Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

There are many anxieties that come with having a teenager, but your ability to successfully homeschool your student throughout high school should not be one of them. While continuing your student’s education at home during these crucial development years is by no means an easy task, the right amount of preparation and direction can simplify this vital job and keep the next four years from becoming an educational nightmare. 

In planning for high school, parents should keep in mind the end goal: the production of a well-rounded, mature adult who is academically, socially, and spiritually ready to tackle the real world. One of the many blessings about homeschooling your student is the freedom and flexibility that come with taking the lead role in his or her education. Homeschooling in high school is an amazing opportunity to daily steer teenagers toward Christ.

There is no one “right way” to homeschool. In fact, that is the beauty of homeschooling, and your student reaps the benefits of having an individualized, tailored education. The knowledge of basic high school essentials can turn any academic philosophy into a successful high school experience. As a graduate student who has firsthand knowledge of the homeschool high school years, I realize there are six critical elements to a victorious academic journey.

1. Social Development

Whether true or not, the image of the homeschool student as the socially awkward nerd lives on. Fortunately today, homeschooling is becoming more mainstream, and this popularity is quickly debunking the “socialization” myth. Homeschooling parents have always recognized the importance of involving their students in extracurricular activities to assist their social development. In today’s society, interpersonal skills are just as important as academic excellence, and even the most intelligent and well-read person will be constantly inhibited by a lack of social graces. Jesus Himself demonstrated the necessity of relating to others. He used His highly effective communication skills to minster to those around Him. 

Educating your teenager at home affords you the opportunity to establish a Christlike foundation, and allowing your student to be involved in social activities outside the home provides him or her the chance to apply and perfect the articulation of the Christian walk. Getting your teenager engaged in clubs, after-school activities, church groups, etc. are some of the ways to help them develop socially. 

2. Academic Curriculum

If social development is the heart of the high school experience, then the curriculum is undoubtedly the brain. Your curriculum is the underpinning of the next four years. It is important to first ensure that your program meets the requirements of your state for a high school diploma; it would be a shame to develop a beautifully tailored program that does not get recognized. When considering what courses to include, focus on your student’s interests, needs, and abilities, and challenge your teenager with the most rigorous classes he or she can handle. 

3. Study Habits 

It may seem obvious that study skills are an important part of schooling, but oftentimes the homeschool environment undermines this element. It may be tempting to allow your student to have more flexible deadlines when it comes to schoolwork and tests, but this can set him or her up for failure. It is rare for a person in the real world to have any significant say in the due date for projects, and your school schedule should reflect that. 

It is also important for your teenager to learn to study effectively in different environments. It will not always be possible for your student to find a comfortable bed and quiet room in which to study. Having your student study from time to time in a loud, distracting environment will give him or her a crash course in learning how to focus. 

4. Life Preparedness 

Sadly, life requires more than a detailed knowledge of the Bible, philosophy, and mathematics. There are mundane but important parts of being an adult that every high schooler should be confident in. Learning how to balance a checkbook and handle money, effectively keep house, and oversee routine car maintenance are all adult survival skills that every teenager should acquire before he or she graduates high school. Make your teen’s “life preparedness” a priority. Summers can be a great time for high schoolers to work on these areas before they go off into the world. 

5. Test Prep 

It is a fact of life that it’s becoming more and more difficult to attend college these days. One of the first hurdles any college-bound student must overcome is the standardized test. The big mistake many parents make is putting off preparing their students for these tests until the last minute. The longer one waits, the less time there is to improve. 

Some students are natural test takers, while others need more practice, but either way it is a good idea to carve out SAT and ACT preparation time early and often. This is especially true for homeschool students, who frequently need to prove to colleges and even employers that the education they received at least equals that of public school students. Finding a good college prep course does not have to be expensive, and it can provide amazing benefits such as college opportunities and scholarships. 

6. Record Keeping

Keeping a high school portfolio eliminates the fear of having to document your student’s education without any records. When making a portfolio, be sure to include information about curriculum used, extracurricular activities, awards received, volunteer work, test records, and samples of the student’s work. These detailed records will assist you when it comes time to create your student’s transcript, as well as when it’s time to fill out college applications. 

The four years of high school give your student a chance to establish and solidify a strong foundation that will secure a bright future in the service of God’s kingdom. Charting your student’s success begins and ends with preparation. Planning out the next four years gives you the power to prosper. 

Judah Burk is the daughter of test prep guru Jean Burk of College Prep Genius. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Texas A & M. She graduated summa cum laude at Ouachita Baptist University with a B.A. in mass communications. During her studies, she spent six months studying abroad in Europe. She is one of the VocabCafé book series authors, co-author of High School Prep Genius, and teacher of the Master the SAT course.

Publication date: August 8, 2012