Where are all the homeschooled high schoolers?

The last time I wrote anything substantial about our high school homeschool experience was over one year ago, and I promised at the end of that post to spell out more of our high school plans and practice in future posts.

I'm finally getting around to doing that.

First, I'd like to answer a question I've asked myself for years.

Why don't more homeschool bloggers write about the high school years?

Specifically, why don't more unschooling, interest-led, project-based, experiential, learner-directed homeschooling families write and share their "curriculum" (simply course of study), hopes, dreams, methods, progress, assessment methods, successes and setbacks of homeschooling their high schoolers?

There is a lot written about the interest-led, relaxed, early years homeschooling experience. For good reason, it's pretty easy at that stage. Once a parent has the courage to buck the system and follow their heart and family values for their child's education it's not that complicated when kids are elementary aged.

As children grow into themselves and their unique interests really start to steer their ship (for us around age 13), the choices and the curriculum get more complicated. It becomes harder to write about because the curriculum is specific to the child and it seems almost a waste of energy to share a bunch of ideas and resources that may not apply to many other people.

And I know for me, after I've spent hours and hours pulling together resources and sifting through options that I think will work best for my learners, in the context of our home life, I sometimes just don't have the mental energy to share it all here.

In addition, as my children grow, I have an increasing desire to protect their privacy. To give them space in their young adult years to try things out, to experiment with new ideas, new looks.

More and more, Céline's education, and her life really, is becoming her story to tell. A story I need to ask permission to share publicly.

Specificity and privacy are two reasons for sure that less is written about homeschooling through high school. Then there's attrition - homeschooled kids choosing, or parents choosing for them, to finish their K-12 schooling years in public or private school.

I don't know the actual numbers, I just know by simple observation that more little kids are homeschooled than older kids. There are many reasons for this.

Some kids want a school experience, if only for the sports and social opportunities. Not to mention accessing music, theatre, and other group learning structures that may not be available to them any other way. Not everyone has access to good homeschool co-ops or community groups that offer these programs outside of school.

Some kids want to test themselves in an academic context. Others feel they need the courses offered by their local or private high school to build transcripts for their post-secondary education plans. In other families, parents are just done by this stage, and who can blame them really. Homeschooling is a lot of work.

I think these are all possible reasons why it's hard to find posts about homeschooled teens circulating the web, and even harder to find posts about "non-schooly" homeschooled young adults.

This is unfortunate because these are the blog posts I wished I could read when my kids were younger.

The kind of posts I went searching for, for reassurance, that it would be ok to let my children mostly play during their childhood. (It is.) That it would be ok if they didn't read till they were 8, 9, 10, 12. (It is.) That it would be ok if they didn't participate in many extra-curricular activities for "socialization". (It is.) That it would be ok if we choose to study subjects at our own pace and if we didn't call them subjects at all, but "life". (It is.)

We all want the reassurance it will be ok. I am the same way. I've learned that you can't depend on that from someone else so I can't make you any promises, but I can share what the high school years look like in our home and you can read my organized archives to see the foundation we laid in the early and elementary years - high on enjoyment and low on stress - for both me and the kids.

You can also listen to my audio teaching Learning in Love for the Preschool Years, and Homeschooling from the Heart, for learners ages 5 through 8. It appears I need to bring these teachings up-to-date with late elementary (10-12) and the middle years (11-14). And eventually, when we've actually graduated one of our kids, I can do high school (15-18).

...getting ahead of myself. Here's a sampling of our early years:

  • A little more structure - The year I started writing my own curriculum, Céline was eight years old. (And no, we never did stick with CM but her ideas have been very influential in my approach.)
  • Homeschooling Highschoolers - How I envisioned the high school years to look way back when Céline was nine years old. This is so much fun to read now that we're actually in high school.
  • A Relaxed Approach to Homeschooling the Early Years - "I'll try new ideas each fall but I keep coming back to a basic routine of reading books, being outdoors, participating in our community and creating together at home. And I let the rest flow from there."
  • Graduation Goals & a Long Term Vision - published in fall 2009 when Céline was ten, transitioning to her middle years.

Back to the present.

The archives are there for you to read about the foundation of how we got where we are. And now it's time to tell the story of where we are, which is high school.

PS. If you're curious about the red wig be sure to read A goal driven curriculum.

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  • Kristen

    Kristen on March 9, 2015, 12:36 p.m.

    Thank you for this. I am homeschooling a high school student now and I'm in a panic because I school differently than most of my friends. I am afraid he won't be able to get into college, if he wants to go, because of his lack of "traditional" schooling through high school. That method is not right for us, but still I worry. "What if I'm messing this up so terribly that he can't recover." Your homeschooling posts help calm that fear just a little bit. (I don't think it will go away totally until he's out on his own, making his own way.) Thank you again.


  • Rachel

    Rachel on March 9, 2015, 4:05 p.m.

    I am looking forward to reading more of your writing about highschool!  I have been homeschooling for the first time this year with my 8th grader, and most of the homeschoolers we have met this year are sending their kiddos off to high school in the Fall.  It is very hard to find resources for interest led homeschooling for older kiddos!  It is particularly difficult to find writing by those who have only just started at this later stage of schooling.  Thank you for taking the time to share with us.  I only recently stumbled across your page and have spent quite some time going further and further backwards in your writing :)



  • Susan

    Susan on March 9, 2015, 4:18 p.m.

    Just to encourage your readers - we have homeschooled 3 of our children all the way through highschool, 2 more are homeschooling highschool now and 2 more are in elementary,  We did different things with different kids but they all stayed home and homeschooled traditionally as opposed to "online" which is popular where we live.  All three were accepted into post secondary, one graduates this spring with another shortly following.  We are fortunate to have a good handful of people in our area that homeschool all the way through but as you have experienced, the majority seem to go back to school.  I would encourage all of you to stick to your values and don't let the fear of the world's expectation push you to change your path.  That fear will continually creep in but know that the gift you are giving your children by home educating them will stay with them forever.


    • Laura

      Laura on March 12, 2015, 11:29 a.m.

      Thank you for your encouraging words, Susan. Do you have a blog? We would to hear more about your experiences. Are you around Renee's Kitchen Table?


  • Jenny

    Jenny on March 9, 2015, 4:39 p.m.

    Bless you for opening up this topic!  I am running on faith that our education choices will "work" with very few role models to look to for reassurance.  Thank you so, so much.  I am looking forward to this series.



  • NebraskaCate

    NebraskaCate on March 10, 2015, 1:17 p.m.

    I think you answered this question with your previous post when you stated that home schooling in these later years is even more work. Raising and teaching younger kids is physically exhausting work. I think a lot of us relished the time we just got to sit down and enjoy a little computer time. But raising and schooling these older kids is intellectually and emotionally exhausting. I spend much less time on the computer now. Or if I do, it is to search out resources for their ever-expanding interests. I was never a proficient blogger--just enough to keep family informed. But I can not imagine finding the mental energy to do that now. Thank you for your commitment to it!


    • renee

      renee on March 10, 2015, 4:03 p.m.

      Writing is "my thing". It's one of the activities that mentally, spiritually, intellectually, and creatively feeds me. Writing about homeschooling, per se, does not always do all these things for me, but growing as a writer does, expresssing myself does, and hashing through my ideas and structuring them in the written word does. That's why I have the energy to keep writing even though my kids' education is more intellectually and emotionally demanding than it was when they were little. 

      I'm willing to bet you have activities in your day that feed you that I couldn't sustain because they wouldn't sustain me likewise, all part of finding your flow - if you're following The Kitchen Table conversations :)

      I actually spend way more time on the computer now than I did when the kids were younger, for all manner of reasons - writing, connecting, personal development and research (and of course all the time spent looking for resources for the kids). One thing I spend a lot less time on is social media - following blogs, FB etc. I used to read so many lovely blogs...


  • Mya Nameo

    Mya Nameo on March 10, 2015, 5:36 p.m.

    I am highschool homeschooling the last two, and yes, they want their privacy!!! It is paramount to them. Besides, they are much too busy actually doing things to write blogs.


  • Heather

    Heather on March 10, 2015, 6:36 p.m.

    Thank you SO much for sharing this. My boys (5th, 8th and 11th grades) are enjoying the freedom and self-discipline of homeschooling higher grades. It's so hard to share without over sharing, but you've done it beautifully.


  • Olivia

    Olivia on March 10, 2015, 8:55 p.m.

    I can identify with all that you shared, especially the individual and deeply personal curriculum choices and the lack of "mental energy" to share :)  I look forward to further posts.  My daughters is poised to start 9th grade next year, with four siblings to follow every two years there after.  We are definitely poised on the edge of the highschool diving board anxious, nervous, and excited to jump in!



  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on March 10, 2015, 9:54 p.m.

    I am really looking forward to reading all your posts on this topic. While I was going through it, my first thought to your question, "where are all the project-based high school homeschoolers?" was that they are there, but their parents are maybe edging back giving them privacy, which you noted as well. 

    I love your long posts --I just savor them. 

    Sarah M


  • Anna

    Anna on March 11, 2015, 1:05 p.m.

    I was visiting a homeschooling friend yesterday and we were talking about this exact topic. We live in a large city, but it seems even if you wanted to homeschool highschool there would be so few peers for your kids. Maybe that is the advice needed, how to stay on board while so many others jump ship. 

    I find it ironic, as so many teens who have been in school their whole lives struggle and drop out, homeschooling kids are begging to go. 

    Glad I have a long time to decide, my Little is only 9.

    Thanks for sharing as always.



    • renee

      renee on March 11, 2015, 1:51 p.m.

      Celine has no desire to go to school but Brienne wants & needs more social interactions and group learning opportunities. She doesn't want to go to school, per se, but we anticipate her needing more than what we can offer her where we live. We are going to do our best to meet our kids' needs through homeschooling, which is an educational path we are committed to for philosophical reasons (we believe in an education designed for the individual learner in the context of family values and goals), as well as practical ones (like taking a 6 week trip to go out west over Christmas - not doable if kids are in school).

      The online community has been a real boon for homeschooled high schoolers like Celine. Her community is online and that works pretty good for her as an introvert but our younger two appreciate more social and physical engagement. 


  • Laura

    Laura on March 12, 2015, 11:44 a.m.

    As always, Renee, thank you for sharing. It is always interesting to see what homeschooling looks like for others. Here is a question I have: In many ways, I love the idea of delight-directed learning (or any other names given to that method). However, many teens really don't know the direction they will go as an adult. What a 14 year old wants to do may not be what they want to do at 28. Of course, any of us could change our interests or careers at any point in life. But, I guess I wonder if maybe that is why many "play it safe" by following a more traditional path of learning. I have one child who asks the question many moms have heard: When am I ever going to use this? Why do I need to learn this? Etc. And I don't really know that they ever will use algebra. However, we are continuing on with it for multiple reasons. I know that if I let my children choose what to eat (and I do this too often), they wouldn't choose what is good for them. Do they know at 13,14 or 15 what is good for them educationally? As I said, I love the idea of delight-directed learning. We used that a lot when they were younger. Between it getting harder to delight them and wanting to be sure they are prepared for college, etc., I find myself choosing more traditional resources. Does this make any sense? I am very much looking forward to reading further posts on this topic. You are inspiring to me in many ways!


    • renee

      renee on March 12, 2015, 11:51 a.m.

      It completely makes sense and I look forward to sharing our family's perspective on those very issues of not knowing what they want to do in the future and how we are preparing them for that. 


  • Angi @ SchneiderPeeps

    Angi @ SchneiderPeeps on March 12, 2015, 5:12 p.m.

    I'm excited to read your series, Renee! We've graduated 2 from our homeschool, we have 4 more to go. Each one is diferent. We use a mix of 'unschooling" and traditional schooling for high school. Our oldest son told us when he was 16 that he wanted to be a jeweler so we started looking at what that would take and he started working towards that end. It's amazing how much more diligent he got in his school work when he began working towards the goal of being accepted to jewelry school. Our next son told us when he was 12 he wanted to be an actor.  To say I was supportive would be a HUGE overstatement ;-). But I've come around and it's really exciting to see him having big dreams and doing the work to follow those dreams. Our third son (17) recently wrecked his truck and a local high school auto shop teacher is helping him fix it. Out of all my children I thought he would be the one to go to a four year universitiy right off the bat. He told me the other day that he really enjoys working on cars and might want to go to an auto mechanic/body shop school. I sometimes struggle with these decisions, my pride gets in the way, but more than anything I want my children to do what God wants them to do and use the gifts and talents He has given them.

    Thanks for being so honest, your series is very much needed. 


  • Anna

    Anna on March 18, 2015, 5:50 p.m.

    I don't think it's just parents of homeschooled teenagers who aren't on the web -- it's parents of teenagers in general .  I don't homeschool, but have looked for blogs about family and parenting in general that are written by parents of teenagers, and not found many.  Crafting, cooking, nutrition, health, activities, life organization, family dynamics & challenges -- you name it, it's all about and for families with little kids ( I dare anybody to try feeding hungry teenaged athletes with a $5 Dinner!!!).  Even though my kids (now 16 & 17) are nothing like yours, and I'm only a little like you, I am so glad that you blog and share and are really honest about so much of life with teenagers.  Thank you, Renee!


    • renee

      renee on March 18, 2015, 6:01 p.m.

      Anna, I completely hear you on the food thing! I can't believe how much money we spend on groceries these days. 


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