The following is an excerpt from The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield. While written for high school, it is applicable to all homeschoolers.
There are some parts to planning your educational program that are the same for both junior and senior high. The graduation requirements for junior high will be different, of course, than the requirements for high school graduation, but the way in which those requirements are set is the same. Success in both junior high and high school will depend on many of the same factors, for example, the student’s attitude, his readiness to learn, how well your course of study fits your ultimate goals, and how well your requirements and assignments are communicated.
The scope of this book is to help you set requirements and design studies and courses for your own school that meet the goals of your family. It would do no good for me to simply show you all my family’s requirements and course outlines if you had no interest in studying the same things, or if your students are not at the same level of learning in each subject area as mine are. Your requirements will be different from mine because your family is different.
Occasionally a parent will say to me, “Can’t I just go out and buy a pre-packaged program for each grade level and follow that without all this other planning?” To some degree, you could do that. However, even with the pre¬packaged programs, you have to make some decisions at high school level about what to study. Not only will you need to decide which subjects to study, you will also need to decide which assignments and projects to use within each course.
You can’t avoid doing some planning for junior high, and even more for high school. Choosing a pre-packaged program doesn’t mean that no planning has been done; it simply means that you are letting the designer of that program do your planning for you. That may be fine if you like his plan, but even this will require you to do some thinking and assessing.
The easiest, most successful, and most fun way to make a decision about your school program is first to decide what you are looking for, and then find or design a program that fits your needs. Choosing a pre-packaged program is usually hit and miss. Some subjects work out fine; others turn out to be a waste of time.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way (Proverbs 14:8 KJV).
Some people become nervous about developing a plan for junior or senior high school, feeling that they aren’t “experts” and might make mistakes that will seriously mar their children’s future. There is no need for fear. There are plenty of high school plans adopted by “experts” that you can use as a guide. Plus, you have access to the most expert “expert” there is.
Seek the Lord and His strength: seek His face evermore. Remember His marvelous works that He hath done (Psalm 105:4-5 KJV).
Taking time to pray over your school plans is the single most valuable aid to setting up your program. The Lord promises that if we ask for His direction, He will provide. Can we honestly think that if we turn to Him, He will lead us wrong?
Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24 KJV).
If we trust the Lord to guide us, He will fill in any gaps that would cause crucial mistakes. It is naive to think there will be no gaps at all in your children’s education, whether they attend your private homeschool, a campus-based private school, a public school, or even if you hire an expensive master tutor to move into your home and teach your children full time. Who among all the adults you know learned everything he ever needed to know in high school? Can it even be possible for us to ever learn all we need to know?
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away (1 Corinthians 13: 9-1a).
Think for a moment about what you do when you realize you need to know something that you haven’t learned. For example, if you get a new alarm clock and don’t know how to set it, or if you want to bake a new type of cake, or if you want to use a brand new type of building material, what do you do? Obviously, you look it up!
Rather than trying to teach our children everything they might ever be required to know, we need to consider that during their years under our authority, we should concentrate on covering the basic know ledge that will carry them through life, fostering a love for learning and teaching the basic tools of learning. We must trust the Lord to guide us as we make our plans, and trust that He will alter our courses if necessary.
A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps (Proverbs 16:9 KJV).
So we begin by establishing educational goals that tell what is included in the basic foundational knowledge we want to cover. If you have not set educational goals for your family, this may seem like a lot of preliminary work. However, by not jumping ahead to the fun stuff you will save hours of time and many future arguments or misunderstandings. If you do nothing else with this book, I hope you will use it to help you set clear educational goals for your family.
Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18 KJV).