Planning for the High School Years

by Dawn Oaks on June 24, 2015 · 1 comment

Planning High School

Aside from the day that we first decided to withdraw our children from the public school system, the thing that most brought fears and concerns was whether we would be able to successfully homeschool through the high school years.  I found that a lot of my fears were released as I started developing a plan that would work for each of our children.  Today, I will share with you some of the things that we do as each of our children begin to embark on their high school years.

  • Think of the Specific Child – All of our children are not cut from the same cookie cutter.  We can look back to when they were little and how they each reached different milestones in different ways and on different schedules.  This will be true of navigating the high school years as well.   I strongly believe that God has already instilled in each of our children gifts and talents that He will use in the coming years to His Glory.  Rather than working against this natural wiring, the goal is to develop these areas with confidence that they are part of the great plan and purpose for our child’s life.  It requires taking time to put aside our preconceived notions of what we want them to be or do and really seek what God wants for them.
  • Discuss Goals and Plans with Your Child – By the time your child reaches the high school years, he or she will be old enough to have started forming his or her own dreams and goals.  It is important to remember that this is their high school education.  As a parent, there are insights you can share and advice to be given.  However, the earlier that your student takes ownership that these are their high school years the better.  It is not Mom and Dad that will have to do the work or prepare for college entrance exams.  These are their years to not just check off academic requirements, but develop greater independence, self-motivation, and goal setting.  Being an active part of the planning for high school is a great place to begin.
  • Become Familiar with Your State’s Requirements for Graduation – It is nearly impossible to know if you have crossed the finish line if you don’t know what it looks like.  A critical piece is in knowing exactly what your state requires of your student for high school graduation.  For many students attending college, a lot of their focus will be on college entrance exams and getting in the right classes to be accepted to the college or university of their choice.  More fundamental, however, is being sure to meet the minimum graduation requirements for your state.  I was able to find the requirements for our state simply by using an internet search engine with the words “Kentucky High School Graduation Requirements”.  A copy of our state’s requirements can be found here.
  • Determine What Colleges are Looking For – It is always better to err on the cautious side.  In this situation, I tend to plan that my children will attend either college or trade school after graduation.  Generally, there are some recommended courses that should be taken in high school as well as minimum acceptable scores on either the SAT, ACT, or school specific tests.  A great starting point is this grid of recommended coursework compiled by the Home School Legal Defense Association.
  • Budget Time for College Entrance Exams – College entrance is a competitive environment for both gaining admission to the school of your choice and gaining as many scholarship dollars as possible.  Success in this area usually requires that the student take either the SAT or the ACT multiple times with study time prior to taking the exam.  Early selection processes mean that the student will ideally have had an opportunity to take the exam of their choice multiple times prior to the end of the Fall Term of their senior year.  We have had our children take their first exam at the end of their sophomore year to get a feel for where they are at.  During their junior year, focussed study time is built into their normal academic schedule to continue boosting their scores in areas needed.  The exam is then retaken at the end of the Junior year and periodically during the Fall semester of their senior year as needed to obtain the score that they have set as their goal.  More information can be obtained about the SAT at here and ACT information can be found here.
  • Start Filling in Boxes – As we begin the high school years and maybe even some high school work in the 8th grade, we look at the plan and develop a grid of what needs to be completed for graduation.  As a course of either a half or whole credit is completed, we fill it into the grid with the grade that was achieved.  I look to use an Excel Spreadsheet for this purpose, but is can also be easily done on paper and kept in a file folder.  Whichever way you choose to keep your records, be sure to include any awards, volunteer service, work experience, and extra curricular activities.  Each of these elements may be key as colleges starting awarding scholarships.  It is also a great thing to review as your child’s overall achievement during their high school graduation.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Change Course – Our second oldest initially thought she wanted to pursue further education and a career in agriculture.  During her first two years of high school, she completed coursework in Agriscience and Horticulture.  At the end of her sophomore year, her thoughts changed with her heart leaning more toward a career in physical therapy.  We have switched gears to fit in Biology as well as Anatomy and Physiology.  She may choose to double up on her science credits during her senior year and add in Chemistry.  That will be a decision we make shortly.  If so, either Horticulture or Agriscience will still be ideal at filling in an elective credit hour.  There is always flexibility as your child works out her plan for the future.
  • Remember the Child – As you consider the journey through the high school years, it is important to remember that your child is a person and not a machine.  It is great to have a wonderful academic record, but your child will not only be navigating more advanced coursework.  They will be facing challenges in developing relationships, dealing with hormones that are all over the place with the onset of puberty, pressures to succeed or to even figure out what might come next, and also develop Godly and mature character in many other areas of their lives.  The teen years are jammed packed with much more that makes up your child than just the academics.  

In closing, I want to encourage you that a plan is meant to be a guide or map and not the Law.  Flexibility and grace are needed as you and your child grow during these years.  Ultimately, these high school years belong to your child.  You can lay out a great plan, but it is up to them to work the plan, stretch themselves into areas of growth, and to continue making choices that help them rather than hinder them.  This is part of their training up.  At the end of the day, it is challenging to separate your worth as a parent from your child’s academic achievement.  My greatest challenge to you is in making sure that your relationship with your son or daughter is kept in greater value than their academic success.  This can be challenging as both of you feel the pressure to prove that homeschooling works and realize the weight that these years can have on future plans.  But is the academic success worth losing your child’s heart?  Cover these years in prayer and trust that the Lord will give you the desires of your heart in both the academics and the relationship.  And after your pray, just keep doing the next right thing!

I encourage you to visit some of the other blogs from the Review Crew that are participating in the Homeschooling Through High School series and have also prepared their thoughts on Planning the High School Years for Your Homeschool.

Meg from Adventures with Jude on Planning Your Homeschool High School

Chareen at Every Bed of Roses with thoughts on Planning to Homeschool through the High School Years

April from ElCloud Homeschool shares Homeschooling High School: Planning For High School

Debra over at Footprints in the Butter asks: You mean I have to PLAN our Homeschool High School?!?

Michele at Family, Faith and Fridays shares Here’s the Plan

Lisa at Golden Grasses says Don’t Panic! Homeshcooling High School Blog Hop

Debbie at Debbie’s Homeschool Corner Planning Out a High School Program

Gena over at I Choose Joy! shares her The Top Tip for Planning Homeschool High School

Kym at Homeschool Coffee Break shares on Planning and Preparing for Success

Tess from Circling Through This Life shares on Planning the High School Years

Erica over at Be The One shares Planning and Record Keeping for High School

Jennifer from A Glimpse of Our Life on Planning For Homeschooling Highschool

Carol over at Home Sweet Life on Making A Plan

Wendy at Life at Rossmont shares thoughts on Planning for High School

Cristi from Through the Calm and Through the Storm shares on Making High School Plans

Leah from As We Walk Along the Road shares her thoughts on Making Plans for Homeschooling Through High School

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The study of the Civil War is always a tricky topic with my family heritage being from New York and my husband’s from Mississippi.  For this reason, I was thrilled when we were able to obtain a copy of Time Travelers American History Study: Civil War from Home School in the Woods.  Journey with us as I provide an overview of this product and our thoughts as we reviewed it.


The Unit

The Time Travelers American History Study: Civil War is part of the History Through The Ages series from Home School in the Woods.  It has 25 days of study that can be spread over 5-10 weeks.  Although the study is designed to be used with students in grades 3-8, it can easily be expanded with additional resources to be used at the high school level.  This is exactly how we used this resource with our son who is a high school freshman.


The downloadable files are formatted into easy to follow menus.  Each lesson is broken into three sections within the menu item for that lesson: text pages, project pages, and masters for the lesson.  The text pages are the base information for the lesson that contains the teaching content.  There are generally 2-3 text pages per lesson.  The project pages contain a summary of the activities and directions for completing them.  The masters are the actual pages to print for each of the activities for each lesson.  I chose to print the text and project pages, but these could easily be used from your computer without printing.

This Civil War unit certainly covers the issue of slavery, but there is also so much more.  Many resources equate the Civil War with slavery while in reality there were many other issues at play.  These other factors as well as battle strategies, life during those times, and different aspects of military life are all covered.

What We Did:

Prior to undertaking lessons for the day, I would pre-print the text pages, project pages, and the masters for the activities that we would be doing that day.  Days 1-4 of each week each contained new learning material and activities.  Day 5 would be an opportunity to complete activities from Days 1-4 that we did not have time to get to, more thoroughly complete activities we began but could expand upon, and also contained FactFile Cards for vocabulary, significant events from the week, or other terms or concepts to review.

We would begin our lesson by reading together the text pages.  These pages were written in dialogue that sounded very conversational and really brought the events to life.  My son who is normally bored with traditional textbook reading was hooked by the story-like nature of the text pages.  These were accented by the inclusion of primary source documents, such as the inaugural addresses of Abraham Lincoln.  Using primary source documents allows you to get to know the man behind the event and not just what may have transpired.


A copy of the Gettysburg Address included as one of the primary source documents in the study.

Some days we completed all of the activities within a given lesson and on other days we were selective in the activities we were going to complete.  In doing this unit with our high school aged son, we spent little time on the copywork that was provided.  There was a lesson that contained information on the dress of women during the time that did not grab our son’s interest.  However, the activity that allowed him to put together overlays of the uniforms that various soldiers wore and their significance or history was a much bigger hit.


I truly loved that we were free to personalize the study to fit our interests and level without feeling like we failed in some way by not completing every single activity/master.  On most days, we spent approximately 60 minutes on the daily lessons and activities combined.  There were some days that our time on this Civil War study exceeded that because of interest.  For example, we studied the significant role of the flag bearers as a major source of communication on the battle front.  Our learning took us outside where our son took on the role of a flagbearer and sent messages using a flagpole we had at home.  He soon realized not only the importance of this job, but also the physical toll it took in waving a heavy flag for an extended time in sending messages to his comrades.

Some of the other activities that we did each day were placement of figures and events on a timeline, mapwork outlining and sequencing the battles in the war, and lapbook activities.

One of the things that this study brought out in our son that I previously was unaware of was his love for cooking.  He prepared us a meal of Sausage & Apples from a recipe that was included in Day 10 of the study along with biscuits and scrambled eggs.  He looked forward to the 5th day of each week where new recipes were presented.  Because of our mixture of Yankee and Rebel blood in our family lines, he was interested to do a little extra research to find that Sausage and Apples was a favorite of troops specifically in Virginia.

Loving our Civil War Cooking!

Loving our Civil War Cooking!

To bring the unit to a close, there is a planned Jamboree when the 25 lessons have been completed.  This is a time to make a feast from the different recipes provided, dress in time appropriate costumes (instructions for making these are included in the activities in the unit), and even play corn cob checkers which was another hands-on activity.  It is an opportunity to take the whole family back in time and create your own living history.

Our Thoughts:

We would definitely give a thumbs up to Home School in the Woods on the job they have done in presenting the Civil War through their Time Travelers American History Study: Civil War unit.  It is a great survey of this critical period in U.S. History.  Students will not only receive an overview of the Battle Between the States, but start to live it through the wide variety of crafts, lapbook activities, cooking, and other activities.  Because this study is generally intended for use with those in grades 3-8, we did add in pieces of literature, audiobooks, documentaries and additional internet research to increase the depth of study for our high schooler.  It is in adding these additional elements that it truly could become a 10 week study while still doing history each day even for younger learners.

The freedom to choose from a breadth of activities allowed our son to explore areas of interest to a greater degree and also cover the material in the time we had allotted without cutting out critical elements.

The Civil War unit is just one in the History Through the Ages.  Home School in the Woods has other series and products that may be of interest as you explore both World History and history from all periods of time.  A couple years back we had the opportunity to review the Great Empires study from their Activity Studies.  A copy of our review can be found here.  We encourage you to stay tuned in the coming weeks as we have the fortune to be also be reviewing their new Project Passport World History Study on Ancient Egypt.  A full list of their products can be found here.

So the next time you have a history unit that you would love to explore using lapbook activities, primary source documents, crafts, cooking, timelines, and maps, I would encourage you to consider the vast array of studies from Home School in the Woods.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product described above in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any way.  All of the opinions shared in this review are mine or those of my family members.  This is being disclosed in accordance with FTC Regulations.

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Tapping into Great Resources for Homeschooling High School

June 3, 2015

Each month I will be joining with other members of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew to discuss different aspects of homeschooling through the high school years.  This seems to be a topic that many parents become concerned about.  There is the pressure of extra requirements, transcripts, course selection, and preparing for what comes after high […]

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Using Video to Bring Biblical History to Life

May 21, 2015

As we homeschool our children, we see it as an opportunity to disciple the whole child.  Today’s review is for a documentary released by FishFlix entitled, “Exploring Ephesus: City of Apostles“.  Although we have always taught our children that the Bible is true and is history, being able to journey to modern day Turkey with […]

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Unit Studies with Homeschool Legacy ~ A Review

May 20, 2015

Over the years, our family has had the pleasure of using a wide variety of unit studies.  There have been studies for literature, science, and social studies or history units.  There are also those that cross over major subject areas in really exploring and experiencing a unit of study.  This is exactly what we have […]

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A Great Resource for the Homeschool Mom in Your Life

May 6, 2015

It seems only fitting that our latest product review is something specifically for the homeschool mom in your life and just in time for Mother’s Day.  I recently had a chance to read a copy of The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight written by Heidi St. John and published by Real Life Press. The […]

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A Spring Day on the Farm

May 4, 2015

When you live on a farm, the things before you each day are just part of your normal.  I was reminded today by a friend that others really have no idea what it may be like to live on a farm.  So here is a glimpse into our day, at least what today had in […]

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Spelling You See – Product Review

April 27, 2015

Spelling You See is a relatively new spelling curriculum published by Demme Learning who produces the Math U See curriculum.  We have never used their math curriculum, but were really interested to see how their “visual” approach to spelling would be received by our son.  Our review is focusing on their Level F book entitled Ancient Achievements. The […]

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Marriage is a Choice, Not a Feeling

April 24, 2015

It never ceases to amaze me that when you talk to many young people about marriage, their first response is about the wedding.  There is always so much excited and anticipation of an approaching wedding day.  Handsome men in tuxedos, the bride in her flowing white gown, beautiful flowers adorning the surroundings, and melodious music […]

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Orphs of the Woodlands ~ Product Review

April 17, 2015

A new on-line tool that our family recently had the opportunity to try out and now review is Orphs of the Woodlands created and sold through Star Toaster. I am looking forward to sharing more with you about this resource that is part reading adventure and part fun game that will enthrall your child that likes to […]

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