How We Homeschool High School (and graduate “early”)

The Fundamental Home

All of my children graduate (or will graduate) at around 16 years old.  I have found that this is not an uncommon thing for homeschoolers.  When we lived in the DC area, many were able to graduate early and head into college.  This was when I first got the idea that Brian could graduate by 16.  In our new home state, parents more often take advantage of dual enrollment, which allows their homeschoolers to take college classes while still doing high school at home.  We haven’t yet, but it’s a consideration.

Here’s how we have done our homeschool’s high school (and graduate “early”) .

First, let me say that you really have to wrap your mind around the idea that homeschool can take a different form than the public schools.  In a public school system, the children are forced to follow a schedule that limits the number of classes they take in a year and how many months of the year they can be in school.  Homeschoolers are free from those restrictions.

My children generally take between 9 and 10 credits every “year.”  A homeschool year consists of at least 180 days.  Each day includes around 6 hours of instruction time.  If everyday were a school day (all 7 days out of the week), 180 days could be completed in 26 weeks.  In our home, it’s not uncommon for us to school 6 days out of the week.  We like to reserve the 6th days as a project/lab day, and have at least one day off.  That means we can do a year in about 30 weeks if all goes well, and a child could, in theory, complete 4 years of high school in approximately 2 and 1/2 years.  Of course, I need a break between “years” to plan and rest, so we choose to take a summer break.

We also utilize a credit system, not a pathway system, to graduate.  This means that our homeschoolers can graduate when they have a certain number of credits at the desired level in every subject.  We pretty much stick to what our state requires for college admission.  If one of our children were pursuing admission to an out-of-state college, I would check their admission requirements and plan my child’s high school curriculum around those.  By using a credit based system, we can complete all of the credits required in 3 years, rather than 4.

So, what is required by our state colleges and what do we do?

4 English credits

We complete 4 credits of English (grammar and composition) and 3 credits of Literature.  Grammar is the focus of 9th grade and 11th grade.  Composition is the focus of 10th grade and 12th grade.  Grammar and composition are included in each year, though.  The focused breakdown allows our third year high-schooler to complete their 11th and 12th grade English credits in a single calendar year of high school.

2 Foreign Language

We do Spanish, although Briana is looking to try her hand at French.  Spanish is actually taught every year to our children.  This is because I am comfortable with the language, having 5 years of instruction and lived, for a time, in a Spanish-speaking population.  I don’t speak Spanish fluently, mind you; but I can understand it relatively well when I must and I can certainly guide their understanding of the basics.  Plus, I am BIG on pronunciation.

Even if I were not comfortable with any foreign language, there are some great programs out there that we take advantage of in our homeschool.  If Briana wishes to learn French, she will rely solely on those.  To her benefit, Brian knows a bit of French and Rick also took French, so they can help support her learning.  Don’t be discouraged about foreign language.  You don’t have to know one for your child to spend two years studying one.

4 Math (Algebra I, II, and Geometry plus an additional math)

I have a lot to say here because this is where I get the most questions about high school.

I am always surprised when I hear homeschool moms stress about their child getting to Physics or Calculus.  When I was in high school, not every student took those classes, and they were fine.  I don’t require my children to go beyond Geometry/Algebra II (there are differences of opinion as to which one is a higher math).  The additional math can be an elective math or a higher math, at the choice of my child.  I don’t think any of my children are going to choose a higher math.  Brian would have been the only one who was likely to take higher maths, but he decided to take a Business Math, instead.  He actually loves math, and studies number theory in his spare time.  If it were possible, he would have chosen a mathematics degree.  However, he was provided with full tuition to study business, so he went in that direction.  When he completes his main degrees, he has said that he would like to continue to study math and science in his spare time.

If you are wondering why we don’t go beyond those maths in our homeschool, let me share with you my reasoning.  I think that higher maths are easily and inexpensively acquired at the local community college.  If you have ever paid for a year of quality homeschool material, you know that the costs are similar to paying for a college level class.  A high schooler could easily take dual enrollment classes if they were inclined or graduate early.  I am fully capable of teaching higher level maths, as I was originally an engineering major.  Still, I prefer my children to learn higher maths from the professors at the colleges where they are to attend.  They will get the college credits and learn in the method and style of that college.  Believe me, there are different methods and styles at each school (and with each professor).  By allowing the professors to teach higher maths, we are able to allow their mathematical knowledge to grow consistently.

But what about the children who are not future math majors?

I don’t stress about it.  In our state, there are many college programs that don’t require mathematics classes beyond College Algebra and Statistics.  Getting your high-schooler to through the recommended classes is enough.  Calculus is not necessary to start college.

If your high schooler struggles with Algebra, they are not alone.  Many public school high school graduates don’t test into College Algebra.  They may have to take a remedial math (or English).  This is not uncommon, and does not mean that you have failed your child.  This just means that they are a part of the group that needs more support for their college learning in the area of mathematics.  Let me say again, it does not mean anything about you or your child.  If that is where they must begin, that is OK.  In fact, it is better, as I mentioned earlier, to allow them to understand the college’s method and style.

Completing 4 credits of high school math is there to prepare your children for college.  If your child is not focused on math as a career, keep it simple.  Let them wait for more until college.  If your child is focused on math, dual enrollment classes look good on a transcript (much better than mom giving them an “A” in Calculus).  Don’t kill yourself trying to be like public schools.  In my opinion, this is one of the areas where homeschoolers have the advantage.  Take it, and let the colleges teach the higher maths.

3 Science

Our state recommends a biological science, a physical science, and at least one lab science. Yes.  Our children have dissected frogs (among other things)- just not at my house.  They did that with our local homeschool group.  The science classes we take are Physical Science, Biology, and Chemistry.  Believe it or not, I had never taken Chemistry when I attended college.  It was a challenge.  So, I feel like it is important for my children to take Chemistry.

We also took advantage of other opportunities to get hands-on learning experiences in science.  Ricky spent many hours last year as a volunteer at a local nature center.  He learned far more about biology in his time working there than he could have ever gotten from any curriculum.  He had to measure animal diets, clean cages, educate the public, and so much more.  Brian volunteered at a hospital.  I highly recommend volunteer work for your high school student as a science supplement.  This also looks great on a transcript.

2 Social Studies

Our state requires at least one to be U.S.  History.  We go above and beyond in this subject, requiring at least 3 social studies.  We do World History, U.S. History, and Government.  Brian also took Economics and Geography.  I like my children to have a solid foundation.

4+2+4+3+2= 15 credits required credits by state colleges.

Of course, high schools have different credit standards.  When I graduated high school, I had to have 18 credits to graduate.  My husband, who graduated from the same school system I did just one year later, was required to have 21 credits and volunteer hours.  Each homeschool can choose the number of credits they require for graduation, and like public schools systems, those requirements can change.

As I mentioned, we require additional credits in literature and history.  Plus, there are electives to consider.  Those are different based on each child.  We end up taking between 9 and 10 credits per year for 3 years.  This means we end up with somewhere between 27 and 30 credits- far above what public and private schools require.

Here’s a look at Brian’s high school plan-

The Fundamental Home

Remember, Brian was a National Merit Scholar commended student who had multiple scholarship offers out of high school, including consideration by Ivy League universities.  He had lots of awards and volunteer work on his transcript to add to these credits, but no formal college work.  When he graduated at 16, he went straight into college, starting in the summer semester.  He took CLEP exams to earn college credit for English, Literature, and History, and earned an associate’s degree the following year with straight A’s.  He was Phi Theta Kappa, given the Student of the Year award for Chemistry/Biochemistry, and he won a number of scholarships.   Even though he was younger than the traditional college student, and he only technically did 3 years of high schools, his credits prepared him for the college experience- and he never studied Calculus.  He was easily accepted into a 4 year, state university as a junior at 17.

Now, Ricky (who is working on finishing his last year) did not take the exact same classes Brian did.  His goals are different.

The Fundamental Home

Ricky will have more credits when he graduates, but his focus is different.  His math skills are different than Brian’s, and he may need to take a remedial class when he heads to college next spring.  That’s OK.  Ricky is an artist, and plans to get a degree in Studio Art.  Math is not his focus or one of his primary interests, so why worry about pushing him to higher levels?  That’s how we decide to plan our high school curriculum.

How do you homeschool high school (or plan to)?  I would love to hear your ideas, and so would my readers!  Please share in the comments below your thoughts on homeschooling high school and graduating early.

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8 thoughts on “How We Homeschool High School (and graduate “early”)

  • June 18, 2015 at 2:59 am

    I loved reading this. My oldest is going into 7th grade, and we are just starting homeschooling. I went to a conference and learned all about CLEP, etc; but it is good too to take into consideration the interests of each child and let them go in that direction.

    • June 18, 2015 at 10:31 am

      I always try to encourage parents to consider their children’s interests because I think it is the key to unlocking a love of learning. That love will extend to other academic areas. For instance, Ricky is not a reader, but he will read difficult art books, and he will research art history without being prompted. I don’t want my children to get discouraged about learning and focus on the fact that they “can’t” do something. I want them to get excited about learning and what they “can” do well!

  • July 10, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Love your YouTube and blog. Any CLEP advice? I would like my son to take advantage of it but know no one who has done so. Thanks.

    • July 11, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Get the official study guide/test book. It’s like $13 on ebay or something like that. Take the tests in the book. Only sign up for CLEP exams when you do when on the official study guide tests. The online tests are NOTHING like the book or the real tests in my opinion. Use the information in the questions you got wrong to study for the CLEP. For instance, if you were taking the Eng. Comp. test, and you got a question about onomatopoeia wrong, study the term and know its definition. If you were doing literature, and you didn’t know who the characters were in a book, look at the Wikipedia article and know that book- the author, title, main plot and characters. The information in the current study guide is truly reflective of the test. That’s my very best advice. Good luck! I hope he does well!

  • December 1, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Love! Everything you said. So helpful. I have a 3rd grader and 9 th grader son’s I love so much! Where do you buy your English and literature books for 9th grade?

    And what was it like when they were in grade school subjects.

    • December 3, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      I like Rod & Staff’s 9th grade English Grammar. For Literature, I usually use literature lists in the test prep for CLEP exams. I get those books from the library for free.

  • February 8, 2017 at 6:47 am

    Thank you! Very helpful.


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