Those of us who homeschool or who have been homeschooled through high school know that IT IS VERY Possible. But how? Many parents and students look towards high school with fear and trepidation instead of being joyous as to how far into the journey they have come. I realize that families homeschool for a multitude of reasons and that each family is unique, but questions still arise when the words high school are mentioned!
My name is Taylor Landrie. I am a 21 year old woman, about to start the final semester in my undergraduate career. I currently major in International Leadership Studies with minors in Spanish, political science, and management. I am in the honors program and am maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.8 at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio.
When I reached my teen years many of my friends in homeschooling groups began to talk about going to high school. For me, however, there was never a question in my mind — I wanted to continue homeschooling until college. By the time I was fourteen I organized and developed my own curriculum with my mom’s help and advice. At the beginning of the year I would do a little research to see what most students my age would be working on as well as what most colleges expected and then I would draft a schedule and choose texts and other resources that I thought would help me. Typically this resulted in Saxon curriculum for math (which I began using in the third grade), a list of novels and poems that caught my interest for English, and a multimedia approach to just about everything else (in such that I often read chapters for textbooks we found at homeschooling curriculum exchange parties but also used web resources like hippocampus and interactive projects and presentations with other homeschoolers my age through co-op events). In essence my mom took a leap of faith and let me decide how I wanted to be educated. I tested myself less frequently and rigorously than other students my age but that suited me and my learning style. I did well on yearly standardized tests so it seems that my method worked (for me at least!)
Homeschooling groups/co-ops were extremely valuable during my high school years. Not only did they provide opportunities that would have been impossible at home (science labs, group projects, etc.) but they also gave me a great outlet for socializing. I was lucky that our homeschooling groups always seemed to have a decent number of teen members, and parents collaborated to create “teen events” like special pizza parties and field trips that would interest us and give us some needed time away from younger brothers and sisters. On more than one occasion we had science labs at a local college where a few homeschooling parents worked. While I’ve never been in love with the sciences these lab experiences gave me the confidence to start taking college courses in the tenth grade.
I know that many parents and homeschooling students are concerned with issues regarding one’s social life during high school. Certainly there are events and activities like prom and graduation that homeschoolers traditionally miss. However I never had an issue maintaining many close friendships (with homeschoolers and public school students) during high school. I accredit this primarily to extracurricular activities I engaged in outside of our homeschooling group. While our group was immensely important to me, I also danced with a company; practiced martial arts; held a leadership role in my 4-H club and the Teen Leaders county 4-H club; led a troop of Brownie Girl Scouts; volunteered at nursing homes, in low-income literacy programs, and on Habitat for Humanity’s Teen Group.
I made so many friends at the local high school that when I took my PSATs in the building I knew over half the students I passed in the hallway (and this was a pretty big school!) These extracurricular activities opened doors for me to create friendships and also helped me during the college application process. I highly encourage any homeschooler in high school to join a few clubs or play a few sports. It makes all the difference! Because of the relationships I built with these organizations I was able to attend prom two years (as a guest) and watch graduation and attend the post-graduation school sponsored game night. The thrill of these events for me was getting dressed up and having a special evening with my friends. I didn’t need to be enrolled in high school to do that!
One of the incredible things about homeschooling through high school is the freedom it gives a student to pursue his or her interests. During my high school years my favorite subjects were English and Foreign Languages. I knew that I wouldn’t be going into the sciences or fields with a lot of math so I studied those subjects diligently for a few hours a week and spent the rest of the time learning about things I loved. I read all the time and took three languages (German, Spanish and Latin). I would not have had the ability to do that had I attended public school. I also helped around the house and my mom encouraged a sense of experiential education by allowing me to develop my interest in cooking and baking as well as my personal finance skills through my babysitting business. I was never given a list of chores but did my best to help around the house and with our chickens. I also worked frequently in our garden and the process of planting, growing, and harvesting vegetables taught me more about life than any curriculum we ever used.
The process of applying to colleges was much less scary than I had expected! I NEVER took the GED and none of the colleges I was interested in required it. Each college/university has different expectations for homeschoolers, of course. Washington and Lee wanted me to submit the results of 5 SAT subject tests in addition to my ACT scores and a handful of essays. Frankly I found the process excessive. However the process for applying as a graduate from a public or private school was also rigorous. When I visited the school I knew it wasn’t right for me but I know that if I had loved it I would have gone through the trouble of taking all of those tests.
My college, like most, happily accepted me with a transcript that my mom made and my ACT scores. They would have accepted SAT scores as well. I think most colleges and universities are open-minded about homeschooling students now and many actually go out of their way to try to recruit them. Homeschooling students should start thinking about college applications during the 9th grade. This will give them enough time to prepare if any of the schools they’re really interested in ask for additional tests or essays. This is also the time to make plans for college alternatives. I recently heard that the Army is accepting homeschoolers much more openly now without need of proof of graduation or GED.
I used the Sparknotes brand of test prep because I found the books were entertaining and much of the information was available online. They have a great line that details the process of getting accepted into college which I used frequently as well. Honestly, all test prep materials give you the same information. Picking one book over the other really just boils down to preference over how the information is relayed. For me this was an easy choice because I had been choosing my own texts and curriculum for a few years already. By age 16 I was devoting an hour or so every few days to test prep. Sometimes I actually substituted test prep for other studies (I would skip my typical Saxon problem set one day to do problems out of the test prep book) which is another advantage of homeschooling. I was pleased with my results after taking the ACT once and I never took it again.
The transition to college was a challenge, as it is with any young man or woman. It was no harder for me as a homeschool graduate than it was for anyone else. In fact I may have had a slight upper hand. I was already accustomed to motivating myself to do my own work without supervision and knew how to do my own laundry and cook my own meals. While other students procrastinated with video games and movies I set and met goals for myself (with a few mistakes along the way!) I never felt unprepared for my freshman year coursework. No single school teaches the exact same things so there’s no reason to feel concerned or intimidated. Sometimes I knew more than an entire class of my peers at the start of the semester!
I’m about to graduate from college in a few months and take another big leap into adulthood! I have been living in an apartment with a few other girls for the last three years, cooking and cleaning and keeping up with a budget by myself. I have my senior capstone and honors thesis next semester. I could not be more excited! Homeschooling through high school kept my love of learning and service alive and gave me the independence that has helped me so much in college and adult life. I know that the process of homeschooling in high school can be scary for many reasons but I encourage families to give it a try! Colleges love homeschoolers because they have a great sense of self-motivation and personal organization. If I could only tell a high school age homeschooler one thing it would be: join clubs/sports/service organizations, take your education into your own hands, LOVE what you learn. Okay, I guess that’s three things!
Taylor graduated last weekend and with the following honors and recognition’s:
Pi Sigma Alpha
Sigma Delta Pi
Alpha Lambda Delta
Phi Beta Kappa
To learn more and get all the updates on a homeschool graduate turned college graduate check out her mom’s blog post at Feeding Big.
Haven’t read other posts in the Homeschooled through High School Series? Catch some more below: