Homeschooling High School
It’s a big decision to homeschool for the high school years. Assuming that you have considered all your options and everyone is clear that homeschooling is the right choice for your family, here are some considerations for a Waldorf inspired high school experience.
As I mentioned in my Transitioning to High School blog, a Waldorf high school uses specialist (or specialty) teachers to instruct the main lessons for grades 9-12. It simply is not possible to recreate that type of setting at home. In fact, as Donna mentions in her High School audio download it is important to “look outside the box” of trying to recreate a Waldorf curriculum perspective and see yourself as a resource person for your child that must honor your student’s perspective and determine why and how you will homeschool through high school. As a parent you will need to find ways to clearly evaluate your student’s skills, explore interests, understand the educational requirements of your state for high school ( and college if going to college is a goal), as well as help your child find out information online and know what to do with it. That being said, you can still take some of the Waldorf high school main lesson themes, especially in History and English, and work with them to help your child become a whole, well-rounded human being.
The available resources for working with Waldorf themes at home are few. Donna has written an excellent main lesson unit, Comedy and Tragedy, that is designed for use in 9th grade, although I think it can also be used appropriately at the beginning of 10th grade as well. Donna’s high school audio download also contains a comprehensive listing of English literature books for each year of high school. She also has a great list of books on the Christopherus website for high school ages, available through Amazon.
Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore, rscbookstore.com, and waldorfbooks.com also have some good high school resource books in the area of literature, math, and science. Another excellent free resource with downloadable resource books on Waldorf high school topics is waldorflibrary.org, including physics, chemistry and math topics as well as Betty Staley’s Splinters of the Sun (12th grade Russian literature); Sloane’s Life Lessons, Reaching Teenagers through Literature (9-12th); Earth Science by Hans-Urich Scmutz; and Christoph Lindberg’s classic book Teaching History. AWSNA also has an online bookstore, waldorfeducation.org, that has some selected resources for high school. The Austin Waldorf School (austinwaldorf.org) has a nice tabular summary of their complete high school curriculum. There is, however, no comprehensive Waldorf inspired homeschooling high school curriculum available today, and Oak Meadow’s high school program is not Waldorf inspired for high school.
The problem that homeschooling parents of high school students face is the fact that they cannot be specialists in all the required areas of high school study and so must necessarily be good resource people and managers to help their child connect either with specialists or with other specialized sources of information necessary to acquire the skills for various high school subjects. By all means, continue to teach areas of your own expertise. I, for example, feel comfortable teaching high school English and history topics with a decided Waldorf emphasis, and I could probably put together a good Botany course ( except for my daughter’s lack of interest). However, I know my limits, and I use good science and math programs , as well as Rosetta Stone for Chinese language learning. My sons took excellent Geology courses with a university professor that was willing to teach co-op classes at our home.
Some good internet research will also reveal a wealth of online classes for high school students in various areas. Do try to pick accredited classes if that is important for legal requirements in your state for high school and college. One very flexible online learning source and potential umbrella transcript high school is Clonlara which I discussed in my earlier blog. I used Clonlara as an umbrella school for my three sons. As your child gets to be 16 years old, many community colleges have excellent online and classroom courses that will give dual high school and college credit. My youngest is currently taking a college English composition course online through our local community college for dual credit. Kahn Academy online has now teamed up with The College Board to offer excellent free PSAT and SAT preparation materials. My daughter is working online with these materials to take the PSAT in October.
Waldorf schools are also well known for their great courses in practical and fine arts. Homeschooling parents will have to be resourceful to connect children with specialists in the areas of their artistic and athletic interests. Although I am a decent craftsperson, my older daughter took special workshops in fused glass jewelry in our town and continued her interests at her local high school, learning stained glass and advanced jewelry making. I do believe it is important to continue your child’s artistic and athletic development, but you will have to be creative about how you fulfill your child’s needs and interests. My very athletic younger daughter spent many hours in the gym as a competitive gymnast her first two years of high school and now is spending equal hours in the dance studio! She also has created a well defined exercise program for herself at home and runs almost daily. Some local high schools (not mine any longer) will allow part time enrollment by homeschoolers in academic classes, art /music/dance classes, and after school sports and clubs.
Another hallmark of some Waldorf schools is a capstone or Senior Project. This is something that can certainly be done by homeschoolers. The project should involve a considerable amount of time and research in an area of real interest and result in a final paper/presentation. Many schools also have good volunteer and unpaid internships for high school students. This is also something that can be easily done by homeschoolers and will benefit both the student and the community. Two award areas you might consider for your student are the Presidential Service Award (done in a single year), presidentialserviceawards.gov, and the Congressional Award (requires a multi-year effort to achieve the gold level award),congressionalaward.org. Four of my children qualified for the Presidential Service Award and one son did an amazing job of completing the highest level of the Congressional Award and was sent to Washington DC to receive his award.
Homeschooling through high school is both rewarding and demanding. It requires organization, discipline and lots of patience as parent and child navigate the terrain of adolescence and academics together. I am very grateful that I have had the privilege to homeschool my children in high school and the will to get through it with as much grace as possible!
We would love to hear about your journey homeschooling your high school student.