One of the most asked questions I see in the home education community involves homeschooling high school when college is not the plan. Parents are often stumped on what that may look like if their child has no desire to pursue higher education. Contrary to popular belief, college isn’t every child’s dream and some are just as successful, sometimes more so, as their fellow college-pursuant peers. My own son determined by his sophomore year that he wasn’t going pursue traditional college. And while that stumped his college-educated parents, we soon climbed on board because Ben had a plan in mind. He just wasn’t going to need college to fulfill that plan.
College is expensive and the worldview of most institutions of higher learning is growing more liberal every day (even in some Christian schools). So if you have a high school student who does not wish to pursue a career that requires college (ie: teacher, nurse, doctor, lawyer, etc), forgoing a college education may actually benefit your family.
Still need a little encouragement as a homeschool mom? Then let me be clear. It is totally okay if your child does not want to go to college. They still have every opportunity to pursue their dreams without obtaining an extra piece of paper from a college or university. And you, mom, shouldn’t beat yourself up for feeling like you’ve somehow failed because your child doesn’t want to go to college. In fact, you both deserve a high five for homeschooling through high school in the first place!
How to Homeschool High School When College Is Not the Plan
Let’s look at how to homeschool when your kid doesn’t want to pursue college. Because homeschooling high school without the pressure of a college-focused transcript may grant some amazing freedom for your student’s high school years.
Continue teaching core subjects.
Although your high school homeschooler may not have higher education on their radar, it’s still important that they continue learning the core subjects. The academic skills gained through subjects like English, Math, Science, and Social Studies will follow them throughout adulthood. They’ll at least need basic math and reading skills. You can be creative in the choosing of courses and curriculum however. For example, rather than choosing a high level of math than Algebra, we chose Financial Literacy and Personal Finance as one of my son’s math options. And because he has an interest in computers, for one year, he did Computer Science.
Explore your high schooler’s interests.
If you haven’t started doing this already, the high school years are a perfect time to explore your teen’s interests. Whatever they show a liking to, give them opportunities to explore those topics even more. With our technologically advanced society, your high schooler can take online classes or even find in-person opportunities in your local town. This will help them determine if it’s something they want to consider pursuing. Do you have a budding photographer on your hands? Photography is both a great high school elective AND will give him skills for a possible future career. I have written an entire post about high school electives based on 16 career clusters. If your student has an idea of what kind of career he’d like to pursue, be sure to take a peek at that!
Work on soft skills.
Soft skills are the ones that involve people, social, and communication skills, as well as character development, personality attitudes, mindsets, and so on. Most of the time we leave these out, but they are just as important as teaching the core subjects. Give your teens a variety of experiences to learn how to foster these important skills. Whether they pursue a job, career, or start their own business, they’ll need these skills to thrive.
Help your high schooler set goals.
Regardless of what they want to do beyond high school, goal-setting is a must. If your teen is going into high school, help them establish a five-year plan. You’ll notice I said five years, because you can help them get established through their first year out of high school. Deduct one year for each year of high school they have already completed. As you help them set goals, make sure they are:
- Clear and measurable.
- Compatible to action plans that will help them reach the goal.
- Practical and realistic.
Help your teen reach their goals by helping them reflect and revise when necessary. This is also teaching them valuable skills that can be used (sooner or) later in life.
Explore other options.
College is not and will never be the only option for high schoolers. There are trade schools, apprenticeships, jobs, careers, and branches of the military that are very reliable choices for kids who would much rather skip the higher education path. Each of these offer equal opportunities for young adults to soar in their chosen fields. Explore these options and help your teen decide if one of them would be a good fit. Send them on a research path to find out all the information they can to help them make the wisest choice.
Be Prepared Just in Case Your High Schooler Changes Their Mind
I’ve talked to two types of moms, both of whom I was able to learn a valuable lesson from. One mom became super relaxed along with her high schooler once he told her that he didn’t want to go to college. They both decided it wasn’t necessary to continue with anything “hardcore” and just do what was necessary for him to get a high school diploma. Another mom’s daughter told her that she didn’t want to attend college; however, she continued on a plan as though she were. Both kids from these families decided they wanted to attend college by the start of their second semester of their senior year.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with these stories. The family that took a more relaxed approach with little to no goals beyond high school were struggling to get the courses necessary for their son to be accepted into college. The family who stayed on a plan that included the possibility of attending college or a university didn’t have to change anything.
The moral of the story is to always be prepared for your teen to change their mind. Although there’s nothing wrong with a “relaxed” approach, you’ll still want to keep up with courses, classes, grades, and GPA averages (all kept on a transcript) in the event your teen will need it for college admission. Also keep in mind that some jobs require a transcript or diploma as proof that they finished high school.
I would say that our family fell somewhere in the middle. While we kept in mind the possibility that Ben might change his mind about attending college, we did relax a bit on things like math beyond Algebra and science such as Physics. Most of the other adjustments involved filling his transcript with interest-led coursework that could both be enjoyable for him now and add skills for a possible future career. We studies what colleges like to see on a high school transcript just in case, and we feel confident that his transcript is complete and balanced should he need it one day.
Homeschooling high school when college is not the plan doesn’t mean there doesn’t need to be a plan at all. Keep teaching the core subjects, use the time to let your teen explore with other options, and be prepared for the possibilities of their ever-changing mind. In the end, it’s their life and they simply need the support and resources to live it out.