We get dozens of emails every week asking the same question: When is the best time to start planning for high school?
If I only had 20 seconds to tell you the most important thing about homeschooling through high school, it would be to tell you to plan early! As a matter of fact, for the most optimum stress-free and beneficial experience – I would say start planning when your child is at about the 5th grade level.
There are some important points to the reason behind starting the planning at 5th grade.
Keep in mind though – early planning has nothing to do with rushing your child through. On the contrary:
Early planning helps you to slow down, to enjoy the journey, and to go deeper in the learning process.
Early planning helps you to save time, avoiding repetitive material
Early planning helps you to save money, avoiding repetitive material
Things can get frustrating when you simply go year by year, moving along through grade-level curriculum to the next "grade level" simply because its…well…the next grade level! This method of curriculum-led progression doesn't allow for early planning. You are led day by day, week by week, by virtue of some pre-planned curriculum which tells you what to do next. When you let the curriculum do the leading, you are a slave to the curriculum. There is no freedom in learning. Learning becomes redundant, boring, and frustrating.
We are not saying at HECOA: never buy curriculum. This is not what we mean at all. However, curriculum should never lead you along – YOU need to lead the curriculum!
How do you lead the curriculum?
Well, when it comes to planning for high school – the best way to do this is to start with the end goal and work backwards. By using specific techniques focused on the end goal, I am able to look at any curriculum and know in less than 60 seconds whether or not it will be right for my child. I don't need to go to support groups or ask anyone's advice. I don't need to read reviews. 60 seconds and I know.
What are your end goals? Are you planning for your child to go to college? What career will they likely be interested in?
I know, you are probably thinking – what 5th grader knows for sure what they are going to do? I agree. But, you know that if you are prepared you shall not fear. You don't have to set in stone what the child is going to do. But "thinking" about the end goal, and working backwards, will help you to avoid being led from year to year by curriculum. Curriculum is merely a thing. But it is not the most important thing.
When you plan a big family vacation, let's say – to Disneyland – you don't just get in the car and go. Chances are, you have called in advance. You have searched out the best price on accommodations, tickets, food, which attractions you want to see, and you even check the road conditions and the weather so you will know what to pack. You don't buy a manual and do one page at a time. You have thought about the way you want to feel, the happiness and joy you want your family to experience. On the way to Disneyland, you are thinking about the goal. You are talking with your children and they have their ideas about what they want to experience. You are thinking about ways to make that happen for them.
I'm not saying that every unplanned trip to Disneyland is going to end in frustration. Or that every carefully pre-planned trip is going to be everything that you wanted. Please, let's stay focused here on the analogy. The point is – if you are have an idea of your goals, less things can distract you from them and more opportunities will open up to help you fulfill them.
So if you know what the college admissions requirements are for your child, then you can think about how to complete them in high school. If you think even further ahead, such as what college courses your child needs to take to get their associates degree, you can ask – can any of these be done while still in high school? (by the way, YES they can!) Then go back to 5th grade and close the gap between 5th and 12th. What really needs to be done? How can I fit more time for my child's personal interests, and special skills or talents? The best way to close the gap is to skip middle school and let your child work to their full potential. We have an entire post on skipping middle school here.
If you understand about "early college credits" you can work this into a high school plan that will be amazing. We have a 12-hour course where I talk more about early college credits and designing a custom plan for your child (starting at 5th grade) which will help you to know in 60 seconds whether or not a specific resource is going to fit into your plan. We also cover everything else that is needed to homeschool through high school – without a bunch of useless downloads and binders. You will gain all the knowledge, tools, and confidence you need to do this. And, we teach you to do it all with just a few simple forms. You can learn more about that course here.
At Home Education Council of America, we help thousands of homeschoolers every year with everything they need to prepare their child for success in life. We give you real tools that you can implement right away, without having to buy product after product. It's just one annual membership and you get it all. Join or upgrade today!