by Marie Stout

In the state of California, there is no one way to prepare for high school. As the parent-educator, you get to choose the Course of Study and how you want to implement those classes. There is no requirement as a private school regarding when classes are covered and how many hours need to be logged. Public schools are different. They have a path that every student needs to follow, no matter what their strengths. Up front, you need to know that public schools decide what units they will take and IF they will take any from your homeschool or other private schools. Think of home educating a high school student as a one way street. Once you start, it is very difficult for the student to go back to a public school and have the school accept their units.

In California, there is a compulsory attendance requirement until the age of 18 or a high school diploma has been earned. However, there is an exception. If, at the age of 16, your student wants to take the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam), they can test out of high school and get on with their own life. The CHSPE is seen as “early graduation”, whereas the GED is taken after 18.

In preparing for homeschool high school, here are some things to think about:

  • Does your student want to pursue a trade?
  • Is your student going the community college route?
  • Is your student planning on a life of public state service (CA police officer, CA Department of Health, etc.)?
  • Is your student college bound, going straight to a four-year college or university?

Let’s take a look at some of the options for post-graduation plans and how those plans can impact your student’s high school experience at home.

Trade Schools

These options generally prepare students for specific careers, like being a plumber, welder, electrician, carpenter, etc. Trade schools can take many different forms, including community college classes or separate specialized schools. A student can generally start an apprenticeship early and be earning a full paycheck by the time they are 18. You can still educate them at home in language arts, social studies, science, math, and Bible, but you choose what you want to teach them to succeed in adult life. Be prepared to have your student take the CHSPE to qualify for membership in some of the trade unions.

Community College Route

If your student is planning to pursue a four-year degree but wants to start at community college, you can plan out your four years of language arts, math, science, social studies, and electives. Go to your community college and see what can be used for dual enrollment. For instance, if you are not up for teaching Algebra 2, see if you can enroll in the community college Algebra class for dual enrollment purposes. It takes care of your math for high school and also takes care of your Algebra for college.

Just keep in mind that these classes are intended for young adults, so if you have a naïve 14-year-old, you might not want to put your student in a Biology class that details and/or discusses sexual scenarios when they are covering communicable diseases. Also, remember that these classes are one semester long. So, if your student were to take Spanish 1 in high school, it would take the whole year. If your student were to take Spanish 1 at the community college, it would be the same information, but it is done in 15 weeks, with a much more intense workload. The benefit of dual enrollment is that you can knock out 30 units (or more) during high school that may be applied to a four-year university.  The magic words here are “matriculation agreements,” and you’ll want to check which units will matriculate to the colleges of your choice. All community colleges have matriculation agreements for the different universities in the country.

Life of Public Service

Some students don’t know this is the route they are going to take until they have completed four years of high school. Who says at the age of 16 that they want to be a phlebotomist, for example? If your student will not be earning a high school diploma, make sure your student takes the CHSPE. Plan on doing a traditional four-year curriculum of language arts, math, science, social studies, and electives. Beyond the CA State Department of Health, you might find that law enforcement agencies want students to have taken the CHSPE, as they are looking for diplomas from accredited schools or a college degree.

Four-Year College or University

Get on the websites of your students’ top four choices. Go to Admissions. There will typically be a section that details what they are looking for in a homeschooled applicant. Take the most rigorous plan and create your four-year course of study based on what they are looking for from a homeschooler. The University of California system has a four-year plan called A-G. Each letter stands for a subject. They will have test suggestions, essay suggestions, etc. As far as financial scholarships, just know that if your student is planning on entering with 30 or more units earned from a community college, they may be ineligible for freshmen scholarships.

Keep Work Samples

You don’t need to keep it all, but keep tests and papers written, and maybe lab manuals for Science. Maybe ten years after graduation from high school, your student will suddenly change direction and want to go back to some program that requests this. This happened to me. Eight years after high school, my student’s high school diploma and Biology work samples were requested. Fortunately, I had just what they needed!  (I have since organized all of the high school work samples and given them to my graduates, should they ever need to supply them!)

More Important Types of Preparation 

The wonderful thing about homeschooled teenagers is that they are a delight to be around. They are logical, thinking, trying-to-solve-the-world’s-problems, human beings. They want to talk about all sorts of things. They want to learn to drive. They need to learn to study, balance a checkbook, and find a part-time job. You basically have 4 to 5 years to make sure you have instilled moral values and a compass to guide them through to the stage where they become full-fledged adults.

Again, high school can look however you’d like. There is no wrong way, but make sure you have adequately prepared your student spiritually, academically, and intellectually for what comes next.