Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Homeschooling High School

beginner's guide to homeschooling high school

The majority of families who choose to homeschool through the high school years have been doing it for a while. They are seasoned professionals at all this “homeschooling stuff” and don’t need much guidance beyond curriculum ideas and perhaps some advice on post-graduation options.  But then, there are the OTHER ONES. The families who either gradually – – or suddenly – – realize that attending public or private school in the high school years isn’t the best choice for them. Maybe the student wants a more customizable educational path. Maybe he or she is struggling with health issues. Perhaps the student wants to put more time and energy into their dancing or diving practice . Sometimes, it’s their current school that’s the problem.

For whatever the reason, you have landed here because as a student or parent, you are considering the idea of homeschooling in high school. And you might just be a little overwhelmed.

This guide is to get you past that point of intimidation. To help you learn all the basics of what homeschooling IS, what it ISN’T, and even what it might be like, day-to-day.  Are you ready?  Yes?  Then, let’s do this!!

What Homeschooling High School IS

Homeschooling in high school is a legal, viable and now, quite respected, educational alternative to attending a public, private, or charter school.  Any student in the United States who wants to get their education at home can do just that.  Parents, while ultimately responsible for all homeschooling decisions, can collaborate with their teens to create the best homeschool experience possible. Here are some of the main avenues most homeschooling high schoolers take:

Schooling at Home With a Virtual Online School

Virtual schooling relies on the internet to provide a formal educational experience to students but without them physically attending the school. Virtual schooling can be provided by public or private schools from several different sources in ways that can be confusing.

For example, in the State of Florida, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is set up as a public school district. Students can register for FLVS through the internet and then they are part of a the FLVS school district. As a public school, FLVS is free but it comes with some rules and strings attached about testing, schedules, and so on. And FLVS is only free to Florida residents, non-residents have to pay out of state tuition. Many Florida school districts, such as Broward County, also have a virtual school offering that they provide free to Broward County residents. Charter schools and private schools also have virtual offerings.The charter schools are free to those who are eligible. And private schools charge tuition.

There are some more wrinkles to understanding virtual schools. Many of the virtual schools have supplier relationships with each other where they use each others materials. So Broward County might provide virtual schooling using the FLVS materials. And FLVS licenses much of their materials from a multi billion dollar corporation called K12.com. Meanwhile, K12.com is also creating their own virtual charter schools which they usually give a local name to. And K12.com has acquired some private virtual schools such as Connections Academy. Or course, there is no reason as a parent that you have to understand all the supplier relationships, you just need to know that there are many choices and many of them use the same materials.

There are also blended versions of virtual schooling. For instance, many regular schools provide courses to students using virtual courses. And some virtual schools or courses require some physical attendance at the school.

This type of schooling is a good option for students whose parents have to work a lot and would be left to school somewhat independently a good deal of the time. But this is only true if the student is responsible, focused, and determined to succeed at school. This option is NOT a good fit for students who are always needing to be prodded to finish their schoolwork, don’t have an internal motivation to learn, or are easily distracted.

If you are interested in virtual schooling for high school, see if virtual high schooling is available in your state, and then browse our online high school directory (filter by your own state) for links and more info on each one.

Schooling at Home With A Homeschool Curriculum

The more “traditional” homeschooling style for high school is actually overseen by the parents themselves and includes either a single curriculum or a mix of different curricula. Homeschool curricula is available in many different formats including online courses and resources, local homeschool cooperatives or classes, textbooks, workbooks, literature-based studies, and hands-on projects. Usually, parents and students will research types, styles, and prices of different curricula, and then will collaborate together to pick and purchase the best programs for the subjects needed.

Green Arrow RightBrowse our high school homeschool curriculum directory


This type of schooling is most appropriate for families where at least one parent will be available to help with planning, choosing curriculum, grading, record-keeping, and making sure that all work is completed in a timely manner.  Even if a student is not wholly motivated, traditional homeschooling can still work as long as a parent is willing to serve as a support system and keep the high schooler accountable to their daily and weekly assignments (by cruz). The advantage of this type of schooling is that it can be completely customized to the student and the student’s schedule. The main disadvantage is that it is not free.

When using traditional homeschooling, another resource to look into is the possibility of dual enrollment. If you live in a state where dual enrollment is available, it can be a source of great academic instruction and overall savings because the student earns both high school AND college credit by taking eligible courses at participating institutions.

Green Arrow RightExplore dual enrollment options in your state


Unschooling, or “Interest-Led Learning”

A third type of homeschool approach is becoming quite popular with long-time homeschooling families, but those new to homeschooling might be daunted or confused by how different it is from traditional classroom education. It is called “unschooling” or “interest-led learning” and it is based upon the idea that students should not follow a curriculum proposed and designed for mass education, but instead should allow the student to follow their own learning path based on their personal strengths and interests.

Made popular by authors such as John Holt and Grace Llewellyn, unschooling is based on the idea that children and teens have an innate desire to learn, and that if they are allowed to follow their natural curiosities, they can create a successful educational journey for themselves without the aid of a specific curriculum. For more information on unschooling, check out the unschooling articles at LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com or read the “Teenage Liberation Handbook” by Grace Llewellyn.

A Mix-and-Match Approach

If none of the above schooling options seems to completely “fit” your family, the good news is that you don’t have to choose just one. Many families opt for an eclectic blend of several different types of high school homeschooling. A student may use an online homeschool curriculum for math, attend a dual-enrollment course at their local community college for science, attend a homeschool co-operative for history, meet with a dedicated tutor for English, and round out their physical education options by participating in a private school athletic team which is open to homeschoolers.

That’s the awesome benefit of a homeschool education – – it can be completely customized to fit your personality, schedule, availability, and interests. And most homeschoolers discover that they strongly benefit from a diverse blend of education options.

What Homeschooling High School Isn’t

The most mistaken view of homeschooling in the high school years is that it simply means signing up for an online high school and getting started. If you are brand new to homeschooling, then there are usually a few more steps involved. Each state has different laws regarding home education and it’s important to find out what the regulations in your home state are. A few states simply require you to notify your current school that you are withdrawing and leave the rest up to you. Others have very specific registration options, and may even require you to show evidence of your progress, curriculum, and testing throughout the year. The range of laws governing homeschooling is wide, so be sure to do your research on what your specific state requires.  One of the best sources for state-by-state homeschooling regulations is at A to Z Homeschooling. And check out our list of high-school homeschool regulations.

Another misconception about homeschooling high school is that it is a cure-all for problems a student has been facing in their current school situation. While homeschooling can be a welcome change for students who have been enduring severe bullying, poor school learning conditions, or health difficulties, it does not, generally, make other issues “go away.” For instance, if a student is not self-motivated to succeed in their studies, a switch to homeschool (where often a student is required to work even more independently) will usually not make much of a improvement. Another situation where homeschooling may not be especially helpful is when a student is socially awkward or immature.  Although pulling him or her from constant contact with peers might be less-stressful in the short-term, it will not solve their long-term social issues unless those are addressed directly.

Green Arrow RightFind out more about homeschooling and socialization


Finally, homeschool isn’t an isolation booth. The stereotype of homeschoolers who spend all their waking hours sequestered in their homes is a myth. If anything, homeschoolers have the opportunity to be even more involved in outside events in their communities than traditionally schooled students. The trend toward hybrid homeschooling means that in today’s world a homeschooler has to actually make time to BE HOME. Homeschool co-ops, outside classes, community service opportunities, and multiple clubs and organizations open to homeschoolers are available to almost any teen who wants to be involved. If you want to be isolated as a homeschooler, you can be, but if you are open to new ways of socializing, then you might be surprised just how much interaction homeschooling offers.

What Homeschooling in High School Looks Like

If you’ve been educated in a classroom for most or all of your school life, then it is probably tough to picture what a homeschool day might look like. If that’s the case, you might enjoy meeting “Sadie.”

Sadie is a homeschooling 10th grader, and this is her second year of homeschooling, so she is a “pro” at it by now, of course. Sadie happens to be a night owl, in a family of night owls, so homeschooling works out extremely well for her circadian rhythms. She doesn’t usually touch her toes to the floor before 10:30 a.m. on weekdays. Closer to noon on weekends. But when she does get up, she has learned that she likes to get her least favorite coursework over first. As she shovels in milk-soaked wheat puffs, she studies her previous day’s chemistry for her daily quiz. Her mom has usually printed it out the night before and left it for her on the living room coffee table. Unlike many teens, she can’t concentrate and listen to music at the same time, so she finishes her quiz and THEN turns on Pandora at full blast.

It doesn’t take much concentration to browse her online assignment list for English and psychology, so before lunchtime, Sadie has rocked out and knocked out the better part of three subjects – – although she’s decided to save today’s chemistry reading for the evening, when she’s expected to go to the gym to watch her younger brother’s basketball game. Even chemistry is better than watching twelve sweaty middle schooler’s run up and down a court.

After lunch, Sadie gives herself an hour to catch up on some tv she’s saved to the DVR, and then it’s time to work a while on her literature report. Plus, today is Thursday, which means she’ll be headed to homeschool art class at the community center at 3:30. Sadie is passionate about art, so Tuesdays and Thursdays afternoons at art class are something she definitely looks forward to. Especially since her good friend Kara is also in the class.

Green Arrow RightExplore other homeschoolers’ days via our homeschool student blogroll


The afternoon and evening are spent mostly taxiing between classes, errands, and the gym, but being a night owl, Sadie is used to leaving the rest of her school work until the wee hours. Some of her best work is done after 10pm at night, so she’s perfectly fine with leaving Geometry and U.S. History till then. Plus, most of her friends are on Skype by that time, so she can chat off and on as she completes her work. By 2 a.m., Sadie has finished most everything she hoped to, including a pen-and-ink she’s been working on for the last week. She drops into bed, thankful to be homeschooling because it fits her personality, her schedule, and her life!

Sadie’s day is obviously just one example in a million. Some homeschoolers are early birds who get up early and finish their entire course-load before lunchtime in order to practice basketball the rest of the day. Some spend their mornings drawing manga and doing yoga and don’t touch their school work until the afternoon. Some are taking three dual-enrollment courses at the local community college during the week and saving most of their regular homeschool work for the weekend. The similarity that all homeschoolers share, though? They are able to be flexible with their scheduling, their curriculum, and their way of learning. Flexibility and customization are the key advantages of homeschooling.

How To Get Started

If you are convinced that homeschooling is right for you and your family, then there are a few steps you’ll need to take to get started:

  1. Research your state homeschooling laws and comply with any regulations that apply to starting homeschool and homeschool record-keeping. (If you are going the route of virtual schooling, homeschool laws will not apply to you, but you will definitely want to closely follow all the guidelines of your particular charter)
  2. Take some time to research the different homeschooling styles and curricula. Read reviews, ask questions on the LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com forums, and pick a program or mix of programs that best suit the student.  Don’t purchase anything until you feel fairly certain that the curriculum is matched well with your learning style and your budget.
  3. Make a plan. Use the multitude of resources available at LetsHSHS.com and other sites to chart out what you hope to accomplish in your first year of homeschooling, what types of records you will need to keep, how you will track your progress, and how to best meet your educational goals.
  4. Find local resources. Explore everything that your local and regional area has to offer a homeschooler: support groups, learning cooperatives, out-sourced courses and electives, homeschool athletic leagues, community service options, meet-ups, field trips, internships, and dual enrollment opportunities. And then GET INVOLVED!
  5. Track your progress. One of the most important things to do from the time you begin to homeschool is to keep great records of what you are accomplishing. Keep a transcript of all the coursework you complete.  Give each finished course an appropriate credit. If you attend an online school, especially one that administers diplomas, then they may take care of the record-keeping for you, but otherwise, the record-keeping is completely up to the parents and student.

View all the LetsHsHs.com planning resources


Lastly, it’s time to sit for a moment and let it all sink in. Wow. You are now officially a homeschooler! What are you going to do with this amazing opportunity, and how is it going to improve and enrich your life?

Welcome to homeschooling!!  If you have more questions about homeschooling high school, we suggest checking out our FAQ, which address most of the concerns and questions that parents and students have when making this important decision.


Kerry Jones is a guest author at LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com and the admin of the web's largest community for secular homeschoolers, SecularHomeschool.com., She is a "homeschooling alumnus", having graduated both sons who were each homeschooled from kindergarten. You can follow Kerry on Google Plus by adding her to your circles.

February 24, 2013


  1. Jamie says:
    Posted November 10, 2015 1:00 pm

    Hi Cody, I'm sure that it is difficult for you to do both. Homeschooling is a great way to accomplish that, though. A self-paced course of study might be good to try. Have you checked out www.time4learning.com? It's a very easy to use high school program that is flexible, affordable, and tracks your grades. You will need to create your own homeschool transcripts and record your grades as you finish your courses. If you need help on that - we've got several pages dedicated to transcripts as well! Wish you the best of luck.

  2. Cody says:
    Posted November 10, 2015 7:31 am

    My name is Cody Blanton I am in the 11th and I'm a daddy I need to work and have school.

  3. BrendaLee Ellis says:
    Posted June 4, 2015 5:41 pm

    After struggling with ninth grade in a public school setting, I've decided to withdraw my child and homeschool instead. For a short time while we lived aboard a sailboat, I taught both kids in grade school, which seemed so easy at the time. My elder daughter flourished in the traditional high school setting after that experience, and is now heading to college in the fall. My younger daughter has had health problems this year that have seriously affected her attendance and had difficulty catching up. What's more, the traditional approach to teaching only seems to confuse and demoralize her. She feels like a complete failure, despite being extremely intelligent and testing well on standardized tests previously. I feel that homeschooling will help her build confidence and learn at her own pace, instead of, say, covering the American Revolution for the fifth time, she could be learning about world history and culture. I'm very thankful to have found this site, especially as teaching mathematics is difficult for me. The thought of getting myself organized and prepared for the fall was daunting before, but after looking through some of the sample curriculum here, I feel much more confident about handling her education myself now. :)

  4. mekyelia harris says:
    Posted January 26, 2015 1:18 pm

    Thank you

  5. Jamie says:
    Posted February 12, 2014 9:13 pm

    We don't have this guide in a pdf right now... but you are more than welcome to print the webpage for your personal reference.

  6. Ann says:
    Posted February 12, 2014 1:38 pm

    Is this guide information in a printable format (*.pdf or Word)?

  7. Steffi Egger says:
    Posted December 20, 2013 6:40 pm

    Most parents are hesitant to do homeschooling because of the time involved, the record keeping, finding lesson plans, and perhaps having to deal with school authorities. And they don't know the subjects. As you mention, students at home need to be very disciplined to stay the course. If so many things can go wrong, it's best to sign up the child with an accredited online high school that provides live classes, videos, textbooks, and downloads to keep the student interested and on a firm path/schedule. A personal mentor that the online school can provide would help the parent a lot. It also solves the record keeping problem. I wrote a few articles about this in the website I'm referencing above.

  8. Kerry says:
    Posted November 16, 2013 12:27 am

    Thanks for your comment! Virtual schooling at home is becoming one of the fastest growing schooling options among high schoolers looking for alternative educational options. We'll be adding several new articles and even a new virtual school directory to the site in the coming months. Stay tuned!

  9. Sherri says:
    Posted November 16, 2013 12:18 am

    I just want to thank you for including the option of public school online high school.... that is something that most homeschoolers will bash and criticize rather than promoting as an actual option. I do appreciate the fact that you included that as one of a series of options for high school at home.

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