By Shari McMinn
Who is more nervous about high school, you or your student?
Whether you are continuing with homeschooling your unique learner through the high school years, or are just starting with home education now during high school, there are struggles and challenges that will arise. Not only are core subjects often harder to learn and more complex to teach, but your student is changing physically, emotionally, and spiritually to become an adult. And then there is the typical parent/teen dynamic, which all families have to deal with. It can be intimidating to think about, but God has called you to homeschool your son or daughter for His purpose. Seek His leading, wisdom, and comfort for the good work He is doing in your family.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 ESV).
The first place to start is to purchase the resource, CHEC High School Guidebook. Created specifically for Colorado homeschooled high school students, it contains everything you need to know and things you maybe haven’t even considered. Reading it over the summer will prepare you for the new school year this coming fall. Further, if you haven’t yet read the “Different Learners” chapter in CHEC’s comprehensive Homeschool Guidebook for Colorado, it is well worth your time to do so now. (If you purchase or already have the comprehensive Guidebook, you don’t need to also purchase the High School specific one since it is already included.)
Unique learners don’t always learn and achieve the same standards within the contemporary mold of the average American high school student. What might work for your sister’s private schooled children or your neighbor’s public educated kids won’t necessarily work for your homeschooled student who has his or her own unique strengths and weaknesses. And, that is okay!
Just as God created each of us as unique individuals, your teen will have their own special path through high school. Don’t lose sight of this important fact. It is your call as to when, how, and if your student will begin to practice adulting with an algebra course or driver’s education (yeah, for me that was the scariest but we did it!). And, you can even determine when they graduate — earlier or later than the typical expected age of 18 years old.
Try these strategies for unique learners during the high school years:
- All students: teach using curriculum based on their learning style; free learning style test here
- Dyslexic: use audio books and visual media for learning when book reading is a challenge
- Emotionally delayed: allow expression through art, crafts, music, and writing for daily projects
- High-gifted: dual enrollment through a Christian college with schoolwork done online from home
- Hyper-active: allow student to stand, move during school; provide trampoline or stationary bike
- Mechanically-minded “hands-on” learner: vocational work in a trade as an “apprentice”
- Mentally or physically challenged: work on self-care and work skills for adult independence
- Writing challenged or “pencil resistance”: use voice software for dictation of essays, reports
During high school, parents should be encouraging their students to explore what they will do as adults for their work and associated income. The goal is and always should be for your student to live productively and independently (as much as possible). A variety of post-high school options exist, including factory labor, home business, care facility staff, early childcare worker, military service, and college for those seeking a career which needs high level training, credentialing, and certification. Have your student:
- Ask trustworthy adults in their life what they do for their income
- Attend college and career fairs held locally or have your support group host one
- Explore local opportunities for employment of special needs workers (Safeway, Goodwill)
- Find a part-time job that is easy entry for unskilled workers (fast food outlets are always hiring)
- Research their areas of interest for what it takes to become proficient in that career field
- Shadow a professional in your community
- Visit local businesses to inquire about potential employment opportunities
- Watch videos, webinars, or listen to podcasts related to home businesses or fields of interest
More importantly, homeschooling parents need to know what their student is and is not capable of doing. Your student may be highly gifted but emotionally delayed. They may be intelligent and curious but unable to carry out daily routine tasks. They may be physically or mentally-challenged but a cheerful, dutiful worker. Take note of their personal struggles and strengths, working on those as much as (or even more so than) academics. As homeschoolers, we have the opportunity to equip our students with what they need to succeed. It takes observation, investigation, and dedication but can be done whether you have years or months until graduation.
If your student does well on standardized tests, then utilize one found here at CHEC resources – testing for their “odd grade” testing. Having your student evaluated by a “qualified” person as the Colorado homeschool statutes include is often a better choice than standardized testing for unique learners, especially struggling learners or those labeled with “special needs.”
At the end of your student’s high school years, you as their teaching parent/principal can and should issue your student’s high school graduation diploma (in Colorado, this is legal and accepted for college and military admission). If they participate in a CHEC graduation ceremony, a professionally encased diploma is part of the package you will purchase. If you are unable to participate in a ceremony, you can still order a personalized diploma through CHEC.
Alternatively If you prefer, your son or daughter can study for, take, and hopefully pass a GED test. This can take place when the student reaches the age of 17 years old (or younger with an approved waiver). Go to GED policies in Colorado for more information. Something to consider is that in general, a GED does not carry the same favorable weight with employers and military recruiters compared to a diploma.
When homeschooling our unique learners has been a struggle prior to high school, we can have a lot of worries about whether it is possible to continue. What if they don’t even know basic math? What if they are poor spellers? What if they want to argue about everything? The list can go on and on.
Don’t despair! Instead, make your expectations realistic for you and your child, and not what the outside world wants to dictate them to be. Take it slow and steady, every day, and continue forward on the path God has set you upon. Remember that the simplicity of a daily routine for household chores is valuable training, too. I have graduated a number of unique learners from our family’s humble homeschool (my youngest graduates this May!). If I can do this, you can, too! Trust in the good and gracious Lord and have great faith you can accomplish it with His guidance!
Speaking of great faith, does your student know Jesus as his or her Savior? Point them to Christ, daily.
Need encouragement? Got questions?
- Remember you can email me anytime with your questions at Shari@CHEC.org. I will try to respond within 24 hours.
- Find more resources you might need at CHEC’s website on this webpage for unique learners.
- If your family is enrolled with the CHEC Independent School, check out your FREE unlimited access to the Mentor Mom program. Schedule one or more phone calls with experienced homeschool moms trained to counsel fellow homeschooling parents on a variety of issues. Login to your account, then go to the All-Access Benefits Zone to schedule your appointment(s).
- If you haven’t done so already, take time this month to register for and plan to attend the in-person Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference, June 16-18, 2022. The Unique Learners Track will feature a number of nationally recognized speakers who are relatable and knowledgeable on homeschooling special kids. (I’ll be managing the Exhibit Hall from the Exhibitor Services booth, so come introduce yourself!)
- Looking for a fun, restorative family vacation? Check this out: SPED Family Retreat 2022
Thank you for reading this post and please anticipate future ones on the 3rd or 4th Wednesday, monthly.
PS: If you have a topic you want me to cover, please email me with your suggestion(s).