Spotlight on the Crew — Homeschooling High School – Handling the Hard Subjects

{This week’s Spotlight on the Crew article is brought to you from Sarah, at Ahoy Maties!}

I really didn’t think of myself as a veteran homeschooler until very recently.  We have six children, all of whom homeschooled from 2004 until now.  Three of our six have graduated, and our fourth will graduate this year.  All of our children who have graduated have been successful in college and in the work force.  I will say that the road through high school homeschooling has not always been an easy road to travel.  I have encountered some fellow homeschoolers who are extremely relaxed about the high school years and some who are extremely uptight and nervous about the high school years. There is a happy medium.

Being a former public and private school high school teacher, I never have been a stresser when the high school years came on the scene.  Friends ask me all the time, “How do you handle teaching Algebra?” or “How do you handle teaching Chemistry?”  Honestly, I didn’t give those subjects much thought when they came about.  I knew my kids had to take the classes, so they did it.  O.k. to be honest, I do have a very strange combination degree which has given me a little more confidence in teaching the harder subjects my kids encounter; but, I can guarantee you that we have encountered subjects that have made me cringe.  My personal nemesis is Physics and Statistics.  For some reason I have a total mental block with these subjects.  So, what do I do when these come up in our high school homeschooling?  I farm them out.

No, I don’t give up and send my kids back to public school.  I either find another parent who enjoys and understands the subject that is giving me difficulty and is willing to help teach my child that subject, or I find a homeschool tutorial or co-op offering the class.  My kid have several friends whose parents have formed a small family co-op and it is working beautifully. One of the moms loves English grammar and writing, one loves science, and one of the dads is a math guru.  So, the three teenage boys involved meet at each others homes throughout the week to be tutored in and work through each of these subjects.  I love this arrangement because it allows for parental involvement and total individualization of the course work.  I work at a homeschool tutorial center 2 1/2 days a week.  Using my experience of years of science teaching, I teach 14 high school science and lab classes each week.  For some reason, it seems a lot of parents have a fear of upper level science classes and especially science labs.

Math is another difficult area for a lot of kids and parents.  I have used other parents, co-ops, tutorials, and even online classes / videos to help teach math.  Every one of my kids is different and I have used different approaches with each.  Sometimes the problem isn’t that a subject is hard, it’s just that a child needs a different approach to learn a subject.  Many classes that I find easy, my kids think are hard – because we all learn differently.

Is there a blanket solution to more difficult high school subjects? No, there is not.  As a homeschooling parent, watch your kids and see how they learn best.  Examine your own likes and dislikes and areas of expertise when it comes to high school subjects.  If you are not comfortable with teaching a subject, find some type of outside source to help teach your child that subject.  A viable option in some areas is dual-enrollment at a community college.  Our daughter chose this route and ended up graduating from high school as a sophomore in college.  She was inducted into the college honor society and transferred to a four year school a year later with $30,000 in scholarships.  The dual-enrollment option was wonderful for her because she was able to conquer some difficult subjects through taking all of her courses online.  I was around to serve as a mentor for her and help her learn how to schedule her time, study, and approach professors.  This option isn’t for everyone, but it is sometimes an option to consider.  Most importantly, when encountering a hard subject, be honest with your child.  Let him/her know this subject is difficult for you, or may be difficult for him/her.  Allow your child to help you explore different methods of instruction for the class.  Try something different than you usually do – try videos, interviews, games, computer learning, or online classes.  There are so many options available now.  Don’t shy away from the hard subjects!  You can work them into your high schooler’s class list; and, you can succeed.

Sarah Dugger is a pastor’s wife and mother of six.  She has been homeschooling since 2004.  She serves in many capacities with different publications through TOS.  She has been a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew since 2010. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter as well as on her blog, Ahoy Maties!.

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