We crossed a homeschooling milestone this fall when our eldest child became an official high schooler. It seems like just yesterday that we committed to homeschooling rather than public school. It is hard to believe it that there are only four years left. Of course, I have a kindergartener, so the finish line is a long way off. Our commitment is to stay the course homeschooling through high school.
So many of the families that we started our homeschooling journey are no longer walking the same path. Homeschooling is challenging, and families wear out and give in. Some families believe that the elementary years are the most important and then transition their children to a local Christian school. Other families hold out until the high school years, when the end is in sight, and enroll their students in public school. It is sad because homeschooling through high school is so vital in completing the spiritual preparation of our children.
I have witnessed a theme appear again and again as fellow families drop out of the race. The same three stumbling blocks come up again and again. Those stumbling blocks to homeschooling through high school are Simplicity, Sports, and Science.
Homeschooling through High School? Focus on Simplicity
To succeed at homeschooling through high school, you need to focus on simplicity. Your homeschool should not look like a mini-public school or even mini-Christian school.
One of the critiques of the modern education system is that the children are expected to learn way too much, too early. The children are rotated through so many different subjects and are expected to do things that they are not developmentally ready for yet. In trying to master everything, the children end of mastering very little.
Simplicity is your friend in keeping your sanity and joy in homeschooling through high school. You don’t have to keep up with the “others” out there. When my children are kindergarten through 2nd grade, we keep it simple. We focus on our core subjects which are math, reading, and our memory work. We add some handwriting to that mix. Finally, lots of play time, art, construction, and outdoor time.
Play is still very important work at this age. Children are still developing their muscles and coordination that will literally wire their brains to make further learning easier. School should not take more than the morning at this age.
When my children transition into the older elementary years, we step it up. We add a formal writing and grammar program. Typing is a practical subject to add at this point too. Yet, we still focus on those core subjects. Their memory work (Latin, Science, History, Math, Grammar, & Geography) all steps up a notch. Still, they don’t spend more than 30-60 minutes each day on these things. They start reading more about the ideas that interest them.
We transition to doing math independently. They read their lesson and work through the problems. They come to Mom when there is a question. I check their work and we re-work through any exercises that they miss. Their growing independence in this one subject aids me in my day, but more than that is helps them to start building the skills to be self-taught.
Joanne Calderwood has some great teaching on the self-teaching resources. Check out her book – The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence.
Finally, when they hit seventh grade, we take it up again a whole different level. In the Jewish tradition, the age of thirteen is when boys and girls transition into adulthood. This is when Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs are celebrated. Our children are ready for a significant increase in workload at this point to prepare them for the knowledge, work ethic, and perseverance they will need in adult life.
I can trust in a simpler model of homeschool education because I have mentors who have walked that same path. We homeschool classically and are involved in a homeschool group that meets weekly called Classical Conversations.
Keep homeschooling simple when your children are younger. Raise the bar as they grow. Teach them the skills they need to learn independently. Foster a love for learning. Focus on the core subjects, skills, and ideas. Provide a rich environment and time, and they will naturally be drawn to learn more than you could have imagined.
Homeschooling through High School? Avoid the Idolatry of Sports
Our culture has a big problem with sports. Sports stars have a tremendous influence on our young people and our culture. College and professional sports are big business. The hope of money for college, glory, and fame have forever altered how children play sports in their school years.
Athletics are important. The development of physical skills is just as important as the development of academic skills. In fact, there is a synergy between the two areas. Our children need to learn formal athletic skills, and they need to learn how to work together on a team. The latter is a very valuable life skill.
Our children also need to learn how to play. Yes, when they have a game, they are “playing” ball but are they having fun? Modern youth sports are too serious. There are too many practices and injuries. The tension and culture of the parents in the stands is intense and aggressive. Our culture has transformed sport from play to work.
Think of the hours spent at ball practice, at ball games, and on the road to ball games. Add to that the money spent on uniforms, equipment, camps, training, and other fees. I know many, many families that spend thousands of dollars a year. When does it end? And for what purpose? If the goal is a college scholarship, then investing the money would yield more likely returns.
What if that time, money, and effort were spent on something that would yield a lifetime of benefit? That time could be invested in developing a hobby or a skill. Steve and Teri Maxwell have an excellent book: Keeping Our Children’s Hearts. What a powerful and wise book! They also have a great audio download specifically on sports: Sports: Friend or Foe.
An excerpt from the website: “Many homeschooling families are heavily involved in sports. What are the parent’s goals in having their children participate in organized sports? Are these goals being met? Are the children better or worse by being one of the team?”
Can our children be involved in sports? Absolutely! However, we need to determine ahead of time what our biblical goals are for their participation. It is easy to get drawn into our culture’s worldview of sports; we have to intentional discern God’s desire and use for sports in our family.
Deciding to choose homeschooling over sports can be very challenging and hard. My eldest is an amazingly talented soccer player. She loves the game and her team. She had the privilege of playing on the public-school middle school team but is not allowed to play on the high school team because she is a homeschooler. She affirmed the choice to homeschool because she knows that life is about more than sports.
Homeschooling through High School? Don’t Believe the Lie that Homeschool Science is Inferior
Do most homeschool families have a fully-equipped science lab set up in their homeschool room? No. Do you need all of the bells and whistles to give your child a rock-solid scientific education? Absolutely not.
Our culture lifts up the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. Frankly, our modern public schools are struggling to produce students that are excelling in those areas. In contrast, the men and women who worked on all of the teams to send the first men to the moon – were all classically educated. Homeschooling parents would do well to ask themselves how great scientific minds were nurtured?
It starts with our attitude. We should love Math & Science, and we should not fear them.
“Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.” Galileo Galilei. Math is the foundation for all science. Math reflects the order and character of God. It allows us to recognize the patterns in creation that clearly demonstrate the hand of an intelligent designer. We do not need to fear losing our faith when we study science. Our God is the holder of truth, and He will reveal it to us. There are many rigorous scientific texts out there that will grow your child scientific knowledge and their faith. If you do not feel equipped to teach it, there are excellent online resources that are available for homeschool families.
We may not have loved math and science when we were kids, and now is the time to redeem and to restore our heritage. If these subjects help us to see more of God, then we should pursue them diligently alongside our children. We need to choose to fall in love with them.
What do colleges want from a high school science education?
They want students who are trained in the scientific method, are curious, ask good questions, are logical and discerning thinkers, and who can write well. To that, we add scientific knowledge. Can any teacher teach their students everything that they need to know about science before they go off to college? No, they can’t. If they could, then what would be the purpose of college?
Instead, we explore with them the wonders of God’s creation and as we practice those skills from above. In a public-school setting, our children are going to lose the most precious and essential scientific knowledge of all – that all good science points back to God. They need us to shepherd them through these vital last years to make sure they are asking good questions and seeking out solid truth.
Stay the Course for Homeschooling through High School
The runner always starts off the race feeling strong and confident. After the half-way mark, the struggles of the race start to appear. The going gets tough, and the runner has to remind herself of why she is running the race. Keeping focused on your goals and keeping your head in the game are key to pushing through the fears and the doubts. Don’t stop when the finish line is in sight, push on towards the goal: to raise faithful children with a biblical worldview.
…let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us
looking to Jesus, the founder
and perfector of our faith…”
We need to mentally and emotionally prepare for roadblocks that we will encounter in our marathon race of homeschooling. We need to remind ourselves of our vision and our call. We have to remind ourselves that the task of developing and nurturing a biblical worldview is even more important in the high school years.
As Christian parents, we are tasked with raising disciples for Christ. The education and nurture of our children is our biblical responsibility. We have the awesome responsibility of imparting to them a biblical worldview and a desire to passionately serve the Kingdom of God. It is my firm belief that homeschooling is the best way to do achieve those goals. I hope that being prepared to overcome the three stumbling blocks of homeschooling (Simplicity, Sports and Science) will equip you for homeschooling through high school.