But what about . . . ?

What about sports? Music? Art instruction? You may wonder how your child can develop her unique talents if she's not in public or private school. Thankfully, your child's options do not need to be limited to the traditional school setting.

Finding sports opportunities is probably one of the biggest concerns for homeschooled high schoolers. Though it is still challenging for homeschooled students to join regular team sports and attract the notice of college recruiters, the opportunities are increasing.

The National Christian School Athletic Association (NCSAA), which is dedicated to promoting "Christ-centered excellence" in Christian school athletic programs, is currently working with HSLDA to become a liaison between homeschoolers and Christian school leagues. Their two main objectives are to convince Christian school leagues to allow the participation of homeschoolers (either as members of existing school teams or as separate homeschool teams), and to oversee eligibility and other issues that may hinder homeschoolers' participation in these leagues. "We have recognized the need to step in because of the position we're in, so that homeschoolers can have the opportunity to participate in organized Christian athletics," says NCSAA Director Nate Hartman.

In some states, public schools allow homeschoolers to participate in classes or sports, but you should investigate and evaluate any strings attached to these "opportunities." At the very least, the school district will require proof that your high schooler is legally homeschooling, meeting the state requirements for public school students, and meeting his core academic requirements.v

Local college courses and continuing education classes are another option. Or find out what your local homeschool co-op has to offer--perhaps another homeschooling mother has an art degree or teaches piano. Check out churches, newspaper ads, and library programs. If all else fails, consider starting your own class!

College

Many colleges today accept--and even recruit--homeschoolers.vi However, parents still wonder if their home education program will prepare their child for college. What about transcripts, test scores, and college admission?

Ideally, preparation for college should begin in middle school. Talk with your teen about his interests and possible career choices. It is a rare 13-year-old who can identify the driving passion that will define his future career, but his interests, strengths, and ideas can provide direction in researching colleges and admission requirements.vii It is also wise to investigate beyond the admissions brochures and college websites, especially if your child is considering a highly selective school. "It's not enough to meet the college's requirements," says Judy Davis, a homeschooling mother whose oldest son was a 2004 graduate of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and whose daughter will graduate from the same school in 2006. Judy advises parents to look at a profile of the freshman class (call the admissions office to inquire). Usually, incoming students at highly selective colleges have surpassed basic academic requirements. For a homeschooled child to stand out when applying to such schools, he will likely need to take additional courses during high school.

Maybe your child has his heart set on attending a top university. Can you afford tuition? "The key is to plan wisely," says Judy Davis. She encourages students to prepare early (use practice tests) for scholarship-qualifying and college entrance exams such as the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test, www.collegeboard.com), and ACT (American College Test, www.act.org). Plan to have your child take the test several times to improve his score.* The higher your child's score, the better his chances of getting into a selective college or qualifying for merit-based financial aid.