Yes, You Can Homeschool High School

When it comes to high school, most homeschooling parents approach these years with fear and trepidation. I will admit that I did, as well. But I am so pleased that we decided to take the plunge and continue home schooling our oldest daughter rather than pursuing private or public school for these final four years. We are now homeschooling our son who has reached the high school years as well.

Are the high school years approaching in your home? I encourage you to stop, take a deep breath, and consider the possibility that homeschooling your high schooler might be a tremendous boon for you, your student and your whole family. Here are some reasons why…

1. This is when homeschooling really begins to pay off. Your student has become an independent learner and can schedule and manage his own work load. High school level work should not require a great amount of your time (although more of his than he might be used to!).

2. Ideally, your student, who is approaching high school, has become a real helper to you and her younger siblings. This is a wonderful time to have your teenage children at home by your side, learning to cook, garden, manage a home, build a deck, balance a checkbook, etc. Often high schoolers enrolled in public or private school do not have time to learn practical life skills because of the excessive class time and increased home work that their teachers demand.

3. High Schoolers are fun to be around. This is when your children become your friends. Now, don’t get me wrong, you still need to be their parent, BUT you are beginning to let go, little by little, letting them make their own mistakes, letting them learn from their own successes and failures. This is a time when kids can really begin to open up and talk – talk about real life issues, debatable topics, philosophical or theological differences, social pressures… Wouldn’t you like to be the one that he or she turns to? Wouldn’t you like to be the one that he asks advice from? Wouldn’t you like to continue developing that life-long heart-to-heart friendship? Homeschooling through the high school years can foster and grow this relationship because you have time to just “hang out” together.

So these are just a few reasons for you to consider as you decide whether or not you will press on. But how can it practically be done? This is a good question because we all know that high schoolers are learning material that is often above our heads. We often do not remember our Algebra 2 courses or advanced grammar exercises.

Here are some ideas that you can think about that might make homeschooling high school a more do-able scenario for you and your student:

RESEARCH

One of the intimating factors about homeschooling your high schooler is that it is most likely a 4 year decision. It is much easier to pull your student out of public high school than it is to stick him back in. Do your research before you make this big decision. These are the types

of things that you will want to find out in advance:

1. Find out what type of subjects and the number of credits that your state requires. Do a Google search to find this information. Type “(your state) high school requirements” into your search engine of choice.

2. Find out what needs to be recorded on a transcript and begin keeping this information from year 1 – when your student is finishing her freshman year. (We’ll talk about transcripts in just a minute).

3. Find out what tests you need and/or want your teen to be prepared for. Every high school junior should take the SAT (or ACT). Will you have your son or daughter also take the PSAT? How about CLEP or AP exams? Is your teen college bound and what type of college or university does he want to attend? The answers to these questions will help you decide which tests to pursue. Write down when tests are held in your area and help your teen prepare adequately for them.

4. Find out what kind of programs are offered in your area for high school teens. Will these classes satisfy high school credit requirements? That brings me to my next point.

OUTSOURCE

I don’t know about you, but there are just some subjects I would rather not teach. I have found out that there are many, many classes out there that my teens can take for high school credit, such as science, math, writing, speech/debate, Spanish, etc. Most of these classes are taught by private instructors in a traditional style classroom setting (although

smaller than a public school classroom – usually 8-10 students).

Here are some avenues for finding high school level classes in your area:

1. Ask your local homeschool support group leader.

2. Ask your state homeschool support group organizers.

3. Call your local homeschool bookstore.

4. Find out if your student can take classes at the junior college for dual credit. (This option is sometimes reserved for just juniors and seniors)

5. Check the bulletin board at your local community college for tutors who are available to teach individual subjects.

6. Find out what classes can be taken online through virtual conference rooms and correspondence.

Think outside the box and find out what types of programs are available for your students.

MAKE A PLAN

You do not have to plan everything out in advance, but jot out a rough plan for your high school student’s education, knowing that it will change as he specializes in certain subjects as high school progresses. Make sure that you know your state’s requirements for high school graduation and then make a loose plan from there.

If you know that your son dislikes foreign language, then just plan for 2 years of Spanish, instead of 3 or 4 (as long as that will satisfy your state’s requirements). If your daughter wants to work for NASA, then four years of higher math needs to be planned into the schedule. If you have a student that wants to work in Bible translation, then continue with grammar and even beginning linguistics all the way through the four years. So, make a plan, but stay flexible for changes down the road ahead. Your teen doesn’t need to know right now what his career is going to be, but he should start to think about it and pursue his possible interests.

ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE

Help your students to understand that their classes are their responsibility and that you are not going to hand them an “A” or a 4.0 on a silver platter. Good grades must be earned. This is the time to get your teen a planner where she can break down her assignments and write them into her day’s schedule. Let her make some decisions about how and when she will study her subjects, as long as she completes her assignments on time (she still reports to you as teacher). You will no longer need to hover over every assignment, but do insist that she turn in her work on time (whether that be once a week or something else that you decide). Tell your student up front what is required to gain an “A” in a particular subject. Then place

the responsibility for earning that “A” in her lap.

Note: For example, perhaps you have decided that to earn an A in medieval literature would mean that your student must read 8-10 books on a reading list that is provided for her and to write at least 3 papers during the course of the year. Anything less would result in a B grade or below. Communicating your requirements and expectations up front leads to much less pressure at the end of the year as your student is finishing up her assignments.

(This is just provided as an example – you are the teacher and can decide what constitutes an A grade for a particular subject. However, writing a couple of papers in any given subject matter is always a good idea. You can substitute with a science project for science and certainly no papers are necessary for math or P.E.!)

Now, that said, you can decide that a 1 credit course is not quite complete in May and give your teen a month or two more to finish the requirements during the summer months. Again, you are the teacher and can make these critical decisions along the way. Or you might choose to give half a credit now and the other half during the following year if those requirements are finished up later. This flexibility is one of the beautiful aspects of home education.

COLLEGE BOUND

It is so hard to know when your student is entering his freshman year, whether he will attend college or not at the end of four years’ time. However, it is important to choose a route at the beginning so that all requirements are finished during the high school years.

In other words, unless you are certain that your child will not attend college, it is best to choose a college bound course of action. In this way, all the requirements that he will need to apply for and be accepted into the college or university of his choice will be completed. You may even want to look into the requirements of specific colleges and universities that your son or daughter might be interested in attending so that you can plan to meet them in the next four years.

Often your student can take courses at your local community college and earn dual credit during his junior and senior year. This may be an added benefit for acceptance into his college of choice or may hurt his chances. It is best to find out before he takes dual credit.

Your child may also want to take some CLEP (College Level Entrance Placement) tests along the way in order to test out of some college classes that are general in nature and cover material already learned during the high school years (i.e. general biology).

You may be certain that your son or daughter will not pursue a college degree, but rather apprentice or start his or her own business, or take another path altogether. That is fine and then you can plan for more freedom or focus during the high school years.

If carpentry is the career of choice, then by all means, put some of the school books aside and let him get out there and build things. But remember, carpenters use math every single day! If in doubt about whether your child needs a class, have him take it to be on the safe side!

How to Keep a Transcript

Starting in your student’s freshman year, keep track of his progress with a transcript. On this transcript, you will record the classes that he has finished, the grade that he earned, the credits he received and any pertinent test scores (such as SAT and ACT). If you wait until his senior year to record this information, you might forget and then he is really in a pickle. So, start this process in grade 9!

Here are two links to transcript templates that you can use:

1. http://www.homeschool-curriculum-savings.com/homeschool-transcript-template.html (this one requires MS Excel, but it’s free).

2. http://e-library.net/HIGH-SCHOOL-TRANSCRIPT-Template__visit3582.html (this one is not free, but he will provide a free software to use with it).

In Conclusion

Do not fear the high school years. They are delightful, focused and rewarding. Consider homeschooling your high schooler. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I was!

Building and Managing a High School Soccer Program

The following interview is with Coach Bill Bratton, who was my Soccer Coach at Cross Keys High School in Atlanta, Georgia for the school year 1989-1990. I asked him for an interview to share his thoughts on Soccer. He has been involved with Soccer for over 25 years so I wanted to pick his brain on the subject.

Stafford:

Hello Coach, you have been coaching high school soccer for over 25 years. How did you first get involved in the sport?

Coach Bill Bratton:

Hi Stafford and thank you. Well I started coaching soccer in 1982 in DeKalb County in my first year teaching at Sequoyah High. The previous coach had left and the school needed someone to coach. The principal offered me the opportunity to take over the program.

Stafford:

How was that experience for you and how did you prepare for this new role as a High School Soccer Coach?

Coach Bill Bratton:

I will admit I had never played or coached soccer before. In the off season I spent time preparing and learning by reading books and going to clinics. I will also admit that the players knew more about the skills, the formations and what it took to play the game than I did but it was the coaching organization of putting a team together to play as a team that was my strength. I really enjoyed coaching soccer once I mastered the knowledge I needed.

Stafford:

How long did you coach at Sequoyah and how did you end up at Cross Keys?

Coach Bill Bratton:

I coached Sequoyah for 4 years before DeKalb began a consolidation program and I transferred to Cross Keys in 1986. I had the privilege of coaching the Keys program for the next 20 years. I earned my Georgia class D coaching license as well as a Class C level National Coaching license from the USSF. The situation at Cross Keys was much like Sequoyah, they needed a new soccer coach and the AP who would become the principal offered me the position.

Stafford:

How was the situation at Cross Keys, and what did it take to build the program?

Coach Bill Bratton:

It took hard work and discipline to build the program. My job involved rebuilding a program. It had lost its organization, discipline was amuck, and the program wasn’t winning, just 2 years from finishing 3rd in the state. I had to incorporate discipline into the program and to teach players what playing on a school competitive team meant and was needed to win. This progress was going to take many years to complete.

Players would tell me “Coach we just want to play”. Cross Keys was a highly transient school. It was a constant rebuilding progress every year. They had no understanding of playing as a team, that they had to come to practice, to commit, and to be successful they had to play as a team. As I look back that took 2-3 years to get across. Once we reached the point of players returning consistently, I started instilling in the players that we were playing to win. They were playing in a competitive environment. If they just wanted to play there were rec teams, club teams, and other leagues they could go and “just play”.

There were teams that we could beat just based on talent and skill alone so we had to start winning those games. Slowly players started to understand, but they had no knowledge of what playing for a State Championship” was or meant. But we started to win games we should of and it was time to go to the next level, winning games that were 50-50. Again this level took 3-4 years to develop. I constantly had to preach to the teams what we were out there to accomplish. We wanted to win games and develop. After getting to the point of winning 50-50 games, we needed to win games that we were not expected to win. Our goal was to make the region playoffs to go to the state playoffs. The final step in the development was to defeat teams no one expected us to. It was always my belief that we had the ability, the skills to play with anyone and defeat anyone on any given day. In my last 5 years at the Keys we had two teams to reach the 2nd round (sweet 16) level of the state playoffs.

Stafford:

Awesome! I see a pattern here and a valuable lesson to be learned. An opportunity was presented; Rather than turn it down because you had no prior experience in soccer at that time, you made the effort to learn about the subject by spending time ” preparing and learning by reading books and going to clinics”, etc. You mentioned it took work and discipline and eventually you mastered the knowledge that was needed to coach high school soccer, which I saw when my old high school merged with Cross Keys and I ended up playing for you in my senior year. You seemed to have had a passion for soccer and knowledge of the game and the know-how to get players excited for the game and team unity. But all of that was accomplished through your own hard work and effort. How important is “discipline” for the aspiring soccer player and anyone in general?

Coach Bill Bratton:

Let me start out by saying that I believe discipline is an important attribute for anyone to have. To achieve individual or team goals one must have self-discipline. Discipline can have many different meaning to each person. It can be a commitment to attending practices, to going beyond what is asked of one to do to prepare. Discipline comes from having goals and achieving goals come from being disciplined. Some say that my teams were disciplined. On a team there can be only one chief who must lead and lead by setting the discipline of what is expected from others. The others must be willing to accept the standards and work together to achieve for the benefit of the whole and not the individual. If the team has discipline many other honors will come their way.

For many years as the coach I would tell the teams our goals, the purpose of what we will be trying to achieve, and that to reach these ideals we must all be on the same page. Some years I would have players who as the season would progress would disagree with the discipline and feel that certain things were unfair. They would question the purpose, the lineup, and the style of play or other team discipline. Of course I would try to talk with them, explain what was being done and why, listen to their side of the picture. I always had an open door if a player wanted to talk or discuss issues but not in public or at practice or during a game. I recall one instance where 5 players who I had taken out of a game and disagreed with my decision that they left the team bench and set in the stands. These players were removed from the team immediately after the game. On another team years later the players felt the formation we were playing and the players in those positions was wrong. This time I gave that team the chance to play the players and the formation they felt we needed to be playing. I said you have a half to show me that I am wrong and if it doesn’t work it will be done my way and there will be no more discussion and if you cannot agree with my decisions you have a decision that only you can make. Well the team’s way didn’t work so at halftime I told the team I gave you your opportunity now it will be done my way.

I always in my 26 years of coaching have told every team that I coach (you might recall this)… I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how good you are (even if you are the best player), or who you know… If you have to be disciplined you will be disciplined. No matter how much it might hurt the team, you know the rules and you know if you break the rules you will be disciplined and I will discipline you.

Stafford:

Thanks Coach. Have you had any experience with Club Soccer (soccer outside of the school system)? What is your thought on Club Soccer and its impact on High School Soccer? For example, some players who play high school soccer in the Spring may have Club teams that they play for that trains Summer, Fall and even Winter!

Coach Bill Bratton:

My experience on coaching Club has been limited as I coached one year with a U-14 boys’ team with Roswell Santos club league. We won the Fall and Spring season championship. A few years later I worked with Concorde Soccer coaching a U-12 boys team for a year.

If a player is looking to be seen and has the dream of playing at the college level then the club system is the way to go. But keep in mind that this is for elite level players. If they are good enough there is a program that they can go through to reach a higher level of play if they have the talent. First is to be selected on a top level team, to try out for the State select teams, to reach Regional recognition, etc. In the summer they should attend a quality soccer camp to improve their skills and to be seen by college coaches. In high school some club coaches look down at the high school programs and encourage players not to play on their school teams for a lack of quality coaching, getting injured, lack of talent, and low level of play from many schools.

I encourage my players to find a club team to play on in the off seasons as it can only help to make them better. In the Fall if they are not playing on a club team, I encourage players to practice Cross Country to start developing their stamina and if possible to go out for wrestling in the Winter. Some club players come into the High School level and will tell me they can only play a midfield or an outside wing position. I try to teach my players that even though they played center midfield on their club team they are a great fit in the defense on the school team. Players need to keep an open mind and be willing to play the position that will give the team they are on the opportunity to be competitive and a chance to win.

Stafford:

Thanks Coach! Having been a club coach for several years, I can relate to the statement “some club coaches look down at the high school program and encourage players not to play on their school teams from a lack of quality coaching, getting injured, lack of talent, level of play from many schools.” Not that I have ever made that statement. However, that statement may have had some validity in the past, but do you see this changing as new generation of teachers who may be coaching high school or middle school presently are actually former soccer players who are also teachers, but may want to use the high school experience as a career path for some form of College/Professional coaching? This may be the case for some private schools.

Coach Bill Bratton:

Yes I see this getting better. The coaching at the high school level has shown major improvement in the coaches’ knowledge of the game. High schools teams now, like club teams can hire community coaches to help coach teams now and pay a stipend. These individuals must take the state required courses to become a community coach and follow the rules of the school, the county and state as they coach. So high school coaches who might lack in the skills and able to find someone willing to coach to teach/work coaching the players the skills or to work on the strategies and tactical aspects of the game. This is what many club teams do now. They have a person to run the run but pay hundreds of dollars a month for a named/quality individual who was a former player, etc to actual do the coaching.

Stafford:

****Coach Bratton retired in 2006, but after 7 years he wanted to get back into coaching and took over the varsity boys position at a High School in Fulton County (Georgia) as a community coach. It was great speaking to him again after so many years. ****

How Does A High School Athletic Program Become Great?

I have often wondered what makes excellence in high school athletics? I grew up in an high school that demanded excellence in all of their sports programs, boys and girls. But, it was not always that way. Actually, when I attended this high school, our school was very average in sports. But, during my senior year, something magical happened. It just seemed like all of our sports teams started to get better and better. We won the state championship that year in both boys basketball and football. The next year, the school won state in football, track, cross country and girls tennis. After that, my high school has never looked back. What happened? How did we go from being average to being great? What was the tipping point? Was it just a great class of kids? Was it the coaching staff? What happened?

Well, before I Get There, Excellence In High School Athletics Is Earned…

By comparison, many years later, I know of a high school that is just the opposite. Academics in the school are great. I really believe the teachers, administrators and coaching staff are terrific. And… so are the kids. But, on the athletic field or court, they just don’t have it. They finish at the bottom of the pack every year in every sport. Why? How can one school set records for the number of state championships, while another school sets records for the number of losing seasons?

I have had the fortune of being involved with both types of athletic programs. You would think that being involved with a winning program is much easier. I would beg to differ. Being involved with a winning program is much tougher than being involved with a losing program. It’s tougher on the administrator, the coach staff, the parents, and especially the players.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Here’s Why It’s Tougher…

Being involved in a winning athletic program demands excellence. Everyone in a winning program knows that winning requires a total commitment to excellence. Winners don’t take shortcuts. Winners come in early and stay late. Winners work-out in the off-season. The community demands winning. The school demands winning. The parents, the school administrators, the coaches… they all demand winning. In order to win… everyone must do their job. It’s just not performance on the field. That is actually the end result of each person’s everyday effort to reach the same goal… to win.

But, how does a high school get to that position? How to you go from bad to average to great. I believe it starts with the school administrators. The administrators of the school must develop this attitude. This attitude must then be demanded of the entire coaching staff. Being average is no longer an option. If the coach is not willing to demand excellence, to put in a 110% effort toward the development of their sports program… they are out. The coaches need to develop their current high school players. And… they need to work with the middle and elementary schools to develop their feeder program. They need to understand… being average is no longer an option. Period.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Parents Are Key…

After you get this attitude down with the coaching staff, the school needs to move on to the parents. A culture change needs to happen. Some people say this takes time. This is total nonsense. Excellence in athletics needs to happen now! The school needs to step up and tell the parents how things are going to change. The school needs to ask the parents for their help. Make no mistake, if the athletic program is going to change for the better, the parents must be a big part of the change. The school needs total buy-in from the families. Everyone needs to understand that winning comes with a price. If everyone is willing to pay the price… winning will happen. The school might not win the state title every year, but more kids from that school will play sports in college, and the school will see a huge positive difference in their athletic program.

To get this all going, it takes one person. One person in authority at the high school needs to stand up and say “enough!!!.” Until that happens, nothing will change. One person needs to stand up. In my school is was the athletic director. In other schools it might be the principal. But, it always starts with one person.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Getting Back To the Losing School…

The losing program just does not have the commitment. It’s that simple. When you go to meetings, it’s always time to hear 100 different excuses why they can’t compete. The culture of winning is just not present. The difference maker, the one person who starts it all… does not exist. In the losing program, no one runs the program. In the losing program, no one is willing to stand up and make a difference. So, what happens… because the school does not demand excellence, that attitude filters down to the coaches, the parents and to the players. If they win great, but if they lose… well, that’s what they expect anyway.

Excellence in high school athletics starts at the top. It’s an attitude. To win you must be willing to pay the price. It’s really that simple.