The days of sitting around the kitchen table all day to homeschool are long gone—at least for homeschooled high school students. Numerous options are now available to broaden their exposure to new subject matter, provide a group learning environment for specific subjects, or get a jump on their college education. Technology plays a large part in many of these, but low-tech alternatives are also readily available. With state curriculum frameworks to keep in mind, and specific requirements for potential colleges, it can be both helpful and cost-effective to expand your homeschooling to include a variety of the following options for your high schooler.

At Home

If your child has been homeschooled for a while, they are likely comfortable with the traditional, parent-led model: Mom (or Dad) presents the lesson, assigns the work, and then grades the work when completed. Whether they’ve been doing this for years, or are newer to homeschooling but a self-motivated student, your high schooler has likely found a quiet spot at home where they can concentrate on the more challenging high school subject matter.

When a subject is particularly difficult, you can find help simply by searching online. Sites like Khan Academy offer free instruction in a number of academic areas. Older siblings who have already mastered the material can gain great teaching experience (and earn social service credit) by working with a younger high schooler. And if finances allow, you can hire a tutor to coach your student.

Online at Home

While parents remain responsible for their student’s high school curriculum, you may choose to take advantage of online high school classes. These are offered through specialized online educators like
The Potter’s School Online Homeschool Academy (TPS), homeschool publishers like BJU Press and Abeka, or organizations like HSLDA. Students can complete either individual classes or the full grade-level curriculum using this format.

Once you have purchased the recommended materials, your high schooler will either watch pre-recorded lectures or join online classes with real-time lectures. Students can also interact with fellow students through class chat side bars or study groups set up for the class. The online teacher will grade your student. Parents will be responsible for accurately recording the grade on the student’s transcript.

Homeschool Co-ops

Many families take advantage of homeschool co-ops. These can range from a couple of families gathering each week to share the teaching load, to highly organized, large-scale groups that offer regular academic courses, enrichment classes (like art and music), and even an annual prom. Larger groups can offer the benefit of more specialized instruction. For example, my youngest took part in a co-op where her biology instructor was a medical doctor and her recreation coach was a former public school gym teacher, both homeschooling their own children.

Where homeschooling offers learning together as a family, homeschool co-ops offer learning together with other homeschoolers. This group learning can be particularly beneficial for certain subjects. High schoolers may enjoy those lab sciences so often required for college. Writing skills can be uniquely refined when students learn together through peer editing. Literature and history can come to life through lively class discussions.

Homeschool co-ops also offer the benefit of community. Both children and adults can form lasting friendships as they regularly work side-by-side in this group setting.

Classes at Your Local High School

Public schools have distinctive physical resources that can benefit homeschoolers. As a local tax payer, you are still contributing to this school even if your children don’t attend it! Dedicated lab facilities allow your potential pre-med student to grow comfortable in a formal lab setting as they study biology or chemistry. Wood or automotive shops enable your hands-on high schooler to gain experience with power tools not often found at home. A robotics class provides your future engineer with instruction in programming and materials for design/build projects.

Your local high school may also offer Advanced Placement, or AP, classes that would benefit your student. Created by the College Board, AP courses offer a college-level curriculum in 38 specific subjects. If your high schooler passes the examination following the AP course, they can place out of the corresponding college class and possibly receive college credit. Successful completion of AP classes and exams can save your family money and lighten your student’s course load once they’re in college.

Enrichment at Your Local High School

The resources public schools offer in enrichment areas cannot be denied. A student musician may want to explore band, orchestra, or chorus offerings. Your high school athlete might thrive as a member of the local high school’s varsity soccer or swim team. A child with a passion for drama can share their thespian gifts by participating in plays or musicals.

Clubs may also be available that will help your student build their art portfolio, compete in speech, or participate in a less competitive sport setting. While not full academic courses, these areas of enrichment are often passions of your student’s. By providing opportunities for growth in these areas, your student can develop skills or hobbies that will last a lifetime. Even if only pursued in the short term, these activities are highly valuable on a high school transcript.

Local College Classes

High school students can sometimes take courses at local colleges in what is known as dual, or concurrent, enrollment. Your student must first demonstrate college readiness to the desired institution. PSAT/SAT scores, a current high school transcript, or completion of placement exams may be required. Once accepted, your student can simultaneously satisfy some high school and college requirements.

Dual enrollment courses are sometimes free, sometimes offered at a discounted tuition rate, and sometimes only available at the college’s full course charge. (Specifics vary by state and institution.) These courses are offered at local community colleges, some private colleges, and even at some high schools. As a junior in high school, my son took two semesters of Spanish at a local community college, which earned him the equivalent of two years of high school Spanish and saved him taking the two semesters of foreign language required by his private college of choice.

Online College Classes

Dual enrollment courses can also be taken online through high school educators or colleges with specific dual enrollment offerings. My youngest daughter took advantage of both of these opportunities. As a high school junior, she took several courses through TPS. Two of these courses had curricula which simultaneously satisfied the requirements of TPS and a private college working with TPS, allowing my daughter to earn college credit for two courses while still a junior in high school.

While a senior in high school, my daughter completed two semesters of calculus at a local private college. She also took a dual enrollment Bible class and freshman writing class online through the college she now attends. By the time she started college full time, she had already accumulated a semester and a half of college credits. Checking off a semester or more of college before your high schooler actually attends can save your family thousands of dollars.

Dual enrollment courses, whether taken in person or completed online, offer many benefits. They introduce your student to college-level course work. They show colleges that your student can handle academic work at that next level. And they earn your student college credit, upon successful completion, without their having to take an additional exam (as in AP courses). If your high schooler is college-bound, it’s well worth looking into dual enrollment possibilities.

High School Diploma/Associate’s Degree

A newer option that has proven time- and cost-effective for some families takes dual enrollment to the next level: qualified students can earn an associate’s degree at the same time as completing their junior and senior years of high school. Billed as “early college high school” or “dual degree programs,” this specialized track is offered primarily by community or public institutions, and the resulting associate’s degree can transfer neatly into some bachelor’s degree programs at these institutions. But some private schools also offer this 2-for-1 program in person or online.

Teaching may take place at the high school, with visiting college instructors, or from start to finish at the college or university itself. With the annual cost of tuition at a community college roughly one third of that at a four-year private institutions, motivated students and savvy families can save time and money by taking advantage of this program.

Other factors should be weighed, of course. Is your student academically ready for college classes and mature enough to benefit from an associate’s degree at 18? Are there unique mentors and experiences offered at a four-year institution that might be a better fit for your student? Might a great financial aid package make attending that private four-year college of choice affordable? For each family, and for each student, the answers will be different. But knowing this dual degree option is out there provides yet another tool in the parent educator’s tool belt.

Testing Options

If your homeschooled high school student is definitely college-bound, consider the following two testing options. College Board’s CLEP, or College Level Examination Program, allows students to earn college credit by obtaining a qualifying score on any of their 34 exams. Some exams cover course material that will be familiar to an advanced high schooler—like College Composition, Introduction to Psychology, or Calculus. Other exams can be passed, with college credit extended, as a result of professional experience—like Information Systems, Principles of Marketing, or Introductory Business Law. Your student should check with the colleges they are interested in to make sure they accept CLEP credit and to see if there are any restrictions regarding CLEP courses and credits.

SAT subject tests, also offered by College Board, demonstrate a high school student’s college readiness in a particular area. A high score on any of the 20, hour-long tests won’t necessarily earn students college credit, but it may exempt them from taking an introductory college class that covers that material. Some colleges require that specific SAT subject tests be taken, and scores submitted as part of the application process. Other colleges recommend applicants take one or more exams. Still other colleges have no specific guidelines and may simply glance at SAT subject test scores as they consider their pool of applicants.

Additional Opportunities

While this article focuses mainly on the scholastic areas of homeschooling, a well-rounded high schooler should fill out their schedule with social service/missions trips or work/pre-professional training. My youngest daughter worked on a local Habitat for Humanity build. Our son traveled with our church youth group to Mexico to build a house for a needy family. Both were amazing experiences teaching my high schoolers the joy of serving others.

On the work front, one friend’s daughter completed her high school course requirements early and has spent much of her senior year interning at a local tea shop, allowing her to save for college. It has been a perfect job since she wants to become a professional tea buyer. Another friend’s son works as a public safety dispatcher, a great step in the direction of becoming a call firefighter like his father. Note that state law may require a work permit for your high schooler, so be sure to research any local regulations.

Other pre-professional opportunities include programs like JROTC—Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, offered by five branches of the armed services. Student participants are not required to join the military following their high school graduation. Rather, through course work, activities, and physical training they can learn much about the organization’s core tenets: citizenship, leadership, character and community service. These experiences complete that important high school transcript for college-bound students, and they are incredibly valuable in themselves.

The Future

New choices for customizing your teen’s homeschool high school experience will likely emerge in the future. At this point we can only guess at the long-term impact of COVID-19 on educational institutions and methods, though the trend toward using more technology will likely continue. Today’s post-secondary education climate is changing as well, since the imbalance of increasing college costs and declining student populations cannot continue indefinitely. Whatever may come, homeschool high school will sport many looks and will involve much more than sitting around the kitchen table.

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New Englander Debbie O’Brien homeschooled her son and two daughters over 19 years while writing and editing on the side. With the loving support of her husband of 34 years, she now helps homeschoolers at Christianbook, chases her three grandchildren, herds her two Siamese, and awaits God’s next step in this journey called life.