what she wants to do "when she grows up" but she knows what she loves and enjoys right now, and we, as her parents have spent years identifying her gifts and aptitudes. Her studies are inline with those assessments. As we go through these high school years I will be writing more about what this looks like. For now you can follow the journey here

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  • Emily Pitman

    Emily Pitman on Oct. 23, 2008, 6:29 p.m.

    You are one of my life's heroes, Renee. I'm proud to call you a friend. Love, Emily


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 24, 2008, 8:22 a.m.

      Hero?? That comment made my night Emily because I look up to and esteem YOU! You were one of the first people (through your example) that encouraged me to consider thinking of myself in terms other than wife and mother. Don't get me wrong I LOVE being those and that is what I mostly am. But I'm also a photographer, writer, gardener... When I met you I remember you talking about being a writer (that you were one) and that really got me thinking about what else I could be, besides domestic diva. So all of that to say - you are one of my life heroes and a great encouragement to me to pursue my other dreams and passions alongside my roles of wife, mother and homeschooler.

      -- Renee


  • Karen

    Karen on Oct. 23, 2008, 8:34 p.m.

    Did I ever enjoy reading this blog. I have always had faith and confidence in how you're educating my grandkids and this just builds on my understanding of where you're coming from. Thanks for laying it out so clearly.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 24, 2008, 8:28 a.m.


      No worries (I know you haven't been). Although it appears we're very laissez faire with our kiddo's education you can see that we do in fact have a plan and we're not just letting them craft all day, but almost smile. Thanks for your unending support in all our weird and wacky life choices. You're the best Nana and mother a daughter could ask for.



  • Melissa Freeman

    Melissa Freeman on Oct. 23, 2008, 8:44 p.m.

    Kudos Renee! My mom/mentor had a very similar homeschooling model. In my homeschool/high school age years, we had a home school fine arts program with an 80 person choir, full orchestra, drama and tasteful dance programs. When my institutionally-educated friends were planning for prom and senior skip day, I was studying in Leipzig through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program. For what is worth, the only aspect of my high school education that could have been a bit better was knowing more about colleges that would have been a great fit for me. Now, at 28, I work with an organization called My College Options ( that helps students connect to colleges and universities that provide opportunities best suited to their expressed strengths and interests within their student profile. I would encourage any home educated student to visit the site and introduce themselves to the college admissions process. Once My College Options has presented college matches, parents can explore admissions requirements and campus atmosphere to prepare their children for the application process.

    Keep up the great work developing highly adaptable learners!


  • Kirsten

    Kirsten on Oct. 23, 2008, 9:39 p.m.

    Wonderfully said. I'm glad you brought clarity to this subject for your readers. I'm not sure if there is anything more important than teaching your children how to be creative thinkers, it's so important in the real world. Kudos to you and yours!


  • Rich

    Rich on Oct. 24, 2008, 10:25 a.m.

    well said there Renee.. Regarding "a", and comments such as: "But this is the future now. They learn this stuff early."

    the following thought popped into my little bean:

    Life is being done TO most people who choose to fall in line with what most public school systems offer. This gals children are having a certain values instilled into them from someone else, and not necessarily a set of values that fall in line with hers. That's a primo reason that we homeschool, along with a myriad of other perfectly logical reasons.

    What you are doing, is teaching your children to live life according to a gentle, compassionate, God inclusive paradigm: not plugging them into the 'educational' Matrix, so that they can be PHD's If they're meant to be PHD's, they will, but many children are losing their childhood a high cost to everyone.

    mho R


  • Spring

    Spring on Oct. 24, 2008, 7:20 p.m.

    One of the things that helped me in realizing that I didn't' have to sacrifice interest, and creativity, and spontaneity in my kids' education, was the statistic that it only takes @100 hours each to learn math, reading, and writing to function as an adult. Kids spend about 1,050 hours in school every year beginning in Kindergarten, which is now usually a full day. If our kids become teenagers who are loving, and helpful, who are friends with each other and us, with their creativity and love for learning in tact, they will be ok. There is plenty of time.

    Now having said that, I have a much more structured "school day" than Renee, but we are done by lunch, my kids still love to learn. (The morning is not all spent at a table either. We play math games in front of the fire, dig for bugs in the backyard, plan healthy meals etc.)

    Thanks Renee, for helping me to relax, and enjoy this season with my kids, and for reminding us that that in itself is a priority!


  • casey

    casey on Oct. 24, 2008, 9:13 p.m.

    Renee, You enrich my spirit and make me tingle with your words on homeschooling today. I am not as secure in my thought and reasons for homeschooling as are you. Your words I will revisit and meditate on.

    peace, casey


  • Andie

    Andie on Oct. 25, 2008, 11:28 a.m.

    "This gals children are having certain values instilled into them from someone else, and not necessarily a set of values that fall in line with hers."



  • claudia

    claudia on Oct. 28, 2008, 8:38 p.m.

    I have been meaning to get back to this post since last week. I didn't have time to read it that day. Boy, am I glad I did. Wonderfully said!!

    I think a lot of people just don't have a clue. It's kind of amazing that they acknowledge the problems with public education, but think nothing of throwing a young impressionable mind into the lion's den. One of our family members actually said to my husband, "well, you can't just lock them up in the basement with a Bible." No, but I can prepare them for the battle by arming them at an early age with the moral values and knowledge of truth necessary to withstand the flaming arrows of this crazy world we live in.

    If your kids are anything like mine, they are confident, intelligent, considerate, and more well mannered than most kids their age. We can only pray our children's generation will be the ones that help to make a difference in this world.


  • shelli

    shelli on Oct. 31, 2008, 7:48 p.m.

    Renee, We're thinking of homeschooling too. (If our finances allow it.) There are two families in our subdivision who are homeschooling, and I know two other families planning to do it as well. I agree with you. I think no one will love my child like I do or know his needs like I do. My husband teaches college at a community college, and he says all the students he has who were homeschooled are some of the brightest, most well-rounded students he has. And furthermore, they are usually high school students doing joint-enrollment (getting early college credit)! Kudos to you!


  • Jimi Ann @ Path of Life

    Jimi Ann @ Path of Life on Dec. 23, 2010, 6:02 p.m.

    I actually woke up this morning thinking of quitting homeschooling. We've homeschooled for 10 years now and I am burned out, (and it doesn't help to be going through "the change" when my youngest is still 6!) It's also a challenge with our highschooler, and the others. have encouraged me so much with this (and other) posts that I'm being strengthened even as I type. I can't thank you enough for your clear thoughts and inspiring words. Blessings to you Renee.


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