How Do You Make a 4-Year High School Plan?

What do you need to know before you start homeschooling high school?
What are homeschool graduation requirements?
How do you plan for your homeschooler’s future?

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

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High School Series >>

Show Notes

 When it comes to high school, a homeschooling parent shifts their role from teacher to that of an administrator, facilitator, mentor, and guidance counselor.  Our goal from childhood remains the same- we want to foster a love of learning, but we also have to get down to business with a strong plan for the future.

Whether you’ve been teaching your child for years or are homeschooling for the first time, you need to start with developing a high school plan. Ideally, you’ll plan out all four years before 9th grade even begins. But even if you’re halfway through their freshman, sophomore, or junior year, and you haven’t yet made a plan, you can start today. As you guide your student toward graduation, you can tweak the plan as their post-high school goals take shape.

What do you need to know before you start homeschooling high school?

Every student is different: Plan their high school based on their interests rather than what an older sibling studied. Adapt the lessons to fit your student- do they need more discussion time, extra time for math, or cut back on some of the work so they can participate in theater or have a part time job? Is there a program you did with another child that you know now won’t work or was a waste of time, cut it!  

Goals: When your student is ready to enter high school, it is important to begin to establish goals together to create an academic and extracurricular activity plan. There are so many options for your student!  And I really do want to emphasize that they don’t need to know what they want to do for college or beyond yet, but now is the time to start really thinking and talking about options.

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Maturity Happens: Students mature a lot between 9th grade and 12th grade. Keep in mind that a 9th grader will probably not be able to handle the workload of a 12th grader. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly.  People often ask how long a homeschool high schooler’s school day is.  This can be a huge range and varies with class intensity and grade level and the student, of course.

Customize Courses: If you can’t find a class to fit your student’s needs, create your own course. Students learn best when they’re interested in the material. You can customize and tailor their education to literally anything that they are interested in. 

Counting Credits: You have two options for counting high school credits which gives you more flexibility as you make your plan. This can be counted by the amount of work completed or the amount of time the work took. Work completed means that the student completed the necessary chapters of the science textbook or finished their math textbook. You can also look at the amount of time they spent studying the material which works well when you want to count a course that doesn’t include a textbook, by keeping track of how much time they spent reading and writing or working on a project.  

Give Them Space: The high school years are a great time them to explore their interests. Be sure to include plenty of downtime for this to happen. These interests may not help with college applications but they’re still extremely valuable. You never know when a new interest might turn into a lifelong passion. 

Find Balance: Be sure to balance academic and social needs during the high school years. They are learning how to be a friend, how to make friends, and how to interact with people from all walks of life. As you’re planning high school, make certain you’ve allowed time for them to hang out with their friends, go to dances, play boardgames. Structured activities typically don’t have enough downtime for kids to make friends.  Finding and maintaining friendships can sometimes be trickier in high school because a lot of homeschool teens have specific interests and have gone separate ways with schooling and extracurriculars. 

Stay Connected: Avoid making every conversation about schoolwork. It is easy to see they haven’t finished their math or biology lab. The problem is that it damages your relationship when every conversation you have with your child is about their shortcomings. Your teenager no longer wants to tell you about their successes, and they won’t feel safe to talk to you about their struggles. Join in the activities they love. Play their video games, take them to their favorite coffee spot and play cards, or go see a movie. Give you and your child something to talk about other than academics. Don’t let your internal pressure about getting your kid into college stress them out!

What are homeschool graduation requirements?

First, you must know what your state requires for homeschoolers to graduate:

State Laws and Requirements

It’s important to keep in mind that it is often not necessary to comply with or refer to public school graduation requirements, but some parents find it helpful to do so when deciding the courses their teens will study. 

As you are forming your plan, be mindful that:

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  • Courses of study: Be aware of the requirements and how many credits of each one is needed. Some of the choices you need to make are done for you per the state requirement.
  • Credit hour equivalent: Typically, a one credit class is three hours a week of work, a half credit is an hour and a half a week.
  • Your Own Requirements: Remember, you are the school. Consider what courses are required to graduate from YOUR homeschool. There might be areas of study beyond what the state requires. Even if a student doesn’t want to study science beyond high school, some families may require a basic understanding of core science subjects – Biology, Chemistry, Physics. So stop and consider what is important to you.

How do you plan for your homeschooler’s future?

One of the most important factors in making a four-year plan for your student is bringing them to the table. You cannot plan without your student being a part of the process. Their input is a MUST.

  • This is their future: Don’t lose sight of the fact that this is their life, and they are the ones that will be responsible for carrying out this four-year plan. This is not all on us so be sure that they are part of the planning process from the beginning.
  • Be open: There is a good chance that your student’s ideas may conflict with yours. Be open to their ideas. Put them in the driver’s seat and help guide them. If they want to implement a part of their high school that is not on your radar or might be a different approach altogether, have them make their case. Remember that you are to facilitate their education.
  • Be a facilitator and mentor: Your job as the parent during high school will transition from teacher to administrator. We are here to help them to navigate high school, but the days of direct instruction are slowly fading away. We are here to give feedback on their work, discuss books and issues, and to help them to assimilate ideas.

5 steps to your 4 year plan:

Step 1

The first Step in planning for their future is to set long term goals (life goals, educational goals, career goals).

Example goals:

  • I want to do something mechanical
  • I want to do something artistic
  • I want to work with animals
  • I want to go into the military
  • I want to travel
  • I want to do volunteer
Step 2

What is the role of education in meeting these goals?

Determine the pathway- is a degree needed, what eleve, type of school?  Certification or licensing?

Determine entry, admission, enlistment requirements

When researching the role of education in meeting your students’ goals, the following resources might be helpful. 

Career Education Resources:

College Options for Homeschoolers

If higher education of some kind is in the educational plan, then these goals should be based on the type of college your student plans to attend. When creating a high school plan with your child, it is essential that you select courses that will at least meet the minimum requirements of the type of college or university they are interested in applying to.

The earlier you and your student explore colleges, the easier it is to make a four year plan. The plan doesn’t have to be set in stone, but having this information will help guide the next four years

Whether or not your student knows where they would like to apply, you can check with likely or local colleges to get an idea of the types of requirements for your student’s interests. Most colleges have requirements listed on their websites. Then as you continue to evaluate your plan, you can get more specific in your search.

College Websites are a great resource for you

  • They can give direction to help form your plan.
  • Learn about requirements beyond graduation. For example, some colleges require three credits of the same foreign language. So you may need to adjust your plan accordingly.
  • Check for homeschool requirements at application time- a few universities ask homeschooled students to provide unique documentation that may not be required for other students.
  • Not only does browsing college websites allow you to find out requirements, but it also opens up a world of possibilities. Students can learn more  about a programs they may want pursue.                 

When researching admissions requirements for colleges (such as required high school courses), your best resource is the college’s admissions web site (or the college admissions advisors). 

Other sources for college admissions information include PrepScholar, and Cappex.


Community College

Community colleges are also an excellent choice for continuing your student’s education. Most community colleges have open enrollment. This means that students need to only meet the minimum age requirement and possess a diploma or GED. However, many specific academic programs within community colleges may have additional high school credit requirements for applicants. Examples of this are nursing, law enforcement, engineering, cyber security, Accounting, etc. It’s important to research the requirements of the specific academic program the student is interested in. You can make an appointment and meet with advisers on the community college campus, and they can help guide you on specifics. Most will offer free applications and they usually don’t require a high school diploma. 

Elite Institutions

If your heart is set on an ivy league school, you have a lot more work ahead of you than if you wanted to attend a state university, but it is absolutely possible for a homeschooler to attend an elite institution!

Ivy League and elite institutions of higher learning examine high school transcripts to see if high schoolers have chosen more rigorous courses of study. In addition to checking for credit counts by subject, they also want to see that students have challenged themselves by selecting honors-level, or advanced placement courses if available. Ivy league schools may require admissions interviews, application essays, an accredited diploma, and related extracurriculars while state universities may only be interested in SAT/ACT scores.

Trade or Vocational Schools or Military

Your student may not be college bound and that is ok, too.  There are so many options for trade, apprenticeship, vocational type studies and also military service may be something to consider.  You will want to carefully research these options as well as some have specific requirements.  They may require a GED.  If this is something that will affect your future plans, make time now to prepare for what that means.

Sports and Student athletes

You may have college bound students who are athletes and will be pursuing playing in college and looking specifically for sports scholarships.  For homeschooling parents with athletes pursuing NCAA Division 1 and 2 sports, there are additional requirements to be aware of.   Here is a link to a Facebook group that encourages discussion and information about NCAA Academic Eligibility process: Homeschool and NCAA Academic Eligibility

Step 3

The third step in planning for your student’s future is to create a class list. In episode 19 next month, which will be the second episode in our high school series, we will deep dive into core subjects and electives.  But in this step, you will also list other classes you may be interested in adding like test prep and life skills.  You may also want to start listing non-class items like volunteerism, internships, part time job, etc.

Step 4

Create a plan that makes sense to you.  You can organize it by year, by subject, on a grid, etc.  However, you want to do this is ok- you are the only one that will see it in raw form.

Step 5 

Implement your plan. Now is the time to take everything you have done and put it into action. Know that the plan will probably change so be prepared for that. And be sure to consider any high school level courses that were taken in middle school that might supplement your plan.  Also, consider using varied methods of learning (online classes, in person, independent study, etc.). Keep records and/or transcript and issue a diploma!  

We’d like to thank our friend Mary for helping us along the way and sharing some of these resources.  We took her classes in the past and they really helped shape our 4-year plans and we are grateful for her expertise.

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