~ Written by Sandra Coughlin
Talk to the most confident homeschooler and they very well may be planning to put a child back in school for high school due to worries over the high school subjects, college preparedness and high school social opportunities which shape many teens’ lives. High School doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. Here in the Atlanta area in particular there are all the same opportunities for home school students in high school as down the street at your public high school. So why are people so worried? Misinformation, personal insecurities, lack of homeschool support systems, and pressures from friends and family put kids back into the school.
First let’s look at the misinformation. The buzz word in today’s homeschool discussion boards is ACCREDITATION. Everyone is worried that without accreditation their child will not be admitted to the college of choice and then there’s the college scholarships, specifically the Hope Scholarship that people think they must accredit to be eligible for. The Ga Board of Regents and the Ga Technical Schools Board of Admissions have clearly stated that unaccredited students do have a path to enrollment in colleges here in GA. The problem is, especially with tech schools, that admissions counselors at colleges may not fully know or understand the admissions rules which they are regulated by and have to sometimes be pointed to the correct paragraph. Rules have changed for and against, and now for again, unaccredited homeschoolers in the admissions offices. There’s some confusion but it’s clearly stated somewhere, you just may need to find it for the professional giving you incorrect information. Collegeboard.com is the place to start. Most of the time the homeschool admissions policies are stated on the bottom of the admissions page. Many times you may need scores 100 pts over their min score for admissions for the rest of students. Also the Hope scholarship is available retroactive. So you may have to pay for the freshman year but if your student keeps their scores up they will get the Freshman year fees back as they get the Sophomore year paid. There is also an option if your scores are high enough on the SAT to get the scholarship up front. There are other scholarships out there. There are school scholarships, club scholarships, scholarships for specific majors, etc. Fastweb.com will give an extensive list and even send you regular emails of upcoming deadlines. I recommend opening a new email for these subscriptions as they will send a ton of info.
But how do you get a child into college without accreditation? You will prepare the same transcripts as schools do (the closer they look to the school ones the less confusion). I recommend this transcript form from Covenant College http://www.covenant.edu/admissions/undergrad/home-schooled since it is well organized and clear as to what you took in the subject, each year and total credits. Then you may be required to have portfolios to further explain where the transcript scores came from. Basically a portfolio is an overview of what you did for the class, the title and author of the book, even the ISBN# and maybe even copy the table of contents from the text book. If you take a class from someone outside the home, then a class syllabus, teacher credentials (if they have them but this is not necessary), and any other information on resources used. I keep a notebook with tabs – English, Math, Science, Electives, etc – and in each section I keep the info on the individual class. I had the entire portfolio ready and only 1 or 2 of the colleges my son applied to requested them. I also only sent abbreviated versions of the portfolio and still had more I could send if they requested more. What backs up a home school unaccredited diploma? Your test scores. Basically, in school or out of school, the scores get you through the door in the first place. At least until Common Core goes into full effect (not a good thing though) there isn’t a consistent curriculum or teaching method between your local high school and the one a county over and definitely not state to state. Therefore the test scores are the only standard and that’s where they make all initial admissions decisions and of course your scores validate your GPA given from home. Got to Collegeboard.com for SAT registration and AP course tests and PSAT (you will need to contact a local school to see if they will let you take the PSAT in Oct, call in the summer or first week of school, or the AP test(s) in May, call in October) and then the ACT test has its own website with registration and dates for those tests. ACT covers an area of weakness better than SAT’s since it’s 4 sections (5 with writing) not 3. While not all schools request it, some are now asking the IOWA or Stanford 11/12th grade test as the EOC (end of course test) since it covers other subjects which the SAT does not. There is also misinformation that you will have to get a GED. While a few schools require this, be absolutely sure that it’s required and not just an option. GED’s are not always portrayed well and you could ultimately hurt future opportunities by getting a GED. Also prepare a resume of your child’s accomplishments in high school. This may be work experience, community service projects, club work, awards, etc. Some schools will request a homeschool mission statement. This is why you homeschool, how you think it was a better option for your family and child, and the way you portrayed education in the home. It’s basically a look closer at you the teacher, your credentials and teaching style. But be sure that it still focuses on the student’s successes.
Personal Insecurities are the next thing I hear a lot of. However, there are tons of local classes, online courses and even free courseware put out by colleges such as Strayer and MIT that can tackle those complicated high school courses which you know your limitations to teaching. I can’t teach Calculus, but I know there are a plethora of offerings out there that I can utilize to ensure my son gets that course if he needs it. Also by high school you should have your student start taking responsibility for their education more and more. You shouldn’t be hand feeding curriculum or spending countless hours with them teaching. If you are, then they have not learned to learn which is a crucial key to success in college. Also you need to set deadlines and not force feed their schedules in order for them to complete their projects by those deadlines. Many students fail in college, especially from public schools, because they lack the time management skills because everything was dictated to them and they didn’t have to make those decisions.
A support network is just as important, if not more so, when they get to high school. I repeatedly see homeschoolers back away from homeschool groups when their children hit high school because the course load demands too much of their time. The problem with this is the social aspects. High School age students are at their peak time to crave relationships and outside activities and interactions. Homeschoolers will do this in 9th grade, the student hates homeschool because they are home alone and missing out on things, and they end up going back to school. Problem now is that it’s easier to get in college as a homeschooler than back in a public high school and now the student’s 1st year of high school credits are lost and they are having to take classes over, further frustrating the child and family. Now homeschool high school is a negative experience and that’s how the rumors and war stories started, which is where you heard all this scary stuff on homeschool high school. And of course there’s sports and proms and clubs at school. Now there are all these things in the homeschool community. If you are linked in, you know about them. If you aren’t, then either your child knows no one at these events or they don’t even attend. My son did the home school homecoming formal in the fall and the public school prom in the spring with his public school girlfriend. They both agreed that they had more fun at the homeschool one than the public school one.
So hopefully now you can feel more comfortable with a choice to endeavor through high school. It was truly the most rewarding part of our home school experience. High School is also the time where your child is faced with the biggest choices in their lives. Why would you want to put so much separation between you and your child at this point in their life, when they may need you most. They already are not apt to ask for your help or opinions in this stage, but at least at home you can see things and give advice to help them navigate these major changes. Don’t get me wrong you also must start stepping back in this stage of development as well to ensure they are ready to truly leave the nest but you don’t have to throw them out completely in high school. Form good boundaries between you and your child and encourage them to start taking responsibility for their education and their future and you will have a very successful child. They will do fine in college. My son went to college without any AP or joint enrollment credits and made it through college with an honors scholarship, a job, a good GPA and completion within 3 ½ years. This was my dyslexic, dysgraphic…and I could go on and on, but he was better prepared for college and did much better than his public school peers. Child two is in high school now and much more academic. We’ll do AP courses and joint enrollment probably with him. Prepare a child for verbally expressing their self (interviewing, relationships), for testing (job prep, college entrance), and prepare a child for life (decision making and common sense) and you have done your duty as a high school homeschool teacher. You can do it!!