Dear NGJ,

My husband and I have recently returned from a summer-long adventure (May–September) of hiking the Continental Divide Trail. It’s 3,000 miles long, from Mexico to Canada. We were the oldest hikers to finish the trail this year (my husband is 76 and I’m 68).

In plowing through the mountain of mail that accumulated while we were gone, we found your article on “Homeschooling High School.” Here’s my take on that subject. We homeschooled our daughter from preschool through age 14. At that point, she went to college. We did not even bother doing high school. But our home “school” was very different from what I see a lot of my young friends doing with their kids.

  • We did not use a curriculum, except for math (we did have math books) and for learning to read (we used Sing, Spell, Read & Write)
  • Once our daughter could read (she was pretty good at it by age 4, and by age 7 she was really good), I took on the role of encourager/coach rather than teacher. Once a kid can read, they can learn things for themselves!
  • At our house, mealtime was “lively talk about history/science/whatever” time. She saw our enthusiasm for learning about these things and was able to participate from a young age.
  • We learned history backwards. We started with current events and asked, “How did this come about? What caused it or led to it?” History makes a lot more sense that way.
  • Science was another lively subject that we did mostly hands-on and talked about a lot.
  • COMMUNICATION was a major emphasis for us. As Christians, we should be able to speak and write articulately and effectively. So public speaking and writing were important in our home school. We also emphasized being able to TEACH someone else.
  • Our daughter pursued in depth any subject she was interested in. At age 9, she was using college-level books on these subjects. Note: She would be the first to say, “I’m no genius.” It was because she had the freedom to pursue ideas, rather than being locked into a boring workbook, that she could do this.
  • We are really into hiking and outdoors stuff. Our daughter did her first backpack trip with us when she was 3 years old, carrying her own little pack and covering 5 miles a day. I think that is important—so many kids are cooped up inside all day.
  • We wanted to see our daughter volunteering and serving. She served at church, the public library, and an AWANA club for kids.

I could say a lot more, but the bottom line is that when she was 14, she began to practice for the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE). We never bothered with the PSAT or SAT. The CHSPE is by law the full equivalent of a high school diploma. She passed the CHSPE with no trouble, and began attending the local junior college, pursuing what she’d decided on for a job—computer programming and graphic design (she is a very good artist.) Eventually she transferred to a nearby university and received a large academic scholarship that paid for ¾ of the fees. She graduated summa cum laude, and now has a very good job in her field, plus she’s becoming known as a theater critic (theater was another one of her interests). She also goes to a local jail to lead Bible studies for women who are interested.
I would say, “Why bother with homeschool high school?” If you have been letting your kids dig IN DEPTH into what they are interested in, they will already be doing college-level work anyway. Don’t waste their time!

It grieves me to see high school age BOYS stuck at home with a bunch of books, but that’s what most of the homeschool families I know are doing. And then the moms complain about how their boys “just don’t focus” and “daydream when they should be doing their schoolwork.” Argh. I ask them “Why are you wasting your kids’ time with high school?” and they look at me like I’m crazy.

I could say lots more, but I think this is enough!

Monty Chipman