The High School Years

Author: Laura Berquist

The high school years present a special challenge for homeschooling parents. Often the parents I speak to express real trepidation about homeschooling through high school. Since my own experiences homeschooling older students have been rewarding, I want to assure parents that it can be done, and it can be done well. Further, I have found these years to be, in certain ways, the most pleasant time I have had with my children.

High school age children are ready to give themselves to high and noble things.

They will respond to the good, the true, and the beautiful if we make available to them objects that are proportionate to their desire. They are capable of nobility and we should encourage them to pursue it.

Exposure to copious numbers of high school and noble objects, however, will not bring about the good we desire for our children. It will help; it may even be a necessary component; but what is more essential is the time and conversation we give our children. Adolescent children are in formation, and the best source for their formation is our own explanation of the way we live, why we make the choices we do, and how we view the church and the world. If, for example, you decide that you children aren’t going to watch a certain movie, explain to them why not; say no, but use that opportunity to form their minds with respect to your understanding of what is important. In my experience, if you do that faithfully, thoughtfully and regularly, your children will come to view the world as you do.


They will learn the principles of your decisions and make them their own principles. This kind of conversation often has to do with the questions of moral behavior. But we should also encourage our children to have the right attitude toward their academic efforts through conversations in which we make a conscious effort to point out the truth and beauty in every subject. Foster a love of those things. In subjects like astronomy, natural history, and literature, this is easy to do. Show your interest in those areas. You may not have the time to do the observations or readings that the children are doing, but you can listen with attention to what they say, and express your appreciation of the things they tell you about. Your reaction to the information they share will have a large effect upon their own response to that information.


In this stage of intellectual formation, the manner of expression of ideas has central importance in the curriculum. Encouraging the children to discuss is one way to capitalize on their natural gifts. Attention to writing skills is another way to do the same thing.


I am convinced that most children are better off at home during the vulnerable and rather emotional years of high school. Because many parents are apprehensive about their ability to teach during these years, in addition to my book, I have written a number of syllabi, day-by-day breakdown for the texts I recommended for the high-school years.


The kind of breakdown you will find in the syllabi is that which I use every year for planning my own children’s courses. I did these syllabi) to help parents who are hesitant about schooling through high school. They give you a detailed plan, providing a base to be tailored to your particular students. They are available to anyone who is interested, whether enrolled in Mother of Divine Grace school or not. However, you really don’t need syllabi. You could just as well do your own. Take the material you want to cover, decide whether you will have papers done, or written answers to questions, or quizzes, and divide the material you want to cover by the time you have available. There you have your general plan. You can change it as you need to, but you have a strategy to work with.


My general point is that I don’t think there is nay academic reason to send children off to a regular school, even for high school. There are, of course, other considerations that must be taken into account. The home schooled high schoolers I meet, and there are now many of them, stand out in the crowd. They are pleasant, happy, and intellectually interested, and they don’t have the debauched cultural trappings to get rid of that many of their peers do. They have a head start on the path to a life centered in the Holy Catholic Church and are obedient to the will of their Saviour. In my house this has not been much of a problem, because my six children have been each other’s best friends. I have encourage them to be good companions to one another, since brothers and sisters are brothers and sisters for life, whereas most childhood friends come and go. Learning to be close to those you live with is the best preparation for happiness in this life. Most earthly happiness depends on a fruitful and happy home life, and such situations do not just happen . They have to be worked at. The home is a better situation , in my opinion, than the environment in regular schools where the large numbers of peers encourage a herd instinct.


It is very easy, for children, when placed in large group situations to become dependent on that group for their opinions, their reactions to their experiences in their lives, their pleasures and activities. They become passive, unable to even entertain themselves. Some of the most fruitful activities my children have had came out of lack of companionship. They have had to develop their inner resources and be active in their pursuit of interests. They have also had friends, but they have not been dependent on those friends for all of their interests...my children are learning how to get along with their siblings and parents and extended family and that is what I think most of the real world is made up of.


Used with permission from Laura Berquist.

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