So you are moving into homeschooling your teenager. I bet you are getting worried about how things will turn out!

While it seems to be ‘acceptable’ and ‘a bit fun’  (and even possibly ‘trendy’?) to homeschool your younger children – I think we get judged a lot more for ‘daring’ to homeschool older ones. Particularly if you have been relaxed/unschooling or autonomous in your methods.

We are now getting near the end of our time homeschooling (my daughter is 17 and my son is 15) so I wanted to let you know how things were going for us – and also I think I would have loved to read this post a few years ago! I am not telling you that my way is the right way or that you have to do it this way. I just want to share my thought process and how we did things. I think we made some interesting discoveries that you will find helpful – and hopefully help you to rock at high school homeschooling 🙂

How to Rock Homeschool High School

It seems to me that people panic about high school homeschooling because they are worried about the academics. A few years ago we had done very little academics. That is not to say my children weren’t learning stuff. We did a lot of interest based projects and the ideas from my site. But we didn’t really sit down and do anything formal. No curriculum. No workbooks. No worksheets. When they hit 13/14 I started to panic!

I had to sit down and have a long chat with myself about their future! Was I letting them down? After looking at it from all angles I came to the conclusions I am outlining in this post.

Academics – The Nirvana of Success?

Everyone thinks that academics is the ONLY route to future success (which is apparently defined by that all important ‘getting a good job’!). I understand where they are coming from. We think there is a specific chain of events – an end result that we all buy into. It goes like this.

1. Go to school
2. Get enough qualifications to go to college
3. Go to college
4. Get a diploma or degree
5. Live happily every after (with a high paying job)

Really? That sounds to me like it might not deliver!

Getting a degree or a diploma is not the guarantee it used to be. Yes, studies are still cited that say qualified people earn more than unqualified ones. That is what I am told every time I even mention my children are thinking about skipping university. But recently we have heard that 1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed. Hmmm.

My niece got her degree and ended up in a supermarket. The richest person in our family (my husband’s uncle) never went to college.

Things have changed. The job market has changedGone are the days when you could come out of college and get a ‘job for life’. Even big corporations are catching onto this. I saw a newspaper article recently that said Deloitte’s are to start ‘blind interviews’. The interviewers will not be told background information about a candidate (education and exam results) until a job offer is made.

The article continued-

“Ernst and Young has scrapped a requirement for school leavers to have the equivalent of trhee B grades at A-level or graduates to have an upper second class degree. And Pricewaterhouse-Coopers has said it will stop using A-level grades as a threshold.”

Perhaps they are recognizing that the best people for the job are not always the most academically successful. Especially when you consider that  “A full 66 percent of hiring managers report that they view new college grads “as unprepared for the work place” (ref)

The job market is changing faster than ever thanks to new technology – and the skills needed are changing faster than ever too.

So even if we as a family decided to push on down the Academic path, I felt it wasn’t going to be the full story. I wanted to know how my children could succeed in a changing future. How could they support themselves? What did they they need to be successful in their lives?

Jouhn Holt - Since we can't know what knowledge will be needed

The 5Base Approach

After much thought and research, I came up with 4 more possible routes to making a living. I think there is a lot of mixing and matching going on between them all – but I decided that if I helped my children cover all of the 5 bases then they would have a much better chance of doing what they wanted to do in the future.

The first problem of course, is that teenagers usually have no idea what they want to do. And don’t have a lot of motivation to do it. This was one of the reasons I developed my Teenager Workbook. It helped them focus more on their opportunities and possibilities.

Then I took a 5Base approach. I made a grid on a sheet of paper with each of the 5 bases (I will get to them in a minute).

We brainstormed what they could be doing in each area. We looked at what they were interested in and how we could take those things further. I tried to add two or three ideas to each section. We haven’t followed up on them all yet, but it definitely is a comfort to me to look over the list and see the possibilities it brings.

Let me introduce you to them!

1. Academic

I think everyone is pretty knowledgeable about this part! We looked at what subjects the children might possibly want to study and at what level. My daughter got excited about the idea of Sports Science so we arranged for her to take a (non-accredited) sports science course alongside studying Math, Biology and Psychology. My son isn’t excited about studying anything at all as yet! We are concentrating on other areas for him at the moment.

2. Skills

Of course, there is a list of skills that most homeschoolers recognize as needing to teach their children before they send them off into the world (cooking, cleaning, balancing your bank account!).

But some skills are also very marketableWe all know the child who is really good at something. I know of one boy who was taking tractors apart and building new ones from a young age – guess who called the minute he left school? Yup. A tractor company.

My friend’s homeschooled daughter Catherine is exceptionally talented at wildlife art. Kudos to Sonya for giving Catherine the opportunity to develop her skills rather than distracting her with unwanted academics. Catherine is now very successfully selling her art here.

What makes a skill marketable? Basically, if it something that someone will pay your child to do for them. Or something they could sell.  

Here are some of the ideas we added to our Skills base

  • Climbing – my daughter has already been offered a job by our local climbing wall to do coaching.
  • Bike Repairs
  • Blogging
  • Podcast/Vlogs
  • Film Making
  • Writing/Journalism
  • Coding
  • Photography

My son decided he wanted to build a computer from scratch (done), build an indoor climbing wall in the spare room (done) and build a bike (parts are lying around all over the house!). I don’t think any of these are really going to be ‘his thing’ in the future but it has giving him lots of experience of managing a project from beginning to end.

Homeschool Climbing Wall

See it as presenting alternative options to your child. You never know when something may lead to ‘a career’ of some form. Watch out for vocational courses in your childs chosen skills too. You can find professional courses that will help you become (among other things) a dog trainer, Kyaking coach, blacksmith, or life coach!  No other academics required 🙂

3. Experience /Vocational

This is related to skills based, but includes the things that are hard to pin down. Experiences lead to all kinds of opportunities. By experiences I mean the things our children do or see or experience.

Volunteering at something is a good way to get experience. My daughter became the junior editor for the UK’s orienteering magazine CompassSport. This has been great experience for her not only in meeting deadlines –  but in making contacts and requesting/editing articles. Travelling is always an education! Being in nature. The more we expand our children’s experiences the more they understand the opportunities available to them.

In his book The Luck Factor, Richard Wiseman says that lucky people build a strong ‘network of luck’ by building up social contacts and acting upon chance conversations or opportunities. The more new experiences you all take, the more this kind of ‘lucky’ chance will happen. Look for internships or apprenticeships to help build experience AND make contacts in your child’s chosen industry.

If your children REALLY don’t have a clue what they want to do, then this is the area I would concentrate on.

4. Visionary

Some kids just have a vision. Whether they want to save tigers or find a cure for cancer they are usually motivated and driven. My kids are not visionary! If yours are then I would suggest helping them get as much experience around their vision as possible. Let them loose on volunteering, fundraising or designing! Help them get as knowledgeable as possible in their chosen area.

In our grid we wrote down possible causes the children could support and ways they could help out in the community. Again, this is something my teen planner can help with.


5. Entrepreneurial Based

I think the world is changing and the idea of a ‘safe job’ is becoming a myth. In the future our children will need to be adaptable and creative in shaping their careers. By entrepreneurial I don’t mean turning them into one of those high flyer, mobile using, dot com stereotypes. I mean helping them have the ability to earn a buck directly without a ‘job’. There are so many opportunities available to our kids and I wanted mine to know how to make money if their backs were against the wall. I want them to be able to spot opportunities (and detect scams) and look at how they can have multiple income sources. That way if one source of income dries up they still have some money coming in.

This actually was one of the reasons I started Homeschooling-ideas in 2008. I wanted to see if it really was possible to make money on the internet. It is possible 🙂 I am not driving around in a Jaguar or living it up on a Caribbean island. But I have been able to make a contribution to our finances for a quite a while now. You can help. Go buy my stuff! 🙂

Some of the ideas we had on our list were

  • Blogging
  • Selling at craft fairs or via Etsy
  • Doing something on
  • Starting an e-magazine
  • Write a book and sell it on Amazon or Smashwords

My son decided to start a website – he will put advertising on it later. We ‘did’ a car boot sale (sorry, I am not sure what they are called in ‘American’). And both children are well versed in the art of selling on Ebay!

I have a friend who does film directing on the side. And another who is a part time wedding photographer and part time worker in a care home. Even if your children don’t want to run their own business, getting a little experience in selling or marketing for themselves can only be a good thing. 

Two fantastic books for being more entrepreneurial  are Making a Living Without a Job by Barbara Winter and $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau. Highly recommended reads. 

Living the 5Base Approach

My kids are not paragons or exceptionally talented. There is nothing special about us. I am not yet able to tell you this all worked out wonderfully (I will report back in a few years!) although so far it seems to be going well.  You might already be doing all this and wondering why on earth I even bothered to write a blog post about it.

But I hope that thinking about your child’s education is the broader way is helpful to you. And this helps you to guide them to an inspiring and joyful future. 

For me, having a plan in areas outside of academics has helped me to feel that my children’s education is more rounded. More complete. And hopefully in the long run, more useful to them in whatever they decide to do for a living.

How about you? Do you think this will help your High School Homeschool rock? Come over to my Facebook Page and let me know.



How to Rock High School Homeschooling — 8 Comments

  1. This is EXACTLY the sort of article and advice I would have benefited from earlier in my home ed journey. We have reached exactly the same point as you but it would have helped us enormously to read this and see you put the arguments so clearly and make us feel that we weren’t putting our kids out on a limb.
    WELL DONE! This is a beam of light in the darkness.

  2. This article is so helpful and has confirmed what I have been feeling for a while. Thank you.

  3. This is a great article! I took my son out of school at 14 as the education system was stifling his creativity and forcing a square peg into a round hole. He had dropped from set 1 maths and was just about to be put down to set 4! We based his education on interest-based projects which I insisted were written up not done on computer, any calculations done manually. This helped immensely with his numeracy and literacy and presentation, all of which were not good. We arranged 1-week placements in a range of local businesses he was interested in and he did work experience at our family business once a week too. I also enrolled him on a holistic therapy home study diploma course which I guided him with throughout the course. He achieved 91% in his final exam and at 16 had letters after his name! And this is a boy who the school thought was not going to achive much! We decided not to do GCSEs but instead put together a presentation portfolio of his best projects with a CV.
    He is now 18, worked full time with our family business since 16 but recently decided to pursue a career in his love of car mechanics and body repair. We have discovered that not having maths and english GCSE has held him back a little, however he is now on a work placement based NVQ with ACT. They are extremely impressed with his CV and portfolio and are doing Maths and English competance certificates with him, just for the paper certificate – they have said its just a formality and his skills are very good.
    With the ACT tutors behind him, who can see his worth is more than a piece of paper, and who have highly commended him on his willingness to learn and attitude, he has gained more confidence in his abilities. School failed him from a very early age, I only wish I’d had more confidence myself to rescue him sooner!
    Now I have been homeschooling my almost 13yr old daughter for nearly 2 years and we have decided, as she is capable, to put her in for maths and english gcses but no others. If your child is capable I would recommend this due to my son’s experience in trying to enter apprenticeships. I will be enrolling her on a home study holistic therapy course once she is 15 too, as it will give her a trade.
    I do not understand why a lot of people back out of homeschooling at teen level, as i feel this is the most important time for teaching life skills not taught in comp, it is their most impressionable age where their morals and ethics are set, when we can really go to town on interesting and thought provoking projects and topics, and it is the time when harsh academia, propaganda and peer pressure is most likely to take away their individual character and adventurous nature and mold them into conforming citizens of society.

    • What a fantastic example Dani. So glad following his own path has worked for you son. Thanks for sharing and good luck to both him and your daughter. Julie.

      • Thank you. I hope sharing our experiences help someone!
        In fact my son went for an interview today at a car bodyshop and has got a placement which they have said will progress to an apprenticeship after 6months if he wants it. It includes respraying and all the things he loves to do! We are so pleased and proud of him (and I must admit I’m quietly proud of myself too) 🙂 x