As I mentioned in this post about homeschooling high school in Pennsylvania, sometimes early graduation makes sense. If your student has satisfied the minimum graduation requirements and can obtain skills and experience that moves him toward his life goals you might want to consider this option.
English is the only subject that requires 4 years between grades 9 and 12, some people plan to double up on this subject in one year or during summers to graduate early. Although it’s rare, a home education program can be designed to satisfy all the high school requirements in less than 3 years.
I never intended to graduate my daughter early. Surprisingly, her public school course work made it possible.
All of my children have had a varied school experience. They were all homeschooled until junior high-ish. They all tried cyber (some liked it better than others) and all have attended the local public high school. My daughters also attended a brick and mortar charter school for the arts.
Kate spent her freshman year at the performing arts charter school, her sophomore year at the local public school and started her junior year there, too.
For a variety of reasons, including an inability to schedule classes that she wanted and being stuck in multiple study halls a day because of it, Kate decided to finish her high school career at home.
I obtained her transcripts from both schools to tally up her credits. Since Kate specialized in literary arts at the charter school, she completed a full credit of “English 9” that year plus more than 2 credits from classes that included different forms of writing, a poetry study and other literary styles. I realized that she could graduate early if she finished up the credits she needed for science, social studies and math (about half a credit of each).
I let her know what subjects she needed to focus on in order to stay on track but didn’t tell her right away about the possibility of graduating early.
Important Factors to Consider
I wanted to see how she handled the freedom and flexibility of being at home. Would I be hounding her to do this or that? Would she move toward independence in all things? Would she spend her days frivolously or purposely? I wanted to make sure she was somewhat intentional and planning for her future before I just handed her a year of complete freedom to pursue it.
Even though Kate had more than enough credits of English, she enrolled in a basic composition class at the local community college which she loved. I didn’t dictate which topics she had to study for the other subject requirements but gave her some options. She could study one topic in depth, read non-fiction books about different topics, stick with the textbook-based approach, plan a project related to one or a few areas of interest or find classes online that piqued her interest.
She decided to browse itunes for interesting history and science podcasts. Her favorites were “Hardcore History” by Dan Carlin, “Ben Franklin’s World” by Liz Covart, “Sci Fri” with Ira Flatow and “Star Power” with Neil deGrasse Tyson. These programs covered a variety of topics in science and history and satisfied her obligation to complete credits in these subjects.
I didn’t assign research papers or any type of writing but Kate was free to write a summary or outline for her own benefit if she wanted to. (Is there any faster way to throw a wet blanket on an interesting topic than to demand a thesis statement, annotated bibliography, AMA style and five sentence paragraphs?
Kate’s had more formal writing experience than the average high school student so forcing her to write on these topics seemed useless, redundant and punitive. I knew she was engaging with the subject because she almost always shared things that sparked her curiosity or interest. [Interesting sidenote: I had to convince Kate that writing something wasn’t required to prove to me that she covered a topic. It’s amazing how quickly we become programmed to one definition of learning]. I’ve learned that most of the writing we do in the real world looks nothing like academic writing. I did ask Kate to keep a list of the topics covered for her portfolio.
To complete her math requirement, Kate watched Dave Ramsey’s “Foundations in Personal Finance for Homeschoolers“. The course is a practical introduction to personal finance for young people. It includes lessons on saving, budgeting, debt, credit, consumer awareness, bargain shopping, investing, planning for retirement, insurance, the effect of money on relationships, careers and taxes and giving. Kate’s interested in travel and utilizing her artistic abilities in a variety of ways online and in person. Managing her finances will allow her to do it sooner than later.
Mark and I are fairly conservative spenders and have briefly discussed debt, saving and taxes with the kids but really haven’t explained the basics of other topics. For example, Kate has heard about a debit card but didn’t know how it was different than a credit card. The course not only explained these concepts in detail, it was a great springboard for discussion of them. Kate also told me it inspired her to plan and she felt empowered by it. Identical information from me sounds like a lecture or telling her what to do.
Flexibility and Efficiency
Overall, the few months that Kate was home was more productive and practical than the year and a half she spent learning from textbooks, completing worksheets and taking tests for the same subjects. I gave her the option to graduate after her junior year since she would satisfy the requirements in the core classes. She had more than enough Arts and Humanities credits and the other electives she took (Speech, Wellness, Computer Aided Design, Spanish 1 and 2, and Phys Ed.) gave her a well-rounded high school experience and more than 21 credits.
Future Plans as a Consideration
If her future plans included college, I would likely have encouraged her to bulk up her transcript by taking classes at the community college for another year.
Early graduation for Pennsylvania homeschoolers is possible and legal. It’s a highly personal decision based on a student’s future plans, maturity and family circumstances.