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Where are you going to high school?

Grace must get asked at least once a week where she is going for high school.  Will she go to the public high school or one of the many private or Catholic schools?  To be fair, most of the people who ask do not know we are homeschooling.  She is tall, taller than me (and I'm 5'8"), and has played basketball for the past six years for our town’s recreation department.  She is very good.  People assume she is going to play basketball for a high school team somewhere.  They are quite perplexed when she tells them she is not going to high school.

She is not going to high school.

Telling someone you are planning to homeschooling high school garners a much different reaction from people than telling them you are going to homeschool elementary school.  The stakes are higher, I guess.  What if I screw it up?  What if the kids don’t go to college?  What if they can’t compete in the global marketplace? What about prom?  What about sports? What about socialization? What about graduation?  There are so many moments associated with our high school experience that seem implausible to miss out on.  

How do I as a mother and as their primary educator give them opportunities to experience some of the rites of passage that teens should have when they are not in a traditional educational system?  I have three choices: create opportunities, expand on existing opportunities, or seek out opportunities.

Create Opportunities:

Friday Writing Group: This has become more like a little one day coop held in our home.  I have posted extensively about this, but my plan is to continue to hold writing group, Herb Fairies and Mapping the World with Art through the end of the year when hopefully both curricula will be complete.  We may have to work in some extra sessions to complete the mapwork.....  

Book Club: Our first meeting with take place the end of the month at a local university bookstore.  Our group of 7 teens will be reading and discussing Jerry Spinelli’s Milkweed.  This was easy to create.  I just sent an invitation to several of my friends with teens Grace’s age.  We are going to hold it at the bookstore since there is a cafe there and coffee and books just go hand in hand....

Teen Group Outings:  Several moms have been meeting over the past few months to talk about what our kids would like to do, learn and experience during “high school”.  We meet at my house, share coffee and conversation.  We have come up with a great list of seasonal ideas that include pizza and movies, pool parties, sailing excursions, museum outings and beach days.  Our next step is to create a calendar of events.

Expand Existing Opportunities

Volunteering: If something is working it makes sense to start there and make it more.  For example, Grace set a goal last summer of volunteering 100 hours.  We are not pursuing the President’s Award for this because I did not follow protocol to get her hours approved, but if she reached this goal and wants to match or exceed it next year, we could seek out an advisor.  Right now she has over 40 hours.  

Piano: She loves to perform and seeks out events which will allow her to share her love of the piano with others.  She has been playing at church here and there for over a year.  A few months ago we approached our church’s Music Director (whom we know outside of church as well) about giving Grace piano lessons, since his style of playing at church (chords) was new to Grace.  They work together weekly on the songs that the youth choir sings at their monthly family mass.  They are also working of the hymns sung throughout mass.  Last week Grace performed the entrance hymn, the offering hymn and the communion hymn while the Music Director enjoyed a weekend off.  This was her first time playing without him present.  She was not only responsible for the piano but also the choir and making sure they knew what to do and when to do it.  She loved this opportunity and hopes to play more of the mass as she learns it.  

Performing at Family Mass last Sunday

Seek out opportunities:
Classes: I had to find a teacher for sign language to fulfill our foreign language requirement.  Not that we have state requirements, per se, but I do want to make sure I am providing the girls with an equivalent to what students in high school receive and those students that would like to attend college need a foreign language.  I am no longer shy about asking people I know or meet if they will offer their expertise. 

Thankfully others are not shy either.  Our SoundWaters class was not offered until a mom presented them with the idea of designing middle school level programming just for homeschoolers.  We pay for these classes and some, like sign language, we can factor into our planning for the 36 week “school year” (even though we learn year round) while others like the SoundWaters class, can pop up on the yahoo group and really can not be planned for in advance.  I have become quite adept at scheduling in order to create room in our week to incorporate late additions.  Thankfully most of the people in our lives are super flexible and accommodating to my requests!

Coop: We were supposed to have our first coop meeting this week, but the snow delayed the start for a week.  This coop is new to us and we do not know anyone who attends.  It is an hour away and will take up an entire day of our week.  However, the classes offered are mostly for children age 12 and up and they are not held all in one building.  Depending on the child’s schedule, they will get themselves from place to place throughout the day.  I love the independence this fosters and know that this is something that Grace needs in her life.  Her classes include guitar, journaling, social studies and even dodgeball.  This is a large coop with over 80 children, mostly teens!  Who says homeschoolers don’t “socialize”?

Self-Directed Learning Center: Grace recently became part of a very exciting program that is happening in New Haven.  It is a tuition based center where teens gather and learn about what interests them.  She attends for six hours a week and takes classes throughout the day. Her classes are computer programming, aquaponics, history/current events, and business 101.  The center finds tutors to teach these classes.  Some tutors travel in from New York City, others come from the Yale community which neighbors this learning center.  

working with a friend on an aquaponics project involving plants and tilapia
Sports Opportunities: Homeschoolers cannot participate on their local high school sports teams in Connecticut.  Grace set a goal to be a part of a swim team next year.  She loves to swim and her frame is perfect for the sport.  She can’t swim on the high school team, but she is working with her sign language teacher (who also happens to be the high school swim team coach) to evaluate her skills and work on stamina.  She was told she could join any YMCA or private club team now, but she wants to be able to swim the required laps with ease.  She is searching apps similar to Couch to 5K but for swimming and is looking forward to joining an endurance swim club at the YMCA once basketball ends.  You don’t need a high school to participate in a team sport.

working towards a goal

Community Opportunities:  I am always on the lookout for things to do.  When my homeopath offers a workshop through my pediatrician’s office, I bring Grace with me.  I love sharing this time with her and she gets an hour’s worth of science credit!  We have attended author talks at the library, free Shakespeare in the park, bird walks, attended theater presentations thanks to discount ticket sites, attended classes at local museums, attended concerts, and more.  I grab every local publication of what’s happening in CT, like sites on Facebook, read local newspapers to find out what is taking place.  I also have amazing family members who pass me information that they think the girls would like.  

Anyone who reads my blog knows that we do not approach homeschooling as schooling-at-home.  I still hate to call it schooling.  We learn.  Everywhere.  Every day.   Without school.  But for the sake of convenience, we say we are homeschooling high school.  When I get apprehensive about the enormity of it, I break it down into its simplicity.  With good record keeping (my 8th grade binder) and vigilant searching for great opportunities, having a “high school” experience in the world rather than in a classroom is very exciting.  I am so glad I took this year as a planning year to try things, keep credit hours, make booklists, journal, reflect and prepare for the next 4 years.  


  1. What a great post! You have me all energized to go out and find more activities, etc. for Grace to do outside of the home. I am so envious of all the opportunities you have been able to use for the girls. Thanks so much sharing everything with us.

    1. Diane,
      I am just fortunate that I live so close to major cities. I am only an hour from New York, three hours from Boston, two hours from Providence and 20 min from New Haven. I could be in New York every day if I had unlimited time and funds!

  2. Jess, with your permission I would like to link to your blog in a series I am writing about homeschooling "big kids" -- you are such a great example of a family that is unschooling and I want to share that with my readers. Is this ok with you?

    It's funny when people ask us about high school and I tell them we are homeschooling -- the reaction is much different than it was just a few years ago... let's prove them all wrong! :-)

    1. Of course you have my permission to link! I am honored.

  3. This is a fabulous post! I know we are going to get asked this question more and more as Jacob is about to turn 13. I'm looking forward to high school and all the opportunities.

    1. Thank Jen! It is a bit nerve wracking but I hope that by building a network of moms online and in person we can get through it together!

  4. I read this to Keilee and we both LOVED it. I only wish there were more opportunities like that here. Another problem is there isn't that many high school age kids that we know that is interested in things like this. I can not wait to see Grace's HS years unfold. It does sound like you are all going to be SO busy! :) GREAT POST JESS!!!!!

    1. I am trying not to focus on being busy or saying "busy" when people ask me how I am. I hope to stay balanced, but right now the girls need to be busy. We are out of the house at some point every day. But it does not feel like too much. I am so glad we can travel this road together Karen!

  5. It is a wonderful post! You would think that being a second generation homeschooler would make it easier, but not really. I still worry about him wishing later he had gone to public or private school, even though I wouldn't trade my high school homeschooling for anything. Karen and I live close by and, like she said, there really isn't anything teen oriented close by, so I'm totally inspired by "Create Opportunities"! Thanks!

  6. These are wonderful suggestions! I hope I can homeschool my girls all the way through highschool. My oldest is in grade one... so we have a long ways to go. Pinning this though - so many lovely ideas!


  7. OK, you brought me somewhere I never come. My desktop computer :) I was just talking to my husband about some of these same things today. We face another move in the coming months. It is now our choice as to where we go. (Long story on why all the moving. It's not ideal but we are blessed so I try not to complain.) We are trying to plan ahead for the future educating of our children. The opportunities are here. Which direction will we take this? I just wish that we could have coffee. It's hard to explain in just a comment how we got to where we are and why I have the thoughts about this that I do. But I can tell that we think alike and think about a lot of the same things. I have no doubt that your girls will have a wonderful education and be very successful in life. And maybe one day coffee can husband is a native NY'er so we make it to see friends/family every few years.

  8. What a great post, Jess! I feel so blessed to homeschool high school with you guys:) That sounds funny to say since we are so far away...but I love keeping up with y'all on IG and here!


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