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High School Priorities

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By Beverly S. Krueger

I’ve been part of high school homeschooling workshops in the past and have found one prevailing mistaken understanding each time. Many homeschoolers believe that their goal in high school homeschooling is to meet the graduation requirements of their local high school. They believe if they don’t meet those requirements their child will be unable to pursue post high school education or employment. If their state requires 22 credits, they believe they must come up with coursework for 22 credits.

Those who homeschool high school students have rejected the public school system. Why turn to that system’s means to certify high school success? The true goal for high school homeschoolers is not a high school diploma; it’s the ability to continue on with the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the student. That means a different set of priorities for most homeschoolers.

Priorities will differ from family to family and child to child. Several fundamental priorities apply in almost all situations. The importance you place on these priorities is your decision. The three I’ve chosen to discuss are most important to our family.

The first priority is probably the one that causes parents the most anxiety, academic priorities. High school is often a time of narrowing focus for many homeschoolers. They are starting to find their personal passions. Academics should focus strongly on making those passions possible as future life work. The young scientist should have abundant opportunity for scientific exploration. The artist should be given the resources to expand their talent. The archaeology buff should be given the chance to participate in an archaeological dig. Parents should open doors wherever possible so that their children can pursue their passions.

Having said that, it’s also important not to focus so narrowly that a change of plans in the senior year will mean backtracking and making up lost ground. I’ve known too many kids that had an overwhelming passion through most of their high school years that made dramatic changes their senior year. The direction change is not always predictable. I believe in keeping your options open. If your child has the academic ability to succeed in college but wants to become a plumber, keep open his option to attend college by making sure he meets the college admission requirements of your public university. Attending the local community college is possible for those that haven’t got the academic record to get into the university, but in most instances they will have to take remedial classes before they are allowed to take college level math or English classes. If he becomes a plumber, he won’t regret the extra science or math that makes him a better-educated plumber.

Academics are also at the core of the anxiety parents without college degrees experience when they desire their children to attend college. Duplicating the local high school graduation requirements seems like the logical answer to questions of what their child will need to succeed in gaining admission to college. They’re just looking at the wrong gatekeeper. The local high school determines who gets a public school diploma. The college determines which students they will admit. Each has slightly different standards. Rather than focus on the high school’s graduation standards, concentrate on the admission standards of the colleges or universities your child is most likely to attend.

The second priority is spiritual preparation. By the time children are ready to leave home, most parents hope that they will have taken the parent’s spiritual beliefs to heart and will be actively pursuing the type of spiritual life they have been taught. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but you can help make it more assured.

If children are to have their own dynamic spiritual walk, they have to distinguish their walk from their parent’s walk. Believing because your parents believe leads to a lukewarm spiritual walk. Other tastes developed independently once they are away from their parent’s will draw them away from the family spiritual traditions. You see this in Sunday School classes where bored teenagers make life rough for the teacher because they’ve been forced to attend. If “my mom makes me go” is the only reason for a teenager to attend church, it’s a sure bet that teenager will stop attending completely when the decision to attend is completely his.

The key to helping a child transition from believing because their parents believe to a strong growing faith of their own is once again passion. Personal passion about the spiritual tenets of the faith they have been taught is essential to a continued walk in their family’s faith. That passion comes when the child experiences first hand the truths of what he has been taught. The child who is taught to pray and sees those prayers answered has taken a step towards gaining his own spiritual passion. As parents, we need to pray that God will show Himself to our children and believe that He will.

We also need to make sure that our children have opportunities to grow spiritually. Early on, we should make sure that they attend Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Awanas, or any of other programs of your religious tradition that are geared toward the spiritual education of young children. Young children are happy to attend. Once they are older, make sure that they have the funds to attend the state youth convention, summer camp, or the local youth retreat. If they find youth ministry in your church body less fulfilling, allow them to attend another local youth group. If you didn’t enjoy the ministry of your local church body, you’d leave. Some churches do a wonderful job of ministering to teens. Others less so. Make sure that your teen has access to a dynamic youth ministry.

Relying on the local church to do it all is a mistake that many busy parents make. Share with your children and teens your own current spiritual walk. They should know your personal testimony. If you’re active in your faith, you provide an example to them. Be prepared to discuss unemotionally their questions that seem to oppose what you believe. Honest questions given honest answers will help them in sorting out their mine/yours understanding of their beliefs. They want to hear the good reasons you’ve chosen to believe as you do.

The third priority is citizenship. We must assure that our children become good citizens. That entails more than just being law abiding. Good citizens make society a better place. Children need to learn that their actions can often have unintended consequences. They need to learn to take responsibility for all the consequences of their actions intended and unintended. "I didn’t mean to" as an excuse needs to be slowly weeded from a child’s life. By the time they are juniors and seniors in high school, they should be accepting responsibility for mistakes rather than hiding from it.

Children need a thorough grounding in the history of our nation and the workings of our democracy. For example, too many public schooled students have no clue about the real meaning of the first amendment. It’s not a matter of varying political beliefs. They factually don’t understand it. A recent poll of high school students showed that a huge percentage believed the government should be allowed to censor what newspapers are allowed to publish. That’s chilling. Homeschoolers have access to many fine resources about our nation’s founding, our constitution, and our government. High school students should be eagerly anticipating their first opportunity to vote. They should have a general understanding of current events and be able to put those events into historical context. Get them a subscription to a weekly or biweekly newsmagazine. My favorites are National Review and World, but I’m a conservative Christian. There are plenty of other options. Without thorough grounding in what American democracy is all about they will be too easily mislead by those who manipulate political speech to their own advantage.

Teaching good citizenship is often about the little everyday things in life like managing your check book properly, not taking on debt you can’t repay, or giving full value in the work you do for you employer. A good citizen returns money to the person who dropped it, tells the cashier when they’ve made a mistake in your favor, and helps move a little old lady’s belongings to her new home.

That brings us back to the idea of walking the walk you want your children to walk. If you want your child to be a good citizen, let them see you being a good citizen. Take them with you when you vote. Let them hear you discussing current events with your spouse. Take your teenage sons along when your church is moving the little old lady. I guarantee the other men and the little old lady will lavish them with so many accolades they’ll get embarrassed by the attention. They’ll see that what they think of as a little thing was a big thing to the person who needed their help.

We talk of homeschooling being a lifestyle while our children are young. That lifestyle doesn’t have to change when your children reach high school age. Yes, high school can seem intimidating, and it certainly doesn’t get any less busy for homeschool moms. By setting your priorities properly, you’ll find that the years fly by and that your pimply fourteen-year-old has become a young man you’re ready to set loose on the world.

Copyright ©  2005 Eclectic Homeschool Association

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