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Homeschooling a High Schooler Who Is Not College-Bound

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So you have a high school student who is definitely not college-bound. How do you educate him? What does she REALLY need? Are there alternative training options available? I asked myself these same questions not so very long ago. Here is what I discovered…

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Homeschooling a Student Who Isn't College-Bound

College isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. That became my new mantra. You know what? It really is OK. If you’re in the same boat, don’t row like CrAzY in an attempt to try and motivate your student into following an educational ocean wave when all they really need to do is competently maneuver around the the lake.

Repeat after me…college isn’t for everyone. Excellent.

One of the beauties of homeschooling high schoolers is the freedom it allows for non-traditional students to explore and learn… differently. So where can you find non-traditional learning opportunities? Everywhere.

Volunteer Opportunities

Many homeschool students volunteer. It’s a great way to serve others and learn while doing. And, volunteer opportunities abound–you literally can’t turn around without bumping into the perfect volunteer position. Businesses, non-profits, self-employed entrepreneurs, libraries, farms, fire stations, animal shelters and rescues, and even freelancers are always on the lookout for a little extra help.


My son, Jeremy, had no interest in attending college. When he developed an interest in horses while in high school, we found a wonderful resource in Flint Hill Farm and Educational Center . The owner relies on a large team of volunteers to help with a variety of tasks and chores. Jeremy learned how to properly care for and feed many different farm animals, how to safely handle, wash, and store chicken eggs, and all about daily farm operation. He often showed visitors around the farm and helped to answer their questions. To supplement his new interest, I created several agricultural-related electives. Ah, the beauty of homeschooling!

Volunteering teaches both academic and non-academic skill sets.

Academic skills include:

  • Computer proficiency
  • Writing
  • Public speaking
  • Organization
  • Training in the trades and subject-specific areas

Non-academic skills may include:

  • Time management
  • Responsibility
  • Tolerance
  • Patience
  • Social skills
  • Accountability

Jobs

What teen doesn’t crave a little extra cash?

A job can serve two purposes–teens can earn a little spending money while also learning the skills necessary to work in a specific field someday. Even being a gofer can lead to a basic understanding of how things are done in a particular business.

Jobs can even develop from volunteer positions. Our daughter, Emily, always loved children. She was a mother’s helper from a young age which led to frequent babysitting jobs. In high school, she volunteered at our church’s preschool, and you guessed it… that eventually led to a teaching position.

Volunteer positions and jobs teach similar skills; however, having a job has an added bonus–an introduction to finances. Your kids will learn all about debit vs credit, taxes, budgeting, and more. If they don’t yet have a savings and/or checking account, now is the perfect time.

When helping your high school student find a job, do your homework and be sure to access and follow the Federal Labor Laws. This may be especially important if your teen is out and about a lot during traditional public school hours and is very visible to the public and non-homeschooling eyes.

Mentoring

Mentoring centers on relationship.

According to Barbara Hettle, a fellow homeschool mom and experienced professional consultant, “Mentors can enrich a student’s academic performance and also provide an important support as students move from adolescence to adulthood.” A mentor can be anyone who shares similar interests with your student.

The beauty of mentoring is that it typically develops naturally as the result of an already established relationship between your student and someone within your community. Interest attracts interest.  “Mentors who share subject interest can provide additional depth to homeschooling subjects,” Barbara says.

Apprenticeships

When you think about an apprenticeship, does your mind wander back hundreds of years to colonial days? Apprenticeships have a rich and historic past and still provide excellent learning opportunities for high school homeschoolers today.

Apprenticeships can be paid or unpaid and can be found within a variety of trades and businesses. Two great resources recommended by fellow homeschool mom Susan Raber are the United States Department of Labor Apprenticeships USA and the Vocational Information Center’s Apprenticeship Training Resources page. Susan says that although she didn’t actively seek out apprenticeships for her children, the opportunities came about naturally due to her family’s strong connections within their community.

Creative High School Courses

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for non-college bound students to learn and receive training.

Another way to incorporate interest-specific training into your homeschool is through creative course work. This can be in the form of co-op classes, local community college classes, or personalized curriculum that you create for your student. Don’t worry. You don’t need to be an expert in your child’s specific area of interest because there are abundant resources available. Begin at the library and check out books on the subject. Search online–there are often free courses, interactive tutorials, and articles that you can incorporate into your courses. Add a little up close and personal view and seek out someone in the field for your teen to shadow.

Does your son really need to take higher math courses and a complex high school Chemistry course? Absolutely not! Here is an opportunity to get really creative. When my son was in high school, it was clear that he was not college bound. With a little creativity, we mixed several chemistry courses together to create just the right balance for his needs and ability while also doing a lot of  kitchen science. He learned the basics and that was sufficient for high school credit.

Are you concerned about your non-college bound high school student? That’s only natural. You’re a homeschool mom, after all. So, take a few deep breaths, grab a nice hot cup of tea, and check out this great resource at LetsHomeschoolHighSchool.com–College Alternatives.

How do you supplement your high school student’s coursework with real world experience? We’d love to know. Please, share your ideas in the comment section below.

Karen Doll

Karen Doll is a freelance writer based in the beautiful countryside of eastern Pennsylvania. As a veteran homeschool mom, she specializes in writing about home education topics and creative learning. Karen's work has appeared in Home School Enrichment Magazine, Seton Magazine, Oak Meadow Living Education Journal, The Organized Mom, and Write Shop. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching old movies, gardening, bird watching, and fishing the day away with her sweetheart in his dad's old rowboat. Stop by and visit Karen at her new cyber home: athomewithkarendoll.wordpress.com

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Comments

  1. Jennifer Vietzke

    Good Morning, I am new to all this. My son just turned 17 and is a Junior in High School. He is very gifted and already an entrepreneur. He started his videography/photography business at 15 years old. He spent this past summer on the media staff at a large kids Camp in New York in the Catskills. While there, he contacted several businesses and asked if he could come and make a content video for them. One was an open door helicopter company FLYNON and he exchanged a flight with them for content for their social media sites. The other was Performix House, a private gym for professional and serious athletes. He met with the media manager and made a video of him. Erik, the Media manager thought he wanted an internship and offered him the position, until he found out he was only 16 and lived in Texas. While in New York, he made over 60 videos. He flew home to Texas and then left the next day for Hawaii to film a friend’s son’s wedding. While there, he met a youth pastor from Colorado. Joshua, the youth pastor and his church flew my son to Colorado this past weekend to film a church conference, Refresh 2019, where Passion was the worship band. He got to hang out with them and the church has invited him to go to Israel in February as part of their media team. I’m sharing this because, my son struggles in school. He is a quiet and shy kid around his peers. He is very humble and never talks about himself. He doesn’t have any friends. I have been thinking about and praying for guidance in what to do. He was just diagnosed recently with dyslexia and we requested a C504 for him. He is a smart kid but academically, he just doesn’t care and struggles so much. I feel God is leading us to make this decision to homeschool him but I don’t know where to begin. While meeting with school officials, one of the counselors told me off record, that she would encourage me to go down this path. I am not sharing all of this info about him to brag. Everything I am sharing is all because of prayers being prayed over him and God opening doors and fulfilling his destiny. I’m sharing because I really don’t know how to get started and what I can use towards homeschooling. Any help would be welcomed and appreciated. He needs 1 science, 1 social studies and 2 English courses. He is not going to college because he is planning to be a content editor and hopefully video for church conferences, church camps and worship bands. There is a media arts school in Tyler, 40 minutes from us and all he needs is a high school diploma. It’s a 2 year internship and this would be our choice for continuing education. I want a good curriculum, and something relatively easy for him. My sister suggested time for learning curriculum. We just need to get him through and graduated so he can carry on with his future. Anyone have any suggestions for me? Thanks so much, Jennifer

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Jennifer, your son sounds like an amazing kid. He’s combined his skills with networking and getting professional experience. Wow!

      Homeschooling can be a great choice for kids like your son. Read my article on the Bad News and Good News of Beginning to Homeschool in High School so your eyes are wide open. Within that article, there is a box with other articles about homeschooling high school, so read those articles. Also read the article, Do Homeschoolers Get a Diploma? I also recommend you check into local and state resources about homeschooling to get understanding of your state’s laws and find some in-state resources. Some states do not have any specific requirements for homeschooling high school or for homeschool graduation. This does not mean you should not help him learn, but it may mean you have a lot of flexibility.

      Because you are new to homeschooling, you may not be aware just how flexible you can be. Many homeschoolers use interest-led learning as part of their teens’ school work. For example, if he wrote and produced videos, those could be part of an English credit. If he did the video on something historical or governmental, the video projects could be part of a social studies credit. He could perhaps even do a science credit through video, perhaps recording wildlife, documenting habitats, or making short documentaries. Topics could be local plant and animals species, how the environment is impacted positively or negatively due to policies or growth, a video “bird count,” the changes in a stream throughout the year, and so on. Yes! You could give him credit for things he learns through these video projects!

      If not through interests, some kids learn by doing hands-on things and having more experiences. Check out my ideas for Earning High School Government Credit Differently—these would be a great way for your son to get a social studies credit, and I could even see him incorporating video into some of his field trips and experiences.

      In other words, homeschoolers do not have to use a pre-made curriculum. Hands-on kids can do hands-on things and become truly engaged in their learning. That said, for some families, coming to homeschooling relatively late may mean that stepping through an online curriculum feels the most like “completing school,” and it’s a legit approach to getting credits out of the way, also. My personal bias is that online curriculum is often not the best fit for kids who struggle academically when there are opportunities for engagement by doing things. You can read curriculum reviews and communicate with homeschool advocates in your state or locality to get more insight. Be sure to explain your son’s strong interest-base; I really think there is room for him to homeschool largely through his interests to “get him through and graduated,” but you will need to see what is required where you live and think about what will work best for him.

      Best wishes!

      Jeanne

      • Jennifer Vietzke

        Wow Jeanne, thank you so much for responding so quickly and for all of the information. We withdrew my son from school today. We are going on Friday to a local University to see if we can enroll him in a dual credit photography and Business Finance class in the spring. I love your ideas about him writing and producing his own videos. That’s perfect for him. I really don’t want to use the curriculum used in public schools. In speaking with the lady in charge of academics and curriculum at our school, she suggested several on line sources, like Rainbow Resources and switched on schoolhouse. I am not sure if you are familiar with these. I have been researching so many curriculum sites but the information you shared with me is like a gold mine! Matthew was offered a beginning internship today for Skip Martin, the former lead singer of Kool & The Gang, by his Business Manager. It’s an unpaid position for now but to be an understudy of some very good videographers and photographers and have that on his resume and portfolio, is so valuable. Right after withdrawing him from school, we went to have lunch and ran into a client of mine, who happens to be Skip Martin’s Business Manager. I shared about Matthew with her and that’s when she offered him the position! God was totally confirming this decision! I am so excited about writing our own curriculum. I know God led me to this site so I could receive this information from you, as well. I’m a rule person, so it’s a bit challenging steering away from the traditional curriculum, but we are going for it. Thank you again for taking the time to respond and give me such great information. Have a great night.
        God Bless,
        Jennifer

        • Jeanne Faulconer

          You don’t need to use a curriculum from the public schools, and in fact you don’t need to use a formal curriculum at all, although of course, that is one way to go and has some advantages in being clearcut and finite. I’m going to suggest you look at unschooling and unit studies (in addition to the interest-led learning I linked to the other day) as other options that may be more flexible for him. Unschooling can actually take years to get your head around, and you don’t have that long since he’s a senior, but reading about unschooling might give you some ideas. Many teens do unschool, learning through their projects and interests. Parents can help quantify that learning on a transcript. It’s odd to step out of the box, but learning does NOT have to be arranged in “courses” to “count.” I know, right?

          Sounds like more opportunities are opening up for your son, which may lead the way to another way to go. You will want to make your son a transcript and give him a diploma when he meets the requirements YOU make for his graduation. Community college and dual enrollment can definitely help if he wants to go to college in the future, even if you don’t imagine that for him at this time. You will want to help him keep up with outside evidence that he could do well in college, on the job, or in his own business. Think in terms of a transcript, portfolio, and resume

          Good luck to you and your son. Networking can be a big part of facilitating success with homeschooling, and it sounds like you have that well in hand.

          Jeanne

          • Jennifer Vietzke

            Thank you so much again for all of this valuable information. I have pretty much decided that unschooling is the way we are going to proceed. I do have a lot to read about and then decide how to approach it. This is such an exciting but unchartered path we are embarking on. I sent e-mails to all of his teachers and principals. I received so much encouragement and support from them. Most of them were not even surprised about our decision. I do have a lot to figure out but will all the information and God’s guidance, we will be successful. His portfolio is already so large and he is continuing to add to it! Thanks again for all your help.

            God Bless,

            Jennifer V

          • Jeanne Faulconer

            Best wishes to you and your son, Jennifer!

  2. Sam Elliott

    I’m a homeschool Dad, but I thought I’d leave a comment anyway. Great article about a great truth. Our son is not college interested and quite frankly I’d hate to send him to college these days due to the anti Christian attitudes. I am self employed and have been involving him in my business since he was 12. He has learned the basics of success in life, i.e being responsible to get up and show up for work, learning to persevere through challenges instead of giving up and ducking out, stepping up to meet challenges rather than fading away, how to work with tools, how to solve problems, understanding overhead and profit and now I’m teaching him about taxes and the dangers of debt and to balance a bank account to name a few. I believe these fundamentals will serve him throughout his life no matter what he does.By the way, in our new economy, I believe that the people who are set to prosper are those who can “Build and Fix Things”. Great article!

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Sam!

      We’re glad to have a homeschool dad add to the conversation! Thanks for appreciating our article. We think there are many ways for homeschooled kids to transition into an independent and satisfying life. Being able to “build and fix things” is a valuable skill, and it sounds like you’ve prepared your son well to use those skills now and in the future.

      Thank you for adding your perspective!

      Jeanne

      • RANDY GARRISON

        I LIVE IN MANDEVILLE, LOUISIANA AND HAVE A 15 YEAR OLD GRANDSON. HE HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED AS ADHD. HE NEEDS TO REPEAT THE 9TH GRADE AS THE FAMILY TRAVELED SO MUCH LAST YEAR THAT HE LITERALLY MISSED THAT YEAR. WE WANT DESPERATELY TO HAVE HIM HOME SCHOOLED BUT NOT BY ME (I AM NOT QUALIFIED) . IS THERE A CO-OP OR GROUP TYPE OF SETTING WHERE HE CAN BE SCHOOLED ? HE HAS AN IEP . PLEASE GIVE ME SOME INSIGHT. WE FEEL THAT A CLASSROOM ATMOSPHERE WITH 5 OR SO STUDENTS WOULD BE BEST FOR HIM. ANY HELP YOU CAN OFFER WILL BE MOST APPRECIATED.

        SUZANNE GARRISON

        • Jeanne Faulconer

          Hi Suzanne,

          Because TheHomeSchoolMom is a national and international website, your best bet is to find local homeschoolers who can tell you what is available in your specific area. In many states, it’s not legal for someone else to homeschool your child. In some states, what you’re seeking would be considered a small private school. In some states, an informal cottage school like you’re describing is common and legal, or at least not expressly illegal. You need to find someone who knows the laws of your state and who has connections with homeschoolers in your specific community. There are places where homeschool parents “take in” a few kids to homeschool alongside their own children, so if it’s legal there, that may be an option for you. When I lived in Mississippi, I even knew of someone who specialized in homeschooling kids who had special learning needs. I have no way of knowing if anyone does that in your community. Use our list of state and local groups to try to find someone near you who will know more about what is legal there.

          Jeanne

  3. Jeanne Faulconer

    Hi Tina,

    I agree that our language around the default expectations for our graduating teens does matter. You pointed out saying “College isn’t for everyone,” does make it sound “as if college is the preferred end-goal for all and not attending is a sign of some sort of failure.”

    I definitely get and agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll add that this can be sort of tricky. I think there are some points when things are changing or need to change that we might need “both/and.” On the one hand, saying “College isn’t for everyone” is reinforcing the norm in the way you’re pointing out. Of course!

    On the other hand, I think Karen’s original piece reflects the words many parents may say to themselves in the midst of a highly pressurized college arms race. In other words, they are words many parents may identify with. They’re thinking about their own homeschooled child in the sea of conversations they are hearing about the be-all, end-all of selecting and getting admitted to “the right college.”

    Parents sometimes have to grip with their own moment when they realize they’ve always “known” their child would go to college (because it’s the “best” thing), and now it appears this won’t happen. In other words, many people buy into the expectations until those expectations no longer seem like they will work for their child’s individual situation.

    “College isn’t for everyone” is such a common search term that it autofills as soon as you start typing it into a browser search bar.

    I agree with your sentiment here: “In reality. homeschool parents should be the ones beating the drums of individualization all through high school and into post-secondary endeavors because we are (supposed to be) thinking outside the box by not putting our kids into institutional school.”

    However, I see that many people question educational defaults (and other societal defaults) one stage at a time, as those defaults are affecting them personally. They question common birth practices when they’re having babies, common schooling practices when they have school-age children, common expectations for young adults when they have young adults, common societal norms around aging and death when they are getting older. And so on.

    There are always folks on the edge or a few steps in front or thinking more globally about how individuals actually are, could be, or should be part of a bigger movement. That’s wise and inspirational and often a catalyst for important action.

    Meanwhile, people also need support when they are right at that moment of realization: “Oh here we are with a teen we’ve been thinking would do college as is the societal expectation, and college is not really going to be the best option.”

    I love thinking about these kinds of things. When the “expected” is not the optimal for all individuals, the lens of the language we use to discuss it becomes incredibly important, as you so well point out.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Jeanne

  4. Tina H.

    I have seen the tragedy that Robina has seen – i.e., homeschool parents pushing college to the point of idolatry and at their children’s expenses. I even hear that when we say, “College isn’t for everyone,” because that makes it sound as if college is the preferred end-goal for all and not attending is a sign of some sort of failure. In reality. homeschool parents should be the ones beating the drums of individualization all through high school and into post-secondary endeavors because we are (supposed to be) thinking outside the box by not putting our kids into institutional school. I don’t know what it will take to turn this tide but those of us who see the truth – that college isn’t necessary for MOST people to live healthy, productive life and that those who choose to attend are NOT better or smarter – need to shout from the rooftops that our goal as homeschoolers should not be to get our kids into a college but to discover, grow, and maximize – with joy – the real gifts and passions of each individual child, wherever that leads after high school. If enough of us do that, maybe some will actually hear.

  5. Robina

    Karen,

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    A few years ago I asked a group of homeschool moms (in our co-op) if they would be disappointed if their children did NOT attend college. They unanimously replied, “Yes!”

    It was saddening to think that so many parents (and their children) are locked/brainwashed into the traditional mindset that your child should/MUST cross a stage to receive a diploma in one hand with a packed suitcase in the other…headed for college. Many are entrapped into thinking that college is the end-all/be-all; college is the only way that a person could ‘amount to anything’ or ‘the only way to get a good-paying job.’ So, so, so, so sad.

    Age (50’s), experience, the ability to think for myself, life lessons, and examining things with the eyes/mind of Christ has freed me from the traditions of men that keep people in bondage. Praise God for liberty!

    So much more that could be said, but I will keep it succinct. The greatest pursuit is that of knowing God, seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness, seeking Wisdom, and getting knowledge and understanding. Then, we can boldly approach the Throne of Grace to seek the mind of God as to what His plans and calling are for our lives/our children’s lives. The world’s standards, expectations, and traditions DO NOT define who we are in Christ Jesus.Lastly, as believers in this day and age, we REALLY need to be trusting the strong arm of God (translation: live by faith), not in degrees, salaries, and intellectual capacity.

    • Karen Doll

      Thank you, Robina 🙂

      As homeschool moms, we want the best for our children. We have a stake in their education, and we’re passionate about helping them to succeed, not only in school, but in life as well. So it can be difficult when they’re just not interested in college. We can’t put motivation into them, we can only encourage and help to shape and mold who they are already. It’s wonderful to see so many options for these students. As a mom who raised both a college-bound student and one who was not college- bound, I know there are pros and cons for each path and both my husband and I worked alongside each of our children to help them navigate their chosen path. I think that if we’re willing to allow our children to follow their hearts while also helping them to get the best training possible, we’re giving them a firm foundation to enter the world as a happy and successful adult.

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I appreciate that you took the time to respond to my post.

      Best wishes 🙂

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