Starting Homeschooling – Even at High School Level

starting homeschoolingI recently received emails from two mothers, about to take their boys with special needs out of mainstream school in Grades 9 and Grade 10 respectively, to start homeschooling because the school system has failed them.

I decided to share an amalgamation of my replies to them, as we all have concerns about high school homeschooling. Secondly, many of us may know other families whose children are far along on their school journey, but they are drowning in the system, as it cannot accommodate their needs.

Parents are paranoid that taking them out might mess up their children’s (already messed up) education. Its time we were all more proactive about sharing the benefits that home education has to offer. Throw a life buoy to a child who is sinking and share this info.

Well done. It is a big decision to abandon the traditional school system and take on home education. But if the school system is failing your child then why leave him there another day longer?

It will just make him feel like HE is the failure, which he is absolutely not. He has not failed. The system has failed to help him to learn and to reach his full potential.

Now that you have decided that school is not good for him – take him out ASAP.

You can do it. In fact, I think as his parents you are the only ones who can. You are the only ones who have his long term best interests at heart.

To any teacher, he is just another difficult kid to deal with for a year until he moves up to the next grade. For most of them, teaching your child is just a job. For you it is so much more than that. You have a love relationship with him that is life long and you want to see him reach success – in whatever ways you choose to measure that… success is so much more than a score on a report card or a matric certificate.

It is not surprising that he copes better one-on-one when you help him with homework. Children need to feel ‘safe’  and be in an emotionally secure place, where they are not anxious and stressing, in order to learn. At school, a child who is not above average feels stressed knowing that he could potentially mess up and ridicule himself at any moment.

At home, he knows that you love him and accept him unconditionally, so he can be more at ease and therefore, he can perform better. This is one of the reasons that so many children who were struggling at school start to heal emotionally, improve their self-image and then achieve so much more than ever before when they are homeschooled.

If you don’t think that the school’s curriculum is the right way for your child to learn, dump it. Most homeschoolers start out using a curriculum like that which is used in schools, only to find that it causes stress and tears. There are many more effective ways for children to learn.

Trust your gut instinct. You and  your husband know your child and his history and his personality better than any clinician or teacher or other experts out there. YOU are the EXPERTS on YOUR child!

As an outsider, I think you are right to doubt that option – sticking with the school curriculum is not the best route and here is the reason for my opinion: from years of being part of the SA homeschool community, I have seen that highly structured school programmes seldom work well, especially for children who don’t do well in the traditional school system. These all-in-one programmes are just replicating the school system at home. If that system didn’t work at school, then it is not going to work well at home either. The children become stressed out and bored by the work, the moms have to nag and also get stressed out trying to get the kids through all that book work. It damages the relationships and sucks the joy out of homeschooling. Some of them just give up and put the kids back in school.

I can also name homeschooling families that have been through this experience and then finally given up on their school-at-home curriculum and found a different way for their children to learn at home.  Learning doesn’t just happen from text books.

You are at the start of a learning adventure – finding out what is going to work best for your child…and all families go through this process, especially with kids that are a bit ‘different’…its part of homeschooling!

I can sense that you feel under pressure to find a curriculum for your child and I think you mustn’t rush to do so for various reasons.

You are taking him out of the school system and so you need to realise that you don’t have to keep up with that system any longer. You are not on the same path any longer. You should be finding a new road and a new direction for your child instead.

There is no deadline by which a child has to finish his education and get a matric or equivalent. Life is not a race. You need time to find out about possible options and better alternatives – my book and my webinar series, Homeschooling High School will explain some of them – and then you can relax.


Read this: Schooling is not the Secret to Success in Life


You will know when you are ready to release your child to the next venture in his life. Until then, help him discover the motivation to continue his education in his own way for his own purposes.  Don’t put pressure on yourself or him to do school at home. The beauty of homeschooling is that children can find what motivates them and when they are self-motivated then learning is not such a struggle. Also, they can learn at their own pace and progress when they have mastered whatever they are currently learning.

It looks to me like he is not a good candidate for university so you all need to time to adjust your mindsets and look at other possibilities. It takes time to explore things and find a direction that leads to each person’s niche in life. Most kids aren’t ready to make big life choices at age 18 when they leave school either. Since you and your husband are both university graduates who have done well in life because of that education, it is probably the route you would be most comfortable with for your children too, but that is probably not the best choice for THIS child.

Secondly, after all the negativity that he has experienced at school, your child needs time to ‘just chill’ and find out what things he likes doing and WANTS to do. There is a whole world of subjects and skills he can learn that are not offered in the school system but which are economically viable.

He also needs time to heal emotionally from all the “damage”. Even if he wasn’t labelled and if nothing bad was ever said to him (I doubt it), kids naturally compare and measure themselves in the class against their peers and he will have pegged himself down low in the rankings. He needs to discover what his strengths are. Take a look at the cartoon below and read this article too. Eclectic Homeschooling – he’s not a monkey but he needs to find out what he is! Where is his place in this world?
Research shows that when children leave the school system to start homeschooling, they need a good few months to de-school…like detoxing from the system.
You take the kid out school but then you have to take the school out of the kid!
…and I find that we parents take the longest to deschool as we were educated and unconsciously programmed in our thinking by that system. We assume that the only way kids can learn is from a teacher and a text book and a black board  – and writing tests and exams is how we measure success…and yet nowadays, I think that that is one of the worst educational models that there is!

This might freak you out a bit – but I also think that you mustn’t panic about getting your child through a SA matric.

You need to help him start thinking about possibly being self-employed somehow instead. Most of us were raised in the previous century with the thinking that said, go to school, get a good education so you can get a good job. We were raised to see ourselves as job-takers instead of job-creators. In this century and in this country, that thinking doesn’t work very well for most of us. We have to encourage our kids to think of ways to make money online and offline and create their own work.

The best time to start is in high school, where the risks are low. Mistakes are often the best way to learn too and you can afford to make mistakes and write it off as ‘school fees’ when you are in high school. In adulthood business mistakes can cost you your house, your car and your marriage.

Let him watch this one hour webinar with you (so you can discuss it together). You can download it free:  How to Build a Lifetime Business Online – its by an SA guy that I’ve followed for over 10 years. I made my teens watch his webinars too and I now have various income streams online because of him.

[Edit – what follows about the GED®, was specifically for these families with children with special needs, there are also other more prestigious matric alternatives, which my webinars explain]

For MATRIC: What many homeschoolers are doing, including those that are educating their kids in Afrikaans only, is that they are writing the American GED®. This certificate is recognised in SA as a foreign matric equivalent and it is surprisingly well-priced. Although the test is in English, it is done on computer. You can book each test one at a time whenever it suits you.

The GED® does not test memory skills but the tests are like comprehension tests- where you get a paragraph about a topic and then questions about it and you must find or figure out the answers from the text. The 4 subjects are Mathematical Reasoning, Science, Social Studies and Reasoning Through Language Arts.

The GED® is quick and easy to obtain. It is the ticket to get to the next step in a child’s educational journey. It opens the door to tertiary studies in SA if you have it and it shows that you are not a high school drop out….like those without a matric certificate. The only requirement is that you must be age 17 to write the GED® in SA and any candidate with a professionally diagnosed learning disorder can apply for accommodations when taking the test.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with info, but its all part of doing your own homework about homeschooling so that you are informed and can make the best choices for your child… and even if you make mistakes along the way, that’s also OK because mistakes are often how we and our children learn the most valuable lessons. They are not a waste of time or money if we are able to learn from them.

You will not mess up his education or his life by taking a different route because all of life is learning. We never stop learning. Like I said before, there is no time limit or dead line and its never too late to change the plan if its needs tweaking along the way. Discovering what works best for your child is part of the process. Let him also be involved in some of the decisions.

It is natural to feel uncertain at times, as for most of us, starting homeschooling is like stepping out into the unknown. Some people call the first year the PANIC year as we are plagued with that uncertainty…but I think you have reached a point where you know without a doubt that the school system is NOT working well for your child, so its time to go off the beaten path and hack your own way forward for him.

Don’t look back and doubt your decision, just stay committed to finding the way to help him grow, learn and succeed in LIFE (not school!)

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