Reader Question: How did YOU Homeschool Through High School?

Reader Question of the WeekI don’t talk about homeschooling much on this blog. I have homeschooled both my children from kindergarten to high school, but I know that most of my readers don’t homeschool.

But every Monday I like to answer reader questions, and I’ve received a number of questions lately about how I homeschooled. One, in particular, asked what I did through high school. So I thought I’d take a day to dedicate to homeschooling, talking about two things: homeschooling through high school, and then an AWESOME deal for homeschoolers that’s going on just this week.

If you’re not a homeschooler, forgive me, but “regular programming” will resume tomorrow.

What We Used to Homeschool Through High School

We used Saxon math right through to the end. They finished with Algebra 2 (the green book). One thing I really liked: the marking keys are all there, so it’s easy to go over the problems with the kids.

For Bible/English, etc., we used Omnibus from Veritas Press. They have six different Omnibus books. In Omnibus I you look at books from the ancient world and study the way the ancients (Greeks and Romans) thought. In Omnibus II you look at the Middle Ages, and in Omnibus III you study modern literature and history. My girls really liked Omnibus III; it started with Pride & Prejudice. Omnibus IV-VI redo all the historical periods, but with different texts.

Omnibus I starts in grade 7; you finish all six by grade 12. We did the first four and then started university online (see below).

I loved it because they read the classics, and the questions and exercises are very well designed. I really felt like I had an understanding of how history and thought flowed after reading through Omnibus. There was a big emphasis on American history, so as Canadians we did substitute a few books, but not many.

It is extremely rigorous, and many seventh graders likely couldn’t handle Omnibus I. But I did the readings with them (which, yes, was time consuming), and we really enjoyed it.

Homeschooling Through High SchoolI tried Sonlight curriculum one year, but found it much harder to understand in terms of what you’re supposed to do on what day. Omnibus was laid out better, and the study questions and exercises were better. We went back to Omnibus by mid October.

For Science, we tried a variety of things. We tried the Apologia science, but it didn’t work well, and Keith, as a doctor, didn’t think it was that rigorous. It was written as a conversation, and Science isn’t a conversation. It’s more like Math. The textbooks are written so that kids can do it on their own, but our girls found it just odd and they couldn’t get into it. We tried Alpha Omega Science, but that was a little off, too.

Finally we put them in an online school offered through our board of education, and that was all right. I didn’t like Grade 9 & 10 Science, because so much was wasted time, but once you got to upper years Biology and Chemistry it was done very well.

Once the kids were 16, everything changed. Athabasca University, out of Alberta, is an “open” university, meaning that anybody 16 and over can take their courses as long as they pay the fee. Every University in Canada (and in the U.S., I believe) accepts them as transfer credits. Since I didn’t learn anything in first year university that I hadn’t already taken in my final year of high school, I figured that university courses basically are senior high school courses, so why not get credit for what you’re doing?

The plan was for the girls to take their first year of university online, and then to enter university as a transfer student into second year. That’s what Rebecca did last year, and that’s what Katie’s in the middle of doing (she’s finished half of her first year, while she also takes other courses at home). So they did 2-3 courses a semester, which ends up being 10 courses over two years. Then when they’re 18 they go to university.

Athabasca is A LOT of work. I hate that they don’t have online lectures. You teach yourself out of the textbook and then you do the assignments and write the exams. I have a lot that I wasn’t happy with, but at the same time, they do get university credits, and it makes that whole “getting accepted to university after homeschooling” thing no problem. They don’t go in as homeschoolers; they go in as transfer students. Becca even got a scholarship to the University of Ottawa!

So that’s what we did. Now some general thoughts.

Considerations When Homeschooling High School

Don’t stay away from courses you don’t like/aren’t good at

I dropped Science after grade 10. My husband, of course, didn’t, but he wasn’t home to homeschool the girls. I was. And I couldn’t mark the science or teach the science. I tried with Physics; I figured I could do the course alongside Katie and learn it that way. But that didn’t work either, because eventually I got confused, and when trying to mark her stuff I’d have to wait for Keith to get home.

That’s why we eventually went online.

I’ve seen many homeschooling families give up on the things that the parents don’t do well, and instead just do the stuff they enjoy. And then they end up not being academically rigorous.

We switched Science curricula about four times before finally giving up and putting them in a course online. Sometimes you have to do thatEvery child should at least have an introductory knowledge of basic areas of study–at least to the level they’d get in school. Here kids aren’t allowed to drop Science until grade 10, so all students should have at least a grade 10 Science background. And this goes all the more for Math.

Be realistic about marking and get others involved if necessary

The hardest part of high school is checking up on your children’s work. I know one boy who was given a textbook in September and told to work through it, but his parents never checked. He’d always brag that he was done his work by November.

I never bought it.

Katie is great at Math, but when marking her daily work, she’d often only be getting 70%. If I didn’t mark it everyday, after a week she’d be getting 55% and skipping lots of questions, because if you don’t properly understand a concept, it snowballs.

If you stay on top of it, though, you can explain the issue right away, and then her marks would go up.

You have to mark everyday or you don’t know if they’re getting behind or if they really understand it. If you can’t commit to doing that, then it’s better to get your children to take some courses online. Veritas Press offers Omnibus online; Apologia offers Science online; Write at Home offers Essay Writing online (my oldest did this; it was great). And, of course, as we found, some Boards of Education offer normal high school credits online.

Make sure you have a plan so your child is qualified to continue in some way

When homeschooled properly, I believe that children end their education with a better knowledge level than if they went to school. My kids know way more than I did when I graduated high school, and I was top of my class and got scholarships to university. Omnibus was wonderful for that. They actually learned more important things than I did even through four years of university.

However, it’s all too easy to be lax when you’re homeschooling. Especially when you have a large family, it’s easy to leave the oldest to do their work on autopilot while you tend to the younger ones, and then the older ones may not work that hard or really get an education. I’ve seen families I know where the kids finish homeschooling but aren’t qualified for anything, and can’t even pass the GED (the equivalent of the high school diploma). If you’ve homeschooled through high school and your child can’t pass the GED (and also doesn’t have a learning disability), then you’ve done them a grave disservice. They can’t even get into community college!

Homeschooling should expand horizons, not limit them. My girls were able to take advanced piano and lifeguarding and worked a ton through high school, something they couldn’t have done if they were in school. That’s where homeschooling is good. But kids must be qualified at the end to be able to move into more schooling or to move into a job/business where they can earn a living.

If your child can’t, then please, put them in school online or send them to school for their senior year so they can get a diploma or something that will open doors. Don’t close doors for your kids.

An Awesome Deal!

This week, Build Your Bundle has created an awesome opportunity for homeschoolers!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!

You can purchase a bundle of homeschooling curriculum that you build yourself–targeted to the ages of your kids or to themes. And you can even get 3 for 2–so if you purchase three bundles in different age ranges, you only pay for two!

They even have a high school bundle! So check it out and see how this great “Build your Bundle” sale can get you just the materials you want–at 92% off.

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!


  1. You timing, as ever, is impeccable.

    My 13yo starts high school at home in September, and while we are sure it’s the right thing for him, we are still pulling together exactly what it will look like. (And aware that plan may change as we progress.) So thank you.

    And happy knitting. I was thrilled to see in one of your posts last week that you are taking time for yarn. :)

  2. Thank you for sharing this. We aren’t home schoolers *yet* but I hope that maybe someday we will be. My oldest is just starting JK this year and I am adamant about keeping her home 2-3 days a week. I have a heart for it and a huge desire to do it but my husband isn’t completely on board yet (he should talk to yours because he has a medical profession and is very academically driven!) and to be completely honest I am full of doubt that I can do it. When I watched your daughters video last week I was like “Woah…. I haven’t read any of those books except TWILIGHT! I’m not smart enough to teach my kids!!!” But this post was really encouraging and practical to see what tools you used and how you navigated around the subjects you aren’t strong in. Still praying that God will open the doors if this is what he has planned for our family. :)

  3. Heldinhisgrip says:

    I agree with you about finding online courses for subjects you aren’t good at, and about checking the work and not letting kids teach themselves. I was homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade, and I feel like there are gaps in my education (particularly in math and science) as a result. I graduated high school in 1997, though (nearly 20 years ago! Hard to believe!) and there weren’t nearly as many options back in the days before the internet!

    The other thing to consider when homeschooling in high school is socialization. It sounds like your girls were involved in many extra-curricular activities and jobs, but my parents held the “bubble mentality” of keeping your kids safe by keeping them at home. My only interaction with other people came through our church, and even then, my parents didn’t trust the kids in the youth group, so I didn’t participate in many activities. It wasn’t until I finally went to college at the age of 21 (When my parents started rethinking their whole parenting strategy!) that I began to learn how to interact with my peers!

    So I would say if you’re going to homeschool high school (and at this point, I don’t think I will with my kids), you need to do what it takes to give a quality education in subjects you’re not good at (and check their work so they don’t slack off!) and also make sure they are involved with their peers outside the home so they learn how to interact with others!

  4. Kate Lantry says:

    Thanks for this post :-) Our oldest is in 6th grade, and we’ve been getting more and more questions/concerns about our decision to homeschool all the way through high school. It’s always reassuring to know there are families who have done so and survived to tell the tale! And it’s wonderful to hear your kids are thriving at university.

  5. Sandy in Los Angeles says:

    There are so many options out there. Home school classes abound.

    I graduated my second (and last) child two years ago. I am a better teacher with Math and Science and I struggle in English. There are classes available for whatever your needs are. I however could not afford them. We were living on one unsteady income. My hubby is in construction. Anyhow, I launched my kids with a great math/science education (we used Math-U-See and Apologia – loved it – Sorry Sheila). But, their language arts were a little sketchy. I just had them start English one class below where they tested. Then they went from there and are now doing GREAT in English. My oldest has a 4.0 and my younger child got all A’s and one B. after 3 semesters. I only gave my kids the basics (Math, History, English?, Science, Bible….) They picked up the extras in college (economics, government, etc.).

    I say all of this so you know that you don’t have to be proficient in everything for your kids to do well in college.

    I really think homeschooling works because your kids don’t loose their desire to do well. I know when I was in school, I was more interested in the social things than my schoolwork. But with homeschooling, you get your school work done early and have MORE time for social things. Anyhow…off my soapbox. Homeschooling is not for everyone, but don’t pass it by because you feel inadequate.

  6. We’re right in the throes of it. We chose to enroll the our oldest boy PT at our local high school and continue homeschooling PT. I wanted to “keep control” of certain subject matter (Science – we love Apologia!, History/Civics, Logic, etc.) and had him take math, English, and foreign language at the HS. (I was TAPPED OUT for math!) We did that for two years (grade 9 and 10) and now our oldest is entering Community College under the Running Start program. In our state (Washington) 11 and 12th graders can attend community college and get dual credit (HS and college) and the state pays the tuition – it’s a screaming’ deal 😀 Our oldest son tested in just fine. Now our second son is entering his first year of public/homeschool split, and I have one more still homeschooling full-time. For us it seems like a good transition from being full-time at home to full-time at college.

    That said, they’re also involved in church activities, Civil Air Patrol, part-time jobs, and have lots of friends in the neighborhood, so when I say “full-time at home”, they’re not in a bubble. 😀
    Julie recently posted…Good News and Bad NewsMy Profile

    • Oh, Julie, that is SUCH a great deal–the high school and community college at the same time! Wish more jurisdictions did that. Such a win-win for everyone!

      • And – yay! – it’s accessible to public schoolers, private schoolers, homeschoolers… everyone. Some students split their time between the high school and the CC, but my son will be at the CC full time. Because he’s planning on doing a STEM-focused A.A. (science, technology, engineering, math) he may not quite finish his A. A. in two years, and he/we will have to pay for a quarter or two, but still – hallelujah 😀
        Julie recently posted…Tuesday Brain DumpMy Profile

        • Sandy in Los Angeles says:

          All the community colleges here in So. California do some sort of free education for high school.

    • I second Apologia – it was pretty much the only thing I disagreed with, though I completely understand that no curriculum works for everyone. In fact, if anything, Apologia is perhaps too demanding for many students. In terms of it being rigorous, for comparison, I took the Ontario OAC (back when it existed) Biology and Chemistry and loved them, though only grade 11 physics (in part because the physics teacher at Centennial in Belleville was poor so I didn’t feel it was worth it – yes, I went to school with Keith :) ). Apologia is teaching my grade nine daughter stuff that I learned in OAC Biology. It also gets less “conversational” as you go along. When I compared the current Ontario curriculum requirements with Apologia, I found that apologia covered almost everything with the exception of some planetary science (I think, going by memory now), but it covers it differently – for instance, Biology covers basically all the biology from grades 9-12, etc, rather than having it spread out over several years of science (it also covers some of what I learned in grade 11 chemistry). By the same token, in some cases it also covers things the Ontario curriculum doesn’t. Every curriculum makes choices about what they are and aren’t going to include. Apologia’s “advanced” courses actually go beyond grade 12. Obviously, you also aren’t going to find support for evolutionary biology or old-earth geology in the curriculum either.

  7. I’m a homeschool grad who finished high school when I was 16 and was done with college when I was 20–I used Sonlight part of the time, Abeka for another part, and eventually we found a computer-based math program that we felt did a much better job with upper level math (I took Calculus my senior year–with the way Abeka’s math books are set up, I think that would have been impossible without a teacher).
    I have very much the self-teaching, eager to learn and read and do all of my work type of personality, and because my Mom knew that she did mostly leave me to myself and I just updated her on what I was learning and handed in the papers that I wrote. Sonlight is actually rather demanding when it comes to challenging young students to really think about the books they read, and create coherent arguments on paper.
    My education left me very well-prepared for college, I was glad to be homeschooled!
    Rachel G recently posted…Angelisms, part 7My Profile

  8. Thank you! I started HS my 10 year old this year and he’s thriving. I keep getting asked about high school… so this was really helpful! :)

  9. Thank you for your insight. My son is only 8 months old, but we plan on homeschooling. Probably on a case by case basis with each child, but at least through middle school. These tips for high school and the curriculum is helpful. And, small world, the WriteatHome was started by a man at my church, so I agree, it’s a pretty good English curriculum :)

  10. I was homeschooled, along with my brothers and sister, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. My parents were broke but dedicated, so we scrounged resources wherever we could. We relied heavily on the library, for history especially. For the rest, we used a mix — Christian Light (a Mennonite homeschooling curriculum) for elementary school, Rod and Staff, Saxon, Abeka, Bob Jones — it all got thrown in and stirred around. My mom was less concerned about sticking to one particular curriculum than she was about tailoring the grade level to the children’s capacity and picking the best textbook available. We used to joke that my youngest brother was “de-graded” — one year he did fifth-grade English, seventh-grade math, I think sixth-grade science. It was a method you could grow on. And those of us who went on to the local technical college graduated with honors.

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