How Hard is it to Homeschool a 12th Grade Student?
Is your high school student looking to explore options other than the traditional classroom? Are you, as a parent, a little nervous about the thought of homeschooling your student? Take a deep breath… You have options, and they don’t have to be scary! In this post, we will explore what is involved with being the parent of a high school student who is engaging in home-based learning, including homeschooling and virtual charter schools.
Your student is changing – and so is their education!
As your child grows older, you’ve surely noticed changes happening. The teenage years can be especially scary, as shown in the many movies about adolescents. Lately, you’ve probably also noticed your student is starting to step back and separate from you more. With all these changes happening, it’s not surprising that you and your student are exploring different educational options! Let’s dive deeper into some of the options…
Understanding Your Home-Based Education Options
Homeschooling is the choice by parents to educate their student in their home rather than through a school. Families may choose this option for many reasons, including but not limited to dissatisfaction with the educational options available, religious beliefs, or educational philosophies. Legal requirements for homeschooling vary from state to state. While some states have little to no requirements, others are stricter. In Pennsylvania, the requirements include coursework that must be completed dependent upon the student’s grade level and state standardized testing during grades 3, 5, and 8. Additionally, students are asked to meet the graduation requirements of the state in order to receive their diploma.
If homeschooling, parents serve as the primary educator and must research, select, and purchase their own curriculum. This provides great flexibility, but this can also be a tedious, time consuming and sometimes costly process. A cyber charter school is a great option for parents who want to homeschool their students but do not want to select their own curriculum or serve as the primary educator for their students.
Cyber charter schools are public schools that provide more freedom and flexibility than a traditional brick-and-mortar school. They are publicly funded based on the enrollment of their students. Virtual charter schools monitor and track student attendance, participate in state-mandated testing, and are held to the same state and federal standards as their local district counterparts. At this time, there are 15 virtual charter schools available in the state of Pennsylvania with a wide range of programming, curriculum, and flexibility to serve students and their families.
The virtual education model is designed to assist each child in reaching academic success. Students, parents, state-certified teachers and school counselors work together to form a collaborative and productive partnership, which ensures each student receives an individualized education.
The Role of the Parent in Home-Based Education
As we discussed above, homeschooling parents serve as the primary teacher for their child. The parent researches and selects their own curriculum. Homeschooling parents also are responsible for ensuring their children have adequate social opportunities. This is achieved through seeking out extra-curricular activities for their children, planning field trips, and sometimes connecting their children with other local homeschooled children through nearby co-ops. Homeschooling parents also typically develop lesson plans and maintain academic records.
In a virtual charter school, a state-certified teacher guides students through their studies and curriculum. Just like at your local school, teachers use their creativity to individualize lesson plans and add variety throughout the year. Students in grades 9-12 take a variety of courses in core subjects, as well as electives.
Parents partner with the school to ensure their student is receiving the best educational experience possible. At PA Virtual Charter School, the primary parent or guardian at home is called the Learning Coach. As your student’s Learning Coach, you will be responsible for working alongside your student every day by ensuring they attend class and complete and submit coursework assigned by their teacher. As you can imagine, being the Learning Coach of an elementary or middle school aged student is very different than being the Learning Coach of a high school aged student.
When your student is in elementary or middle school, you will be very hands-on and involved in their lessons and curriculum. Once your child is in high school, your focus shifts to organization and supervision in order to guide your student in a positive direction. You will monitor your high school student’s attendance, engagement, submission of assignments, and grades, but as your student grows older and is developmentally changing, they’ll strive to be more independent and wish to do things on their own.
Whether you choose to homeschool or enroll your student in a cyber charter school, how can you balance wanting to help your student but also giving them the freedom they desire? Here are a few tips:
- Involve students in decision-making: Your teenager wants to make decisions on their own, and their desire to be independent is a normal part of development. Because of this, it is very important to involve your student in decision making whenever possible. Listen to your student’s ideas and input, and work together to make decisions. This starts with listening to your child’s input of where they want to attend school. Do they like the idea of homeschooling? Are they interested in the cyber option? Having your child’s buy-in is critical. If they have ownership of their own learning, they are more likely to be successful.
If you and your student cannot come to a decision together, it’s important to discuss why you are disagreeing. Making a pro/con list can help you facilitate these conversations. It is critical to talk through everything to ensure everyone's input is heard and they feel valued. If you still don’t agree, try compromising. If your student really wants to go to a cyber school, but you’re not 100% sold, setting up a “trial period” of one year could be a great way to allow your student to have ownership of their learning, but with a set timeline for revaluation.
Once you have made a joint decision on the educational model that is best suited for your family, there are many other ways your child can take ownership of their learning. Help move them towards independence by developing their schedule for the day; have your students choose their courses for the semester. If they are enrolled in a cyber charter school they can schedule a time with the school's guidance counselor to discuss goals and course sequence; if they are traditionally homeschooling they can help choose curriculum and develop lesson plans.
- Access the resources at your disposal: One of my favorite sayings is, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” This is why it is so important to utilize the resources available to you. If you homeschool, there are many high-quality and low-cost resources available online or at your local library. If you choose a virtual charter school, make use of the resources available, such as teacher office hours, school counselors, school nurses, online resources, and so much more. Unsure what resources exist? Speak up and ask around!
- Importance of community: I’d be willing to bet that everyone has heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This African proverb means that an entire community of people must interact with children for the children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. This is such a popular saying for a reason – it’s true! If you choose to have your student partake in a home-based education, you can’t expect to do everything on your own. Be sure to find a group of like-minded people to build friendships and bounce ideas off of. Your students will like spending time with other students engaging in home-based education, and as a parent, you’ll enjoy being able to connect with parents who are experiencing similar things to you!
The College Application Process and Home-Based Education Students
All parents (no matter what model of education) are involved in working with their students in the college application process. It is a time-consuming task with many hours spent discussing and exploring options. Both homeschooling parents and cyber charter school parents may spend time assisting their students in connecting with job shadowing or job exploration opportunities, college visits, online searches, and financial aid workshops.
The main difference between the two models is that the guidance counselor of the cyber charter school can assist with navigating these steps and provide insight and resources to students and their parents. Whereas parents of traditional homeschoolers tend to research these resources on their own. Because this process can become tedious and time consuming, some families choose to hire a college consultant to assist and guide their student through the process.
Another difference for homeschooling versus cyber schooling families is the transcript process. As public schools, cyber charter schools issue transcripts to their students. Homeschooling families may obtain high school transcripts as part of their homeschool evaluation, through a diploma-granting organization, or parents may issue their own high school diploma.
Most students, regardless of education model, need to request letters of recommendation from individuals in their community. You’ll need to find someone outside of your family who can speak to the academic, social, and cultural aspects of your student. Many students choose a teacher, coach, mentor, volunteer coordinator, or clergy member.
If you choose to enroll your student in a cyber charter school instead of going the traditional homeschooling route, a school counselor will be available at the school to assist with college applications, just like in a traditional brick-and-mortar school. School counselors send transcripts, school reports and profiles, and a letter of recommendation for students as a part of the college application process.
At PA Virtual Charter School, we have high school counselors who meet with students throughout their high school careers to discuss college and career planning. In the spring of their junior year, students attend a college and career planning presentation to ensure they properly utilize their summer to prepare for the college application process.
At the beginning of the student’s senior year, all students have mandatory individual meetings with their school counselor to complete a credit check, review the college and financial aid application processes, and discuss other post-secondary options. School counselors are state-certified and have experience helping students plan for a wide variety of post-secondary tracks, including college, career, military, trade school, and gap year.
Valuable information is shared at this meeting regarding the college application process, including how we utilize Naviance to send transcripts and letters of recommendation. Naviance is a comprehensive college and career readiness tool that helps schools align student strengths and interests to post-secondary goals, improving student outcomes and connecting learning to life.
As a parent, the college application process can be daunting. As stated above, the key to being helpful, supportive, and guiding your student in a positive direction is through organization and supervision. Regardless of if you are homeschooling or your student is enrolled in a PA cyber charter school, organization and supervision during the college application process is crucial.
Cyber Charter Schools and Other Post-Secondary Pursuits
If your student is pursuing a post-secondary option other than college, a guidance counselor at a PA cyber charter school can assist. A guidance counselor will be able to help your student research career paths, prepare for job applications and interviews, find career and technical education schools, discuss military options, and more.
At PA Virtual Charter School, our students have access to Naviance, a college and career readiness software. A guidance counselor is happy to work with your student to best utilize Naviance in relation to career paths. Below are some of the resources found in Naviance:
- Complete the Strengths Explorer: Strengths Explorer will help students uncover their talents and reveal their potential strengths. From there, students will have a new self-awareness and can plan to make the most of their talents in their future career.
- Complete the Career Interest Profiler: This is a tool that can help students discover the types of work activities and careers that match their interests.
- Explore Careers and Career Clusters: This is a great way to find a career match, especially if a student has general areas of interest but are not sure what specific careers match those interests.
- Create a Resume: Naviance has an interactive resume builder that helps students create a professional resume, including education, volunteer experience, extracurriculars, awards, references, and more.
What’s the Best Fit For You and Your Student?
If you’re interested in a home-based education option for your student, we encourage you to gather as much information as possible. It is important to remember that you have options, and only you and your student can truly know what the best fit will be for your family. We have additional resources available. You can read more about homeschooling versus online schooling in our blog post How Hard is Online Schooling Compared to Homeschooling? You can also learn more about Attending a Cyber Charter School in PA through our ultimate guide.
If a virtual charter school sounds like it would benefit you and your student, we invite you to attend an online open house with PA Virtual Charter School. We are a k-12 Pennsylvania cyber school serving students and families all across the state. This online open house will be much like an open house you would attend at any other school. You will learn about our curriculum and teaching methods, you will get a peek inside our virtual classroom and see how it works, you’ll get a hands-on demonstration of the technology we use, and of course you will get to meet other parents and staff here at PA Virtual Charter School. To RSVP to our open house, click here.
About the Author: Molly Austin is a PA Virtual Guidance Counselor for students in grades 9-12.