Home homeschooling Why Should I (and How do I) Homeschool Through High School? What Do They Really Need?

Why Should I (and How do I) Homeschool Through High School? What Do They Really Need?

by Kelly Crawford

My three teens (and one with the silly grin that betrays his fun personality)–it happens in the blink of an eye.

Last week a blog reader emailed to ask me the following question, and I thought it was an excellent one to visit and discuss. I’d love for you to enter the conversation through the comment section. Keep in mind that with homeschooling, there is not a “right” way, there is a only what works well for a particular family in a particular season, with particular goals, with particular children and particular parents. And that is subject to change with changing dynamics.

Before a conversation like this, one must realize that the idea of the school system isn’t, in my opinion, the best idea for preparing kids for life. (Read: School Has Nothing to Do With Real Education) Also, while basic knowledge (the three R’s) is necessary for every student, beyond that, we should be encouraging our children to explore their strengths, passions and gifts, which isn’t a cookie-cutter curriculum. (See Think Outside the Classroom for more on this subject.)

However, even if you prefer the strict, traditional method of a classroom, I’ve seen it work incredibly well with many, many families. So regardless of your goals and educational style, homeschooling is always a great fit.

So, my attempt to answer Sheri’s question from my slant:

“When I consider what high schools offer, I do think they can provide more multi-faceted, specialized options because they have teachers with training in specific areas. (ie. My technology, foreign language, and shop classes just aren’t a match for what they can get at school.) What really is needed to prepare them for life and how is homeschooling a better preparation? What are our reasons for continuing through the upper grades? These are the questions I am wrestling with. I’d love to know your reasons/motivation for homeschooling through high school. So many homeschoolers drop off in the high school years. What motivated you to continue?”

I understand people choose classroom learning for their children for different reasons, and I don’t presume to tell them they are wrong. Some kids thrive in that setting and I don’t presume that’s not true. But if you ask me if homeschooling can work through high school  I’ll say “absolutely.”

First let me answer the question,

“What really is needed to prepare them for life?”

In a word, wisdom. In all their endeavors, wisdom will determine whether they are successful or not. Wisdom will shape their character, helping them learn diligence, perseverance, good decision-making skills, conflict resolution, business sense, integrity, relationship-building skills, and I could go on. Wisdom is foundational to their job, their home life, their marriage and their parenting. And do not forget that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” 

So to answer the second:

“How is homeschooling a better preparation?” I would answer, “Because homeschooling gives freedom to parents to raise their children with wisdom as the fountainhead of their education.” And while you may not have as nice a shop class or biology lab, you have real life, equipped with all the things for learning how to do real life. And you have the opportunity each day to lead them to wisdom which will be the guiding principle that leads them to success.

Practically speaking, I think a focus on the 3 R’s prepares any student for anything. A basic understanding of math (which may lead them to any level their profession requires), a rich library and lots of reading, and writing/communication skills are the essentials of a well-educated individual. Beyond that, the opportunity to pursue what a person loves and thrives in will be the formula for success.

Are they deprived?

Also, your children don’t have to be “deprived” of anything a school offers. You can either find someone you know who can impart skills to them you can’t, or provide them with tools to learn. In fact, I think this is a better way to learn, because again, it’s real life instead of a manufactured situation.

Better to spend some time on a construction site building alongside a carpenter than a few hours in a shop class. Better to be assigned to cook dinner once a week and help care for siblings than take home ec. and learn in a fabricated environment.

We can provide our children with microscopes, balances, a magnifying glass, dry ice–whatever you’d like to be in your lab, and their curiosity is an excellent teacher, in addition to science books/videos that allow them to study anything they desire.


Essentially, there is nothing out of our reach with homeschooling that can’t be provided through the rich resources available now, especially through the Internet. Even with upper level education, the Internet can prove to be far more cost and time efficient, still providing the knowledge and expertise for some careers. (Example: I just spoke with a friend whose son was discouraged, by a successful graphic designer, to go to college for graphic design, because he said, “You can learn more on line for a fraction of the cost. I learned more on my own than I learned in college.” No brainer.)

If sports is important, there are many options for homeschoolers. I personally love that our kids have a big group of friends to play volleyball and soccer with often, without the pressure of organized schedules/games, and they love it too. But every option is available.

Aside from these reasons, the biggest answer to the question of “how homeschooling is a better preparation” simply lies in the ability to give our children a solidly Christian education, walking with them in wisdom, building friendships, and giving them far more opportunities to engage in real life than if they were spending the better half of the day in a classroom. I especially love that homeschooling allows parents to tailor an education to their child’s style and interests and that we have the freedom to put equal emphasis on the arts as society does academics.

For one of THE best books ever written that undergirds my commitment to homeschooling, get A Different Kind of Teacher, by John Taylor Gatto. His experience confirms that a classroom is typically not the most suitable place for people to be educated and learn how to live in the world.

A glimpse of our homeschool

We are looking forward to having our son finish up his high school year with a heavy emphasis on graphic design and art. His gift of art is strong, and we want to give him every opportunity to be able to mesh his life work with his passion.

We also give our high school students a heavy dose of Dave Ramsey (we bought his homeschool high school curriculum, Foundations in Personal Finance), because no matter what they do, the way they handle money will have huge implications for their financial freedom or bondange.

One of the best lessons in finance is letting your children start a business, if only to learn the basic operations. The Internet makes that easy with so many options and a customer base at your fingertips. My daughter’s Etsy shop ended up landing her a commercial contract with a local business, and my son’s art website has supplied him with all the business he has time for. Also, this facilitates a knowledge of computer skills and website design.


Our science focuses on anatomy, nutrition and basic treatment of ailments/first aid, because good health and knowledge of treating illness is an invaluable resource. (Our older kids are also certified in CPR.) Good nutrition and exercise wards off a degree of health issues saving money and adding quality of life. (For anatomy, for our younger and older grades, I have loved Apologia Science.) They also study astronomy, and basic chemistry and have learned so much through just living life. (My 11-year old is a budding mechanic so he’s learned quite a lot of physics on his own.)


Our history is done through reading good books and biographies. I like including these in our evening reading too, so Dad can be involved. I’m currently looking for a great video or DVD series with an emphasis on our country’s founding, because I believe we are witnessing what it looks like when our posterity forgets.

Update: I found one! Compass Classroom has been an answer to prayer. Short, interesting, accurate, easy-to-understand, videos (hands off for me). We are doing American History from a Christian perspective this year (my 3 oldest) and they love it. And you can get a free lesson here! (They also have other subjects.)


We encourage lots of writing through summaries and letters (having penpals is great writing practice) and make sure they know how to write a basic 5-paragraph essay before graduating. Letting your children start a blog of interest is also one way to encourage their writing.


For math we’ve used Khan Academy (for our visual learners), Teaching Textbooks, Rod & Staff, and A.C.E.


Don’t forget the importance of good conversation in helping your children to formulate their worldview and understanding of life through the lens of truth. Ask questions. Play the advocate. Challenge their claimed beliefs. Read news stories and discuss them as a family, asking their opinions. Always challenge them to back up their answers with principles from Scripture.


Another emphasis we are trying to focus on is service. I think it’s so easy for us to get caught up in what we think is important that we forget that the essence of the gospel and Christ’s message to us was to serve one another. It’s important enough that in the past we designated one day a week to it for part of our school. I’m planning to revisit that idea this year.


Thankfully, because of our flexible schedule and the Lord’s graciousness to us, we’ve been able to add some extra things this year, including piano camp for two and gymnastics lessons for two. My son is also spending the summer in CO with my brother, working and learning in both the construction field and real estate. We have been trying to let all of our children go on at least one mission trip and just give them different opportunities for learning and serving.

Alexa and Ashton have enjoyed training and participating in a few runs/mud run courses this past year which I concluded was an excellent P.E. program. Alexa finished 2nd in her age category in her most recent mud run (Panther run) and Ashton finished 2nd in his age category in the challenging Spartan Race (and 12th overall out of about 400 competitors). I’m proud of my people.

These are hopefully just some ideas I’m throwing out for you, and certainly not any “right way” to do things. I pray you seek the Lord’s guidance for your children and may we continually be committed to raising men and women who love the Lord above all else.

Here are some helpful resources a reader shared with me too:

His B.A. Was Only $8k–How to get a college degree from home in a year.

Setting the Records Straight–How to craft homeschool transcripts and course descriptions for college admission and scholarships.


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Kari Collins July 7, 2016 - 6:47 am

This was a blessing to read. I agree with you completely! It took me awhile to learn that raising godly children that know the Lord was the most important thing. As Christians we need to be careful that we do not follow the world’s idea of success and the world’s way of doing things. It is so easy to get caught up in meeting all the standards of the school system that we never teach our children who God is and what is expected of them. You only have this chance when they are yours to teach. Do not miss the opportunity and the responsibility! What a blessing it has been to homeschool. My oldest just graduated and because I was with him and saw his gift for writing I encouraged him to pursue writing at a young age. He eventually agreed and now is pursuing copyediting. He has taught himself by books that he has purchased, borrowed from the library, and online research -way more than I could ever have taught him. He is now editing for a self published author at our church. God provides the opportunities if we trust His ways and not the world’s ways. I encourage all those considering homeschooling through high school to believe in Him, trust Him, read His Word and pray for the strength to obey it. He is faithful!

Kelly Crawford July 7, 2016 - 4:05 pm


Good job, mama. Seeing their unique strengths is key.

Shelly July 7, 2016 - 9:35 am

Such a good post! This year I will have three in high school, and I wouldn’t even consider sending them back to school for it. My oldest daughter will be a senior and will be studying psychology for the third year in a row because of an intense interest in it- she could never do that in public school. She’d get one 1/2 year course, and that’s it. She’s also studying Japanese for the second year and learned Swedish the year before that. Again, that couldn’t happen in school. My son who will be a junior wants to be a wildlife photographer, so he’s out and about most nice days taking pictures of animals, flowers, creeks, etc. One more thing that couldn’t be done in school. And my daughter who will be a 9th grader will do most of her learning through living books because she loves to read and hates textbooks, which are the primary resource in a traditional school. Homeschooling is an amazing experience and a great benefit to any age, in my opinion!

Kelly Crawford July 7, 2016 - 4:06 pm

Shelly, that is awesome!

Jin July 7, 2016 - 9:57 am

Hi Kelly,
Here is a history program you might consider:

They have the first 2 lessons free so you can check it out.

Kelly Crawford July 7, 2016 - 4:07 pm

This looks great, Jin! I’m looking into it for our school year.

Deborah July 7, 2016 - 12:45 pm

Really good post. We raduated 2 children with 3 more to go. I really like your subheadings as a kind of option list for myself as I sometimes run out of ideas for high schoolers. Not that I draw a blank but I often find myself throwing multiple topics out to my kids before one really catches their motivation.
One point I’ve reversed my opinion on is competitive sports. I saw it as an ego building time waster :0!! Guess who’s driving across state lines for soccer practice? My teenage boys have enough energy to pursue practical skills and play sports. They thrive on the competition. I watch practice to notice coaching style. We have been blessed with excellence here and it balances out too many mom hours while dad is at work. We did not start organized sports young. Just lots of active time.
One specific benefit of say building independently than in a shop class is the need for providing your own structure in the out of classroom option. Running your own household or business has good and bad news ( as the saying goes) Good news is you are your own boss. Bad news is you are your own boss;) . Setting up an arrangement with say an uncle requires so much more than just reading a class schedule . Even if kids are simply aware of the legwork parents put in they have gained and they know that success of set up is dependent on them. It is not mandated that someone teach them.
This all falls into your wisdom catagory I know. Just a big plus to homeschooling that is easy to overlook.

Kelly Crawford July 7, 2016 - 4:06 pm

Very good points, Deborah..especially the real life benefits.

Jenn July 7, 2016 - 7:17 pm

I am homeschooling my freshman for the first time ever and I am scared to death! There is so much pressure already to get enough higher maths and science in so they can go to college. Before we decided to homeschool, we went to the orientation at the high school. The kids had to pick their career path for the next 4 years and there was so much pressure from the counselors about college prep. I left there almost in tears and completely overwhelmed. Now that we have made the decision, I am feeling the pressure from family members who are not being nice at all about homeschooling. My sister told me I am making him socially unaccepted and he’s going to lose his ability to make it into any college. So I am ignoring and staying away from naysayers and trusting the Lord and leaning on my husband. Thank you for this blog, you make me see first hand that it is possible. Could I ask though how long I can expect to school everyday. I have seem anywhere from 3 hours per day to a channel on youtube where the woman was schooling her son every day from 9 till 4:30. Which seemed a little too much, but am I off?

6 arrows July 8, 2016 - 8:57 pm


Check the homeschool laws for your state/province/locale, and if there is a requirement for a certain number of hours per year, for example, divide that number by how many days you consider your homeschool to be “in session,” and that will give you the answer to the average number of hours per day of homeschooling.

Now, having said that, let me encourage you that homeschool doesn’t have to look as formulaic as I just made that aspect of it (the time factor) sound! X number of hours per day of “teacher imparting learning to student” is really not what true education is about. There may be some things you will directly teach, particularly if your son is weak on foundational things like reading, writing and math, but, assuming these basics are well in place, much learning at his age can be quite independent of your specific instruction.

Life is all about learning, and some day he will need the skill to be a self-learner. Homeschool is the perfect environment in which to foster that ability.

Think of yourself as a facilitator, offering him a broad smorgasbord of learning opportunities from which he can pick and choose for himself. This may include things for him to read, to listen to, to watch, to try hands on, and the like. It may be at home and in the community, too. Observe what he gravitates toward, and then simply fill in the gaps between what he’s interested in studying/doing and what he’s required, per your homeschool laws, to learn.

High school is such a wonderful time to be homeschooling because it can truly be a time where our youth can be released from the pressure you describe of being in a system that often tries to steer young people in a direction that may have little to nothing to do with effectively utilizing the gifts God has given to each unique individual.

Pray for wisdom as you embark on and continue in homeschooling, and, like you’re doing, ignore those naysayers! The Lord will be faithful to guide you as you seek Him. What anyone else thinks doesn’t matter. 🙂

Blessings to you and your family.

Kelly July 8, 2016 - 9:51 pm

Jenn, What she said because that was a great answer.

Andie Birdsell July 7, 2016 - 10:42 pm

Kelly, off subject of High School but totally on subject with your Think Outside of the Classroom you recommended above. I am not sure if you’ve heard of or ever used KONOS but I have heard it’s more hands on and was wondering how it may or may not fit in with the Thinking Outside of the Classroom mentality?

Kelly Crawford July 7, 2016 - 11:04 pm

Andie–I’ll tell you this about Konos: I heard a Konos rep. do a talk at a conference and it resonated with every fiber of my being. And then I tried to do it. SO many projects and stuff to keep up with it was just too much for me. But the concept I loved.

Andie Birdsell July 7, 2016 - 10:53 pm

Also Kelly, thank you for the info on Khan Academy (I have visual/hands on learners) and I had never heard of this before. I was planning on getting Math U See but this FREE website of Khan helps teach a lot of the same concepts 🙂

Lindsey July 11, 2016 - 4:24 am

I couldn’t even get past the picture! Oh.my.word Kelly!….your children are gorgeous! Seriously. And where has time gone?! (Sorry if this is me being nosey, but as my children are biracial, I’m wondering if yours are as well?) Regardless, all the differences between your children and their variety is so fun and unique! Beautiful 🙂

Kelly Crawford July 11, 2016 - 10:46 am


Thank you for that. 😉 That’s not the first time I’ve been asked that, lol. My husband has somewhat of an “exotic” look with dark hair, dark skin (a lot of Native American ancestry) and light hazel eyes. But that curly hair??? We have NO idea where it comes from. We seriously can hardly think of anyone in either of our families who has curly hair. Alexa (on the left) has super curly hair too, you just can’t tell in this pic with her hair up. And I’m with you: Where DOES the time go? It’s hitting me hard this year as they have all changed so much.

tereza July 12, 2016 - 10:38 pm

When I first began reading your blog, many years ago, I thought your husband was Latin. 🙂

Kelly Crawford July 12, 2016 - 11:42 pm


Sheri July 12, 2016 - 7:16 am

Thank you for this post! Reading this and the responses from everyone, I am really encouraged to keep going through high school! I think when you can’t see what something looks like, it’s hard to picture how it will work for you and your family. It helps to “see” how it is works from someone who is doing it.

When I think of what has worked for us and made the difference in elementary years and compare it to what you’ve written as the best preparation in the high school years, I see they have the underlying qualities. A solid Christian education, relationships, conversations, influence from a variety of ages rather than peer pressure from same-age peers, daily character building moments that might be missed in a school setting, reading good books, TIME to pursue their interests! The things that others claim they are “missing out” on are no comparison to the rich environment, real life experiences they have every day.

We had our oldest tested for the first time this year. I was so nervous. I felt like I was the one being tested! On the one hand, doing well on a standardized test, to me, is not evidence of true success. On the other, I thought it would be helpful for me (and family members) to see how homeschooling measured up to the the average school student. I was so pleased with the results! He scored at least a grade level above in every area and several levels above in reading. When I reflected on what caused him to score so well, I credit it all to homeschooling. All of the things mentioned above and in your article, they give kids the best advantage.

I love that you include Dave Ramsey’s finance class. I know so may adults (myself included) who took that class after high school out of desperation. Schools are obviously not preparing kids to handle money.

Thanks for all your encouragement and resources! This was great.

tereza March 6, 2018 - 9:43 pm

Hey Kelly, how did your son study graphic design? Did he use a curriculum or he learned online by himself? I have a budding artist at home myself. She got a drawing pad this past Christmas and is teaching herself thru YouTube videos and daily practice. Also, do you allow your teens to use social media to market their interests or themselves? How do you do that safely? Thanks for any tips you can provide. 🙂

Kelly Crawford March 6, 2018 - 10:34 pm


I researched free courses on line, and then signed him up for Adobe Illustrator, none of which he studied as diligently as I would have liked before he moved out. :-/ But, there are lots of free or affordable resources on line–the beauty of the age in which we live.

And yes, I do allow them to use social media for their marketing. There is no easy answer about the “safety” of it, except to monitor it (they know I have access to their accounts) and to talk to them constantly about what is OK and what is not. Hope that helps. 🙂


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